Previously published as story #2 in Bill’s God Inspired Stories
2. My Story of My Walk Through This Life
This talk is going to begin way back in my younger years. I hope, as I write, God will give me the strength to be able to express myself honestly and openly. I am hoping, as I write this and think back, that maybe I can see who I really am, because I never thought much about myself.
I remember way back when I was four years old and we moved from our little bungalow up to run the farm in Raymondville. We put all of our furniture on the hay wagon pulled by two white horses with shiny black harnesses. Dad let me ride beside him on the wagon and I was very proud and happy.
On the farm we had eight horses and I rode bareback on all of them. I would make believe I was Tom Mix or Roy Rogers. I always had a boil on the cheek of my butt and sometimes on both sides. I didn’t sit down much in those days.
I loved my folks very much and hoped, that if ever I grew up, that I could be half the man my father was. He never smoked, drank, and I never heard him use the Lord’s name in vein. He loved Mom a lot and they talked a lot. They would walk out through the fields and we would all walk with them. Dad never had to hit us much because we knew when he said to do or not to do something he meant it.
I remember when I started school and walked almost a mile to get there. I got real thirsty one day and stopped at a neighbor’s for a drink. She had all these fresh cookies on the table and gave me a couple. After that I became thirsty every day when I walked by there. She always had my cookies ready. Sometimes I would forget to get the drink of water.
We went to church every Sunday and I became an altar boy. I loved that honor of serving God and felt real good to be in His Presence. The priest’s sermons were dynamic. I remember the women crying through a lot of the sermons. What he said scared me half to death. I knew when I was doing good but more so when I was doing wrong. I could never believe that even after going to confession and communion that God would really forgive me for all the bad things had done.
I remember of the time that my mother sent me to the neighbors to get something and there wasn’t anybody home. I went into the house thinking someone was there. I remember a big dish of fruit on the table and I took a banana and ate it. I felt terrible afterwards knowing that I had stolen it. I knew the priest would be very angry with me when I told him. You see I wasn’t thinking of God being angry, but the priest. Another time I took my neighbor girl’s play egg beater and hid it. Her mother called my mother and she made me take it back and apologize to her and her mother. I was embarrassed and gave a quick apology and got out of there in a hurry.
Then at school I had a problem. My brother who is eight years older than me used to stay with me all the time when I was playing with other kids my age. You see my brother had polio and walked on the tips of his toes on one foot. He couldn’t play the rougher games with the older kids. He was right in my way and he was sickly and lost a lot of time in school. Because of that and because his IQ was very low, he was only in fifth grade when the folks pulled him out of school at sixteen.
The other kids would laugh at him for his looks, walk and some of the things he would say. I became ashamed of him. Isn’t that terrible? I knew it too but couldn’t or wouldn’t try to face it. The folks finally had his leg operated on and afterwards walked on the bottom of his foot and then only had a bad limp.
Dad loved him the same as all the rest of us and was proud to introduce him to whoever he met, as his son. This made me very proud of my father and more ashamed of myself. Dad bought his own farm when I was twelve years old and I was so happy to have a place that we could call home. It was like paradise to me. We were poorer then church mice, but rich in love for one another. We all worked very hard and got the old place back in shape again.
One day we went to an auction to buy some cows and I remember three men, who sat behind me, making fun of my brother. I thought, how could grown men be so cruel? But at that moment I could see how I was just like I see these men. From that moment on I knew I had a lot of making up to do with my brother. After that I was proud to introduce him as my brother and until the day I got married he and I went on long trips together in my old 46 Chevy truck. I knew that God gave him to me as a brother so I could fully understand the sadness and the hurt these kinds of people have when they are not loved. I knew that if I was like him I would want to be loved. Most people loved him for who he was, not for what he looked like. I wondered how I would be accepted if I looked like him and still had my old self inside. It made me shutter.
Mom taught me my prayers. Before Confirmation Mom would test me on the questions that would be asked by the Bishop. She would even question me while we were milking the cows. We each milked the cows by hand then. Times were hard and Mom worked two to three days a week in Massena at housekeeping to make ends meet. We all knew what a dollar was worth then. I knew then that when or if I got married that my wife wasn’t going to have to work.
One time, at school, when I was older, this boy was carrying a case of soft drinks in the hallway to his teacher’s room. We never could afford soft drink very often so I talked him into giving me one. I told him the teacher would never know the difference. I was wrong again. The boy told the teacher I had stolen it from him and I was to report to her class room immediately. She had me stand in front of the class and tell them I was a thief, that I was a bad kid. I knew I deserved the punishment, that I was wrong. I didn’t say anything but hung my head down for I could not look at anyone. I never wanted anyone to think I was that kind of an evil person.
