Tales of Mom (11): The Good News and the Bad News

By Trudy A. Martinez

Peg meets Don outside when he gets off work. She tells him what is transpiring. And she tells him, “Nellie is pregnant with her first baby.”

Instead of allowing her to finish her ranting, Don butts in. saying, “Terry has a warrant out for his arrest”. Don takes a deep breath and then continues, “He did not spend the night at the camp; he took off.” Again he takes a deep breath, “He didn’t leave alone.” He hesitates momentarily. “He was with a 16 years old girl,” he blurts out quickly. “They left for parts unknown according to camp officials”, he explains.

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“Her daddy has his gun in hand, thinking there is going to be a shotgun wedding. If her daddy catches up with Terry before the sheriff,” Don says rubbing his chin, “You may be planning a funeral.” Don says under his breath, “I pray he does not kill him.”

Don and Peg decide: Don will go out looking for Terry. When he finds him, he will contact Peg. They pay the rent for the month. And they shop for groceries, purchasing plenty of food to stock them for the month. Then, he says, “We can decide what to do next when that time comes.”

Don sets out in Peg’s car the next morning, leaving the convertible for the women, as it is more comfortable.

Weeks go by without word. They work some when work is available. Nellie and Peggy decide to take a walk down to the river. Peggy looks around. They are alone. She decides to live dangerously. She strips down to her underwear. “Come on Nellie; join me in the water, “Peggy says.

“I don’ts want to drown!” Nellie exclaims.

“Come on! You won’t drown,” Peg reassures her.

Nellie shakes her head no and tells her, “No! I don’ts swim.”

Peggy jumps in. “Come on Nellie, it is not deep. Join me.”

“No!” Nellie replies firmly.

Nellie remembers when Pa tries to teach her to swim. It still terrifies her when she thinks of it. Pa picks her up and throws her in the river just as he does with all the others kids. He says, “Kick your feet and paddle your arms. That will keep you afloat.”

Nevertheless Nellie goes under. She panics. She does not kick. She does not paddle. She sinks to the bottom. Nellie allows fear to get the best of her and does not do as she is told.

Pa screams at her, “Kick, paddle!” All the while, Pa is taking off his clothes. Then he jumps in to save her. Since then, Nellie panics at the mere sight of water.

Peggy splashes the water up on the bank where Nellie is sitting. She screams and jumps up. “Don’t”, she cries out. “I am scared of da wat’r!”

In the meantime, Don catches up with Terry in San Diego. He is working at the shipyards. He tries to join the service, but does not pass the physical. They rate him a 4F, meaning he is not fit for duty. The young girl is with him.

Don says to Terry as soon as he can get him alone, “There is a warrant out for your arrest.” He adds,”Don’t you have a lick of sense, man?” Don tells him, “It can be quite serious since you crossed the state line with her.” He adds, “You need to lose her! Now! Put her on a bus heading back to her father,” he tells him. “You’re crazy to keep her with you anymore.”

Terry ignores Don’s pleas.

“You are a married man, Terry. You are not single! You cannot marry her. Besides,” he adds, “Her daddy’s going to kill you. Ditch her. Cut your losses, before you are arrested.”

Terry ignores him.

When the girl comes in the room, she starts hanging all over Terry.

Don stands up to leave, telling him, “I will see you later. Think about what I said, Terry”.

Don finds a phone and calls the property owner back where the girls are staying and leaves a message for Peggy to call him back at the payphone at 7:00 o’clock; he will be waiting for her call.

When Peggy calls back, he tells her where they are and that the girl is still here with Terry and that he will be working on getting the girl on a bus heading back to her father.

“In the meantime, Peggy, you and Nellie pack up and head out here,” he says. “Call me every night at 7:00 o’clock to let me know where you are. I love you and take care with your driving.”

Peggy and Nellie set out in Don’s car.

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(This is a picture of Don’s car. Nellie is sitting in the front. That is Don. The picture is taken before this trip they are on now.)

When they leave, the top is down, allowing the heat from the sun’s rays to warm their bodies. Later however, a chilly breeze comes up, requiring them to halt to keep from freezing. Both Nellie and Peggy try to get the top up, but, the top will not budge. They lack the strength to force it. Anxious as they are to reach their destination, they decide to continue driving all night, if need be, regardless of the weather.

