Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Small Western Town

Sometimes choosing a topic for a blog can be dangerous. I would like to write about my experience in a small town but am afraid that I might offend the current inhabitants. What to do? If I leave the name and state out of my narrative I might get away with writing without giving the name of the town away. If the locals recognize their home, then so be it.

My son was eleven and my daughter was a precocious one year old when my husband was offered a job managing a radio station in a small western town. I was most unhappy at this turn of events because we had moved to Phoenix about six months before. I loved the warm weather and to move to a place where blizzards occurred was not my idea of Paradise. I had been there - done that!

The owner of the radio station also owned a moving company so, for the first time, a van was to pack and ship our furniture to this small town. This was to be the only time in all of our many moves I got the red carpet treatment. (Even negative situations have their good side.) Since, for the first time in my life, I didn't have to pack, we left to visit my Mom before the moving van arrived.

My husband started his job and lived in a motel while he tried to find a place for us to live. Two weeks later he found the only available house and it was 15 miles out of town. Meanwhile, our furniture had been delivered and, since we didn't have a house, our possessions were stored in the back room of the radio station.
When the children and I arrived we had to move our furniture ourselves. I had forgotten to empty the garbage in my haste and it was neatly packed. Of course, the odor permeated the rest of the load and it didn't smell very sweet.

The house really wasn't too bad but the location was dreadful. There were only six houses in the area; four of them were inhabited by the families of the men who worked on the railroad. (Did I mention that between us and the highway a train went by two times a day?) The fourth house was one homesteaded by the parents of the current owners and the son lived there. (Did I mention that he was a known pyromaniac?) Across the highway was a Mercantile store that sold everything from bread to boots. The only other building was a bar. (There were lots of bars in this small town.)

A river ran behind the property and my son, Mark, loved to fish. He was delighted with this opportunity to cast his line in on a daily basis. While we were moving our furniture in Mark found his rod and reel and took off for the river. He returned shortly covered with mosquito bites. They had bitten through a fleece sweat shirt. The local joke was, that it only took two mosquitoes to carry off a full grown cow.

The wind was so fierce on an almost daily basis that my clothes blew off the line. My husband, Wayne, used to report the wind velocity along with the weather forecast. He would say "the wind blew at ? mph". The Mayor of the town called Wayne up one day to inform him that they didn't call a 45 mph wind- it was gusting at that rate. The Mayor said, "If a chain tied to a telephone pole stands straight out, that's when you call it a wind." The people there had a great sense of humor. Ha! Ha!

While waiting for us to arrive, Wayne had become friends with a bar owner named Essie. (The name has been changed to protect the innocent). She was built like a Mack truck and had
a head full of red hair, ala Clairol. Her language was salty, befitting her business, and she didn't need a bouncer as her reputation of being able to throw two drunks out on the street with her bare hands was legendary.

My son was a very talented clarinetist and his repertoire was very extensive. Wayne had been bragging to Essie about his gifted son and after we arrived she took us in the back room of the bar for a private performance. After Mark played a few numbers the customers started wandering back to hear the music. Essie told them in a loud commanding voice to "get the hell out of here - this is a private party."

Essie was right out of a Western movie. Matter of fact, the whole town was a throwback. There was a triangular shaped park in the middle of the town called the 'Square'. There were nine bars surrounding this triangle. The short time we were there they had two shootings in the bars. What fun; what excitement.
Kitty, where are you? It was Gunsmoke revisited.

I almost forgot, the town also had a legalized brothel.

The school had been built circa 1921 and a vote was due on a school bond. Wayne editorialized on the radio station about the need for a new school pointing out that it would only cost each homeowner a very small tax increase. The bond issue failed. Their money was supporting the bars instead.

The identifying feature of this town must be told as it explains a lot. Wayne was taken into houses where the owners showed him tunnels built between
the basements. It seems the town was on Al Capone's underground railroad and that was where they hid the 'hootch' when the Feds came.

