To have a best friend is a good thing. Johnnie James was the best friend you could ever have and in Rock Springs, Wyoming, he was my only friend. I do not remember any girls on my block, maybe they were there, but I sure did not see them. Johnnie lived around the corner and we were together almost everyday. Things were different then, children actually played outside and our outside stretched for miles.
When the snow fell and was packed we would get our sleds, two cardboard boxes with the end cut out, doubled up and the sides folded down for handles and off we went. The hill across the way was perfect! Not too steep, no rocks on the slope, just a long slanted wonderful few minutes of pure joy. Sliding down the hill was just fun and easy and something we did until the sled fell apart.
One afternoon we decided to take a hike and see what was on the other side of our favorite hill. What a nice day, until the clouds started to gather and the sky turned black and the thunder started to talk, then yell. We knew a storm was brewing and we tried to make it back, but then it happened, suddenly lightning, and rain and hail… hail is not your friend, it’s like it can’t make up it’s mind, “Should I be rain or snow?”.. and it seemed to me the hail balls were like little golf balls and they would hit you along with the rain, so not only are you wet, but it hurts… We ran faster and all we could see in the thickness was a cave nearby, so of course, that is where we headed. It was sooo dark inside that we just barely entered, just enough to stay dry.
We could barely see each other and when we looked out the sky was a blank except for the lightning.. We got scared, time passed and we stayed scared… sometimes you can’t say anything, we just held hands and waited by the entrance to the cave, hoping the rain would end.. It seemed forever and that hailstorm just kept on… but then we heard the voices.. “Johnnie, Linda, Johnnie, LInda”.. ..One of them I knew, “That’s Dad” I told Johnnie… We ran outside and there they were, the rescue party…. We were hugged and wrapped and taken on home. After the joy of our retrieval I thought “Oh no we are in big trouble for not making it back home before the storm”. But to my surprise, everyone was so happy they found us, no punishment, just love and a great big dinner.. My mom could cook!!!
Rock Springs, Wyoming was a small coal mining town in those days. My parents had moved me there when I was just a baby. They told me later that they came West to get out of the big city. That they did, there was nothing big city about Rock Springs!!. Since their resource was coal, the town was quite diverse. Men had come from all over to get jobs in the mines, many of them returning home from the war and many had settled there for several generations. Johnnie was my best friend and my only friend my age. All my other friends were much older. This coal miner’s daughter had a sense of adventure and curiousity too abound.
Johnny lived around the corner with his parents. He lived in the Catholic house, I say that because his mom was consumed with the church. When you walked into his house you saw relics and icons everwhere. The light plates had the face of the Virgin Mary, there was an altar in the living room, crucifixes and saints plastered in every room. It was waaaay too much stuff I thought. And Johnny was forced to be an altar boy, I say forced, because he always told me how much he hated it… But his mother made him do it.. Wow, I wondered, I am not a Catholic, but if I was I would be so glad God doesn’t want altar girls.
The streets there were very dusty then, not real ashpalt, but old roads and Rocks Springs is in the high desert , so in the summer it is very dry. And so naturally you had to get outside and explore. Down the street lived Charlie, the Indian… I mean no disrespect, but Charlie had moved from the Indian reservation and purchased a house on our street. When we met him that was his own introduction, “I am Charlie, the Indian.”..He was very nice and my father liked him. Later on in life I learned that my grandfather was Cherokee and English. His father had come from England and married a Cherokee woman. Charlie still had contacts with the reservation and they made money selling artifacts and souveners to tourists. He gave me a small cigarette box once and the lid was engraved with an Indian chief head, wish I still had that, but it is long gone. But I do still have the “Bully Good” Indian doll complete with beaded necklace and blanket wrap.. Seems strange today , but I can still remember seeing the Indians often walk wrapped just like that….