Some of my children gifted me with a year of StoryWorth, an online aggregator of answers to questions that are compiled into a book at the end of the year. This, while quite a task, has forced me into posting on this blog again, as I originally intended.
Two of the questions were: “How did my parents pick my name,” and “What was my neighborhood like?”
As far as I know, my mother picked my name because she liked the names Kenneth and Dean; no family members or famous people were influencing her and my dad in that choice. As to what my neighborhood was like, I covered some of the Irvine Flats aspect back in “Bad Little Boy Pt 1.” I’ll try to cover the neighborhood I lived in, in this “episode.”
I do want to interject one aspect of storytelling I’m becoming painfully aware of; the fallibility of my memory. I won’t manufacture any stories, but times and places may suffer some. I don’t remember much detail about my maternal grandfather, Oakley Kemp (Pops, as I called him), for instance. He had retired before my memories of him; he had been a postman for years, I believe in Ronan. I think he must have had a stroke along with some other medical issues; I don’t remember him saying much. Both my paternal grandparents (Burton side) died before I was born or soon after, so I have no memories of them.
I’ve talked about the stores in our closest town. Our drive from the ranch to the nearest real town (Polson) took close to an hour. The school bus ride took a circuitous route and was much longer. I walked a half mile to our gate, where I caught a ride with a neighbor with children to the bus stop which was a couple miles away. I rode the bus for many years…
Some memories from the ranch include: I had a nephew and niece that weren’t much older than I and they would often visit. One time I convinced them to explore the springs not far from the ranchhouse. They appeared much like a swamp, but my dad warned me that they were akin to quicksand. I wasn’t supposed to venture in there but I convinced my younger relatives to wade through with me. I was in the lead (fortunately) and took a step into a hole at least as deep as I was tall. My nephew grabbed me and we made our way out backtracking safely.
I want to interject some things that might seem alien to people today. My bedroom was on the second floor of a two story house. We had an oil fired heater in the living room, which was right below my bedroom. There was a vent in the floor, but we didn’t run the heater at night. My bedroom would get down around or below freezing during some winter nights. We had a single bathroom downstairs. When we had a new moon, I could look out my window and not see a single light (eventually a rancher across the flats put up a yard light). For me, it was pretty scary going to bed. The Closet Door was right by my bed, and at the back of the closet was the Attic Door…there were Forbidden Things in that room, which connected through my closet..
We had a party line for our phone. You would know the call was for you by the pattern of the rings, and if someone was on the phone party line you couldn’t make a call. You could conceivably snoop on another person’s call if you chose, however.
I had a friend — Charley — who would occasionally come over to play, and my dad had bought me a dog, a German Shepherd. I thought it was hilarious when the dog pinned down Charlie and was lunging at his neck, but, that was the end of that “pet.”
Another time I was visiting Charley, who lived against the hills surrounding the flats. I was getting ready to step out of the car and everyone started yelling at me. There was a rattlesnake right outside my car door.
We had two tractors, and when I got older I helped with mowing (we had a few hundred acres in Alfalfa and Rye), helped with calving season (including pulling calves), We baled and stacked hay, and fed it in the winter.
I do remember my great-grandmother, visiting her in a rest home in Kalispell, and I remember my grandmother (Ruby Kemp) well, and my grandfather (Oakley) vaguely (he suffered from a stroke and cancer). My grandmother was part of the reason my “neighborhood” changed.
After my grandfather passed away my grandmother was having a difficult time living alone, so she sold her house and my parents bought a house in Polson so they could care for her. My dad still had the ranch, and I worked out there with him occasionally, but now I was living in the “city” (though Polson was only a few thousand strong).
I had lived a pretty isolated life living in the country; my mother, who was an educator in a one room schoolhouse (the Green Mountain school in Irvine Flats) before I was born.
There was just a handful of kids my age in Irvine Flats, and the closest were still miles away. As I entered high school, living in Polson, I went through a bit of culture shock,
The blizzard of ’69, living in town, starting to play drums, and more, to follow….