Blushing, Bill put her hand over his and patted along with him.
With a loan from Pop they moved to Farwell, on the New Mexico border. They rented an apartment in an older couple’s house and scraped together enough furniture for a start there.
Joe’s business consisted mostly of selling gasoline and oil to farmers. He made deliveries by pulling a trailer loaded with barrels behind his car.
On the Fourth of July weekend, Joe closed the business early. He and Bill drove into the Sangre de Cristo mountains of New Mexico for a brief delayed honeymoon. Near Taos, they found a tourist court consisting of eight small log cabins. Seven were for rent and the manager lived in the eighth, which doubled as his office. Theirs was at the back of the U-shaped layout, away from the highway. Behind them was wilderness.
“Oh, Joe, it’s beautiful.” Bill delighted in having Joe all to herself in an exotic place. The tall pines surrounding the cabin whispered constantly in the breeze. “The air smells delicious. This is the perfect time for a honeymoon, now that we’re used to each other and I’m not so nervous about pleasing you in bed.”
“What do you mean? You’ve always pleased me.” Joe held her close, caressing her smooth hair. “I’m just glad I have a job and don’t have to worry about supporting you and the baby.”
The couple had four lovely days to themselves. One afternoon they drove east ten miles and hiked to the edge of the Rio Grande gorge. After their picnic, they stood awestruck on the rim at sunset. Holding each other tightly in the pink light of the alpenglow, they giggled at their vertigo.
“I have to admit, Joe, I feel a little uneasy here with mountains surrounding us so closely. Being from the plains, I get the feeling the hills and trees are closing in on me.”
Joe laughed, peering into the deep canyon. “Not to mention the earth dropping out from under you. It’s great to visit, but I don’t think I could live here.”
* * *
Joe felt especially happy to get back to the friends with whom they partied the previous summer. Bill went with him to more parties, but with less enjoyment than before. As her pregnancy advanced, her energy waned.
One evening in August, Bill chatted with C.F. Brownlee. They sat at a table in the elegant Hotel Clovis ballroom. “You know, C.F., with your new moustache, you look like Clark Gable.”
C.F. laughed. “If I weren’t so darn short, maybe I could be a movie star.“
Looking out at the dance floor, where Joe danced with C.F.’s date, Margaret, Bill said, “Maybe it’s because Joe and I just saw the movie No Man of her Own, but Margaret reminds me of a brunette Carole Lombard. She’s beautiful.”
C.F. frowned. “Thank goodness she doesn’t have such a bawdy sense of humor. She’s a really sweet girl.”
When the last strains of “Mood Indigo” faded, Joe, Margaret and two other couples returned to the table. Joe kissed Bill’s cheek and sat beside her. “Can we go home, Joe? I’m tired and need to go to bed.” She had wanted to ask him for awhile and could wait no longer to make this appeal. “I don’t think I can hold my head up until midnight.”
“I’m not ready to go, Honey. Why don’t you take the car and go on home? I’ll ride with someone else.”
C.F. took his cue. “Sure. We’ll give Joe a ride, Bill.”
Relieved, Bill slipped her swollen feet into her shoes under the table, stood and gathered her purse as Joe handed her the keys to the coupe. She felt grateful their home was only five miles away.
Margaret’s eyes flashed but she kept her voice light. “Nice way to take care of your wife, Joe. The least you can do is walk her to the car.”
Bill was glad when Joe just laughed. It was good he didn’t have the short fuse she had observed in some other men had when they were drinking. She could walk to the car by herself. She said a quick goodbye to the table at large and made a relieved exit.
* * *
Bill sewed new Phillips 66 shields on the uniforms Joe still had from working for Tiny Magness. Once a week he dropped her off with their dirty clothes and linens at the Helpy Selfy Laundry. It was a shed-like building with a long row of washing machines with wringers. Each washer had laundry tubs on three sides for rinse water. Hot and cold water pipes with faucets fitted with black hoses filled them. A drain trough, covered with wood between the wash stations, ran the length of the building under the washers. After Bill finished their wash, Joe picked her up on his way home for the noon meal. He loaded baskets of wet laundry in the car, unloaded them at home and placed them in the back yard for Bill to hang on the clothesline after lunch. On wash days, she usually served leftovers. Today lunch consisted of pinto beans with cornbread and greens.
On July, 1, 1933, Joe presented Bill with a new Singer treadle sewing machine for her twenty-first birthday. She enjoyed making baby clothes and reading magazine articles on infant care. She could hardly believe she was going to be a mother.
