Larry Wayne…

 

His name was Larry. Born at the end of the Second World War, the middle child and only son of a mismatched, rather unhappy couple. Sandwiched between my older sister Mona, who was 3 years older than him and 7-1/2 years older than me. We lived in a small town in northwest Iowa called Rock Valley. Predominately Dutch, safe, isolated, sheltered. Larry was all boy, who at 5, jumped off an old shed (‘haukee’ slang in Dutch) behind our house on a dare, bruised the side of his face and had to have his kindergarten picture taken of his “good” profile that year.

Larry 5, 1951…

He played marbles, shooting steelies, cats eyes and agates. Went pigeon hunting at night, Larry and the pigeons flitting among the high rafters in barns with Dad and never showing fear. He had a slight speech impediment, problems with his r’s, which sounded something like, “moth-tha, can I have a qua-ta?” In grade school he was quietly slipped out of class for speech therapy. He was well liked and had many friends. Plus me, his little sister, who worshiped the ground he walked on. When I was a toddler Larry saw me sitting underneath his rabbit hutch in back of the house, munching on what I thought were raisins. He protected me and kept me on the straight and narrow after that little incident.

 Larry and I always got along. My nickname was Neese. We had their own friends, but in our early childhoods lived on the fringe of town. If Larry was playing with Glen, I was probably playing with Glen’s little sister Pam. Much of the play was inter-mingled. Outside was the place to be unless it was dinner time (noon meal) or supper. Couldn’t get enough of outside during the summer. Hot, humid, blacktop that shimmered in the heat. We rarely wore shoes but could high-tail it across those streets, our feet toughened by scrub yards, empty lots and hot pavement.

Denise itching a skeeter bite, Glen, Larry & Pam, Anthony in front, Rock Valley, 1953…

The year was 1955. The folks had been saving money, (both good savers) and plunked a down-payment on a house in TOWN, which included a huge yard (or so it seemed to this 8 and 4 year old at the time), was 2 blocks from school, and ONE block from Main Street. Who could believe our luck? Now we had close neighbors, homes with lots of kids of all ages. AND STORES WERE A BLOCK AWAY.

The house was primitive. Dad was handy and started remodeling. A long-standing endeavor that would entail 50 years of his life. That house ended up with more add-ons than pizza toppings. First job was the kitchen which was void of cupboards. Dad built, painted, installed them, then moved the sink. He and some helpers were glueing the linoleum, wrong side up, ready to flip, when I came flying in the house. Slid like a major-leaguer across that black tarry glue. No one got mad though, everyone laughed. Mom took me outside to hose off the goo.

 Neese sitting on Mona’s boyfriend’s car in front of our house on 15th, 1957…

 The dining room was huge, but was rarely used for meals. We all crowded around a kitchen table, gangly legs hitting each other, elbows bumping. Supper was a daily occurrence. Mom was very young when she and dad got married. Don’t know how she learned to cook, but there never was a night when a home cooked, decent supper meal wasn’t on the table.

Dad worked for the Iowa State Highway Commission. Road work which consisted of basically 2 seasons. Summers, mowing shoulders and ditches, and fixing highway blow-ups. Blow-ups occur when highway’s 18 or 75 would get so hot, the road would buckle upwards. Someone driving on the road would call it in. These blowups happened during the peak heat of the day, right after dad got off work, cleaned up, and was sitting down for supper. Never heard him complain if he had to return to work, because it was OVERTIME.

 Dad plowing highway 18 east of Rock Valley…

Iowa’s other season was winter, which meant snow, lots of snow. He would be driving one of the state plows, slithering down highway 18 to Sheldon, up and over a dangerous bridge between Boyden and Sheldon, or slinking his way to the South Dakota border near Canton. People said they knew right where the state line was because Iowa took such good care of their highways in both seasons. South Dakota, not so much. Dad swelled with pride when someone told him this.

 Larry had a tiny bedroom on the main floor of our 2 story house. I wouldn’t have dared to sleep down there by myself but he was not scared and took pride of having a room to himself. The rest of us slept upstairs, stairs so steep, it was more like a ladder. Mom and dad’s room was a sharp right as you topped the stairs, Mona’s and my bedrooms were to the left. I had to walk through her door to get to my room. My room was as tiny as Larry’s and without a closet. The ceiling had this opening to the attic, not plaster, but white boards that could be lifted easily and set aside.

 Larry & Mona in 1948…

Soon after we moved in, I woke up from a nightmare and imagined I saw a man climbing down a rope ladder from the attic to get me. It was so real. He had a knife between his teeth. I remain convinced he’s still up there. Gives me the shivers. My nights of sleeping in that haunted room were over. Thus began an unhappy relationship sharing a bedroom with Mona. In her defense she probably wasn’t thrilled to share her space with a little brat either. She listened to country music, talked about boys, hogged the bed and wrote in her diary late into the night. We had little in common. I would lay in the far corner of the double bed, kicking her with my little feet, pleading with her to turn off the radio, light and let me go to sleep…

 

 

4 thoughts on “Larry Wayne…

  1. Thanks Sarah. Some of the upcoming ones are proving to be quite painful. I will find some humor, I promise. Glad you're enjoying it. So am I…

    Like

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