To keep warm, they retrieve Nellie’s quilts from the trunk. Laying one quilt over their lap and wrapping another around their head and shoulders like a cape, they continue on their way.

The highlight of their trip takes place outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It is freezing cold. It is Middle-of-the-night. The automobile brakes go out. Peg (as stubborn as she is) is determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not.

Therefore, she takes the remainder of Nellie’s quilts and throws them over Nellie’s head. Peggy says, “Keep your head down!” Then, Peggy takes off down the mountain without any brakes.

At the bottom of the hill, Peggy pulls into a gas station for brake fluid and directions to the address Don gave her.

The attendant tells her,” it is going to take more than just fluid, Miss. There is a bad leak. The liquid is just going right through.” He wipes his greasy hands on a rag. Then he continues, “I will not be able to get a new hose line until morning after the parts house opens.” He points to the motel, “I recommend you stay at the motel next door until then.”

Peg and Nellie grab their luggage out of the automobile. “See you tomorrow then,” Peg says.

They walk to the motel. They check in. They rent one room, one bed which they will share. They hit the rack, exhausted.

The next morning after a cup of coffee, they check on the repair of the automobile. “Your automobile is ready,” the attendant reports.

“Thank you,” Peg says. “I really appreciate your quick work on my vehicle. We really need to get moving.” They pay for the repairs. And with the directions in hand, they hit the road again. It is not far to their destination.

Don is sitting on the stoop drinking his morning coffee when they drive up. “Have you had breakfast?” He asks.

“No, we have not yet eaten,” Peggy answers.

Nellie shakes her head to the left and right.

“There is a nice café just around the corner,” Don says. “Wait here, I’ll grab my wallet and treat you to a nice hot breakfast.” Don goes inside.

Don tells Terry, “The girls are here.” He grabs his wallet and hat. “Now,” he says, “Take that girl to the bus station as soon as I leave with Peggy and Nellie.”

“Okay!” Terry exclaims. “She’ll be out of here when you get back.”

The girl puts up a fight and insists she is not leaving. Terry gets her bags, picks her up, and takes her to the bus station and leaves. He arrives back at the apartment shortly before the others return from breakfast.

Within an hour after Nellie and Peggy arrive back at the apartment, there is a knock on the door. Don answers the door. “Is Terry here?” A police officer asks.

“Whose there?” Peggy calls out to Don who had gone to answer the door.

“It is the police. They are looking for Terry. They are here to arrest him”, Don says, “The police have a warrant. Peggy, tell your brother to get his rear-end out here.”

“Okay, will do.” Peggy goes to the bedroom where Terry is laying down. “Get your lazy butt up”, she says, “You’ve got visitors that insist on seeing you now”! She exclaims.

When Terry comes out, the police arrest him on the spot, handcuff him and place him in the back seat of the police car.

Terry learns the girl called her father from the bus depot, telling him Terry’s whereabouts. Her father notifies the police of Terry’s location. Charges are filed. Consequently, the San Diego Police Department issues a warrant for Terry’s arrest.

Nellie and Peggy go to Terry’s arraignment. After hearing Terry’s statement and seeing Nellie’s condition, the Judge makes a decision to release Terry into Nellie’s custody.

The Judge says to Nellie, “If this man so much as looks at another woman, Nellie, you are ordered to contact me personally. Do you understand?” He says.

Nellie Nods.

“He will go to jail quicker than you can snap your fingers. This is the condition for his release to you.” The Judge says, “He is to tow the mark. Do you understand?” He again asks Nellie.

Nellie answers, “Yes.”

“Nellie, you are to tie him to your apron strings. He is to do his duty as a husband and father or he will spend the next 5 to 10 years in jail. Do you understand, Terry?” The Judge stares at Terry.

Terry hangs his head down, Lifts it back up and replies, “Yes, Your Honor, I understand and will abide by your ruling.”

The Judge hit his gavel and exclaims, “Next case!”

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My Aunt Peg

“My Aunt Peg”

By Trudy A. Martinez

How do I describe my Aunt Peg? I have difficulty finding enough adjectives. She once told me, “God broke that mold when I was born.” She was born on April 19, 1917 to her parents: Blanche Jones and David Smith. I think she was right–the mold was broken–because the Aunt Peg I knew was one of a kind.

