My dad, a high school science teacher, formally introduced me to the concept of east when I was nine. Prior to my introduction, east was, “We’re not going west.” Or “When are we going home?”
Dad also introduced me to internal compass spinning, the process in which your set point shifts a hundred and eighty degrees and back in a relatively short time. I adapted, but it created a lifelong directional deficit because my inherited set point was west.
At the turn of the 19th century, my great-grandfather, Granville James Boyle, took his first steps in America on eastern soil. He was an educated, young Irish man of noble descent raised on Liz Moore Castle Farms in County Waterford. Granville didn’t dally in the eastern cities. He pointed his genteel leather boots in the right direction and followed his dreams and the sunsets to the Great American West.
My great-grandfather was sidetracked to the south briefly, and spent some time in Kentucky. The Irish in him was to blame as fine women, whiskey and racehorses claimed a large percentage of his inheritance. Granville settled in Wyoming, where my grandfather, mother and dozens of descendents were raised to shade their eyes with their hands, look west, and avoid racetracks.
In the mid-1950’s, my grandfather moved his family to Colorado. I was born in an eastern plains town, longingly looking westward in 1960. We relocated to Littleton in 1968. I grew up at the foot of the Rockies and quickly learned to use the steadfast mountains as my western reference point. It was a perfect solution except during blizzards.
In June, 1969 and for the next eleven Junes, the default setting of my compass was spun like the dial on Wheel of Fortune as my family happily headed east on our 2,202 mile, four day, it-was-pure-hell-by-the-last-day drive to Center Barnstead, NH.
Correction: a native New Englander like my dad says “back east” as in “Rowbutta and I are heading back east on June 4th.”
Translation: Rowbutta (Roberta) is my mathuh.
In August, 1969 and for the next eleven Augusts, the default setting of my compass was spun like the dial on the Game of Life as my family happily headed west on our 2,202 mile, four day, it-was-pure-hell-by-the-last-day drive back to Littleton, Colorado.
Correction: a native New Englander like my Grandmother Pitman said “out west” as in “Kannee and Rowberter are headed out west August twenty-foeorth.”
Translation: Kannee (Kenny) is my fathuh and Rowberter (Roberta) you already know. Foeorth is fourth.
We had adventures during our summer trips. We took a side trip to Washington D.C. in 1972. It was pretty normal—saw the Lincoln Memorial and toured the House—until we were kicked out of the Smithsonian due to flooding in the basement because of Hurricane Agnes. It rained for three days but it didn’t stop my brother and me from swimming in the pool at the Howard Johnsons. Our hotel was across the street from the Watergate and we were there during the break-ins. We really wish we’d said something about those funny lights.
On a trip back east in 1974, my parents made an emergency stop to find a hardware store so Dad could build a divider to separate my one-year old, twin siblings in their playpen. Jason was crawling all over Beth and she didn’t appreciate it. In the days prior to car seats, a playpen was the safe way for one-year olds to travel thousands of miles while sharing the back of a Buick Station wagon with the dog. I don’t know who drooled down my back more; the twins or our Labrador.
Where am I headed with this? I don’t know. I’ve lived in the Ozark Mountains in Missouri almost sixteen years. The hills and hollows are ancient and deep; the woods are thick and the horizon virtually non-existent. My vehicles are too old to have GPS systems. The roads are so curvy and windy; heads truly spin in circles because everybody but the driver gets carsick the first five years you live here.
My break comes in winter when the leaves lie quietly on the forest floor, allowing me to see through the woods. In the late afternoon, I follow the outline of the hills until I catch a glimpse of the horizon. The familiar pink, orange and rose colors of the setting sun point the way home.
Causes Jules Jacob Supports
CASA of Southwest Missouri, Master Gardeners of the Ozarks, University of Missouri Master Gardeners, Missouri Court Appointed Special Advocates Association...