With DH back with the pilot pool in Atlanta, his absences from home were longer and more frequent. I was beginning to find out living on the ranch wasn’t as pleasant as I’d thought at first. It was hard to cope with DS2 when DH was gone. He was full into his early teens and hormones were beginning to rage. Our landlord would let him drive all over the property (which was huge) in the farm pickup and he’d rather do that than study.
It was DS1’s second year at the academy and he was still hard at work in the dairy. In September, we took a cake and bottles of Meier’s Sparkling Catawba to celebrate his birthday. One of his dorm-mates came in during the party and shared in the food and drink. He thought the juice was the real thing and got giddy. It proved to me that drunk can be a state of mind.
Nice if that were true of everyone and everything around the ranch. The landlord had a bottle of Jack Daniels stashed in the quonset and DS1 found it when he was home on a long weekend. DD and I had been out laying in supplies while DS1 & 2 were exploring. When I came in the front door of the trailer, my nostrils were assailed by an odor I hadn’t smelled since I left my first husband. I went into the dining room which had been turned into a bedroom for the boys and found DS1 passed out and the carpet a mess. I roused him and wanted to know what was going on. He drowsily said, “Oh, Mom! I got sick and threw up.” I told him yes, I knew he was sick and I knew why. I recognized alcohol puke when I smelled it. He was to clean it up and not go near the stuff again.
Coping with DS1 was fairly easy since he was at the academy most of the time but DS2 was a different matter. He’d come home from school only to go back out again to drive the landlord around the homestead. The landlord would sit in the passenger’s seat and drink whiskey. I could ground him but it did no good. He was going to have his own way no matter what.
What capped the stack was when we’d been out shopping and came back to the trailer only to find it filled with smoke. I had no idea where the fire was or if it would erupt into flames any minute. I went running to the landlord’s house with DD trying to keep up. I was frantic and went in to find him drunk sitting in an easy chair watching TV. I yelled at him that the trailer was full of smoke but he refused to budge. He wanted to finish watching his show. I got between him and the TV. I wouldn’t move until he got up and came with me. When he finally did, he found a mouse had built a nest under the insulated pipes and had chewed through the heat tape. The “live” end had fallen into the straw of the nest and started it smoking. Our home was in no real danger but it pointed out what could happen if it ever were.
Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went. I baked an angel food cake for DS2’s birthday and cooked his favorite meal but he showed little interest. He’d rather be out driving the truck.
DH was gone on my birthday so I baked myself a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting—my favorite. I made ready to take DS2 and DD and go celebrate with DS1. February in Nebraska could be brutal. I had down-filled this and that and insulated everything else. I’d gone out to put fuel in the car but I’d failed to grab a bottle of anti-gel on the way. I lay the key to the gas cap on the car and went back in to get it. When I finished pouring it in and reached for the key, it was frozen to the car. I had to pry it off. Curious, I went to look at the thermometer and it was -27º F. When winter hits the plains, it can be serious.
There was a certain rhythm to my life. DH would be gone for several weeks. I’d get used to his being gone. He’d come home and stay long enough for me to get used to his being there and then he’d be gone again. I seemed to be in a state of constant flux and I didn’t like it. I wanted it one way or the other. Either come home and stay home or let me alone. DH didn’t like it, either, and he had a plan.
His oldest brother who had gotten us to go to Nebraska in the first place was moving to Louisiana and their place in Northern Georgia would be vacant. Would we move into it? Much as I loved the wide open spaces of Nebraska, I loved DH more and I agreed. I’d go.
By that time, school was out, summer was over and DH paid for his nephews to come out and help us get ready to move. From the offer to the move itself was a matter of days. While we were out tying up loose ends, the nephews were packing. The result was all the applesauce and pears I’d canned were left behind and much of what was in the storage shed was, too. It was too late when I discovered the missing items and their attitude was we didn’t need it, anyway. I was ticked but it did no good. I had to swallow my bitter disappointment.
The trip East was long and hard. DS1 had his driver license by then but had never driven in heavy traffic. He got his baptism by fire. We were caravaning—I was driving the Peugeot, the Toyota pickup came next with DS1 or one of the nephews driving and the U-Haul truck brought up the rear with DH and the other nephew swapping out. Now and then, someone would come and relieve me but I never slept. We hit one of the major cities at rush hour. DH decided we should get off and eat breakfast at Denny’s. By the time we got through, it should have slowed down. I methodically crossed from one lane to the next as I could. When I looked in my rear-view mirror, DS1 went from the far left lane in a beeline to the far right across four lanes of heavy traffic. By some miracle, a path opened up and he made it safely. I felt like every hair on my head was standing at attention.
DS2 had finished the 8th grade and arrangements had been made for him to go to an academy in Western Tennessee. We went by, got him settled, and headed on East. DS1 had been accepted by an academy in North Carolina.
Our managerie had slimmed down to three black cats, Midnight, Carbon and Hershey. Patches, Zorro and Kiki had long since gone the way that cats do in the wilds as had several other cats. We’d given Ukluk to a woman who promised to make him a good home. I didn’t like parting with him. He was a member of the family.
We pulled into the driveway of a house that was familiar as my BIL’s home but now it was going to be ours. My work was cut out for me. It was time for the dreaded unpacking.