Copyright © T. GhostWolf Davidson.
All rights reserved.
Piracy / Copyright Notice Break out of someone
else's frames here
The First Seven Years: 1949-1956
CAUTION: The following contains explicit descriptions of
physical violence, child abuse, and death.
My parents met through a mutual friend when she was 14 years old and he was 15 years old, and became friends a couple of years later. It's apparent from what I've read in my dad's diaries that he too was quite the charmer. My mother in particular hit it off real well with my father's youngest sister.
When my mother was 17 and he was 18, they went to Reno and were married. My mother has shared that, at that time, they both needed someone. It got my mother away from her mother; he was on rebound. Their marriage gave them both a false sense of security.
It did not take long after my mother and dad were married for her to find out what he really was like. Whenever she did anything that displeased him, he would often beat her. His family saw nothing wrong with this at all; women were possessions, property - less than servants. "If she got beaten, she must have done something to deserve it." When my mother became pregnant with me, he wanted her to go to Mexico to have an abortion. The only thing the abortion was that my mother told his mother - and my dad's mother put an end to that plan.
Shortly before I was born in 1949, my parents moved from the Bay Area to the Mojave Desert, not far from his parents. My mother was 18 years old when I was born; these pictures were taken not long afterwards.
My mother stayed at home to take care of the house and me; my father worked part time as a dry cleaner, a gas station attendant, and an oil-company seismologist (handling dynamite) - and running drugs for one of the crime syndicates.
What were the early years like for me?
It seemed normal at the time... it was all that I knew, so...
Living near my paternal grandparents was good in many ways; my grandfather and father would often take me out in the desert to teach me Choctaw and Cherokee skills and lore. They taught me how to track animals; how to tell when an animal or insect had been by, how to stalk and capture creatures; how to clean an animal and preserve the hides; what kinds of plants were useful; how to navigate and find my way regardless of the weather conditions. Conversely, meal times were not good.
Children were never allowed to eat with the adults in my paternal grandparents house, and what food children were given was the leftovers. The "idea" was that, as farmers, the adults needed the food so they could maintain the farm, and since children did not contribute to the maintenance...
When my mother saw this, she refused to sit down for a meal with any member of the family unless the children sat at the same table eating the same food. My dad backed my mother up completely in this - and because he was the baby of the family, my paternal grandparents gave in; and the other adult members of the family slowly but surely gave in as well.
My paternal grandparents also taught me secrecy and deception.
My father's family had moved from Oklahoma after losing their farm to the great depression and the dust bowl; and had settled in the Mojave where no one knew them - where no one knew they were American Indian; there, in the Mojave, they could pass as deeply tanned whites.
Each time my father and grandfather taught me anything of our Heritage, they also reinforced that I must remain silent; never share it with any one, never trust anyone; never let any one know that I was part American Indian - because if I did, the "white man" would hurt us badly.
I believed them; the small town nearby was very segregated, and the abuse heaped on non-whites was considered "normal". Too many times I witnessed the town bullies beating up non-whites "just for the fun of it"; one of their sickening "games" was to corner the old American Indian couple and force them to drink booze, get them drunk, and force them to dance "rain dances" until they dropped. Blacks had to be out of town by sunset or they would by lynched - hung by the local members of the KKK.
Violence was not at all uncommon in the town, often spilling out into the desert. Alcoholism was prevalent, and drugs were a known but "out of sight, out of mind" problem.
In retrospect, it is not surprising at all that most of the kids were themselves abusive and violent, nor that many of them formed and joined "clubs" - some of which were deeply involved in the occult and "black magic". The attitude of the local authorities was one of benign neglect; unless weapons were involved, they simply stood back and "let the kids settle their pecking order".
I found my own place in that pecking order when I was a little more than three years old - at the bottom of the heap.
After being beaten up by neighborhood kids the first time, I went home crying. My father told me to stop being a sissy and learn how to fight. When my mother attempted to console me, he ripped into her and told her I had to learn how to stand on my own two feet.
