Week-ends at Chilocco were
more for getting chores done at the building than anything else. There
was a free time from the weekly schedule of academics and whatever trade
we had chosen. I was a senior at this time and the girls on my floor
were well disciplined with the life style they had lived from the time
they were 9th graders. If they practiced doing their home work, then it
was what any late arrivals learned to do, simply by being in association
with the more trained veterans of the school. Socks, underwear were to
be folded neatly, and other toiletries to be placed in carefully in our
dressers. When inspections were made by the staff for order in our
rooms, how well organized and clean the rooms were gave us a grade at
the end of the semester, good or bad. On occasion, one of the women in
charge, might take a day to really check up on our cleaning habits. It
was rare, but once in a while an inspection of bedsprings, over the door
dust or maybe a high shelf in a closet might be checked. We all knew the
possibilities were there for stringent room checks, so we stayed ahead
of this and kept everything in good shape. It wasn’t a bad time because,
even though each girl was busy with her chores, we still took a bit of
time to visit. We might take a break after finishing, sometimes to meet
in the lounge, on the back steps, in the reading room, or together in
front of the television for gab sessions.
The girl and I were
finishing up and lingering in our room, while we waited for chow call.
“I’m starving. I hope we
don’t have mutton, today. I don’t think I can walk into the dining room
and get a snootful of that stuff.” She complained.
“We won’t. We’ve had that
once this week, already.” I didn’t want mutton either. It always looked
so wonderful on the tray, like rich, beef roast, but when I tried to eat
the meat, it always tasted like lanolin to me.
“It keeps coming baaaaaaa
ck up, my friend laughed at her own joke.”
A quiet knock at our door
caused us to look at each other with a look of a questioning expressions
on our faces?
When I opened the door,
the girl who worked in the office was standing there waiting for us to
“You have guests in the
lobby!” She told me and was just as abruptly back down the hall to her
My thinking was totally
one of surprise. No one had told me they were going to visit. When
Mother came for me, she always called or sent a note to let me know what
time she would be coming for me.
“Wonder who in the world
it is?” I asked my friend.
“One way to find out!”
She grinned and waved me out of the room.
I skipped and ran down
the long, highly polished floors of a hallway to open up into the lobby
where those shining, polished, marble squares gave the room a look of
Standing just inside the
double, heavy wooden doors was Weldon and Uncle Dean. Weldon was a big
man, but he was dwarfed, not only by the doors, but by the tall, small
paned windows that were carved in a semi-circle at their top.
Weldon evidently wasn’t
at all impressed with the elegance of this environment. He was scowling
and I could not understand how this fun loving person I had known for my
whole life was such a different person. His countenance, now was, dark
and brooding. Where was the happy boy-man I had always known and loved?
I ran up to him and
hugged him, but still he seemed cold and distant. The rough wool of his
uniform was scratchy on the side of my face and less than welcoming too,
not like the soft, western shirts he had always worn. His black curly
hair was covered by the army uniform cap he was wearing. They didn’t
stay for long and as he had always done, was gone and away in an
instant. Over the years I had grown acquainted with this part of his
personality and thought nothing about it, because I knew he would, in
his own time, return.
I carried the gift he
left, back to my room. Gone was the happy anticipation I had known only
a short while ago. Something was wrong and I had no idea what it was.
“What’s happening?” My
room mate must have sensed my feelings and asked about them. For
whatever they were, I could not explain anything of it to her.
“I don’t know! I really
just do not know.” I looked at her with a bewildered look, I’m sure.
The bed had been so
carefully made up to a military sharpness, but I plopped down upon it.
“Now look at what you've
done! How long did it take to make your bed?”
Without answering I
quietly pulled the ribbon off the little package.
Inside, carefully nestled
in tissue paper was the most beautiful necklace I think I had ever seen.
I held it in my hand and let the light catch some of the beads as I
gazed upon its beauty.
“Help me with this,
please?” I asked my friend.