Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Final Chapter of My Father's Words

In 1936, we escaped the dust and moved back to Delaware, where my Dad worked for DuPont. I started third grade, after having missed all of first and second grade. Sitting still was downright painful. I talked too much and broke up the class with jokes. In those days, when you misbehaved, teachers pulled you to the front of the room by the ear. My ears grew long that year.
As soon as school let out for summer, we loaded up the car and drove back out to Vona. This was years before there were interstates. Only two lane roads that went through every city, town, or hamlet. It was a grueling trip, especially with two boys fussing in the back seat, yelling and hitting at each other. We were not great travelers. 
Bob, Grandmother Helen, John, Grandfather Harry
We played a lot of that alphabet game where you get the letters out of signs. Always looked for a junction sign to get a J, and Quaker State Motor Oil would give you Q, R, S, T, U - all at once. We had big fights over that sign. Also the Burma Shave signs were all along the roadways. I still remember one of their more catchy ones. "Pity all the mighty Caesars, Had each whisker pulled with tweezers, I Burma Shave." Yeah, my kind of humor.
But as soon as we arrived, we were back out hunting and exploring.
One summer we took a trip to Colorado Springs and drove up to the top of Pikes Peak in our 1928 Chevy. Quite a trip over a steep, dirt road. In those days the car radiators were not pressure sealed, so they tended to boil over very easily. Going up to the top there were water spigots all along the way, so you could refill your radiator as it boiled over. And the trip down, in low or second gear for breaking help, was quite long.
Had a bit of excitement on the way to Colorado Springs. My Aunt Ruth was driving (she never drove much and was a poor driver), and my mother was frightened by something Ruth did and pulled the emergency brake hard. The car went off the road and turned over on its side. Some men came along a few minutes later, stopped, helped us out, and set the car back up on its wheels. We thanked them and were off again, this time with mother driving. The cars in those days were made with such thick sheet metal that there were absolutely no dents in it from turning over. Amazing!
In the summer of 1940 we took a trip down through Raton Pass to Taos, New Mexico, then on through Santa Fe and Albuquerque to the Grand Canyon, where we met my uncle, Lyle Vincent, and his family. Spent a few days with them, saw the canyon, then headed back to Colorado.
During the summer, Bob and I would lay in the winter's supply of wood and do all sorts of stuff that needed to be done. Sometime during those years we acquired a moveable trailer (like that one that Frank Morgan used in "The Wizard of Oz"), and this became Bob's and my private quarters. Got us out of the house. I suppose it was about 8 by 12, on metal wheels, with steps that led up to the door.
One year, right before going back East, I helped Dewey Nelson harvest his wheat for a week. 100 degree temperature, but your shirt never got wet. At that low humidity the sweat evaporated immediately. But, you drank a lot of water. A lot. But I sunburned my lips. They got cracked and bleeding, couldn't hardly eat or talk. A mess! Don't ever sunburn your lips.
I went to Vona alone in the summer of 1942. The war was on, and gas was rationed so we couldn't drive. Took the bus out - two days and three nights - and was a horrendous trip. In those days the buses were much smaller than now, bumpier, smaller seats, less leg room, and no lavatories. So, there was a rest stop every couple of hours for fifteen minutes or so. I accomplished by summer chores at the house, but when it came time to return I took the train. Much better form of transportation.
That was the last time I saw the place. During the World War II, my grandmother and aunt moved to California, and the land was sold.
And so ended my "growing up years" in Colorado.

All in all, it was quite an experience. I learned a lot during my time out there - self reliance, ingenuity, improvisation, living with and in solitude with nature. I also learned that nature can be violent, nasty, destroying, and killing. No, you don't fool with Mother Nature. 
My father John in high school.

John Sedwick 

After the War, my father studied theater at the University of Delaware where he met my mother, Margaret. They were married for over fifty years and had five children and eight grandchildren. John had a long and successful career directing theater and television shows, including DARK SHADOWS, THE EDGE OF NIGHT, and SANTA BARBARA.  He kept his sense of humor all his life. Many of the jokes and puns in COYOTE WINDS came from my father. We all still miss him every day.

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