Dad egged me on until I became angry and tried to hit him; then he laughed at me as he blocked my blows and waited for me to wear out.
He taught me to fight; where to hit, how to hit. He told me to make sure people friendly to me were present, and then let the other person get the first lick in and make sure it was their only lick; that way I would always be able to claim self defense. He told me the only way I'd learn to protect myself was to watch how the rest of the kids beat on each other and how the winner won the fight.
I got the crap beaten out of me several times as I tried to apply what he taught me; and he laughed and called me a little baby, a sissy, and told me I needed more practice; that a man doesn't cry, or feel grief or guilt when he takes out someone - that a man doesn't take crap off of anyone, ever, be that man or woman or child.
I won my first fight when I was almost four against an older and much larger kid. My mother had told me exactly where to kick another guy; and as a result I was very amazed that kicking a much larger boy dead center in the groin could do so much. I was torn - at one level, I felt good, proud of myself; but at another level, I felt sick - for I knew what it felt like to be beaten, to be humiliated - and I knew better than to let my dad know about that.
When that kid's mom and dad came screaming up to the house, my dad stood up to them and did the usual "pick on someone your own size stuff " while my mother praised me. After the other kid and his parents left, my parents took me down to the ice cream parlor and then to the movies to reward me. That kid left me alone after that - and so did the other bullies, much to my relief.
My parents encouraged me to never give up fighting back; to rely on no one since they wouldn't be around all the time to protect me. My dad told me to trust no one at all, not even him and my mother.
My father drove this point home hard one day.
I had came home crying because a friend broke a promise to me to invite me to his birthday party, and my father said he'd teach me about trust. He picked me up and stood me up on the kitchen table - and then told me to close my eyes and jump off the table, and that he would catch me.
I hit the linoleum real hard, and he laughed at me and called me a sissy for crying, and said "let that be a lesson, don't trust anyone ever". I never forgot that lesson.
A small sidenote: Looking back over the years, I now know that the lessons my paternal grandfather and father taught - the American Indian skills, the silence, learning to not be seen, the "don't trust anyone" - helped save my life, helped me survive what was to come. Thanks to what I observed on both sides of the family - severe patriarchialism on one side, and equally severe matriarchialism on the other, I was already learning those lessons. My father's treatment of myself and my mother only served to reinforce them.
Sometime around when I was three years old, we visited my maternal grandfather Art. He was living in a hotel at the time. His lady friend and companion, Mary Ann was there, and she had a huge bag of comic books waiting for me. In later years, Mary Anne indulged my burgeoning curiousity about everything around me - particulary science - by answering my questions and providing me with books. I learned to read at a very early age, thanks to my mother and Mary Anne taking an active interest.
He sodomized me while my mother and Mary Anne were off on a quick errand, and made threats that guaranteed my silence. He continued sexually abusing me over the years, and later sexually abused my sister. Our silence was brutally enforced by him and his family.
Years later I found out that my maternal Grandmother knew about the physical violence and suspected not only his sexual abuse of us, but that she and my maternal aunt also suspected Art of abusing my maternal aunt's daughters. I learned too that those who did suspect were, on one part, afraid to take action because of grandpa Art's threats; and on the other part because "things like that just don't happen in respectible families."
In the enforced silence, pain, and helplessness, I learned to hate. I knew I was too small, not strong enough to do anything - and I vowed to remember everything he and the others did to hurt me, to wait until I was big enough to get even.
However, there were good times too: My mother taught me to read, print, and draw long before I was four years old, and she heavily encouraged my art work. I was also left-handed, and she fiercely defended my right to be left-handed.
My father was gone quite a lot because of his odd jobs; there were several times he disappeared for days at a time, and a few times he disappeared for weeks at a time. Family members suspect he was skimming from the local syndicate and had gone into hiding from his "employers" during those longer absences so that he would have time to cover his tracks.
