Image result for first 1970 Earth Day planting trees

Open letter to Greta Thunberg
& other young people who believe older generations
murdered Mother Earth
and never talk about climate crisis

Greta, I admire you. I love you. I am thankful you came along to inspire people to work hard to save Mother Earth, to clean up streams, oceans and air. Like you, I have autism. But my condition was not discovered until I was 67 years old. I knew something was different about me. I always preferred trees and books to people. I like being alone.  I have read both of your books, which my teacher friend gave to me. I agree with 99% of everything you say in your books and your lectures. I went to the rally you led in Denver. Hooray for Great Greta!! However, you keep saying “hardly anyone talks about the climate crisis” and that “no one is doing anything about this.” 

Please know that not all “old people” polluted this Earth. For example, my parents were fierce environmentalists in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and onward. They never read newspapers without bundling them up, tying the bundles with string and returning them to pulp plants. The pulp went back to making new newspapers, tablets for schools & other paper products. In modern times, they put their newspapers and other items into recycling bins.

My family hiked all over America, in parts of Mexico and Canada. My father’s job as an explorer/cartographer required him to climb mountains, scout streams/coastlines and clamber around in swamps. (There is a mountain and a glacier in Antarctica named after my father–William C. Elder–he was the first person to climb up those geological formations.)
Mom and us kids often went hiking with him when school was out. We helped carry Dad’s telerometer and other equipment he used for making maps the old fashioned way, without math. My parents taught us always to carry every tiny bit of trash/garbage out of the wilderness with us. My parents used only paper bags and waxed paper for our lunches. Everyone in the 1930s/40s/50s/early 60s did this. We did not have plastic in those days.

Our parents taught us kids about safe use of fire and how to use the bathroom property in the wildness–far from water sources so as not to pollute (and burying the waste). It was drilled into us kids Never to foul Mother Nature. We were taught to respect all wild animals and coexist with them.

Dad and Mom taught us survival in deserts, forests and other terrains (in case we got lost, we could eat cacti—after peeling off the prickly top layer—for moisture/sustenance in deserts; which mushrooms and berries were safe to eat; how to follow creeks to civilization; how to read moss on trees, follow Polaris and so forth.)  Our lives in national parks, state parks and other Nature locations gave us all a great love for Mother Earth.

My father taught us the “navy shower.” Turn on the shower, get wet. Turn water off. Soap up. Shower off. The entire effort takes less than five minutes. Dad demanded we take only cold showers in Spring and Summer and warm Fall days. We were allowed baths or showers once a week until age 11. We had to wash with washcloths in the sink on non-bath/shower days. Or having fun with the outdoor hose. When we lived in tents or cabins without running water, we swam in creeks, rivers and the sea. That was our “bath” as children. My sister came to hate this. So did my mother. But I was the quintessential “dirty hippy!” Although no boy I dated ever complained. Ha!

Every item of clothing we outgrew was handed down in the family or given to poor people. We did not have much money until my father was promoted when I was 13 years old. But years of frugal living made their mark and I still shop at thrift stores. My mother made most of our clothing. My father’s shoes lasted forever. When he died at nearly 90 years old, he had the same boots he’d been wearing since age 40. We were taught to take care of our shoes, since “money doesn’t grow on trees.”

My mother grew up on a ranch in Wyoming. Her family were dirt poor. They canned vegetables and fruits, stored potatoes in the cellar and cooked in an iron pot for a huge group of relatives and ranch hands. My father grew up in Georgia. He was poorer than my Mom. Dad swept dirt yards for 10 cents a day to help support his family when his father died. My father was ten years old when his Dad passed away from pneumonia. My father wore the same overalls from age 10-15. He scrubbed them every night by hand in a tub. He wore the same shoes for six years, cutting the instep to allow his feet room when they grew. He put himself through college to escape poverty but he never lost his extreme frugality.

Mom became a registered nurse. She was the youngest of eight children. She taught herself to sew because my parents could not afford to buy new clothing. She became a gifted designer/seamstress. She took us with her whenever she delivered food  baskets to poverty stricken people in Appalachia and other areas of America.

My sister, at age 11, joined a group that fought hard to save Burling Tract. This was a stretch of land in McLean, Virginia of thousands of acres. That area is still forest. It did not fall to developers who wanted to build giant homes for wealthy people there.

My sister, our father and I joined a group that helped organize the first Earth Day in the Washington, D.C. area. Thousands, perhaps millions of people did this work all over the world This took a Lot of organizing, talking to people, handing out fliers. Then we worked hard, bundling up newspapers, sorting through trash dropped off (into piles for recycling). It was exhausting but we felt really good about it. It was 1970 and we had hope for the future.

From the time my brother, sister and I were toddlers in the 1950s, we would pick up trash from forests, rivers, streams and the ocean. One of our favorite words was “help.” We would put garbage into paper bags and our parents would bury it so it would rot. Or they would take it to manufacturers for a rebate. Back then, there was no plastic or styrofoam. Everything was in glass, paper, wood and cardboard. So it was easy to dispose of trash responsibly.

