Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Long Sad Tale

I have a sad tale to tell. When I was a small child my parents decided the grass would be much greener in Colorado, than it was in Oklahoma. We were living on our granddaddy’s farm when the Great Depression began. I think it was blamed on the president. That’s why we elect a president, so if something goes wrong we’ll have somebody to blame it on.

My parents sold most of our belongings and loaded up the car with the five kids and headed for Colorado. When we got to Colorado, there was not an abundance of jobs. My Dad found some lettuce picking jobs and worked as a farm hand on a couple different ranches. A ranch was called a farm in Oklahoma. I don’t know why, unless they have more cows on a ranch. Anyway it became quite a challenge to find a job to support this family.

We set up a tent and lived on the Rio Grand River bank for one entire summer. My memories of that event are very pleasant. It was fun camping out all summer, but one day our Dad had a brilliant idea, at least he thought so. He decided we needed to move into a house and get the kids enrolled in school. We moved into a huge white two-story house, two bedrooms up and two down. Winter set in and we didn’t get warmed up again until the spring thaw. That was the coldest winter I have ever experienced. The entire family slept in one of the downstairs bedrooms.

Everybody in the family got sick. All of us kids came down with mumps and whooping cough. Dad could not find any work. We finally had to ask for public assistance. In that era you didn’t get food stamps or cash. The welfare folks would deliver a box of groceries to your home, and it didn’t seem to happen very often.

Clothes were made for welfare families. When you saw a boy with maroon-colored corduroy pants and jacket, you knew the family was on welfare. Being on Welfare in that day was a horrible disgrace. Nobody would ask for help unless they were desperate. Girls wore the same maroon colored outfit, only with a skirt instead of pants. I also had two print dresses, which was another trademark that you were needy and begging for help. This is the clothing the kids had to wear to school. We had no gloves, boots or anything to help keep us warm.

Even the stray animals were looking for warm shelter. A beautiful big fluffy white cat came to our door repeatedly begging for a hand out or a place to get warm. Mom felt sorry for the cat so she finally let in live in our house. I don’t think it got too much to eat, but at least it didn’t freeze to death. I don’t think we ever gave the cat a name, we just called it The Cat. The Cat was somewhat feral and you couldn’t pet it, but my baby sister (age 22 months) managed to get close enough to grab the Cat. The Cat retaliated by clawing her face. Eulabell received a long deep claw gash across her face. It became infected and swollen and about the same time she came down with whooping cough and pneumonia.

I remember the following scene with vivid detail because I think it’s etched in my memory forever. She was lying on the kitchen table in her blankets and her stomach was swollen so big it looked as though it would burst open. All of us kids and Mom were just standing around the table looking at her. Dad had gone to get Grandma, who lived, in the same town. She would stay with us kids while they took Eulabell to the hospital, which was a special facility for the needy. They left with Eulabell and we went to bed. Much later that night, I was awaken when I heard Dad telling Grandma, that they lost her. I pretended I was asleep and didn’t say anything. The next morning it was explained to us kids that Eulabell had passed away.

I was eight years old. I watched my Mom and Dad cry and saw the big tears coming out of their eyes. I didn’t get over it, ever. To this day, I cannot tell anybody about Eulabell without tears coming to the surface. Grief counseling was unheard of, and especially for kids. It was a natural assumption that kids would soon forget about it.

The picture of the doll that I have included sort of represents my baby sister in a way.
Anyway it does to me. One week after my sister died was Christmas day. My Mom’s family lived in the area, and that is partly why we chose to move to Colorado in the first place. This Christmas the relatives came to our house to celebrate Christmas. I am sure they brought all the food. My cousin, who is my age, received a Shirley Temple doll. I had seen a Shirley Temple movie and was enamored with her and I envied my cousin so much because she got a doll and I didn’t. Her mother said, “Yuba, let Lorrene play with your doll. “ Yuba said, “No, it’s my doll.” Aunt Murl said, “ If you don’t want me to blister your butt, you better give her that doll, now. “ So she finally handed me the doll, and I said, “No, I don’t want your crazy old doll, I want my own doll”.

Many long years later I decided to buy myself a Shirley Temple doll. It is not the doll of that day, but sort of makes me think of Eulabell.