When I was in sixth grade I was not doing so well in Algebra. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on what the teacher was saying. I was afraid that I couldn’t keep my marks up with the other kids. The teacher didn’t have much patience with me or any other slow learner. It seemed she always had me up at the front of the class at the blackboard and then I would make a mistake. She would call me stupid. I was beginning to think that of myself also. After that I knew that I would never amount to much and nobody would hire me.
Mom was starting to worry about me as I was a junior and I wasn’t interested in girls. I remember one night I was lying on the floor by the old wood stove with my dog and the phone rang. It was the neighbor lady. She was in a panic, for her daughters, boyfriend who was to take her to the prom, stood her up. She wanted to go real bad. Mom volunteered my services. In minutes I was all dressed and the neighbor lady was honking out front. I got the red carpet treatment. A flower for my coat, tickets and chauffeured to the dance. All I had to do was walk in with her, then she would visit with her girlfriends. That was fine with me for I got in a dark corner and went to sleep. Next thing I knew the girl was waking me up saying her mother was there to pick us up. We then went to Lavigne’s Hotel and she bought me a spaghetti supper for saving the night for her daughter.
The girls were always teasing me. If I had candy or gum they would always ask me for some and I would give it to them. I was tight with what little money I had and I had a plan on how I would fix them girls. I went down to the drug store and bought a pack of Chicklet gum and a pack of Feenamint gum. I switched the contents so that when they thought they were getting Chicklet they were actually getting the diarrhea gum. They wanted it and they got it. Before the end of the day they were headed for the bathroom even before getting permission first.
The neighbor boy quit school at 15 years old as his father died and he had to take over the farm. He was real bright and very mechanically minded. I just couldn’t seem to do anything right. It seemed like Dad was always saying “too bad you can’t do things like Tom can. I know it was all in my head, but I thought Dad liked him better than me. I became depressed and no matter how much I tried I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything. I just somehow had to prove to myself and Dad that I could make something of myself too.
I went to work for a farm in Norwood after graduation. I lived with the farmer’s family. They treated me like one of their own. I worked seven days a week with every other Sunday afternoon off. I made $25 a week. I put $20 a week in the savings. The farmer liked my work and me and gave me a purebred calf for Christmas. I bought two more later on and took them home to Dad. Dad started a real good dairy from them.
I went into the Army in 1954. How I hated to leave home. I never was away from home except for one time Dad took my brother and me to Syracuse. We stayed in a hotel and spent the evening hours looking out the windows watching all the cars and people milling around. The army life was different then the quiet life on the farm. Now I had all these men around me and the sergeant hollering all the time. He seemed mad at everybody. I couldn’t believe all the swearing and meanness going on. I knelt down by my bed the first night to say my prayers and the guys were laughing at me. I was wondering if the enemy could be as bad as I was picturing these soldiers to be.
Some might say I was a strange person. I sent most of my money home ($97.00 a month), didn’t drink, smoke and never went out with a girl. I was scared to death of them. On the weekend I would go into the city and then to church, a movie, then a walk in the park. The park was the only place that seemed to bring me back to the country life.
Finally in 1955 I got transferred to Colorado. I was sent on maneuvers way up in the Rockies. I loved it there. It was so quiet and there were lots of mountains and trout streams about me. I was in the mountain and cold weather training Command. We skied every day and pitched tents on the mountain sides in the frigid cold. We had army mules that carried howitzers and other supplies. Another time I went on maneuvers at camp Polk Louisiana.
In 1956 my hitch in the army was coming to a close and the boys talked me into going to Colorado Springs. We stopped at the Brass Rail and they started ordering me all kinds of drinks. I think I had one of everything. They were all getting silly. I didn’t get off the bar stool only to go to the men’s room. Or was it the woman’s room? After a while it was time to catch the bus back to camp. I remember leaning against the building by the bus stop and I felt like death was at my door step. If a priest was there I think I would have asked for my Last Rights. Then soon I was on the train heading back to home and civilian life again.
Immediately, I got a job with G.L.F. (Grange League Federation) delivering gas and heating oil to the farmers and country folk. Gas then was 25 cents and Foil 13.5 cents a gallon. The company liked me and I sold a lot. I got to meet a lot of nice people. I met a lot of pretty girls too. I overcame my fear of them at last. I remember one night another fellow and I decided to go to a square dance. I had to take him along for moral support. We met a couple of girls there. One (Carole) would eventually become my wife. But that night I gave her to my buddy to dance with for she was flat and skinny. Her sister was really well developed and I couldn’t keep my eyes in focus. I went with Carole’s sister a couple of more times till I found out she was only 14 and Carole was 15 so that ended that relationship.
