iowa

August 21, 1964

August 21, 1964

Craters of the Moon campground - lots of rocks to slice up knees
Craters of the Moon campground – lots of rocks to slice up knees

My family camped a lot – a lot – on our bi-annual drives from California to Iowa and back.  My sisters and I were jubilant on the rare occasions we stayed at a motel, especially when they had a swimming pool – at the time, an almost unimaginable luxury.

K looks unhappy in what appears to be a camping shot.
K looks unhappy in what appears to be a camping shot.

We had the ritual down. Daddy and Momie pitched the tent and organized the campsite. Janet, Joyce and I ran wild through the campsite, usually role-playing games like Lewis and Clark or Annie Oakley.

 My family in the early 60's.
My family in the early 60’s.

Of the myriad national parks we camped in, Craters of the Moon is most vivid in my memory which begs the question – does it take a disaster (okay, maybe not a disaster – but serious pain for my previously unscarred 13-year-old self) to make something memorable?

More mountain malaise for me
More mountain malaise for me

This was the only occasion on which we broke camp before we slipped into our sleeping bags and raced back in the direction from whence we came. Twenty-two dollars seemed like an enormous sum.  I can still remember the dusk light. I still have a scar on my left knee.

Lost Rivers Hospital - Arco, Idaho
Lost Rivers Hospital – Arco, Idaho

August 16, 1964

August 16, 1964

With K cousins circa '64
With K cousins circa ’64

 This crazy exploration was my first and only opportunity to do something like this – I wouldn’t consider it in Los Angeles but the risk seemed marginal in Graettinger, Iowa.

With O side of family, circa '64
With O side of family, circa ’64

This type of adventure holds enormous appeal for me. I’ve read novels based on groups of kids exploring abandoned buildings. That’s why it’s so disappointing I don’t recall a single thing we saw inside the Hawkeye Apartments (and naturally I didn’t make notes about that).  Let’s call this Missed Opportunity #1,

Lake Okoboji

Missed Opportunity #2 was not choosing to fly with my Uncle Gilford in his small crop-duster plane.

Missed Opportunity #3 was my total inability to water-ski. I think the problem was that even though I witnessed my sister Janet gliding across the surface of Lake Okoboji, deep down inside I did not believe it was physically possible for water to support my weight. It was my lack of faith, not my total lack of coordination, that doomed me to failure.

With Grandma O
With Grandma O

In keeping with my soon-to-be-standard practice of quitting any activity that I stunk at, I never attempted to water ski again.

 

July 12, 1968

Fishing with some of our relatives in Iowa.
Fishing with some of our relatives in Iowa.


June 12. 1968 Revised

Milking the cow

Judging by the October 1955 photo above, even at four I wasn’t a “thank god I’m a country girl” type.  Still, I couldn’t help wondering what my life would be like if I’d grown up in Missouri instead of Silicon Valley.

Most of my cousins – almost all of my extended family – lived in the Midwest in 1968. Every other year, our family loaded up the station wagon and drove to Estherville and Graettinger in the northeastern corner of Iowa.  There are aspects of Iowa that are buried deep in my subconscious, images that are inscribed on my brain – brick or white houses, humidity and mosquitoes, dinners with fresh buttered sweet corn and strange puffy homemade bread. The smell of coffee wafted through the day – coffee and musty old books. The basements, which all contained a washer, dryer and toilet were damp and a little bit scary even though that’s where we always played.  It was cooler down there even though sometimes it was still so hot all we could do was breathe and sweat. I hate to sweat.

My grandfather, commonly referred to as R.S. by all grandchildren, was a real go-getter, a non-stop talker. Even after retirement, he didn’t quit; he took volunteer work in a funeral parlor, probably to remind himself on a daily basis of how much more vital he was than the average man. In a box in his basement, he stored the obituaries of all his friends. The basement also held a pool table and assorted recreation equipment but my cousins and I enjoyed the obits most. I suppose our fear of death – and its imminence for all the aged people of Estherville – made it an object of high hilarity.

We had no idea how quickly time could pass.

With adult cousins on my father's side
With adult cousins on my father’s side
With adult cousins on my mother's side - at the tiny (very tiny) Spencer airport
With adult cousins on my mother’s side – at the tiny (very tiny) Spencer airport