Telling the Truth..

This is a story I wrote for a workshop a few years ago.  It’s a memory that makes me smile, for many reasons.  I raised my children and will still say to the grandchildren, “If you tell the truth, the punishment will be less than if I catch you lying.”  Sometimes it works, sometimes I still get a lie…with a smile…  My parents got it right many times…

I walked into the house, and Mom said, “Are you up to something?”

I looked at her as innocence brushed over my face; “What do you mean?”

“Charlene called me today and said that Brian had taken some paint out of the store and when she confronted him, he wouldn’t say anything. She thinks you’re going to paint on the water tower, “Is that true?”

My mind moved quickly; do I lie; do I tell the truth; how much trouble will I be in? “Yes,” I said defiantly.

“Dad is down summer fallowing on the Blatherwick quarter; you need to go talk to him.”

“Oh my God,” I thought.

“Ok,” and I turned out walked out through the garage, where my yellow Volvo was parked outside. My car, my freedom, was going to take me to talk to Dad, who would imprison me. It was a hot and dusty drive down the gravel road, the three miles south, where Dad was going around in circles, on his big tractor, tilling the earth, with nothing much to think about.. yet.

I turned left off of the road and onto the approach, driving across the freshly tilled field to a place where I could intercept Dad. He saw me and all of my dust coming towards him; stopped the tractor, came down the ladder and stood waiting for me, with his hands on his hips and an expectant look on his face.

“Hi Dad!” I said, with all of the “I just drove down here to say hi friendliness I could muster.”

“What’s up?” he said.

“Umm, Mom just thought I should come down and talk to you about something.”

He waited…

“ Well, four of us decided to go up and paint the water tower tonight and Mom found out, and thought I should come and tell you.”

Painting the year of your high school graduation was a time-honored tradition in my home town. It had been done for years and Marci, Colin, Brian and I had decided it would be us this year.

 I waited; he was thinking and you didn’t want to interrupt him on the wrong side of his thinking. He was going back and forth in his head about what he was going to say, weighing all the possibilities, and how we all would react to his decision. You didn’t want to stop him at the end of the “maybe I should ground her for the rest of the summer” pause in his thoughts (I had learned that one from experience). I was hoping for the “hey, I was a kid once too” place in his thinking.

Finally he said to me, “If I say no, you’re probably just going to do it another night?”

“Yea, probably,” I said honestly.

We were raised to tell the truth. Mom and Dad always told me, if I told the truth the punishment would be less than if I were caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, or the last, that I was counting on that being their truth.

He shook his head and thought again, for a while.   “What if we do this; you call me before you go up, and you call me when you come down, so I know you’re safe.” “Can you do that?”

“Yep.” “Thanks Dad.”

“Just be careful up there.”

“We will.”

I picked up Marci and we drove to meet the boys. All of us had last names that ended in H, so we thought it was a great idea for the four of us to take this project upon ourselves. We hadn’t asked anyone else’s opinion on that, but it was going to be our night. We were well prepared. We had silver paint to repaint a huge portion of the water tower to make sure the black H and the 77 would be easily read from the ground below.

I recounted my “visit” with Dad to the rest of them, as we drove up to the water tower. (I had already called the folks from Colin’s house.) The water tower was a typical small town water tower; sitting on four long legs, it was painted silver. There was a cage on the bottom of the ladder, with a lock and chain on it. The boys scouted the tower out ahead of time and had brought along the proper tools to “disengage” the chain from the cage and ladder.

Fortified with a couple of beers to steel our nerves, we one by one, propping, pushing, and pulling, climbed up the ladder to reach the top. There was a small widow’s walk and railing around the perimeter of the storage tank that held the water. We started off by tackling the silver paint first. We deftly covered up the 76 from the year before, about the time we noticed a lot of traffic showing up and driving by. The silver swath widened to cover an area as high up as we could reach and wide enough to give us room for the real artistic work.

We were starting into the black paint, when there were a couple of honks, and hollers from the cars below. The class of 76 hadn’t left for college yet and apparently felt we were usurping their class.

“Fuck them.” One of said and all of us felt.

Word was apparently passing quickly, we hurriedly painted on the 77 and then the H appeared a foot or so away. We looked at it, felt a lot of pride that we were pulling this off, and brazenly decided to paint on our first initials, so a L, M, C, or B appeared in each corner of the H. We stood there and it was decided we needed to celebrate before we went down.

We sat on the walk, our butts on the grate, and our feet swinging in the air. A joint was passed around and we shared a couple of quick beers all the time teasing each other about who had spilled the beans to the others driving around below us, who’s idea was it for me to wear a white sweatshirt, and how cool were we to have pulled this off.

