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Family History, A Blank Page
Darlene never could get used to the idea that her father refused to reveal his past, where he resided before he arrived alone in the small city in California with the name John Smith. She never could understand why he wouldn’t even talk about it. According to her youngest daughter Joyce, she kind of felt she had a right to know it. After all, it was important she know her heritage, where the paternal side of the family lived.
Even if her father showed no curiosity about what his family was up to, what events had taken place, who was still alive, dead, if anyone in his family wanted him back, Darlene wanted to know. She wouldn’t even have minded if John Smith had a bad history, if he’d done some heinous crime and had to go into self-banishment to stay out of jail, or to save his life.
Evidently, Darlene’s mother, Natha Wilkerson, was the only one in the family or of family friends who knew John’s secret. Still stubborn about the fact Darlene believed her father should talk about his heritage, as it was her heritage too, she went to Natha, hoping to find the answer with her.
Natha Wilkerson was just as tight lipped about John Smith’s secret as John himself was. Natha told Darlene she had promised her father she would never tell anyone. She kept her promise.
John Smith’s mystery became serious when he entered the hospital with an episode of emphysema. Natha, Darlene, and the rest of the family had no idea if he would survive or not. Darlene questioned him again about his past, and he told her he wasn’t going to talk about it; in fact, he was downright belligerent about it. He told Darlene the subject was never to be brought up again.
These things upset Darlene. She didn’t like having the mystery; she wanted to know about her family. Unfortunately, as Joyce recounts, though the answers came within Darlene’s lifetime, they didn’t come soon enough. Darlene was battling cancer when a relative, Stephanie, started getting the information about John Smith. Her illness, cancer, kept her from really taking advantage of the information and visiting anyone or even going into the matter in detail.
Joyce believes Darlene would have liked to know earlier about this heritage. If she’d been able to meet these newfound relatives it would have been a thrill for her. Unfortunately, the news came too late. Though she knew the gist of whom and where the extended family was that her father hid from her for over 70 years, the curiosity was deadened by the medication and pain she was under.
Une Visage Sans Nom
John Smith ill and perhaps about to die. At this time the investigation into his past would take on a whole new urgency. He’d claimed at one time to have grown up in Nolensville, Tennessee. Darlene started there; it was her only lead. She set about trying to find paperwork on him.
It was as good time as any to straighten out the mystery, gather all the birth records including a birth certificate. She must’ve thought, she was stubborn enough, that it was a good chance to go against her father’s will and find his roots.
Darlene contacted an official in Nolensville, Tennessee. The person she talked to claimed no record existed for John Smith. How they could be so certain these records didn’t exist is a funny thing to me. There had to be a ton of John Smith files to sort through.
In the end Darlene received a birth certificate for her father under the name ‘John Smith’. So now, years after he’d touched down in that city in California, Darlene’s father was legally named John Smith.
Not one to give up, Darlene went after school records to find out her father’s real name. Once again, she ran into a brick wall. It appeared that her father would out-stubborn her in the end. Her father’s only reply on the matter was to come up with some story that the building with his records had burnt to ashes. If the building with his records his birth records had burnt down that kind of ends the trail to his past, doesn’t it?
John Smith apparently was quite a match for his daughter when it came to stubbornness, frustrating to Darlene, who never met a mystery she didn’t want to solve. I wonder if John Smith would’ve been as good at figuring out puzzles on Wheel of Fortune as his daughter Darlene was.
