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Tacoma, Washington, United States

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

1927 Hupmobile
This next house was forever known as "the itch house" in family lore.

At the time we moved into the yellow house (I forget who owned the property) Dad had somehow acquired a big old Hupmobile sedan.  It was black and square as a barn.  Matter of fact, that old Hup looked like a hearse.  With money short to non-existent, we did not have the Hupmobile very long.  As I recall, Dad sold it to my Uncle Merritt Stanley who by then was running a garage and filling station in Aldrich, Missouri, seven miles to the east of Bona.  My Uncle Merritt cut the back of the body off and made a pickup truck out of that big old car.
One thing I remember about living in that yellow farmhouse was that it sure was a long way to walk to school.  Bona School was on a hill a full mile north of Bona so us kids had about a two-mile walk each way.  That is not far in a car, but it was a long way on shank’s mare.  We did not really mind, however, as walking to school was a way of life.

That walk really worked a hardship on little Rex because his legs were so short.  He did not have much trouble keeping up because Richard and I normally left in time that we could just mosey along, but coming home after playing hard at recess, Rex’s legs would sometimes give out and he got leg aches.  Sometimes he would just sit down in the ditch and cry, they hurt so bad.  I am afraid that we often gave him a hard time about keeping up, but I could remember getting leg aches when I was little so I would hoist him onto my back and give him a piggy-back ride home.
My mother, Eva, sure had a terrible experience while we lived in that big yellow house.  We kids caught the itch—no doubt at school because the Lord knows Mother kept us clean enough at home—and Dad caught it from us.  It sure was aggravating to be itching all the time and you were not supposed to scratch, but it was my mother I felt sorry for.  She slaved for several days carrying water from the well for the washtub she heated on the kitchen stove to scrub us and all our clothes.  She must have used a short ton of pine tar soap and I believe she doused us with calamine lotion.

We felt like lepers because we could not go to school with the itch, but eventually Mother got us all cured and we stayed home a couple of more days to make sure it was gone and no one would catch it from us.  We were happy as turkey gobblers in a polkberry patch when we finally got to go to Grandma’s at Bona one evening, then went back to school.
1927 Hupmobile
That first trip to Bona after the itch did not work out too well—in fact that was one of the last times I saw my mother cry.  We drove up in the old Hupmobile and Mother went to the door to make sure that is was alright with Grandma and Grandpa if we came in.  Unfortunately, she came back to the car weeping and we turned around and went home.  It was not Grandpa and Grandma Stanley’s fault, however.  My Uncle Merritt and Aunt Golden from Aldrich were there visiting.  When my mother asked—and before Grandma could answer—my aunt exclaimed, “Well! I sure don’t want to catch the itch!”
My mother just turned away and came back to the car.  I guess I never quite forgave my Aunt Golden that she had made my mother feel bad and cry after she had worked so hard to cure us all.

I’m not sure that my father ever heard “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” but whenever I hear it I think of him carrying his brother when he couldn’t make it make it on his own.  The Frieze kids were like that.  As an only child, they were my template for how siblings were.  I have since learned that is not always the case.  My father loved his family desperately as you will see.  I believe that anyone of them would have literally carried the other…well, not my little Aunt Sandra, but anyone of her brothers would have gladly carried her.  In the end, isn’t that the reason we are here?  To carry one another when we can?
 And at the heart of it all was my grandmother.  She raised four children during the Great Depression and, with a husband who had "sand in his shoes," she had to learn to travel light; to figure out what was worth carrying.  She travels with me in my heart and head and I believe I miss her most of all.

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