Of course, she was always right! She said, “It’s my parents fault!” And when I asked her what she meant she said, “Anytime you put a blank-ka-de-blank Smith with a blank-ka-de-blank Jones–you’re bound to get something unusual!” And unusual she was! She made a lasting impression on everyone she met and I know she did on me.

In preparation, I was going to share a few moments with a collage of pictures. I needed something to put the pictures on. At first, I thought I’d use one of Peg’s quilts–but I didn’t want to take a chance of messing up one of her masterpieces. So I got into this box Aunt Peg had shown me that had some sample patterns she had fixed so I’d be able to figure out how to put them together. Beautiful Patterns–but they were put together where everything fit together perfectly–uniform like–you know what I mean?

But as Aunt Peg always said, “You can’t put a square PEG into a round hole.” The perfect patterns were Aunt Peg’s creations–Aunt Peg was not perfect. So I certainly couldn’t fit MY AUNT PEG on a uniform pattern–She’d look out-of-place!

So I dug to the bottom of this box, there I found–I found these unusual little squares that Peg made–they didn’t match–yet they did–what I mean–is the squares didn’t match each other–but when I sewed them all together–they matched my Aunt Peg! –as a result I had a peculiar quilt! I think she’d be proud–that the first quilt I attempted represents her life.

Those bunch of squares looked like they were put together without rhyme or reason! There are still rough edges on the quilt. But I think you’ll agree: My Aunt Peg had a lot of rough edges! The lines go every which way—in all directions. Her life did the same. I was asked what my Aunt’s occupation was. I couldn’t answer that question with one answer. Because in her life time, she had many occupations:

She told me once–she drove a one of those big trucks. The owner of the truck wired four by four’s to pedals, so her short legs could reach them. Texas had both wet and dry counties. She attempted to make them all wet by running bootleg in that truck over those county lines. I didn’t believe her. But her dad, my granddad, confirmed it.

She worked on the assembly lines during world-war II, making radios.

She drove a greyhound bus across the United States.

She sang in a Nightclub. Her favorite song was “Peg of my heart I LOVE YOU!”

She was a hairdresser.

It was 1936 when my mother and Aunt Peg’s life were thrown together. As my mom tells it, Peg thumbed (hitchhiked) her way back to Texas. When she got to Texas, she got Don Mac Kennzie’s (her second husband) Open Top T Model Ford, one of those one-seat-jobs with the rumble seat in the back and NO TOP, picked up my mom, and headed for California. To make a long story short, the highlight of their trip took place somewhere outside of San Diego on a hill or mountain with an elevation of 6,000 ft. It was freezing cold. And it was Middle-of-the-night. The brakes on the car went out. Peg, as stubborn as she was, was determined to make it down that hill, brakes or not. So she took my mom’s quilts and threw them over mom’s head, telling her to keep her head down and then she took off down the mountain without any brakes. That was only the beginning. Aunt Peg ran without brakes ever since.

The diagonal pattern that extends top right corner of the quilt to the bottom left corner represents her travel through life.

Very few of her occupations were rewarded with money. And very few squares in the quilt have the money green color. However, the PEA GREEN color (as she called it) can be seen through out the quilt. This color represents the occupations she took on without reward and the outward-stretched lines of the diagonal pattern represent her giving nature:

1. She was a Nurse. She cared for her sick mother, My Granny Blanche, for years–until she died in 1957 at the age of 63.

2. She was a relief mother to my mother, Nellie De Juan. The only vacation my mother ever got was when My Aunt Peg hauled all four of us monsters off with her for the experiences of our lifetimes.

The experiences we had on those trips could fill a book. Once, (and only once that I can recall) I gave her some problems. It all started with her sticking up for me and being protective of me like a mother hen. But My Aunt Peg, with her colorful speech and fiery eyes, got herself arrested for being drunk and disorderly when all she had had to drink was coke-a-cola–and it was my fault! My granddad let her sit in jail for a day to cool off, for fear she might kill me. On the way home that same trip, she stopped at a greyhound bus station, bought a ticket, and put me on it, thinking I was headed for home. However, that didn’t happen. The bus broke down, leaving me stranded in Las Vegas for eight hours. And when I finally got home–my mom had moved. It took me two days to find her. And then the feathers flew–I’m not going to go into what happened to me and My Aunt Peg when my mother got wind of it.

