Alligators 'n Roadkill

Alligators 'n Roadkill
On The Road


Sunday, May 28, 2017

More Personal History.

Part III of the Continuing Saga of the Dungans……

Ever go on a road trip with Garland?  Believe me, this is not something you really want to do, ever.  By the way, this just seemed like a good place to bring this up, right after talking about gas stations.  First of all, Garland smoked.  A lot.  Secondly, he was a pig, what we call in Spanish, un grosero, as in uncouth, ill mannered.  He had a bad habit of ‘hocking oysters,’ which means he would clear his throat very loudly (and grossly), working up a great big gob of (what was it we used to say?  Oh, yeah, “Great Big Gob of Green Greasy Gopher Guts”) this truly viscious and viscous phlegm.  Now, he always drove with his window open, and his left arm out the window.  Once he had this gift for the road ready (we, of course, sitting in the back seat knew this was coming, and were already preparing ourselves), he would first turn his head to his right, and shout, “Duck!”  This was our signal to do just that.  Then he would turn his head back all the way to his left, and send that mess of easily-mistaken-for-road-kill-if-it-ever-gets-to-the-road gooey, slimey phlegm hurtling out his window, most likely to splat on that side of the car (shudder).  Then, he would turn his head back to the right, and say, “Unduck!,” and we would.
Garland’s favorite beer (and, here he actually showed some class, if not taste) was Miller High Life, which of course only came in clear glass bottles.  I seem to recall that there was a deposit on empty beer bottles in those days (a nickel for empty milk bottles, three cents for soda pop bottles, and maybe a penny for beer bottles), but that made no difference to Garland.  As he drove, he drank (surprise).  As he emptied a bottle, his routine was to fling that bottle, not just simply out his window, but out his window, over the top of the car, aiming for the right side of the road, as far off the road as he could get it.  Wasn’t that considerate of him?  His other goal, of course, was for that glass bottle to shatter loud enough so that we could hear it as we drove (merrily? Very seldom) along.  He would then report to us whether the bottle just thrown was a good one (it did NOT break), or a bad one (it broke).
OK, we left off with us living up in the Rattlesnake Hills, above Prosser.  I believe we stayed there in the Rattlesnake Hills long enough for me to get through second grade, and then moved to another ranch sometime in 3rd grade.  After getting this far, Mike remembered some more details, that he has graciously provided in order to set me straight:

Minor exception regarding chickens and churning: First had chickens and eggs on the Rattlesnakes… same with churning butter. Used the butter churn (glass jar with the wooden paddles) and at mom’s direction, we kids took turns turning the crank… hour after hour…. Mom later learned that the cream should be close to room temperature before starting the churn… We had gone from the refrigerator to the churn and it was a tiring – long process. Speculation is that during our long effort, the cream had come up to room temperature and then did proceed to provide butter.

Meanwhile, we had yet to move from the Rattlesnakes, down to the next place on our list.  This was to an area, way down close to the Columbia River, near a little wide spot in the road called Roosevelt.  This is where Mike, Pat, Dennis, and I all went to a three-room school for at least one school year, and possibly a bit more.  There was a ferry across the river there, to Arlington, Oregon, which was the nearest place with such refinements as a restaurant.  That ferry was important, because the second year we were in this area, Mike had to ride that ferry across the Columbia River every day to attend school in Arlington, Oregon, because our little school only went so far, and the nearest high school (heck, maybe it was only the 7th grade; what do I know?) was across the river.  And, of course the proximity to Oregon was a big plus for the old man, ‘cause they didn’t tax booze, beer, and cigarettes as much as Washington did at that time.  And, I seem to recall no sales taxes.  After seeing the map whose link I shared, Mike offered these memories of this place/time:

(4) 19. Ranch near Roosevelt… Think I found the exact on this one… about 15 miles W and one mile S… traced Old Hwy 8 and Sundale Rd [this was after looking at the aforementioned map] there is (was) [a] substantial orchard called “Sundale” not far down the road and I found a sharp turn in the road and recall the house located there where dad “finagled” [note:  finagled, as in “if you give me some gas, I’ll pay you………….sometime”………..NOT] some gasoline from the resident there… He (the neighbor) had one of the old glass top gasoline pumps where you elevated ten gallons to the top with a pump handle, the glass top was cylindrical in shape and graduated in one gallon increments, then a conventional hose handle affair to your fuel tank.

