Hand-me-downs are a common occurrence in large families and I was used to getting clothes from my older brother. Shoes though, often didn’t last very long and there were times when I had none or only the pair I wore to town. Because of this, my feet were naturally tough and I traversed on many a terrain with no shoes at all. I even got used to walking in the snow, and never lost any toes.
The Klamath Basin, around 4,100 feet in altitude, had plenty of snow six or seven months out of the year. Snow that would blow so hard it would streak past our windows sideways, making it appear that we were in space, moving past stars; this would leave a six foot pile of snow on one side of the bus and barely any on the other. The ground would be covered with a couple of feet of snow and then freeze over thick enough to walk on top of, staying that way for months at a time.
I cannot lie to you and say that this life was easy. But instead of take you into the darkest moments of my existence, I choose to leave you with the best and brightest memories I had as a child….
At a time when none of us were living in the bus, as the family was separated and travelling in different directions for different reasons, the sun was magnified through a window of the bus, next to one of our kerosene lamps, catching it on fire. As the small flame consumed all of the oxygen in the mostly sealed vehicle, the windows suddenly imploded, causing it to erupt in a fireball seen a mile and a half away. That is the official report from what the fire department was able to deduce.
Horrified by what appeared to be our family’s dwelling exploding, the locals rushed to get the fire department on the scene, unsure of whether or not any of us were inside. Most of our belongings were consumed by the fire, with only a small handful of photos and other artifacts surviving our many years of living in this re-purposed transportation vehicle.
Some of those photos appear in the first few episodes of this blog. Others exist, but to protect the privacy of the people who appear in them, I have promised not to share any other than what I already have.
The harsher details of our lifestyle will remain untold, except for what I have shared personally with people in confidence. Someday, as I stated in the beginning of this blog, I may choose to make a film version of this existence, showing more details of what our life was like, but a tell-all recounting of this story would be impossible without offending at least some living family members, so will probably remain untold to the public.
I am so grateful to be able to tell as much of this story as I have and appreciate the interest it has generated and the interesting comments people have added. As I always enjoy a story that has an end, I now finish this tale until such a time as it may be explored in more detail, down the road. I look forward to bringing you many more interesting stories in my films, which will continue to mine my rich life experiences, albeit cloaked in fictional settings and characters, as happens with most filmmakers.
Thank you for reading!