Dr. V. Scott Johnson lived just three blocks from Bill and Joe. His wife was also his nurse. Thinking how convenient that would be when the baby came, Bill became his patient. “You’re quite healthy, young lady, but you’re gaining too much weight.”
She knew it was true, but her appetite was huge. She despaired of controlling her food intake.
Their first son was born at home on September 17, 1933, weighing more than ten pounds. “Isn’t he beautiful, Joe? Look at his precious little toes.” She rubbed his downy blond hair, overwhelmed with love.
Joe, too, was awestruck. “Isn’t he fine? I can’t believe I’m a dad.” Focusing on his wife, he kissed her forehead. “How are you, Bill? Are you all right?”
“I’m very tired and a little sore. Dr. and Mrs. Johnson said I did very well for a first-time mother with a large baby. Guess I’m like Mama. She says she just shelled her babies out like peas from a pod.”
They agreed on the name Joe Michael and called their son Joe Mike. He was a happy and healthy baby.
One day, Joe arrived for their noon meal as Bill set a platter of fried chicken and bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. He patted her bottom as he went by on his way to wash his hands. Joe Mike was lying on a folded quilt on the living room floor, playing with his feet. Joe picked up the baby, held him overhead, their foreheads together. Joe Mike rewarded him with a laugh. “Don’t laugh at me, Hossfly.” Joe smiled and rubbed his nose against the little tummy he held between his large hands. “You smell so good, like a clean baby should.”
Joe Mike laughed harder, hitting at his daddy’s face awkwardly.
Joe carried him to the table and sat at an angle, holding the baby on his left leg as he dished food onto his plate.
Bill placed glasses of water beside their plates and sat across from Joe. His voice held excitement. “Honey, I saw a house with a for sale sign on it this morning. I talked to the real estate agent and he gave me the key. Want to go look at it after we eat?”
Thrilled at the thought of owning a home, Bill clapped her hands. “Of course. Do you know how much it will cost?” Bill had no experience handling money.
“The agent said the owner is asking $2500, but might take less.”
As soon as the meal was finished and the food put away, Bill put a sweater on, wrapped Joe Mike in a blanket and climbed into the passenger seat with the baby in her arms. Joe drove west and after a few blocks, crossed railroad tracks that marked the line between Farwell, Texas and Texico, New Mexico.
The small, neat, light brown stucco house had a small porch with pillars in front trimmed in white.
Stepping inside, Bill remarked, “Oh, I like the hardwood floors.”
They entered the combined living and dining room. A door at the back of the dining section on the left led to the kitchen. Another in the middle of the back wall led to a hallway.
“ Good.” Joe went into the kitchen and examined the G.E. refrigerator. It had an electric motor on top. “The realtor said the refrigerator and stove go with the place. They seem to be fairly new. How do you like the kitchen, Honey?”
Bill followed him into the room, then twirled with delight. “I love it. The stove is really nice.” She opened the oven of the ivory-colored gas range, trimmed in green. It was on slim legs, with four burners to the left, the oven beside the burners on the right. “There’s plenty of cabinet space. I was hoping there’d be room for a breakfast table, but it’s not really a problem to eat in the dining room. I’m glad there‘s a window over the sink with a tree outside.” She realized she was a little giddy at the prospect of owning a house.
She followed Joe into the hallway. Doors opened into bedrooms on each side. The one behind the living room was larger. Behind it was the bathroom, also opening onto the hall. The bedroom behind the kitchen, was small. Standing there, Bill’s voice trembled with excitement. “This will be perfect for Joe Mike’s room. I love it, Honey. Can we really afford to buy a house?”
“I think the bank will loan us money since I’m making almost $30 a week.”
At the end of the hallway, a door led to a small back porch . Stairs beside the porch led to a full basement. Bill and Joe explored it all, visualizing what it would be like to live there.
Upon learning that the bank owned the house, they both felt slightly deflated and apprehensive Another young couple had loved the house but couldn’t keep up the mortgage payments when the man lost his job. Yet within weeks, the house was theirs and their enthusiasm returned as they settled in.
One day when Joe came home to eat dinner, he held a letter from his brother Dee.
He read it to Bill. “My boy Jack has finished high school and is looking for work. There’s none to be had here in Levelland. Do you think he might find something around Farwell?”