As teenagers, we joined others, working to clean up the Potomac River.  People were doing the same thing all over America, rescuing rivers that were on fire with chemicals. We marched for Mother Earth (and against war). We talked to government officials, demanding they pass laws to clean up the environment and stop corporations from dumping chemicals into rivers and the ocean. My brother, sister, my husband and I planted trees wherever we lived. We give trees and flower bulbs as gifts to friends and family, so they can enjoy living plants and the oxygen they produce.

My brother and I, as little kids, wanted to be “Johnny Appleseed.” We would eat apples from orchards. Then we would plant the seeds with cores to benefit “the future.” We got our school mates to help us do this.

This is not just my family/friends. Hundreds of thousands of families in the 30s/40s/50s and beyond lived and continue to live this way.

My husband and I and many of our friends/theater/art/poetry-world acquaintances chose to have no children. ZPG. Zero Population Growth was a popular trend when we were in high school and college. Universal Birth control could help stem the tide of damage to this earth. Too many people crowd into certain areas of each nation. We ruin habitats of animals, birds and forests. I do not feel bereft for having no children. I taught school and enjoyed all those children/teenagers. I have nieces and nephews I love. But I wish Everyone would choose to use birth control and not have more than one or two children per family. One would be ideal. It would help if young couples could be free from the question “When are you going to start having babies?” This expectation has overpopulated the world. We learned in the 5th grade about Thomas Malthus’s predictions. Everyone who went up to the 5th grade in the U.S. knows that overpopulation has ruined the world. But this can be reversed with education about birth control. If governments would provide birth control products to men and women, free clinics to dispense and educate about birth control, the population problem would improve greatly.

We have friends who do not buy new furniture. They make their own. One of my best friends and her husband take in unwanted/neglected/abused animals (wild and domesticated creatures). They nurse these animals back to health. They pay for veterinarian care. They feed them, give them clean water and a cozy, loving home. They do not have much money to do this. Their love of creatures and the love those animals give them is payment enough. They have been doing this for over thirty years. My husband and I send them money to help the animals whenever we can.

I read about a man in India who has planted Millions of trees, in an effort to save Mother Earth.

Others do the same good deeds all over the world.

So do not give up. There is hope.

Many people buy new clothes and shoes every school year or season. They see cars, clothing, TV sets and computers as “throw-aways.” Get new, toss the old. Tennis shoes are a status symbol. So some folks buy the latest hip tennis shoes and toss old ones. These pile up in garbage dumps and end up in the sea. New bed-clothes, comforters, sheets are bought and the old ones are tossed. Not everyone does this, thankfully. Many people donate to Goodwill or other thrift shops and this benefits the environment and people like my husband and I who cannot afford (nor do we want) to buy new things. You can get clothing, books, DVDs, shoes, lamps, electronic devices at Goodwill and other thrift shops. It is fun looking and buying for great deals. We notice parents telling their kids “Get five items of clothing and three toys! We can afford it!” at thrift stores. The kids are excited to be getting “new” things. Everyone benefits.

If corporations quit producing plastic items and quit wrapping items in plastic (using glass, cardboard instead) Mother Earth would benefit greatly. Boulder, Colorado has a ban on plastic bags. So do many cities all over the world. People are using cloth bags, just like in the old days.

However, it is not possible for private citizens to save Mother Earth on their own. Using cloth bags is a drop in the bucket. Corporations and billionaire CEOs must do the biggest part of this work. Corporations must stop relying on oil and gas to power factories. They must use solar, water, wind, geyser and other energies. Perhaps nuclear but I am not educated enough about that to voice an opinion. Car manufacturers must switch engines from gas-powered to solar and electric. Or some other technology I do not know about. I trust in scientists. Young scientific minded people are making inventions which help clean up the ocean. So I have hope.

We live near Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley Steamer car was invented here. Steam engines were good enough for people in the early part of the 20th Century. Why not now? Why must people go 40 mph or faster? Slowing life down would benefit our environment and our mental health! Bicycles are great but cars are an American fact of life. So if we could convert to steam engines, that would be amazing. No gas/oil/coal electricity!

Electric companies must stop using coal and gas. This is urgent.

CEOs of corporations whose products pollute must stop using coal. For example, in manufacturing, large amounts of machinery and chemicals are required to produce shoes. To power these machines, a great amount of fossil fuels are used. As Greta says, fossil fuels produce greenhouse gases when burned. Coal is one of the sources of energy that used often to power factories.

Many cities use coal to fuel their electricity. This must change. Not by 2050. Now! Greta is right about this!

We consumers are trying. My husband and I buy clothing and shoes from thrift shops, like Goodwill. So we are not causing new items to be made. Many people have turned to “sustainable clothing” and furniture etc. But it is up to the companies that make these items to stop relying on coal, gas and oil. Regular citizens have little power over CEOs and their companies, other than to quit buying their products. CEOs must get some morality and Act Now!

