There was no indoor plumbing at our ranch. That luxury hadn’t found its way to the Idaho backcountry in 1927.
I was an outdoor brat, a typical tomboy.
I had just started the first grade the year my oldest brother Vern would turn fourteen. The day before his birthday, Vern was riding his favorite horse. Vern’s normally sure-footed Appaloosa stepped in a hole, stumbled, and threw my oldest brother over his head. It was a common enough accident. Many riders have been pitched off and get up to laugh about it. This fall broke Vern’s neck, killing him instantly.
Telephones had just been introduced near our ranch. My nine-year-old brother Lavelle had to ride several miles to a homestead to call my mother and tell her. I was home helping her bake Vern’s cake when the call came.
I dreamed my daughter, Jennifer, came to my bedroom door last night and said, ‘Mom, your mother is on the phone for you.’ It was so real I woke myself and got out of bed to go to the phone.
Mother was buried beside my brother Vern two years later in the Indian Valley Cemetery. It is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I have ever seen. It is where I will be buried, with my brother and parents.
I dreamed I drove my car into town last night. I don’t know where I thought I was going, but I drove it anyway.
In the saloon, there stood the only slot machine in Warren. It was quite an attraction, especially to one of the wives of a man that worked on the gold dredge. She spent many of her husband’s paychecks on that slot machine. She had a young daughter, little Carol, who was, of course, not allowed in the saloon so her mother brought her to me to babysit while she played the machine. To keep Carol busy, I had crayons and paper and even managed to find coloring books. I was also able to tell her stories while I worked. Often I would look over her shoulder to read to her while she was coloring. Every now and then I was able to sit with her and help her with her pictures. That was the beginning of a lifetime spent working with children.
The conversation went like this as I remember it. He said, I want to see you this evening. I said, Well you already saw me. I need to see you now, he replied. So, I got dressed again, taking the curlers out of my hair. For the second time that day, I met Mac in the parlor. We walked across campus and climbed a set of stairs to sit by the arboretum. I have a question for you, he said straight out. Would you be my wife? I came close to fainting. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I would love to, was my answer. That was the first time he took me in his arms and kissed me.
The fall of 1941 Mac got orders stationing him in the Philippine Islands. We both knew it would be a long time before we saw one another again. Neither one of us could know that it would be the last time.
In the 1980s, I sent my transcripts to the university to see if I had enough units to graduate. I found myself walking down the aisle in a cap and gown almost fifty years after leaving there as a young bride in 1939. In my 70s, I was the oldest graduate. I was so proud to finally bring this chapter of my life to such a happy ending.
I had a dream last night that I threw away my walker and just started running.
~ Excerpts from Tommy, the autobiography of Doris Johnston. To be published May, 2007. Available at kickthecanrecords.com.