History

INTERESTING CHARACTERS I HAVE KNOWN


by Boyd Simmons

I grew up in the small town of Kalama, Washington about 30 miles North of Portland, Oregon. Kalama, despite its small size, had more than it's share of interesting people. Among these were the VanDe Carrs who lived about 300 yards from our house in the area known as China Gardens. Mrs. V. was a small, regal, very aristocratic looking woman who still dressed in the Victorian style. She was in ill health all of the time, and spent most of her life in bed. Ed was a small man with a large beard who, in his face (to me), looked like Abraham Lincoln. The beard was worn to hide the ravages to his face that had been caused by a serious stroke when he was about 30 years old.

They came to Kalama from New York, and the story was that she had been his nurse after his stroke and was responsible for his recovery which, although not complete, had enabled him to at least survive. As the story went, she was from a Well-known and very rich Dutch family of old New York. While she was nursing Ed they had fallen in love, and when they married her family had disowned her for marrying below her class. They had shipped her off Lo the West and sent her enough money each month to barely exist. Ed had been a very smart young man, well read and noted for his athletic ability before his stroke. He had the most lovely handwriting I have ever seen, even though it was extremely slow.

They lived in a small 3-room house on a small acreage where Ed kept a cow or two, chickens and lots of house cats. He had an old white swaybacked horse that he used to do some of his chores. There were lots of things that he couldn't do very well because of his condition, but now it was his turn to take care of his wife. (For the life of me I can't remember her name. Why didn't I write some of these things before my memory became bad.)?

We bought milk, butter and eggs from them when we could afford so, and it was my job to go over several times a week to pick them up and also to take them some food that mother had fixed to share with them. Some of the time Ed would not be there and I would go into the bedroom where Mrs. V always looked very clean and neat and well cared for. I'll always remember the large beautiful purse she would put the money into.

The little house was crammed full of very expensive antiques. There were lots of crystal, silverware and collector's items of all kinds. They didn't mean much to me at that time. I wish now that I had paid more attention to them.

I used to help Ed with his haying in the summer. He had a big flatbed trailer with flimsy sides about eight feet high on each side. We stacked the loose cut hay up another 10 feet or so above the sides. He had a little makeshift seat up front whcrc he sat to drive the old horse. I, about 12 years old at the time, would ride on top as high up as I could get. One day he turned the trailer over when going around a corner. I was buried under about 10 feet of hay. I was not hurt and really enjoyed it until he dug me out and was so sure that he had killed me. He was crying as though his heart was broken and his eyes, which were always bloodshot anyway looked like red-hot coals.

A few years later after T was gone from home Mrs. V. died and Ed soon began to go down hill. He was a very obstinate man and when' the city made water available and told him he could no longer use his well and he must take on garbage service and would have to pay for both. He said God didn't intend that people should have to pay for water that He supplied. So he sold his little place and bought a large surplus army tent and put it up in an isolated group of trees and moved into it. Most of the tent was filled with the china, crystal and silver treasures that his wife had cherished so much.

Three women from the Nazarene Church, which Ed attended, took turns fixing and taking food to him several times a week. During the 3 winter months he would stay with each for a month and help them fix things that they had neglected all year. He always said that when he was gone he wanted the treasures to be split among them. My Aunt Edra was one of the ladies.

Sadly, when one of them delivered his food to him one day, she found he had been dead for a couple of days. Also sadly, no will was ever found. My cousin Virgil was named executor and he tried his best to see that the women got something, but the good old Slate of Washington said that everything belonged to them and held an auction to get rid of it. The women went hoping to bid on something for a keepsake, but not a single article went cheap enough for them to afford. I understand that no one had any idea of the prices that the articles would go for when the collectors found out about it.

Let this story warn everyone to be sure and let it be known who you want to get anything that you leave behind or Big Brother will surely grab it.

Back to Short Stories by Boyd Simmons

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