Where were you conceived?

I have been conducting my University for a month or so now and we have had some pretty heavy and much discussed lessons so far.  I would like to lighten things up some and tell you a true story about my parents; a story that eventually led to my entry into this world.

Late in his life, my dad had cancer of the larynx and had to have his larynx removed.  From then on, dad had to communicate with a "sound resonator" that we called his “buzzer”.  He would hold it to his neck and communicate by holding his mouth just right.  I had commented after my dad’s death, that I hated that I could no longer remember how his voice sounded.  Charlie was a lot of things in his life, and a talker was one for which he was well known.  Upon hearing my comment, my daughter Karyn told me she had interviewed dad as an 8th grade assignment.  The assignment was to interview someone she admired so she chose my dad, and as luck would have it, she recorded it on tape.  She found the tape and had her husband, Jayson, transfer it to CDs which they gave to family members.  The following story is an excerpt from that recording.

Much of my parent’s, Charles and Betty Thomas, early years of marriage were spent apart.  World War II had started while they were attending high school in Garden City, KS where they had been high school sweethearts.  They were both  17 when they were married and later, while mom was still a student, dad prepared to go to war.  Dad joined the army after his graduation; he was still 17.  Before he shipped out to the South Pacific, mom became pregnant with my older brother, Tom.  Tom was 2 years old when dad finally saw him for the first time.  After the war, dad returned home and began making a living for his young family in Garden City, KS.

Dad, the oldest of seven kids, had always been a very hard worker and worked anywhere and any hours it took to make things work out.  Times were tough growing up during the Dirty Thirties.  All of the money he made before he was married, went to help raise his brothers and sisters.  In 1946, after he returned from the war, he again did whatever it took to earn a living.  A few months after being home, he had an opportunity to move to Cimarron and help at his father’s salvage yard on the west side of Cimarron.  He was later to become a partner with his dad.  The salvage yard, or junk yard as many called it, was named "Cimarron Iron and Metal".  It was located on the vacant lot that is now used every summer for the Gray Co. carnival. 

When the family arrived in Cimarron, there was no place for them to live.  They had plans to move into a garage in town, but it was in the process of being turned into an apartment for them.  Grandpa Carl Thomas’ family lived in a home at the junk yard and had eight family members living in his small home.  There literally was no room for three more bodies to live.  As such, dad and mom, along with Tom, slept on a mattress under a tree just west of the house.  An old “well house” stood between the tree and the house.

That fall, when the weather got cold, they moved up to the “outdoor back porch” of grandpa Carl and grandma Ina's house.  On colder nights, the back door would be left open a crack so they could get some warmth from the house.  Tommy was allowed to go inside to sleep when it was really cold.  When the garage/apartment was finished that fall, they finally moved into a real home.  Dad laughed when he told this story.  He said, “Do the math.  Pete was born in April, 1947 and it sure as heck wasn’t cold nine months before that”.   So yes, I was conceived under a tree, on a mattress, in the middle of a salvage yard, on a hot summer night, in Cimarron KS, in the summer of 1946. 

For those that may recall, there used to be a tree on the west side of the salvage yard as well.  Before I was born, the family moved into a home that dad had moved to the west end of the salvage yard.  On the day I was born, dad planted that tree.  While we owned the John Deere dealership south across the highway, I could look out my office window and see that tree.  As time went on, the tree died but it stood for many years, dead as heck.  We often joked about having our own hanging tree.  My sister, Joetta Neuschafer, one day said we should cut it down as it was dead and was going to fall down whenever a good wind came by.  I hit the ceiling of course, so it remained standing.  Eventually, when the tree was around 55 years old, that wind storm did come and the tree did fall.  It made Richard Scott some good fire wood as I recall.

In all the times I looked over at that tree planted on my birthday, I had no Idea that the tree that had stood just a 100 yards east of it, had played such an important part in my life.  Both trees are gone now, but I remember them well.  I am sure my mom and dad did too, but probably with much fonder memories of the one they spent many nights underneath, in the summer of 1946. 

I hope you have enjoyed this story as much as my family continues to enjoy it.

Pete Thomas.

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If you cannot reach me by clicking on the "COMMENTS" link, please email me at pjthomas@ucom.net with "WHERE WERE YOU" in the subject line.

From Jane Wehkamp Arthurs.

Gosh Pete - for a person to know "when" and "where" he was actually conceived is remarkable - and then to have a marker (the tree) as a constant reminder is just too much to imagine. Yes the hard times your family endured is what made that bond that kept all of you so close and together. Another LOVE THIS STORY for me - sweet story for a sweet Pete. love, janie

I hadn't read this story yet.  It's really an awesome one.  Wish I had asked more questions when my parents were alive. Glad our families were good friends when we were growing up.  They all struggled more than we can imagine but it took the smallest things to make us laugh and have a good time.  We lived in a garage at my grandparents farm too.  I later was learning to drive and drove into a metal cabinet in that same garage.  You have come up with some good memories!  Donna (Benton Reed).

Thanks Donna.  The wreck in the garage explains a lot. :).  Not really, but glad you liked the muse.  Pete!!