Orchard Drive, Bountiful, Utah. 1950-1955
My mother liked to look at houses for sale. In her biography she says that the move to Bountiful was for the sake of getting my father into a healthier environment. It certainly wasn't inspired by the lack of space in our little Victorian era cottage on 2nd west in Salt Lake City. Although the house in Salt Lake had been small, the house on the farm was even smaller. It had been a two car garage which was carved up into two bedrooms and a tiny bathroom, a kitchen and eating area, with a lean-to on the north that served as a front room.
It seems to me that the decision to have my grandmother come and stay with us during the week so my mother could work took place almost as soon as we moved. I can remember sharing a bedroom with my two little sisters and my grandmother from the beginning of our life on Orchard Drive. Later my grandmother was given a room separate from the little girls, but not until a living room, bathroom, and master bedroom had been added to the original structure.
Since she had never learned to drive a car, my grandmother stayed in Bountiful during the week and returned to a small apartment in Salt Lake on the weekends. She was nearly seventy years old and at the age of six I was her apprentice. When I was not taking care of my little sisters, I was expected to help her cook and keep house. I had the responsibility of telling my little sisters stories at bedtime. I had the same task when I was twelve and they were nine and seven. They had friends and play time. I had duties.
I was not a very good apprentice to my grandmother. It seemed I could do nothing right. She didn't believe I couldn't see the crumbs on the floor when I did an poor job of sweeping. "I can see them with my old eyes," she chided. Her birthday cards to us one year were taken from nursery rhymes. Mine was "Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary."
School was not a happy place once we moved to Bountiful. I had only a few months of my first grade year left to finish. I rode a bus for the first time and was taken to the basement of the Bountiful Tabernacle which was providing overflow for Stoker School which was already feeling the impact of postwar population growth. Instead of the happy, encouraging environment I had enjoyed in kindergarten and first grade at Washington School with kind, enthusiastic teachers, I encountered Mrs. Twining. She came down the dim hallway and commented that she hardly recognized me with my new hair cut. I had never seen her before and thought she was not very smart
It turned out that she was my teacher. I had learned to read in Salt Lake. Unfortunately I was so interested in the story that I read ahead of the reading group to which I had been assigned. When my turn came I didn't take up where the child before me had quit reading. Instead, I was turning pages trying to find the place. The teacher kept repeating the words that began the next sentence, thinking me too dull to understand what was on the page. She hadn't observed that I was several pages ahead when called on to read. She decided I couldn't read as well as the reading group she had tried me with and sent me to read with the slow readers. That set the tone for our further encounters.
One day I missed the school bus that took us home and I started walking. I had paid enough attention during the rides to have a sense of where I needed to go, but this was my first introduction to what I eventually identified as a keen sense of direction. The walk was over two miles and I arrived home somewhat later than my grandmother had expected me. I can't remember her reaction, but I was really proud of myself for making the journey all alone.
When the last day of school came I was introduced to several classic chants by the older children who were waiting for the bus. "No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks." I was scandalized by the disrespect displayed ,but I agreed with the sentiments expressed.
Although I was expected to take care of my younger sisters and help my grandmother with housework, summer on the farm was full of opportunities to exercise my imagination. The farm was traversed by a canal that held about eighteen inches of almost opaque olive tinted water. Wads of algae that looked like green wigs floated by. An old wooden bridge sufficient to hold the weight of our tractor provided access to the bottom acres of the farm. I would lie on my stomach on the bridge and look down into the water as it flowed beneath me. In moments I was no longer on a stationary bridge, but on a boat on my way to places my imagination provided.
Water skeeters laced the surface of the sluggish water, skating here and there and leaving dainty interlocking circles in their wake. As the seasons came and went the fruit trees on the farm brought forth varied crops. The front part of the orchard, east of the canal, was planted in peaches. Immediately below the canal was a belt of apricots, the first fruit to ripen. Below that apple trees in several different varieties reached to the bottom of the property. There was a small irrigation ditch that divided off a small corner at the northwest of the property. Here there were a few Italian plum trees that yielded prunes. Every year an Italian family would come and harvest the small sweet fruit.
When school started again I no longer needed to ride a bus. A new elementary school had been completed near the bottom of our farm. I walked with my brother, northeast on Orchard drive, over to 15th south then west to the road that lead back south to the school. Later I discovered how to walk through the farmland to get home. It cut quite a lot of distance from the trek.
I was not too happy to discover that I had Mrs. Twining as my teacher again. I knew she had a low opinion of me. It didn't help that as the weather got colder, I got a permanent runny nose. We had been asked to bring a large piece of fabric to school for a project and I still had most of it in my desk. Without tissue or a hankie to wipe my runny nose, I fished out the end of the large piece of fabric and used it. Over several days I continued to use the piece of fabric, conscious that sooner or later I would have to take the stiffened remnant out of my desk and knowing that Mrs. Twining would be confirmed in her estimate of me.
