Though I’d love nothing better than to tell you my readers every facet of my time there with my uncle and aunt, time isn’t really on my side here. So I’m condensing this part into the last week.
To start with the two new characters to this story did show up the following week. Richard was a relic from the 40s when times were much more to his liking, as I was about to find out when the subject of politics and race relations came up. He was a pleasant enough man, as I’m sure Albert Hiss was. He had a big belly and a squat frame with short legs and big head. He came from Arizona and thought Barry Goldwater was too liberal for his tastes. He also called Reagan, “the actor,” as if what the present occupant in the White House was merely acting out a role and wasn’t serious about anything he believed in.
Billy was around my age and his girlfriend or wife showed a day or two later. They too had opinions about this country’s direction toward racial equality and justice. Billy and his girlfriend were from a rural part of West Texas. I don’t think I need to remind you, everyone in this story is white Caucasians with not a hint of mix in them.
Time being what it is, I also forgot her name, Billy’s significant other. I’ll call her Pam. Anyway she too was young, a bit plumpish with dimples on her cheeks. I think she had brown hair.
I actually met Billy at the Greyhound depot in Idaho Falls after I returned from my month’s required National Guard drill. That in itself was another story. I had planned to drive back, but my car broke down on me near Wallace, Idaho on Interstate 90. The bus ride was the last thing I planned for and needed to borrow money from Mom to get me down to Lloyd’s place. Upon hindsight, I should have just stayed in Tri-Cities after I drilled.
At any rate, Billy had a nice shiny Chevrolet pickup that he seemed so proud of. It was white. He was big boy, way bigger than Lloyd. He told me about himself, working on a drilling platform in West Texas, but was between jobs at the moment. He had a helmet of blond curly hair, like me. Of course my hair would have looked like his too, if I didn’t follow regulations and had my hair cut short for National Guard.
When we reached Lloyd’s place I saw him bent over a log shaving off the bark. I walked over to him. “Hey Lloyd, I made it back.” It was nearing sunset when we got there and I noticed a chill in the air. I heard about Idaho and Montana winters starting early. I guessed Wyoming was no different.
“It’s about time. Mary Jane told me you ran into car troubles. You should have listened to her and taken the bus. Now you ain’t got a car neither.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Put your gear away, you got a lot of catching up to do.” He looked up and grinned at me. I went back to the truck and grabbed my overnight bag. I had packed more into my car but left it behind too at a mechanics shop in Wallace. Needless to say, I was not happy by the response I got from my uncle.
I went inside and saw Richard sitting on Lloyd’s Lazy Boy, and I stared at him a moment, perhaps longer than I should. His smiling greeting turned more sober, but he continued sitting on Lloyd’s chair, something I was told I couldn’t do the first day I started working here.
Lana was on her last night off and was scheduled the next evening at the Idaho Falls Hospital. Billy sat at the dining table watching Lana prepare dinner when Lloyd walked in, saw Richard, who immediately relinquished custody of his favorite chair and found a straight back chair by the dining table.
I sat next to Billy and then remembered to wash my hands, so got up and went to the kitchen sink. “Lana, it’s nice seeing you. How’s your day been?”
“As well as to be expected I suppose,” she replied as she glanced at me then went back to a simmering skillet of frying ground beef, next to it was a pot of noodles boiling in water. I didn’t see any tomato sauce, though. “To answer your question, my son has allergies and can’t be around tomatoes. I make spegetti without the sauce and all that. It will still be good.”
“I see,” I replied and went back to the table and sat down.
“Tomorrow, I’ll go pick up Pam,” Billy announced.
I saw Lloyd roll his eyes but said nothing.”
“Is she also from Wacko?” Richard asked with a snicker. I found out later he was originally from Iowa and then moved around wherever the work was. He had a bald head, and I described earlier, his head seemed abnormally large for a man that short and squat. He came in on a camper a green Dodge Power wagon held it up. He slept in it following dinner. He was in his eighties, I reasoned.
“No, she’s originally from Midland. We met in Waco, though.”
“I heard there was some cult down there calling themselves Branch Davidian,” Richard added.
“I don’t know nothing about them people.”
