Google+ Badge



I crossed the narrow pavement that served as the main street of Philipsburg, and began the incline to home and supper.  A cool breeze caressed my face, as the strength of the sun caused my eyes to squint.  Bushes along the sidewalk were covered with webs.  Spiders had spun their silver webbing hanging it out to dry.  A fat, brown-speckled caterpillar inched its way across the sidewalk before me, letting me know it too was enjoying this summer day as much as I.
          The smell of lilac bushes and hollyhocks saturated the air as I approached our house.  The red brick, two-story, sat like a monarch surveying its corner lot.  Two years earlier, in 1950, our family had moved to Philipsburg, Montana.  It was a world unto itself: a safe world for this eight-year-old.
          I bounded each step with exuberance, and swung open the screen door, which yielded its usual yawning squeak.  The front room, with its high ceilings, over stuffed furniture and black coal stove, was fragrant with the scent of ham and beans, Daddy's favorite meal.
          The sounds of my mother and brother’s voices were coming from the kitchen.  I entered the well-lit room with its old cupboards and long windows.  The soft rose color of the walls and white ceiling added to its quaintness and gave the impression of warm cheerfulness.  When Mommy had first mentioned painting the kitchen rose, Daddy had been skeptical; but once the paint dried, he proclaimed it a success.
          Mommy stood over the stove stirring the pot of beans; steam drifted into the air.  My only brother sat on the floor near the narrow windows with toys surrounding him.
          “You’re right on time, honey.” Mommy said as she turned, “Wash your hands and set the table.  Daddy will be home in a few minutes.”
          I scrubbed my hands over the large, white sink.  The blue and white plates were set at each chair and I arranged the silverware on top of white napkins.
          Mommy opened the oven door and removed a pan of hot cornbread.  We talked as we went about our work.  I felt a deep love for my mother.  She was eighteen years my senior and I thought she was the prettiest mom there was.  Her light brown eyes reflected the auburn of her hair, which she curled back from her face.  Tiny lines of fatigue were etched around her eyes.  She fought health problems since coming to Montana.  She would overcome one malady and soon come down with another.  She often spoke of her mother and family living in New Mexico and I could sense her homesickness.
          With the table set, I wandered over to the stove and pinched off a corner of the hot cornbread.  
          “Why don’t you do your Sunday school lesson while we’re waiting,” Mommy suggested as she shooed me away from the bread.
          I took the quarterly from our “catch all” drawer, pushed back one of the plates at the table and began reading.  We had become active in the Presbyterian Church since coming to Philipsburg, and Mommy had recently taken on the responsibility of Sunday school Superintendent.  My lesson in the quarterly was the Bible account of Jesus blessing the children.  I believed in Jesus.  I knew He was God’s Son, and my Sunday school teacher said He was a friend to every child.
          I looked up at the sound of the car pulling into the driveway.  Heavy footsteps were heard on the back porch as Daddy opened the door.  He was dressed in his work clothes.  His over six-foot frame filled the entrance.  As usual, his ruggedness reminded me of the out of doors.  Daddy's given name was Marion M. Williams, but because of his slender build, he had been dubbed with the nickname, “Slim”.
          He sat his aluminum lunch pail on the counter and gave Mommy a peck on the cheek.
          “Hi George,” he teased in my direction.  His nickname for me came because of a boy who walked me home from school one day.
          Daddy was not one to show affection.  He would give me  a  whisker burn when he had a stubble on his chin, or a tickle now and then. He was very strict.  He gave spankings with his hand. Mom had been upset when he left welts on my brother's legs. He expected to be obeyed. I sighed in relief that it was summer. Daddy thought I wasn't good in math. Some school nights he would keep me up until 11PM going over math problems. My teacher had told them I was doing fine in math, but Daddy didn't believe it.( I was anxious when it came to math.)
          I shared a double bed with my two year old brother. He always slept against me and I had trouble getting to sleep. I had told my parents but nothing had changed. One night, Daddy came into the bedroom, Bronco was laying against me. I closed my eyes and played possum (acting like I was asleep) "SLAP"! Daddy slapped my face and walked out of the room. I didn't tell Mommy.

  Daddy was a quiet man.  Mom said he always thought before he spoke.  Both he and I had brown hair and hazel eyes.  I was told often that I looked like him.  I did not know that our brown hair and hazel eyes were coincidental.  In a couple of years I would be faced with a painful truth.
          Daddy headed for the bathroom to wash up, but two chubby arms grabbed him from behind. 
          “Let go son, your dad has to get washed up,” he said as he pealed Bronco off.
          Lawrence Marion was my brother’s name, but Daddy had nicknamed him “Bronco” as a baby.  Kneeling on his hands and knees, he would rock back and forth causing his whole crib to shake.  Dad said he reminded him of a bucking bronco.
          Dad had experience when it came to “bucking broncos.”
In Magdalena, New Mexico, where his parents still lived, he was known as the last of the cowboys.  He had worked in that ranch country with the dream of owning his own ranch; but with the responsibilities of a family, he had set his dreams aside and moved north, finding a job as a lineman for the Public Service Company of Montana.
          The first summer we moved to Montana we lived outside Butte. My parents rented a cabin with a bathroom and kitchen. At night we slept in a tent. One night I woke up with a cat sitting on my chest.
Mommy chased the cat out. I always liked cats but Daddy didn't like them.
Before winter, we rented a house. Daddy got another job and we moved to Philipsburg.
     Our heads were bowed, grace was said and ham and beans filled our plates.  The day’s happenings were shared around the family table.
          “Please pass the cornbread,” I requested.
          Manners were very important in our home.  Please, thank you, yes sir, no ma’am, had been taught me since I was a small child.  Dad believed in children being mannerly and respectful.
          Dad mixed his usual dessert of peanut butter and molasses.  When he had just the right consistency, he spread the mixture onto bread.  I tried to copy him, but my palate only tolerated molasses.  I much preferred maple syrup.
          After the table was cleared and the dishes washed, dried and put away, we headed for the front room and the new mahogany, console radio. I sat on the floor close to the Radio.  I didn’t want to miss any of my favorite programs.  Mom turned the knob and “Father Knows Best” filled the air.  We would listen to “Gun smoke”, the antics of “Fibber Magee and Molly,” and occasionally to a religious program, “The Hour of Decision,” with the Reverend Billy Graham.
          I wrapped my arms contentedly around my knees.  A gentle breeze blew through the open screen door.   We didn't know that the Philipsburg evenings were coming to an end and we would be returning to our roots...New Mexico.