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CHAPTER FOUR

Half Brother

My half brother (Robert Francis Graves - after two of my Mom's brothers) was born while at the Graves farm. Mom was nearly due and so, because it was the blizzard time of the year, they decided to move her to friends who lived on one of the main highways. Well, they waited too long, and there was a blizzard that day. She had to sit in a chair that was tied to a flat-bottom sled, two horses pulled the sled. They had a long way to go to the friends' house. A few days later, she went into labor - but couldn't make it to her scheduled hospital, had to settle for a hospital that wasn't all that good. She had a hard delivery.

At the hospital, they found out that she had twins, one had stopped growing very early in the pregnancy and it had been rotting away inside Mom, until the other one was born. She had a lot of infection. They didn't watch her very carefully, and that night, she hemorrhaged. They found her in the morning, in a pool of blood. She needed a lot of transfusions.

When Mom came home, she was in bed for a long time - the health nurse came all the time to give her liver shots (iron, I think) and she was very weak. Grandma Graves thought she should be up and about, couldn't understand, and didn't want to help her - so, somebody was paid to come in. There really wasn't any money for help - and soon after, we moved to another farm, where they paid more of a wage. Horace was only getting half of what the Grandpa made a month, I think they each got $35. Mom had planted the first vegetable garden there ever was on that farm - to help make ends meet.

My half brother Bob, was always called Robert, until he was old enough to live on his own - actually, my Mom always called him Robert, even when Horace no longer lived at home. (Out of respect for Bob's wishes, my sister and I called him what he wanted to be called, as soon as we knew his wishes.) Mom wanted to call him Bobby, but Horace was against it, said it was a girl's name, as he had a school friend who was called Bobbie (she is the one Mom stayed with before Bob was born).

Bob couldn't feed with a regular baby bottle nipple; the roof of his mouth was too high - so, finally, after trying every kind there was, they found that the long, black, lambing nipple worked good for him.

When Bob was a toddler, first learning how to walk, he fell onto an electric hot plate that had been set on the floor, because there wasn't room for it anywhere else; Mom was making toasted cheese sandwiches. He had blisters on both his legs and bottom, through his diaper. One time, because of diaper rash, etc., Bob had such a raw sore (in about the worse place!) that Mom had to keep putting an ointment on it, and pushing it through with a dull-end darning needle. Horace never knew how to handle children and was forever hitting Bob on the head, to get his point across.

We moved a couple more times. Every time I was beginning to get some friends in school, we would move again. At one of the schools, my teacher knew we were about to move and they had a going away party for me - classmates brought in small gifts. My boyfriend Leonard Townsley (he had the same initials as I had, L.T.) brought me a small, framed picture that I thought I would treasure forever...but forever didn't last long because I found out that he was one day younger than I was and I didn't believe boys should be younger than girls, in romance.

We lived on a farm owned by Mayor Eggelston. It was there that I tried to hang upside down in an apple tree for the first and last time. There was a large, flat rock just under the tree and my knees gave out, I fell onto the rock and it knocked the breath out of me - enough of that! There was an old, abandoned mattress in the field near the apple tree; we soon discovered that the most "choice" worms lived under that mattress; whenever we wanted to go fishing all we had to do was to lift the mattress and scoop them up.

This is where we had a large man-made reservoir of water for the farm animals; there were large fish in the water and we tried to catch them many times. We still didn't have any fish hooks and used Christmas ball hooks; I did manage to snag a really big one, just one time. Horace and one of the farm hands went down stream from this reservoir and dammed it up with some cardboard boxes. They brought home a lot of very large trout that night.

One of the farms we lived on had individual houses for the hired hands. It was a nice farm, they had dairy cows and grew and processed sauerkraut. It was the Schwartz Farm. We had a huge vegetable garden there, Mom canned a lot of tomatoes and all of them spoiled...it turned out that the rubber lids were faulty - she wrote to the Ball Co. and they sent her back a whole case of new lids.

In the back of this house we had a large patch of catnip growing - our cat and all the neighborhood cats went "wild" over it. There was a boy I liked (Bruce Bennett), he and his friend had BB guns and shot the frogs in the stream behind our house. I was walking along the stream one day and stopped beneath a tree; when I looked up into the branches there was a strange creature in the tree. It turned out to be a possum; she had her little ones all hanging by their tails, on her long tail that was arched over the top of her back. It gave me a scare, as they were well within my reach.

Bruce's mother asked if they could take my sister and me to their Sunday School every week - we liked going anywhere...We won a few trinkets from memorizing Scripture verses. It was a Lutheran or Methodist Church; there weren't any Catholic Churches in that area.

I was very embarrassed every time we had reports cards and I brought back my card signed by my mother, with the name Graves instead of my name, Taylor. I would always have to explain it in front of the whole class. Finally, I asked about changing my name to Graves, and Mom looked into it, but it would cost about $100 a letter, so that was too much. They decided that someday, when I married, my name would be changed, anyway.

I always called Horace - "Hey, You", or "Hey", and finally it reached the boiling point; he demanded I call him either Dad or Horace. I said I would never call him Dad, because I had a Dad; so, I had to call him Horace. I never liked him or accepted him, and I'm sure I caused a lot of problems in their marriage; he didn't exactly get off on the right foot with us girls. Finally, after we moved about 3 times (to other farms, where Horace tried to work) we were old enough, and a little more brave; I told my Mom what Horace continued to do. She confronted him, he denied it; said he was going to kill me. Mom stood between him and me, wouldn't let him get to me. He didn't touch her, said, "A man isn't a man if he hits a woman." But, it certainly never got better between us.

Many years later, after I was married, I began writing to Grandma Graves. She sent us four matching crocheted place mats that she had made herself. They were especially precious to me because I realized her eyesight was failing when she made them. We exchanged letters about 4-5 times a year. She always gave me writing paper for Christmas.

After Grandma Graves died, the Grandpa seemed to lose all desire to live. Everything went downhill for him, and then he died. The farm was bought up by antique dealers who had been eyeing the place for many years - they had made many offers to buy things that were in the house, through the years. I remember horse-hair filled sofas and chairs, four-poster beds, many homemade pieces of furniture (one of which was an extremely heavy birds-eye maple dresser and there was an almost unmovable cherry wood dresser), the organ, the porcelain dolls.

Every farm we moved to, we always had "Buster" the dog with us. He was a good old dog and friend. We had a small shed behind the last place we lived in New York state; I was allowed to get a "wild color" bunny, he was also kind of wild and took off one day when I opened the door to feed him; he ran under the shed. Right away Buster went charging after him, I screamed at "Buster"; but, he dug down under the shed, after the bunny. He caught him and dragged him back up, placing him at my feet. Bunny was none the worse for wear..."Buster" was a really good dog.

When I was around 9 years old, we were having a special "Assembly" for Memorial Day. I had been asked to memorize a poem for the occasion and to say it at the assembly. I had never spoke in front of people, got sick when I had to do simple book-reports in our regular classroom; and couldn't even consider saying this very long poem in front of the entire school. I froze-up when I tried to memorize it, at home and consequently wasn't prepared to recite it on "that day".

Never-the-less they made me get up on the stage, in front of the entire school and STAND THERE, while a teacher "prompted" me, from off-stage. I had to go through the whole poem and it seemed FOREVER. I never recovered from that incident, and from then on I could never give a book report in any class - I was always sick at home on that day and had to give it after school, with just the teacher there (and a few students who had been 'bad' that day...they heckled me!).

This problem has persisted to this day - I still cannot get up in front of people to talk; I have a hard time even speaking around more than a couple of people. But, things are changing... improving!


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