The endless highway#2
Arriving in California
As the sun was sitting on the horizon, the car finally crossed the state line with a sign that read: Welcome to California.
It was a beautiful sight on the horizon—spectacular colors of orange, purple and grey all mingling to make a wonderful welcome to California!
The kids were all excited, shouting out “We made it, California here we are!” Sam chimed in with his booming voice, “Thank you Lord, for bringing us to our new home”. Meanwhile, Rebecca was just thinking of all the work ahead to get them settled in.
“ Oh Lord , I am so tired of riding in this car with these rowdy children, so many days on the road, so little comfort.” thought Rebecca. “Please give me the strength and patience to make this move. There is so much work ahead to get a new home set up and this baby moving around inside me is not giving me a moments peace.”
“Sing to the lord, for he has done glorious things”.
“Where did that come from,” thought Rebecca. “Oh I know, it is in Isaiah I think. God does love music.”
♫ “Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,” sang Rebecca, as the sweet voices of the children joined in.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.
“Twas Grace that brought me safe thus far,♫ chimed in Sam with his wonderful baritone voice, and they all continued to sang until the end of the song.
Rebecca felt refreshed and ready to face the new world after hearing her whole family singing God’s song together. If God was with them she knew they could face whatever hardship was ahead.
As they reached the end of the song, Sam was pulling the car into Lamont, Ca. Rebecca wasn’t too happy with the accommodations she found when brother-in-law Jim showed them where they were to live.
It seems the “house” was nothing but a minimal shelter in an area that was referred to by the local folks as “Tent City” or as they were later to discover, “Okie Town”.
Wooden structures were built to about five feet in height and then canvas tents were stretched over the roofing rafters to keep out the rain in winter and sun in summer. Each room had a wood or gas stove and barely enough room to fit in a table, chairs and a bed for the parents. The children were expected to sleep on pallets on the floor, to be rolled up out of the way come morning. One room for the whole family! This was the worse living arrangements Rebecca and Sam had experienced thus far during their marriage. She was beyond sad, and had no energy to become angry. She told herself that it wasn’t Sams fault. He had no idea his brother was enticing them into a situation like this.
As the men began to unload the mattresses off the trailer, Rebecca realized they had no place to store dishes, pots, pans or even their clothes inside the “house”.
Putting on her best thinking cap, she gathered the older children around and said, “Butch, Sonny and Joan Ellen, you kids walk over to the grocery store and ask for any apple or orange crates they may have to give us. You know, the kind of wooden boxes that have a divider board in the middle. That way we can stand them on end, stack them two high and we’ll have shelves to keep things in. Get as many as you can and hurry on back home so we can get this place in shape”
“Now, Bobbie Sue, I need you to watch your little sister while I help out as much as possible with putting away the things your papa is bring in. You can play around behind the house” directed Rebecca.
“What house mama? I don’t see no house” answered Bobbie Sue.
“Bobbie Sue, this place with the tent on top will be our house for a while. We will just play like we are camping out in the woods like the rich folks do.”
Bobbie Sue took hold of her little sister's hand and they started walking away, wondering what they were supposed to play in a place like this. Coming from the farm, they were used to lots of fields to run and play in and trees to climb or swing in. There was not much room here to run but she figured maybe they could skip or something. Caring for her four year old sister was quite a responsibility for a six year old, but she was sure she could do it. Bobbie was used to her big sister, Joan Ellen, being the one mama put in charge of watching out for Becky Lynn.
The two little girls wondered around, kicking rocks, picking up the pretty ones they found and then Becky noticed something funny looking moving around on the ground. It looked kind of like a big bug but it was way bigger than any she had ever seen. As she got a little closer, she noticed it was kind of furry like a kitten but, no it was definitely some kind of bug. She was so excited she started running as fast as her little legs could carry her toward the front of the house to where mama was working. She ran in, grabbed mama’s leg and yelled, “Mama, Mama, I found a big bug, you have to come see it.” Hurry Mama, before it runs away!”
“Just a minute Beckie Lynn, I am really busy. Can’t it wait just a little while? I need to finish putting these things away.”
“ No Mama, no, you have to come right now! It’s so big and black and butiful! You have to come now before it’s gone or before Bobbie Sue steps on it and kills it. Mama, don’t let Bobbie Sue kill it. I want it for a pet,” cried the tiny little girl.
Taking her small hand in hers, Rebecca turned from her work and let the little one lead her outside and around to the back of the house. As they came close to where Bobbie Sue was standing, looking down at the ground, their mama screamed loudly, “Bobbie, get away from that think, Oh my God, it’s a huge Tarantula!”
She grabbed up both girls and ran as fast as her big stomach would allow, forgetting for a moment the baby growing in her, forgetting how off balance she sometimes becomes during this pregnancy. She felt a sharp pain in her back and realized she must put the girls down and walk the rest of the way around to the door. When they reached the door, she took them both inside and told them to stay right over there in the corner. No more playing with big bugs!
As the pain in her back began to ease, Butch, Sonny and Joan Ellen came rushing in dragging a bunch of those divided wooden boxes she sent them to find. Each child was carrying one in each hand and Joan said, “Mama, I want this one for my dresser. I can fold all my clothes and put them in the shelves. Maybe we could use some of your spare cloth and make a curtain around the front. It would be really pretty.”
“I think that’s a real good idea, just help me get these other ones over to the kitchen side of the room and we can put the dishes and food away. Then we can all rest while we eat some good old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I sure am glad we put up all those jars of food from the garden back home. I believe there must be at least ten jars of blackberry jam in the box of food”.
“Well, I declare, there’s your pa back already. I wonder if he done found a job this quick.”
As the tent flap was pulled back, Sam walked in with a big smile from ear to ear. “Whoopie Mama, Jim was right, there are jobs for mechanics at the farm over yonder and the pay is more than I ever made before. $1.75 an hour! We’ll be move’n into a real house before you can say Hot Dog! Oh yeah, the foreman said they could use some help with the planting if we think the boys could keep up. That will help a lot to pay the rent on this place.
That was the best news Rebecca had heard since they left Oklahoma. This place in the Tent City was a far cry from the little house they left behind. And she was realizing they needed to get settled some place with a yard so she could get a garden planted. With all this rationing business they keep hearing about, life was going to be hard to find food for the family.
“ I’m sure the boys can work as hard as any man out there, Sam. They’ve always helped when they could and since school is out for the summer, they can work all summer long.”
“Ya’ll get busy and help me get this house put together. It’ll be supper time before you know it and then we need to go to bed early so your Pa can get a good night sleep before start’n that new job.