Once in a while, my father took us on one of his longer trips. He would always dress up in a suit, and made sure we also had real good fancy clothes. He drove to a house further out in the Mojave, where we got out of his car and into a different one; a car that he'd been working on for a while, changing the upholstry and panels, stacking contraband within the panels, and overhauling the engine and transmission. Each time, it was a different car.
One trip was to Las Vegas where he checked into a motel; my mother and I stayed there and used the pool and playground while he went off to do some business. Then, the final night, a man and a woman came to the door of our room, carrying a business suitcase like my dad's. They talked quietly for a few moments, then picked up my dad's case and left theirs behind. My dad opened it after they were gone; it was full of money. This stuck in my mind, because I had put one of my favorite stuffed animals in my dad's suitcase for him, and had wondered why he had bags of powder in it instead of his clothes. I was very upset because my stuffed animal was gone - and my dad decked me for that.
The next morning, we packed up all our stuff and got in a completely different car; the one we had driven in was gone. Dad drove the modified car back, and my mother drove us home in our car. This wasn't the only modified car he delivered, the deliveries occurred about twice a month. Often, a stench surrounded the car he was delivering, and in those cases, the trunk was welded shut. He was paid to drive those cars into a sump - deep sludge pits - in remote oil fields.
When he was home, my dad indulged my love of licorice candies - Good and Plentys - every chance he got; and he would not let my mother discipline me in any way. If she raised her voice at me, or attempted to discipline me - he beat her. When he disciplined me, he used the belt - and when very angry, he used the buckle end of the belt. When he was not at home, my mother disciplined me by either hand-spanking me, or making me stand still behind the door or by making me sit in a chair for five minutes at a time - that's called "giving a time-out" in these days.
Two of the many beatings that my dad inflicted on my mom stand out. He had come home drunk, and when she objected, he started beating on her brutally, so hard she curled up in a ball on the floor as he kicked her. I was scared he'd kill her, and tried to stop him; I wrapped myself around his legs and bit him, drawing blood.
He backhanded me - hard - into the wall; then turned around, picked me up by the front of my shirt and told me never ever try to stop him, lay a hand on him, or otherwise interfere; and threw me to the floor.
I was crushed; this was the man who had never laid a hand on me before this, who'd never raised his voice at me before this - This man, beating on my mother and me, I did not know, this man couldn't be my father, this man was a brutal, vicious stranger. He then left the house and went to a local bar where his friends hung out, and after he had left, I asked my mother "why don't you kill him momma? Why don't you kill him?". She explained what would happen if she did - and that deepened my hatred.
Sometime shortly after this, my mother had had enough of my father's violence and demeaning treatment, and she took me and moved back north near my maternal grandmother's home where she found a job working as a waitress in one of the old-fashioned soda fountain drugstores - one of my fonder memories was her taking me back to the soda fountain on various occasions when she'd gotten off of work. We lived in a small 2-room "mother-in-law" cabin in the backyard of a house across the street from my my maternal grandmother's house.
My mother hired a babysitter, a young woman named Doreen, to take care of me while she worked - Grandma was not interested at all in baby-sitting "that man's little brat".
One day a little while after lunch, the baby sitter caught me playing with matches, and went across the street to inform my grandmother. My grandmother always took a belt to me anytime she found me holding a match or matchbook. They returned to the little house, and my grandmother took me into my bedroom and had me strip and lay down on the bed as she'd done so many times before when she had taken the belt to me - but this time she gagged me with a towel and used masking tape to tape over that, taped my mouth shut; then taped my legs together and taped my left arm to my body, and placed a broomstick across my shoulder and then taped my right arm to the broomstick - and tied me with rope.
She carried me into the kitchen, turned on the front burner of the little two-burner gas stove - and held me over the stove with my right hand palm down over the burner - to the point of third degree burns.