At G.L.F. I delivered twice as much as the other drivers and my people paid when the bill was due. Even though they liked me to work for them I screwed up there also. I remember the first day I worked. Though I didn’t know it, there was a crack in a line to the meter. I pumped 85 gallons of kerosene in a 55 gallon drum. The man called the plant and said “that new guy is good, but I don’t want him to pack the drum quite so tight with kerosene. Another time I ran out of gas in Potsdam with a full load of gas in the back. That humbled me when people were watching me drain some out of the back to put in the gas tank.
I got in three accidents with the truck. Two of them weren’t my fault but the last was. This car stopped ahead of me and the road was covered with black ice. I hit the car and drove it about 150 feet up the road. A State Trooper just happened to be there and we rushed to see if everyone in the car was okay. The woman, who was about 8 months pregnant, was out cold and her son was wedged between the seats. I did a lot of praying and went to see her at Potsdam Hospital every night. I sweated it out till the baby was born and thanked God they all were okay.
I told the boss I was going to quit the truck before I killed someone, but they didn’t want to let me go. They were going to make me a burner service man. They sent me to school for two days of training. I had no knowledge of electricity. My first job was to convert a coal furnace over to oil at a nursing home in Winthrop. After it was completed I couldn’t get the oil to ignite. I called the plant and the guy said “just keep switching the wires and it will eventually go.” Go it did. Once I hit the right wire all of a sudden the door blew off the furnace and I couldn’t see for the soot and the smoke in the cellar. I came out of the hatchway and they were starting to carry the residents out on the lawn thinking the place was on fire. It was shortly after that I quit and went to work at General Motors.
I started going out with girls again, but never got serious. I wasn’t ready for marriage. Later on I started going out with another girl and stuck by her steady. We both liked to laugh and dance together. I thought I would like her for my wife someday. Then she would say “I wouldn’t live in the country” and she said she didn’t like kids that much either. I knew I had to call it off for I love the country life and I loved kids. So at General Motors I became a miser and hoarded every penny that I made for I knew one day I would get married and ave my kids. I was working seven days a week and making good money. I told Dad I was going to build a house so he gave me a chunk of land on the edge of the farm. I couldn’t drive a nail when I started but I had to show Dad I could do it.
I tried real hard at G.M. to again show that I could do a good job. I really didn’t like to work inside. I missed the outdoor life and work. I kept plugging away at work and was promoted to job setter. I was so pleased that they thought I had improved that much. After they did away with the Corvair (the line I was working on) I put in for an outside job. I took a cut in pay but it was worth it. I tended to the lawns, planted flowers etc. it seemed so good to be outside again. But I messed up there too. There was a lone row of little flowered bushes and I got where I could mow in and out of them at full speed, but one day the steering went up and I climbed right over the top of one. It looked like a snow storm with flower pedals falling all about me. Another time I was going to hose off the mower (it had a bad clutch in it). I left it running and when I turned around with the hose it took off and I ran after it, catching it just before it hit the front glass doors.
The big bosses up front surely saw all my actions out their windows and it must have been exciting to them to watch me. I kept the lawns and flower beds looking beautiful and through it all these bosses got to enjoy my presence. When I would tell them of when I messed up they would laugh till tears came to their eyes. It made me happy to see others laugh. They knew I took my job serious and wasn’t deliberately making these mistakes to get their attention.
I had the house pretty well along now so I started again looking for a nice girl to help fill the emptiness. I went out with a few of them but couldn’t seem to find the right one. Then on the 4th of July in Norwood I spotted her. You’re right, it was Carole. She wasn’t that bag of bones anymore. I asked her for a date for that night and she accepted. I had to go home and get some hay in that afternoon first. I didn’t think evening would ever come. I picked her up where she was working in Madrid. We hit it off right away and we both were very happy. I knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We went out often. She kept saying she wanted to be a practical nurse. She had been accepted into a nursing school. But it was way down in Yonkers, N.Y.
I didn’t want her to go away as we were so happy. She said that if I wanted her bad enough I would wait for her to finish her schooling. I was hurt deeply inside. I didn’t want her to leave and I wanted to marry her. Off she went to Yonkers and again I went into a life of solitude. When I wasn’t working at the plant I was working on the house. I was getting tired, lonely and depressed. I got to where I hated even the mentioning of what she was doing in her training. We argued in our letters, on the phone and even when she would come home for a weekend, which wasn’t very often.