Meanwhile, the subject of John Smith’s true identity was becoming an issue with many others, due to the fact that his family was growing at a fast rate. Joyce had a few words to say about her recollections on the matter:
She never did find any information to back the stories Grandpa told her. But that’s all she had to go on. If it was a false lead then the trail would dry up, so she had to investigate. In regards to the rest of the family, we always kind of had the suspicion that maybe he was a gangster or some other type of criminal, something he didn’t want dug back up. It seemed like kind of a Wild West story. Maybe he feared retribution, or he could be arrested or something. We couldn’t depend on his story. Maybe he had killed somebody and just had regrets. He had become a Christian, and maybe he felt guilt over the incident or something. Maybe he’d just run away because he’d been abused. From time to time when I was a kid we used to think possibly he’d been in a gang, maybe killed somebody or robbed a bank or something. And then it was a story about when he had befriended Uncle Otis, after he’d married Grandma Natha: somewhere somebody had seen him and said, “Frank!” But grandpa had just kind of ignored them. The person said, “Frank!” again, and grandpa turned around and told him he had the wrong guy
The discovery of clusters of family, relatives she’d never known even existed just all of a sudden after almost 80 years suddenly appeared out of the blue. What a concept. Would that turn out to have drastic negative consequences, or would it be a find of the greatest kind, a rush of facts coming out, who was John Smith, really? With genetic testing as available and accurate as it is in the 20th century, the truth, or sharing the truth about his past, became out of his control and put into the control of his decedents.
What were the genetics on the other side of the family? Where did John Smith come from? Why had he left his entire family behind to start a new life? With such a huge impact untangling the chains John Smith had wrapped around the subject of not only his own heritage but the heritage of a whole Smith clan, the results of the weight of knowing after all these years would be a rewriting of family history, what the Smith decedents’ legacy was.
It would be a whole new interpretation of facts versus made up tales, truth versus untruth; history would have to be rewritten, all events from the 21st century back to the arrival of John Smith would have to be reevaluated, reinterpreted if not relived.
At a time long past a daughter had set at the feet of her father and begged to be let in on his secret, his mysterious past. At that time the subject came up as no more than the frustration of the curiosity of a child, a child begging her father to fill her in on the general story, if not the details. She’d have loved it if her father would fill her in on the details. Just a few words from her father, and a whole new world would be opened up, a whole new world of relatives she could identify with, associate with.
Fast forward to the 21st century. Darlene Smith-Best upon her bed with terminal cancer. Now the weight of John Smith’s secret is weighing on the minds of not just one child, but many elderly, middle aged and young children who inherited this situation.
So when Darlene’s niece Stephanie dug into the family’s past using genetic testing on several family members, Darlene’s curiosity had lessened. But why? Perhaps the cancer. Perhaps those who now surrounded her on her death bed. Husband, Clyde Best, son Don Best, daughter Jan Fuller, daughter Joyce Standeford. Grandkids, great grandkids, friends, a whole mass of relatives who had become her all.
Maybe the thought of an extended family in Tennessee just wasn’t as appealing anymore. Those around her became her family, those she’d seen born, and those she’d known and helped and loved.
The situation reminds me of stories you hear of someone who’s been kidnapped as an infant and can’t remember their original parents. They grow up without biological relatives. Maybe they even love their kidnappers. They build a life for themselves where maybe they’re loved, or maybe they’re abused, but it’s a life that has nothing to do with their real family. Maybe they go on to have their own family.
So a time comes along when they find out the truth, that they were stolen as an infant and have a family who loves them very much. But how deep can the relationship go? How close can they really get to people, even kind, descent people, who they have never known?
In a way that’s the position Darlene was in. Question was, how much would finding her relatives mean to her, as a child begging at her father’s knee for answers, or as a woman with cancer who’s looking back on her life and wanting only to stay, to stay with those she’s grown to love over her life. It seems the enticement of having family on the other side of the country would wane after so many years. Should she find her father’s lost heritage, the birthright he sacrificed for a new life, would she be excited or complacent?
