Part 1... The Move
When Michael and I were expecting our first children (our twins) in 1975, we had noted the changes taking place in the city. Serious drugs had made their way there, the school systems were crumbling and violence was on the rise. Never mind we were living in a beautiful home in Mesta Park with an option to buy… it simply wasn't safe. We wanted a place with simple values and an almost antique lifestyle to raise our babies the way we had grown up. We began looking and were fairly disappointed at the choices.
On the fourth of July we had taken the babies west meet their maternal great-grandparents, Dick and Susie Wilmeth of Dill City and Grandpa Ray Dougherty in Hinton. As we were driving east down the dirt road from Grandpa Dougherty’s, we came to the stop sign at Methodist Road. Directly in front of us was a very small, very run-down, stucco house perched on a hill. I said to Michael, “I want out of the city so bad, I could live there“.
Be careful what you wish for: I really should have qualified my wish a bit and made the statement in front of a nicer home, but I had never realized there are cautions to be addressed with wishes.
By mid-August, Grandpa Dougherty had called Michael’s father to announce excitedly, “I found you a farm Ray... and I bought it. You need to come out here to sign papers in Anadarko“. And so the opportunity for us to escape arose quite suddenly as we were offered the house and a job caretaking the farm. Or as Michael insisted, he was finally going to live his life long dream; he would become a cowboy. We took the offer and moved to the little house in mid-August... with our infant twins. Michael thought 'with a little elbow grease, the house will be just fine'. I simply imagined Frontier women, ’Little House on the Prairie’, and Willa Cather as I packed for our big adventure.
It was an interesting experience and included everything imaginable from a sci-fi horror movie. Broken buildings down the hill, a stash of collected windows cattle had trampled, an original homestead falling-down house in the back yard, an outhouse, waist high weeds buzzing with wasps and slithering snakes, ten inch centipedes, ticks, itchy chiggers, grasshoppers from hell, stickers, strange night life lumbering past open windows, and saucer-sized tarantulas were abundant...and that was just outside.
Inside the home was lit by one lone naked bulb on each ceiling and each room had one 110 outlet. The water was in a holding tank outside and the spigot on the kitchen sink read ‘cold’... because there was no hot. There was no air conditioning and plugging in the fan made the tiny circuit breakers blow. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but the house had a flower patterned linoleum 'carpet' in every room. The eighty-five year old gentleman who sold the farm had been an original recycler, bringing home everything that been set beside the road as discard and in true Disney fashion he had befriended the mice. When I asked what was in the paper sack hanging on his bedroom wall, he had replied it was his hat. If he left it down his friends, the mice, he fed would eat it! Please imagine the fortitude it took to enjoy this experience.
The Yard... view from the house
Without immediate rewiring, the laundry was a true challenge but I mustered to the call and marched to the yard to do it. A leftover wringer had been found sitting idly by the barn so we drug it up, plugged it in, filled it and the two tubs. I had never seen one before and was fairly fascinated by it so I put on my bikini and decided outdoor laundry would be a good way to tan. I set the radio in the window and danced and splashed my way through summer.
The shed below
Then Winter arrived so we moved the washer to a shed, and for several months I pressed on, reminding myself of Pioneer women who had only a wash board. I cut the fingers out of my gloves and numbly hung diapers to freeze dry on the line, finding it amazing their board-stiffness immediately collapsed when we brought them into the house. Outdoor laundry had lost its charm and I decided my wringer was definately seasonal recreation... trips to the Laundromat were in order at least until Spring.
*Mr. and Mrs. Hoffman provided steam run washers and dryers, which is another story.
More to come…
Next... The Telephone and the Party Line