A traveler passing through Kirtland might have mistaken the small village for heavier populated countryside. Far spaced houses, large shade trees, one gas station with restaurant, and one church made up Kirtland.
Behind many of the houses were cornfields and farmland. It was a warm, cordial community, and I made many friends before school ever began.
The last of the summer, with companions, was enjoyable. We waded in a nearby green-banked creek, splashing each other and catching tadpoles. Hide and seek was played in the cornfields, as we wondered if we would ever find our way out again, and when we did emerge, we itched all over. We ran freely in the town where no one was a stranger.
When school began I had an incredible feeling...”I belonged!” My personality blossomed with the acceptance I experienced. I received two honors that boosted my lacking self-esteem, cheerleader and Homecoming Princess. As far as I was concerned we could live here forever.
The school in Kirtland did not consist of only those from the
Community. Buses transported children from the Indian reservation and from farms miles around.
Bronco was in first grade. The day of his seventh birthday, Mom told him he could invite a few friends after school for a birthday party. Bronco invited “every one” of his classmates. Mom panicked and cut the cake and ice cream into smaller servings. After the party, with the station wagon packed full, she spent two hours delivering Indian children (who usually rode the bus) to their homes on the nearby reservation.
Kirtland was predominately a Mormon settlement. Many of my friends were Mormon. Most of them came from large families, but Jenny, a pretty blond girl, topped them all. She was her parent’s twenty- first child. (There had been three sets of twins). When I visited Jenny’s house, I marveled how her small, healthy mother ever survived.
I attended a couple of church services with my friends, but I didn’t understand what the Elder was saying, and I was bored. The entertainment of the community centered on the church. On Wednesday nights, they showed a secular movie in the basement and everyone came. It was a convenient time to sit next to a current boyfriend. I learned to dance in the Mormon church hall at the weekend dances. Mom let me attend them because there was no liquor allowed.
Deryl and Mom also made friends who were Mormon, but they didn’t follow the convictions of their church when it came to alcohol. The couples began attending dances in nightclubs and drinking. They laughingly called these escapades, “honky-tonkin.”
On mornings following the nights of “honky
Tonkin”, Mom would get up late.
“Be quiet kids, Deryl doesn’t feel good. He has a headache.”
I noticed Mom wasn’t too chipper herself!
Drinking, and the companionship of others that did the same, was becoming a part of their social life. To them it was only a lark, something they could give up at anytime.
We would find out alcohol was our enemy.