Showing posts with label dog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dog. Show all posts

Monday, April 22, 2024

Your Story Matters, Chapters 16, 17, & 18



You Know What?

My first boyfriend still owes me a brand-new Mercury automobile, pink and black, the version we were drooling over that year.

On our first trip to a bowling alley, my first throw was a gutter ball.

My boyfriend laughed and said, "If you get a strike, I will buy you a new Mercury."

 The next time I threw the ball, I had a strike.

We had a long-distance romance as he lived ninety miles from The Dalles but often came to town, stayed with his sister, and visited me. One summer, he picked cherries in our orchard, and we played and kissed a lot.

One particular night he and I wanted to go to the movies, but we needed a vehicle as Mike had taken the car to work. However, the flatbed truck was in the driveway, loaded with boxes of cherries. We unloaded the truck and drove it to the movie. Come morning, Mike said it wasn't good for a girl to lift so many boxes, so the boy had to load it all by himself.

His sister encouraged our romance. She was a force to be reckoned with. She wanted me to become a teacher, as she was, and asked that I be excused from school one day so I could assist her with her class. She was also our minister's wife, who didn't keep the patronage in tip-top shape as the previous minister's wives had done; neither did she have prayer meetings there. She would take her brother and me on adventures, one to Seattle to meet their parents. (They knew them, I didn't.) Shortly after that, the boyfriend's family moved from Seattle to Portland—those 90 miles away. His father had a high position in the church, and yes, they were PKs, Preacher's Kids.

I adored his sister, who could play a gospel song on the piano like ragtime. She dressed flamboyantly but often in black as that suited her and silhouetted her svelte figure. She wore stiletto heels with pointed toes—the rage at the time. Imagine the staid congregation of a conservative church watching that woman walk up to the piano.

The boy was fun, and we found things to do—drive-in movies, church camps, once I took him on my driving paper route that Ma Willett, my stepdad's mother, had given me for a summer job. I became proficient at driving one-handed, rolling papers, and slipping them into their round boxes on the fly. However, the time I took my boyfriend with me, we horsed around so much I forgot some customers, they complained, and Ma Willett punished me by taking away part of the route.

 Once, he and I decided to take an excursion out of town. We drove on a logging road into the forest, where we got stuck. Try as we might, we couldn't get the car out.

We were miles from town, with no phone or car, so we walked...down the middle of a farm road—for half the night. When we heard sounds, we imagined we were being stalked by a cougar. We made it to town and called my folks.

The following day, Mike drove us to rescue the car, and he got it out easily.

My boyfriend once bought me a pink rose corsage when we went to a Church event in Portland. He liked 'bling' in the form of rhinestones, so I had many rhinestone necklaces.

Our romance lasted three years; by then, I was out of high school and working as a Dental Assistant for a local Doctor. The last time I saw him, he was boarding the train for his 90-mile-away home. Soon, he would be moving across the country to attend a prestigious University on the East Coast. There were no arguments, no fights, just my knowledge that it was over. One reason was that he wanted to be a minister, and I was not cut out to be a minister's wife. Two, it's doubtful our romance would have lasted through his college years, with him on the East Coast and me on the West. And I knew that a big University guy and a farm girl back home wouldn't likely make it, plus I was finding other fellows interesting.

I stopped halfway up our Cherry Heights hill at a spot that overlooked the valley, the town of The Dalles, the Colombia River beside it, and the Klickitat Mountains on the Washington side of the river. I watched a little black train, his ride home, make its way through autumn parched dry grasses and snake its way out of town.





Ode to Tuna Fish


I'm eating a tuna fish sandwich with a dill pickle and a slice of sweet Walla Walla onion. There is also a good amount of Kettle potato chips, giving the plate a finished look.


I look up and see that beyond the pink dogwood, there is a rhododendron bush budding pink. So, now I have the pinkness of the dogwood, plus a pink rhododendron as a backdrop. I've heard to never eat rhododendrons, which are toxic to humans. However, a tea made from its leaves can counteract the itching rash of poison oak. 


I am susceptible to poison oak and lived with one rash after another during my high school years, for poison oak was abundant in our area. I didn't know that rubbing one's face in your dog's fur was a sure way to encounter the plant's urushiol oil. Finally, my high school biology teacher asked me if I had a dog and said that's how I got poison oak on my face.


Well, well, a smart teacher.