Darlene’s daughter Joyce comments:
I think she would have wanted to know about his parents and if he had an issue with the father being abusive I think she would’ve wanted to know on about his mother and why didn’t he go back to see his mother why didn’t the continue after his dad died you know why wouldn’t he go back in and spend time with his mother something I mean if he was so angry at the dad Why couldn’t he have a relationship with his mother well I think the main eﬀect was just seeing how it aﬀected mom because this is something that she was always curious about. It was always on her mind. And the kids had gotten together at times and talked about it. The question that now their mother knew the answer to. The secret seemed to kind of eat on mom all the time. Mom was always close to her family and always wanted to be close to her sisters. She just always had a close connection to family. She loved her grandparents. She was always close to dad’s family when she got married. I think it is really bothered her: how could you have a mom and dad out there and not communicate with them? What could they have done so bad and so horrible that you would just leave then and never go back, and never contact them. I think it was just her closeness to family and the ties to family that she just couldn’t understand how he could just not ever talk about her grandmother and plea on it. My great-grandmother Natha knew, but even she wouldn’t give grandpa’s secret up. She took it to her grave, just as grave, just as he did.
But there were more present concerns to worry about for Darlene’s family. They never really had a lot of money, and in the depression era communication was not immediate, and doctors were harder to find.
Joyce recounts a story she heard from her mother:
Apparently my great-grandparents in Pixley, California had a back porch coming out of the back door that I think was kind of rickety or something. It needed some repair, and I think my great-grandmother had asked my great-grandfather to ﬁx it. He hadn’t done it and one day she went out the back door and the Porch broke; she fell oﬀ of it and broke her hip, and she ended up in a wheelchair. The only way that she was going to get ﬁxed was to have hip surgery. Back in that day there wasn’t a lot of doctors that did that type of surgery, so they got a hold of the doctor. I think he was the only one around that they could ﬁnd. I believe he lived in Fresno, and he was going to have to take a bus down from probably to Tulare to perform the surgery. At some point, I don’t know if it was just at a stop, the doctor who was supposed to fix her hip fell off the bus and broke his hip. He was laid up, so she didn’t get her surgery. So all this time her broken hip was mending and she was unable to walk. She had to stay in a wheelchair. Mom used to say that great grandpa always felt guilty He felt that he was to blame for that.
Every family, well, most families, have a camping story or two to tell. It’s one of those things that bind families together.
As far as driving trips with family, we had quite a few trips as our children were growing up, because we had moved to Southern California from Central California leaving both sets of parents and grandparents behind. So of course, every chance we got we would visit. The children would get restless, and every few minutes would keep asking, “How much further?” Imagine that, kids wanted to know how much for Delta next stop. The one trip to stand out in my mind was the trip we made to Oregon. We, all ﬁve of us, cramped in a regular pickup with one bench seat, were packed like sardines. We were pulling a small trailer. We pulled in on one side of Odell Lake, it was late and we needed to park for the evening so we could ﬁx dinner. We got out of the pickup and we saw the biggest mosquitoes we have ever seen. We had to move because Don was allergic to mosquitos. We were afraid those giant things would kill him. It’s funny, Don turned out to be allergic, didn’t know he had such a problem with mosquitoes. Joyce isn’t much for camping, though I know Jan’s kids camp and ﬁsh.
Darlene’s kids seem to love water sports, rafting down McKenzie River to pick blackberries and baskets, kayaking at Fern Ridge reservoir or Clearlake, visiting the wondrous Oregon waterfalls, dams, lakes and rivers. I think Darlene liked the outdoors too, though maybe not as much. She didn’t like the water, and I think for good reason. A lot of times phobias are caused by incidents that happen in life. I think Darlene was especially susceptible to these fears; one thing I never expected after knowing her for 17 years but digging into her past to write this biography: I didn’t expect Darlene to have quite so much fear.
On the subject of travel, Darlene seems to see herself as a novice. It is true that they didn’t travel much, but they did get around the Northwest dates every once in a while. Darlene says:
I don’t have the experience of a traveler, so I’m not qualiﬁed to give suggestions on travel. We never had a lot of money to travel, so about the only traveling we did when we were raising our kids was to go camping in the mountains as a family outing; or to go visit her parents and my grandparents. Young children don’t like traveling on long trips unless you stop oﬀ to the places they enjoy; but that was never the case. So they grumbled and complained if it was not something they enjoyed. They did like to go camping.
