TWO IS COMPANY
Elaine Doll-Dunn, Psy.D.
My father always dreamed of having a ranch. He worked as a mechanic, a welder, a farmer, and a horse trainer. But the dream he never relinquished was to own his own ranch. It was the depression years, there was no familial money, there was a war, and his union had been blessed with two daughters…not exactly the stuff of ranch dynasties. As it played out, I became Dad’s right hand ‘man’ and Blink stayed in the house to help mom. Thus was forged my role of physical labor, the fun of outdoors, and the notion that ‘fit’ was a result of more work than eat; and that ‘trim’ was a whole lot easier on horse and human. How fortunate I was that my brother came along 20 years late, I got the opportunity to grow up as a cowgirl; cooking and cleaning have never appealed to me. So we became a company, the two of us, my father and I, and FT HPND. Following is the genesis of that partnership.
I clutched the dollar bill in my hand, wondering at the unfamiliar feel of money in the form of paper. I previously knew only carefully counted coins tied neatly in a handkerchief, the knot wedged tightly between my fingers. The crunching gravel puffed bits of dust at my bare legs as I skipped the half mile to the grocery store in the little town of Barnard, SD; my mission to buy a package of Camels for my dad. He had just returned home after 2 1/2 years in the United States Army; WWII was just over.
A stranger to us now (I had just started school when he packed his single bag and got on the bus), a tall dark man left us, a silver haired one returned. There were many memories and many new impressions to process in my seven-year-old mind.
My mother had been the sole caretaker of my younger sister, Blinkie, and me while he was away; I remember many nights of silent tears and trembling hugs, and of wondering how to help. She drove the school bus beginning at 5:00 in the morning. In numbing darkness Blink and I climbed into the bus in our pajamas and slept behind her seat while Mom toured the countryside picking up students, then came back home in time to get me ready to attend the school just across the street.
During the summer she worked on a farm, driving the tractor around the field while Blink and I played in the old truck or in the piles of grain, mindless of our carefully washed and ironed feed sack dresses, just having wonderful good fun. In the evening it was back to our little house in town where she took care of children, worked as a seamstress, and read to us a chapter from Uncle Remus before she tucked us in.
Then there was that exciting day when she dressed us up, got the old maroon and grey car off its blocks (save the tires, “there’s a war going on, you know…”), and drove to the bus station in Aberdeen to pick up the returning soldier. I had never seen such a handsome man…nor had I ever seen my mother run! She jumped over luggage before OJ made it famous. As he whirled her around and then turned to his little girls, I stood in awe of the drab brown uniform, the jaunty cap, and the whole rugged air of a man in charge.
With Blink and me in the back seat, Dad got behind the wheel and negotiated the ‘37 Ford out of the bus depot. He turned to Mom and laughed, “It’s been so long since I’ve driven a car, I hope I can make that curve at the bridge!” I didn’t sleep the whole long way home, or at least until we safely crossed the bridge.
It was the next morning when he casually handed me the dollar and asked me to get him some cigarettes. (It was 1944, kids could buy cigarettes for their parents then…) Happy to be so honored with the request I set off, and when arriving at the all-purpose saw-dust floored grocery, it was no problem to purchase the Camels; but then came the dilemma. The clerk gave me money back! I was confused. Never before had I had anything but exactly what the item cost—previously only bread and milk. I clutched the handful of coins in my hand and looked around; my eyes fell on a sack of Bull Durham. I vaguely remembered from years past the tag dangling from his work shirt pocket. I got the Durham—more change! I puzzled; what next? Then I saw the package of Ritz cigarette papers, and blessedly, that took the rest of the money!
I set out for home again, pleased with my purchases and confident in my recollection of what he liked. As I presented my little cache of tobacco products to this newly arrived male in our all female household, I was warmed by his amused grin and obvious pleasure--- impossibly blue eyes twinkled as he inspected my treasures and chuckled, “Good memory Elaine, but it’s okay to bring home change.” What a concept.
I knew I’d done a good job, but I also gained an important bit of knowledge. Change is good, even when it comes in the coin variety.