Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Letter To Liz

June 28 2011

Dear Liz:

I recorded the movie "Lili" with Leslie Caron and Velna and I entertained ourselves by watching it last night.  Do you remember when you went with us to see Lili at the Wyo Theater in Laramie a week before we all went to Penrose together in August 1953 when Velna and I were on our way to Bozeman where I would start my master's degree studies in agricultural economics?  I hadn't seen that movie for 58 years if my arithmetic is approximate, yet it brought back so many memories of that summer with flashbacks of scenes I still remembered from the movie.  And who can forget the lyrics to the lilting "Hi Lili"?

That was the summer I rescued you from hoeing beets with your siblings so you could move to the big city and tend the wonderful children at this home, which I took a photo of when I went back to Laramie for my 50th college graduation reunion.

You may even have wished for a return to the previous summer when I celebrated my high school graduation and my past tenure as state president of the Future Farmers of America by hoeing beets with you for weeks in the hot sun, swatting deerflies, horseflies, and gnats.  What did we talk about all that summer, up and down those rows, waiting for the water jug by the ditch at the end of the row?
You remember the trip to Penrose from Laramie.  We had our 1948 black 2-dr. Chevy we bought with a down payment from Velna's savings.  Velna was very pregnant, the day was hot.  We had a flat tire about 15 miles south of Lovell on the Greybull highway.  I hitchhiked into Lovell and got my brother in law Phil Reasch, who married Velna's sister Joyce, to come rescue us while you and Velna suffered by the side of the road for an eternity.  Finally, we made it home to Penrose.  Velna and I stayed for a week since I was supposed to be the substitute teacher in vocational agriculture at Powell High School while the two regular ag teachers went to the state fair in Douglas.  I had completed all of the courses necessary for a life certificate in vocational ag teaching at the University, but I had forgotten what ag students were like.  They put someone's arm in the power hack saw to see how close to the skin they could get without breaking it.  I passed out rope for knot tying, a skill which I had demonstrated in high school by making the most outstanding knot board in the history of the Wyoming State Fair.  After about 10 years of winning the blue ribbon at the fair, my teachers were told it was illegal to keep entering it.  I never did get the knot board back. And the rotten kids had lost track of what they did with the rope pieces to practice tying knots.  So after a week of treading water with juvenile delinquents, we were happy to be on our way to Bozeman to begin an unknown future to get a master's degre in ag econ.  I was 20, soon to turn 21, when we started that year.  We were expecting our first baby in November.  My assistantship paid about $70 per month.  Rent was about $17.  Velna worked part time.  We covered our new baby with Velna's coat when she came home from work since we couldn't afford a blanket.

So, Liz, how did you get back to Laramie?  I never thought I would ever go back there, but go back there I did, for another nine years of teaching.  The University Stock Farm sheep barn, where I lived the first year I was at Wyoming while working there as a student, and Old Main remain icons of my life.  Whatever happened after that, you and I had an opportunity siblings rarely have, even if we were spending our time in forced slave labor, to get well enough acquainted to stand us in good stead for the rest of our lives.  I find it difficult to insult you or make you angry, since you always agree with all of my insults.  But all of these memories came flowing back while watching sweet little Leslie Caron sing "The song of love is a sad song. . ."

My home was in a room fixed for student workers in the second floor of this sheep barn.  If you are wondering what you smell like after your clothes, your hair, everything you have is reeking with sheep lanolin, I can refresh your memory.
Old Main where, among all the other buildings on the UW campus, I was student janitor one summer.

So that about sums it up for this letter.  Love, Dwight.  (sorry you never understood the word ditto, or you could have learned to read even sooner than you did).


Judy said...

This post took a lot of organizing, thought and feeling to put together. Well worth your efforts, Dwight. I now believe that the hoeing beets experience was much more than hoeing beets.

Ann said...

Thank you for sharing some neat memories of what life was like during those early years of being a "grown-up" for you. I only saw the magic of older siblings leaving home and going on adventures I couldn't even imagine. Bonds between each one of us were built in ways that have remained after all of these years. Perhaps the more difficult the task the stronger the bond? I will always have great admiration for the beet hoers.

Elizabeth said...

Imagine Judy and Ann getting to read this before I did. Talk about memories! One at a time - I did love "Gigi". My innocent mind didn't understand the little dark secret in it, because, to me, all love was innocent and it turned out to be innocent. I do remember the trip to Lovell - Hot! Poor Velna - no air conditioning in the little car, and she was so pregnant. Did we have tuna fish sandwiches? And I seem to remember something blowing out the back of the U-Haul-trailer that you had loaded your belongings into? We sat and waited for help, and tried to pretend to be cooler.
About the beet field experience - it put us more on an equal plane than I ever dreamed we could be. I don't know what we talked about - we just shared some aspirations and dreams, twitted each other, and drank from the same cup of the water jug. At the time, I never thought I would cherish this memory, because work is very low on my totem pole of things I like to do. Do you remember when I drove the tractor for the hay wagon and loader, with you on the back, and I almost tipped you over, trying to turn at the end of the row? Never could back up. And the time in the hayfield down on the Shunway place where you threw the water snake at me (it had come up in the tines of the hay loader?) Interesting, the things that we remember, isn't it? You really unlocked a flock of them, and I could go on, but I won't this morning. Love you.