Read Veda: A Novel Online

Authors: Ellen Gardner

Veda: A Novel

BOOK: Veda: A Novel
3.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


Copyright © 2012 Ellen Gardner

Talent, Oregon

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 0615717055
ISBN-13: 978-0615717050
eBook ISBN: 978-1-63001-422-3

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012919695

Cover photo by Beckett Gladney



I dedicate this book to my daughter Stefanie, who never got the chance to know her grandmother.





November 2002

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

About the Author



I want to acknowledge everyone who has helped me in this process. Most especially my six wonderful siblings whose brains I have been picking for years. While our memories have sometimes differed, their input has been invaluable. Second, I owe an immeasurable debt to the people in my critique group who have challenged me, encouraged me, and stretched me every step of the way: Dorothy Vogel, B K Showalter, Dolores de Leon, Addie Greene, Sonja Ferrera, Patricia Florin, Marilyn Joy, Mary Brubaker, Melissa Brown, Gloria Boyd, and Deborah Rothschild. Third, I want to thank my wonderful husband for his years of tireless listening and support.



except for the lipstick. At ninety, his once handsome face is still remarkably smooth, but the undertaker has touched it up and added color to his lips. My dad, who railed against such vanities his whole life, is going to meet his maker wearing lipstick.

He had made his own arrangements, leaving detailed instructions on the table in his room, naming the organist, the soloist, the songs, and the pallbearers. And he wrote his obituary, stating date and place of birth, his vocation as a gardener and orchard worker, his religious affiliation, his work as canvasser, soloist, Sabbath School teacher, and deacon. He named his second wife and his third, the dates of their marriages, and the dates each of them passed away. He listed his four children as survivors, but there is no mention of his first wife, his children’s mother.

The sanctuary at the small Seventh-day Adventist church is plain. A floral spray with “Father and Grandfather” in gold lettering sits atop the casket, and a couple of small bouquets stand on a table next to the organ. The room is nearly full.

I stare ahead wondering what these folks are thinking about me and my siblings. Most of them have known Daddy for years and have never seen his children.

The minister quotes from the Bible, reads the obituary, and begins his eulogy. “Raymond was an extraordinary man,” he says. “…a faithful servant of the Lord…no one was better acquainted with the Bible…” Winding up, he invites people to share their memories. Many stand to express admiration for Raymond’s hardiness, his sincerity, and his “unfailing dedication to bringing souls to the Lord.”

I hear behind me, “Amen, Amen.”

Someone lauds his humility, his steadfast rejection of worldly values.

“Amen, Amen.”

My sister speaks of his remarkable memory, and I mention the diaries we found among his things in which he had recorded the weather for more than sixty years.

The soloist sings in a tremulous voice, there is a final prayer, and we file past the casket for a last goodbye. Daddy’s only living brother, an uncle we never knew, shakes our hands. We receive condolences, are enveloped in weepy embraces, and are herded into a hall, where a vegetarian lunch has been laid. We are ill at ease in our father’s world.

At the cemetery I stand shivering, wishing I could cry. When I was a child, he was the daddy we rarely saw, the daddy whose visits sent Mom into a tailspin. The daddy who never sent money, who scolded us for singing “unchristian” songs or twirling in our dresses. As an adult, I suffered his tedious letters and pleas that I return to the church I was born into. And when, in his last years, I helped him with moving, medications, and paperwork, it wasn’t without some amount of resentment.

But the diaries he left fascinated me, and it was reading them that made me decide to write this book. He gave so much attention to the weather and so little to his wife and children. I longed to know more of my mother’s story, and ironically, it was between the lines in those cryptic little books that I found it.

I can hear her voice in my head. The way she talked, the way she laughed, how she sounded when she was angry. And I can still hear her singing, off key, the hymns she loved so much.



was so little when we were born they put us in shoeboxes behind the woodstove to keep us warm. Scrawny and ugly like a couple of barn rats, was how my brother Laird said it. They give us twin names, Veda and Vida, but they weren’t sure which one of us was which. What’s important to know is one of us died, and the one that lived, that’s me, ended up bein called Veda.

Vida got buried out back of our house, and when I was big enough, I went out there and talked to her. Told her I wished she would of lived so I could have somebody to play with instead of just Laird, who was a boy and didn’t even know how to hold a baby doll except for by its feet.

Mama had a whole bunch of other kids before we got born, so she was pretty wore out. My oldest sister, Bea, was already eighteen and fixin to git married, and there was Wilbert and George and Lettie and Zelda, all the way down to Laird, who was four. And there was two other ones besides my twin that died. Papa was twenty years older’n Mama and he was wore out too, but not for the same reason. He was a cowboy before he met Mama and had got done in by all the ropin and ridin. But accordin to Mama he got off easy. She said if he was the one havin the babies, there wouldn’t never been more’n one.

