Friday, October 12, 2007

Lauretta's Early Life

[Note: If you do not know who Lauretta, Wiley, Marci and Terye are, you might want to check out this brief explanation before reading my post here.]

The last time we drove through the Dallas area, Dan and I stopped and spent the night with Marci. That evening we had dinner with several family members, including Marci's step-daughter, Terye. I hadn't seen Terye in a long time, and it was a joy to be with her again, and meet her young teen-aged son, Jared (who, by the way is really into photography). Before we parted that evening, Terye gave me a copy of a paper she had prepared. It's actually a transcription of Lauretta's own words, as she told the story of her early life. Terye Gaustad's paper is the source for the information in my post today (thank you, Terye).

Lauretta was the youngest of fourteen children. Her mother passed away when Lauretta was only four months old; her father died five years later. Her 22-year-old brother, Joe (the fifth child); and her 17-year-old sister, Grace (the sixth child), took on the responsibility of raising all of the younger children. Joe had been studying to become a doctor, but gave up that dream in order to provide for the family by farming. Grace quit high school to become a full-time homemaker. Among Grace's many other tasks was making the children's clothes. Lauretta's clothes were made out of flour sacks, sugar sacks, feed sacks and, sometimes, inexpensive cotton prints found in the Sears or Wards catalogs. Joe learned to re-sole the children's shoes, so they could be worn until they were outgrown.

Joe became an enterprising and progressive farmer. He was one of the first to put down an irrigation well in West Texas. Since he didn't get to realize his dream of becoming a doctor, he made up his mind to be the best farmer he could be. Their land was made up of 320 cultivated acres and 320 acres of pasture land. They had four or five milk cows, four mules, four horses, hogs for butchering, and hens for laying. They sold some of the eggs to help buy other staples.

The little farmhouse where they lived had a kitchen, a dining room (that doubled as a bedroom), a living room (with another double bed), and two bedrooms. There was no running water; the water was carried in buckets from the well.

Lauretta started school in 1930, in the midst of both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. To her, the depression and the terrible sandstorms were all she had ever known, and, therefore, just life as usual. She remembers sand blowing in so deep that it covered miles of fence, until the posts were no longer visible. And, at times, they had to tie damp dish towels around their faces in order to breathe, as they shoveled sand out of the house.

Lauretta's keen humor comes through when she tells about their school lunches:
". . . everyone brought their lunch from home, and these . . . well-to-do kids had store-bought bread with store-bought baloney for their sandwiches, while we carried homemade biscuits with sausage for our lunch. A dreadful price to pay for being under privileged, wouldn't you say? There were times when we had the best of everything and didn't know it. The sausage came from home-killed pork, and for sweets we had to settle for homemade cinnamon rolls that Grace made each morning when she made her fresh hot biscuits. At times like that we didn't realize we were the ones eating 'high off the hog.'"
Lauretta also expounds upon the racial discrimination that was all she ever knew, growing up in the South. She regrets that it wasn't until the 1950s and 1960s that she came to understand and believe that the racial attitudes she had been raised with were wrong. In relation to that, she tells an interesting little episode from her childhood:
"For a long time there were two drinking fountains in Lubbock County Courthouse and one was labeled 'white' and the other was labeled 'colored." I wondered why it was like this for a long time, and one day, when no one was looking, I went over and turned on the 'colored' faucet, to see if it had colored water in it. I figured if it did, it must be better than the 'white' water, and more flavorful, but it was just like the 'white' water. All the older members in my family would have been horrified had they known that I drank from the 'colored' fountain."
Lauretta's narrative ends with the story of Wiley's courting of and marriage to her. Wiley lived on a neighboring farm, and Lauretta was introduced to him by her brother, Joe. She tells about the time he sat in the seat directly behind her, at a movie theater. It was a rainy day, and Wiley leaned over her seat and said that, since it was so muddy out, it would probably be a good idea if Lauretta rode home with him . . . "so, if I get stuck you can get out and push me."

Wiley and Lauretta married on February 1, 1947.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Linda: I loved the article about Lauretta. She was quite a lady, wasn't she? We don't know how easy our life is untl we read something like this. Love..Mom