I don’t think camping is a favorite with Darlene or her children, at least the kind of camping requires the use of a tent and cooking over a ﬁre. They seem to be able to RV it, as long as there’s a TV, Queen Size bed, and stove. I remember going camping with Joyce twice; in fact, one time she took everybody back to the house to sleep in the living room so she wouldn’t have to sleep in a cold dusty cabin. The other time she slept uncomfortably in the van.
Like her children, I think Darlene was an indoor person. Even though she’d grown up in the hardships of a farm and country life, she was still home at heart. That’s where her family was. That’s where she wanted to be when she wasn’t working or visiting friends.
I remember right after my mother having my baby brother, dad took us three girls to the coast. We slept in a tent. I remember one night, dad woke me up, and I was down at the foot of the bed. He asked me what I was doing there, and I said “ﬁxing my covers”. I really didn’t know I was down there until he woke me up. At home I would walk in my sleep. It’s funny, I don’t remember a lot about the trip except that, and we went to a restaurant to eat and some man asked dad if my younger sister and I were twins. I used to be a runt.
Family traditions were a little diﬀerent for Darlene’s family, probably due to ﬁnancial situations and the constant work around the house, farm, garden, whatever of the many things they had, and responsibilities we don’t see a lot today.
Darlene recounts other family summer events:
As for 4 July she says:
I don’t think we ever had a family tradition for the fourth. When possible we always got together with our kids. When I was a child I can’t really recall doing anything special after our kids were grown; we would usually get a barbecue and have a few ﬁreworks for the grandkids.
I remember some of these ﬁreworks too. We’d go over to Clyde and Darlene’s, and the grandkids would shoot oﬀ all sorts of ﬁreworks. Clyde and Darlene enjoyed watching them do the things that they never had a chance to do when they were kids. They were always there to make their grandchildren’s lives easier, even if at times they went a little overboard on the spoiling. I won’t get into that.
It always seems to be a big thing for the grandkids, but the ﬁre got so expensive that we couldn’t do a lot. We lived in Veneta and had the grandkids up for one summer. We would get quite a few ﬁreworks and turn the outside lights oﬀ in the evening. I was quite chilly, so we would have popcorn and hot chocolate. The kids would bundle up to stay warm, but they enjoyed it.
The Country Life
When you’re sitting around watching YouTube videos of people popping their zits, or posting your status on Facebook, or playing Bubble Witch Saga, Alpha Betty, Candy Crush Saga, or listening to iTunes, you miss out on much of what important emotional growth Darlene had in her childhood. Almost gone is the notion of “being lost,”
The idea that you could drive so far out into the country that all communication with what you know is disrupted or gone, or the idea that you might just wander around on trails that lead to places you have no idea – all that is gone.
Our trail hikes are carefully planned on Google map, and even the way to the trailhead’s given to us either on the Internet or GPS. Exploration does not have the same meaning as he used to. I guess in the past our ancestors might have looked at us and our cars and oﬀ-road vehicles and told us, Darlene’s generation anyway, “You’re missing out on a lot of good simple things in life.”
Still, the older generation does see with the newer generation misses out on. Darlene lived a full life and concrete world where she worked for everything she got with her own 2 hands and provided for her family also. She never was comfortable with the keyboard, but a shovel and a bag of dirt and a ﬂower to plant or weeds to dig out, she was very familiar with and knowledgeable on.
Darlene grew frustrated waiting for her emails to pop onto the screen. Sheﬁnally gave up computers altogether. And maybe that was for her own good. She walked on cement sidewalks, rode her bicycle breathing fresh air, explored green meadows and ice capped mountains. At times probably she had no idea where she’d started or where she’d end up. Lacking a cell phone tracking device, she was free.
