My daughter thinks she’s the most tortured kid in existence. 

I often endure rants about the agony she suffers for not having an iPhone or being forced to hand over electronics by 10 at night. Apparently, her life is tragic.

Not to be outdone, I’ve decided to share some of my own childhood stories. Consider this my version of “when I was your age, I had to walk to and from school, in a blizzard, going uphill both ways.”

As a child, my father devoured stories of the Wild West. Longing to experience it for himself, he eventually uprooted our family and settled in Cody.

Determined not to have a mortgage, he plopped down his savings to purchase land on the South Fork, and then proceeded to construct a home with his own two hands. He paid for building materials paycheck to paycheck and learned house-building through trial and error. 

I was 8 when we finally moved into a home without insulation or interior walls. I remember one terrified night spent listening to the walls creaking and shaking under the onslaught of a wicked windstorm and seeing my father on his knees, praying that the structure would hold.

Roughing it while constructing a house on nights and weekends was not the typical standard of living in the 1980s; it was more akin to the 1880s. Before then, my favorite show was Little House on the Prairie, so I imagined myself in good company with Mary and Laura Ingalls. 

With no running water, the bed of our rusted, white Chevy pickup was loaded with a large, plastic tank that we filled from obliging spigots around town. Bath water was heated in large pots on our stovetop and transported to a dingy freestanding tub. We bathed in turns using the same water which drained into a barrel resting beneath the plywood floor. Every Saturday, I took my yellow sand pail, crawled beneath the house, scooped up water, and then scurried out to dispose of it in the irrigation ditch.   

At first, I didn’t mind the primitive conditions because I hadn’t been alive long enough to realize how odd they were. As I grew older, I became less enchanted with our frontier-style of living.

I recall returning from break to excitedly compare Christmas presents and receiving confused looks after regaling my classmates with tales of my new ruffled, blue curtains and a toilet that actually flushed.

The house was shared with a variety of creatures, as happens when a home is unfinished and nestled in the country. I recall my mother laughing, her back turned to the kitchen “sink,” squeezing a sponge that was, in fact, an unfortunate mouse that had drowned in the dishwater. Laughter turned to shrieking as the dead rodent sailed through the air, bounced off the wall and landed with a thud on the floor.  

With these and other experiences in mind, I roll my eyes when my own daughter whines about not having all the things her friends do. I mean, seriously, until you’ve had to pee in a plastic bucket and then traipse across the yard to empty it, you haven’t a clue about having less than your friends.

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