As Patty recounts:

After that we lived in another country setting and went to a three room school house that was remarkable.  We all had such a great time there.  Of course the house wasn’t much but I do remember churning butter and going down the road to an amazing apricot orchard where they were the size of peaches and the juice ran down our arms.

As I further recall (following her prompting), at this ranch we had a large side yard that we kids turned into a great big riparian adventure land.  We had rivers running all over the place, fed by the garden hose.  There was a milk cow, that the older boys were responsible for milking (I was scared to death of that sucker, and she knew it).  Chickens, also, and I didn’t care for trying to take away their eggs, either.  I also remember making butter in a large glass churn, with wooden paddles.  And, there was a falling down shed, between the house and the barn and chicken house, with the remains of a (I think) 1935 Ford.  I want to say that this was a convertible, and it was mostly intact.  It would undoubtedly have made a great project car for someone with the time and money.  I played in that sucker many times.
From this place, I recall the big events were monthly trips to the nearest town, Goldendale, which happened to be the county seat for Klickitat County, for grocery shopping.  This always happened on a Saturday, and part of the adventure was that mom would take us all to the library, where we each got our own library card.  At some point, I went through a series of books for kids, that all had the same basic cover.  This was burnt orange in color, with black lettering, and these were biographies of famous Americans, going back to Ben Franklin and George Washington, to Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Abraham Lincoln (did you know he was born in a log cabin?), Ulysess S. Grant, Thomas Edison, and so forth.  We learned that everything American was good (and not just because we had saved the world twice), and everything that was not American was pretty much bad.
By the time I was in fourth grade, we were in a town again (that same Goldendale), and my father was working in another sawmill.  This is where my brother, Dennis, and I had some of our greatest times.
But, I also experienced one of my more traumatic school-related events here, as well.  Not long after we got here, in fourth grade, I don’t recall the teacher’s name, but one day she started in on a verbal rant, saying “John, how could you?  “You have lied, and you have done……..” - this horrible thing, and that horrible thing, and I just could not believe that she was talking about me.  It had to do with a paper we had written and handed in, and all I knew was she had one in her hand, and she was looking at me, and just ranting………I was terrified, mostly because I had no idea what she was talking about, and did not know what I could possibly have done, not to mention I had never had anyone talk to me in such a manner.  I was also scared totally out of my mind.  I didn’t know what else to do, so I bolted.  Jumped right up, and ran out of that room, out of that school, and all the way home to my mommy, crying my eyes out…….well, this was one of the few times that she ever got involved in our schooling.  My mother took me back to the school, and to the principal’s office where we learned that the teacher in question was not even talking to me or about me.  There was another John in that class (how could I know?  I was new), only he spelled his name Jon, and it was he that she was so upset with.  Maybe that is when I learned to not put much trust in teachers (forgive me, Blanca).
Other than that experience, Dennis and I both had pretty good times in Goldendale.  We had free run of the little town, which was the county seat of Klickitat County, and had both the Klickitat River and the Klickitat Creek running along edges of town.  I remember a great big old tree just outside the back door, onto which somebody nailed some boards, to make like a ladder, so we could climb way up into its huge limbs.  And, the back yard had a large cleared area, obviously done for a garden, but we turned that into a huge play area for playing with all our cars and trucks.  We had roads, and gas stations, and all kinds of buildings and stuff.  I remember that the name brand, Structo, figured prominently in the toy trucks we played with (before Tonka got so big, Structo trucks were the tough trucks).  Old D cell batteries were the gas pumps at our gas station, blocks of wood served for buildings, a piece of wood was used to ‘grade’ our roads, and so on. 
Fairly early on, we did have our one and only childhood fight, with someone other than each other.  I have no recollection of the cause, but there was a large family who lived just up the street from us – the Rileys.  One of those damn Rileys was another boy, about the same age as Dennis and I.  For some reason he did not like us, and while it was Dennis who took most of his verbal abuse, I somehow got involved.  So, he took us both on at once, and beat us both very quickly and easily.  That took a while to live down, and eventually I think we achieved some sort of truce, if not better, by becoming friends.
We rented the house on West Broadway from the ‘rich’ old widow, who lived right next door, in a more modern, well equipped house.  This was Mrs. Bridgefarmer, and she also rented rooms in her basement.  I recall one of the renters there was a Chinese man and his son.  The man was employed as a cook in one of the local restaurants for a short while.  This was my first contact with a non-white person.  Just a bit of culture shock was involved.
Out back of the house, and very close, was a separate building on the property that was likely old enough to have been a carriage house at one time, or a stable, but we called it the wood shed.  It was – as I recall – at least two rooms, quite old, with upainted, and seriously weathered wood.  The floor on one side was just dirt, with the accumulation of many years of wood chips, and shavings from wood being cut for burning in either the wood cook stove, or a wood stove for heat, all that we had in that house. That building was our Cavalry Fort and/or the Sheriff’s office for whenever we played Cowboys and Indians. 
It was in Goldendale that Dennis and I became Boy Scouts, and learned a lot about the ideals of that fine organization.  We went camping, fishing, participated in paper drives, and worked on earning various merit badges.  The paper drive thing was actually something that I imagine no one today can relate to.  Not too far from Goldendale, also in Klickitat County, was the town of Klickitat, where there was a dry ice factory.  The point of the paper drive was to sell the papers to the dry ice company, which used them to wrap their product.  We raised money for scouting at the same time.  Interestingly, our meetings were held in the basement of the town library, where my main memory is a large open space that was very dusty.
Most Christmases were – to say the least – disappointing times.  Not much in the way of gifts for anyone, the Old Man usually was not home as evening came on (he was likely in a bar, pissing away his paycheck), so the anxiety level always grew.  The family tradition was to open gifts on Christmas Eve, and we had to wait for him to come home, all the time worried that when he did, he would be in a bad mood, and that was not good.  Too many Christmases were ruined by his lashing out at one and all (but, of course my mother took the brunt of his drunken anger), and what we had all too often was the classic scene of crying, frightened kids, and crying, bruised wife and mother.
However, on at least one Christmas, Santa did come through for me.  I desperately wanted a two-gun holster, with Mattel Fanner 50 pistols, ‘cause they looked like what Hopalong Cassidy wore.  (Here’s what they looked like)