Plastics are the worst polluters. When soda pop and other drinks were sold in glass, people would bring bottles back to get a cash deposit. The glass bottles would be crushed and re-used to make more bottles. When plastic began to be used for water bottles, soda pop bottles, shampoo bottles, trash cans and other containers, the world got buried in plastic. The ocean is choked with plastics. People can work hard to find products in glass containers. But these are expensive and hard to find right now. It is up to corporations/CEOs to Choose to quit using plastics.

Politicians must stop stalling on agreements to end reliance on gas/oil/coal. There would be fewer wars if nations were not reliant upon oil and gas which is prevalent in the Middle East. Western nations, First World nations, allow wars to go on endlessly so citizens can drive gas-fueled cars which pollute horribly (and to fuel electricity for cities).

Let us all join Greta Thunberg in demanding Change to save Mother Earth.


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scrying/figure 5 (poems)

Summer Solstice Scrying

I tried to write a poem in time for Summer Solstice

It was something about scrying in a coffee cup,
the dregs, marks left at the bottom
of a mug Teresa gave me one Christmas.
(I always use that mug, every morning.)

It is good luck. It reminds me of swimming
in a muddy lake with her, of laughing over nothing
way back in our college days.

Crescent moons of brown,
Full moons, sometimes double moons
what do they mean?  Do they mean anything?

Today, as I poured rich whipping cream
over a heavy spoon given to me by Kathie,
suddenly I noticed the shapes were wispy
angels, spirits, spinning, dancing on the dark
top of my morning hot cure for nightmares.

I stood, watching them fly around in circles,
one after another, there were three of these
light beings at first.  Then they broke up into
four, next five (in numerology 5 means
complicated family.)

I stopped staring & drank my coffee. It was good.
This last couplet is the real poem.

I saw the Figure 5 in Gold!

Suddenly, I was standing at the Met’ staring
at Demuth’s painting, way back in 1980,
in the days when I’d take some of Lindblad
Travel’s clients through art galleries, putting
my Art History degree to some use. They’d
OOO and AHHH! and buy me lunch at Sardi’s.

Are these the ghosts of those older ladies
(my age now) come back to remind me
about Art and Music and Poetry, telling
me to get my mind off the hell of politics,
go out into the lavender garden with my cats?

Sit and stare up into the blue Colorado sky,
watch wisps of white clouds turn & spin
around & around, signifying nothing or
something or everything.

So out I go, with my steaming mug &
a book about Appalachian music.
I to listen to Old Ladies these days.



Wyoming Picnic

It was the summer of 1961. My father had been chosen by the US Interior Department to be on a team of cartographers and explorers to live in Antarctica for eight months of the 1961-62 season. There would also be scientists studying ice cores, and other investigations. This was part of the Antarctic Treaty. We kids didn’t know about the Treaty. We just knew that our father would be living in an igloo and hiking all over Antarctica while we lived in Douglas, Wyoming with our Grandmother Iris Mae Thurston.

Dad would train in New Zealand for six weeks, take a barge to Antarctica. Just as he was going off on his great adventure, we three kids went to the big Converse County Frontier Days picnic. Grandma and Mom packed a large picnic basket, filled with carrot sticks, celery, peanut butter and honey sandwiches for us younger ones. The grown ups got cheese on buttered bread. There were big jars full of pickles. Small aluminum cups kept lemonade cold. Mom poured drinks out from a big, glass jar. We got thirsty running wild amidst all the horses, cowboys, cowgirls and rodeo clowns.

At one point, my brother and I crawled under the picnic table where Grandma and her pal Billy Budd were sitting. Mom was off with her high school friends. Three year old Kathi was with cousin Connie and Connie’s parents a few table down.

Bob and I loved “spying” on grown-ups’ conversations (although I am sure now that they were always aware of us underfoot.)

“Iris Mae, you will drive me batty with love-lorness. When are you going to let me come a’courtin’? That man of yours passed on lo these many years!” Billy’s legs were right up against Grandma’s long, slim, brown legs.

“Get on with you. What foolish talk. We’re past all that.”

“You know I fell for you the first time I seen you cuttin’ cattle on that roan.”

“That’s a long while back. Time has flown, Billy.”

“My heart still skips a beat whenever you pass by.”

“You struck a hard bargain on that ranch with Ben. Nothin’ but dust and flies.”

“It was all right, I guess. And it paid for the dry cleaner’s. You want some more lemonade?”

“As long as you let me spice it up with this here.” We heard a flask screw cap loosen. “Just a drap?”

“A tiny little drap, OK Billy.”

I coughed.

“Is that them young’uns under th’ table! I’ll be dogged! Git up here, you fiesty little thangs.”

Bob and I crawled under the picnic table seat and sat opposite Grandma and Billy Budd.

“You know stories about your Grandma an’ her  folks would fill a library, don’t you kids?”

“No sir.”