I relive it still, still remember/feel/am there watching my hand blister then char then shrivel and the pain and agony of the burn and the horror of what grammy was doing to me -
The baby sitter left - and never reported what was done; she literally disappeared. I and my mother believe that my grandmother somehow produced a threat strong enough to silence the baby sitter. It was a year later that my mother found out through a welfare worker that the baby sitter had moved back to Arizona and then committed suicide.
Grammy - grandmother - then unbound me, poured a small glass of whisky, and made me drink it, saying it would help keep me quiet and kill the pain. When I finished that one, she poured another and made me drink that; then got me dressed - and walked out the door.
I curled up in a corner, blind with pain.
My mother came home shortly after 2 PM, and found me curled up in the only empty corner of that little cabin, sitting with right hand curled up in front of me and my left arm and hand curled around my torso, shaking violently and crying. My mother asked where Doreen was, and I lifted my left arm and waved at the door and said "bye bye".
She then asked why I was crying, and I held out my right hand, palm up, holding my right arm with my left hand, said "grammy hurt, hurt, bite you, grammy" - my mother picked me up, removed the tape that was still stuck to me, and saw the rest of the tape - and the broom handle and mop stick with tape still on them - scattered across the floors. When she picked me up, I pointed at the stove and site "bite you bite you". She carried me the six blocks to the nearest doctor.
The doctor took me away, and when the doctor asked me what happened, I kept saying "grammy grammy grammy" - and when the doctor asked my mother who "grammy" was, my mother said "That's me. He was playing with matches". In 2005, a couple of years after my maternal grandmother died, I found out that my mother took the blame because she knew the absolute hell and repercussions that would result had she told the truth and "brought shame to the family" - and, because she was already on the record for being in trouble as a child and because her mother was "socially outstanding" - she knew too that she would not be believed if she told the truth... trouble-making daughter accusing her outstanding socially active ever-so-good-with-kids mother of such a horrendous crime? Who are the officials really going to believe? Sounds familiar, doesn't it...
The doctor told her he'd done everything he could, and that I would need specialized care. She took me home, and when I saw my grandmother again, I stayed away from her and stayed close to my mother and stepgrandfather. I looked at her and started crying, and she told me to "shut your mouth." I did. Pop - my stepgrandfather - knew something was wrong, but because of my and my mother's silence, he never did find what had happened. He kept questioning my mother though, and each time she insisted she was to blame, he'd say "I just don't believe that."
I never called Sara "grammy" again. From that day on, she was only grandma.
Later, they took me to specialists in San Francisco, who said nothing further could be done. Not long afterwards, my right hand had fused into a ball. Everything broke loose shortly after my mother found a Nanny who watched over several kids.
We were going to do finger painting, and the Nanny had us put on aprons and role up our sleeves. She noticed the deep blue and red streaks running up my right arm, and called for a doctor. The doctor recognized the burns immediately for what they were, and also realized I had severe blood poisoning because the burns had not been deep cleaned when first treated.
Two hours later I was airlifted to the children's burn hospital in Los Angeles; the doctor had called my mother at her job to gain authorization - but he also contacted my grandmother and let her know what was going on. My grandmother took over, and forced my mother to stay home; playing my mother as the villian and making sure, through her friends, that my mother stayed put.
I was in the hospital for three weeks, and I remember the surgery very clearly - pain. Even though the doctors tried to put me under completely, I resisted the anesthesia and remained awake. During the surgery, one of the doctors leaned down, crying, and told me "we're going to make it better, Bucky, really." When the surgeons asked me what happened, they told my mother when she called that I kept pointing to my hand and saying "grammy" over and over again.
My fingers had to be surgically separated, and then spread out in a full "fan" configuration. Wires were run through the bones to two different metal braces to keep them in position.
Skin and muscle were transplanted from my lower left abdomen to rebuild the fingers. Only my little finger was unharmed; the most severe damage was to my forefinger and middle finger, with somewhat lesser damage to the ring finger and thumb.
