GBE 2: Blog On -- Week #14: GROWING WILD (w/Picture!)
Blanche scanned the terrain. No sign of any dangerous wildlife. No bears and no wolves, yet. Traveling the path to the best blueberries, ringing the lake could prove to be dangerous. The berries growing along the lakeshore were the most plump and juiciest berries around. She did have her reputation to uphold. She was known for her blueberry pies and jams. Because she found the best patch around, and she wouldn’t share the location with the other women in town. Those snobby biddies didn’t deserve it. Those snobby biddies, who shunned her.
Blanche Dickie had met Haudy Mahan ten years previous. She had been happily married with three strong thriving children. Peter Dickie, her first husband, died during the winter of 1924. Caught in a snow storm while out hunting, he had simply frozen to death. Haudy, named for the nick-name of his father Henery Mahan, had also been married at the time. Haudy had been raised in the west. Henery, Haudy’s father, was one of the immigrants who worked building the rail lines. Haudy was a bit older than Blanche. He and his wife, Morningstar, had six children of their own. Sadly, Morningstar had died in childbirth the previous year. “God has truly brought us together”, Blanche thought. Life is too difficult, in the west, for a woman on her own.
A buzzing bee brought Blanche back to the present. She scanned the terrain again. Still safe enough to pick the berries. Making noise to frighten away everything she could, she hummed aloud. Blanche could help but notice the view. This year the colors seemed more vibrant. This year the air seemed a little more invigorating. This year she was carrying her fourth child, Haudy’s seventh, and their third. This year was proving to be a very good year. If I have a girl-child, I will name her Norma Jean. The baby kicked at this notion. Thirteen children, a baker’s dozen.
Haudy was a good man. He was kind to his children, and hers. He was generous with the food he brought home and appreciated the hard work she put into her gardening. He would help her, from time to time, with hoeing and keeping the animals out of her patch. Sometimes, she thought, it was difficult having Indians as step-children.
The children lived in two worlds. Haudy’s children didn’t seem to mind her as their new step-mother since they spent most of their time within the tribe. Haudy’s children didn’t seem to notice her much at all. Sometimes, when they were being especially naughty, they would speak their native “tongue” in front of her. This was only mildly irritating until they pulled that stunt in front of those snobby biddies in town. That was unacceptable. She and her children have paid the price. Shunned at the market, gossiped about behind hands, and the children beaten by bullies almost daily. She would show them, she would win the prize for best pie at the fair again. She had won the past four years running, having the blue ribbons to prove it.
Blanche scanned the terrain again. It still appeared safe to be in the berry patch. Blanche enjoyed picking the berries. This time alone gave her time to think. Time away from the two room thatched roof hut they all shared. Time away from the children to plan for the future or revisit the past. Lately, she had been planning the future for the future was beginning to seem brighter. Except for those old snobby biddies in town.
Haudy had just taken a job as a lineman on the pipe line. Finally, they would have enough money coming in to make repairs to their home. Finally, they would be able to buy shoes for all of the children. Finally, they could start to save some money. Finally, they could begin to look to the future with more than just hope. That will show those snobby biddies in town.
Blanche and Haudy lived in their small two room shack, with thirteen children, for another ten years. Most years my mother, Norma Jean, did not have shoes. It was during the time which came to be known as the Great Depression. Blanche, Haudy and five of the thirteen children moved to Michigan to seek their fortune working for Henry Ford, the great inventor and businessman.