Descending

The gypsy spirit kicked in and we moved to Lubbock, Texas. Lubbock is in the Texas Panhandle and its claim to fame is Texas Tech University. One should be aware that tumbleweeds are something not to get en-tangled which is Lubbock’s other claim to fame. Toni, the dog was pregnant again, but not due to any failure on my part. Mother fretted about the dog all the way to Lubbock. Toni sat next to the window so the air from the open window would blow on her. Mother kept wetting a wash cloth and draping it over Toni’s head. That pretty much pissed me off, headed for deep West Texas, I was just as hot in that backseat as the pregnant dog.

Shortly after arriving in Lubbock, Toni had her puppies. While she was in labor, she never laid down. She paced in circles and literally dropped the puppies on their heads. Lee docked their tails, and I had to hold them for that operation. Ron and I each got a puppy. We named them Toddy and Frisky. Being dropped on their heads at birth, or our lack of ability to train them created two of the wildest puppies in history. On several occasions, they ripped the wash completely off the clothes lines. They demolished our Christmas tree. I believe whoever kidnapped my rabbits when I was six-years-old took Toddy and Frisky. It wasn’t long until the pups disappeared.

Lee was dating Kalah (Kay) Coward, and they decided to marry. Mother threw what is termed a “hissy fit” and refused to go to the wedding. I think it was because Kay was only 21-years-old, and Lee was going to be her third husband. Kay was a treasure, and I know Mother eventually loved her. Kay was barely eight years older than I was. She was insecure, timid, without a mean bone in her body and warmly innocent in her ways. Kay was so like a sister to me that never once did I not consider her a real sister. Margaret was gone, and Billy was busy hustling and corralling Tom Bowman. Kay and I formed an enduring bond. As flawed as our family was, we had something she had never experience before – complete loyalty to one another. She and Lee spent a lot of time with us. I adored her. I was one of the first people in her life that loved her without judgment. She responded in always trying to be the hero I thought she was.

She had a strange, creepy family who lived in a house on the edge of Lubbock. We would go to their house during tornado alerts, because they had a cellar. Her father owned a printing shop and was purported to be an ordained minister. The main part of the home housed the printing presses. Their living quarters were in cubby holes and a cramped, upstairs area. It was Gothic and seemed evil to me. After meeting her distant, unfriendly and repressed family, I understood her desperation to leave home. In the 1950s, marriage was usually the only way for a girl to leave home. They had Missy, and I suspect having a grandchild nearby went a long way with Mother in getting over her original objection. Missy was a blue-eyed, blond angel, and I had a new baby doll.

Mother was hired by the Lubbock Avalanche Journal Newspaper as a switchboard operator. I was expected to carry most of the housework and to have dinner on the table when she walked in the door. Losing her scholarship, Billy returned home, and I had to share my room. She was heads and shoulders above Oscar to my Felix. She never once re-hung or put an article of clothing up; it was tossed on her bed. In the winter, having so many layers on her bed, she didn’t require a blanket. She refused to sleep on clean sheets. When I put fresh linens on my bed, I had to take my slept-on sheets and put them on her bed in order for her sheets to get washed. Unbelievable! I don’t remember anyone ever telling her that her actions were unacceptable.

I went to O.L. Slaton Junior High School. I joined the marching band and attempted to learn to play the clarinet. That was another musical fiasco. Strike three, I was out of the music game forever. I began to listen to classical and jazz music which was broadcast from Texas Tech University. I discovered June Christy, Etta James and Dave Brubeck.

Elvis was a national rage, and I went to see his first movie, Love Me Tender. He had a climatic, death scene and his acting was terrible. I laughed aloud and a row of sobbing, teenage girls turned on me. I thought I was going to have to fight my 14-year-old way out of a movie. I realized, I was a musical snob.

In the 9th grade, I had a sweet friend who had taken piano lessons all her life. She was an only child, a concept I had never really considered before. I often sat in while she had her music lesson. Much to my amazement, she was taught music theory and used a metronome. This was vastly different from the limited piano lessons I had been forced to take back in Pine Bluff.

In 1958, because of the proximity of Texas Tech, Lubbock got a hip coffeehouse. It was called the Purple Onion and was a beatnik joint. Beatniks were the fore-runner to hippies. They wore black, turtleneck sweaters, berets and dark glasses. The artists performed poetry and banged out bongo drum solos. It seemed dangerous fun – thus to be either condemned or imitated. For once, Daddy didn’t condemn and took me to the beatnik hang-out. More than likely, he went out of curiosity and to try the coffee.

Daddy’s love of history came to fore in West Texas The 1800s should have been Daddy’s era. He loved the frontier legends and would have preferred to have been a bank robber or a Pony Express rider. On a Saturday, he took me and a couple of my school friends to the bat caves at Carlsbad Caverns.

Daddy, Ron and I toured every town that Billy the Kid was known to ever lived or visit. William Bonny or “Billy the Kid,” as he is commonly known was an outlaw who was shot by the age of 21 after raising havoc in the New Mexico Territory. As a teenager, he lived in a violent dog-eat-dog world where knowing how to use a gun was the difference between life and death. We went to the New Mexico Badlands. In northwest New Mexico, there is a remote, wilderness area which is dotted with colorful, eroded rock formations. The Badlands are little known and are hidden away in the high desert not far from the Four Corners area.

My school year ended. The events of that summer began the final, all-consuming slide for Daddy. Billy finally married Tom Bowman, a successful business man. We moved to a house more befitting for Tom’s in-laws. When he left his wife and two children, Tom didn’t realize Billy was a lesbian. The new marriage went south, pretty fast. One summer day, Billy, Tom’s 17-year-old son and I were at the sub-division, swimming pool when suddenly Daddy appeared. On a brilliantly, hot day at a swimming pool, we heard Tom had been shot. While at his former home to sign legal papers, his ex-wife shot him.

His ex-wife’s attorney immediately checked her into a mental facility and started claiming self-defense. In trying to reconstruct this tragedy the police said he had been sitting in an armchair, lighting his pipe. The first shot hit his cupped hands. The next two shots were to his chest. Tom had sat still and allowed, maybe even willed, being shot by an irate ex-wife. The television news crew was at the scene, and the story ran for days. At Tom’s funeral, hysterical, Billy dramatically fell across the casket. The gnashing of her teeth was short-lived once she received Tom’s insurance money. In 1959, $150,000 was huge money. Our family could no longer pretend that Billy was straight. There was no discussion, maybe not even acceptance, but the 800 pound gorilla could no longer be locked in the closet.

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