One of the nurses later called my mother, and told her that every time I saw my grandmother that I would flinch and start crying; and the nurse wanted to know what was going on. My mother asked how I was doing, and the nurse let her know that I was still in pain, and that I kept saying "grammy" over and over again. My mother asked her "what does grammy mean to you?" - and let the nurse know what kinds of things could - and would - happen should the truth be revealed.
It's almost like it all happened this morning - the surgery, the pain, the release from the pain - my ward mates; all clear as if it just happened. The several injections each day, my attempts to climb out of the crib they'd put me in - to the point they leashed me in; the two other boys in the burn ward with me - the father of one of them brought each of us toys.
His son received a huge Tonka tractor, the other boy got a Lincoln Log set; and he gave me a large, soft green TV-pillow-dog, a stuffed animal dog big enough for me to lay on and watch TV. I had that stuffed dog until I was 14 years old; and for years it was the only stuffed animal I owned.
When I was finally released from the hospital, I was shipped back to my maternal grandmother's house. My dad was already there to pick up me and my mother over my grandmother's objections, and then he took us back to our home town far to the south, where we would be much closer to the burn unit in Los Angeles.
The doctors told him that my hand needed to be exercised to prevent it stiffening up, to enable full use to be regained - and gave him a sling to immobilize my left hand to force me to use the right hand. That training was ruthlessly enforced over the next several years - and I am now right-handed - though I was born left-handed.
There was another trip to the hospital in Los Angeles, during which the final skin and muscle transplants were performed.
During the drive back, we stopped at the top of the pass through the Tehachapi mountains. It was dark, and it had been snowing. He built a snowman with a top hat, then hauled back his fist and knocked the hat and half the head off the snowman; looked at me and said "I'll do that and worse to anyone who ever hurts you ever again."
He then rebuilt the snowman several times, and had me and my mother knock the hat off it too, and told me that anyone who ever laid a hand on me would die.
When we got to my paternal Grandparent's house, my Grandma offered me some of her lemonade - and I burst out crying, telling her that I couldn't, because it would all leak out of me from all the holes they put in me giving me the shots. I turned around and dropped my britches to show her the holes.
For many years, I wasn't sure of that memory. Then, in the summer of 1963, I visited my grandparents for a couple of weeks. My uncle noted how easily I used my burned hand, and the topic turned to those years; and they teased me about how I had dropped my britches to prove to Grandma that my backend was too full of holes to drink her lemonade. Oh lordy! :)
Sometime in mid 1952 my dad disappeared for about six months. One of my dad's fellow "employees", a young Sicilian named Mickey, was assigned to watch over us while my dad was away on the trip for their mutual employer.
It wasn't long before we moved to Mickey's home in another city to stay with him while my dad was gone. Mickey had a business and a home in the other city, and we lived with him during the six months my dad was gone. He was a very soft-spoken, very gentle man who doted over me; playing with me, giving piggy-back rides, buying clothes and shoes as needed, food for us, toys, storybooks, and more. I adored him, following him around like I was a lost puppy.
We stayed with Mickey until he was ordered by his employer to go overseas; we were with him for about six months. Mickey was instructed to return us to our home town. Mickey contacted both of my grandmothers, and my paternal grandmother found us an apartment in our home town, and my maternal grandmother drove us back to our home several hundred miles away.
My dad was still gone when we arrived back home in January 1953. Later that month, my mother found out she was pregnant with my sister Peggy - Mickey's child. My mother never told Mickey until years later that he was Peggy's father. In March, a notice arrived stating my dad was to be inducted into the army. This was the one and only time my mother contacted my dad's employer, because no one knew where my dad was except that employer. He returned home in early April, and a week later my mother told him that she was pregnant by one of my dad's peers. He was not able to cope with being inducted, nor with my mother carrying another man's child, and he left for the local bar.
