By Steven C Stoker - email@example.com
Dennis Yancey: Reading this book by Steven Stoker brought back many great memories of my own life - growing up in this rural small town area. With every chapter I read, there came back to my memory, very similar experiences from my own life. I was not reading about someone else - I was reading my own autobiography - at least that's almost how it seemed. Aberdeen Stories - represents all of us who have ever called Aberdeen our home and I highly recommend this book to any and all of our fellow "Aberdeenites". For copyright and other reasons we are not able to place the entire book on line - but have here included with Steven's permission the introductory chapter - and then one of my favorite chapters from the book. I hope you get a laugh out of it. And don't think similar things did not happen to many of the rest of us - and even a few where the experience was NOT accidental - but the result of some childish "dare" - not soon forgotten!
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[Chapter 1 - Getting Started] (The complete book has over 100 chapters)
There are other Aberdeens. The largest is in Scotland. There are Aberdeens in Washington, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, and even South Dakota. In fact, there are at least a dozen states that can boast of having an Aberdeen. However, it was the great state of Idaho that provided my Aberdeen, the community that provided the rich, nurturing environment where I grew up. Things did not start smoothly though. There were a few years of turmoil before I was able to settle permanently in my Aberdeen home.
I was born in December of 1946, nine months after my "father's return from Okinawa, where he served during World War II. He and my mother had married shortly before he left for overseas service, but they barely had time to really get to know one another. When the war ended, they were eager to start their life together in earnest. I like to think of myself as part of that eagerness.
I was reluctant to emerge into the midst of an Idaho winter, and fought hard to remain where I was. Later, when sharing a bedroom with four brothers, I would delight in making a "punny" statement about it being the last time I would ever have a womb of my own.
It was less than a week before Christmas and Santa Claus didn't even know about me. I wanted to wait and give the old elf more time to plan for my first Christmas. My mother was a strong and stubborn woman, however, and though I held out from the onset of labor on the fifteenth until nearly dawn on the nineteenth, she eventually won the battle and there I was.
I waited anxiously for some relief from the noise and irritating lights of the hospital nursery. I was happy to finally leave the small hospital in American Falls and travel to the less conspicuous side of the Snake River-to Aberdeen.
My parents seemed happy that I was there. They lived in a small rented house at the edge of town. It was near the highway leading southward toward American Falls. They had fixed it up nicely, turning it into a cute little home for our small family. Of course, it had some drawbacks as well.
Mom had to cook on a stove in the basement whenever her hot plate wasn't sufficient for meal preparation. The house did not have an indoor toilet. My parents had to go to a small structure in the back to satisfy those most basic needs. Neither problem affected me, however, for I had yet to experience my mother's cooking. I had no use for an outhouse either, for I learned that if I had to go, I could just go, wherever I happened to be. Mom was always there to make me fresh and lovable again.
The cute little home on the south highway was not to remain my home for long. My father tried valiantly to scrape out a meager living for his small family. He worked first as a plasterer, but a plasterer was in no danger of becoming wealthy in a stagnant farm town. He also worked in a Utoco (Utah Oil Company) service station, and made many friends. However, a poor economy forced dreams of better things and he finally moved the family to Spanish Fork, Utah.
Dad bought a brand new home, and began working in a steel plant. He and Mom were doing well, and even added another son to the family. My brother Mike was born in January of 1949. As I got older, I enjoyed the outdoors, though I was a bit restricted by the tether that kept me attached to the clothesline in the yard. I even learned how to use the new telephone. I could call my Grandpa Jack, Dad's stepfather, all by myself and listen to him laugh as I counted to ten and then sang my special rendition of You Are My Sunshine.
Life was good for a time, but it became apparent that the job at the steel plant would not last. My parents saw the writing on the wall, and sold the new home. Dad got another job, and we moved to the Tooele Ordnance Depot (TOD) west of Salt Lake City, where we lived in a small housing unit.
My brother, Mike, was just a baby and offered little as a playmate. Perhaps that is why I got bored and looked for excitement elsewhere. Mom tried to keep me occupied by buying a Little Golden Book for me each time we went to the store, but that wasn't enough. I needed more.
Dad built a fence in the back yard to try and keep me in. However, it posed no major problem for my secret "Houdini skills" and I easily escaped. Usually, I was soon found and reunited with my mother. But once I stayed away too long. My parents were frantic, and even had the police searching for me. I could not understand the chaos that ensued when they located me down by the tracks, throwing rocks at the passing trains. I did not know why they were so upset. I was not lost! I knew where I was the entire time! But the incident frightened my parents enough to influence one of their life decisions. They decided to move again!
