Building Warm and Lasting Relationships.

Antelope roaming the Colorado landscape that had become our home.
Antelope roaming the Colorado landscape that had become our home. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

THE CONCLUSION OF A THREE-PART SERIES.

A FIVE-YEAR-OLD HISPANIC BOY, Nickie, lived in the basement apartment. Many times, I played with him and his baby sister.   On a particular day, I ignored his knock on our backdoor. He kicked it until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Opening the door I heard him tell me in his broken English, “Somebody steal your car.”   I rushed across the yard, through the open gate screaming as I saw our car roll down the alley. A teenage  boy jumped from the car and ran. The foil from a cigarette package had been used to hot wire the car.   Nickie never had to demand my attention again.

I received a traffic ticket for going around road construction. I begged the officer not to give me a citation because Gerald had said it would go against him at the base. He looked at my driver’s license and said, “People from Alabama don’t tell me what to do.”

I had to go to court and pay a four dollar fine. That was four dollars more than what I had to spare.

Gerald made a friend on base, Isaac. He and his wife, Ella Mae rented an apartment a block from us. She had driven from North Vernon, Indiana (without a driver’s license). Her car was loaded with food, blankets, and a television! Since their apartment was larger than ours, they had food, and entertainment, we spent Friday nights with them . Why hadn’t I thought about driving? You might ask why not travel by air? Flying was not in our worldly vocabulary back then.

Because of her planning, we had good meals especially her delicious chili . On one occasion, we had no money for supper. Our husbands went into phone booths, put their fingers into the coin return slots, checked for change that someone had left. The first phone produced two quarters. The second phone booth was paradise! They felt like they were playing the slot machines in Las Vegas when four dollars in coins fell out!. They hit the jackpot! We ate fried chicken that night! We faced hardship together, shared interest, encouraged each other, and a warm, lasting relationship entered our hearts. We knew we would remain friends wherever life took us.

Gerald’s nephew, Sonny, was also stationed at Lowry Air Force Base. When he came over to eat with us, we had to borrow plates from our friends because we had only two.

We were happy to have family during that time. The five of us went to Golden, Colorado, a quiet mountain town, for a free self-paced tour of Coors Beer Brewery where we observed the malting, brewing, and packaging processes. Each of us received three generous full glasses of beer from the friendly staff at the tasting bar. Needless to say, I gave mine to the men. After drinking their free samples of Coors, the guys were ready to pan for gold.

Deep in the beautiful heart of the Colorado gold country. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford
Deep in the beautiful heart of the Colorado gold country. Photograph: J Gerald Crawford

We found an open stream just off the winding road where the current flowed down the mountain.

We had borrowed flat bottom pans about three inches deep with sloping sides at an angle of about forty-five degrees and at lease fifteen inches in diameter. Filling them half way with soil, gravel, small rocks, and watching water draining through the holes in the bottom of the pan, we were optimistic prospectors in search of treasure. Rotating the pans rapidly to wash out any clay, we saw flecks of gold in the dark material that remained at the bottom that could not be separated from the remainder of the sediment. Those flakes had a brilliant metallic luster, but even as novice , we knew that real gold has a different tone of yellow. We had discovered the mineral pyrite, commonly known as fools gold.

Our expedition was over, but we still had a sense of adventure. We continued traveling up the mountain until we were once again in Golden. It was now spring, and most of the snow had melted. The rolling mountains displayed their vibrant colors of red, yellow, and orange. We had coffee and cokes at a real western saloon. For a souvenir, we “took”a small cream pitcher from the table, painted on it: “Grubstake Inn Central City, Colorado , 3-10-63. Isaac made fun of me for packing banana sandwiches — something he had never heard of. All of us remember seeing a beef dripping with juices hanging in a restaurant window. We could only drool because we were flat broke.

Ella Mae, pregnant with complications, returned home in May. Isaac was alone. I can still hear the words that he sang along with Bobby Bare every time the song came on the radio . He sat in his car and turned the radio and his voice up all the way.

Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City (He changed this to Denver, Colorado)

And I dreamed about those cotton fields and home.

I dreamed about my mother dear, old papa, sister and brother.

I dreamed about that girl who’s been waiting for so long.

I wanna go home, I wanna go home, oh, how I wanna go home.

Many nights, we stayed up late trying to internalize functions and purposes of darkroom equipment and procedures. Knowledge of techniques, light meter readings, composition, use of aperture and shutter speed, composition, proper exposure, dry mount, and developing and enlarging negatives was the goal of my aspiring photographer.

Completing the course, Gerald and Isaac passionately displayed their assignment on every surface of our apartment. There seemed to be no limit to the copies of personal photos. Every member of the two families would receive a print for Christmas.

After graduation and a short furlough, Isaac was transferred to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York .

Sonny was stationed in Misawa, Japan .

Gerald and I left Denver with a lump in our throats and an aspiration to return someday with children so we could share with them the beautiful city where we learned so much about life.

We were anxious to get home. This time, I wasn’t alone. Although we travelled through the same states but on the interstate at sixty miles per hour, the twelve hundred miles between Colorado and Alabama seemed like twelve thousand. We drove straight through to Alabama sleeping only a few hours at a suburban roadside park. Our bed was the ground by a picnic table under the trees. This seems impossible and terribly dangerous, but we even changed drivers without stopping the car. Like the soldier, we surprised our families with an unannounced arrival just in time to celebrate my dad’s fifty-sixth birthday on June 14th.

Gerald was promoted to staff photographer by his employer, The Progressive Farmer Magazine. I returned to the same office desk.

We were ready for life’s next adventure.

 

 

 

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  • Caleb Pirtle

    Faye: Beautiful country. Beautiful photographs. Beautiful life. And you made it that way.

  • Mary Baxter

    Faye, once again you have written about things that ring true to me. I guess we all had rough times starting out and I don’t think it hurt us too bad. My son lives in Denver and your comments brought me to the year we drove cross country and were amazed at the beautiful “big sky country”. You described it so well, I could relive that time. You do such a great job with your storytelling. Thanks for including me in your share. I shared on my friends list. Gerald’s photography was magnificent. Thanks again.

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