Monday, June 27, 2011

My First Trip to Jail and the Cardboard House

My first trip to jail was with my Dad, Bob when I was about six years old in 1955. My baby brother, Mathew, Mom, Dad and I were living around the Bluewater Lagoon in Parker, Arizona on the Colorado River in a mini travel trailer parked next to a cardboard house. The cardboard house was our den. It was a big room made from disassembled very sturdy packing boxes. There were two or three open air windows and a door way without a door and a flat roof. Inside the structure was a propane stove, old ice box and a few lawn chairs with a army cot bed. The cardboard shack was our entertainment center back before any poor folks owned a TV. It was where I cooked up my first gourmet mustard and onion sandwich at the tender age of six. (No wonder I prefer to eat out to this day over cooking at home.)

Nearby our home, I learned, after trying to smoke with another young juvenile boy, that I didn’t have the stomach to smoke tobacco. The cigarette we smoked no doubt was one I had rolled for my Dad and Mom with their loose leaf tobacco, rolling papers and cigarette roller. Rolling smokes was something for me to do and as a kid and I enjoyed doing it. My child mind at some point decided to actually try smoking. The neighbor boy down the road and I gave it a try. Afterwards I vomited profusely. Dad found out, laughed, figured I learned my lesson and at the age of six I gave up on smoking tobacco.

It was also there I learned about quick sand. I was warned about the potential threat on the river bank. It was also here that I had my first clue that there was a difference in the male and female anatomy. This discovery came while out swimming in the Colorado River at the Blue Lagoon. That same trouble making boy smoker asked me to show him my “hamburger” and in exchange he would show me his “hot dog“. The “show” never took place, thankfully. Later after asking my Dad what the kid was talking about, Dad advised me it would be best for me to avoid that boy at all costs thereafter.

Some way or another about this time we came by a couple of ducks. They each took to nesting under the back wheels of my Dad’s car and one day when he was backing up, he accidentally ran over them both. I was devastated, my Dad felt horrible and it was my first taste of death.

Many evenings as the huge golden desert sun would set in the west, my parents, baby brother and I would take walks on the banks of the Colorado River. On one such walk we met an older, generous kind couple. They must have felt sorry for me, going barefoot in the hot desert sun because the next day they brought me a new pair of shoes, toys and miscellaneous treats! One evening shortly thereafter as we were taking one of our customary walks, my parents strayed ahead of my brother Matt and I. Matt, was learning to crawl, and suddenly he commenced to crawl like a wild hyena right into the Colorado River and commence to try and drink the river dry. Now having this very rare pair of new shoes, I suffered my first dilemma. Should I get my new shoes wet and dirty, or go get my brother and try to save him from choking to death on the river water and join the dead ducks on the other side of the rainbow? Although I saved my brother from the grasp of the water and drowning, there are times I wonder if I made a mistake. (Chuckle)

Speaking of water, our drinking water during this period was pumped and hauled from a small rural public pump near by and of course, we bathed in the Colorado River. (All good practice for my future life in Alaska). We were poorer than dirt and needless to say there were no jobs in the desert vicinity, which didn‘t help financial matters. Dad’s car tires were wearing thin and with our constant coming and going across country, flat wearing out. One day, while out and about getting water, Dad spotted some tires in a field he thought were abandoned, perhaps a gift from Heaven. Actually they were placed there by the Devil, I decided later. The Devil must have wanted my Dad to get arrested for “stealing tires”. The local police picked my Dad and me up shortly after we retrieved the tires from the field. They took us to the local jail and I fought my first police man as he tried to unlock my hands from around my Dad’s neck. It was my intention to stay with Dad at all costs. Someway they managed to unlock my 5 year old grip and my Dad spent the night there in jail. They took me back to stay with my poor Mom and baby brother alone for one very, very long night.

The next day Dad was released from jail but without getting to keep the tires. Then we headed further south down the road with our crappy mini travel trailer and lousy tires to live in El Centro. There I attended kindergarten and Dad would look for some sort of job. Saying goodbye to the cardboard house and the Colorado River was a piece of cake. It would be fifty-five years (March 2010) before I returned to that exact area with my dog Moonshine and husband. Moon would swim where I had as a five year old. The cardboard house was long gone, as well as the empty desert vistas and in its place were oodles of manufactured homes. Oh the changes time does bring.

My Moonshine in the Bluewater Lagoon March 2010

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