In Darlene’s world mysteries still abounded. There were niches still waiting to be explored, birds to be watched, deer to be tracked through thin sparse trails on hilltops with rock slides, rock faces, shifting trails clods of dirt. Still so much to be learned in the everyday world of people used to live in.
Everyone’s always waiting for that perfect 3-D gear to come out, but we already live in a 3-D world. Time doesn’t pass because we just started over as easy as starting the game over or starting a movie over. We live in a start over world, where if you don’t get it right the 1st time you can always reboot and start over again. Balance is no longer for us a matter of juggling physical things in our lives: it is juggling cell phone with laptop computer with android, Xbox, iPad, Skype, YouTube, Netﬂix, Amazon.
In some ways we are going back in time and recovering things that were lost. You go to Fred Meyer now and pick up your groceries, ordering them on click list and someone will do your shopping for you and deliver your groceries to your car. Eventually they’ll start delivering groceries to houses again like they use to in small towns along time ago. Perhaps they’ll even start delivering fresh milk to porches: remember the milk man?
Darlene ruminates about her teachers:
I really can’t say I had a favorite teacher. I can say that I liked most of my teachers. In ﬁrst grade I remember being very shy. I really never talked. The teacher, Mrs. Brown, had her special pads. That’s down and out in my mind. I didn’t get to ﬁnish the year out due to being sick too much. We lived in Earlimart, I had to go through ﬁrst grade again, don’t remember the teachers at all.
If you think about all the years that passed since she was in grade school it’s amazing she was able to remember these names. I can’t remember the days of my teachers in grade school at all.
The second grade, Mrs. Taylor and Pixley was nice. Third grade was Mrs. Friend, she was nice. Fourth grade was Mrs. Lovelady, she was a devil. She would have you turn your hands up, and she’d slap them really hard with a yardstick, or sometimes you would stand, and she’d hit the back your legs.
Can you imagine them doing that in the public schools today? There’d be hell to pay for sure. There’s a pride that existed back then, being poor. Darlene attended Pixley Elementary school. But it was a diﬀerent school that exists there now any diﬀerent time. The school she attended has since been torn down, and a new school has been built. At the time she attended school there it was kindergarten through eighth grade. She started high school at Delano, but due to complications and health and some of the people who mistreated her, she didn’t finish school.
The principal at Delano wasn’t a very good principal; there were not very many people who liked him. I really couldn’t get much of a break, it’s a miracle that I’ve done as good as I have with as little education as I got. I was told shortly after being hired at a public school that I was required to have a high school education to hold that job, but I got it anyway.”
When one’s relatives are bickering, continually fighting, even hating each other at times, it seems logical to consider the legacy of John Smith. Would finding family on the other side of the country, maybe in Tennessee, be a positive thing? The strife seems to extend into John Smith’s past. Evidently there was some type of rivalry even back then.
Or could a separation over almost a century cleanse the family ties and offer a new outlook for family? Do you want to take the chance of opening a can of worms by searching for a whole group of people you’ve never known, while the infighting between the current families you know is already a huge obstacle? There was infighting between Darlene and her sisters.
Being clean and doing housework were paramount in Darlene’s life from the time she was a child to the time just a few days before her death. She was proud as a child of taking care of her bedroom, even though what she had was not the best. She didn’t complain that she didn’t have the best or wait till something better came along before she took care of it. No, she believed if you take care of what God gives you now, God will give you more responsibilities and more things to take care of later. You must be a good steward with what you have.
I was proud of my bedroom, tried to keep it clean and tidy, but the house wasn’t much. It had been a black Shop with car windows when we ﬁrst bought it. My father slowly remodeled it, put windows in, but I had cement ﬂoors without linoleum or carpet. I remember mopping the ﬂoor, but it was very cold in the winter. I had to share my room with my older sister. It was hard because she would mess it up every time I would clean it.