“Well, let me jist tell ya. Her an’ I met when we was both workin’ in a Wild West show. Not that consarned Buffalo Bill an’ his trucked up horse patty mess o’ lies. Jist real folks, ranch hands. Yer Grandma could shoot a gun good as any a’ man. She done trick ridin’ like yer Maw. We traveled round about th’ Territories in summertimes.” Billy stared off into space, down through the year. “She took mail out to all them ranchers, rain, shine or blizzard. Near about froze thet one time. Good luck I come along! An’ not only thet, she delivered babies—cow, horse and human!” We perked up. This was fascinating.

“Kept thet little ole young’un o’ yers in th’ bread warmer ‘til it got good n’ healthy.”

“What bread warmer?” I pictured Grandma placing a newborn baby into a toaster.

Grandma said, “Our old cookstove, everybody’s cookstove—you’d put wood in to start a fire and bake bread or what-not, roasts and so forth,” Grandma told us, “there was a small box off to the side, made of iron like the stove. You’d lay your bread loaf in there after the stove cooled down a bit, wrapped in a damp towel to keep th’ bread warm. Premature babies needed to be cozy so we’d lay a little blanket in there & put the baby in it.”

I was in shock. Early-born babies not in a hospital but in an oven’s bread box? It sounded like something out of Grimm’s fairy tales.

“Was the baby OK?” my voice quavered.

“That’s your Aunt Kate. She’s a ball o’ fire but I reckon she’s OK.”

My Aunt Kate had bright red hair. She let me visit whenever I wanted to her house in Douglas, about five blocks from Grandma’s. Kate painted my fingernails, set my hair in bobby-pins and I was allowed to read her wild magazines with huge headlines: LIZ AND DICK!! SHAMELESS LOVERS!!!

I was nine years old and got all my sex education from Photoplay. I knew that my Aunt Kate, who was “living in sin” (according to neighbor kids) with the Sheriff of Converse County would be featured in Photoplay one day.


“What else happened?” Bob asked, leaning forward and staring into Billy Budd’s rheumy eyes.

“Wellp. Your grandaddy—you never did meet him. He died durin’ th’ war. Not th’ war t’ end all wars. Th’ one after thet. He come out to Th’ Territories in a Conestoga Wagon. Lived in a sod hut with all them others from Maine.”

“What’s a sod hut?”

“Jest a hole in th’ ground. Dig a hole big enough for all th’ family. Cover it up with branches and grass dug up with th’ dirt still in it. Keeps cool in summer and ye don’t freeze t’ death in winter. If’n yer lucky!”

His daddy sold whiskey to them Indians, took Ben’ along with him soon as th’ boy turnt ten. Got a pert near pile o’ turquoise an’ furs.”

“WHAT! Is that true, Grandma!” I couldn’t believe my grandfather had such a wild childhood. It made me feel guilty that my great-grandfather had taken turquoise from the tribes in exchange for firewater.

“Got along good an’ well with them tribals. Set an’ ate a fine meal ever’ time they come across a campment.

Hired some t’ work th’ ranch. Hardy folk. Knew th’ lay o’ th’ land. But th’ best story. Well, one o’ th’ best. Yer Grandaddy ran with Calamity Jane. She was crazy as a hoot loon an’ follered thet Wild Bill Hickock all over th’ dern place.”

I had read the biography of Martha Jane Canary that very summer. “Are you kidding me!! I thought she died in 1906 or something.”


“Wellp, yer grandaddy was born in th’ 1870s. So by th’ time he was comin’ up, sixteen er so, he fixed his eye on her. Older women always more interestin’ then young uns don’t ya know.”

“Grandma, is he lying!”

“Billy has some tall tales but the heart of them is true as a gold nugget. Ben never did court Jane. But he ran with people like that. It was early days for settlers out in The Territories. Everyone helped each other out. Drank together. Drove cattle together. Now you read about these folks and it’s like history. But back then, it was just people gatherin’ in saloons, workin’ hard, tryin’ to survive.”

My eyes were nearly popping out of my head. “Billy! Then what?”

“I ort ‘t go backwerds in time, I reckin. Ben told me about them times when his Daddy put t’ farmin’ in th’ Dakota Territory. Wasn’t yet a state, north er’ south. Up in th’ mid 1870s I think it was, Iris? (Grandma was too busy folding up cloth napkins to answer him).
Billy continued, “Bad winters. Cows froze in th’ field. Ever’body workin’ each other’s land, tryin’ t’ eke out a livin’. Folks wanderin’ ranch t’ farm beggin’ fer food, fer work. Anything. Ben would’ve reached ‘bout ten er eleven year old.” Billy stopped, took a sip from his silver flask and carried on with his story:

“So here comes these two brothers. Hides tanned by th’ sun, long days ridin’. Horses needin’ water bad. Ben took th’ horses to th’ trough, got th’ saddles off’n ‘em. Whilst he was a-doing thet, them brothers begged yer great-grandaddy fer work. Anythin’ at all. They’d cut wood, brand cattle, any damn thing, black smithin’. So yer great-grandaddy took a pity on ‘em even tho’ his own family was barely fed. They all struck up a fine friendship there. Them brothers sure did work hard. An’ fer not just yer great-grandaddy but any an’ all farmers up an’ down th’ line. Like them brothers, folk back then hated railroaders. Puttin’ iron lines in, bustin’ up cattle drivin’ routes. So them two brothers was considered fine folk. When they went out doin’ their other type o’ work, they’d always come back an’ distribute gold coins as shiny as could be.”

