Mom expressed concern for my posture and sought to prevent slouching. So she helped me balance books on my head and I practiced walking without them slipping off. She also said, “Ladies walk a slimmer, more graceful profile if they step one foot directly in front of the other.” Mom demonstrated and I rehearsed that walk on the seams of the spotted beige linoleum floor tiles.
Another gem she passed on to me: “Ladies do not sweat,” she claimed, “we perspire.”
I wasn’t so sure I wanted to act like a lady. I still enjoyed romping around outside, and soon discovered it easier to go over the barbed wire fences than squeeze between the strands of wire. Unless someone bigger than me held the strands apart, I had grown too big to go between the barbs without snagging the clothes on my back.
Depending on my mood, whether I sauntered or skipped up the lane and out to the pasture, I counted 250 to 300 footsteps from the corral to the pasture. Maybe I was inspired by Helen Keller, since I tried different activities with my eyes closed or blindfolded. At any rate, I memorized how many steps it took to get from one place to another.
Women were expected to have sewing skills. So I learned to use the sewing machine and constructed doll clothes. Dad said I ran the foot petal like a crazy driver. He didn’t want me behind the wheel of his car. Z-r-r-room, stop, z-r-r-room, stop, stop, z-r-r-room, stop.
My world expanded beyond Neligh and Orchard when at age 11 I went to 4-H camp at Niobrara State Park, since relocated due to the Niobrara River flooding.
Prior, my nights away from home had been with relatives—Aunt Carol Ann Mosel at Orchard or at Aunt Evelyn’s when she worked as a waitress in a corner café in Neligh. I had been eight or nine when I stayed with her on Second Street and couldn’t go to sleep because the town was so much noisier than the country. The street lights were too bright. But being at camp was more like sleeping at home on the farm.
At camp, I made a polished rock necklace, enjoyed the safety of paddle boats on the water, and target practiced with a .22 rifle. I came close to the bull’s eye most of the time. I fell in love with singing campfire songs like “Kookaburra,” “Tell Me Why,” “Kumbaya,” and other songs that honored God and country.