I was born in Denison Texas and raised in Washington State, in a little town called Lake Chelan.
I am one of eight children , of which there are four boys and four girls.
I grew up on a 250 acre apple orchard that a company owned by the company my father worked for..
Lake Chelan is a very beautiful place and is very much a tourist town in the summer months. The Seattleites flock in for the sunshine and clear cool water of the lake.
The winter time, however is another story. It is very cold with lots of snow. All in all; it was a great place to grow up.
My parents "Betty and Bootie" or Betty and Paul, where only offered minimum wage jobs because of their lack of education. You see, my parents where pulled out of school to help on the family farm before they ever graduated. At that time in the south this was a very common practice
When we first moved to Chelan, we lived in a company owned house that only had one bedroom, a small kitchen with only one pipe for water, coming in from the irrigation system outside. So we only had cold water. A wood stove for Mom to cook on and no bathroom.
Yup, I was an outhouse baby. I hated having to go in the middle of the night, having to wake Mom or Dad and taking a flash light to find our way to the outhouse. The boss of the orchard felt sorry for us with at the time only seven kids and Mom and Dad all living in the basically two room house. So he offer to let dad remodel the old tractor barn next door to what we were living in which we call most appropriately "the little house".
The arrangement was that the orchard would supply the lumber and Dad would do the work on his own time.
This was not just a tracker barn, before it was an orchard it had been a cattle farm, so it was an old style Dutch barn with the hay loft and dirt floors and big double doors on the front. Dad took the opportunity and slowly but surely turned that old barn into our home, a home that I would not leave for the next 16 years.
How do you feed a family of eight kids plus yourselves on minimum wage? Beans, beans are the answer.
Beans and potatoes, every day except Sundays, Sunday was Chicken day. On Sunday we would have a nice big breakfast of biscuits and gravy and then come dinner time, Dad would fry chicken in the cast iron skillet.
Sundays was kind of our family day, we would take long drives through the country, exploring the hill sides and maybe do some stream fishing.
My parents where proud people and would not accept any kind of assistance. I remember one Thanksgiving. I was sitting at the front door of the barn and a pickup truck pulled up and a bunch of high school kids in the back. I was young so they all seemed like adults to me. One of them shouted and asked if this was the Richerson home. I said it was and the next thing I knew one of them was walking toward me with a big box. He sat it down next to me and said Happy Holidays and left. I looked in the box and was excited to see food. There were all sorts of food, a lot of canned goods, some boxes of mixes and smaller bags of stuff. But the big surprise was the turkey that was also down inside with the other groceries.
Mom arrived just after the high school kids had left and saw me sitting next to this big box. After getting out of the car, she walked over asking what I had. Food I told her excitedly. What? She replied as she peered into the box. Where did this come from? She asked with an angry tone to her voice. I don't know I replied a bunch of big kids in a truck dropped it off.
Why did they drop it off here? There must be some kind of mistake. Nope they even asked if this was the Richerson house.
That is when I knew I would never get to taste the food that was in that box. She didn't say another word, just picked up the box threw open the door and took it inside with a very stern look on her face.
Sure enough when Dad got home, I overheard them talking to each other with a strong whisper that we kids were not supposed to hear, but was too loud not to hear because of their anger.
Shortly after the whispering stopped and the box was whisked out the back door and taken to the car. Mom yelled back "you kids watch each other we'll be back shortly".
Well, they took that box right back to the school and chewed out the school principle for allowing them to be given this handout. They may not have much but they didn't need anyone's help and they would take care of themselves.
I don't remember much about that Thanksgiving, other than knowing we didn't have the food in that box. For some reason it just seemed sad that there was a box out there with our name on it and we were not meant to have it.
There was the winter that all the other kids on the school bus called us the Wonder Bread family.
You see, we could not afford show boots so mom would save any bread back she came across and before we walked up to the highway to catch the school bus, she would put these bread bags over house shoes and fasten them around our pant leg with rubber bands. This was to keep our shoes from getting snow on them, so we would not have wet feet all day.
Have you ever tried to walk on the show, with slick plastic bags on your feet? It's next to impossible, but we did not dare take them off while Mom within sight.
Every time there was a mismatched tube sock or a one worn to thin its partner became a new mitten for our hands.
I laugh now when I think back to those days. I'm also grateful I didn't fall and break my neck.
In our house one of the worst things you could do was tell a lie. If you here caught telling a lie, you would have to go to the Chine Elm tree and pick one of the suckers from its trunk for a whipping switch., It had to be strong yet flexible because if it was not good enough, and they had to go it one, you would get punished twice as bad.
My parents thought all of us kid these major points.
One: Be honest at all times, even when it is not comfortable to do so.
Two: Work hard and take care of your own needs and don't expect anyone else to do it for you.
Three: Be wise with your money, and live within our means.
Four: Count your blessings and make the best of your situations. Bloom where you are planted.
Five: Treat others with kindness and always be willing to help someone truly in need.
As I look at all my brothers and sisters, I can see that these lessons have been installed in each one. By the way each of them has lived and what they have accomplished in their lives.
Mom and Dad wanted all of us to have more opportunities and a better life then what they had. I have to say, we do and I am thankful for the southern upbringing we had even if it was in Washington State.
I have often referred to us as Washington Hillbillies.