This is a picture of the elementary school, much as it looked when it was my second, and beyond it, the LDS Church in Victor, Idaho, as they appeared in 1976. A block further on, the street and the town ended two doors past ours. That was 1951. We lived there two years. Our house was the first of a series of US Forest Service houses where we would live, as Dad worked his way up through the Agriculture Department pecking order to a level beyond which he, like other savvy foresters of his generation, was not eager to seek.
Mr. Navasio, the town plumber, was our neighbor on the town side, and I was real sad when he announced he and missus were moving to Guam. Years later, I realized that he moved while the Korean War was still underway. My earliest memory of newspaper headlines were of that war. Not so many years later, I would get in my first financial difficulties as a result of delivering that same newspaper.
The Wolstenhulmes, a farming family, lived across the street. Elmo, my best friend, was my age, but we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together because he had hours and hours of farm chores to do. Helping Elmo do his chores was one of my favorite pastimes, but for whatever reason, neither of our families were gung-ho about me helping him. I guess mistakes were made. I only remember one day at Elmo’s with great clarity. The rest was winter snowball fights and summer slingshots.
On that day, Elmo showed up at the door breathless, asking if I could come over to see their new bathroom. It was noteworthy because it meant nobody would have to make the trip from back porch to outhouse in the middle of cold, stormy nights. They were all real excited about it.
“We gotta be quiet so he won’t see us,” Elmo gasped.
“Wadda ya talkin’ about?” I demanded.
“It’s Grandpa,” he said, “He’s been in there for an hour, I’ll bet. Every time, it’s exactly the same.”
We crept silently through the house toward the sound of the flushing toilet.
“He says the same exact words after every flush.” Elmo’s Grandpa was a million years old. He stood there under the bare light bulb staring first into the tank, as it filled to the top with clear, clean water. Then, gentling pressing down the lever handle near the upper left corner in front of the tank, he watched and listened to what was music in his ears.
We watched him through three or four repetitions of the ritual, which came to an end when Grandpa, still shaking his head, turned to find us there behind him, laughing and grinning from ear to ear, tickled at having intoned in perfect unison with him, “I’ll be God-damned.”