“Okay, boys, supper’s ready. Lloyd moved painfully out from his recliner and sat down at the table.
“Those logs wear on you, don’t they Lloyd?” I asked ribbing him good naturedly.
“You start serving up your meal. You got logs to shave tomorrow morning.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
The room was quiet as we ate the sauce less spaghetti.
It wasn’t that way the next evening, though. Pam showed up in midafternoon, after Lloyd, Richard and I had called it a day. Needless to say, Billy was in Idaho Falls all day. She and Billy showed up just as Lana was leaving for work. Lloyd didn’t say anything to the pair as he walked past them inside that garage structure and sat on his recliner.
Once again, I was a bit out of shape and didn’t have nearly the total I entered into my ledger that I completed just before leaving for my weekend drill. I logged in three shaved logs.
I’m not totally sure what Richard actually did. He used his truck more or less as an anchor to hold Lloyd’s truck as the winch he used pulled the logs up on the structure. But, everyone, including Lloyd, knew that wasn’t going to work very much longer. A crane was needed to finish the job, especially where it was a two-story structure. Richard sat in the cab of his truck, watching Lloyd.
We started having supper when someone, maybe Richard used the derogatory n word. I still don’t recall what the conversation was afterwards, but I found out a lot about my Uncle Lloyd and his true colors. I was in a state of utter shock because I truly didn’t believe racists existed anymore. Yet, here I was hearing these three people talk about a person, I mean a group of people, race of people and judging them based solely on their skin color, not their character. After about ten minutes, I excused myself from the conversation and went outside and smoked a cigarette.
I guess Richard proudly voted for George Wallace and the American Party. That too was a relic that died out after Wallace’s near assassination in 1972. Segregation also died out that year.
I overheard them talking and laughing about people like me who didn’t appreciate the fact that white people were now the minority in this country. I was appalled by these words. But yet everything they were talking about were either lies or untruths that only they believed were the gospel.
I couldn’t be a part of that, but by the same token, I didn’t think it was safe for me to call them out and tell them how wrong they were. I finished my cigarette and went back inside. I sat on my bed and Lloyd came to me. “What the hell have been doing I only saw two shaved logs you did today.”
“No, I did three, Lloyd, I’ll show you in my ledger.”
“That ledger’s wrong. You either start pulling your weight around here or your fired!”
I stared up at him. I’m sure he saw my anger in all its true light. He abruptly left and went outside, I assumed to cool off.
Later, maybe ten minutes later, he came back in. “I guess you were right, you did do three today. You still need to do more though. I got a load of two hundred more logs due next week.”
I’m sure my bemused expression at him spoke volumes of my disappointment. I had so much hope that he would be halfway decent toward me, but I was wrong, after hearing his views about black people in general, my disillusionment was complete.
I had a hard time falling to sleep, though. Billy and Pam treated that garage like their personal honeymoon suite and didn’t care about my presence, though a blanket separated my bed from theirs. I felt just like Rodney Dangerfield.
The next morning, I worked on finishing the log I was halfway through with and then I found a knot that was especially stubborn. The more I worked it the more frustrated I became. I used a hatchet to chop away at it. I threw the hatchet to the ground.
“Hey, what the hell are you doing to my equipment?” I heard Lloyd yell at me from in front of the garage where he and Pam were serving breakfast. Apparently he came out initially to tell me breakfast was ready. Bad timing on my part. “Get in here and eat.”
I felt my face turn redder from embarrassment. I gave him a sheepish grin, got off my log and went inside.
“You want to let out your frustrations, throw rocks, don’t take it out on my equipment.” Those were the first words from Lloyd’s mouth.
“Sorry about that,” I apologized hoping it sounded sincere enough.
We ate biscuits and gravy with scrambled eggs. Pam sat down next to Billy. About then we heard a car pull up and we all figured it was Lana coming home from work. It was a little after nine.
She walked in with a smile on her face as she saw her man and son. The smile disappeared into a frown of disapproval when she saw Richard though. “Good morning,” she announced. “I trust everything was okay last night while I was at work.”
