Would you believe in 1958-1959, at age 17, I won first place in the SC State Women’s Diving Championship Competitions for the National Swimmers Association on the 3-meter boards?! In public pools, that was the 10’ high dive!
I later married my husband who completed his Residency in Medicine in Columbia, SC (my home), and we honeymooned along the coast on our way down to our first home in Brownsville, TX. He chose to serve our country via the Division of Foreign Quarantine in Public Health and was the physician on the bridge between Brownsville and Matamoros, Mexico. It was while hunting together on the King’s Ranch that I dropped a duck from the sky with a 22 pistol. He was in shock! A year later he wanted to get back into a hospital setting, so he applied to the Division of Indian Hospitals, and we ended up on the high desert between Phoenix and Tucson on the Pima Indian Reservation.
What a WONDERFUL time we had as a young family camping out through the Northwest with our firstborn, Deborah. Couples in surrounding counties loved doing the Four-Square folk dancing. We women made our crinolines, and our dresses, AND our husbands’ cowboy shirts to match our dresses! We loved riding our horses out in the desert to the mountains to look for rocks and arrowheads.
My husband, Charles, LOVED trying to rope his first calf with the Indians! He had bought a rope and practiced on the neighborhood children as they ran across the yard! The day came for Charles to rope his first calf. I suggested he practice before they came for him. He agreed, so without knowing a special secret about saddling an Indian pony, he threw the saddle on the horse and cinched it up.
Charles put his left foot in the stirrup and mounted his Indian pony named Nellie. He took off after a calf and after a few misses, he finally threw the rope and dropped the lasso around the calf’s legs. Nellie suddenly came to an abrupt stop, as a trained quarter horse will do, and the saddle began to slide off, sending Charles into a small bunch of cactus! I ended up picking cactus out of his leg and bottom for two days! He learned a hard lesson on saddling a working horse, huh?
Every morning, Nellie (the horse) would cross the cattle guards to eat in our backyard. And every morning, I bundled up my baby, Deborah, to lead our Indian pony back across the sandstorm filled cattle guards and out of our cyclone fenced-in area.
What fun we had riding out to the distant mountains together. The Pima Reservation had a traditional annual rodeo called their Mulchatha with bucking broncos and the cowboys riding and roping calves. On the Reservation was their old general store, like what is pictured below, with a pot-bellied stove. This was in Maricopa County. The old men and women had very hardened lines in their faces and weren’t very friendly. They had undoubtedly lived hard lives and it showed on their faces and in their personalities. But we loved living there and learning about their culture.
We LOVED the West but after much deliberation, we decided we wanted our children to grow up near their roots – grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was the right decision. WOW, seems like yesterday! Charles and I started another dance club after we moved back to the NC mountains. We had our three sons in Banner Elk before the ski resorts took over the quiet hills there.
What FUN it is re-living these stories that are tucked away so deep in me!