When we lived in Eugene, in a wetter climate than The Dalles, a poison oak plant didn't care what the environment was; it snuggled up next to a rhododendron. I developed a rash from working in the yard, so I gave the rhododendron tea a chance and as an experiment.  It did relieve the itch, but good old Ivy Dry finished the job.


Folk medicine says that for every ailment, there is an antidote, which emphasizes, once again, that we need to preserve our diversity of plants. 


While our high school English teachers taught us to develop our paragraphs, as a blogger, I learned to use short, succinct sentences, with maybe two sentences to a paragraph. Thus, I set up this book that way.


Large blocks of print scare some people. However, people still read. Books are still being written and bought, and Natalie Goldberg commented that the brain doesn't follow a reasonable pattern. That gave me permission to follow my zigzag mind. 


Whew, finally.


Without tuna fish, I wouldn't have reached adulthood. (Now I wonder how much mercury I got.) Those sandwiches, interspersed with peanut butter and jelly, served as lunch for many years. I carried them to school in a brown paper bag, often with an apple or orange. By lunchtime, the fruit had carved out a nest for itself in my sandwich. 


I never particularly liked school until I got to college where I discovered the thrill of learning and found that studying and applying myself was a totally new adventure, and it made a tremendous difference in my grades. Drawing pictures in the back of the room didn't work anymore.


I'd been out of high school for five years when I started college. During that time, I worked as a dental assistant, first for three years for Dr. Brogan in The Dalles—bless him for hiring and training me. After I married, I got a job with Dr. Gibson in McMinnville, Oregon, where Neil attended Lindfield College.


During his senior year, Neil was accepted into the master's program at Oklahoma State University. He was given an assistant-ship for Physics labs and to teach freshman Physics. Thus, he had a job. So, we packed our old Ford with all our worldly possessions. Neil is an excellent packer, and the backseat was packed up to the rear window. So, we were off to Oklahoma, where the lightning strikes were so monstrous and grand that Neil was stupidly out photographing them.


We lived on 3,000 dollars for the school year. Fifty dollars a month on rent, five dollars a month for gas—we drove the car to church and the movies. Oh, and the laundromat, I forgot about that. Going to the laundromat was an adventure, for it was pretty, painted lively colors, and had a Pepsi machine. I grew up thinking having a soda was a treat. Our splurge was sending Neil's white shirts to the cleaners, so he always had a crisp white shirt for teaching class. 


We walked to school from our apartment, home for lunch, back in the afternoon, then home. I carried books and sprinted across campus for many of my classes, and I always lost weight at the beginning of the year. 


"For lunch we usually had a sandwich and a bowl of good old Campbell's soup. We often ate pork steaks for dinner as they were the cheapest cut of meat. When we left Oklahoma, I declared I would never eat them again. But then, when we left Oregon, I declared that I would never eat venison again. Neil's folks used to give us care packages of venison when we lived in McMinnville, as Neil's father was a hunter. I never liked venison. And I dislike hunting more. (If I was lost on the tundra and hunting was my only choice, that would be a different story.)


The people in Oklahoma thought it was funny that we, Oregonians, liked beans and cornbread. One day after school, Neil and I opened the apartment door and walked into a wall of smoke and a stench that almost knocked us on our keisters. 


A pot of beans had been cooking since lunchtime. The pot containing the black blob that was once beans was a Revere Wear saucepan we got as a wedding gift. It survived and has lived through many scorching’s since then, and it still survives.


After two years in Oklahoma, Neil earned his master's degree, but the Vietnam draft was breathing down his neck. He had already taken his physical and required test—and scored second in the state. He dropped the Ph.D. idea and became a civilian employee physicist with the Navy. It's a shame he abandoned the Ph.D. program, but he didn't go to war; he's alive, and doesn't have PTSD.


Oklahoma State University was an awakening. They revered their liberal arts program. Yes, at a "Cow college." When my freshman biology professor boomed over a class of around 200, "This is the study of life!" I signed up for a biology major.


Contrast Oklahoma to The University of California, Riverside, where I transferred after my sophomore year and worked my butt off for the next two. They required a language, and I have an anvil, hammer, and stirrup made of tin. (Bones of the inner ear.) See, I remember biology, but I can't pronounce arbole. (tree in Spanish) I keep hearing an i in it).


