Dedicated to The Late, Great Marty Robbins
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One day the kids were told they were going to move into town. It seems someone began wondering about some kids living out in the hills, not attending school. When an investigation was made, the school officials told daddy he had to get the children in school. And, it was impossible to take them from that far away.
Daddy got a job at the smelter and was given a company house to live in. It wasn't very big but they could manage and the school bus came by the house and picked them up. The kids all cried because they loved the ranch with all the freedom they had, and the many things to do. They did not like the thoughts of living in a place where there were a lot of people and especially school itself. But they had no choice and the move was made.
It wasn't too long after moving into town before a larger house was available and they moved into it. It was larger, farther from town and had a large barn out behind the house. They lived across the road from the railroad tracks, and enjoyed watching the trains fly past each day. They were situated in between Dewey and Humboldt, where Daddy worked. They all attended the same school.
Artie, Johnny and Lillie were all three enrolled, leaving Georgie, David and Ellen at home with Mamma all day. Georgie still was not old enough to go to school. Lillie made some friends and so did Artie. Johnny made some friends but he was still too small to make what Lillie called, 'lasting friendships'.
Some of Uncle Mart's family lived in town and they became friends with them. Lillie's teacher became special to her and did many nice things for her. But not as special as her son, Jack was. He was several years older than Lillie and took a special liking for her. Lillie, though, always a favorite with her teachers, did not make many friends in her own age group. They were always older than she, and many times, quite a bit older. Jack was especially nice to her and always watched her when she played jacks. She was the best he had seen, and because of her ability to beat those she played with, was not often invited to join them. So she would sit aside and wistfully watch. Or get small pebbles to be used for the jacks and a larger one for the ball. One day, Jack could stand it no longer and one morning bought her a set of jacks for her very own. She cherished the set because he gave it to her and had it not been for him, she would have never had a set.
When the school term was over that year, she had gone into the third grade. During the summer, Matt had gone to work on a cattle ranch in a small place called Dugas, named after the owner of the ranch. During the winter, he had also gone to school at the small schoolhouse on the ranch grounds. The post office was in the main ranch house. During the summer she didn't see much of Matt and missed him very much.
Matt came home during the summer, not long before school was to start. He told Mamma that because there were not enough students there, the state said they could not have a school. There had to be at least eight children and there were only seven. He asked Mamma if Lillie could stay with the school teacher and attend school that winter. He would pay her board and room out of his wages. He would also buy her clothes. After talking about it, Mamma and Daddy both said she could go. So Mamma spent the rest of the time getting what clothes she had already for her to go.
Since the teacher was from Prescott, a town not too far away, she would stop on her way and pick Lillie up, along with her clothes. The big day came and Miss Englehart stopped by for her. It was late when they got to the ranch on Saturday night and Lillie was sleepy. They had a bite to eat and the child was put to bed. She and the teacher used the same bed.
After a good night's sleep, Lillie was up and having breakfast when Matt came for her. They went to meet his boss and his family at their house. He had a daughter, Phoebe, a few years older than Lillie, and she took over the task of showing Lillie around. The schoolhouse was a small building and not far from a creek, called Ash Creek. There were Sycamore trees and Ash trees all along the banks of the creek. She said they played there during recesses and usually ate lunch there. Sometimes, they would go to the house for lunch, but not often. She could hardly wait for the beginning of school.
She never in her life enjoyed a school year like she did that one. She learned her lessons, after all, she lived with the teacher. She had as good a clothes as the other kids had, her panties had rubber in the waist, and she was in a new world altogether.
When school was out on Friday evening, many times they had a dance to look forward to the next night. On Saturday, they would go either by horseback or car to one or the other of the ranches. There would be a lot of kids there and beds would be made on the floor in the bedrooms for them. It would be an all night doings, music, games, spin the bottle, guessing games, musical chair, taffy pulls, all the fun things the country people did.
Once at school, a contest was held to see who could say the word 'ain't' the least amount of times. Three times and they lost. Lillie did fairly well until one night at the supper table with the teacher she let it slip. It was the third time and put her out of the running. She never did feel thought, that it was fair because she wasn't in school when she said it. After all, the teacher wouldn't hear the other kids if they said it at home, and no one was going to run and report it to the teacher if they did. After that, for the rest of her life Lillie hated that word and when she heard it said, it brought back the memory of a prize lost.
