There he was, sitting in a chair in the corner of the bedroom with me on his lap. DH usually wasn’t at a loss for words but he seemed unable to express himself. I’d been hearing bits and pieces of the phone call but they didn’t mean anything to me. “Brown and Root.” “Shelton.” “Journeyman.” Finally, he gathered his courage and told me it was getting more and more difficult to make a living where we were. His brother had been hired by Brown and Root (much later I found out there is a connection with Halliburton) to work on building a power plant in Shelton, Nebraska. A journeyman welder could make $15 an hour. But he wasn’t a welder! He could learn. I sat and thought for a minute. Literally. I knew everything he said was true. I looked him in the eye (his right one) and said, “Okay.”
To say he was shocked would have been a gross understatement. He was completely floored. I told him I knew something would have to give and that’s the way it had to be. I asked him when he’d be leaving. His brother plus the family were packing to move and he could ride out with them. He’d be gone in a few days. I asked where he’d live. Until he could find a place, he’d stay with his brother.
There was no question he would leave the boys and me behind until school was out. I was still working at the factory but there was no more overtime. We made the most of the few days he would still be around. He quit his boat-building job and was like a different person. We’d been separated by distance before but he’d been home every night for months. I was used to having him around and he was leaving—again. It seemed our marriage was a series of separations. I felt like I had a brick on my chest. Time does have a way of passing and that’s a blessing.
My brother-in-law and his family came by in their vehicle packed to the gills. I didn’t see how they could wedge in one more person and a duffle bag but they did it. It was Westward ho! for them and keep the home fires burning for the boys and me.
It was good I had my job and the boys to keep me busy. If I hadn’t, I would have taken to my bed and fed my mental addiction. I hated moving. We had been in that apartment in the projects for almost four years. That was the longest stretch I’d ever lived anywhere. Even though it wasn’t what I wanted for a permanent home, I’d almost put down roots.
At the factory, I was going the rounds of departments again and I knew it was only a matter of time until I’d be laid off. Sure enough, it happened and I was at the unemployment office signing up for my “rocking chair pay”. Except there was no time for a rocking chair. Maybe you could say it was Providential.
I toured the grocery stores and stocked up on boxes. There was no one to urge me on to pack. I had to step up to the plate and do it whether I wanted to or not. And I didn’t want to. Did I mention I hate to move? The only way I’d be able to be with my husband was to bite the bullet and do it.
I quit answering the phone between the hours of 7 and 3:30. I knew that’s when I would be called if the factory had work for me. Maybe a couple of months had gone by. I don’t remember. One day the phone rang and before I could stop him, DS (I won’t say which) answered it. It was the floor manager at the factory and I was being called back to work. I had to refuse and with that went my unemployment.
School was out. It was June 1976 and DH came back East to drive us out to Nebraska. He’d found a hundred year old farm house on a “small” spread of 1200 acres. I don’t remember how much the rent was but it was probably too high. I was moving sight unseen to a house DH had picked out with his one good eye. Was I brave or foolhardy? The U-Haul was unloaded and I had unpacking to do.
We had the use of a little piece of ground for a garden but the rest of the place was either planted in corn, wheat, or was pasture. There were huge old trees around the house.
The kitchen floor was in terrible shape and I busied myself chipping away at the tile. Someone told me not to get the floor under the tile wet or I’d have a worse mess. DH had collected scraps of indoor-outdoor carpet from the boat factory and we pieced it together to cover the bathroom—the one bathroom in the two-story house and it was downstairs, through the kitchen and past the pantry. A strange setup but there was a huge tub that made me feel a little better about the place I was supposed to call home.
Upstairs had four bedrooms. Two were off-limits to us. The landlord was using them for storage. The boys each had a room of his own which would have been nice had the rooms been nice. The house had a great deal of potential.
DH and I slept in the downstairs bedroom. It opened off the living room and was at the foot of the stairs. There was a room off the kitchen and I never figured out what it was for. It wasn’t set up for a dining room. There were shelves along one wall so I used them to store canned goods. The tiny enclosed back porch housed the washer and dryer and later a freezer.
My mother had been alarmed we were moving ‘way out to the middle of nowhere. We didn’t have a phone which made it seem even more primitive. Our address was Grainton and the population was 23 which included dogs and cats.
The closest town of any size was 10 miles away and that’s where the boys were to go to school. It was the first experience I had living in one time zone (Central) and having to function in another (Mountain). When I went to the post office (Grainton didn’t have one) I called Mother and she wanted to know if there were grocery stores where we could buy food. Yes, there were but they were either in Ogallala or North Platte and we were about as far from one as the other. Thirty-plus miles whether we went East or West.
Everything was/is laid out in sections and quarter sections and (almost) all the roads run North, South, East, and West. It was easy to tell directions there.
The Sandhills were to the North. The part where we lived was mostly flat though the house was up on a rise. There was a hog lot across the dirt road and flies were everywhere. I had fly strips hanging over the dining table in one end of the huge kitchen which was better than having flies on our food.
Daytime temperatures would rise up in the 90s and sometimes make it over 100 but the low humidity made it seem cool. In the shade, it was quite comfortable. At night it would get chilly. I was charmed by that because the apartment in the projects could be stifling in the sticky summer heat, even at night.
DH had been hired on as a laborer and wasn’t making even close to the $15 an hour he was hoping to make eventually. Evenings, he took a welding class on the construction site. He had a natural flair for anything creative and he turned welding into art. He learned to lay a bead with the best of them and brought his “coupon” home to show me. The coupon was made up of two pieces of metal welded together in the middle. No matter what he did, he tried to do his best. He could be proud of his work.
We were busy and I guess you could say we were happy. Maybe I should say we were happy as we could be under the circumstances. I’d left good friends back in Tennessee. Where we were, it was hard to get acquainted with anyone DH wasn’t working with and all of them were men. At least DH was getting some of his self-respect back.
The summer progressed and all of a sudden it was fall. The boys went to a new (to them) school and I was home alone all day long. The school bus came right up to the house to pick them up and drop them off. DH took our one and only vehicle to work and I was marooned.
One afternoon, DH didn’t come home when I expected him to. Now what?