I loved my science classes at Oklahoma, but it was the Humanity class that changed me. 


For the first time, I learned about myths, ancient cultures, and religions, and read the Bible as literature. There I was, a protestant, studying evolution, frowned upon by my Christian siblings and parents, had an atheist humanities professor, and went to a Christian Church. I avoided the atheist professor when I decided to take philosophy, as he was the professor, so I took the class from someone else. And then what happened? I walked into my humanities class and guessed who the professor was. The atheist.


I came out of Stillwater, Oklahoma, a Unitarian.


While in Oklahoma, we were practically adopted by the EUB (Evangelical United Brothern) Church Minister and his wife. It was a small church. We sang in the choir and were the new kids on the block—former EUBers from Oregon. I had entered that denomination on my college application, and they gave my name to the minister. Surprisingly, they had such a church in Stillwater, Oklahoma.


After the Sunday evening service, we often went to the minister's house to watch TV and snack on apples and popcorn. Someone from the church felt sorry for us that we had no television. Of course, we didn't need to be distracted from our studies, but we took what they offered: a large console that, when stuffed into our car's truck, the lid would not close—we tied it. The TV screen was only about 12 inches, but it was fun, and we lost sleep to the tune of "H-e-r-e's Johnny."


When I began my second semester of Humanities, to my horror, the minister also took the class, and we were both invited to be on a panel discussion. 


With my newfound sense of the world, I didn't have the will to go up against my minister. I asked the professor to please take me off as I had been on a panel last semester, and when I told him about the minister, he excused me. 


I remembered the panel of the semester before, not what we discussed, but the night before. Neil and I had attended the movie West Side Story, and my stomach was cramped with anxiety throughout the film. 


When Neil got a job in Corona, CA. I transferred to the University of California, Riverside, about a 25-minute drive away. And there I met Sylvia, who became a lifelong friend. We were both older than most of the students, and she, older than me, already had a little girl. Later, she had a baby boy six months older than my second daughter, and we all remained friends throughout grade school. With them, a trip to Disneyland became an annual event. Her husband was an engineer, so that worked well for our husbands.


While still in McMinnville, we sold the car I brought into the marriage, a blue Nash Rambler Convertible. (Neil's mother said, "Neil finally got a car.”) We bought a closed-in four-door Ford, ugly as sin but reliable. Neil walked to school, and I drove to work daily past the police station until a policeman stopped me and told me to get my muffler fixed. I did, and that car carried us to Oklahoma twice and into California, where I drove it to school for another two years. 


Leaving for class in the mornings, I started that car by letting it drift down the slight incline from the carport onto the driveway and popped the clutch so that the motor started. At school, I parked on a hill and started it at the end of the day by letting it roll downhill and again popping the clutch. It never let me down. See, I said it was reliable.

Why didn’t we fix it? That’s a mystery.  Perhaps I wouldn’t let it out of my sight for I needed it for school. We ended up selling it as is to our property manager, who, with a friend, had fun starting that thing—their laughter carried into my apartment.


The irony was that after I had driven those two years from Corona to Riverside, we bought a house in Riverside, and my husband commuted to Corona. By then, we had another car that our little daughter later named "Go Somewhere."


While in Oklahoma, I tentatively dreamed of becoming a Vet. I was told by a professor, a friend from the church, that the Veterinary Department rarely took women. "They will just get married and start having babies." I was married. I was five years out of high school and had no babies. Now, more women are graduating from veterinary school than men. 


At UCR, I suffered through dissecting a cat in comparative anatomy. My problem was that it was a cat, not that I was squeamish about dissection. Already, I had seen dental surgery. I didn't intend to become a doctor, but comparative anatomy was a part of my curriculum. To be fair, another student and I shared the cat for an entire semester. He would dissect in one class, and I would dissect in another—our only connection was the cat. People often think of dissecting as charging through with a scalpel. You don't. You only use a scalpel to cut through the skin. The rest is done with a dissecting needle that has a blunt tip. 


With the needle, you can carefully separate the tissues. And to my surprise, the circulatory system was injected with blue plastic for the arteries and red for the veins. I came home reeking of formaldehyde for more days than not. 


