Before I take you to the National Memorial, I want to give you my loyal readers a taste of my uncle’s experiences through his own words. Naturally, his years of experience is a testament to his wisdom, but it is after all is said and done tainted by his own morphed ideals, morals and expectations that life generally threw at him and his family including my mom.
A little family history first, to better enlighten my loyal readers. The Easley clan composed of seven boys and four living girls; two, twins, died from a nasty flu a month after they were born. Henry Lloyd was a farmer, but mostly he was an alcoholic and wife/child abuser. Lulu was the mother who tried to keep the family together. Hal was the fourth child born and my mom was the fifth. All the children were born either during the Great Depression or during the war years. To say they struggled was an understatement.
So, to listen to tales that Hal related to me was a trip back in a simpler time. They moved around a lot, going from one town to another, wherever the cotton or beans or corn was ready to be harvested. None had much of a formal education in school, but they did learn to read and write, I suspect from their mother.
Hal’s thoughts were somewhat disjointed but I also got much of these same tales from my other two uncles Lloyd, who I wrote about on a blog I did when I worked for him in Wyoming and David, whenever he came to visit when we were living in Tri-Cities back in the eighties and nineties before he retired. So what he related were slightly reedited for his benefit though I’m certain they actually happened.
“I sat on the couch as Hal watched the western shows on True Grit. “Billy got whooped on good one day,” Hal exclaimed with an amused voice. “One day we was supposed to go to school. You see every other day we went because we was so big, that we, my brothers, Dorothy and I had to go every other day to fit into that one room school house. Mary Jane, your ma weren’t allowed in the school on account of her harelip and they didn’t think she could learn nothing. So, Mom taught her in home. Anyway, he was supposed to have stayed home and done chores, but he was interested in some book the teacher read to us and was afraid he would miss out on the most important part of the story.
“Well, Pa, he wasn’t buying none of that nonsense, especially considering his fishing pole wasn’t where it normally was. So, he rightly assumed Billy had gone fishing rather than done his chores and he used the school as an excuse.”
He laughed hard at that one. “Then there’s one where your ma got herself into trouble and we were supposed to go and fetch Pa a birch or willow limb and bring it. Well, naturally, we boys couldn’t or the life of us find that what he requested. Mary Jane, she comes up and announces, ‘Here, Pa I found one!’ Just as pleased as punch. He took it from her and whipped her bottom with it, causing her to yelp out. Obviously she never volunteered to do that again.”
“During the war years Pa worked at some bomber factory in Dallas, or maybe in Wichita Falls. Anyway, we all lived in Arkansas with Bruce, Dorothy’s husband, and her new baby. I think it was either Linda or Bobby, but I can’t remember which right now. Us boys dreaded him coming home because Ma usually had a long list of complaints against us for all these perceived misdeeds we done while he was working in the factory. It seemed Billy and me got it the worse of all of us.”
“When Korea came, I got in and lied to the recruiter about my age. I was only seventeen when North Korea invaded South Korea. I wish I hadn’t, but that’s another story. Anyway, when it came time for my enlistment to come up, I couldn’t wait to get out. I went back home. I think they were living in Clovis, New Mexico at the time just before Ma finally dumped Pa once and for all.
“Nothing changed for the better. He still drank and Ma was struggling to keep Brenda and Oleta Fay fed. I think Mickey and Dan and maybe Lynn Dale was still living at home, but I could be wrong. I looked at myself, at them and how much it of a struggle it was to go back to what I was doing; farming and decided I wasn’t going to do that crap, and I reenlisted. The next day I was heading back to Fort Sil, Oklahoma.” Hal stayed in until 1974 when he retired.