I was born in 1959 in a little town in Northern California. While that is probably not very significant, the fact that I was my mother’s ninth child, my father’s tenth child and my parents’ fifth child together is significant. I know, confusing right?
From the moment I can remember anything about my life, I was
surrounded by lots of people. Not only did I have a bunch of siblings but I
also had many cousins. There was always someone to play with.
My parents were hardworking people who made their living off the land.
As a matter of fact, my father’s occupation is on my birth certificate. Ranch hand. I find it interesting that my dad’s profession was necessary on my birth certificate. In a way, I have been “classed” from the beginning.
This last weekend I shared a post about a hike up El Toro with My John. I mentioned he grew up at the base of that hill and had many escapades to share. Here is an abridged column he wrote that I think you’ll enjoy.
“You’d think boys would know how to hunt” by John P. Gavin
Who has read the book Lord of the Flies?
When I was in school it was pretty much
required reading. It was written in the 50’s by William Golding and is the
story of a group of young boys marooned, without grownups, on an island
In the book the boys quickly revert to a feral
state and run about howling, fighting and wielding crudely made weapons. I
remember reading it in class and thinking “what’s the big deal? That’s no
different from my neighborhood”.
Not to knock Mr. Golding but the boys in my
old neighborhood did not require an island without grownups in order to channel
our wild side. All we needed were the orchards and forests at the edge of town
– and a little imagination.
My neighborhood was bordered to the west by a small mountain that had been named El Toro by the Spaniards who discovered it (under the feet of the Chitactac Indians who were already living on it). To the north of us was a large walnut orchard that also bordered El Toro.
We virtually lived on that mountain – we knew all the big trees, open spaces and trails. One particular trail we knew of was travelled by a herd of deer that used it to get down to the orchard. They would then pass through the orchard to drink from the pond that lay beyond.
We were familiar not only with the trail, but
also with the time of evening the deer would come down it. In our grubby hands
this was dangerous knowledge. I still remember the summer day we sat in Dave
Mead’s garage talking about what our next adventure (the word ‘mayhem’ would
work equally well) would be when one of the guys blurted out “Let’s hunt the
deer in the orchard!”
To us an idea like that one did not require any discussion further than working out the details.
My little brother Brian asked, “What will we hunt them with?”
Someone shouted “Spears!”
Dave’s brother Richard wondered aloud “Where do we get spears?”
My response was “We make them”.
“Out of what?” Patrick Black asked.
“Knives tied to broom handles,” I said.
Brian wanted to know “When do we get the deer – on their way down the orchard or back through it?” On their way back from the pond we decided – figuring they’d be less wary on their second trip through the walnut trees.
And so we set off to our respective homes to
steal knives out of drawers and cut handles off of brooms. The plan was to meet
at the edge of the orchard about the time the herd of deer would pass through
on their way to the pond, and then quietly filter in among the trees so as to
be in place when they made their return trip.
To this day I still remember shouting, “Get
‘em!” as the deer made their way back toward El Toro. Out jumped five running,
shouting, spear wielding boys; and as the terrified deer spotted us they all
bolted in unison. I launched my spear, as did the others, hoping it would fly
true and hit its mark – a big deer charging past me.
I didn’t hit my target that day in the
orchard. None of us did. Heck, we were little kids with kitchen knives tied to
broom handles – what damage were we really going to do? I think all we
accomplished was scaring the daylights out of a bunch of deer – well maybe that
and the realization all we truly wanted to do was follow them around.
Yesterday I wrote about growing up in Michigan and how we spent most of our time outside.
I also mentioned because of that experience, I wanted to be sure my kids had the same opportunity.
When I got pregnant with our first son, my husband was still in school. We lived in a townhouse near campus and it was fine. By the time our boy was six months old, we’d moved back to Oregon and found a rental in town.
It wasn’t until after our second son was born that I started to remember my own childhood, and what it was like to grow up on a farm. I had married a city boy, and I wasn’t sure he would want to move into the country.
We learn how to be women from our moms, or at least a mother figure.
So we watch them closely and subconsciously put each act or word into columns of either, “This is good advice to live by and pass on,” or “No way do I believe this and I am so not going to do this to my kids.”
There are probably a lot of other columns too, but those two stand out the most for me.
I learned how to be a woman by watching my mom. Which is probably why I’m not a girly girl. She didn’t wear makeup or dress in pretty clothes. And she lived in “practical shoes” and flip-flops.
I think she made most of her dresses. You’ll recall I said she only wore dresses, even as a farm-woman, right? I have to wonder if her mom wore dresses too. But I can’t recall much about my grandmother.
My mom learned how to be a woman from her mother too. It’s passed down from one generation to the next with varying degrees of changes for each of us. Continue reading
Do you ever wonder what it was like for your parents when they were kids? I don’t think about my dad’s youth as much as I do my mom’s. That’s probably because she was the rule-maker of our home.
And the enforcer too.
When I was a kid, I didn’t think about or care what made her the way she was, I was more concerned with ducking her flip-flop as she tried to swat me with it for not doing what I was told.
But as an adult, I have to wonder what it was like for her growing up in that little farmhouse in Michigan with four brothers and three sisters.
She was born in the spring of 1924, unless you go by what her headstone reads. Not sure how that happened, but it’s off by a year. She was the second child of eight, in a home that would soon be crowded. Continue reading
Growing up in a small town in Michigan, we didn’t go on vacation as a family. I don’t remember one single time we vacationed anywhere. I don’t even recall my parents leaving us kids home so they could go.
Summers were for working, either on our farm or in the cherry orchards.
We all worked together to bring enough income in for the year. And when we weren’t picking cherries, my dad had us working on our farm helping tend to the crops or raise our farm animals. Continue reading
The best thing about moving is you get to start over. No one knows you or your history. There’s no long-established notion of who you are.
That’s how I felt at 19 in Bend, Oregon. I was determined to make a fresh start. Growing up in a small town in the Midwest was a little bit like growing up in a fish bowl. It’s not that all 2,000 of us knew each other; it’s more that it just felt that way.
Bend was two thousand miles away, away from my old life, and away from being the poor farm kid. With a staggering population of 15,000 people, for me it felt like a big city, and it was love at first sight.