Between the wind, mosquitoes, snow, pyromaniac, and lack of support of the schools I was ready to move when Wayne was offered a job in Tucson. The owner of the radio station offered half ownership to Wayne if he would just stay. Wayne wavered, but I told him I was not raising children in the wild west. He could stay if he wanted to, but I was out of there.

And that's the story, kiddies, of why I am now living in my favorite place on the planet.


20th Century Woman said...

So glad I was able to read this. It's a terrific story. Tell us more!

kenju said...

I don't blame you for wanting to move, Darlene!! That sounds like a drab place to live.

Speaking of red hair; today I saw two women with hair so red it looked like maraschino cherries. It was weird enough on the white woman, but when I saw the black lady with hair that color - well - can you imagine my surprise?? LOL

ugich konitari said...


This whole story sounds like a typical Bollywood movie. (not to be confused withthings like Slumdog Millionaire, and Namesake etc. The typical Bollywood movie is a completely improbable thing with villains, cabarets, drunks, item numbers, running around trees while singing a duet, gunfights, leaping off cliffs and everything else....).

I am just glad you came to Tucson...

Lydia said...

I loved this post, Darlene! Your words painted a vivid picture of the place for me and I feel like I've been to the movies! Now, as a native Nevadan, I am guessing this must have been in Nevada where prostitution is legal. I'm not aware of it being legal in any other states but I could be wrong about that. This sounds like it could be lots of places, and Nevada sure is one of them!
Best tidbit for me? The triangular-shaped town center called the square. That is choice beyond words!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way you have with words, Darlene. And...just think how much that experience spiced up your family's lives. Thanks for sharing such an entertaining tale with us!
Cop Car

Darlene said...

*20th Century Woman - If I can think of anything else to tell I shall certainly do so, being a #1 Blabbermouth. ;-)

*Kenju - Drab doesn't begin to describe it. Maybe murky might fit.

*Ugich - I'm glad I came to Tucson also.

*Lydia - I will probably be giving the town away when I tell you that it was the only town in the state that had legalized prostitution. (I don't know if that's still true). And, no, it isn't in Nevada.

janinsanfran said...

What a great story of one of this country's odd pockets!

I have a sort of relative by marriage who after a childhood on Manhattan went west to become an Essie in hither Montana. Works for her. Seems mad to me.

Nancy said...


Another GREAT story! Loved it and I must tell you that in Philadelphia there is a place called Logan Square and in the middle of this square is a fountain in a CIRCLE.

So, people don't know whether to call it Logan Square or Logan Circle.

If Philadelphia ever had legalized prostitution, I'd swear that's where Wayne's Radio Station was....

Darlene said...

* Janinsanfran - It sure wouldn't be my cup of tea. I think one Essie was enough to last me a lifetime.

* Nancy - Say it isn't so! The city of Brotherly Love being compared to Dodge? Miss Kitty would be shocked.

One Woman's Journey said...

Darlene, love your stories. What an experience to remember and share.

Brighid said...

Terrific story, sometimes our most frustrating moves are in retrospect the most interesting. If you tell me the name of the town I won't tell another soul.LOL

Joy Des Jardins said...

What a hoot Darlene. I can't imagine you staying there for any longer than you had to. I thought you were going to tell us that Essie was going to hire Mark to play his clarinet in her bar for a little extra $$$. I suppose that wouldn't have been legal huh? That little town was something else alright. I loved your recollection of it....your stories always make me smile Darlene. Love, Joy

Rain said...

Interesting experience and definitely a good place to be from when raising kids, not trying to take them into adulthood while still there.

la peregrina said...

Humm, it's not Nevada but it is a state that is very windy. Could it be a town up in Wyoming named after a friendly ghost?

Lydia said...

Well, no, that still doesn't give the town away for me. It'll just have to remain a whopper of a mystery (and a whopper of a story!).