My dad arrived home raging drunk several hours later just as my mother was disciplining me for something I had done - and he exploded. Dad jumped her and started beating on her - hitting her stomach. He finished the beers he had brought home, told my mother to "get the brat out of my way" (me), and went to bed.
A week later, my dad left for Fort Ord. He missed the Korean war by two weeks, and after basic training, was sent to France. I still have some of the letters he and my mom wrote back and forth while he was in France - including the "it's one damp thing after another" card my mother sent him when my sister was born. Other letters I have that they wrote back and forth while he was overseas revealed that he had come to terms about the pregnancy, and that he and my mother were working their problems out very well. Many of letters he wrote to her shared the escapades he had while in France - no few of which involved sneaking off base for beer and cognac, and smuggling beer back onto the base. He had brass balls!
During this time, my mother met a homeless pregnant lady named Ann, and together they found a small two bedroom house to rent. Peggy was born in September, and Ann's baby was born in October, at which point Ann's parents came and took her home with them. In November, we moved back north to stay with my maternal grandmother and stepgrandfather. I've fond memories of those months with my mother; she bought me my first bicycle - and my American Flyer train set, which I still have.
In January of 1954, my grandmother went to Arizona to help my aunt, who was having severe health problems with her second pregnancy. Grandma was there for three months. Before leaving for Arizona, my grandmother took us to her second cousin's home.
In late February or early March of 1954, my mother was fighting what is now called post-partum depression. She recognized that she desperately needed help - and through one of the few family centers that existed in those years, she obtained help, and voluntarilly submitted herself to a mental institution for treatment. She also notified my dad, who let her know he was proud of her for taking the steps needed to get help.
When my maternal grandmother returned from Arizona and found out my mother had committed herself, she picked up my sister and I to live with her, and then all hell broke loose. My grandmother insisted that my mother be released, but the doctors told her that because my mother had voluntarilly committed herself, it was up to my mother. Grandmother Sara was furious, and considered my mother's actions a shame to the family and to her name. Because of the help my mother was receiving, my mother chose to stay until she and the doctors determined she was ready. The doctors witnessed my grandmother's rage, and let her know in no uncertain terms that she was a large part of what lead to my mother's breakdown - and that she was not welcome.
In the meantime, my dad was transferred to the Presidio in San Francisco, which enabled him to visit my mother and us children. During some of those visits, the doctors told my grandmother to butt out because she did not "own" my mother, and that all issues were between my mother and my father, and that my mother and father were doing quite well without her interference - and that her job was to treat my mother, my dad, and us children with respect, decency, and kindness. That made my grandmother furious, and at first she ranted and raved about the shame of it all, and then escalated to blaming my dad for my mother's condition, and from that point on did everything she could to drive a wedge between my mother and father.
The doctors also informed my dad that his drinking, verbal and physical abuse were large parts of the problem - and that he should talk with and work with my mother to resolve those problems - and they did. The doctors encouraged them to take small trips with each other and with us children. They did, and that led to the doctors advising my mother and dad to take a full month by themselves.
Two weeks later, my dad was discharged, and my mother was released into his care at my mother's insistence, because she knew she wasn't ready for a full discharge. Peggy and I were already staying with my maternal grandmother and stepgrandfather, who had agreed to watch over us while my mother and dad took the month off. Dad purchased a used Nash, and then mom and dad spent the next month back in our home town where he found a job at a gas station, and put a downpayment on a house.
At the end of the month, mom and dad drove back north to pick up Peggy and me and bring us home. It was late spring of 1953. Roy had changed for the better in three major areas: His drinking decreased dramatically; he no longer put up with his mother, sisters, and aunts interfering with his marriage, my parent's life style, and their ways of raising us kids; and he also never went after my mother when my mother disciplined us kids; not even when she whapped our hind-ends for disobeying her - or him. He'd look at me when I ran to him, and told me I deserved what I got for disobeying - and he stopped using the belt on me, and used only his bare open hand to spank. Those spankings quickly became few and far between as I learned how to respect not only my mother, but my father as well.