There seems to be an ongoing feud between Darlene and her older sister Doris, a feud that would never really be resolved. It seemed Doris was able to control the youngest of the sisters. Doris outsized Darlene, so she didn’t really need to gang up on her, but she did. The youngest sister didn’t seem to have the mind of her own. She ended up with a controlling spouse in her old age that treated her like crap.
Darlene’s older sister had a vendetta against her. She didn’t do anything to make Darlene’s life any easier. From their adolescence to their adult life, and then on and off before their Darlene’s death, Doris wouldn’t even talk to Darlene. When she did it seemed she did so at the prodding of younger brother Floyd.
So Doris might call and chat with to Darlene on the phone. And Darlene would get excited and tell everybody that her sister had called and they were starting a new relationship and things were going to get better. She’d be so happy about it. Then, out of the blue, Doris would call her up and complained to her and tell her she didn’t want to converse with her anymore.
Darlene would ask her what she had done to deserve Doris’s anger. Doris’s answer was always the same, “you know what you did…You know.” How frustrating, to be led along like that and think things are going right and then to be snubbed for no reason or at least no reason known to you. Perhaps her reason for keeping the feud between them was a reason that Doris knew wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny as a valid reason, so she kept it to herself.
It is true that Darlene could be hard to get along with, but her relationship with her sister seemed to be sabotaged not by her but by Doris. The childhood bullying was instigated by Doris, not Darlene, so it seems that her anger and avoidance of Darlene was just, perhaps, a continuation of the bullying into adulthood. Perhaps it’s a family curse. John Smith may not have been able to escape the infighting and hatred in the family he left behind, so it stands to reason that anger and even hatred would be passed down to the generations even after the physical separation of John Smith from his family.
Perhaps this starting relationships and then stopping them, snubbing, getting angry all over again and reliving some experiences evidently that she lived but never shared with anybody else. Another form of bullying between women in their 70s, after a lifetime of angst. Whatever the problems, Doris felt like she’d gotten a bad break. She seemed to think Darlene had all her mother’s love and all her successes just delivered to her on a silver platter.
Maybe Darlene was given that silver platter because she was the only one of the daughters who would keep it clean. Nobody, in my opinion, besides God could’ve been responsible for Darlene’s successes or failures. Jealousy abounds. Truth be told, Darlene grew up dirt poor, as poor as Doris was, but she lifted herself out of poverty to enjoy a good marriage, a wonderful family, and of course a wonderful son-in-law, me.
That silver platter and what is delivered on it is nice. To those who have been given much more shall be given. Of course this pertains to all good stewards who take care of what is given to them and follow God. God multiplies the blessings, not just objects of value, money, and other monetary things; It isn’t just wonderful and fantastic vehicles we think will take us into our successful future.
What people really need are their dreams. It is the hope of success that charges us, the give and-take of relationships that sharpen us, and hold us steadfast. It’s the things that bless us that we look forward to amidst the negativity of the jealous, raging, hatred of dissected backbiters and troublemakers. If I can’t find my dream, then I am blind to it. I’m not looking in the right place.
The corners and the niches and the shelves that hold the surprises and blessings God gives us, are searched out by those intent on learning, which have absorbed the truth, wisdom and strength of the Scriptures and bothered to go.
Elbow Grease Knee Caps Laziness
Darlene was proud of her room. Even though her house wasn’t much, and her situation was dismal enough as far as money and things. Many people in her situation growing up would have given up after a lot of complaining. It seems that Darlene figured Doris had given up, making life harder on her instead trying to do better herself. Darlene wasn’t one to say, “Well, if I ever get anything nice I’ll take care of it. But I don’t have anything worth taking care of.” This type will never see the full blessings delivered by God to those who wait upon him to renew their strength.
