Arriving at San Francisco Bay, Clyde Baxter sampled the faint taste of salt air. He slowly filled his lungs and considered the untimely passing of his parents. The White Plague (tuberculosis) destroyed their lungs. The children received meager help from nearby relatives, themselves very poor. Clyde and his four older siblings were, otherwise, left to carry on alone.
He boarded a packed bus and jostled along with passengers of uncommon accents. He viewed their appearance and manners with a distant curiosity. While cities of the Bay supplied first-time visitors plenty of sights and sounds, Clyde remained focused.
Stories of California promised provision. And surely no job here would yield as paltry a wage as that of hoeing cotton back home. He hoped he was done with that job. He left school after tenth grade to labor under a punishing Oklahoma sun – for fifty cents a week.
Depression-era language crisply defines the word Hustle. To live by one’s wits, making an effort to obtain money. Years later, referring to his days of job-hunting around the Bay, my dad remarked without bluster, “I hustled.”
He found work.
On the first day at his first job, he studied the shovel handed him. The foreman indicated a long single row of drainage pipes stretched on the ground. “Dig the trench twenty inches deep.”
Not long afterward Clyde found another job. He made less money than as a ditch digger – at first anyway.
Beginning as a plumber’s helper he gradually advanced to journeyman plumber and pipefitter. The skill fed his household for years.
Now – to save money and get some bus tickets to her. He and Thelma Christine were starting life together in a beautiful setting where land and waterways meet. He smiled at the thought of her last name.
Admirable qualities all.
Life was hopeful. Hardships could wait.
©2015 Jerry Lout