The clear favorite of the teacher was a blonde haired boy named Jimmy Clark. I had begun to dislike him when he said that his grandfather, J. Reuben Clark should have become the president of the Church instead of David O. McKay. I felt it was disrespectful to question the succession of the presidency. It was evident he shared the teacher's attitude toward me. I had some friends in the class, and we would sometimes talk when we should have been paying attention. I had been rebuked more than once for talking when I shouldn't have.
One day Mrs. Twining had an assignment that took her out of the classroom for an hour or so. She told Jimmy that she was putting him in charge of keeping order in the class and said that Miss Bitters, the kindergarten teacher, would be stopping by to check on us now and then. I decided I had better be on my best behavior and when my friend Roger tried to talk to me I shook my head and kept on writing on a work sheet. That happened several times, but I resolutely decided to remain silent. Eventually Miss Bitters stuck her head in the door and asked Jimmy how things were going. He said that Roger, another boy, and I had been talking all the time.
I felt self righteous outrage at the unfair accusation. For once I had been silent. Even so, Miss Bitters asked the three of us to follow her back to the kindergarten class. She sat us down on tiny chairs around a table in the center of the room and told the kindergarten children that we had been bad. She elaborated on how we were bad examples and not very smart.
I picked up one of the primers on the table and hid my face. Soon my shoulders were shaking with silent sobs. They were silent, but they were wet. Both of my eyes and my nose were running. I held the book closer to my face so no one could see my misery. Miss Bitters pulled the book out of my hands and slimy strings of mingled mucous and tears stretched between the book and my dripping nose. She held it up to show the younger children while she mocked me. I knew that what she was doing was wrong, but she was older, bigger, and more powerful than I and I was helpless to do anything.
Several days later a group of kindergarten boys surrounded me while I was on the playground. They started to make fun of me. I pulled myself to my full height, which was still several inches taller than most of my school mates, and at least six inches taller than my would-be tormentors. I told them that if they ever bothered me again I would make them sorry. Their eyes widened and they quickly scattered. I would never be a bully, but I could be intimidating as I needed to be. Somehow I survived the misery of second grade in Mrs. Twining's class. That summer I spent some time visiting my grandmother's home in Salt Lake. She had a collection of Relief Society and Reader's Digest magazines and I loved to read them while sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of the house where she had an apartment. Great Aunt Rhoda had the front room of the house, a sunny room fitted with a kitchen. My grandmother's room was down the hall. Her room was smaller and darker, but she had a separate kitchen. My great Aunt Phoebe had an apartment in another house nearby.
When school started again I was in third grade and my teacher was a young woman named Mrs. Davis. I thought she was very insightful. She quickly identified me as one of her brightest students. Soon she asked me to oversee the slowest reading group. I remembered how I felt when Miss Bitters had been cruel and critical of me, and I tried very hard to be a kind and complimentary mentor. Several years later I was playing at the home of a cousin and a neighbor boy seemed to know me. He told me he was one of the boys in the reading group I helped. "We loved you. We thought you were wonderful," he said. I was really touched by his memory.
Dotty, one of the girls in my third grade class had glasses that magnified her eyes. The rims were pink pearl. I tried to kind to her, but the exaggeration of her eyes repelled me. When my brother came home with a note suggesting that he might need glasses, my parents set up a simple eye test before taking him to see the optometrist. He failed it. Then he insisted that I be tested, claiming that I was almost blind. I was indignant. I refused at first, but my parents insisted. I also failedtheir homemade test and they took us both to an optometrist to have our eyes tested.
I needed glasses. When we were taken to the fitting room to shop for frames, my mother held up a pink pearl pair just like the ones worn by Dotty. I recoiled. Instead I insisted on choosing blue metallic frames. On the day we went to pick up the glasses I discovered all I had been missing. When we left the office I discovered that even from a block away I could see the leaves on trees. When I looked down at the sidewalk I could see the individual grains of sand in the cement. It filled me with wonder and my resentment at being forced to wear glasses was forgotten.
Not only was I bigger than almost all my classmates, I dressed quite differently. My cousin, Christine Dalby, lived in Northern Virginia and her mother bought her clothing at stores like Hechts and Garfinkles. They were elegant, stylish clothes, and every six months or so, the clothing that Christine outgrew were boxed up and sent to me.
It was like getting Christmas several times a year. My younger sisters were too young to benefit by the elegant cast offs, and they have both been more normal in the way they dressed, according to their peer group through the years. I was bigger, smarter, more elegant in my hand-me-down finery, but I smelled bad most of the time. A strep infection when I was about five years old had settled in my kidneys, affecting my renal system. I was nearly incontinent and spent a fair amount of time squatting on my heel. One of my problems with Mrs. Twining was her refusal to excuse me to use the bathroom as often as I needed. The result was that I must have smelled of urine most of the time.
