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Jeffrey City, Wyoming · 21 November 2008

When I was just out of elementary school, we lived for a short time in a tiny town in the center of Wyoming called Jeffrey City. It was a company town so everybody knew everybody else and most people lived in houses built by the company. The four people I remember most from those times were True, John, Daryl, and Bryce.


In reality, we lived in Jeffrey City two different times, once for the summer after my sixth grade year and once for six months in the middle of seventh grade through the end of that summer. Our family had moved from the suburbs of Denver on our way to Spokane, Washington. Dad was getting a promotion but needed to work in Jeffrey City on his way up the ladder. I met Bryce during the six month stay.


At the time of our second move from Colorado, I was taking Algebra at the junior high school. In Jeffrey City, all of the school, Kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12), was in one building and seventh graders were not studying algebra. But the school officials did not want me to be bored or disruptive so I got to do other things. Mainly, I was in a high school business math class which was okay but a bit dry. But when I was not doing the high school math, I got to do other things. Mainly with Bryce.


Bryce was a kid in my grade. He was very handy and could fix pretty much anything. One time, the home economics class had a broken sewing machine. Bryce and I got to get out of class for a few days while we fixed it. We must have finally gotten it running because it seems that we were never in class after that. We were always fixing one thing or another. I do not know if I learned much while at school in Jeffrey City. After all, from those three months of school, I only recall P.E., shop, business math, and Bryce.


I got to hang out with John both times we lived in Jeffrey City. He was a good friend and we did lots together. He had my back in a fight, we rode horses together, and we even tried to pick up girls once.


When we lived in Jeffrey City during the school year, there were these two bullies in our grade. They liked to especially pick on this one kid, Chris. In P.E. when we were doing archery or running around, or playing games, they picked on Chris. When we were in class reading, they picked on Chris. When we were in shop, they picked on Chris. John hated that they picked on Chris but he did not think he could take one or both in a fight if he stood up very often for Chris. He would tell the bullies to knock it off but they never did. John had seen the bullying happen for a long time and often said that he would like to do something about it but did not want to get beat up by the two.


One day in shop class, the bullies were picking on Chris and I told them to cut it out. The conversation that ensued went like what I imagine every conversation with junior high bullies sounds, “Who’s gonna make me?”


“I am.”


“Let’s go then.”


“Outside. After class.”


The bullies were so used to people letting them get away with stuff that they figured I would not have the guts to follow through. But I knew that John would back me up even if he never said that he would. He would make sure it was a one-on-one fight. So after class, I got to fight the bigger of the two bullies.


We were between the shop and the main building in an “alley” where there were no windows from either building. I was not much of a fist fighter and actually a poor grappler as well but I attacked his legs, he countered by grabbing me around the waist. I did not know much about leverage and I had usually won most of my fights by getting the other guy to the ground and making him give up. He was too strong for me to wrestle to the ground and I was too strong for him to just pick me up to throw me end over end. It seemed as if we were in that stalemate for an eternity. No punch was thrown but we ended up in a draw when the shop teacher was on his way to lunch and we let go of each other and went about our business as if nothing had happened. If John had not been there, I am sure I would have been beaten up by both of the bullies. As it was, the bullies did not pick on Chris as much after that and even when they did, they would stop when John or I said to stop.


Besides standing up for Chris and others, John and I used to ride his horses. I even learned how to ride bareback the hard way. One time, we were riding bareback to the Sweetwater River. John was a good rider and said we should run the horses there. Not being one to say that I had never galloped bareback let alone ride that way, we galloped our way there. We were going along fine when all of a sudden, I was on the ground. I got back on and we started galloping again as if nothing had happened. I found myself rolling off the side of the horse as if in slow motion. Then I was on the ground again. Rolling along on the ground beside the slowing horse. I got back on again. Figuring out that I did not really know how to ride bareback, John told me to squeeze my legs together against the sides of the horse to stay on better. We started galloping again. We were actually pretty close to our destination and I was feeling pretty good. I was confident. We were going to make it before I fell off again. Then I was on the ground for a third time. We did not go quite so fast the rest of the way. (We were almost there anyway.) And I stayed on the horse.


On a different trip to the river, I found out that at least some quicksand is not like it is depicted in the movies. John and I were riding along the river having a great time. It was mostly sandy on the shore where we were riding. John was in front of me. All of a sudden, John and his horse looked like they were trying to jump out of a four-foot deep hole. But there was no hole! They were trying to jump out of the sand. After about three or four jumps, which took about ten feet along the river, they were walking normally again – on dry land. I must have walked my horse up the bank then back down beyond the quicksand. John and I dismounted to see what this phenomenon was. It looked like sand. It felt like sand. And for us, it was as solid as sand. John and I jumped up and down on it and we did not sink one inch. It was not at all like the movies where people get sucked in and slowly sink. It was more like a hole filled with water covered with a layer of sand for unsuspecting large animals who can break through. I doubt if all quicksand is like that but I am sure glad that the stuff we ran into would not let us sink.


