Friday, February 1, 2008

Trails and Trials

Ivan was born near Handley, Texas (15 miles east of Fort Worth) in 1926. His father and uncles were in the dairy business, with a herd of about three-hundred cows. That's a very large herd when you consider there were no milking machines in those days. Later Ivan's dad moved the family to their own farm in Everman community (15 miles south of Fort Worth), still doing dairy farming. Through the years a brother and three sisters were added to the family. Ivan and the other kids all attended Everman's one school, which had all the grades in one building.

In 1944 Ivan graduated from high school and was drafted into the Army. He was inducted at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. From there he went to Fort Riley, Kansas for basic training in light tanks. He was then deployed to the Philippines, expecting to be part of the greatest invasion force ever assembled - the army that would invade Japan. Instead (thanks to Harry Truman's fortitude) Ivan became a member of the floatilla that sailed out of Luzon on August 25, 1945 and into Yokohama Bay on September 2, 1945 to formally accept the Japanese surrender on the deck of the Battleship Missouri. Ivan has written in his memoirs: "There were many ships in the bay, of all descriptions. We were in full gear, ready for invasion if necessary." On September 8th Ivan and the rest of the First Cavalry Division entered the City of Tokyo and began the occupation. Ivan was stationed there in Japan until late 1946 when he was discharged.

In July 1947 Ivan got a job as a lineman for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, working in the dusty west Texas towns of Sweetwater, Abilene and Big Spring. (More about the dust later.) About that same time, Ivan's uncle was struggling financially and was about to lose his farm and dairy herd, so Ivan's dad and mom moved the family from Everman back to the Handley area, directly across Ederville Road from the Gardner Farm (another dairy operation, which was run by Elmer, his wife and five sons). Despite being over 100 miles away, Ivan made a regular practice of coming home on weekends to help with chores and join his family in attending Harrison Chapel, a little church in Arlington on Harrison Road (now North Davis Street).

The Gardner family went to that same little church. Also attending the church were the Gardner boys' three cousins: Bertha Lee, Luvenia, and Ruth. As Ivan records: "Those weekends and those Sundays at that little old church became even more interesting and exciting." Of course, the reason for coming home on weekends was to help on the farm, and the reason for attending the church was to hear the Word of Truth rightly divided. But Ivan freely confesses that those lovely Gardner cousins were also quite an attraction.

Ivan got acquainted with Ruth and they went out on a date. He writes, "Sometimes things don't click very well with someone; this seemed to be one of those times." Later Ivan got to know Ruth's sister Luvenia and she quickly moved from be an interesting attraction to being a major distraction. Ivan and Luvenia began dating regularly on weekends, but alas, Ivan was stuck in Big Spring while his heart and thoughts were all back in Arlington. It became his usual practice to stay as late on Sunday nights as he could and then spent the rest of the night driving back to Abilene or Big Spring. Ivan writes, "It wasn't the best way to romance a girl but it was better than no romance at all."

One Sunday night as he was saying good-bye his to sweet Luvenia, Ivan confessed, "If I wasn't working in west Texas, I'd ask you to be my wife."

She replied, "I can live in west Texas."

Ivan answered enthusiastically, "Wow, you mean it?"

They were married on June 15, 1948 at Harrison Chapel in Arlington. They loaded her things into Ivan's '41 Mercury and headed off to Big Spring. Ivan records, "I'd rented a little house and we moved in and went to buy groceries. With our limited income we couldn't buy much, but it was a great beginning for us. The first Sunday after we got to Big Spring I had to work. While I was at work and my sweet bride was alone in the little house, we had a dust storm, and not just a little one either. When I got home late that afternoon I could detect a bit more than anxiety in my sweet bride. I found out that night she really didn't care much for west Texas and she was missing her mother. That, and she definitely didn't like dust storms. About two weeks later I got a transfer to Fort Worth and we loaded up our 'vast collection' of possessions and headed back to Arlington."

Last June was their 59th wedding anniversary.

This June will be Ivan's first wedding anniversary without her.


LadyBugCrossing said...

Aww... I got a little tear in my eye.
Give him a hug for me, k?

joyce said...

I wish you had done the funeral. This story is better than anything we heard there. Thank you.

Bob said...

It was so good to see Ivan last Sunday. But I'm afraid he still has a long road ahead of him -- even longer and dustier than the road from Abilene.