This is one of my mother’s recollections as drawn from a series of interviews tape recorded in the late 1990s and first published in the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter. The incidents described here are a continuation of the article, "Pistol Whippin' Bertha", posted in this blog on Thursday, May 12, 2011.
How Wanda Joyce Parker Got Her Name
A Story from
the Enkey-Parker Family History Newsletter
told by Lillie Ada Enkey-Parker
written by Wally Lee Parker
(1934 — 1935)
Owen didn’t own a car yet, so when we decided in October or November of ‘34 to leave Roswell, New Mexico, and go to Arizona, we had to take the bus. We took everything we had on the bus with us. That amounted to one box of clothes and our bedroll — the bedroll being our feather mattress and all our blankets rolled up together and tied.
Up in the mountains about sixty miles east of Phoenix, Arizona, at a town called Globe, the bus stopped so the passengers could eat lunch. I was sitting in the diner with a bowl of chili. I took a few bites, looked down at the bowl, and saw a dead fly lying 'mong the beans. I pushed the bowl away. Just the idea made me feel sick, so I jumped up and ran outside.
A little lady sitting on the bus saw me run out. She hollered at the bus driver. They helped me on the bus and sat me down. The lady told the bus driver to, “Run and get her an ice cream cone.” When he came back with the cone, she said, “That’s the best thing for anyone pregnant and sick at their stomach.”
The bus driver said, “But you ain't supposed to ride the bus if you’re pregnant.”
That was the rule and I knew it — but I didn’t tell them that when I got on.
The lady made an excuse of sorts for me by saying, “Well, you couldn’t tell by looking.”
The ice cream cone did settle my stomach. And as far as the bus company’s rule was concerned, the bus driver just let it be.
The rest of the Parker clan was working on the J. E. Cooper ranch — that was a big farm just west of Phoenix and not far from the town of Buckeye. Along with the other farm buildings, the place had a big, rambling ranch house, a bunk house, and a building for cooking and eating. A hired lady and her girl did the cooking and washing for any hired hands staying at the bunk house.
Besides that, there must have been about forty single cabins just for the workers with families. The Parker clan took up about five of them. The guys worked on the ranch — doing piecework on contract for the Coopers, or picking cotton if there was nothing better in the way of work.
I recall Mister Cooper as being a decent enough man. His wife was writing a book — I can’t recall about what. While we worked there Mister Cooper bought a big trailer so him and his wife could travel around while she worked on her book. I think part of her reason for writing was that she was dying of cancer. Every little bit Mister Cooper would remind Owen’s mother and me to go to the hospital to visit her. I don’t remember if she died before we left there for the last time or not. I mean — we worked on and off at that ranch over the next half-dozen years, so it all got a bit confusing. During one of our stays at the ranch I recall people saying the doctors would pack yards and yards of gauze around her intestines. From the way people described it, she couldn’t have lasted long after that.
I do remember that they had turkeys, geese, and stuff like that just running loose. The birds would run up and down the irrigation canals, get back in the brush, and lay their eggs. Several of us would go hunt the nests, take a stick and rake the eggs out. They was big eggs, and good eating.
And then they had pigeons — just scads of them. There was a great big barn out there and those pigeons were around there all the time. After Wanda was born, Missis Cooper came over to check on me a time or two. She brought over some of them pigeons all cooked up — they called them squabs. And one time she brought a little pillow, two pillow cases, and a little blanket for the baby.
The ranch foreman was named Howell. He was a white man, but he could speak Spanish. He thought it was funny to talk to us in Spanish and watch us try to figure out what he was telling us to do. The Mexicans would look at him, then at us, then back again at him when he was doing that. I guess they couldn’t see how that was funny any more than us.
The Mexicans could say anything they wanted around us, we wouldn’t know. But they didn’t dare talk out of line around Howell. Still, everybody seemed to like Howell.
I listened to the Mexican workers — to the way they talked and how they motioned and what they did when talking. Sometimes I could figure out what they were saying. And after a bit I could speak a few words — rattle them off pretty good — and understand a lot more than I could say. Howell said, “If you’re around here long enough, you’ll pick up the whole outfit.”
One of the Mexicans said he’d teach Owen and me the language for ten dollars. Course, we didn’t have ten dollars. But I wish to goodness we could’a went ahead and learned all them words.
Like I said, all we owned was the contents of one box, and then our bedroll. I only had two dresses — one a wrap-around, the other a regular dress. When I was showing enough, all I could wear was that one wrap-around.
