at the packing shed
left school after eighth-grade
when more hands were needed for the dairy
took her place next to her mother
squatting on stools coaxing milk
from sour faced cows
loved to write stories
gave it up after marriage
to a man with ambition
camping in an army tent
at her brother’s orange grove
saving money for their dairy.
They grew to hate the cows
sold everything after he
bluffed his way through
his third-grade education
into a line foreman at Del Monte.
You’d never know
she’d just chopped off hen’s head
was on her hands and knees
picking strawberries big as apples
knew her way around the Smith and Wesson
a better shot than her man
was a lady who hadn’t
married someone with no Iota about business
wore her best suit to town,
pinned with rhinestones
cocked the feather hat just so,
clutched the pocketbook
with smooth gloved hands covered the calluses.
My beginnings were uncertain. I was born a twin with a brother named, Richard. We were a complete surprise to my mother and the doctor and weren’t given much of a chance of surviving. We did, and came home to my grandparents’ house after spending a week in incubators. The isolated rural setting of Tierra Buena, CA provided a blank page to scribble on with the imagination. The house we lived in, a craftsman bungalow, had a tin roof that sang when it rained and was surrounded by the peach orchard on three sides that my grandparents ranched. Each spring a flicker returned to its nesting hole outside the upstairs window of the bedroom I shared with my other three siblings. Our front yard had a view of the Sutter Buttes and “rattlers” were frequent visitors to the cool shade of the yard. I didn’t meet my father until I was five. I have been writing and making visual art since a young girl and I’ve never stopped.