He’d come from a big family, too, and like me he was the youngest. When his ma got old and sick, he was the one that took care of her and the family ranch. That’s why she left it to him. Once he found himself in charge of that big old place, he figured he better git a wife and start raisin his own crop of kids to help him run it. Said he picked Mama ’cause she was a spitfire and he liked that about her.

I was crazy about my Papa. He had white hair and whiskers and a wrinkly face. Had a horse fall on him once that broke his leg so he had this funny, tip-to-the-left way of walkin that made it easy to pick him out from a mile off. But even old and crippled up, he was a hard worker. And Papa had this way about him—always teasin and jokin and cuttin up—that made Mama mad when he done it but always made me laugh.

Anyways that’s where I was born, in 19-and-18, on that ranch near John Day, Oregon. I would of grew up there, too, except for Papa goin crazy. He been workin on Mama for a long time to let him sell the place. Said he was sick of it and wanted to go somewhere else. Mama told him she wasn’t leavin, that the ranch had give em a decent livin, and it still would if he would just settle down. But he kept on pesterin her over it and wouldn’t let it alone. She stood her ground right up to when Papa threw his big fit.

What he done was, he went out one mornin and dragged all his tools out of the barn and piled em up. Harrows, hay rakes, saddles, sheep shears, and he threw in a half dozen or so hay bales to boot. Then he drove his new John Deere tractor into the middle of it and climbed up on its nose. Stood there all wild-haired and red-faced and commenced to rantin. Said he was fixin to set the whole goddamn mess afire and himself with it. Mama yelled at him and called him a damn fool and cried out to God for help. But that was what done it. That’s what made her give in.

Papa got word of a place for sale out in the Rogue Valley of southwest Oregon and bought it without even goin to look. Sold our ranch and ever’thin that went with it, includin most of the livestock and his new tractor. Then he told Mama what he done and said to pack up.

I was about six then and my brother Laird was ten. The others was all grown and not livin at home. Mama didn’t want to leave, but she said she’d made a bargain with God, that if God would keep Papa from goin crazy like that again, she’d go wherever she had to.

We must of been a sight, me and Mama in the wagon and Laird and Papa ridin horses, drivin our two milk cows the whole way. Soon as we got moved Mama started lookin for a church. She said church was the only thing that’d kept her goin all those years, and she couldn’t settle down till she found one. Problem was, most of em was Sunday churches, and far as she was concerned, goin to church on Sunday was akin to worshippin the devil.

Saturday had always been our church day and it wasn’t till I started school that I found out we were different. I didn’t understand why we didn’t do like everbody else. When I asked Mama, she pulled out her Bible. “It’s right here in Genesis,” she said, pointin to the place. “God rested on the seventh day, and any fool with a calendar can see that’s not Sunday.” That didn’t really answer my question. But botherin Mama about it only made her cross. Just ’cause other people did somethin, she said, didn’t make it right.

Papa didn’t take religion serious like Mama did, and she had even less patience with him than she had with me. He was always makin fun. Sayin Seventh-day Adventists were the gloomiest bunch a folks he ever laid eyes on. He even started callin his old cow the Adventist Cow ’cause of how she looked so mournful all the time.

“Miles,” Mama scolded, “that’s not respectful.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said. “She don’t seem to mind.”

“I didn’t mean the cow … and you know it. Adventists are good people and I won’t have you talkin that way.”

Papa was good natured and, for the most part, went along with Mama’s Adventist rules. Except for the ones against meat and coffee. He said neither one of them things had hurt him yet and he wasn’t about to give em up. He’d come to breakfast and find Mama standin straddle-legged, fists on her hipbones, ready for a fight.

“Where’s my coffee?” he’d ask.

“It’s bad for you.”

“Where’s the bacon? I want bacon with my eggs.”

“Pig flesh is unclean. Says so in the Bible.”

Mama could be thorny as a rosebush, but in a contest of wills Papa usually won.



when Papa changed his mind about the place he bought. Said he wanted to start a dairy farm and needed more pasture. That was news to Mama, but she didn’t argue. So Papa got his bigger pasture, but then he couldn’t afford to buy the cows. We moved again, to still another place in the Rogue Valley, and Mama kept prayin he’d settle down. She said as long as the Lord kept his end of the bargain, she’d keep hers, but she wasn’t goin to go to all the trouble of plantin gardens, ’cause she was afraid Papa’d get another bee in his bonnet before they had a chance to grow.

BOOK: Veda: A Novel
3.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Smart Dog by Vivian Vande Velde
Letting Go by Kendall Grey
Lo! by Charles Fort
Needing Him by Michelle Dare
A Glove Shop In Vienna by Ibbotson, Eva
El Judío Errante by César Vidal
Glass Tiger by Joe Gores
Blood Day by Murray, J.L.
LordoftheKeep by Ann Lawrence
Bitter Cold by J. Joseph Wright