Mrs. Davis listened to me when I asked to use the bathroom and it made a big difference. I think third grade was one of the best years of my school days. It was like a return to the halcyon days of my kindergarten and first grade experience in Salt Lake, before my kidneys had become infected.
Meanwhile my mother began to make changes in the house where we lived. One day she took a hammer to the wall of the kitchen/dining room with the idea of creating a picture window where there had been a door and a smaller window. My father was a 'pipe-fitter' at the UTOCO refinery in North Salt Lake. In other words, he was an industrial plumber. He put his skills to work making a new bathroom in the tiny house. The prior bathroom, barely more than a shower closet, was turned into the laundry area. My mother was one of the first women of her acquaintance to purchase an automatic washer and dryer. Several years later she became one of the first in the neighborhood to purchase an automatic dishwasher.
In time a large addition to the garage/shed was completed. The addition included a large room that combined dining and living room functions, a roomy master bedroom, and a bathroom, plus an entry hall. It was in that living room that we installed our first TV set. I can remember watching a live broadcast of an atomic bomb test, as well as watching shows like 'Your Hit Parade'. My father liked to watch boxing matches.
The summer before fourth grade I often played in the bottom of the orchard in the triangle where the Italian plum grew. A pile of small boulders, possibly the remnants of a flood, held a fascinating variety of minerals. My favorite was studded with tiny garnets which I worked to pry loose and stuffed into my pockets. One fall day I decided to run up to the house after spending time with my rock pile. I slid on mud while leaping onto the 1 foot diameter steel pipe that formed a casualbridge across the small irrigation ditch. Instead of landing on the pipe, my shin struck the rusty edge of the pipe and my leg was cut to the bone. Although it was bleeding heavily and quite painful, I had to get to the house. My mother's friend Marian Hatch, from Kenniwick, Washington was visiting. When my mother saw my wound she started for the phone to call the doctor. Her friend told her it really wasn't necessary to see a doctor. All that was needed, she insisted, was to pack the wound with salt and put me to bed in a dark room. The salt stung and I was miserable with pain, without proper cleaning, the wound festered and became infected. Several days later when my mother finally took me to the doctor he had to cut away a lot of dying flesh. After sewing up the wound, he warned me that I would lose my leg if I didn't strictly follow his orders and stay off the leg for several weeks.
Fourth grade dipped me back into a secondary status. Our elementary school was still only a couple of years old but the student body had outgrown the building and it was necessary to make an addition to the school. Fourth graders were among the several grades which were bused to the high school. Carolyn, a girl who had long resented me caught polio and was left with a paralyzed arm. She would groan a little and wave her braced arm whenever one of the other girls talked to me. Soon she had trained all the girls in our age group in the ward to avoid me with the exception of Diane Wright.
Diane was a sweet girl who would probably have been accepted into Carolyn's clique if she had not had a deforming handicap. Somehow the skin in the center of her face kept growing at an abnormal pace. Periodically she had to have an operation to gather the skin and remove it, right along the bridge of her nose. As a result, she had lovely hair, a nice wardrobe, and a sad face with a flattened nose that was centered with a long scar. Her eyes were small and would grow smaller from the inside edges as the need for another operation neared. Ironically her parents were both unusually attractive and her little brother was like a doll. For several years Diane was the only girl who was willing to be my friend because of the tactics Carolyn practiced.
The high school was located quite a bit further from our house than the elementary school and buses were available, but I often walked home. I would linger on the way, finding a sunny place in a miniature meadow and finding the tiny wild flowers less than a quarter inch wide that starred the tender spring grass.
I continued to be on call to baby sit my younger sisters at all times. The mother of their best friends became a friend and mentor. I would visit with her while my sisters played with her daughters. Eventually she hired me now and then to babysit her children.
The farm provided many adventures. Our neighbors on the south owned a draft horse that was tall at the hocks and shoulders and as broad as a table. One day I lured it near the fence with a tuft of green grass and climbed up on its back. For a few minutes it was wonderful to ride the huge animal as it ambled here and there around the fenced enclosure, then I faced the problem of getting down from the horse. Not only was I high above the ground, but the massive hooves of the animal seemed likely to crush me if I fell at its feet. I remember my panic, but not how I finally got off.
Sometime later I discovered a lovely solitary game. A grove of trees near our neighbor's boundary overhung the canal. One trunk large branch was limber but sturdy enough to hold my weight as I shinnied out and hung over the sluggish water. I could make the limb move up and down a little, making me feel like I was on the wave tossed deck of a ship and once again engaging my imagination on an imaginary voyage. Suddenly the sound of rude laughter broke my reverie. I glanced down and saw a group of older boys laughing at me. The decided to put a scare into me and threatened to dump me off my perch into the water. I hung on for all I was worth as they shook the tree. This was far more frightening than my adventure on the draft horse. In an effort to limit my solitary wandering, my grandmother had warned me that wicked men and boys inhabited the pastures and orchards west of our house. She wasn't specific in her warnings, and I only avoided wandering briefly, but I had kept the dread of some nameless harm that might come to me.
