Chapter 1 - Mom
Mom, born in Texas like your Daddy, grew up on a ranch twenty miles from Eads, Colorado about which she wrote in a volume she titled “I Remember” when she was in her mid-50’s, the age I began writing these memoirs.
Her maiden name is “James” and many jokes have been made over the years about her father’s and brother’s name, “Jesse James” and “Jesse James, Jr.” She proudly talked, however, of her lineage. She downplayed the biological link to the original Jesse James, choosing to focus on other blood relatives such as President Zachary Taylor.
The family ranch and lack of conveniences, we consider necessities, isolated them from most of the world. They made most of their clothing by hand, and Mom learned embroidery at a young age decorating pillowcases and dishtowels for her hope chest and future home. A girl’s future contained few choices besides wife, mother and homemaker. Her older sister,
Mettie Lee would make home-made angel food cakes from scratch with a dozen separated eggs. I can’t imagine how tired her arms were.
Their family participated in school activities. Mom excelled as class president and salutatorian of her high school class at Kit Carson, Colorado. Both her sisters made the cheerleading team. Their brother, Jess, played on the basketball team. Her sister, Sue, five years younger won homecoming queen and majorette status.
Mom played drums and liked being in the marching band. She took piano lessons for a while but didn’t enjoy them. She thought she would have enjoyed playing violin (a.k.a. “fiddle”) but didn’t have the opportunity.
One assignment that impressed her from high school regarded the stock market. After a few lessons, each student picked a stock with an imaginary amount of money and tracked it for the semester. She thought selecting an aluminum can company guaranteed success. Reality disillusioned her when, unexpected by the majority of stockholders, plastics were introduced and became the market’s container of choice. “Her” stock crashed. She seldom discussed investments or finances, but when I brought it up, she warned me that if a person isn’t careful, the stock market ruins your life just like gambling.
Mom took advantage of attending college because in her small school offered few other options. No boys in her class of eight interested her and jobs in their rural area were limited. Her parents instilled a desire for a better education, but regardless of which country or scenery she saw, she always loved wide-open spaces and “peace and quiet.”
She attended the Colorado Teachers College in Greeley now known as the University of Northern Colorado. She enjoyed college classes, friends and attended dances regularly with the only negativity being that her best friend pledged to a sorority and she didn’t.
As a naïve ranch girl a professor embarrassed her in class one day by demanding that any Baptists in the class identify themselves. Acknowledging her church background made her the object of ridicule as the prof began criticizing her for the “ignorance” of the entire denomination that didn’t believe in evolution or other non-biblical ideas. I guess intimidating professors have always been around. I wonder if that professor is alive and aware of the research and scientific data presented since disproving most of the tenets of evolution!
The limited entertainment in 1950’s Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne forced the airmen to drive an hour to Greeley, Colorado for fun. The Colorado Teachers College offered dances and socialization with eligible, well-educated women.
At one of these dances during her sophomore year John met Virginia. He, a Virginia boy, always said he wanted to marry a girl named Virginia. He attracted her instantly but she didn’t let him know, according to a diary she kept.
Mom’s fondly dreamed of living on and owning a place in the country that would allow her to look as far as she could in any direction and know in whatever direction she looked she saw only her property. This dream took second place to love when she met Dad.
Perhaps her countrified upbringing instilling a craving for silence, peace and quiet that she often said she wanted. When I was a teenager, she saw an advertisement for an lp record, back in the days before cd’s or audio tapes or even 8-track tapes, that played 25 minutes of silence. I believe she would have ordered it if it had not concluded with three minutes of thunderous applause! Although living in the 2000 square foot parsonage with one bathroom to share between four children, a husband and herself would probably make anyone desire quiet.
Her dark-haired beauty, shyness and lack of worldliness appealed to Dad and within months accepted his proposal in March of 1952.
During the summer of their engagement Mom accepted a year-long teaching position in Karval, Colorado. She taught grades one through eight in the one-room building. Her two years of college met the 1950’s state teaching license requirements.
She lived with her aunt and uncle, Buddy and Alice near Karval, Colorado who had only one child at the time, but eventually had four sons named Carl Keith, Louis Taylor, Neil and Mark. Mom talked often about how they named the boys in alphabetical order and mentioned this enough for me to wonder why she didn’t do the same with our names. When I asked she said, “Because I liked your names.”
She told us often how a town, I use the term “town” loosely since of its size, got its name. Apparently, many early Colorado towns’ names told their facilities and primary assets. Haswell had a well, and by looking on a map, everyone knew to stop there for water, visit or settle down because it “has well” water.
On weekends her parents picked her up and took her back to the ranch. She and Dad didn't have lengthy phone conversations because of the cost of long-distance. Dad, when he could get away, visited.