Darlene was ﬁlled with hope: “those to wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will rise up with the wings of an eagle, and they will they will run and not be wary; they will walk and not faint.” She believed this with all her heart and accepted. Her faith put all God’s blessings in her reach as if it were a mirror made of gold, or a stunning reflective silver; the diamonds and rubies and opals and fragrances experienced and adored by great kings and the palaces.
She was proud of this bedroom, proud of her father for taking a small house that had car windows on it and slowly remodeling it and putting regular windows in it. I guess when she ﬁnally got her ﬁrst house with linoleum and carpet, she appreciated it and worked to keep it clean and nice. Darlene started life out living in a house on a farm.
Looking up the west window I can see my grandfather’s calves. The other window was on the south side. It looked over our backyard, or that part of it that had a clover lawn and mom’s clothes line.
I love to look at life through the lenses of people in history, whether recent history or what’s gone by ages ago. We can soak in a lot of life, whether lessons or living, by studying others. When Darlene talks about her nickname she gets a little sheepish. It has two do with the fact that she was born about 2 pounds, a couple months or more premature, small enough to ﬁt in her mother’s hand.
Origins, beginnings are fascinating, especially the Genesis of being. Where do we come from and where are we going? Do we know from where we come any more than we know we were going? Like snowflakes, each one of us is unique, a child of God. We were born here to just “Be”. Darlene Best realized that and decided just to be what God had made her to be. Be yourself. Within you is the power to carry out God’s plan for your life. Like a preshaped balloon, I have to just let myself be filled with life and without trying to be anyone; I will be myself in my own unique pattern. This takes the worry away from me.
Never has another arisen quite like Darlene. The earth will never see the likes of her again. Nobody knows that better than Clyde Best, who simply fell apart after his wife’s death. Darlene meant everything to him, so much that without her he just wanted to die. Nobody can fill that empty spot she filled in his life or the lives of all her family.
Darlene ruminates on the subject of “Beginnings”.
I don’t know how I got my name. I did have a nickname, and I hated it. It was “Big” I don’t remember when they tagged me with that name. I had it as far back as I could remember. I think it was because I was a rat. There were two years between the three of us girls, and I was just about the size of my younger sister. My mother had my younger sister and my hair in braids, and on several occasions we were asked if we were twins. Because I was such a rat, my older and younger sisters always picked on me.
Life in California
I always thought of the weather in California and just being hot, warm, or warm, hot. Evidently though the weather systems in California are much more complex than that. My wife tells me that whenever it rained California they would send kids home from school because all the kids would do is sit and stare out at windows at the rate, much like we would hear an Oregon and it snowed.
When my wife moved up here to Eugene Oregon years ago she went into a store and the checker told her, “oh, if in California.” Joyce answered, “How did you know that?” And the checker said, “Because you got an umbrella.”
Evidently in California when it rains it pours. Darlene says:
I can remember as I was growing up we would have severe thunder and lightning storms. I was walking a short distance to my aunt Clyde E’s house and uncle Doc’s house one day, and it started an extreme loud thunder and lightning. It scared me so bad. I also recall that there was quite a bit of ﬂooding. I remember how the town of Pixley ﬂooded down on Main Street. They had to put sandbags in front of store. I don’t think it helped much. Before they had a lake it would ﬂood quite a bit. Deer Creek would always run over. There also was a big Lake going towards…
Much of Darlene satisfaction even from the time she was a child lay in the fact that she valued God’s word, God’s Spirit, God’s healing and power and love, more than she valued thanks. I think such a spirit is fostered not by have a lot of things, but by not having those things. She seemed to think that it’s hard to miss something you never had, and she did have many riches spiritually.
Darlene learned spiritual values that most children don’t have a chance to learn today since in the modern world it’s harder to relax or just contemplate, think about life. Whether it is better to keep yourself busy texting, chatting, Facebooking, or Tweeting, as opposed to sitting bored on a summer’s day and watching the sun set in red Eastern skies with nothing on your mind but the view, I don’t know. I do know that both the old life around the depression era sprouted children into adults with a hunger to succeed. I know technology is an awesome tool that can aid us in many ways. Take a kid from the 1940s and put them in a room with a kid from present day and you’re going to have two very different people.
