She was “Mama's girl.” She was the youngest of five girls. I was “Daddies boy.” I was the youngest of three boys. Mama favored the girls, daddy favored the boys. So, we were both kinda spoiled. She was more coddled and spoiled than me. I was spoiled, she was “spoiled rotten.' I'm specifically talking about 8 years old for me, six years old for her. This was during the Dirty Thirties and Dust Bowl Daze in West Texas.
We had to play together because of dire necessity. She was a little too young for the older girls, I was way too young to hang out with my older brothers. So, we were stuck with each other, though I would have preferred a boy child as my playmate, and she would gladly have traded me in for a sister.
Sylvia took advantage of the situation. She was not by any means mean but learned all she had to do to get me a whipping from mom, was yell and start crying, and say “Roy hit me.” No matter what defense I had, I got a whipping. I became angry and resentful when that happened. I earned enough whippings that I received and deserved, without the undeserved ones.
One day we were playing with my toy. She said “Give it to me.” Of course, I was too selfish and self-centered to share. I knew what was coming. “Roy hit me,” she wailed. After the whipping, and mom went inside, I tackled her and was choking her. I'm ashamed to admit it now, but I was choking the life out of her. Thankfully, “Toughie,” our older sister Lila, saw what was happening, came running out and knocked me for a loop. After that day, we became good friends and playmates
In 1942, we left the cotton fields of Texas and moved to Imlay, Nevada. Imlay was good for us, and a few years later, we moved to Lovelock. She and I were grown up acting kids and were good buddies by then.
One day Sylvia said to me, “Roy, do you remember that time in Texas when you tried to kill me?” I had never forgotten one sorry second of that rotten sorrowful day. “I sure do,” I stated. She said, “You never had any more whippings because of me. I was afraid if I did that again you would kill me.” We became very close as adults and shared each other’s happiness and heartaches and pains. I was there when she needed me, and she was always available and went overboard to help when I needed her.
On leaving Imlay, the place we both dearly loved and hated to leave, we made a pact with each other. The day when we were old and retired, we would both move back to Imlay. Well, one of us did, but I always had a reason to stay in Texas. She met and married a great guy she had met in Oklahoma, Jim Callaway. A fine cross-country truck driver. A superfine Christian.
They moved to Imlay, bought the old Albie house on California street, and did an unbelievable job of adding on and rebuilding it. Even put a “guest house” in back. And it stayed full of guests most of the time. Including her mean brother from Texas, who loved her dearly. Whenever I left her house in Imlay for Texas, it was like leaving home. Mom's home.
While living in Imlay, she was nominated as Mrs. Pershing County for the Mrs. America contest. She did not win the Mrs. Nevada contest, which would have sent her to the Mrs. America Pageant. Dumb officials. How many other women in the Mrs. America Contest could get her nursing degree after she was grandmother? How many could drive an 18-wheeler? She did, as team driver with her husband Jim. How many could cut boards with a power saw, and drive nails, and build a room on their house? She did. How many could roof a house, do painting and plumbing, mix mortar and lay bricks? She could and did.
How many of the Mrs. America contestants could whip up a meal for a house full of hungry people, in record time? She did that often, like clockwork. Piece of cake.
I'm sure that year the winner of Mrs. America Pageant was a worthy lady., but guess what, I think they picked the wrong one. Had they had a contest and said, here is the brick and mortar and trowel, mix that mortar, lay that brick, the Mrs. America lady would have been from Imlay, Nevada. Population a couple hundred fine folks, the second largest town in Pershing County, Nevada, U.S.A, third rock from the sun. Wowie Jim Bob.
A couple months ago, Sylvia was diagnosed with cancer. It was terminal, and she died in Elko, their home in recent years, on March 13. Now she is with Mom, somewhere Up Yonder, the lucky lady. The rest of the family will join them shortly. I hope we are all ready for that trip. Its our choice where we spend our eternity. Choose wisely.
Roy Bale can be reached at email@example.com.