I didn't know what would be worse; to let myself be shaken loose and fall into the filthy water, or to back down from the branch and face the unruly crowd of boys. I just kept hanging on, knowing that the branch would not support their weight. Finally they tired of their game and left me alone. It was some time before I backed down the tree and hurried home.
I fell out of several trees during our years on the farm. Sometimes I lost my grip, sometimes branches broke. Fortunately, I was only winded when I landed. I was an adult before I broke any limbs other than the 'green break' to my arm when I was about four years old. Once I was leaning over the canal on one of my imaginary voyages when I lost my balance and tumbled head-first into the murky water. I immediately concluded that I was a good as dead since the water was notoriously poisonous and full of germs, an impression enforced by my grandmother in an effort to keep me close to the house. Instead of drowning, I stood up in the thigh deep water, dark green moss hanging from my sodden clothing. I was still alive, but filled with revulsion at the slimy moss and afraid of the infection that would inevitably follow. Strangely, I never got ill from the adventure.
We still made annual trips to Panguitch where my Heywood grandparents lived until the mid 1950s. Grandmother Kate Delong Heywood lived until she was nearly 85 years old and died in 1955. My grandfather, David Leland Heywood died nearly three years later. I am glad I was able to meet them.
One trip took place in the winter. Mother had refashioned a bright red wool coat from DI into a cozy coat for me. While we were visiting my Aunt Mary in the house near the red brick home where my grandparents lived, I came in from the cold and backed up to the stove to warm myself. The smell of burning wool alerted me that I had come too close to the coal stove. I jumped forward, but a large black scorch mark, nearly a foot in diameter, had ruined the coat. My mother bitterly accused me of deliberately ruining the coat because I was ashamed of wearing something from DI. As far as I knew, there was nothing to be ashamed of except her false accusation. I now realize that the poverty of her youth had made her sensitive to such things. She would frequently go to Deseret Industries and bring home clothing made with fine material which she would cut into long strips and make into braided rugs or pieced quilts, but I think this was one of the first and only times she had shopped for something to be worn or altered.
She was always conscious of the perceived value of clothing purchased new from 'quality' stores. Although she had a fondness for antiques, and acquired a nice collection of Victorian furniture, she was only interested in clothing that was fresh and new, and we children wore either new clothing or those she sewed for us with the exception of my semi-annual gifts from my cousin in Virginia. One day I went along with her when she visited the credit department of ZCMI, one of her favorite department stores. I watched fascinated as she told the credit manager that his establishment was better off to keep her as a customer and continue to extend credit, rather than to lose her custom. Somehow they agreed and she continued shopping there. I learned that each year nearly half of her salary went to pay off loans at her credit union and most of the rest to pay down credit cards at local stores. She almost never carried cash and was accustomed to writing checks for amounts under a dollar.
She worked as a secretary to the Dean of Education at the University of Utah as well as typing theses for doctoral and Master's degree candidates through most of the time we lived in Bountiful. In addition, she was the one who turned a credit from our fruit farm. My father pruned the trees and sprayed the blossoms and the young fruit with insecticide. He plowed and furrowed and planted the garden areas and fed and milked the little jersey cow we kept for milk and cream. All this in addition to his work as a pipefitter at the UTOCO refinery, but he balked at turning a profit on his labor. He would give the fruit away to anyone who seemed in need. My mother was the one who organized a customer base, whether at the small street stand on the road, or through wholesale buyers.
The trail through the farms and fields between our school and home was significantly shorter than the road. One day I was invited to go home with a new classmate who lived a quarter of a mile or so to the north of the school. I spent a couple of hours at her house before starting for home. To go by road I would have to go another quarter mile past the school to 1500 south, then east, then southwest on Orchard Drive. I decided to head directly east through our neighbor's fields.
The light was dimming as dusk drew near. The fields were covered with about eight inches of ice-crusted snow. Along the fences, piles of tumble weeds had settled in gray masses that hinted of wolves and other dangers. I chose to keep to the open field rather than seek the lower snow level in the orchards that were growing dark. Each step I took plunged my foot through the ice that rubbed against my naked legs above my boots. Soon my upper calves were circled with blazing rings of pain. I had to continue on, I couldn't stop. It was nearly dark when I approached the house. I can't remember if I met with anger from my grandmother because I came home so late. It is likely she was not in evidence when I returned. By then my parents would have come home from work. My mother, my father, and my grandmother held an uneasy truce when it came to discipline. If either my father or my grandmother dared to reprimand a child when the other was present, the other took offense. In either case, I was more focused on the pain of my legs which continued long after I had reached the warmth of the house. This didn't discourage me from taking the route across the fields.