One thing that seemed to impress Darlene was the solemnness and seriousness with which she approached God. She remembered her mother, Natha, talking to her about God as she reached her teen years:
Mom always said that no matter how old we get, or how much money we make, or how well-oﬀ we may think we are, that there will never be a time in our lives that we don’t need the Lord. There are many people who never give a thought about God until they get in some sort of trouble or in some sort of crisis. I took mom’s advice and found that I need God every day. Sometimes you don’t take things for granted I realized that when I got real sick, and was forced to give up my job, I didn’t realized that I unknowingly felt to secure and what I could do. I then had to turn to God.
She talks about taking communion:
It was long ago, back in a little Nazarene church, many years ago. I was probably 12 years old. I couldn’t say for sure. I think I was like a lot of kids as well as grown-ups, who think it is appropriate to take communion when it is passed around without thinking of the consequences to go with it if your heart isn’t right with God. For if you are unworthy, you should never participate in the communion. The Bible says that is the reason some sleep or have died, and that others among us are ill. I don’t believe that I ever understood the penalty for taking communion when your heart is not right with God. It is such a sacred thing and not to be taken lightly.
Darlene’s respect for God may be one reason she was blessed with a good marriage and a comfortable living surrounded by family. I think probably in her life full of its many obstacles and hardships, she didn’t feel she needed another problem like putting a curse on herself for undervaluing God’s principles and God’s presence. In fact Darlene sought God for healing, which is one thing she did get from God at least once.
One thing I was surprised to ﬁnd out is that as a child Darlene was actually kind of shy. One time a teacher grabbed a hold of her body and led her to the oﬃce. It scared her. She was wearing a red outﬁt that had been given to her, an article of clothing she was proud of. But she wasn’t in trouble as she had thought she was. Instead of chiding her, the teacher went to the principal and told him Darlene and her dress would make a great Santa Claus for the Christmas play. She took great pride in being chosen for this part. She was shy in front of crowds, but the time she put on the costume she was well hidden.
Darlene talks about her fears and actions as a child:
I do not remember doing any mischievous things. I was too afraid of mom getting told and I knew I would be in trouble. I remember in the ﬁrst grade at Tipton School we could buy a bowl of soup for a nickel and milk for a nickel. They had the food entrées and for some reason I couldn’t get my money out of my pocket. They told me to set my food down on the table where I was going to eat, and then bring the money back. I was so shy I didn’t do it. I was so afraid, I didn’t know what to do, and so as I was walking home I threw the money into the weeds so mom wouldn’t ﬁnd out.
Now that is interesting because that doesn’t sound like the Darlene I know. Shy? Most of the people I know would never remember her as having a shy bone in her body, so her admitting that is interesting. It reminds me that people are multifaceted in body, mind and spirit and everything else that matters.
I use to see my sister Glenda as being very outgoing, social, active, and vocal. I was surprised to ﬁnd out when she became an adult most people including herself thought she was just the opposite, quiet, reserved, introverted and very much diﬀerent than what I remembered of her. But we all have many facets to our personalities just as we have many events in our lives that others may know nothing about or even suspect up.
And what are beginnings without influences? Darlene elaborates:
I was greatly inﬂuenced by Tim Wilkerson, my grandfather, my mother’s dad. I know that even before my mother gave her life to the Lord the inﬂuence that she had on her life was passed on to me from mom. I also was very close to my grandparents. I went and stayed a week with them, and grandpa built me a truck to keep my clothes in. I follow grandpa around because my grandmother Leona was conﬁned to a wheelchair. My grandfather would go to Church by himself every Sunday. He was a Baptist, a fairly godly man. He had Clyde and I promise to serve God.
STILL WORKING ON PART 2, BUT MORE TO FOLLOW