We all nodded as we ate our meals. When we were done, we all went back out on the job site and worked while Pam and Lana spruced up the garage. Lloyd seemed to be more stressed
than usual. Maybe it was his own deadline he set for himself. Maybe it was the threat from the wildfire up in Yellowstone, or maybe it was Billy and Pam, whom I got the impression he wasn’t overly fond of. In any event that day stuck out for a number of reasons as the climax of my stay there.
I didn’t do anything wrong, per se. But first Richard wasn’t paying attention to the winch line and it snapped before he could yell out to Lloyd about the problem. Then once Lloyd repaired that, we discovered we could go no higher until a crane could be brought in. I had no idea what that would cost. I had a feeling though; it was more than Lloyd had in his savings. Finally Billy sliced open his hand doing something stupid with a hatchet. I didn’t see what happened. I don’t know what he did until afterwards when I heard the commotion behind my back.
“Oh, Damn, I cut myself,” Billy yelled out. He used more colorful language, though I chose to edit that out for my readers’ sense of decency. At any rate, Lana came outside, followed closely by Pam. Richard and Lloyd also came over. I saw the flesh wound. He opened his hand quite nicely. Blood poured copiously upon the ground while everyone fell over themselves in grabbing rags and anything else that would help slow the bleeding. Then, Lana, Billy and Pam left, leaving Richard, Lloyd, and I to clean up the mess.
“This is your God damn fault, you hare lip retard,” he accused me. “If you hadn’t left for that stupid drill, none of this would have happened!” He started toward me. I truly feared for my life in that brief instant. I don’t know why he thought I had anything to do with his stepson’s hand being filleted like that, but yet here I was staring at my blood who was insanely mad at me. I felt my bowels release a juicy fart. It smelt like two days’ worth of home cooking.
Richard for some reason came up to him. “Lloyd, settle down. It’s no one’s fault. That stepson of yours just had an accident. That’s all it was. It wasn’t no one’s fault at all. It’s getting mighty hot. Let’s go inside and cool off a little bit, drink some water.”
We went inside the cooler garage where a box fan blew air at a high setting. I poured a glass of water but paid no attention to Lloyd as I stood at the sink and sipped my water slowly. Lloyd sat on his recliner and Richard sat at the table. After about ten minutes, I abruptly left and went back to shaving on the log I was on before all of this happened.
Two hours later they all came back, packed up their stuff and then Billy and Pam left, not saying boo to Lloyd, which I’m sure upset him more than anything.
I heard Lana tell Lloyd, “I paid him for his time here. They’re going back to Texas.” Lloyd stocked off to their trailer this time.
She came near where I was working and told her, “I think I should probably go to.” I didn’t tell her about Lloyd’s outburst, though my voice belied the emotion I felt at that moment and I’m sure she sensed it.
“You’ll have to take that up with your Uncle Lloyd. I’m not going to get in the middle something I know nothing about,” she replied and then also headed toward the trailer.
I stayed on the log shaving for a good three more hours. I was hot and tired. I sweated out everything there was in my body and finished my last cigarette. Lloyd came out to me. I had done six logs that day.
“So, I understand you’re thinking of pulling out of here too, huh?”
“I don’t want to.”
“Look, I know I got me a bit of a temper. Apparently you do too. I’m sorry I tore into you like that. But, I really need your help now that Billy’s gone. He was the muscle, but he definitely lacked something up here.” He pointed at his head. I nodded in agreement, remembering last night. “Can you stay at least one more week?” He gave me that sad puppy dog look when he wants something really bad but doesn’t want to lower himself to begging.
“Sure,” I relented.
I should’ve asked for a raise but felt sorry for him. Lana apparently had a say in what transpired in that trailer. I worked out with them until all the logs there were shaved and he handed me a check for over six hundred dollars. That was ten days later, on a Tuesday, primary election day in Wyoming. Lloyd dropped me off at a bus depot that used Ford E350 Vans as busses. He was on his way to the polling place to as Richard put it, “throw out the crooks and elect the rascals.”
I got on the van and made a mental note of the route I took so I could place it into a chapter of a book I was writing. I never really finished the book, though I thought that story would make a great final chapter.