As a child in Bountiful I had often taken a path across the fields alone rather than walking with a group of other girls. Some of my fondest memories were of solitude. There was a particular shady place between my home and Diane's house where a small brook ran over pebbles under the dappled shade of an old fruit tree. In early autumn and late spring I loved to stop and take off my shoes and wade or sit on the bank. I was comfortable with my own thoughts while I lingered there. Perhaps it was because none of my time at home belonged to me. My grandmother was always in need of my help watching over my sisters or preparing for the evening meal. Her critical attitude toward everything I did made me reluctant to be with her.
We attended church at a ward house on 1400 South and 100 East. My father was inactive, and my mother hadn't been to Sacrament meeting for a long time. She deeply desired to have the entire family go to church, but if my father didn't go, she would stay home. She sometimes accompanied us, but sometimes she dropped us off for Sunday School and picked us up afterward. I don't think she realized how invisible we were to many of our leaders. The teachers knew our names, but I was often greeted as a new child by a Sunday School coordinator or a priesthood leader even after I had attended the ward for several years. I eagerly anticipated my baptism when I turned eight years old. I wanted to join the church and receive the Holy Ghost. My mother viewed the situation as an opportunity to lure my father back into activity. She said I could not be baptized and confirmed until my father could perform the ordinances. As a result, it was four months before I was baptized and I lived in fear that I would die bearing all the sins I had accumulated in that brief span of time. Finally she gave in and permitted me to join a group of other children at the Stake Center on east of town.
I somehow never developed a resistance to going to church as my other siblings did. Mother would wake us early each Sunday morning and begin to accuse us of lagging in our preparations. I loved the songs, the stories and the kindly teachers who truly seemed to care for me. I resented being accused of trying to avoid Sunday School.
During my convalescence from my injured leg I was confined to bed for days. I had learned to love to read and I read omnivorously. My Uncle Ben would often drop off boxes of paperbacks when he came south from his home in Logan. Mysteries, detective stories, comic tales and reprints of political cartoons comprised the bulk of what he brought. My mother brought home novels and collections of essays that were expensive and well bound, borrowed from her professor friends at the university. My mother hated the paperback books. Zane Grey, Dashiell Hammett, or any of a variety of writers were condemned to her disdain because their work was bound in flimsy cardboard. She often threatened to burn them all, and on one memorable occasion she lit a fire in the outdoor barbecue pit and started to burn a box of paper backs my uncle had recently dropped off. My parents argued furiously while the pages curled up and blackened.
Ironically, the books my mother brought home were a collection that a censor might more readily condemn. I remember particularly a set of books that contained the unexpurgated 2001 Nights of Sheharezade. She stored them at the top of the book case, but I was a curious ten year old. I pulled one down and tried to read it. The pictures were erotic drawings by Aubrey Beardsley, the text so sophisticated that I couldn't understand most of the allusions and depictions. It was due to my mother's sophisticated choices of reading matter that I was introduced to Nabakov (Lolita), Masters (Bhowani Junction), and Zola (Nana). Actually my mother seldom read. These were books that her employer recommended and she brought them home.
We had a wide ranging collection of books from various sources. My earliest memories of a library are of the old Central Library in Salt Lake on State Street near South Temple. The children's section was in the basement and it seemed like a secret, magic cave, colorful and filled with a slightly musty smell. I can't remember visiting the library after we moved to Bountiful. Perhaps my grandmother's lack of a driver's license and my mother's busy schedule interfered with such excursions.
In summer I spent a good deal of imagination on evading my grandmother/taskmaster. A line of dogwood bushes ran along the northern fence line, offering many cozy shelters where I could curl up and read. The cow shed had been turned to storage once our little Jersey cow got into the neighbor's green alalfa and bloated. I found a number of nooks between discarded furniture and farm implements. Then there was the tall corn. When the garden neared its peak I favored settling into a cool furrow between the rows of tasseled corn stalks. The tomato patch was close at hand for snacks, and the house, and the bathroom I still needed far too frequently wasn't far away. When my little sisters pleaded to visit their friends, my grandmother would come hunting for me to accompany them down the block, the same when I was six as it was when I was nearing my teens. She had assigned me the task of looking after them, and so I should continue when they were somewhat older than I had been when the system was conceived. When they misbehaved or had an accident, she told me I was at fault. Meanwhile my mother was convinced by her understanding of child psychology that I was bitterly jealous of my sister Jane who had displaced me from my throne when she was born. Any complaint I made about her was automatically chalked up to envy or spite.