In 1950, Mom's brother, Uncle Gordon, drove an old red Dodge truck from Idaho to TOD Park and helped Mom and Dad load up the family's meager belongings. We were returning to Idaho. But this time, things would be different. Dad was to run the farming operation of my mother's stepfather, Grandpa Frank. It was a permanent job, and offered the promise of a permanent home on one of Grandpa's three farms.
Once again, we were in Aberdeen!
[Chapter 52 - Pulling Thistles]
One job that we were able to do as kids was to pull thistles. It was not a job to be sought out, for it was a torturous endeavor at best. Even with the best of gloves, long-sleeved shirts, heavy denim jeans, and hightopped boots, the tiny spines would find their marks. And they seemed particularly fond of the tender skin of pre-pubescent young farm boys.
There were many things that Dad asked me to do that I enjoyed, but thistle duty was not one of them. Dwight and Mike were no more enthusiastic than I, and we all dawdled as much as possible to avoid the task. Such tactics, however, were fruitless. The thistles did not go away until we made them go away.
Dad had no love for the thistles, but he didn't hate them either. He allowed them to flourish along the ditch banks and even in the grain fields. He drew the line though, when they attacked his precious sugar beets. A particularly strong stand of thistles threatened to choke out the tender young beets and my father would not permit that to happen. His resolve to destroy such an encroachment was so strong that he was willing to sacrifice his sons in an effort to rid the field of such a menace.
One day we were taken to the farthest reach of our eighty acres and introduced to the greatest crop of thistle I had ever witnessed. The plants were nearly as tall as we were, and their vivid purple blossoms served to accentuate the fact that they were almost ready to go to seed. If such a thing were allowed to take place, the thistle patch would be trebled. Dad would not allow such an event to be. As he left us in the field, his parting words were, "don't come in till every thistle is pulled and piled along the ditch bank. Then, after they dry, I'll burn them." Having said his piece, he gunned the old "Jimmy" pickup and left us alone, spitting out the dust from his departure. ..
We moved slowly into the thistle patch, hoping for a miracle, yet knowing there wouldn't be one. Finally, when we could think of no more excuses, we began the labor. We pulled thistles, big ones and bigger ones, ignoring the sticks and scratches as they accumulated on our hands and forearms, even our faces.
We stacked the thistles in the field and then, just for a change of pace, stopped pulling the nasty plants so we could carry our individual stacks to the bank of the irrigation ditch.
As the sun rose higher and the day heated up, the pile on the bank grew to very impressive proportions. We could see the results of our labor, too, as the patch of thistles became smaller. The success spurred us on and we worked hard. Even so, we felt the need for a break about mid-morning and we sprawled out on the ditch bank to rest.
It didn't take long for the water in the ditch to cast its spell on us, and all three of us soon shed our boots and socks and dangled our feet in the cool water. It felt terrific, but the nagging memory of Dad's decree tickled our consciousness, and we dressed again for work.
As we readied ourselves to attack the remainder of the errant weeds, almost in unison, we felt the urge to relieve ourselves, no doubt stimulated by the feet in the water. Of course, we were alone in a field, and modesty was not a problem. It should have been a simple thing for each of us to create his own private puddle, watch it sink into the soil, and return to work. Once again, though, simplicity avoided us.
Dwight and I peed quickly and uneventfully, but my younger brother felt a need to be creative. Young boys always take pride in the strength of their bladders and their ability to control those bladders. It's a skill that
disappears with age, but for young boys, the challenges are endless. Mike was no different. For some reason, he was prompted to direct his stream in a high arc over the fence.
As a rule, such a maneuver would have been quite harmless, and even worthy of admiration. Mike's pride was as evident as his ability, but it was short-lived as the arc began to lose altitude and came into contact with the single strand of barbed wire that had been dubbed by its manufacturer as "The Weedburner." It was an electric fence!
I shall always remember the unearthly screech that exploded from the very depths of Mike's throat as he fell backward into that newly stacked pile of thistles. Just as memorable were the next few hours. He sobbed miserably as my mother's tweezers removed hundreds of tiny needles from his back and bottom while he lay on his very uncomfortable front. He was unaware that older men would someday undergo indescribable surgical procedures to accomplish the same effect that he had received by accident. His discomfort lasted into the evening and then all was normal.
The next morning we returned to the field and completed our task. The thistles were removed, and our electric fence remained dry and foreboding, though I noted my younger sibling cast several woeful glances in its direction.