While it’s true I grew up in Western Kentucky, for four months I lived in Phoenix, Arizona. My father had such severe asthma that the doctor recommended we move to Arizona. So we did.
I’m sure it wasn’t easy for my mom to pull up stakes and load the car and move a couple of thousand miles away from her family and friends. I don’t remember a lot about the trip which took four days and three nights—I was only five—but there are several things that stick in my mind. It seems like we drove through fields and fields of cotton in Texas, and let me tell you cotton stinks.
There were no interstates and we drove through caves in the sides of mountains. And my mother and daddy laughed at the sign which said to beware of cattle. The mountain was straight up on one side, and it was straight down on the other. Only minutes after seeing the sign, we rounded a curve and there was a Longhorn steer in the road munching on grass. My mother routinely had hissy fits whenever I told her to “Look down there, Mama.”
My father almost died somewhere in New Mexico. We spent the night in a motel some eighty miles from Albuquerque where the nearest hospital was. My mother rigged a sheet tent with a humidifier, and thankfully he made it through the night.
When we first arrived in Phoenix (on Thanksgiving Day), we lived at a residentialmhotel. We woke up to news that a six-year-old child had drowned in one of the canals and that Winnie Ruth Judd, the famous trunk murderess, had made one of her six escapes from the Arizona State Hospital located in Phoenix and was “on the loose.” My somewhat overprotective mother was less than thrilled over both circumstances.
I remember the weather was mild for late November, and I was in short sleeves. Everyone else was wearing coats.
My father quickly got a job as an autobody repairman and we moved to a converted garage apartment belonging to a Mrs. Maile. She had a huge German Shepherd that I fell in love with (I’ve always been a dog lover.) We lived there for a while and one night while we were out, someone broke into the apartment. I remember a big dusty shoeprint on the sofa beneath the window where he entered the apartment. Fortunately, he didn’t get my small green change purse full of pennies.
After the garage apartment, we bought a two bedroom ranch style house and moved out into a subdivision of very similar houses. There was no grass anywhere. It was all sand. I played with the neighborhood kids and sunbathed.
Our neighbors had a TV and I remember watching wrestling and Roller Derby at their house. We attended auctions to buy furniture for the new house. My room was painted a pretty aqua, and one of the best auction purchases was a yellow kitchen stool. I used it to sit at the table like a grownup.
Forming a long mountain ridge to the south was South Mountain. I’m pretty sure we drove up there once. Mother and Daddy made friends with a couple who had a daughter Eileen; she was probably eight or nine. We also drove out into the desert which seemed a magical place with towering Saguaro cacti dotting the landscape.
Eileen wasn’t the nicest child. She locked me in the bedroom closet, and using a pencil sharpener, she ground up color crayons and danced the slivers into the concrete floor of my bedroom. No one was happy about that, least of all my father who had to scrape the floors with a razor blade.
It was during my stay in Arizona that I developed my first cowboy love—Roy Rogers. We went to a nearby drive-in theater and watched cowboy movies. After that, I dreamed about Roy riding the range and catching robbers. It has taken a long time (never you mind exactly how long) for me to get around to writing about cowboys, but that childhood fascination with the hard riding, fast shooting heroes of the Old West couldn’t be denied.
We returned to Western Kentucky in March the next year. My mom was pregnant with my brother Bill and she missed her mom. So we sold our new house and took off for Kentucky. I remember mom calling to tell her best friend she was home and that we were coming to see her. We met Vera running down the road with her arms outstretched, and with that greeting, we were home again.