One day one of Owen’s younger brothers — as I remember it was Sam — said, “I’m getting tired of seeing Lillie wear that one dress all the time. Let’s go to town and get her something else.” So Lena Mae and the boys went to town and came back with two more wrap-a-rounds that I could just lap over. But even then the doctor was surprised at how little I showed.
I’d went to see a doctor just before we’d left Roswell. Adding that to the two times I’d seen one back in Oklahoma when I was a kid meant that until we got to Arizona I’d only seen a real doctor three times in my entire life.
One night on the ranch I got sick — got the cramps. I got them so bad that Owen’s Uncle, Grover Parker, and Grover’s wife Nettie put me in a car and drove me to Litchfield Park to see a doctor. The doctor said, “Take her home and put her to bed. And give her this medicine every so often during the night.”
Of course everyone got nervous.
Owen’s dad, Alfred, was big on hunting. Him and a bunch of others would take off to the mountains every chance they got. And right then, when all this was going on, that’s where he was — up in the mountains.
One of the ranchers drove up to Alfred’s hunting camp to tell him that his daughter-in law was real sick. Long after that day Aunt Nettie told me that Owen’s mother, Lena Mae, was predicting that Alfred was gonna raise “Holy Ned” ‘cause somebody was interrupting his hunting. She, like everyone else, was flabbergasted by what happened. The people at the hunting camp said Alfred Wallace just grabbed his gun, threw it in his rig, and took off for the ranch. Alfred Wallace was the one who sat by my bed all night and woke me up every little bit to give me the medicine. When I finally roused come daylight, he said, “Well, if ya think you’ll be okay, I’m gonna go to sleep fer a bit.”
Others might have been surprised, but I knew what was going on. Grandpa Parker was a show-off. I suspect he figured this was a good way of getting into the center of attention. But that didn’t matter to me, since I was getting real good attention.
Alfred Wallace told Owen, “You be sure she’s takin’ to the doctor.” So I went a time or two more before Wanda was born.
We had one of the little one room cabins for ourselves. There was a wood stove for cooking and heat. The furniture was a table, some benches for chairs, and the bed. The walls were bare wood planks — no paint and no paper. I got so tired of looking at those bare planks I made up a mess of flour-paste, took a bunch of old newspapers and covered them walls over. That’s the cabin Wanda was born in.
Wanda Joyce Parker in front of the cabin she was born in.
J. E. Cooper Ranch — Buckeye, Arizona — spring, 1935
When Wanda was on her way the family got the doctor from Buckeye to drive out. He would tend to me a bit, then he’d go walking around, reading the newspapers pasted on the walls. I remember one time he turned around and said, “This is very interesting.”
Hearing that made Lena Mae so mad she couldn’t see straight. She went around saying, “Place of him doing something, he had to have his nose stuck in them papers all the time.”
After the baby was born the doctor came out once again. When he was there he asked, “How do you wash the clothes?”
Aunt Nettie told him, “We use a rub board.”
The doctor said, “I don’t want her washing any diapers.”
Nettie was going to work in the fields every day, so Owen’s sister, Jewell — she was a year younger than me — was staying to help me.
Lena Mae came over to get Owen’s work clothes and our bed linen to wash. But she left the diapers. Seeing she was leaving, Jewell hollered, “But Mom, we’s about out of baby diapers.”
Lena Mae hollered back, “I got all the men’s stuff to wash, and all this linen, and doing them diapers is just too much.”
So Jewell started washing diapers. She’d wash a little, and then she’d cry a little. When Nettie come in after work, Nettie would wash some more.
The doctor said he wanted the baby to be fed water by teaspoon every so often. Jewell and me was afraid to do that, so we’d have Nettie do it. We knew Lena Mae wanted to do that, but we was still mad about her not washing the diapers. We were still just kids, so we couldn’t see all that Lena Mae was already doing for me and Owen.
Owen, Lillie, and Wanda Parker
Cooper’s Ranch — Arizona — 1935
Owen had wanted to name the baby after his mother — had wanted to name the baby ‘Mae’. By this time Jewell had been washing so many diapers — and wantin' to get back at her mother — that she said to me, “Why don’t we just name the baby ourselves.”
“What would we name her?”
“You were telling me about how, when you was back in Oklahoma staying with your sister Sylvia, you and her would talk about running off to Hollywood and getting into the movies. Remember how you said you figured on changing your names?”
“Sure,” I said. “Sylvia was going to become Wanda, and my Hollywood name was gonna be Joyce.”
And that was how Wanda Joyce Parker got her name.
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