Memoirs of a Yankee Cowboy

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Growing up created a wild and careless foundation for Benjamin. This chapter takes the reader into the teen years.

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Growing Wild

Submitted: April 26, 2019

Reads: 32

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Submitted: April 26, 2019

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Chapter Two

As a young child, I don’t remember anyone reading to me.  I don’t remember being cuddled or kissed.  I'm sure the words, "I love you" were not my first words.  However, to my knowledge or memory, I was never physically abused.  I remember Ma as a person who floated in and out of my life.  She was in retrospect a lusty, fun loving, party lush, man chasing alcoholic.  Actually, most of the adult women who were a part of my life were just like my ma.  Two exceptions were my grandmother and my stepmother.  In my generation as I grew up, I believed the only available decent women were related to me or too old for me.

By the age of sixteen, I was now taking my pay to the Bloody Bucket after a good week’s work and partying with the most experienced of the heavy drinkers and rebel rousers.  The drinking age in New York was twenty-one, but I was drinking before I was eighteen.  To say that the local law was loose is to be under stating it.  Of course, I was also hanging out at the bar with my ma and her sister since I could remember, and drinking with them when they weren’t watching, which led to some pretty horrendous events.

One Saturday night, my ma went home with a man and my aunt insisted that I drive her car and take her home.  So, I left my new motorbike at the bar, jumped in the car and I was driving too fast as usual.  My aunt was asleep next to me in that one bench front seat.  When I rounded a curve, she slid toward me and smashed me against the door.  I lost control and the car slammed into a small concrete bridge, bounced up and over it and we ended up ass over tiddleberries upside down in the now shallow creek.  By the grace of the liquor that we had consumed, we were knocked out a little but neither of us hurt that badly.  We woke up and started to climb out through the passenger window.  As I was helping my aunt and her purse through the opening, I realized that we were standing on the inside of the roof.  At my feet was an object.  I picked it up, put it in my pants pocket and continued to help my aunt out of the car.  We were within walking distance of my aunt’s house, so we stumbled our way and made it into the kitchen just as the bubble lights went on down by the bridge just before the sun beams flowed through the kitchen windows.

After all that activity, we were both pretty sober, but my aunt was still groggy.  My aunt went to bed and I slipped out the kitchen door and hightailed it across a field and the iron works property to the Bloody Bucket.  After about 20 minutes of hoofing it, my head was all clear from the heavy breathing in of oxygen.  I jumped on my bike and headed back to the farmhouse where I was working.

After sleeping the rest of my groggy night off in the loft of the barn, I woke and sat up.  I stood up and felt the object in my pants pocket.  Pulling it out, my heart raced.  “What in the …”  I put the object carefully back into my pocket and climbed down the ladder.

As I exited the barn, the local cop pulled into the drive.  He walked up to me with that ‘now I’ve got ‘im expression”.  After all, he knew I’d been driving the family matriarchs around the county since I was ten years old every weekend I stayed with Ma or Grandma or my aunt.  But he’d let it slide, because he’d rather have me driving than have those two sisters driving drunk.  Besides, he couldn’t hold himself up to a higher standard, because there were times when he himself drank with the sisters.”

“Hey Benny, I hear yous were in the Bloody Bucket last night.  Were you drinking?”

“Oh, I believe I had a few Canadian Dry Ginger Ales.”

“Yous know it’s against the law for yous to be drinking anything else at your age.”

“Yes sir.”

“Is that your motorcycle?”

“Yes sir.  I got my permit to drive on the roads on my birthday and I bought me this motorcycle last week.  Ain’t it sharp?”

“Yeah, I saw it sitting at the Bloody Bucket last night.”

“Yes sir.”

“Benny, I also know your ma and your aunt were in the Bloody Bucket as always.  I saw your ma leave with Tom Yeager.  Were you still there when your aunt left?”

“Yeah, I was there until they closed the doors.”

“Everybody I talked to said you drove your aunt home.  But when I went to check later in the morning, your bike was gone.  Can you explain all that to me?”

“Well, yous know how it is.  Any of them drunks who tell yous a story won’t be telling it straight.  All of them were so drunk that I was able to beat them all at pool.”

“You seem a little nervous, Benny.  Can you tell me why that is?”

