Currently stringing words together but here's a taste...
I walked home from school every day, down the hill, across the bridge, over the gravel road, through the gas station parking lot, eventually passing through the gate to our back yard. Most days it was uneventful and consisted of kicking rocks along the way, contemplating the day and the plans I had or, more often, didn’t have for the evening. School was not too far away but far enough to be annoying. Mom was at work. She was always at work. Dad was “out selling ads”; but in reality, no one really knew where Dad was. They were so disconnected I had no idea if they were ‘together’ or not. It fluctuated so very frequently.
Most days I’d walk to ‘the shop’ after scrounging up something to eat at home. My parents had inherited the family newspaper and printing business from my paternal grandparents more than thirty years prior and would go on to own it for a total of 44 years before selling because none of their three daughters wanted anything to do with it. My father spent years digging it into a hole thanks, in part, to his gambling and alcohol addictions. After forcing him into rehab, my mother took legal ownership and spent years digging it back out. She eventually paid off all the debt he had accrued and made a name for herself along the way by winning several journalism awards.
I spent many afternoons there picking up paper off the floor and massaging the typesetters’ shoulders for quarters when I was younger and when I was a little older, I’d help with the layout of the pages and proofread for typographical errors. The education I received by virtue of the countless hours spent ‘working’ there served me well. My distain for people who cannot speak and spell properly knows no bounds and undoubtedly makes me a complete asshole with no tolerance for error. I did ponder this once for a whole 2.5 seconds and concluded I’m good with it.
My fondest memories of being the local newspaper owners’ daughter were during the summer months when I would get up at 4am on Wednesday mornings (with my father when he was around or my mother when he wasn’t) and ride along up to Pierre, SD where the paper was printed. Witnessing the sun rise slowly as we drove east, peeking over the fields of sunflowers and corn, stars dissipating and sad country music seeping through the stereo…memories burned lovingly into my mind. We always stopped in Murdo, SD at the truck stop for pancakes and bacon along the way. Not many words were spoken on those drives but there was really no need.
The inhalation of printer’s ink and the flirtatious old men who doted on me was enough to keep me high for the three hour duration it took to load up the boxes of newspapers and make our way back to the Reservation. Once we arrived, I was tasked with stuffing the papers with advertisement flyers. This was my least favorite part of the process so I obviously made sure to let it be known, which always resulted in a couple dollars worth of payment. I’d take the money straight to the ice cream shop down the road and reward myself with a chocolate/vanilla swirl cone.
Owning a business in a small town doesn’t come without its challenges and my sisters and I most definitely experienced our fair share. The whispers were deafening when we would walk into a room, any room. Adults and peers alike would warn each other not to say too much in front of us for fear it would “end up in the paper”. Herein began the evolution of my sense of being self-conscious. Over time, this developed into a strong desire to prove myself. I was constantly proving myself; mainly to people who hadn’t earned it and most definitely didn’t deserve it. It’s also entirely possible this is how I began to understand and appreciate the gravity of keeping my mouth shut...something I have always been exceptional at. Always the trusted ally to keep all the secrets. Until now.