(This series is continued from The Southwick Days, Part II, published 2018-05-10.)
Going to seventh and eighth grade involved a long bus ride through hilly farm country and down Kendrick Grade to Kendrick Unified Junior and Senior High School.
What an education.
The ride was beautiful both ways. Often there were twin wet lines on the dirt grade where log truck brakes had been cooled by water so they would not lose it before the 90 degree turn, after the bridge, at the bottom. Anecdotes buzzed around the bus about vehicles that had accidentally fallen off the grade into the canyon beside.
The worst was the story of Mr. Benjamin who had to be hand-carried out after serious injury when his car left the road and tumbled badly to the bottom. (Mr. Benjamin happens to be Eldon Fry’s grandfather, mentioned in the first article on Southwick.) Mr. Benjamin never walked the same after that. But he was a joyful soul. Here is one of the things I remember about him: he called Jello “nervous pudding.” That always made me smile.
I got involved in track. I ran relays. I suppose you could say Kathy, in my same grade, was my second”love”. (The first would be Jimmie Lou, in Dubuque IA, when I was five.) One fine day by the track in Genesee, waiting between events, her warm hands rested on my shoulders as she stood beside me, I forgot everything else. For several days.
I learned girls could be an incredibly powerful distraction.
One of the worst personal memories: we had a school picnic which involved a hike up a side road by a creek behind the Unified School. I was used to the setting by then, being a big eighth-grader. We were joshing and laughing. One of my friends tossed a huge boulder into the creek with the resultant resounding splash. I exclaimed the Name of the Lord, not in a worshipful manner. This after I had given my heart to Him three years before in a chapel service in Colorado Springs.
That’s what the Idaho guys did, and I stepped right up.
Walking back, Kay, a preacher’s kid like me, whose parents were good friends of our parents, frostily pronounced, “Ken, I never thought you would.”
Neither did I. But I did anyway.
Her challenge has never left me to this day. I walked the rest of the way back about four inches high. Kay, thank you for the personal confrontation about my own sin.
I learned trying to be popular was not worth it.
A friend of mine and I used to tease Darrel during PE. We did a lot of basketball. He was a helper for Mr.Merrick, being an older student. We would constantly take his painfully gathered basketballs and send them bounding across the court. He always smiled and put them back. We giggled uproariously. What fun we were all having.
One morning, heading down the hall, Darrel grabbed my shirt, pushed me into a niche in the wall, pulled a knife, and said, “If you ever bug me in PE again, I’ll kill you for sure”.
Emphasis on “for sure”. Message received.
During our Southwick days, our third brother showed up. What life change Karl brought us. Mom was in the hospital in Moscow, Idaho for about a week. Dad was home trying to manage 10- and 12-year-olds. I can’t imagine his mix of feelings. One lazy Saturday afternoon Dad played board games with Keith and me. I know he always hated board games. But he did it because he loved us.
I saw again a personal example of sacrificial love by involvement.
The day came. We went Moscow and got Karl and Mom and returned over downgrades and upgrades the 35 miles, one way, to our house. Karl was a smiler from his first month. One Sunday morning Mr. Pratt, not too often at the church building, was coo – cooing Karl, who gladly returned a smile. How Mr. Pratt’s face lit up!
I proudly stated how Karl had smiled for me earlier that week. How Mr. Pratt’s face fell. I regret that needless statement to this day.
I learned that it’s not always the best time to announce good news.
Karl learned to love trucks like we did. We were traveling back roads one day, with him seated in his jumper seat in the front, with its own little white steering wheel. What a stupidly dangerous piece of equipment that was, even though being the latest for kids.
Every time a loaded logging truck blasted past, he was thoroughly overwhelmed. “Ig, Kuuck!” the little 18-month old proclaimed. Every time. The last truck was the most thunderous, and his exclamation was pronouncedly louder and drawn out, with a shake of the head as his voice tailed off. “IIIiiiggg KKKUUUuuuck!!!” That boy knew how to be appropriately impressed.
So many more memories:
- Eating venison, picking buckshot out of the meat
- Doug and Dave’s perfectly shaded lavender custom Chevy
- Trips over the hills to Potlatch to see our cousins (where they still live)f
- Going to Lewiston for big shopping trips, one of our main entertainments being parking on the street and people-watching the city folks
- When little Valerie got kicked in the head by a horse, with the outcome in great suspense. She survived.
- Endless hours of Kick the Can, and the juvenile cheating in order to make one guy mad.
- When Jerry got his Myapet scooter, and before long had lost most of a finger to the chain, trying to reach down and fidget with a recalcitrant transmission.
- A field trip to a forest where I decided that I’d be a forest ranger. Didn’t happen.
- Root beers bought at the General store and Post Office at the other end of town and putting peanuts in the bottle. Why?
- Riding on the loaded front rack of a hay-gathering tractor with my Keith. Dad drove, after working long hours to help Mr. Davis. He connected with the bank by the road, and broke the left 5 or 6 feet of that rack. I felt so badly for my hardworking Dad. We were all safe.
- Collecting 80 pound bales of hay and stacking them in a truck. How did my 12-year-old body even conceive of it?
- Driving a red Farmall from the hay fields up the highway to home, one of the twins sitting on the fender encouraging me.
- So much more –
Then we left.
I returned in spring 2010, before my Uncle Virgil’s funeral in Potlatch. Somehow the distance had grown much shorter than I remembered from endless motor excursions in the ’60’s. The chapel was virtually the same! I remembered the old pews, the dark wood walls, and the approximate placement of the piano. If it works, why change, I suppose.
One accommodation to current practice was a projector on a small table up front, and a screen hanging on the side, front wall. How fortunate the building sat unlocked on a weekday. Memories and sounds flooded me. The church is still active.
Our former house looked essentially the same as well. I ached to go in, but did not want to trouble the current residents. I wanted to see what was different, and to recall more vividly where a life of hard faith was lived. How I wished I had a couple of days to marinate in the past, but as often happens, the future was pushing in.
Southwick days affected me deeply and still hold some of my best and life altering memories.
What such memories do you have to share, that affected your worldview and life understanding?