I pulled out the object and showed it to the officer.  “I found this in the barn when I got up to feed the animals.  Can you tell me if this is real or not?”

The officer backed up and said, “Be careful.  Don’t dislodge the pin on top.”

I held it up in the air.  “So, is this a real grenade?  I was taking it in to show my boss.  I can’t imagine what it would be doing in the tool room of the barn.  It was lying in a dusty corner under the bench.”

“Give it to me and I’ll investigate it.  Don’t jar it.”

At that time, old farmer Jenkins came out the back door.  “Benny, what’s going on?  Did you get the animals fed yet?”

“No sir.  I found a grenade in the tool room under the bench in a corner.  The officer is going to get rid of it.”

The cop held the grenade up.  “It’s a live one.  What would you be doing with a live grenade on the farm?”

The old man scratched his balding head.  “I have no idea.  I never knew it was there.  Maybe one of the soldiers who were released from the army at Camp Drum left it when they came out to work here a few years after the war.”

“That sounds reasonable.  I’ll take care of it for you.”

The cop turned to me.  “There’s still something I have to tell you.  Your aunt’s car was found upside down in Willer’s Creek.”

He paused and looked at me as I faked surprise.  “Is she alright?”

“Yeah, but she’s bruised up a bit…a little like the bruise and cut on your forehead and the bruises on your arms.  It seems the driver hit the bridge and bounced over upside down into the creek.”

The farmer looked a bit stressed as he said, “Well, I can tell you that Benny got kicked by that mule of mine out there in the barn this morning.  He hit the side of the barn pretty hard.”

“Mr. Jenkins, are yous sure of that?  Why didn’t you get him in to the doctor after something like that?”

I spoke up.  “I told him it’d take more than that to knock me out.  I’ve been kicked around by cows since I was a kid.  That was nothing this morning.”

The cop chuckled, shook his head and then said, “Sure is a coincidence.  Well, I’ll get this grenade to the army base before it gets really dangerous around here.”

As we watched the back of the cop car go down the road.  I looked at Mr. Jenkins.  He grinned and then said, “Don’t want to know.”

He turned toward the steps.  “You might want to get in the house and get something on that cut after you feed the animals.  Your cream of wheat will be ready.”

Now I’m sure you find this all amusing.  I’m not saying you can’t laugh.  I’m just asking you to keep it in mind that the action itself sometimes is excusable to us when there is a laughable reaction.  Was I right in what I did?  No.  Was Mr. Jenkins right in covering for me?  No.  But our reaction to Mr. Jenkin’s actions brings ironic laughter.  Mr. Jenkins had the best farm hand in the country and he didn’t want to mess that up.

The old man covered up for me in many ways.  Before that night of the accident, when I was sixteen and a half, he had an older niece who came to visit once and discovered me working in the barn.  She was going through a divorce and was hot to trot.  When the old man went into town one day, she came on to me and taught me how to be a man.  It was my first experience with sex, believe it or not.  Through all of the influence of my mother and other women, I had managed to escape the whoring around.  Until that day, I was an innocent boy.  My only vice had been drinking and smoking.

When I was being taught a lesson in a rite of passage one day, Mr. Jenkins came home and walked in on us in his bedroom.  He looked, turned around and as he stepped out of the bedroom, he said, “Benny, it’s time to do the milking, get out to the barn, now.”

When I came in later that night for supper, it was apparent that the old man had fried the potatoes and left them in the skillet on the old cook stove.  There was no fancy beef stew or meat loaf, napkins or fancy table settings like his niece had prepared.  There were two plates at the head of the table with two forks and two knives and the fried potatoes were ready for us to help ourselves.  It was always help yourself style with the old man.  He didn’t waste any more dishes than was necessary.  The pillow and blanket from the couch where Mr. Jenkins slept was gone.  I never saw the woman again and I didn’t ask where she went.

One morning before Christmas, the winter that I turned seventeen, I walked into the house after chores and there was no cream of wheat waiting for me.  It was quiet and dark in the house.  I lit a lamp and walked into Mr. Jenkins bedroom.  He lay still, without a breath, and without a sound.

