Monday, April 25, 2011

Years Ago Again

The last post I wrote with this name ended at 21 years ago, so I'm picking up where I left off.  Hmmm, that was a long time ago.  I need Sherman from the Rocky and Bullwinkle show to go back in time with me in his time machine.

It was Sherman, right?  And the dog?  Or was Sherman the dog?

Anyway.  21 years ago and further... that'd be me at age 12 and under.  Here goes nothing.

I remember taking my dance classes at the Elgin Opera House.  It was a gorgeous old, old, old building.  It even smelled old, but that's a good thing;  I mean it as a compliment.  There was a huge old backdrop that had hundreds of signatures of actors and actresses signed on the back of it - it had to be three quarters of a century old, I'd bet.  I've always loved old things, so I had a particular fondness for that.  Our teacher's name was Reuben and he was the strangest old cat you'd ever want to meet.  Strange.  Straaaaaaange.  We were never quite sure what the dickens he was doing in Nowhere, Oregon, but he was originally a dancer from New York City and he always wore this old Tshirt that said, 'New York, New York - So Nice They Named It Twice!'  He had long, crazy, curly gray hair and a real artist's temperament.  That's a nice way of saying he could be mean as a snake, but all in the name of art.  Dancers are a piece of work, if you didn't know.  Also, he was a modern dancer (nowadays I guess they call it contemporary, or is still called modern?  I don't even know, I'm so outta the loop).  Modern dancing is weirder than ballet or can be anything: fast or slow, tragic or funny, goofy or sexy, lots of jumping or lots of stretching out on the floor like a dying animal.  It's all up to interpretation, which is one of the reasons I loved it even more than ballet.  Bad modern dancing is deliciously awful.  We're talking ridiculously terrible.  Good modern dancing is breathtaking and lovely.  Reuben's choreography was just plain weird most of the time.  But my sister and I were two of his only child dancers and for a couple of years we were his pet project.  Probably because we were the best Nowhere had to offer and he missed New York, New York (so nice they named it twice) and he was trying to keep from killing himself by hanging from the neck with his own tights right off the opera house backdrop in a vicious fit of artistic depression.  Some of his dances were kind of neat - he did one about a violin player who sold his soul to Satan and that one was interesting to watch and to dance.  At some point I was wearing feathers.  Not cool.  My years with Reuben were strange and odd, at times embarrassing and humiliating, but I most likely would have quit dancing without him and for that, I'm grateful for the strange old cat.

Another thing I remember is my horse, Cherokee, whom I have mentioned before.  He was an ornery Palomino.  He was green broke (which means...slightly trained...sorta) and we had a love/hate relationship.  I loved him.  He hated being told what to do.  Some days it would take me all day to catch that rotten horse and by the time I did the sun was going down and my mom was calling me to come in for the night.  Then he'd snicker at me and gallop off.  He was a real sweetheart with tiny little kids though, sweet as pie with my bitty cousin, Cacie.  Ornery as all get-out with the rest of the population.  He'd stand in front of his water trough and stomp in it, getting his rider (me) soaking wet.  Stomp, stomp, stomp; he was like Lord of the Stomp.  If that didn't detour me from riding, he'd go plopping out into the middle of pond and stand there.  And stand there.  And stand there.  No amount of kicking and yelling would make him move.  He'd stand there.  And stand there some more.  Until the sun went down and Mom would call me in for dinner, at which point I'd have to slide off my loyal steed and wade to shore.

I remember the winters being crazy cold.  We'd bundle up and look like Ralphie and Randy and couldn't put our arms down due to the amount of winter coats and hats and scarves.  We got a ton of snow in Eastern Oregon and there was a record breaking ice storm that was a little scary and it bent our giant pine tree in our front yard.  I remember our pipes froze and my dad had to climb under the house and when he came out we were afraid his fingers had frostbite and my sister and I huddled behind them while my mom tried to rub feeling back into them.  I also remember washing my hair at night and we had this wood stove that I would stand in front of and comb my hair and flick the loose strands of hair on it.  They'd sizzle and cook on the hot stove and it made this strangely inexplicably delicious odor.  I know.  It's odd.  I'm odd.  Don't judge.

Another memory is of my dog, Kammie, and our detective agency.  Have I written about our detective agency before?  It was called Blue Skies Detective Agency.  We had the posters to prove it.  And the Open sign that we'd hang faithfully in the window each morning.  I was determined to be the next Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden.  I worked during the day at training Kammie to be a bloodhound.  This was tricky, as she was a spaniel.  A spaniel who wasn't taking her bloodhound training too seriously.  I would convince my little sister to go hide and then I'd give Kammie one of her smelly socks to sniff.  You know, to get her scent?  Like Lassie?  Or Benji?  Are you with me?  Hullo?  Then I'd clip her to the leash and off we'd go, all over the neighborhood, looking for the poor lost girl.  She'd sniff around, quite eagerly, just like a bloodhound as a matter of fact, and as she was never great on a leash and I was usually on roller skates at the time, it was a whirlwind of speed and mystery solving.  She never found her, and typically I'd get tired of looking too and go home to read The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, leaving lil' sis who knows where.  Once she got stuck in the chicken coop and everyone forgot about her.  My parents and I laugh uproariously at this memory, but she recalls it as being much more traumatic.  We were safe inside the house, munching on snacks and watching a movie while she was evidently scratching the number of days she'd been gone on the side of the coop wall and trying to tunnel out with a spoon.  She always was a drama queen.  Not like she was going to starve:  she was surrounded by chickens, for goodness sake!  It's not like Mrs Brown was going to live forever...sheesh.  And we remembered her eventually.  She didn't need THAT much therapy.  And she always had that nervous tic.  I think.


  1. Don't. Talk. About. The. Chicken. Coop!!!!! Bad things happened. Very bad things.

  2. What a funny teacher, horsie & doggy! And I was a detective too!!!! I WAS Nancy Drew. Good post, my friend.

  3. OK, you can be Nancy, I'll be George or Bess.

    Now who's gonna be Ned?