Sometimes one of the men that worked at the ranch would take her to the neighboring ranch with him and they always went horseback. She would be heisted up behind him on the back of the horse. Her only complaint was that the bone that run up it's back as she called the backbone, hurt her. She didn't know that horses had backbones the same as people.
While visiting at the neighbor's ranch one day, she saw peanuts pulled from the ground, hanging on the end of the roots. It was the first time she had seen them grown. The only peanuts she had ever seen were sometimes found in her Christmas stocking after a visit from Santa Clause.
Her Uncle Ingersol, her very favorite uncle, was also from Prescott, and since he had to come to the ranch sometimes on cattle business, he would visit with her teacher. He became quite friendly with her and sometimes would come into the house and they would visit after Lillie had been put to bed. One evening they were sure she was listening at the bedroom door, so he called to her, "Are you asleep?" To which she answered, without thinking, 'Yes, I am." After that , the talk in the living room became lower.
Lillie had never had a big doll, only little rag dolls, mostly little rag dolls Grandma had made for her. So Uncle Ingersol told her he would get her a big doll for Christmas. And he did. One of the biggest, most beautiful she had ever seen. Oh how she loved and treasure that doll, and she kept it for many years.
That was one of the nicest Christmas's she had ever had. They had a tree at the school, all decorated so pretty with packages under it. There was a chimaphone, or xylophone, from Matt. He had ordered a violin from Montgomery Ward because he wanted her to learn to play it. But they didn't have violins so they sent the chimaphone instead. She learned to play tunes on it with the little sticks that were with it.
She was beginning to find out by now that her daddy wasn't the sweet loving person she had always thought him to be. Several times, Phoebe told her of articles in the paper that told of him being arrested. Once when she went home for a weekend, her mother was not there. She had gone to Prescott to visit him in jail. She knew then Phoebe had told her the truth. Johnny and Georgie had gotten a few toys for Christmas, but only because the Masonic Lodge had taken them and some groceries to the family. Many times throughout Lillie's childhood there would have been no Christmas had it not been for the Masons.
One Christmas after returning home to live, her father brought home toys for the children. He had bought them at the company store, on credit. But he no longer worked for the company, so therefore, had no account with them. After Christmas a man came from the store and took all the toys back. Another mark against daddy was chalked up in her memory.
Since he no longer worked for the company, they had to move. So they moved about a mile past the larger town, not too far from the school, maybe a mile or so. The three that were in school walked each day, taking their lunch with them, when there was any lunch to take. The house was about a quarter mile from the main road and was built about two feet off the ground, with a lattice type frame around the bottom. It was called the Wooley Place, evidently the name of the original builders. It was close to the railroad tracks, and the three children enjoyed playing along the tracks, collecting pretty colored rocks. Some looked like gold. The children could never understand why some people called it fool's gold. When the train went by the crew always looked for and waved to the three little kids, a little girl, a towheaded boy and smaller redheaded boy. One day, a car drove into the yard and, as usual, daddy ran and climbed under the house. His car was never kept near the house. The men were told he was not there so they left. As soon as it became dark, he got in his car and left. The family did not see him again for several weeks. The family ran out of money and also food. But Mamma wouldn't tell anyone or let the kids tell. One day, Lillie's teacher asked her if she had brought her lunch with because she did not see her put it on the shelf. She told her no because they did not have anything for a lunch. She then wanted to know what they had for breakfast and Lillie said nothing, nor had they had anything the day before. She took Lillie and Johnny home with her for their noon meal. She asked Artie to go but she refused. That same night, a group of people visited Mamma and took a lot of groceries to the family. When they had gone, Lillie got one of the worst spankings Mamma had ever given her. But it was worth it because they had food for supper that night. Not long after that, the children came home from school to find Mamma packing. She had heard from Daddy and he was coming after them. That night, late, he drove in with no headlights on. In case anyone was watching they would not see him. He drove behind the house and the old touring car was loaded and all the kids loaded all over it, Wherever they would fit and they moved out.