My parents had purchased a swing set that has lasted through three generations of children. It was over ten feet tall and made of sturdy galvanized pipe instead of thing steel tubing. When Jane wanted something from me she would threaten to climb to the top of the swing set and yell through the top pipe, using it as a blow horn to tell the neighborhood that I wet the bed. As far as I know, she never followed through, or if she had, it would have been completely ineffective, but the threat alone was hurtful. My shame at the results of my renal infection was one of the worst trials of my young life. When I approached my mother for a hug she would often push me away and tell me that I had to change my panties before she touched me. A well meaning aunt who often visited told my parents that the only way to cure my bed wetting was to spank me every time it happened and force me to sleep in the wet sheets.
Various things were tried to cure me of incontinence to no avail. Although doctors had confirmed that I had suffered physiological damage that was the basis of my problems, my mother often lapsed back into the belief that my incontinence was psychological. Punishments varied but the shame was nearly constant. Perhaps much of my social isolation was due to the same cause, although the requirement that I have no friends visit me in order that I might be at my grandmother's beck and call surely played a part.
I hardly remember the events of fifth grade. I have a clear memory of a class photo. I look fourteen and I was eleven. I am surrounded by younger looking, smaller children, the girls dressed in cotton dresses, contrasted with my stylish slim skirt and pastel sweater with a scarf knotted around my neck. By then we were back at Bountiful Elementary, as the new school was called. I had received recognition as an artist and was put in charge of one of the murals depicting Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I was assigned Grand Canyon and I started out with complex streaks of color. The other scene was painted by a girl who chose to start with simple shapes. I admired what she had done and wished I had done the same. Ironically, as we proceeded, giving instructions to other children who were helping us, my streaks of purple, rose, blue, and yellows melded together and began to define a simpler whole. Meanwhile she had gazed for a moment at my painting and had instructed her helpers to add more colors. In the end, our murals had a strong resemblance.
About this time I received a bike for my birthday. It was one of the first 'English Racing' bikes seen in the neighborhood. I had wanted a typical bike with brakes that engaged when the pedals were reversed, with broad, sturdy tires and a frame that would withstand a few falls. My mother opted for a bike with narrow wheels, handle brakes and a gear system. I had to learn how to ride a bike all over again. The bike was like a race horse, expensive, sensitive and a little difficult to control, particularly on roads that were often made of dirt and gravel, particularly the road to our house. I was riding it around a corner one day when I slipped and fell, resulting in a gash on my eye. The elderly couple who owned the corner house took care of me and soon my injury was tended to and my damaged bike returned separately to my house. Later on I became friends with the couple, a nice benefit was being invited to share their cherries when they ripened. Our farm was loaded with fruit, but not a single cherry tree.
Sixth grade introduced me to the concept of intelligence testing and ability tracks. The tracking was not very different from the varied reading and math groups that I had experienced since first grade, but now testing formed the basis of the separation. One day the teacher asked me to organize his desk and there on top I saw an open ledger with the names of my classmates listed. It surprised me to see my name at the top of the list where ordinarily it would be somewhere in the middle if the list were arrange alphabetically. There were numbers following the names and I quickly realized that my number was at least ten points higher than the next on the list. I had a curious sense of vindication mingled with shame. Even then I knew that intelligence is unearned. It seemed somehow unfair to me that I would receive special consideration for something as intrinsic as my hair color. Some of my best buddies, almost always boys, were separated from me by the seating chart that was apparently based on the evaluation of a test.
I suspected the teacher had meant for me to see the ranking. Teachers often seem to fall into one of two errors about 'gifted' children. Some teachers resent or even suspect them. They attempt to trap them into looking foolish or saying something stupid. Other teachers become sycophants, giving better grades to bright children even when unjustified and treating them like colleagues instead of students.
One of the stranger hobbies of my classmates was telling dirty jokes. We had been given several lectures about our maturing bodies over the years, but the whole thing was still a mystery to most of us. I think we were trying to solve the mystery by figuring out what was meant by the punch lines of the jokes. My mother decided to handle the issue by giving me a book to read. It was titled "The Pregnant Woman" and began with various descriptions of pregnancy. It was a boring book and I soon gave up on reading it. A few months later a scamp of a cousin was visiting us. He was no blood relation due to various old scandals in his mother's past, and he had made sure to inform me that we faced no problem if we should decide to get together. I treated his suggestions as jokes and tried to avoid him, but the mating of a stallion with a mare in our neighbor's pasture gave him an opening for more suggestive comments.
I left him in disgust and told my brother he had a dirty mouth. My brother asked me what he had told me and when I replied, he laughed. "He wasn't being dirty, that's the truth." I felt really offended. Then he showed me the middle section of the book I had given up on reading. It was fairly explicit about the cause of pregnancy. I had read some fairly sophisticated literature thanks to my mother's preference for fancy bindings, but I had never figured out the exact details.