“Who was the other type of work?! Bank robbers?” Bob shouted.

“Thet there was Frank an’ Jesse James. None other.”

“Grandma! Is it true?”

Grandma paused from packing up the picnic basket. “Your grandpa could weave a fine tale. I never knew which threads were pure and which were false. He did live in the Dakotas back when those James brothers took refuge there for a time. And like we say, folks helped each other out. And he did buy some of our ranch land with gold coins. So you go on to the library and do your research.”

She turned to Billy, “Lord, these childrens’ ears will be a-burnin’ for th’ next 200 years!”

Image result for jesse james

Jesse James

Willard and the Mustang

Image result for 1966 ford mustang

It was mid-summer in Great Falls, Virginia. Humid, in the high 80s. I was fourteen. Dressed in cut off jeans and a striped t-shirt. White Keds. I’d gotten the ironing done, despite stopping frequently to dance to Donovan’s Sunshine Superman LP playing on Dad’s hifi.

My parents had left the house at ten o’clock a.m. to buy groceries and get lunch somewhere. So we kids were free. Bob was off playing baseball with the Great Falls team. Kathi was up at Mary Beth’s with Susan.

I wandered out through the front door and saw Willard in his front yard, leaning on the manual lawn mower, wiping sweat off his face.

“Hey, Willard!” I shouted.

“Dixie!” He came loping across the dirt road and into our yard. “Hey, get this. There’s a traveling salesman driving around the neighborhood in a blue Mustang. Why don’t you distract him so I can take his car for a joy ride?”

“Distract him? How?” I asked.

“Are you kidding me, Dixie? He’s like twenty-eight years old. He’ll get one look at your legs and his jaw will hit the ground.”

“You are doofy, Willard. Shut up.” I flapped my hand in his general direction.

“C’mon! He’s down at the end of Ellsworth. I can see his car right now.” He leaned his long body to the left and shielded his eyes from the sun. “Yep. Coming this way. Let’s do it!!”

“No way!!” I ran back into the house and down to the cool den, curtains drawn, blazing sun shut out. I put on The Rolling Stones’ Flowers LP, volume to 10 and began to rock out. I imagined being in college with a handsome boyfriend. We’d go out to dances every Saturday night. Then have dinner in an elegant French restaurant, like in 1950s movies. White tablecloths. A jazz combo. Women in gowns. Men in tuxedos.

In the midst of “Backstreet Girl,” as I twirled, someone banged on the front door. “Willard” I cursed.

I ran up the stairs and flanged open the door. “Willard! I said NO–” but it wasn’t my buddy. It was a good looking young man, with what we Langley girls called ‘collegiate’ looks.

“Hello, are you the Lady of the House?” He asked, pushing a vacuum cleaner toward the cracked-open door.

“No, I am not. And I am not supposed to let Anybody in the house when my parents are gone.” Oh no! I thought. Now he knows Mom and Dad aren’t here. What if he’s the Boston Strangler or somebody like that!   “And they will be back here in about two minutes. They just went up the road. To get gas.” I lied.

“Then they will be glad to see this all new deluxe Kirby vacuum cleaner with every accouterment a woman might need.” The guy actually put his foot in the door! He was doing a hard sale.

“My father vacuums. Not Mom.” It was true. I glanced out past the salesman’s head and saw Willard’s skinny form bending to get into that Mustang. The idiot! I almost screamed: “No! Willard! No!”

“You have got to GO!” I shouted. Meaning go get your car. But that didn’t come out right.

The young man heard his car start up and yelled “He’s stealing my car!” He turned to me and shouted, “You were in on it, you little whore!”

“I was Not! I told you to get out.” I was mad now. I had told Willard No Way.

“I’m calling the cops.” This was forty five years before most people had cellphones. How was he planning on calling the police. I always thought fast, like my brother and sister. “You can call from our telephone.” That would make me look innocent. Which I was! Dammit!

College Boy followed me upstairs to the clean, well-lit kitchen. I glided my palm toward the wall-mounted, yellow phone like a hand model. “Help yourself.” Then I went outside to sit in the grass and wait for the police. Willard was in Deep doo-doo.

The fellow came out and stood in front of me, legs spread apart like the Colossus at Rhodes. “The police will be here any minute.”

“You’re blocking my sunlight. I’m trying to get a tan.” I snarled. I tried hard to play it cool. But I was freaking out.

In less than five minutes, a police car drove up and parked in our gravel driveway. Dang it. If my parents got home early, this would be a real fiasco.