Each year I was in college, Ma Willett, Mike's mother, sent fifty dollars to me. It was always a blessing that came mid-year at book-buying time. I greatly appreciated her for including me in her list of grandchildren, for she told me that she always supported any grandchild who went to college. When I graduated in January, I lacked some credits and took an extra semester, and thus graduated in the middle of the school year. I got $25.00 for the half year. No "Congratulations, you finally made it," just half price for half a year. She was a no-nonsense woman.


A line from one of our favorite movies, The Jerk starring Steve Martin, applies to Ma Willett: "Is Grandma still farting?" Going for a walk with her sounded like a little choo-choo train. Am I being disrespectful? No, it added to her eccentricity. She had five sons and lost one to an appendix rupture at age 14. That death scared Mike, who worried about belly aches.  


Years later, I learned from another grandchild that Ma Willett sat with my mother during her last days, for she believed that a person should never die alone.







When my eldest daughter was a few months shy of turning three and my second daughter was a few months shy of being born, we bought a little black poodle puppy and named her Licorice. 


A groomer owned her; thus, when we went to see her, she was perfectly coifed with a pink ribbon in her hair—an adorable puppy sitting perkily on a couch. Her muzzle had a tinge of gray, the tell-tale sign that she was beginning to turn silver/gray, as the ad said she was. But the name Licorice stuck. 


It was the first time in my life I had gone for eight years without a dog, and we thought a puppy might introduce a baby to our two-year-old daughter.


Both girls loved that little dog. They would dress her in DD's baby clothes, those stretching one-piece outfits that were popular then, and they fit Licorice perfectly, with her walking around on springy stretch-fabric legs. She grew up as predicted to be silver/gray with perfect conformation, long legs, and about 15 inches tall. She was a beautiful dog. She looked like a standard poodle, only small.


For a few Christmases, we drove from San Diego, California, to The Dalles, Oregon, to visit grandparents, and we always took Licorice. Not many motels were pet-friendly then, so we smuggled Licorice in with the stuffed toys. 


When my second daughter was seven years old, and my first-born was ten—see moms tell time by their children's ages—we took a three-day vacation, driving from San Diego to Los Angeles, and decided to leave Licorice with a pet sitter—at the pet sitter's house.


I only remember some of what we did in LA, except for taking the kids to see Star Wars at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. 


We decided to go home earlier than planned, for we missed Licorice, and both girls talked about it most of the way home. "Won't Licorice be happy to see us!"


The trouble was, when we got to the sitter's house, Licorice was gone. 


She had escaped the backyard.


We were devastated.


Quickly, we searched, scanned the neighborhood, called her name, and asked whomever we met if they had seen a little gray poodle.


All day, we searched, and I had called the pound—No little gray poodle.


Dejected, we went home without our dog.


The following morning, I awakened early, got up before the others, and set off to find Licorice. I went to the Pound and into the back to search cages.


There, opening a cage, was a man with a little gray poodle under his arm.




She turned—amazed as I was, and we flew into each other's arms, her yapping and having a wiggling fit. We carried on until the lady told us to quiet down. Hey, this dog was lost for three days! I hugged her until we were released from lock-up, for I had to wait to purchase a license.


Somehow, we heard the story; the policeman must have told the Pound people how he found her. She had left Mission Hills, traveled through an underpass beneath the I-5 freeway, and made it to Mission Beach. There, she picked up with a surfer/drifter until he was stopped by the policeman. The surfer said the dog didn't belong to him, and thus, Licorice was escorted to the pound by a policeman. 


The surfer? He had to be a good guy, for Licorice trusted him. (You know how lost dogs can get disoriented, scared, and will not let a stranger catch them.) Licorice, however, found a friend, and because of him, we found our dog. Licorice's little foot pads were worn from all her walking. The man? I don't know what happened to him. To me, he is an unsung hero. Finding our dog in a city the size of San Diego was a miracle.


As I recall, I never paid the dog sitter.


Licorice remained with us for the rest of her life, my almost constant companion and the wearer of baby clothes. 


I was convinced that Licorice's purpose in life was to love and be loved. And it scares me when I read this, thinking of what could have happened to her. It was Divine intervention.


Thirty years later, we got another poodle who had the same purpose--to love and be loved. That was Peaches, the Pink Party Poodle for Peace, the little dog who moved to Hawaii and back with us.


Remember, all dogs go to heaven. I expect to see the ones who called me their pet sprint down a hill as green as the spring grasses of Oregon to wiggle all over me and cover me with kisses. 


Until then Obi will hold my hand--and type a bit.