Life on the mountain took on a reassuring monotony. DH went back to flying and DD and I resumed our shopping ventures, sometimes buying and sometimes just looking. The “always” was going to one of our favorite restaurants to eat. They weren’t expensive and I did so hate to pack a lunch to take along. We’d sit there, across the table from each other enjoying our food.
The flying jobs brought in decent money but we were so far in debt that we felt we could never see daylight. DS1 had managed to stay in college though it was a struggle. He was better at socializing than studying. He had never settled on a clearcut career path. He was still active in the music scene and went to the then Soviet Union with the male chorus. It was a trip never to be forgotten.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, DD and I took care of the cats, Kat the dog, and put puzzles together when we weren’t playing “the imputer”. Gradually, I slipped back into my old habits. One day, I felt my mind and my body separating from each other. It was a scary experience. I don’t know if it was from a bad batch of whatever I was “doing” but I remember I was polishing the piano at the time. I made myself concentrate until it passed.
I’d sit down and play the piano every day, too, that DH wasn’t home. If he were there, we vied for it. His folks had bought the piano when he was just a boy. He had perfect pitch and showed real talent for the keyboard. While they were shopping for just the right instrument, a salesman tried to sell them a piano but DH insisted something was wrong with it after he’d played a few notes. They opened it up and looked inside and, sure enough, the soundboard was cracked.
We didn’t have TV so we read—a lot. I’d read to DD and when DH was home, he’d read to her. If he didn’t feel up to reading his flying magazines himself, I’d read those to him.
Regularly, the updates would come for his Jeppesen flight charts and maps. It was a dreaded time for me because I was drafted to update them. The pages would come in a stack enclosed in a manila envelope. One by one, I’d go through, find the right spot in the binder, pull out the old and put in the new. This went on until all the manuals would be updated. The next time they came, I had to start over. Now it’s online and they have software but not then.
One night, DD and I had stopped by the house belonging to our old friends from hang gliding days. We were having a good time visiting and watching TV (it was a rare treat) when DH walked in with an impish grin on his face. He had a brochure in his hand. He said, “I’ve found your birthday present but it will have to be for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, too. We can go look at it tomorrow.” I was consumed with curiosity so he passed the brochure to me. It was a Baldwin organ with two manuals and full pedals! It was something I’d wanted for years and years. I didn’t stop to think we couldn’t afford it.
Next day as planned, we set out for the music store that was owned and operated by a musician who was famous for his one man band. We looked at several of the organs they had in stock and settled on the one in the brochure. They didn’t have instant credit check then or we would have probably never been able to close the deal. The papers were signed and the salesman promised to have it delivered and set up the next day. We went home to rearrange the furniture.
When the truck pulled up, there were a couple of delivery men and the owner himself! It was unloaded under his watchful eye and then assembled. There really wasn’t that much to putting it together. The pedalboard plugged in at the base of the organ. After the power cord was plugged in and the bench put in place, it was ready to play. The owner tried to get me to play but I was much too shy to expose myself as the pitiful musician in front of a pro. He took his place at the keyboards and proceeded to give us a private concert. He played song after song and I could see he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
After he and the men left, I had to try it out. I spent most of the rest of the afternoon learning all the neat things it would do. It was fairly basic with none of the “shaboom” or special effects but I didn’t need that gimmicky stuff. It had four presets and enough stops to make endless combinations.
Now, my days had a different dimension. I think DH may have bought the organ so we didn’t have to fight over the piano. When he was home, we’d play piano and organ duets. I’d had a few lessons in academy and I’d played for church before DH and I got married so I wasn’t completely ignorant. With all my practicing, I got better.
Time went by and I started thinking. That’s a bad thing for me to do. It usually ends up getting me in trouble. What if something happened and we couldn’t keep the organ payments up? I worked myself into a near frenzy over it and the upshot was DH sold the pickup truck (Bandit) and paid the balance. It wasn’t a big sacrifice. One of his nephews had wrecked it and made it into somewhat of an eyesore. It still had enough resale value that it took care of the obligation. I could breathe easy.
One day the phone rang. It was my brother-in-law in New Orleans. Things weren’t going so well for them down there. They wanted to come back to the mountain and were giving us time to find another place. Ever hear that saying that when a door closes, God opens a window? That’s what happened but it was iffy as far as being what I thought was good.
The co-defendants from the trial had gotten off with time served and probation and DH went back to flying for them. One of them found out about a small airport in Northern Alabama that needed a manager. DH applied and got the job. He scouted around and found us a house. I agreed to move, once again, sight unseen. One thing was understood—the piano and organ couldn’t go. The place was too small for them. They went to my in-laws house to wait for us to move to a larger house.
To say it was too small for the organ and piano was an understatement. It was too small for furniture. The living room was tiny, barely big enough for a couch and two chairs. The kitchen was right next to it and the dining table had to be shoehorned into one end. The other end had room for the range, refrigerator, and a few cabinets built from rough-cut lumber. If I stood in front of the stove and needed something from the fridge, all I had to do was turn around. I’d like to say it was handy but it wasn’t. I froze bushel upon bushel of wonderful peaches in that kitchen and made some of the best gumbo anyone ever tasted.
There was a tiny “master” bedroom with a small closet that housed the gas water heater. I was paranoid that it would catch the clothes on fire and burn the house down but it never did. The little bathroom with sink, commode and shower stall was behind the bedroom. DD’s room was to the right of the bathroom and was the smallest room in the house. She could walk in the door and fall onto her bed. Convenient? I think not.
It was summer and HOT. No air conditioner. We ran fans night and day and kept the windows open. The humidity made me want to go back to Nebraska. I felt sticky all the time.
A porch went all the way across the front of the house. That isn’t to say it was a big front porch. The swing DH bought me to soothe my disappointment was at the kitchen end.
The washer and dryer were in a shed behind the house that held a lot of our belongings. The freezer was out there, too, and the dehydrator was on top of the freezer.
We couldn’t let Kat roam free. There was a pen and dog house between the house and the shed and that’s where we put her. She wasn’t happy. She wasn’t the only one. I had to teach her to wear a collar and leash because we were so close to a busy highway. One redeeming feature of the house was the landlord. He was a really nice man and he supplied us with lots of gorgeous produce from his garden.
The airport was about a quarter mile up the road. If a jet landed there, I could tell it because I could smell the fumes from the kerosene it burned. I’d put the leash on Kat and she, DD and I would walk the short distance to see DH and take him lunch. It kind of had a Mayberry feel to it.
When DH wasn’t at the airport or flying somewhere, he, the nephews and DS1 were scraping and painting the house. (DS1 slept on the couch and the older nephew had moved his wife and child to live close to us—the other nephew stayed with them.) The landlord had agreed to let us live there rent free as long as we made enough improvements to the place. It had lots of potential…
There was an old farmer who loved to come by and talk. He said he’d never flown but he’d always wanted to. DH took him up for a tour of the countryside. I’d told him he’d better not do any kind of aerobatics. That poor old man probably wouldn’t last through a spin. He listened and was circumspect and behaved. Next day, the man showed up with two big grocery sacks full of what he called “cowhorn” okra. It was long purple pods and I was convinced it would be tough but it wasn’t. It was lovely, tender and flavorful. I froze lots and dehydrated some for soup besides making the well-known gumbo.
It looked like we were locked into a cramped lifestyle for the time being until…