The furious salesman rushed up to the officer, blathering his story on the way. “This girl seduced me while her boyfriend stole my car!!”

“Seduced! I never did anything of the sort! And anyway, Willard is Not my boyfriend! Plus, I told you 100 times that you could Not come into my house but you shoved your way in anyhow.”

The cop tried to hold back a grin. Just as he was writing in his little black notebook, Willard drove up. His face was triumphant until he saw the police car.

“There he is! Arrest him!” Shouted the harried salesman.

Willard slouched his way over to my side. “Shit” he whispered.

“So, young man. What do you have to say for yourself?” This was one of the nice, younger cops. He and his partner would make teenagers dump their beer out if they caught anyone driving around with a six pack. They’d always say “Now, go home and stop wasting your money on cheap beer.”

“It’s just such a Great car,” Willard said, “I couldn’t help myself. I took it for a joy ride around the neighborhood. Five minutes, max. I didn’t think he’d even notice with Dixie. Well, Dixie. I mean. You know.”

Now the cop did laugh. “I get what you mean, son.” He turned to the hapless Mustang owner.

“What do you say? Why not let these kids off with a big scare? And you move on to some other neighborhood.”

The college boy spluttered, gesticulated toward my house and then Willard’s house. He frowned. He snorted. Then said, “OK, you hick cop. I can see you’re all in on this together.” He went back to the front porch of my house and picked up his Kirby and all the luxurious accessories. He trudged back to his gleaming Mustang.

The police officer told Willard and me, “I won’t tell your parents this time. But any more shenanigans and you’re in for it.” We both held up our hands and swore to be good forevermore.

After the cop drove off, Willard and I fell to the ground, then lay like the Vitruvian Man, staring into the clouds. “That’s a Mustang,” Willard said, pointing to one cloud formation.

We both burst out laughing, rolling in the grass.

Update: this photo came up on Facebook as a Memory today. Wild

Dixie Elderjohnson's photo.

Brother Bob, me, Sister Kathi, Mom’s sister Bernice, Mom

Diary found in box full of junk

Failing at Marie Kondo

Oh, my Lord. What is this? My diary that goes back to when I was age nine.

My father gave it to me for my 9th birthday. He said, “Some people need to write everything down. I’m like that. This doesn’t mean you are going to become a famous writer. Maybe you will. But it helps to get things off your chest.” I was as emotional as Dad. So I decided to put that book to use.

The diary was small, brown and came with a lock long since gone due to my brother’s endless breaking & entering, then reading aloud passages which sounded So stupid in his manly boy voice:  “Today I talked to a boy! He has black hair and is nice! He plays coronet in the band. He fixed my tie and said ‘that’s better’.”

“Give that back! Mooom! Make him give it!”  Bob would do a ballet-twirl, holding the diary aloft, just out of reach, even though we were the same height & weight until Bob hit nearly six feet at age twelve. I was dying to be six feet tall or more but growing stopped me at five nine & three quarters.

When I was twelve, we moved from Sanford, Florida up to Waycross/Hoboken Georgia. Our house was right on the border. It was a ranch style brick house with sliding glass doors and a “Florida Room,” which was just the thing back in those Mad Men days.

Unlike at other schools, I’d been fairly popular in the 6th grade. We lived for the first half of the school year in Bryson City, North Carolina.  Then we’d moved to Endicott New York so Dad could map upstate. Then back to Bryson City and all of a sudden, my boyfriend Billy (who had given me a silver ring and swore to love me until the End of Time) was walking around with a beautiful girl who had the right style (bubble hair-do, tight skirt, cashmere sweater & she had gotten bosoms!)  O Woe Is Me!

Then we moved to Sanford, Florida. I was in the seventh grade. We lived on Silver Lake near a huge expanse of orange groves. The bus ride was an hour long. I hated Sanford from minute one. Except for band. On a Spring trip to the state band competitions, Doug fixed my tie, then looked deep into my eyes and said, “that’s better.”  All the girls hated me because Doug Button had pledged his troth with those words.

I knew for sure that I would Never get bosoms. So that last part of the 6th grade in North Carolina & all of the 7th grade was tragic. Some of the North Carolina girls tried to cheer me up but a lot of my old pals had gone over to the Bubble Hair Do girl’s side. They all loved Billy Davis who once loved me because I could draw XKEs.

To make boys like me, I would draw their picture sitting behind the wheel of a silver XKE. Then, during class, I’d send it, folded up, with the boy’s name on front. They’d mouth, “WOW!” and later tell me, “You’re a good drawer.” But it was Billy I loved and would marry someday, I wrote into my diary.

Now here we were in Georgia. Not a scary state, since Uncle Jack, Aunt Inez & our southern cousins lived not too far away in Hinesville.   The school in Hoboken was small. Grades One through Twelve all in the same complex. There were about 30 kids in the 8th grade and they all were friendly to me right off the bat.