I sat down and shook all over.  It was the first time I had ever faced death.  I finally calmed down and then went to the phone.  That night after they took Mr. Jenkins body away, I fed the animals, tied my meager belongings in a bag and tied it to the bike luggage rack.  I went to the fruit jar where Mr. Jenkins kept his money, took out exactly what was owed to me and left the farm.  I was told that a relative came the next morning and the farm went up for sale.

That night I went to the bar and got so drunk that I slept it off in the storeroom in the back of the bar.  The owner called Ma when he found me there and my aunt took me to stay with her and my cousins for a few days.

I was seventeen and a half, and I started to work for a farmer that had a sixteen-year old daughter.  Lottie was one of the decent ones and I was soon in love or what I thought was love and the farmer and his wife not only had the best farm hand in the North Country, they also had a prospective son-in-law.  We were married within two months with all the pomp and circumstance the farmer and his wife could afford before the spring planting.

You would think that I would realize that I had it made.  But after my experience with the older woman and her sexual education, I was hooked.  I now had a sexual addiction that I had been satisfying by picking up girls waiting in line for me at the downtown theatre after the movies.  When my sweet farm wife could not satisfy that craving when she was pregnant, I went on the prowl and found another young woman and took her away from her father.  When she became pregnant, I again found satisfaction in my wife after the birth of my first son.  As a result, I had two families growing at the same time.  Out of those two families, I had five boys.

The relationship with my mistress, Jenny was strange to say the least, but in that day, it was not uncommon in that village.  I never denied my mistress or her children.  Indeed, everyone within miles knew about it.  Lottie knew about my relationship with Jenny and her boys and she never complained, because her mother took up for me.  “Leave Pater alone,” Lenora would say. (Pater means father in Latin and other languages.)  Had it not been for the mother-in-law’s interference, we might have made a go of it.

Now let’s stop and think about what I just said.  I’ll repeat that.  Had it not been for the mother-in-law’s interference…I had learned from an early age how to pass the buck.

However, there it was.  There wasn’t anything Lenora wouldn’t do for me.  I was what she considered the handsome, hard-working, strong farm hand who was also handy with mechanical and home repairs.  It didn’t matter that I cheated on her daughter, came home drunk on the off-work nights or mornings, if I came home at all, just as long as I came home sometime.

One day in a slow season when I wasn’t needed as much on the farm, Lenora gave me some money and told me to take her car and go to town for bread.  I had been bored and I was itching to get away from the responsibilities of families and the friction between my mother in law and my wife.  I thought about a long trip on my motorbike, but the old bike wasn’t practical to transport bread.  So, I jumped in the car and headed out.

I drove past the store, drove to the service station and filled up the car with gas and hit the highway southeast toward Nashville, Tennessee.  After listening to the Grand Ole Opry, I was hooked on country and I decided this was the time to see that great city and maybe if I was lucky, I would see some Country Music Stars, like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson.  I worked my way down, and when I got to the music city, I had to sleep in the car.  The reverse gear had gone out of the old buick and I found a place to brake on a slope in the park, so that I could roll it down and then go forward when it was time to go back home.

I walked all over the city and explored all the bars.  I had a great time.  I took a few guitar lessons from a street performer.  He must have been desperate for the money, because I didn’t have a lot to give him.  He told me to go into Mrytle’s Home Bar and watch him play there.  I guess Mrytle was a great lady who helped struggling artist.  One night I did and vowed that I would learn how to play and sing and I’d come back to visit Mrytle.

After a few days of drinking beer in the bars along Printer’s Alley and scouting out the sites, I didn’t have any money.  I’d depleted all my pay from the farm work, except for the bread money.  That I would not spend.

Growing up, I had been accustomed to not eating regularly, but I had always had plenty at the in laws farm.  Now, I was back to eating out of garbage cans if my stomach growled too much.  I knew that I’d need to get gas for the car if I expected to get back to upstate New York.  I couldn’t find anyone willing to hire me for anything.  Everyone in the music city was employed and even the janitorial jobs were taken.

