Another Attic, Another Trunk, Another Look Inside
Insomnia creates a big canvas that allows us to paint abstract pictures of the future and realistic portraits of the past.
Since I'm blessed with numerical and specific date dyslexia, I don't recall exactly when we lived with my Grandmother on her wheat farm in Montana. It was more than a while ago. When my Mom and Dad got divorced we resided there while Mom picked up the pieces.
I still have memories of all of us loading up and driving to town for church on Sunday morning. One of the most vivid is Grandma Hanson leading all of us in a loud version of "Bringing in The Sheaves" as my Uncle Elvin hand cranked the ancient truck, just in case the engine kicked back and he turned the air blue with profanity. In spite of our volume, I still learned a few words that are occasionally useful even today, usually for government and traffic.
I remember the excitement level rising for my brother Don, sister Marilyn, and me when we saw the grain elevators in Loring, Montana, rise up from the grass as we approached the hilltop just South of town. Once we were across the railroad tracks and past the lumberyard and made that right hand turn to the church, we were in a different world. Adult supervision faded into the noise of kids and games and freedom to do whatever we wanted, short of anything forbidden by the bible.
I recall being directed to look at the lumberyard on the right as we passed the bar on the left - can't remember the name of the place but it made Grandma cluck her tongue every time we passed it. She mumbled, “Den of iniquity” under her breath one time. I didn’t know what iniquity was but her inflection implied “sin.”
I also remember "Speeders," those little open-air cars the railroad section workers rode to maintain the tracks. My uncles worked on them during the off seasons for a little extra money. Grandma worried that they would go to the bar after getting their paychecks and drink beer and eat hard boiled eggs and play pool. She had good reason.
After a payday my one uncle would come home late at night and bump into things and grunt and give way to gaseous human emissions as he searched for his bedroom by Braille. My Mom said under her breath one time that he was so odiferous he probably killed mice in the walls. Grandma didn't think it was funny and admonished her. I swear I could see Grandma's shoulders shaking as she turned away. I also never saw a mouse in the house.
The last time we went back to Loring, we drove to the church and the door was still unlocked. Even to this day, no one locks their doors in that part of the country. After sitting for a moment in the still hard, uncomfortable pews, we walked outside to look into the underground hall we used for everything not religious. In the peaceful quiet, I could hear echoes.
On our way out of town, we stopped at the bar and an elderly man who had known us when we were just kids, and had a caregiver drive him 40 miles from Malta past his old farm every day during the last years of his life, sneaked the check and bought us all lunch. His smile lit up the room.
The goodness of those people and the innocence of those times still astounds me.
We need to find some of that again…