The end of October, 1967, Dad and some of the other guys from the paper mill in town were needed at the mill in Orange, Texas. Dad drove our pickup and the camper there.
At some point, during his absence, Mom loaded me, Pat, and several other people into her car and drove to Texas for a few weeks. For some reason we left at four o’clock in the morning. It was pitch black outside and freezing cold that November.
We arrived in Texas the next day to a warmth we never dreamed of in November. We were amazed that we could go outside without jackets or scarves. The motel where we stayed had an outdoor pool that was still in use. Or course, Mom wouldn’t let us use it, but no decent mother of the time would let their children go swimming outdoors in November no matter what the weather or where you were.
Our jaunt to the Gulf of Mexico was a little bit chilly, more seasonable for us, a stiff breeze coming off the ocean. Mom made us wear our jackets and scarves. Our plaid cotton scarves, with fringes, were almost extensions of ourselves, to be worn at all times unless the weather was extreme. Extreme being the cold we left behind in Wisconsin that November, requiring a home-knit cap pulled down around our ears. Extreme heat being the month of July which was those four weeks during the Wisconsin summer when the temperature consistently stayed above 45 degrees.
Two of the souvenirs we brought home were silky scarves with a picture of the lone star state printed on it. Pat’s had blue trim, mine red. Mine is still in the bottom of one of my dresser drawers, thread-bare and wrinkled, but still bearing the Texas logo.
The other item I remember Mom purchasing was a play cowboy whip for my 16-year-old cousin. I cannot fathom why she thought that was an appropriate gift. As soon as she gave it to him, he chased Pat and me around my aunt’s yard with it.
The free souvenirs are sometimes the best. Dozens of seashells found their way into the camper, only after Mom had inspected them to be sure no animals were lurking inside.
“You know that animals do live inside those shells, don’t you?”
“Yes, Mom,” we obediently answered and immediately thought, wouldn’t it be cool if one of those animals made it all the way home before crawling out when we took the shell to school for show-and-tell?
We really wanted to take the jellyfish to school. We found one washed up on the beach, its long transparent tentacles trailing into the ocean. It was positively unearthly.
“Get away from that thing,” Mom shouted before we could get within ten yards of it. “That thing is poisonous.”
“But Mom, it’s dead.”
“It doesn’t matter. It is still poisonous and can still sting you.”
So much for cool wildlife.