Gwendolyn

May 3rd, 2018

It was in the early summer before I was six and looking forward to going to school, that Uncle Jim’s family moved into a ranch along the creek. It could be reached by traveling several miles down Bagdad Road, but Grandma and I could walk for less than a mile on a path along the creek. Grandma used a stick to beat the bushes in front of us. She said it was to scare away any rattle-snake that might be blocking our way. Sometimes we would hear something scurrying away, but I trusted Grandma and wasn’t concerned.

I always looked forward to seeing my favorite cousin, Gwendolyn, who was always full of ideas; many times, she got us into trouble. The yard of the ranch house was surrounded by fruit trees.  There was also a tall scaffold holding a water tank and this was her great idea: if we climbed up the ladder to the top we would be able to see for miles around. Because I was littlest she decided that I should go first. The other cousins sided with her. I think now it was because they didn’t want to do it themselves. She enticed me and begged me and finally dared me to go. I am not sure why it was important but I wanted to be big in her eyes so I took the dare and climbed to the top. They asked me what I saw, but I was too scared to look. They started shouting for me to come down but I couldn’t; I was too scared to go back down the ladder.

When Grandma and the other women heard the shouting, they came out. First, they asked why I was at the top of the tower and the cousins all stood together with Gwendolyn, saying they didn’t know why I climbed the ladder that they told me not to do such a thing. One of the older cousins, came in from the pasture to rescue me. He told me to get on his back; he had often given me “piggy-back rides” for fun. I did as he said because I trusted him and I clung tightly as he brought me back to earth. Now that I think about it, this experience may be why I have a life-long fear of heights.

On another day when we were sitting in the big tree at Grandma’s ranch, Gwendolyn told us she had an idea of how we could help Grandma who had just put a load of clothes to soak in the big wash tub on the bench under the tree. So, we all climbed down and scrubbed the clothes on the wash-board and put them through the wringer. We all wanted turns turning the handle while Gwendolyn fed them through. We worked hard carrying fresh water to rinse them and wring them again. Then she said she knew a trick about starching clothes and we should surprise Grandma by doing a really complete job. She said that skim milk was a good substitute for starch. So, we raided the cooler. We dipped everything in milk and then hung the clothes out to dry.

When Grandma arrived to finish the job, she saw the clothes on the line and went to look at them. “What is that smell? What have you done to my clothes?” She looked in the cooler and saw the milk was missing. We all stood by Gwendolyn and didn’t snitch that it was her idea but Grandma always seemed to know what was what. She kept Gwendolyn there to help her carry water and turn the wringer. They spent the next hour washing the souring milk out of the clothes; the whole time, Gwendolyn received advise about life and how to control her active imagination. The rest of us were sent to the house to sit quietly around the big dining table. We had to be silent but were allowed to read or do our homework.

            Once when we were looking for quail in the little forest along the creek, she told me that God is everywhere. I believed her.  So far as I know Gwendolyn married and had a family. As we grew up we went our separate ways. I wish we had not lost contact with each other.

April 25, 2013