We quickly descended the ladder, jumped in the car and planned what we were going to do next.

“Colin,” I said. “We need to run back to your house quick; I have a call to make.”

“Dad, we are done.”

 

Peace…. 🙂

The Grandma Who Loved Me, for Me.

There are relationships that left me feeling slighted,  throughout my life, especially relationships with some of the men in my life, but one relationship that I was blessed with, that lifted me, and helped to carry me through early dark days, was the relationship with my Grandma Patten.  She was a strong Baptist woman, who raised her family the best she could, whose oldest granddaughter could be a bit of a wild child, especially according to the standards of grandma’s generation.

Grandma saw the good in me, it never occurred to her to see anything else.  I would ride over to Parshall, ND (about 17 miles away) on my motorcycle to say hello.  She would show me her flowers, feed me some cookies, and visit.

Staying with her was a treat; I would sleep in until the smells from the kitchen would wake me.  Sometimes it was coffee, sometimes it was cinnamon rolls, and often it was whatever she was prepping for dinner, maybe meatballs.  I would wake and have a leisurely breakfast, make my bed, wander around the yard, and it would be time for lunch.  Sometimes we would sew..  Grandma was a fabulous seamstress; I would watch, fascinated, as she marked out the pattern using tracing paper and her tracing wheel, sometimes making adjustments with a piece of chalk.  She, my Baptist grandma, made me my first bikini.  When I was a teenager, who rode a motorcycle, she would help me make halter tops to go with my short, cut off jeans.. very short cut off jeans.  I remember distinctly one afternoon, when we made a white halter top, with white cording for the top and bottom ties, grandma looking through her loot for an applique that would discreetly cover my nipples, to keep them from showing through the top.  She stood there in one of her “daily” dresses, moving the applique this way and that, until it covered what it was supposed to, and then very carefully pinning it in place.  It was an anchor.  She never questioned my morality, never told me I should dress differently, never criticized…she just loved me.

In the afternoons, I was allowed to read, for hours.  When I had finished a book, she would sit me down at the kitchen table and quiz me on the characters, setting and plot, to make sure I wasn’t reading so fast that I missed the important parts.  There was always cookies and a glass of milk on the table.  We had conversation.

The spring of my first year of college; I decided to break off my engagement to my fiancé, about two weeks before the wedding.  It was an outrage; our small community was aghast.  I ran for the protection of my grandma.  I told her what I had done and we talked about love.  I told her that I wasn’t sure I knew what it was supposed to be.  Grandma walked to the bookshelf, opened her Bible and read Corinthians to me.

“4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”

In other words, love was my grandma.

Some of my inspiration for my writing comes from grandma; after she died there were so many times I wished I had asked her more questions: why did she marry Grandpa, did she feel like she had made sacrifices, what were her greatest joys and greatest challenges, did she ever have a crush on the milkman? (she would not have answered that one, but it would have been fun to ask her, she would have said, “Luanna!” and given me the look. The same look that she gave me when I asked her, if she was sure there wasn’t some Hidatsa in our family, because we all have the same pot bellies, that Lewis and Clark remarked on, in their journals.  The same look was given to me when I asked her if her favorite author Gladys Taber was gay.  She told me no both times, I’m willing to concede the Hidatsa blood, but am darn sure Gladys was indeed a lesbian.  I have googled it.)  I write, so that hopefully somewhere in my writing, there will be answers for my grandchildren, an interpretation of something I have said that might bring them comfort on a day that’s going bad.   Maybe I can say something that will be their anchor.

Peace….

Reflecting Takes Time (CANDISC)

I completed this bike ride of mine, the CANDISC (cycling across North Dakota in Sakakawea country).  There were many gratifying parts of the adventure; one of them was doing my live feeds, before and after, one feel had over 650 views!  I felt fueled by the interest and the support of many of the viewers, who took the time to comment.

I came home to a normal life, mail that needed to be sorted, a fridge that needed to be cleaned and errands that needed to be run.  I came home to normal.

On the 416 miles of the ride a weird thing happens; at first your brain runs like usual.  For me, that means hundreds of thoughts float through, as I pick which ones to dwell on and which ones to let go.  Eventually, I hashed over everything and my focus became paying attention to my surroundings; are there cars or riders behind me, is the shoulder wide enough to ride on, is that a rumble strip?  I can hear the other riders come up behind me, many of them riding in groups, visiting about whatever topic they are on that day. (Politics are rare, we are keeping our minds focused on fresher things, the sound of the wind, the smell of the roadkill.)  The sound of a semi-truck becomes distinct, deep, rumbling and menacing.  Will I hear the sound of the rumble strip as he-she moves over, to straddle the center line, or is there a steady sound, because I notice a car coming in the oncoming traffic lane, so I again survey the shoulder, the white line, the ditch……. I crest the top of a hill, to see another hill coming, and another…I didn’t know central ND had so many hills….how fast do I dare go down this hill, in order to gain enough speed to help me go up the next.  This was my ride, the steady drum of the wind, like white noise out of a machine, if I am riding against it; the fabulous quiet, when I am riding with the wind.