Another time with John, I found out that at least one old wives tale has some sort of truth to it – horses can tell if people are afraid of them. John and I were riding by the baseball fields at the edge of town. There were no games going on but there were people just hanging out. A couple girls we knew wanted to know if they could ride double with us. Of course, we said sure. We were 13 and they were girls! So John rode over to a log so that they could stand on it to get up. John said, “Don’t be afraid. The horses can tell if you are.” John got his rider up and as she held tight around his waist, I saw a big grin come onto his face. She was a little afraid but she was riding with John. And he loved it. My rider and I were not so fortunate. She said that she was very afraid and hoped she could actually get on the horse. I moved the horse close and assured both the horse and my potential riding partner that everything would be fine. But every time I got the horse close to the girl, the horse would shy away. John tried to tell the girl to be calm but no matter how hard we tried, she could not get on the horse with me. The horse could sense the fear and would not let her get on. So I never got to ride double and John’s passenger could not just leave her friend. So John did not have a rider for very long. I do not know whether it was the first girl that John had ever “picked up” but I had to wait a long time before I picked up my first.


Daryl and True were also friends both times we were in Jeffrey City. We swam and fished and skated and caught horny toads (which we never called “horned toads” as they are really named) together. The first time we lived in Jeffrey City, True lived right behind us. Being that his dad was our dad’s boss and that we lived so close together it was natural that we got to know True early in our stay. We became fast friends and did just about everything together.


True was deathly afraid of snakes. One time when we were swimming in the river, we saw a snake swimming up toward us. As far as I know, there have never been water moccasins in Wyoming, but when True saw the snake, he ran out of the water a full thirty yards beyond the bank screaming, “Water moccasin!” at the top of his lungs. Even if the snake had been a rattle snake (of which there are plenty in Wyoming), True probably had a better chance of getting bitten running through the sage brush than staying in the water (or even just retreating to the bank as the rest of us had).


Daryl was the storyteller. He kept us all amused with the stories he told. Most I believe were true. Or at least close. Unfortunately, I only really remember one story that he told about a relative of his. A cousin, maybe. Anyway, the story was amusing to adolescent boys but would be awkward to repeat here.


One night, True, John, and Daryl stayed overnight. The three of them, my brother, Russell, and I all slept in sleeping bags in the family room downstairs. Daryl told stories all night to keep us up. True would get scared about something, and John just tried to go to sleep. We threatened to pull the hot water trick or the shaving cream trick on whoever fell asleep first. We laughed when somebody got defensive because it was just an idle threat. And it was just part of the storytelling of tricks we had played on others. It was a fun night but the fun really got into high gear in the morning.


All night long, whenever True needed to get up, he stood up in his sleeping bag and just hopped in it like he was in a sack race. This technique kept him safe and warm as he hopped to the bathroom or across the room to jump on somebody. So in the morning when my mom yelled down from upstairs and told us that the pancakes, eggs, and sausages were ready, True just naturally hopped up the stairs in his sleeping bag. No need to get cold before breakfast. He was very quick. By the time he was almost to the top step, the rest of us were just turning the corner to go up the stairs. It was a good thing we were slow because True missed his next step about half way up and fell forward. Since his arms were inside the sleeping bag keeping it raised to his neck against the cold, he fell to a laying position on the steps. The nylon sleeping bag made an almost perfect sled. True was down by the rest of us in nothing flat. He was not hurt so of course, he ran right up and did it again.


Mom made us all eat breakfast first, but we were all sliding down the stairs when the food was gone. We had contests to see who could get the farthest beyond the last step and who could get down the fastest. And then my dad suggested we use cardboard instead. Actually, he probably said that he used to use cardboard as a sled back in the old days. So naturally, we found some new sleds for the stairs. We rode double, triple, quadruple, and quintuple. We went much farther and faster than we could with the sleeping bags. It was great fun on the stairs.


Thinking back on the stair sledding, I can just hear my mom asking my dad, “Why did you give them such a crazy idea?”


And I can hear him calmly and logically reply, “So they would not wreck the sleeping bags.”


Whether they had that conversation or not, the two of them sure got a lot of laughs out of our stunts. And I am glad that they got to share much of the fishing, swimming, and just goofing around that Bryce, John, Daryl, and True did with us. Those four friends were the welcome oasis in the desert called, Jeffrey City, Wyoming.

© 2008 Michael T. Miyoshi

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From Long Walks Home or Pee on Poo, Potty on the Shoe, unpublished.

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