Joe Garity was walking through Missouri to no place in particular during the
time when Fulton Gravel Road was the shortest route between New York City and
Los Angeles. He waited until Dad’s work was winding down, and then asked for a
job. He was neatly dressed, polite and unfamiliar with what goes on at a busy
dairy farm. However, Dad needed an extra hired hand, and he figured Joe was
hungry, had no place to sleep and could surely learn to wash milk cans and
things like that.
“I pay a dollar and a half and your keep,” Dad said. “We could give you
supper and a bed, and then see what we can work out tomorrow.” Joe agreed to
that. He stayed in our unfinished attic room, and we accepted him as one of
the family. Mom did his laundry and mending.
Joe fit in from the first. We five would play Flinch after supper, or Mom
would play the piano and we’d sing. He didn’t tell us when he had a birthday,
didn’t write or get letters or use the telephone. The only identification he
ever gave was that he had a sister in Scranton, Pa. If he carried any extra
clothes, they weren’t for work, because he used his first week’s pay to buy
bib overalls and a blue shirt like the other men wore.
Three years later he had purchased a wonderful Silvertone radio and some
lesser gifts for our family and an old car for himself. We’d huddle around
that morning glory speaker and listened to stations WLS and KDKA. My world was
extending beyond the farm and the town, four miles away, for the first time.
The winter of the big snow and ice storm, the men hunted up some rusty Keen
Kutter ice skates that clamped onto the thick soles of their shoes. They
sharpened them and skated everywhere!~ The 6-inch snow was covered with a
thick layer of ice, and we had some great slopes for skating. My shoes
wouldn’t hold the clamps, and I still don’t have skates. On pay day Joe went
to Hays Hardware and bought me a pair of brand new ice skates that had leather
and straps at the heels. Wow! That was about the greatest thing I’d ever had
happen to me!
We’d start at the steep incline in front of the house and fly downhill. I
learned to slow down and squat low to get under a two-strand barbed wire fence
and to hop across a little branch and then skate up the hill on the opposite
side. Little things like that changed this kid’s life.
My own children have never had a chance to skate over the pastures, and we
don’t welcome ice over snow, but we’ve skated on ponds and creeks a lot. Big
Ceder Creek is near our farm, and my friend, Petie, and her son, Jimmy, went
there with us one very cold day. Nobody remembers much about the skating that
day when the children were in grade school. We built a good fire, and the kids
set sticks on fire and played like they were sparklers.
I looked at Petie and she looked at me. Should we tell about grapevines? We
smiled silently and told the youngster to hunt up some dry, wild grapevines.
Soon, all five of us were “smoking” those hollow vines and trying to blow
smoke rings. We knew we risked starting our kids on a bad habit. Not to worry!
They accepted it for what it was: their old moms, reliving some fun things
they had done in childhood.