Even as children, we were breathless before reaching the top of that precipice that looked over the town, and the Elkhorn River Valley beyond. I pictured tipis and Indian maidens along the river. To my knowledge, Mom and Dad ignored or forgave us for those adventures.
I was punished for something else. An outright lie that affected others.
Chocolate has always tempted me, and I got into Mom’s Valentine candy, a gift from Dad, stored on top of the refrigerator. I wouldn’t confess to the theft. Dad lined us up like stair steps with me at one end, then Gaylen, Renée, down to Randy at the short end. Dad took the belt to all four of us. The memory punished me more than the whipping. A few years back, I asked my siblings to forgive me. Not one remembered the incident.
While Mom and Dad worked at the Hilltop Café, we were unsupervised more often than not. As the oldest, I was the caregiver. Renée and Randy dusted the house with a bag of white flour one memorable day. I helped clean up and we played outside, near the house, until supper time.
My exposure to town living also exposed me to the existence of boys. Mom wasn’t ready for one Saturday afternoon when a young man knocked at the door and asked if I could go to a movie with him. Larry and I were both ten. The paperboy, a blue-eyed sixth grader, flirted with me. We later became friends in high school. I was glad those boys weren’t around to witness me on my bike.
That year also scarred me with the first disappointments of life. I wanted to take ballet lessons, which cost a dollar a week. My parents said they didn’t have enough money. Then, after I learned how to read music, I wanted to take piano lessons. I was given the same answer. Disappointment dug deep and I rarely asked for much afterward. I determined at that time to earn my own money because Mom and Dad needed theirs for my sister and brothers’ things. I secreted my ambitions until I was 12 when I started to baby-sit.
Though the year in town expanded my horizons, I was more than ready to move back to the country. Another change awaited. A bathroom in the house (no more icy runs to the outhouse!) and the addition of two bedrooms.
I was moving home. The home of my youth was not living in town, but the pastures, the peace, and the birdsong. All memories for this country girl’s heart.