As a larger and brighter than average twelve year old, I began to have some success as a babysitter. I was too young to have an active dating life, making me available on weekends, and I had a good way with children. My parents had sold a lot at the front of our property and a young family built a house on it. I soon became friendly with the young mother. I baby sat her little boy and often stopped by just to chat. She was small and delicate and lonely. I was her size and fairly bright. We became friends and I learned from her.
One evening I was asked to tend a couple of children who had teenage brothers and sisters. The older children came home with a few friends before their parents arrived. The boys were rowdy and seemed intoxicated. One of them started flirting with me and I was frightened. Fortunately his sister warned him off, telling him I was still in elementary school.
He hardly believed her, but she argued with him long enough that their parents returned and took me home. Later the gang of boys were involved in a nearly deadly manner with a neighbor's teenage son. I had started attending MIA, the youth group for our church when I turned twelve. One evening our teachers held us in our classes much later than usual and when we were finally released to go home I noticed that the rug in the foyer of the church was missing. Later we learned that the group of boys had come to the church looking for a girl. The neighbor's son had challenged them for their language and behavior, which was usually profane and disrespectful. One of them had pulled a knife and stabbed him. The foyer rug was soaked with blood, but fortunately the wound was shallow and after a number of stitches and a short hospital stay, he was able to get back to school and other activities.
My attendance at MIA affected me profoundly. Our teacher was a young spinster who lived with her father in a house not far from the school. He was an old farmer who was probably a bit senile. Unused to the crowds of children who passed his house each day after the new school was built, he would emerge and yell at them when they were noisy. We whispered stories about him, elaborating on odd behavior and turning him into a crazy hermit in our imaginations. I was surprised at how normal his daughter was. She inspired me to study the scriptures and develop my fledgling spirituality.
After one of her lessons I returned home and began to pray. Joy and a sense of God's love ran through me. I couldn't contain my exuberance and began to jump on the bed and laugh with joy. How I had the privacy to do so, I can't explain. It is likely that the rest of the family was watching television and couldn't hear me over the roar of the crowd at the boxing match. In any case, my exuberance soon tempered into a more manageable state. I had been advised by my teacher that I could feel the Spirit in Sacrament Meeting, held in the afternoon several hours after Sunday School had ended. I decided that was where I wanted to be. When Sunday came I endured my mother's usual frantic urging to get ready for Sunday School. I enjoyed the opening exercise with its brief speeches and the class for tweens that followed. My mother was perplexed when I dressed in my Sunday clothing again that afternoon and asked if she could drive me to the church. I walked into the chapel and sat alone. The room seemed filled with golden light and the speakers seemed to offer special truths. I once again felt the joy of the Spirit witnessing to me. It was one of the sweetest hours I had ever spent. I intended to make it a regular habit.
Unfortunately for my siblings, my mother felt reproved that I had gone to church alone. For years she had refused to attend any other meeting than those in which she had an assignment such as Sunday School or Primary. The following Sunday when I started getting ready for Sacrament Meeting, mother flew into a frenzy of getting the other children ready. They balked, and we walked into the meeting late. She marched us to an empty row near the front. I tried to ignore my fidgeting, scowling siblings and concentrate on the talks and hymns, but midway through one of the talks the speaker mentioned a topic like the Temple, Tithing, or the Word of Wisdom, and my mother began to sob. It was not a noisy thing, but it was soon followed by her standing up and marching all of us out of the chapel in the middle of the service. I tried to stay, but she angrily ordered me to follow her. The performance was repeated almost weekly. My mother's soul was easily disturbed by any of a number of topics. We seemed to make a habit of arriving late and leaving early, making something of a spectacle of ourselves each time. Mother didn't listen when I begged her to sit in one of the last rows so our nearly inevitable exits would be less obvious. She seemed to have a dramatic streak that appreciated an audience.
The golden solitude I had so enjoyed was ruined, but I still found some solace even amidst the embarrassment. In any case, I have continued actively involved in my religion through the years, even though my own behavior has sometimes fallen far short of the ideal.
When I started junior high I made a range of new friends. I even regained friendship with a girl named Karen who Carolyn had estranged from me with her wounded gestures. Karen and I were assigned to work together on a project for MIA. We met at her home and had a really good time visiting and combining our talents. She wondered aloud that we had not been friends through the years. I told her about my suspicions of Carolyn and how she used her disability to alienate others from me. Karen was thoughtful for a short time, then she nodded. "I see what you mean. She has done the same thing for years. Whenever I talked to you when she was around, I felt guilty, as if I was causing her pain."
My best friend was named Kathleen. She was a pretty, redheaded girl, almost as tall as me. We both had artistic talent and were appointed to serve together as art editors for the school paper. I visited her home and learned how to make eclairs from her cosy, friendly mother. She wasn't invited to my home where the rules were still in place. At thirteen, I was still expected to watch over my ten and nine year old sisters whenever I was not in school or otherwise engaged. I experienced the humor of my classmates who made a lot of jokes about our communal showering after gym class. One pert girl with a boyish figure made a habit of jumping up on the locker room benches and pumping her elbows back and forth as she chanted: "We must, we must, we must, we must develop our bust."
