I write about my family fairly often, especially my sister, Debbie, who provides tons of good subject matter. I recently received an email asking if I would write about Darrel, who is an older brother. Although I did include Darrel in a fight against aliens in last Halloween‘s column, I never have written about our relationship or him. This week that will change.
Let’s discuss some subconscious childhood scarring that may have prevented me from writing about Darrel. Darrel used to tie me up with log chains, then give me so many minutes to get out or else I was “it” again. He also told me that my nose was too wide and that I should pinch it tightly then count to 200 before releasing my grip. I am five years younger than Darrel, so mom always provided me a way to call for help if she was working in the barn and Darrel was being…well, Darrel. I could simply flick the porch light on and she would come in and distribute focused, awful justice to Darrel. It was basically like calling in an air strike. I remember Darrel holding on to my arm one night as I drug him across the kitchen floor in an effort to flick the switch that would bring mom. It was quite a scene; my desperate efforts in search of revenge, Darrel’s emphatic bargaining to delay the justice he so richly deserved all the while sliding along the floor behind me on stocking feet.
Somewhere along the way, Darrel and I became friends. It was about tenth grade that we started having fun that didn’t involve humiliation for me. Darrel worked on a harvesting crew that would start down by Texas in the Spring and combine their way home in time for wheat harvest in North Dakota. I got to visit Darrel at the “wheatie camp” one summer. I remember it being the first time I felt like his contemporary. Darrel owned a massive, old Cadillac at the time. When he came home for the winter, I got to ride around with him and listen to Journey, REO Speedwagon, Bad Finger, Lynyrd Skynyrd and other great seventies bands. The car was so luxurious, the music was loud and there was always the delicious anticipation that it would all come to an end when the eight-track tape first stretched, then broke.
Darrel and I also raised cattle back in the early nineties. At the time, a four wheel drive pick-up was the only luxury available so there was much manual labor. We spent most of one winter heating the ground then digging a foundation for a barn that we needed as soon as possible. When we finished the foundation, we moved a granary then placed it on the railroad ties we used for footings. Darrel taught me a lot about being exact and acting in a fearless way when trying new things-like moving that old granary. In the summer, we carried most of our fencing on our shoulders as it was too wet for a pick-up. I remember how proud I felt when Darrel said he had used my suggestion when working hard. People tend to hold their breath when performing a hard task and Darrel was no different. I had reminded him to breathe instead of bearing down and it would be easier. He’d used my little gem and it made me feel good.
Rick Bothun was the person who encouraged me to write about Darrel. They grew up together and Rick knew Darrel was a good guy and thought I should let folks know; now, you know.