Helen rode my bus, as did Mack. He was the handsomest boy in school. Or should I say man? He had a five o’clock shadow by Noon and beautiful black hair with sapphire eyes. Marilyn, I would find out, was his girlfriend.

Deloyce came right up to me in homeroom, extended her hand and said “Hey there, what’s your name?” When I said, “Dixie” everyone laughed. Johnny Tallevast & his best friend began a resounding rendition of “I wish I was in Dixie!” which I had heard ten thousand times. The joke was stale. I gave them the evil eye.

Lynelle, a lovely redhead, sat down by me in the cafeteria that day at lunch time. Or rather, as southerners call it, dinner. I was in 7th Heaven. The lunch ladies cooked from scratch!! Collard greens with ham hocks, field peas, bisquits covered in red gravy. Oh my Lord!!! Darlene joined us, as did Helen and Deloyce. Marilyn had something to do in the ladies’ room but she came along fairly soon.  “Got my friend,” she groaned. “What friend?” I asked, completely clueless.  “You know, Dixie–the curse!” I’d never heard any of those terms but, afraid to appear dim, I said “Aah, yes. The curse.”

Claude, Danny, Johnny, Mack and other boys kept parading past our table, like as if we were going to shout out “I bid on that one!” while an auctioneer chanted out “Heybuddabudda, hey ya’ll; who wants that guy with th’ black hair? Heybuddabudda, yeah he’s fourteen, nearly six foot tall, budda budda.  Sold! To the highest bidder!”

Sometimes, my mind would drift and then suddenly, I’d hear the person talking. “Dixie, where are you from? You talk like a Yankee.” Oh, I knew that was Fatal. You had to fit in, wherever you lived.  So I quickly told them, “NO! My Daddy was born in Damascus and raised up all over Georgia. He gave me this name. My Mama’s from Wyoming. That’s how come I talk like this.” Which was a Lie.

Dad hated southern accents. He thought they were uncultured and ignorant, even if the person had gone to Harvard. He demanded that us kids never, ever pick up an accent Down South. And to be fair, he also hated the Bronx accent, Brooklyn yawl and numerous other ways of talking. My father had odd prejudices. We were taught to respect people of every “race, color & creed” but talking Southern was verboten!

Funnily, my brother chose in Waycross/Hoboken to steep himself in the beautiful Southern style of speaking. He never lost that accent. My sister Kathi & I stuck with our mish-mash of words from where we’d lived all over the USA. People would often ask us, “Are you from Michigan! You say ‘beg’ for ‘bag’?” And we’d have to set them straight Just as we told people who thought we might be from Maine or Boston  (since we said “wicked cool”) or Chicago, “No–sorry–we just move around a lot due to Dad’s job.”

That Hoboken school year was wild. I had never gone to so many events. Greased pig race. I purposely flopped myself down in the mud, so as to evoke laughter from the crowd (but also to spare that poor pig the indignity of being captured by a skinny twelve-year old.) There were fairs and carnivals. Going to the tourist shop to buy penny candy and a Co-Cola after school. 

Walking was our favorite thing to do, and we girls walked for miles & miles every day after doing our homework & chores. We’d talk and talk about which band was better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. I chose Buddy Holly & the Crickets. We talked about our strict parents, boys we loved, which student had been sent to the principal’s office and how many whacks with the paddle he got. It was always boys misbehaving enough to get paddled.

We discussed our teachers. Hub was nice and he taught History real well.  But Lordie that hateful old lady who taught English! When she taught. Mostly, it was hollering: “Ya’ll shut up! Ya’ll sit still!” as if a room full of twelve, thirteen and fourteen year old boys & girls could sit still!  That mean old woman once duct taped a boy for “being fidgety.” She wrapped him from forehead to waist, securing him to a chair. 

The boy closest to the door dashed out & ran to get Hub, while the rest of us were whispering: “That ain’t right” and “Ma’m, you are cruel.” When Mr. Hubert got to the classroom, he ripped that tape off while shouting, “Miz Anderson, you discipline these children too hard. They are My home room. If you get problems, you come fetch me! I don’t want to ever hear about any such of a hateful treatment again!” Mrs. Anderson glared at him but she never duct taped anybody again, no matter how wild we all got.

Gym class was fun. Our gym teacher played 45 records like Stevie Wonder’s “I was made to love her” and “Do Wah Diddy, talk about the boy from New York City.”

Diary page 1

(page from my diary, last day of school. Helen & I were moving. Me to the D.C. area
Helen was far more popular than I was. She’d lived there forever. But all us girls
were sobbing about her & my moving. (Bessie is Mrs. Anderson, the mean teacher.)

Diary page 2

(Reverse of inserted first page from my diary. About moving from Georgia to DC area.)

I was all in love with Johnny Tallevast from Day One at Hoboken High. He had auburn hair, freckles and a great big smile most of the time. Just like Huck Finn. His best friend was taller, with black hair and brown eyes. On the playground, they would both throw acorns at us girls as we swung in the swings. Primitive form of flirting. We girls would shout “Stop it, ya’ll!!” and “We’ll tell Hub!” They’d just laugh and run away.

