Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Wonderful Willow

Patsy (Pat) Marilyn Fresh Pack

My husband's mother

Bradford William Pack --> Patsy (Pat) Marilyn Fresh Pack

The Fresh Family - Patsy is the youngest in pigtails


“Ouch!” said five-year-old Patsy pulling the worn, black and white oxford off her foot. “Holes’s gone straight through,” she said sticking her long finger through the bottom of the shoe.
She shook out a tiny pebble then struggled to squish her heel into the broken shoe. She wiggled her toes and pumped her heel onto the collapsed back of her shoe. “Mmm, this could be a long
walk to the willows. Kinda be like wearing a fat flipflop if I can‘t get my foot in.”
“Mama warned me this would happen if I wouldn’t unlace my shoes.” she said lifting her index finger out as she pulled the back up and into place. “Whew. Success.” Her foot slipped into the shoe. She flipped her straw-blonde braids onto her back, and began to slowly trot towards the willows on the ditch bank next to the gravel road.
“I”m going to make a stick horse,” she said to a sparrow perched on a willow. She climbed the grassy ditch bank and began searching the willows for the perfect branch.
“Too short. Too thin. Perfect. . . that’s if I can break it off. Rex makes it look so easy. Big brother, where are you when I need you?”
Patsy twisted, pulled, yanked, and finally put all her weight on the branch as she bent it back.
C r r r a c k. Her fingers plowed into the dirt and grass. She jumped up, wiped the dirt on
her faded blue denims, and with a triumphant smile held the leaf covered stick high above her head. “I hereby name you Champion after my favorite cowboy’s horse. I love you Gene Autry.” she swooned, giggled then studied her new horse.

“Every horse I ever saw had hair, not leaves. Off with you, green leaves.” She tugged and pulled, stripping every leaf from the stick until she came to the very top of the branch.

“A horse does need a tail. I guess you’ve got a green one, Champion.” she said.
“Don’t buck,” she said lifting her leg high over the stick in an exaggerated move like she was mounting a real horse. Her blue eyes twinkled as her blond braids bounced up and down in perfect rhythm to the clip clop she pretended to hear as she galloped towards home, the fourth house on the lane.
She wanted to show Champion to Barbara Seefried whose driveway was the first one on the lane, the only child Patsy’s age near enough to play.

Patsy with Barbara Seefried

Too bad she’s not on the bridge. I’d ask her to come play cowboys and Indians. Her mom scared me yesterday when she got the razor strap from behind their kitchen door. Thank goodness she sent me home before she spanked Barbara. I was afraid she was going to spank me too.
Wonder what Barbara did to make her mom mad. Mmm think I’ll go home and play by myself. She heard the creaking of the few decaying boards still attached to the top of the Nichol’s old,
weathered, two-story barn as a soft breeze swirled through them. The second floor was Patsy’s lookout tower before racing across the pasture between the barn and her own property when she sneaked over to Barbara’s to play.
Next to the barn, almost leaning against it, was a small, narrow building with boards as grey and weathered as the barn, the outhouse, the outside toilet also known as the privy.
Was that Mr. Nichol’s or one of his boys who just darted into their outhouse? How
embarrassing to be seen by the whole neighborhood when good ole Mother Nature calls. I see
Tilly Sulzley, and Mrs. Martindale making frequent trips to theirs too. At least Barbara’s is tucked
out of site. I’m so glad we have a bathroom in our house with a toilet and bathtub.
Dad is so clever. He made our privy a tool shed with a concrete floor and painted it white to match our other out buildings.
Fresh Home in 1949

Crossing the plank bridge that spanned the irrigation ditch in front of her home, she dismounted her stick horse and walked it across the lawn. “You can graze. I’ll watch you while I rest on the new green steps Dad just finished. They are concrete, not grass, so don’t try to eat them.”
She heard the loud ring of the telephone inside the house by the front door. “One, two, three rings.
“Wonder who called the McBrides. Five rings and I could have answered. Maybe I’ll sneak
in and listen to her conversation.
“Patsy, what are you doing? Hang up the phone,” Mama whispered entering the living room from the kitchen to shoo Patsy away. Her frown was enough. Patsy carefully replaced the heavy black receiver onto a cradle base.
“I would hate to think our neighbors listened to my conversations. ” said Mama shaking her head as she pushed her glasses into place. “I almost forgot, Rex is looking for you.”
“I sure am.” A boy with curly, chestnut, hair, and a mischievous smile bounced into the room. “Hey, Squirt, where ya been?” Rex was six years older than Patsy and the closest in age of her two brothers and two sisters. He was only a little taller than Patsy. Maybe that was why she loved him so much. He was her big brother, but just her size. Well, almost her size.
“I decided to do something for you now, even if it isn’t your birthday. I know birthdays get lost when there are three the first week of January. I want you to know you’re the best, even if you bug me sometimes following me around like my shadow. Come see,” he said grabbing her hand and pulling her into the kitchen.
“I didn’t wrap it. Too big anyway. You’re always talking about going fishing. Well. now you can.” He snatched an object from behind the kitchen table. “Here.”
“Oh, Rex, my very own fishing pole.” Smiles covered both their faces. “Yippee! Look Mama.” She handed the homemade pole to her mother, then turned to face Rex.
“Do you think it will work?”
“You questioning my workmanship?” he said rolling his eyes.
“How’d you make it?” Patsy asked.
“ I took a branch from the willows where we get yer stick horses and the wiener sticks. I got

the longest and thickest I could find. See. I stripped off all the bark and whittled some of the bumps out? Isn’t it just the prettiest color you’ve ever seen? Can’t find a pole this color in a store.” Admiring his work he ran his finger over the smooth cream colored wood.
“It isn’t the straightest fishing pole, but that makes it different in a good way,” he said. “I used some of Mama’s big quilting safety pins for the eyes to hold the line. That was tricky. I had to snip them all the same size, then bend them and use some quilting thread to wrap them on the pole. She only had black quilting thread. That adds color. Then I glued on the thread and let it dry real good before I lacquered everything to waterproof it and make it shiny,” he said. “The reel is off one of my poles.”
“Do ya like it?” His eyes held an expectant glint.
“If you don’t like it,” he paused and smiled mischievously, “I’ll keep it.”
“Like it. I love it. It’s the best gift I have ever received. Thank you, Rex” she said hugging

him.. “Do you think we could catch a fish in the ditch?” “No.”
“Could we go fishing in the Blackfoot River?” she asked.

“Sure, if Mom and Dad say it’s O.K. But, YOU have to bait your own hook, and take the fish off too. . . if you catch one. And, most important of all, YOU have to clean any fish you do catch.”
“Oh. . . I guess you can keep the pole.”
Footnote: The story is true except for the ending, and it even has some truth. Rex did give me the fishing pole made from a willow as described. It was one of the most precious gifts I received as a child.
When I went to college, Rex called to see if I still had the pole he had given me so many years before. He was married and had two small boys. I told him it was still at our parent’s home. I felt my heart sink. He asked if he could have it back to give to his boys. A big part of me was sad to give it up, but I said, “Yes.” It was truly a wonderful willow from a brother I adored.
Times have changed life dramatically, but an uncomplicated life where a child could be a child is a wonderful memory. And a child with a brother who loved her is wealth beyond compare. 

No comments:

Post a Comment