I do not remember being spanked for disobeying either of them after that frirst month. Those next six months were peaceful, and there was a lot of fun during those months.
One incident was when my dad had caught a squirrel and built a decent cage for it, and wanted to bring it in the house as a pet for me. I looked at the squirrel in its cage and said "what's that?", and at the same time my mother laid down the law at the front door, holding a broom like a baseball bat, and would not let the squirrel and cage into the house - you could see the ticks crawling all over it. In the meantime, friend squirrel was quietly at work gnawing his way out of the cage; we all turned around just in time to see the squirrel squirm through the hole and shoot up the tree in the front yard. My mom and dad burst out laughing so hard they had to sit down.
Another was the many times me, my sister, mom and dad would set up the train set in the living room and all lay down on the floor and play with it - dad had never owned a train set, and could (and did!) play with the trains for hours, long after I had gotten tired. He often remarked that he never thought he could enjoy laying down and playing trains with his two kids so much.
These good times were not to last.
Unknown to my dad, when he had been in the hospital in France for a severe ear infection, the doctors discovered that he had a very slow acting but inoperable terminal tumor within his brain. My mother, knowing that he had a deep fear of death, chose not to tell him so that whatever time he had left would not be overshadowed by fear.
My maternal grandmother knew about the tumor, and defied my mother's wishes - and showed him the medical report in January of 1955. He couldn't cope with the news, and went into a severe depression. He resumed drinking heavily, stopped spending time with my mother and his friends, and started spending time with a new crowd that was involved in violence and pornography - child pornography. He also resumed beating us if we displeased him or got in his way.
Life for my mother, sister, and me kept getting worse - and then one day my mother caught him molesting my sister, and found out that he had been molesting me as well. My mother confronted him, and he told her that he could do anything he wanted, and was going to teach us kids about sex. He said he'd do what he wanted to do, that he had very little time left, and violently pushed her against the cabinet. My mother pulled out the loaded gun he kept there and shoved it right into his belly - and dared him to hit her again, and told him that she'd kill him if she ever caught him touching us again, and that she'd kill him if he ever hit him again. He froze - glared at her and me - and left the house.
My mother called her mother to tell her how close she'd come to shooting my father. Grandma Sara told her that she would bring me and my sister to Art's house - my paternal grandfather's house - because my aunt (my mother's sister) and her husband were visiting. Grandmother Sara arrived the next morning and took us back north to Art's house. We took just the clothes we needed, some photographs, and a few of my and Peggy's favorite toys. My dad worked graveyard shift then, and fifteen minutes after leaving, my mother and grandmother saw his car going down the road in the opposite direction towards home. That was May 5th, 1955.
During the following months, my sister and I still got to see my dad, who would drive up north to see us for a couple of days. His meetings with my mother were not peaceful in the least. On three separate occasions my dad beat my mother, threw her to the floor, and raped her in front of me; threatening to beat me if I ever told.
My brother Danny was conceived during one of those rapes. Later, when confronted with the pregnancy, my dad vehemently denied the child was his and gut-punched my mom in a brutal attempt to cause a miscarriage; I still hear him shouting "I'll kill the little bastard, you'll never get a dime out of me for some son of a bitch's brat." After that, my Dad refused to see her again.
It wasn't long afterwards that my mother met the man that was later to become her new husband. He seemed nice; playing with us, buying us toys - little did we know that he was to become our stepfather. This picture of him with my sister and me was taken in May of 1956.
My dad filed for divorce, claiming that my mother was an abuser and violent, and obtained partial custody of my sister and I. We were supposed to stay with him for six months, and then with my mother for six months. A few months later, he met another woman, and went to Mexico to get a divorce - illegal, but he did it anyway - and married the other woman in Mexico.