It was rumored that boys would sneak into the shower room after hours and scratch holes in the paint that covered the windows. The dull cream paint provided privacy at the expense of light. Here and there a brighter area could be detected and we always were careful to cover ourselves fully with our towels when we went to and fro from the showers.
I had two teachers who had opposed opinions of my abilities. My reading teacher was convinced I was not very intelligent. When I handed in a book report on which I had spent a lot of time and effort, including rather nice illustrations, she returned it with a failing grade and claimed that I had copied it word for word from the blurb printed in the book. I took the report home to my mother and showed her the mark, and the blurb, which had no resemblance to my book report. Mother called the school and complained. The teacher took the report and gave me a B. This time she claimed the report was flawed and ungrammatical.
My social studies teacher gave me poor grades because I 'wasn't living up to potential'. He had shopped the test scores and declared that I was so far above the other students that my work must be twice as good to earn the same grade. The class members were given an assignment to create a project and carry through with it. It could be a model, a map, a graph, or some other depiction of social history or fact to be accompanied by an oral report that explained the significance to the project. The variety of projects was impressive. I made a large map of South America on a piece of mat board and made tiny symbols of the products of each country. It required a fair amount of research and a lot of work given the tools I had at hand. When the reports were given it became evident that most of the more impressive projects were at the very best a collaboration between the students and their parents. One boy confessed that he had very little to do with the project and really had no clue what it meant. The students were asked to grade each other on the projects and reports and they were fairly critical, particularly of work that had been a collaboration with adults. To my surprise and gratification, they unanimously voted to give me an A+. The teacher said I deserved no more than a C, and went to make that mark on my project. A loud protest began. He tried to explain that I was able to do much better. On boy spoke up. He asserted that the teacher would insult all of them and treat them like fools if he disregarded the grade they had awarded. He made a particular point that I was one of the few who had been able to explain the project and had received no help. The teacher agreed to give me an A, but left off the +.
My general science teacher was inspirational. He loved every aspect of science and communicated his excitement to the class. We watched bacteria under a microscope and tried to comprehend the Theory of Relativity. We made models of atoms and molecules and did simple experiments. He bred a love of chemistry and physics, biology and astronomy in my young mind that has persisted through the years.
I learned to play the recorder in music class and I was selected to perform a solo number and perform as a member of a singing trio at the music assembly that spring. Art was easy and much of the time was spent with Kathleen on our editorial duties for the weekly school paper where drawings substituted for photographs.
Weekly dances were held in the gymnasium. I was taller than most of the boys, and some of them seemed rather fond of slow dances. I became a popular partner, particularly with those who liked to pillow their heads on my chest. I learned to avoid slow dances and certain partners.
My best friend other than Kathleen was a boy named Steven. He had auburn hair and big brown eyes and we liked to laugh together. The potential for anything more was blighted by our difference in height. I invited him to a girl's choice party held at our ward, but the digs and slights from the other boys were heavy-handed. I resigned myself to being his friend. Another boy asked me for a date and we walked home after watching a movie. He kept my hand in his and seemed trying to convey some kind of message with a rapid repetitious squeezing that only made me nervous. A somewhat older boy lived across the street from us for years. He was sixteen when I was twelve, and we were the same height. He worked at the local theater and one evening when I went to the movie with some friends he paid my way in and then came and sat next to me, his hand draped around my neck. When the movie was nearly finished he kissed my cheek.
I loved seventh grade for a variety of reasons. The knowledge seemed to cascade. I even enjoyed learning to diagram sentences, which seemed to me a curious type of puzzle solving. I had friends and popularity of sorts. At home I had been given a guitar for Christmas. It was a lovely instrument, with a mellow tone and scrolled holes like those of a violin instead of a large circular hole in the body beneath the strings.
I would sit on the back porch and watch the sunset while I strummed and made up tunes. My mother purchased an accordion for my brother and sisters to share. She hired the same music teacher for all of us, but he seemed ignorant of how to play the guitar. The accordian was soon returned to the music store but I kept my guitar.
Life was fairly good as far as I was concerned. Eighth grade seemed to present a bright prospect when seventh grade ended. Kathleen and I made plans to get together with each other over the summer break.
My mother had other plans. While driving to and fro from the university on Victory Drive, an extension of Main Street past the Utah State Capitol building, she had noticed a home being built. It was up the hill from the little house where we had lived on 2nd west eight years before. Selling one front lot had taught my mother that land was more valuable as real estate for development than it could ever be as a farm. The new house was convenient to my father's place of work and far closer to the university where my mother worked. That summer we sold the farm and moved to Salt Lake City.