CATEGORY: EARLY CHILDHOOD
PHOTO: MARY AND JEAN
In Dayville, we lived in a house on a hill. It had a porch across the front that looked down on the town. It was in this house that Mary and I found a box of matches. We struck the matches on the ivory colored headboard of our parent’s bed. The brown streaks they left were there as long as my mother had that bed, which was as long as she lived. It was a surprise to some that the house was still standing when we left there.
It was in this house that I had my first hair cut. Mary was the barber. She had managed to find scissors. We hid in a corner behind an open door and in front of a window for this act of sabotage. First, as a practice run, she cut her own hair. She cut her bangs right down to the skin, and she cut off half of the rest of her hair in the same style. Then she got to work on me. I had bounteous golden blonde hair which mother lovingly formed into long curls, like the teats on a cow. Mother did not think my curls looked like cow teats. She thought they were like golden beams of light sent from the angels. It was a shock for her to find them lying on the floor. In fact, the floor behind the door looked like the floor of a sheep shearing shed.
Barbering was not Mary’s only talent; she was also an early-on version of a nutritionist. Fearing she was not getting enough protein, she took up the practice of eating bugs. Mother took Mary to an oriental doctor who had an office in Dayville, and he advised her to bake potatoes beneath the ashes of a wood fire and feed the the peelings to Mary. Mother did this and Mary never ate bugs again.
It was also at Dayville that I had Scarlet Fever and Whooping Cough at the same time. I was very sick. I can remember being in a dark room with wet sheets over the door. There were also wet sheets on me. They were to keep me and the room cool and reduce my fever.
Also, in Dayville there was a little man named Shorty Abel who was the only other adult human being, besides my parents and the fat man in Tygh Valley who pulled his pants legs up before he sat down, that I can ever remember seeing in any of the places we lived before I was five years old when we moved to Grass Valley. Shorty Abel liked children. He let us come into his scrubbed and tidy small house and look at the silver dollars embedded in the mantel of his stone fireplace. This was the first time I really noticed the details of the interior and exterior of a house. The exterior was board and batten. The interior had polished knotty pine on the walls. There were rugs on the floors, and the floors were varnished, light colored wood. It was a story book house. I expected it to have little doors in the walls that opened into beds as in the houses of gnomes in the fairy tale books.
I can also vaguely remember one other person. My sister Gracie always had many friends. She had a friend whose name was Emminger Stewart. We thought Emminger was a very funny name.
I must also say that my parents were happy in Dayville. They liked it there. They liked the people and the house we lived in. Once I asked my sister, Gracie, why we moved around so much and why we left Dayville. I said that if our father was so brilliant, how come he kept loosing teaching jobs. She said indignantly, as if it were something I should have known, that the schools kept closing because the people of the community could not afford to keep them going during the depression.