As he folded the single page and put it back in the envelope, Joe looked thoughtful. “I think my business is doing well enough to use an extra hand. What do you think, Honey? Jack could live in our basement. We could count room and board as part of his pay.”
Bill thought of the extra cooking, cleaning and laundry this would involve, but smiled. “It’s such a hard time to find a job. How can we say no if you can use him?”
Joe hugged her. “Tiny and Eula Mae helped me out in the same way. It will feel good to help my nephew.”
The following week, a man and boy were with Joe when he came home for dinner. “Bill, this is my brother Dee and his son, Jack.”
Bill smiled and held out her hand. “Dee, I’m so glad to finally meet Joe’s brother. You look a lot like Pop.”
Dee indeed had Pop’s square face, frown lines between his hazel eyes and even a similar, though darker, moustache. He took her hand briefly, dropped his eyes and nodded an acknowledgement. “I wish I’d got Pop’s height. It’s hard being shorter than my 17-year-old son.”
They all laughed.
Turning to Jack, Bill again extended her hand, “You look like a younger, slimmer version of your Uncle Joe.”
He looked pleased, his grin splitting his face in half. Joe put his hand on Jack’s shoulder. “After we eat, you can go back to work with me and get started on your new job. If you want the job.”
The boy’s smile got even wider as he nodded enthusiastically. “Thanks, Uncle Joe. I do want the job.”
Jack took a duffle bag filled with his possessions down to the basement. Joe followed with a stack of quilts. “You can start off sleeping on a pallet on the floor. We’ll find you a bed directly.”
When Joe and Jack left for work, Dee hugged his son, shook Joe’s hand, tipped his hat to Bill and climbed in his black Ford to drive the fifty miles to Levelland.
Jack had a pleasant disposition. He liked playing with the baby and Joe Mike’s face lit up when Joe and Jack arrived home from work. Squealing, he held up his little hands, signaling his desire to be lifted high in strong, playful arms.
These were happy days for Bill. She worked hard preparing, serving and cleaning up after, meals, caring for the baby, cleaning house and doing laundry. All this and more her mother did for a much larger family, so that’s what Bill expected of life.
When Joe Mike was six months old, Bill took him on the bus to Floydada to visit Mama and Dad. Ina Rae was back home, engaged to a J.D. Cates, whose family farm was near the Cummings’ place.
“I knew J.D. when we were in high school. He went to Lockney High School and I wasn’t at all interested. But wait until you see how he blossomed, Bill.” Ina Rae glowed with happiness.
“Have you set a date for the wedding?” Bill was thrilled to see her sister so happy.
“It‘s not really set, but I hope it’ll be in June. J.D. is working in Lubbock at the A & P Grocery Store. He thinks he can save enough by then to rent an apartment.”
When J.D. came to visit, Bill saw that her sister was right. He was handsome and charming, with a deep, resonant laugh.
Bill enjoyed being at Mama and Dad’s, having time to visit old friends and show off her beautiful Joe Mike. One sunny day, she helped her mother prepare a garden plot for planting when danger of frost passed. She planned to stay a week, but on the fifth day, Mama said, “Now Willie Mae, you need to get home and take care of your husband.”
Bill arrived in Farwell late Saturday afternoon. She tried calling Joe from a pay phone at the bus station, but no one answered. She called Norma, a girl friend who lived nearby.
“Hi, Bill. I can pick you up. Joe is at the Hotel Clovis with my husband Herbert. They rode over with C. F. The gang is throwing a party tonight. I’m going in a little while. You can go with me.”
Bill looked at what she was wearing and her tired baby. “Thanks, Norma, but Joe Mike is tired and I don’t have anything to wear. I’d better just go home.”
Norma wouldn’t have that. “You can wear one of my dresses. The girl next door is coming to watch my kids. Joe Mike can stay here. My Buddy is old enough to sleep on a regular bed, so Joe Mike can use his crib until we get home.”
Bill wore Norma’s dress of silk crepe printed in watery shades of blue and green. Gazing at her reflection, she thought she looked pretty good. She was getting used to the weight she‘d gained. Now I’m glad Mama made me come home early, she thought. I can hardly wait to see Joe.
When Bill and Norma entered the party, Joe looked startled to see his wife. She laughed at the expression on his face, but felt hurt that he didn’t look happy to see her at first. She even wondered if he was disappointed. She quickly put the thought out of her mind as he smiled and whirled her into a dance to “I Got Plenty o’ Nuthin’.”