I was faithful to her and her to me, as we both had a lot of trust in one another. Then one day I got a letter from her saying that she and a couple of her class mates went out one evening for supper and that these guys took them back to their residence afterwards. She was sorry she did this and being honest as she is, she had to tell me as to get rid of the guilt feeling, even though they only took them back to their residence with no hanky panky.
I wish that she hadn’t been so honest with me. I felt hurt real bad. I thought, here I am working till I can’t even think straight and being faithful and she is down there having a good time. Wanting to get even I went to a bar and met a girl I had gone to school with. We danced all evening. She couldn’t dance as well as Carole. When I was taking her home we stopped along the way. She was willing. But as I kissed her I knew that was as far as it would go. I felt ashamed of myself and knew that Carole had only let the guys take her home. I took the girl home right then and then went home and wrote a letter to Carole. I was sorry and I told her so. I never again went out with any girl but Carole.
The day finally came and Carole graduated from school. It was one of the happiest days in my life. It wasn’t long after that we were married. I was 27 years old then. We went dancing every Saturday night and have made a practice of it right to this day. We made practice of other things too because it seemed that Carole had maternity clothes on most of the years. Before we knew it we had four kids sitting around the table. They must have kept us busy day and night because our other two didn’t come along for about five years later. Thank God they were all healthy.
Everything went well for us with good friends and good things. At the plant I was fortunate enough to get into skilled trades as a pipefitter. This is when I started to gain more confidence in myself. I could do just as good as the other guys and I wasn’t messing up as often either. Because of the extra money and no house payments we would buy a new car every time the old one wore out.
Then when Dad couldn’t farm it any more we bought the farm. With the help of a few friends we built a new barn. I just had to show Dad that I could be a farmer too. I question that thought at times. When Dad said he was going to sell the farm he had no idea that I was interested in buying it. So when I found out how much he wanted for it, we bought it. He was glad to have it stay in the family. I didn’t buy the house they lived in but only the land and the old barn which I tore down as it was in pretty bad shape.
I think it kind of hurt Dad to know how tough a sledding it was for him during those hard years and now seeing me put up a new barn, new fences, buy nice machinery and put new seeding in all the meadows. At times it was like he thought he sold it to me too cheap. He would say, “The neighbors said I could have gotten twice as much for it” or “That farm is worth a lot more then you paid for it”.
Carole knew this was bothering me terribly and when she would say something about it, I would jump all over her. I told her I was going to give him more money as soon as I could save some up. In the mean time it was bothering me to think that Dad would ever have a thought that I would take him for a ride like that. She wanted me to tell Dad about my feelings, but I wouldn’t let her as I didn’t want to see him hurt, not thinking of how much it was hurting our marriage by taking my feelings out on her.
Carole couldn’t take it anymore and while I was at work she told Dad her feelings and of how it was bothering me so, over buying the farm. When I got home she told me what she had done and I felt ashamed of myself for not being man enough and honest enough to face up to my father. I also felt relieved that my feelings were now out in the open. Dad apologized and after that we were all happy again. Carole always did a lot for the folks and I did my best to help out too. Our marriage straightened out again.
As the children grew to the age of accountability I knew it was my duty as a parent to teach them right from wrong. I would stress that they shouldn’t argue all the time with each other. Sometimes while in the grocery store I would see one carrying around a piece of candy that he or she would slip in their pocket when no one was looking. One trip back to the store with the kid and whatever he took and making him apologize usually broke that habit. I taught them their prayers and told them to think only of the Lord when saying them.
As I kept preaching all these things to our kids I started looking at my own self and realized that I wasn’t doing what I was telling the kids they should do. I knew I would holler at Carole or the kids over some little thing that happened. I knew that if I needed a nut or a bolt to fix something I would just put it in my pocket at work. I knew I didn’t think of the Lord as often as I should or of all the blessings He showered on me. When things didn’t go right at times I would curse instead of thinking maybe I brought these times on myself.
Yes it is a beautiful thing to have children. You can learn so much from them. For you are trying to put them on the right path, and listen to what you are saying, you will get on the right path too. Since I have been trying harder to do what is right in His eyes, my life has become a lot fuller. I still have temptations but I know I can overcome them if I ask for God’s support. I have been given a lot of special friends that are always there to share in my good times and to lift me up when I stumble.