And, I got them!  Even got some caps to shoot with them.  Wow, that was so cool.  At one point Dennis, I think, got a Red Ryder BB gun.  Or, Daisy.  And, on reflection, I think it was a pump action, instead of a lever cocking action, so that would likely make it the cheaper of the two types, I bet.  Here is a pic of a pump action type BB gun, similar to what I remember:  

We (Dennis and I) also played all up and down the creek, swimming in pools in hot weather, playing cowboys and Indians, Army, whatever we saw in the movies on Saturday afternoons.  John Wayne was naturally everybody’s hero, but since he couldn’t possibly make enough movies to satisfy our need for him, we kids looked forward to Saturday matinees, when we got into the local theatre for only twenty cents.  We got a quarter to spend, so that left a nickel for (usually) lemon drops.  Those movies included coming attractions (we called them previews), a news reel (short), at least one cartoon, the feature movie, and then a second movie.  There may also have been an episode of one or more serial that everyone looked forward to.  And, just about every kid in town was at that one showing. 
We also played baseball with a friction-tape-wrapped ball, and a very old and weathered bat, in nearby pastures using cow patties for our bases.  One of our favorite places to play was near the city dump.  There were some large rocks overlooking the dump itself, and up in the rocks, we found what we thought were caves.  We’d go through the junk when no one was around, and find ‘treasures’ that we took up to our cave, and used to decorate, or furnish the cave.  I also loved to play in the wrecked cars that were parked on a back lot at the local Ford dealer (or, maybe it was the Chevrolet dealer).  That dealership was the closest I ever expected to come to a newer car.

Sorry, but since this is again running long, we’ll take a little break here, and continue the report of the sojourn in Goldendale in Part IV…….

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