I’d never had a birthday party in my life. But for my 13th, Mom said I could invite all the girls from the 8th grade. That was so Wild. I was terrified they’d all say no. Two respectfully declined the invitation but the others were excited about my party. I could not believe this. A real party with 45 records, dancing!! No boys but lots of great food. I told all the girls to bring their favorite 45s. We’d go swimming in the swamp, then get cleaned up, first being sprayed off with the hose (brother Bob would do that job, dressed up as Bond, James Bond with his red swim trunks, sunglasses and silver tooth.) Then have dinner and cake.

Mom asked what food I wanted and I made a list: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collards, iced tea, soda pop (a rarity in our home), ice cream in three flavors and a cake! Chocolate and big enough for all the girls, Mom, Dad, Bob, Kathi and me. October 8 could not come soon enough.

We danced the twist to 20 different records. Laughed our fool heads off. Swam in the Okeefenokee. I dared Helen and the other perfect teased-up, hair-do girls and they jumped right in with my tomboy self! The food was delicious and we got real messy eating chocolate cake out on the back porch.

Bob kept strolling by, saying “Bond, James Bond. Shaken, not stirred.” We laughed at him. He was only eleven and thought he was Mr. Cool.   

All that year, I had so much fun with those 8th grade girls. And some of the boys. One boy asked me at Helen’s going away party to teach him how to kiss because he had to practice up for his first kiss with his true love. I told him, “Gary, I have never kissed a boy! Try it out on your girlfriend!”  He begged & begged. I suspected this was a trick but went on ahead. I was sitting on a split rail fence and he bent down for the big event, kissed my nose, then slid down to my chin and we both broke up laughing.

Oh, no. There stood Johnny Tallevast! He’d seen me kissing Gary.  The song: “But I love him (there’s not another thing that you can do! Foolish Little Girl” was playing. And then “It’s Judy’s turn to cry!”)  I jumped off the fence & ran over to Tally. “That didn’t mean anything. Nothing.” He glared at me & went inside. I followed, trying to get my point across. But he kept his back to me like an angry cat. My friends circled around me as I burst into tears, asking what had happened.

All I could do was sob, “Gary……Tally.”  They hugged me, not understanding but being the sympathetic Southern sisters they were, love was always freely given.   

In May, when Dad made the dreaded announcement “I got my orders,” Kathi, Bob & I all shouted: “NO!”  We Loved Waycross/Hoboken. Riding donkeys, balancing on a barrell, easy classes, swimming in the swamp. Poling our boat through cypress knees, shaking cottonmouths off with our oars. Shooting down mistletoe with our bows and arrows, getting wild honey from a swamp log. I played badly on our basketball team. We had gone To State and lost to Ludowici.

I had read Gone with the Wind in three days. I read regional books wherever we lived. What better place to read that one than in Georgia? 

Dad told us, “Tell your friends that when the school year is over, we’re leaving for the Washington, D.C. area.” 

Not that danged place! Uncle Jack always said “There’s more swamp up in D.C. than anywhere in the South” and “Them Yankees can’t run this country. They are as ignorant as possums.”  I imagined Pogo as President. Why not? 

I went to the school library and read up on Washington D.C.  They had cherry blossom festivals. All the monuments. The White House where LBJ reigned supreme.  A big library, The Library of Congress and anybody could go there to read books. That was a positive. The Potomac River. I wondered if you could swim in it.

Reading about a new location always helped me adjust. When I told my girlfriends about the upcoming move, they already knew Helen was leaving due to her father’s job. We wrapped our arms around each other in a big circle and cried like howling wolf cubs.

The boys walked around, helpless, saying “Ya’ll gonna be alright. Ya’ll write us now. Don’t you forget Hoboken High.” I did write everyone for two years. Gary, Sharon Prescott, Deloyce, Lynell. Even Johnny Tallevast. He never did write me back but Gary, Sharon and Lynell did. Then the letters fizzed out as I got used to the Great Falls Virginia, Langley High School ways.

Mom bought me a beautiful woolen light blue pantsuit to wear when Sharon came to visit. She and her mother had come up to see some relatives, so they stopped by our house one Autumn afternoon. When she saw me, Sharon said, “Dixie, you have changed. It’s in the Bible that women shall not wear the clothes of men.”  I said, “Well, Dad won’t let me read the Bible. And anyway, Mom bought me this in a Ladies‘ clothing shop.”

We sat there in my parents’ fancy living room, trying to think of things to talk about. Music, boys, classes in the ninth grade. Hating math. But I had gone Yankee. There was no going back to my happy times at Hoboken High.
(Note: thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with three of the “girls” who were at my 13th birthday party. They keep me up-to-date on other folks I knew and it’s always a joy to hear from them.)

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing, night, child and outdoor

(left to right: not sure who, Lynelle, me, Sharon Prescott, not sure, Deloyce,
“Shorty,” Helen, (not sure) )