The alley was busy in the day and dark at night except for a few street lamps.  My last night there, I would do something that I had never done and would never do again.  A guy that had been flashing his money in the bar came stumbling out and this strong eighteen-year-old farm boy hit him in the back of the head.  He stumbled around drunk and addled from the blow as I pulled out his wallet and left him bitching about losing his wallet somewhere.  I ran as I pulled the cash out of the wallet, threw the wallet into the trash bin and took off.  In less than fifteen minutes, I was rolling back to the North Country.  It occurred to me that I would never be able to come back to Myrtle’s, or anyplace else in Nashville.

When I crossed the New York State line through Pennsylvania, I was again running low on money.  I stopped at a gas station at a small town and ask for a job.  It seems that the manager was less than honest and he taught me how to short people on change.  It wasn’t long before I had more than enough money for gas to last me a week after I bought the bread.

When I walked into the kitchen on the farm, I put the bread and the change on the table and watched as Lottie stood with her mouth open.  Lenora said, “Shut your mouth Lottie.  At least Pater’s honest.”

I have to stop here and let that sink in.  As my old mentor Pop used to say, ‘I don’t believe I’d have told that.’

Think about this.  How many of you as my readers thought it was funny that I was so honest that I wouldn’t spend the bread money or take more than my wages out of a fruit jar, but I committed assault and took money from the drunk and cheated customers?

How many of you readers laughed hilariously at Lenora’s enabling comments?

You laughed because of the irony of it all.  Do you believe I was able to fool many women and a lot of men into thinking I was honest and I figured if they believed it, that was their problem or do you believe I only stole from people who meant nothing to me?

When Mr. Jenkins passed away, I could have just taken that whole jar of money and no one would have ever known the difference.  I never spent those couple of bucks Lenora gave me for the bread and gas to go and get it.  I came back and put that item and the change on the table.  My mother in law didn’t give me a time line.  However, she did trust me with the money to buy the bread.  I didn’t use a bit of it for gas.

And going back to the chicken theft story, even as a child, I could see the amazement of what old Bruiser was trained to do.  However, the picture of chicken feathers, blood and guts all over the kitchen and the scene with the cop was just too funny.  Funnier yet, was the ending when the owner of the rooster for Thanksgiving dinner thanked Ma for cooking it.

My point is this, the act itself of stealing, over indulging in drink to the point of having no control over yourself, child neglect and all of that is not funny and you recognize that.  The telling of the story or the act of how people react to it is sometimes comedic, because it’s unbelievable what some people are willing to accept as truth and honesty.

Let’s get back to Lenora, my mother-in-law.  She was what is called an enabler.  Probably many of my readers enable your spouses, children or friends to drink and do other acts against themselves and others with that same kind of reasoning.  If it had not been for Lenora’s interference, my first wife and I might have made it.  There now, that’s what I’m talking about.  If it had not been for Lenora’s interference, my first wife and I might have made it.  What’s wrong with that sentence?

Yes, I was blaming someone else, when all the time I was cheating on my wife.

It was my perception that it was wrong for Lenora to give me money whenever I ask for it, giving me the opportunity to raise a second family, drink and have as many women as I wanted.  It was wrong of Lenora to take up for me and put her daughter down.  However, I held the biggest responsibility.  It was me that vowed to take care of, to respect and honor my wife in sickness and in health.  I and I alone made those decisions to break my marriage vows.

So, let’s get on with the story.

I wanted to make money.  Lottie’s mother was paying for my kids and I was making money to help the second family.  Lottie never acted like she was upset about me spending nights with my second family.  I would leave the factory where I worked at night and go make a baby with my mistress, then I would go to the farm and sleep with my wife.  Every time Lottie had a baby boy, Jenny had a boy.

My problems with Lottie started to come to a head after we had been married for about seven years.  Lottie and Lenora had a strange relationship.  Lottie would fight with me about her mother enabling me and then she’d fight with her mother about it.  I moved Lottie and her boys off the farm and got a job at the iron works in another town ten miles from the village city limits after Lottie started laying down the law.  Even with the strained relationship with her mom, Lottie couldn’t stand to be away from Lenora.  After we got settled in at our home, Lottie started wanting to go back to the farm.

I decided that I’d had enough with trying to deal with Lottie’s complaining and love/hate relationship with her mother.  So, I moved her back to the farm and moved in with my second family.  I filed for divorce and it was soon granted.  I was twenty-four years old

 









 


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