Once Upon a (Life)time
Growing Up Years
Growing Up Years - Part 7

Mildred grows up—from play dolls to babies of her own.

Seems like about that same time Prohibition came into being, and soon there was guarded talk of "stills" hidden among the hills and gullies. Revenue officers were setting up road blocks and once in awhile someone was shot. We heard that men were dying from drinking "canned heat" and from being poisoned by wine that was fermented in galvanized wash tubs. "Little pitchers have big ears" and we learned that one "moonshiner" colored his brew by throwing in a horse blanket. Our house at the time stood between two railroad crossings and we were amazed one day to see an automobile speeding down the track. bumpity-bump, on the ties, trying, and I believe successfully, to evade the officers and their road block. Prohibition was worse than a failure. It became fashionable for women to drink, but not the women of Evaro. They went on tending their homes and families and when a friend or acquaintance was caught bootlegging there was astonishment, disbelief and much head-shaking. "Well, ya never know!"

Well, now I was approaching twelve and my auntie decided that I should have a nice doll. Every girl was supposed to have a doll to keep in the attic until she was married and had a daughter of her own.

"It won't hurt your dad to buy you one," she said with some aggression. "We'll just let him think it's a pair of shoes or clothes," she decided. I wasn't all that fond of dolls. After all, wouldn't it be a little embarrassing to have your friends know that you played with dolls at twelve years of age? But she insisted, so off went an order from Sears Roebuck Catalogue. I don't know why the order came to the railroad depot for me in care of my father. The depot agent sent word that my package was there so I collected it and took it home. It looked a little the worse for wear, but it was paid for. Truly my dad had never contributed much toward my care so she decided it was time that he did. A week or so later my father and I met at the post office and as usual, he walked with me as far as the road that led to his cabin in the woods. We stood chatting for a little before we parted. Then he turned back toward me with some amusement, "How's your dolly?" The object in question never made it to the attic. I was embarrassed to have anyone know that it belonged to me, but there were small people at outhouse to love it, and it went the way of the few former ones-hair that stood up in a peak, cheeks devoid of paint, one eye missing and the sawdust all filtered out.

My interests now were cooking, dancing and any book that I could get my hands on. Uncle Bill played his "fiddle" in the long winter evenings. He would show us the steps of the schottische, the polka, the old-time waltzes and the two-steps, and Lil and I danced. Our performance livened up the space between supper and bedtime and no one missed the diversions of today. Sometimes he would decree that I should read to the family. Somewhere we had gotten a book of Grimms Fairy Tales and the family all listened raptly to these renditions but I felt self-conscious because I couldn't keep the tears out of my eyes nor the tremors out of my voice through "The Boy Who Trod On A Loaf" or such heart rending stories as "The Little Match Girl."

Then a neighbor, a young man, thought I should learn to play the fiddle. I had perfect timing and could sing or whistle any tune I'd ever heard. He loaned me his violin. The family suffered, the dogs went under the house and howled, and I fiddled away until I managed to saw out a fairly decent tune.

I spent these years approaching the "terrible teens" impatient to grow up. The older girls around our town got to do all the interesting things! The Flapper age was just reaching our part of the country and I aped the girls a little older than me, rolled my socks, borrowed the boys' arm bands to wear for garters that showed just below the knees when we walked-when our folks weren't around!

Some of these older girls began to ask why I didn't go to live with my Grandpa again. The seed sprouted and grew and when I was fourteen I took that important step. Grandpa called me Geneva, my mother's middle name, and the name that he had used for her. I never knew whether he took a step backward in time or whether I helped fill a void that was left with her passing. Grandma Mary was very good and tried to instill some lady-like tendencies in me, although I spent most of my time around the barn or out somewhere with Grandpa. I am not sorry for the year and a half that I spent there, but I will be forever sorry for leaving and hurting the family that loved me. Much later I realized that I left another empty place in their lives.

The fourth Mackie girl, also named Geneva, was a few months old when I went back to live with Grandpa Johnson again, and three more boys-David, Maurice and Billy-weren't born until I was married and gone from Evaro. They weren't brought into this story only because I did not have much contact with them until they were a number of years older.

I adjusted to this new life at Grandpa's and grew up all too fast. I entertained thoughts of becoming a nurse but my dad said that girls didn't need an education. Boys needed an education because they had to make the living. Then Grandpa took in some horses on a debt. He gave me one of them to ride and I thought it was the most beautiful thing on four legs. (Now that I've seen a few, I know that it had four extra-big feet and a long head without any brain in it.) That horse would try to scrape me off on everything in sight until I got it headed down the road. Campers' accommodations at that time were touring cars and tents and "Darky" took me through one of their campgrounds and right over their cooking fire.

Men, women and kids scattered like chickens under a hawk in a power dive and with me pulling his head back and his mouth wide open, he kept on running until I thought he would go over a high bank onto the railroad track. I finally turned him and we got out of there before the repercussions began. I hope those campers didn't hang around our area long enough to find out who I belonged to! He did bring excitement into my world and I didn't have the good sense to be afraid of him. In fact, from this small taste of excitement I had a strong desire to run away and follow a rodeo. Only, among my two or three friends, there wasn't one reckless enough to go with me. A few days after the camper episode, the black four legged demon went over backward with me and mashed down a panel of the railroad section house fence. When I got home with him that night my Grandpa said, "I'm gonna sell that horse before you get yourself killed on him."

I still had (and still have) a love for books. From what I could find or borrow to read and from the three R's that I'd absorbed at Evaro, Lowell, O'Keefe and DeSmet, I became what might be termed self-educated. Like most of my other endeavors it turned out to be just a "fair to middlin" piece of work.

Grandma Mary didn't give up on me and her coaching made an impression. She had a name for girls who talked too much or too loudly, who flirted with boys or otherwise tried to draw attention to themselves. I was somewhat inhibited from being called backwoods and hillbilly and I didn't want to add the uncomplimentary title of "flibbertigibbit!"

At fifteen I had left childhood behind. Girls were in short supply in our timber country, so the young men vied for the honor of walking us home or even borrowing Dad's car to take us to a Saturday night dance or a movie. We were usually allowed to go with estimable young men if there were two or three couples and if we were home at a given time after the event. So, at fifteen and a half, instead of running away to the rodeo I ran away and married one of those young men. It was the first and last time that I ever lied about my age. I had had a short lifetime of taking care of babies—a mighty good thing since I stepped into a full-blown married life. By the advent of "the Great Depression" I had a house full of little ones. I didn't really miss the years at Evaro. I didn't have time. I was too busy learning to manage a household in those difficult Depression times. The babies compensated for the hours I'd spent on foot and on horseback roaming around the Evaro hills.