My fifteenth year started on September 29, 1966. The significant thing about my fifteenth year is that it has been my most tumultuous year.
I was residing in Long Beach, California with my Mom and Step-Father Harold
and going to school at Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, 10th grade. My Step-Father was away serving on the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin during the Vietnam War and my Mom was expecting their child, Dean Maurice who was born on December 17th of that year.
I found a job delivering the Los Angeles Herald Examiner soon after turning fifteen. I could not work before because California has laws against teens working before they are fifteen. I enjoyed the job and I thought at the time that I could make a lot of money at it. It did seem to be a lot to me as I earned a little over $30 a month delivering papers every day after school and early on Saturday and Sunday. I got to meet a lot of nice people while delivering newspapers and got hassled by thugs just a couple of times. The training ground for the Los Angeles Rams was within my delivery route and I delivered the newspaper to several of the players.
When my Mom went to the hospital to deliver Dino I stayed at home by myself, cooked and cleaned for myself and never had the chance to go see her in the hospital. She later told me that she had one of the neighbor ladies keeping an eye on me. The New Year came and went and there was a new baby in our home. A call came in mid-February that my Great-grandfather, John Wesley Hiser had passed away and my Grandparents wanted me back to Missouri for the funeral. My Aunt Vi and Uncle Bill came, picked me up and put me on a plane and sent me to Springfield where my Dad and Brother Max picked me up. I was taken to get a suit for the occasion, my first suit and then the funeral. I had found a friend to deliver my newspapers for me while I was gone so I was in no real hurry to get back to school and California. Things worked out for the best because I had a few days to spend with my brother, Max.
I was back in California delivering newspapers and going to school for a couple of weeks when my Mom got a call from her sister Wilma that my Brother Max had passed away that very day. It was a tragic accident, but then again all are. Dad had gotten up and headed to work and for once he had shut the door, it was the 7th of March, 1967. When he walked through the door after work he noticed that things weren’t quite right. Max’s lunch money was still on the table, things didn’t smell right and it was much much too quiet. As he went through the house he spied my Brother Max on the bathroom floor, and as he approached the bathroom he could see his girlfriend Margaret on the floor beside their bed and to his left he spotted her son Bobby still in the bed. He ran from one to the other trying to wake them up but it was too late, all had perished. It seems that in the night the snow had caused some soot to fall down in the stovepipe and the gas furnace had burned up all the oxygen in the house.
My step-father was in Japan still on the Maddox, Mom called the Red Cross and he was immediately taken from the ship and flown back to Long Beach on the first available military flight. I waited with Mom and Dino for Harold to arrive. I still delivered the newspapers for a couple of days while a permanent replacement was found because I was going to stay in Missouri this time and finish my schooling. When Harold got home we quickly took off and drove straight through from Long Beach to Norwood. I do not really remember the trip. Gene Jarrett picked me up from Harold’s Mom’s house and took me to Dad. The funeral was planned for the next day as it had been almost a week already. I can remember the first time I saw Max lying in the casket and how he had lain there so long that the skin on his fingers was shrinking, kind of like being in the water way too long. Margaret and her son Bobby had already been laid to rest. Following the funeral I moved in with my Dad. Mom, Harold and Dino had to go back to Long Beach.
I stayed with Dad through the week and attended school and on the week-ends I lived with my Grandparents, Ike and Opal (Grannie) Kelley.
One night in April my Dad’s second wife Wilma and her new man Ronnie came down to visit. Things went fine for awhile but it seemed I could sense an undertone that something was wrong as they kept drinking. I said goodnight and headed to bed but I did not get undressed. I got my 22 rifle and went to bed with it beside me, making sure it was fully loaded. I turned toward the wall so I could watch the shadows and no one could tell if I was asleep or not. I waited but a few minutes and I saw Ronnie’s shadow pass my door going to the bathroom, when he came out he stopped and looked long and hard at me,. I guess trying to decide if I was asleep but I had my back to him watching the shadows. It was just a few moments later that events got loud and rough. I didn’t see it all but they all three went out the back door. I think Wilma wanted to stay with Dad and Ronnie was dragging her with him. I jumped up and went out the front door and around keeping in the shadows until I could see what was going on. I approached Ronnie’s car from the passenger side as he had one arm around Wilma’s neck and had a pistol pointed at my Dad. I reached across the top of the car and touched him with the barrel of the rifle and advised him to drop the pistol. Wilma was screaming at him that she had unloaded his pistol and that he had better leave. He pushed her into Dad and jumped in the car and sped away. We all went back into the house while they decided what they were going to do next. They were both scared of Ronnie and what he might do. They decided to go visit Alaska and Dad started making phone calls to the airport in Springfield about when the next flight out would be. I do not remember those details, just that we loaded up and headed to Springfield Airport. When we got there Dad gave me the keys and told me to drive home and put the truck in the shed and then drive the tractor to Grannie’s and stay there until he got back. That is just what I did. I had never driven on the road before and was not sure about where to go but I did make it home and did as I was told. The best I remember they were gone about two weeks and when they returned Wilma went back to Ronnie.
My Grandparents started going out to eat every Saturday night with some friends of theirs and would drop me off in Mountain Grove at the skating rink, they would check on me on their way back through but I was left to hitch hike home. Ten miles down the highway and three miles out in the country.
My Dad had found another woman by then, her name was Jeannie and she was redheaded and crazy. I have been leery of redheaded women ever since. I found that I could no longer live with my Dad so I moved on up to my Grandparents. Early one morning my Grandfather Ike woke me up and said I had a couple of cows to milk. There weren’t any there the night before but he had had them delivered after I had gone to town with some friends. That was the morning I started my milking career.
June came along and I was still going to the skating rink every Saturday night when I met my wife, Glinda. How I Met My Wife (Tells the story about that)July, August and back to school but I was going steady with Glinda by then and receiving money from the milk I sold. By the time school started I was milking seventeen head by hand every morning and every night. I turned sixteen on the 29th of September and while I cannot say it was a lot better it was never filled with as much change and excitement as my fifteenth year