3. She was a seamstress and dressmaker. Every year a few weeks before school started, we all went to Aunt Peg’s and Granny’s. There Aunt Peg, cut and sewed our entire wardrobe for the coming school year. On one of those trips Granny told me, “Your Aunt Peg is all bark and no bite! She yells and hollers to keep control.” She said it had something to do with her being so short. Her brother, my dad, was 6′ 4″ and yelling and screaming kept him at arm’s length. And we were getting so big she was scared we’d clobber her someday the way he did. Granny, without Aunt Peg’s knowledge, egged me on to get her down in a hammer hold and make her say uncle. When I did, my Granny laughed so hard–I thought she was going to keel over and die laughing. However, now that I had her pinned, what was I going to do? I couldn’t get up for fear of death. You would have thought I had pinned a sailor who had been out to sea too long. Aunt Peg’s voice got hoarse before she said UNCLE–I still didn’t let her up until she promised she wasn’t going to kill me and I didn’t EVEN then –until she started laughing.

4. She was a teacher. My Aunt Peg and Granny had their own chickens in her backyard in Los Angeles. It was quite a sight to see her chase the chickens around the yard. I didn’t watch the rest. Then she brought the chicken in the house, minus its head, plopped it in a pan of boiling water, and told me it was my job to clean it. I plucked the feathers. I managed that feat and I thought I was through. However, Aunt Peg said I wasn’t. I had to clean it too. All my excuses: “I’m only nine (9)” “Get my brother–he loves to do gory stuff”, failed. She stood behind me–I cried–but I cleaned the chicken, pulling out an egg I quenched and said, “There’s an egg in here,” and Aunt Peg replied in her colorful manner: “Where did you think a blank-ka-de-blank egg comes from?” With this experience and many, many others, she instilled in me this feeling that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I set my mind to it. 

The words “I can’t” were not in her vocabulary. Even though she only completed the eighth grade, she was not handicapped because of her lack of education. She was her own teacher. She taught herself through trial an error. She could repair a car better than most men–if she wanted to. My Granddad use to call her “His little grease monkey”. Her brother relied on her to fix his car when it broke down. She had said, “I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I was born with a wrench in my hand.”

5. She was a gardener and farmer. She loved flowers and plants of all kinds. Her favorite flower was the “Poor Man’s Orchid” (Iris). She was never rich with material wealth. When she lived in the country side of Guadeloupe, California, we located her house for the first time by her fence of “Poor Man’s Orchid’s”. Pete said, “We’re here–this is got to be your Aunt’s!” He was right!

6. She Leather tooled. She made wallets, purses, belts, watch bands, and the like. You had to be special to receive a gift made by her. She did beautiful work. She was an Artist.

7. She was a Quilt maker, self-taught at the age of 55. Her quilts were as unique, as she.

8. She was my Aunt.

Her life went in all directions, just as the lines of the unfinished quilt. She had a zest for life. She learned to ride a motorcycle along with my Uncle Chris late in life after she moved to Ridgecrest because of her health in 1974.

 As you can see by one of the pictures on the quilt, she also attempted riding a Go-cart.

She’d try anything once. Those that knew her knew how generous she was: She would give you the shirt off her if you needed it.

The gingham checks represent–the little bit of country that will always remind me of her. The bright colors and flowers represent the way she lived her life and her colorful and flowery speech she shared with those who didn’t want to do things her way. The red represents her fiery temper.

Even in her death, my Aunt helped me. I was having problems describing her, until I put her little block pieces together and let the pieces she left for me, unknowingly, do it for me. The quilt describes her best–it is unique, just as she was.

In the hospital, when she was stripped of her speech because her vocal cords had been paralyzed from the respiratory tube down her throat, I had an opportunity to communicate her needs for her. I told her to mouth her words and I would read her lips. I told her to go slow because I was rusty. She did. I repeated her words, she nodded. Then I asked her a question–I don’t remember the question, but I’ll never forget the answer. I was speaking her words out loud to ensure what she said was what I was reading from her lips. I asked the question. And she mouthed “Hello”. I said, “Hello”. Her facial expression expressed a question mark. And my sister-in-law, Emily Marquez started laughing and told me she did not say “Hello”–She said, “Hell No!” I turned to My Aunt Peg and said, “That’s not fair, you have to use words that are in my vocabulary.” And Aunt Peg nearly choked to death from trying to laugh.