The Truck House
It was in the summer of 1946. WWII was over and farming in Minnesota had been rough the past few years. Dad was restless and wanted a change for his family. He started by buying a cattle truck. Then he got the idea of how to build a house on the cattle racks, the sides that went up when you hauled cows.
First he built the roof out of boards and tin. We started going to every sale we could find; farm sales were the best. You could really find bargains there as other farmers were in the same shape we were, nearly broke. The fuel rationing had just been lifted, so hopefully life was going to be better.
We bought Army bunk beds, old metal cupboards, used windows and a door. We were even able to get Army wool blankets. Boy, this was going to be fun and looking good to a soon-to-be-five-year-old. I knew that I wouldn’t have to go to the regular school up and over the creek now too. Dad had taught me all I needed to know for the next six years or so, all this before I was five. I could multiply through twelve and divide, and I knew how to read, but I could not spell Barbara.
Dad worked on the truck every chance he got. I “helped” him a lot. I was old enough to know what the tools were he needed. You know, like the “thingamagiggies” and such. He got what he needed anyway. The house was going quite well and got finished by fall.
The neighbor ladies, my aunts, and Mother all made a lot of dried meats, fruits and veggies. They all canned meats too. All of this got stored in the cupboards I mentioned. My dad had taken some old harness material and made belts for those cupboards to be strapped to the walls of the truck house. We would be taking mountain roads to California and some would be rough enough to tip those cupboards over and all of our food would be lost. Boy, this to an almost-five-year-old was serious business.
Then sale day came—time for real serious thoughts for a kid. I was going to leave all that I had ever known. My dog, Skippy, had to stay on the farm along with the old three-legged dog named Shep. (He lost his leg when the gas man ran over him.) I had to leave my best horse too. Dad had sold my “Whitey Nosed” pony the spring before, and boy, was I ever mad at him for that! I stood on the old porch and stomped my foot and told Dad what I thought of him, but he still sold my pony. But we had old Pieball to ride. We could walk under her, slide down her tail and maybe, if she felt like it, she would give us a ride. Pieball was going to live with some of my cousins. She would let five or six kids ride her at a time and sometimes she would even move a little. I had to leave my Raggedy Ann doll too, for Mother didn’t know that I had lost her somewhere in the corn crib. Most of all I had to leave my best friend, Keith, who gave me all of his hand-me-down cowboy clothes.
After all of the goodbyes to family and friends, we started for California and our uncertain future. It had to be a good one because my Dad said it would be.
The first stop was in Plankinton, S.D., to say our goodbyes to my mother’s family who lived there. My mother had four of her brothers in the war somewhere. So, off we went, not really knowing which way to go. I can remember going forever until I saw my first mountains. This was the first time I was to see the great Rocky Mountains. But not the last. My goodness, but those mountains were big!
It was scary and yet so exciting for an almost-five-year-old. I couldn’t take in enough of it. One day we were in the mountain range and on a dirt road, when all of a sudden some cows came across the road in front of our house truck. Wow! At home we kept them in the barn or the pasture, not on the road!
Finally, we came to the open land and lots of cactus, which we had never seen before either. Dad stood by one and he was real little compared to them. Some even had water in them. It got kinda cold in the desert in our house truck, so one night we got to hook our heater up to a gas station and spend the night there. They even had a monkey that played with our little house dog named Midge. That was fun.
On we went. We came to this one-way road, all dirt, in this real little town of Las Vegas. Dad said all the lights meant that we should keep going, and no more questions as to “Why?” from me.
We even got to go into these really deep and scary caves. I remember eating a bag lunch in them and I was really scared of all the things hanging down. Dad said it was called Carlsbad Caverns.
Finally, we got to California! Dad and Mother had lots of relatives that lived there. We got to stay in a real house in Los Angeles. It was fun, but we had to study in the back of the truck house. I even got to go with Dad and a great uncle to the big stadium where they played football. It is now called the Watt’s District in Los Angeles.
We had lots of fun in California, but Dad couldn’t find work. So, after about three months or so, we headed back to Minnesota in our truck house. It was lots of fun for me, but my brother cried most of the time we were gone. I don’t know why, but he did. I’ll always have great memories of the truck house and all the things we did on our most wonderful trip. Oh, yes, I turned five years old in California. My, but that felt good!
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