Many people asked me if I were riding alone, when I answered yes, there was surprise, “Really, will you be ok?, will you get lonely?”  Many people who know me would think that I have to have someone around all the time, and while it’s true, I love people, conversation, and most of what that entails, my alone time is important too.  Imagine a week of only speaking when you choose too, seeking out company when you want it, and avoiding people when you don’t.  I rode alone most of the 416 miles, I relished the time. If someone pulled up to join me, we would visit for a while, but if they lingered too long, I found myself giving a reason to stop, to slow down, or to speed up, to enjoy my solitude, but also to be able to focus on what was around me.   I would ride, stop and check mileage, give my bottom, hands, shoulders etc. a rest and then move on, at my own pace, on my own time.  I set up my chair in Ft. Totten, opened a book and read it.  I wandered off to do my live feeds, but joined in and enjoyed conversation at the rest stops and meals.  When you are riding alone, you have the chance to meet others in bits and fits of conversations, giving you more time to reflect on them and the conversations.  I always had my cell phone with me, fully charged, so I could update my family on my safety and where-abouts.  Their sporadic responses reminded me they were only a phone call away.

I always felt safe in the campgrounds.  My bike was always right next to my tent; my gear was always stowed safely inside the tent next to me.  I was self-contained in my little tent.  The soft snoring, that came from some of the tents around me, helped me to sleep; It sounded like my husband was always close by.  When you are in your tent, you have an invisibility; life goes on around outside, conversations, body sounds, trains, rustling in the grass.. it’s a peek into the world.

I am so glad I rode in the CANDISC; I have proven to myself that I have the determination and dedication to still achieve.  Stepping outside the box is so important for all of us; stretch out of our routines; let us see ourselves a little differently; allow others to see us differently.

Peace…..

There were good times too!

When we are counting blessings and/or looking back at our pasts, the good times are so important to remember.  Those times ground us and allow us to smile.  Growing up south of New Town, North Dakota, left me with many good memories.

Four years old, pretending an old gas tank, on five foot legs, was a horse; what could go wrong??  I apparently climbed up, was riding my pretend pony and slipped off onto the scoria rock below.  I have a scar on my forehead that is slowly disappearing; the pucker thinning because of my aging, or the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on face creams.

My  other scar, on my face, was from running from the house, to the grain bins with my eyes closed. ( Why would I do that? To see if I could, and I was taking toilet paper to my sister, who was waiting for me out behind the grain bins. (we were farm girls and sometimes it was just to far to run to the house to poop)).  Boom!  I ran into the disk (used to break up the soil in the fields).  I turned and ran back to the house, blood running down my face, screaming bloody murder, for my Mom…and yes my sister was still waiting for the toilet paper…  🙂  I have a scar under my eye that the face creams haven’t quite done their job on. Not one broken arm or leg because of all those shenanigans.. just my face….being hard headed does come in handy…

Horses were not my friends.  I loved them, but they bucked me off, laid down and rolled when I was riding them, took me under clothes lines….. Thank God the clothes lines were plastic, or my head laying in someone’s yard would have been an unpleasant surprise!  Our Shetland pony ran full bore towards a fence, and as he lowered his head, I rolled off..  Do you understand my relationship with them?  In retrospect I’ve had husbands with similar personalities!  Lol!

These are the good times?  Well, at least when you put them into perspective… 🙂  Life on the farm had many great days; we were allowed to run pretty freely.  The lake was about half of a mile away and biking, walking or riding motorcycle there was always an adventure.

I have two favorite memories of the lake:  My sister and I were at the lake when the water was coming up in the spring.  It must have been a high water year, because the water came up into the grass and the fish were visible in the water.  We decided to walk to a knoll in the water; as I walked the fish were so plentiful, that they bumped into my legs; it was creepy and exciting at the same time. Another time we were down in early spring, as the ice had blown up into mountainous piles on the shore.  We climbed around on them, pretending we were explorers, the ice piles were dirty and slippery.  I really am grateful that none of those adventures ended more seriously.

I had some wonderful friends growing up; we would have our spats, recover and move on.  Friends who would try to protect me from myself, and from others..  Memories are roaring back, as I type this afternoon…  Please sit down and think about the good things that have happened to you; let your memories roar back to you, let them soften the others that you don’t enjoy.

There were good times, and there will be more!!

Peace….