Shortly after that, he picked up my sister and I for the first round of what was supposed to be the six-month alternating visits, and took us back to his home - with no intention of ever letting us go back to our mother.
My new stepmother adored my sister and I - and had received permission from my father to discipline us by standing us in a corner - and he backed her up because she jumped and asked how high when he gave her orders; sad... and, my father continued using the belt on us at the slightest infractions - and continued molesting us. His drinking, and resultant drunken rages continued to get worse.
It didn't take my stepmother very long to figure out she'd get beaten whether she disciplined me or not - so she figured why not do what she was being punished for?
She was very careful when she beat me to not leave any marks - and she was very good at doing that. I quickly learned to obey her and to keep my mouth shut about it - because she'd make sure I got punished for telling my dad once he had gone to work or gone on one of his trips.
Her favorite method of punishing me was to make me strip, lay face down on my bed - and then she'd tie my wrists and ankles to the frame. Sometimes she'd spank me from my shoulders to my ankles and let me go; other times - if I'd been particularly displeasing to her, she'd beat me - and leave me there for hours - coming in only to administer another beating, and finally let me up before my dad got home.
A strange painful dichotomy - I hated her passionately and wanted to do to her what she did to me; yet I loved her dearly, and was so very quick to defend her and cover up for her. More secrets, more learning how to decieve, more learning how to create appearances that would decieve.
Inversely, she'd make us home-made fudge-pudding popsicles to reward us for being good; and those popsicles were good.
When my stepmother walked in on him while he was molesting us, he beat her into total submission, and with her, "taught" me and my sister "the facts of life".
My dad and stepmother were also hunters; and went hunting together at least once each month. We'd drive up to her parent's property in the Tehachapi mountains, and my sister and I would stay with my stepmother's parents and play with the farm animals while my parents hunted. They never failed to bring back a buck or doe; to this day I love the taste of venison.
On October 11th 1956, life changed forever for my sister and me.
The week before, I badgered my dad to show me where he worked so I'd have something to share at school for show and tell; the town drunk had stopped in the school yard and asked me what I shared; I told him I had nothing to share.
He suggested that I ask my Dad to show me where he worked and what he did in the oil fields so I'd have something for show and tell.
Dad took me very early in the morning to show me what he did for a living. I was almost seven years old: October 11, 1956.
That part of the Mojave desert is well-known for very dense fog, and we left just as it was starting to get light outside, driving through that fog.
Halfway there, my dad pulled off the road completely so he could smoke his pipe; he never drove while smoking it. He was leaning against the left front fender of the car when a drunk driver came out of the fog from the other direction, slowed down a little bit, and then crossed over the line to hit us head on - with my father between the cars.
The drunk then backed up and stopped; I got out and ran to the front of the car - blood was everywhere; my father had been torn open from chest to crotch by the impact - and he was still alive. I tried to put my dad back together; I still feel the warmth and wetness of his blood and intestines - and his heart - as I tried so very damned hard to fix him, to save him. I pulled him into my lap as he touched my face; I saw his heart beat twice. Then he was dead.
The drunk got out of the car, walked up to us.
I looked up at him hoping he could help, but he was drunk, and crying "I shouldn't have taken the money" over and over again. I didn't know what he was talking about until years later.
He was the same man, the town drunk, who had approached me at after school earlier that week, asking me if I liked show and tell in class; asking me what I shared.
I just looked at him, and he backed up, crying, got in his car, and left.
Something died in me; I was not able to cry - and that is how the police found us. I think this was the point in time where I learned to repress my emotions more than I ever had previously.
Mary Anne - my maternal Grandfather Art's girlfriend - and a man I was later to know as "Uncle Ray" - were at the funeral. My stepmother and paternal grandparents did not let me go see her, nor would they answer me when I asked why Mary Anne was there.
A day or so after the funeral, my sister and I were returned to my mother - and our new stepfather.
This was the start of nearly 4 years of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse at the hands of my maternal grandfather and his cult.