|Larry, Lynda, Susan, Baby Mark, Dennis (stuck behind the bumper.|
“The First Texas-born"
Truth be told, I don’t think there were supposed to be more than three of us. Dennis was the fourth Hayter child, and what a surprise he was. When you can’t afford the three kids you have, how can news of a fourth bring anything but an argument over blame?
Fortunately, Dennis turned out to be worth the cost and effort. He was smart, athletic, didn’t eat all that much, and he could juggle. Oh, and he was the last Okie. At no time did Dad have an epiphany that he should up and move the family to Pasadena. It was one of his friends who got him to thinking about the idea. Isn’t it weird how one person or event can steer another along a new path in life? I’m fairly sure I wrote about that recently.
Today, I saw a story on the news about a young man who decided to get his pilot’s license after being encouraged by a stranger. We all have stories of how a friend or stranger was responsible for one of our directions in life. In the case of my father, it was a drunken friend who put him on the road to Texas.
Some of you will remember the story of “Three Ninety”, an oil well servicing company in Bristow, Oklahoma, owned by Dad and one of his friends. They started the company shortly after WWII when rationing had ended and American factories could start building cars instead of tanks and planes. The advent of more automobiles created local demand for oil and gasoline.
With oil wells being planted in old cotton fields all across Oklahoma, “Three Ninety” took off at a run. By the way, the company was named after Dad’s phone number – 390. Just as quaint and helpful a name as could be. Bottom line, for the first and only time in his life, my daddy was his own boss. Life was good… until it wasn’t.
One hot, steamy afternoon, Dad’s friend and business partner drove up to the rig-site way late and somewhat inebriated. It was the last of many times that Zeke (not his real name) had refused to carry his share of the load in the company. After a brief argument, initiated by my dad, the two men sat down at the base of the oil rig and both agreed on a parting of ways. It was to be a very good parting… for one of them.
You see, neither Dad nor Zeke could afford to buy the other out. If one of them left, the company would have to be sold to an outsider in order to pay off the departing partner. Neither wanted that. After less than careful thought, Dad suggested that the best way to end the partnership was with the toss a coin. Heads, Dad would sign over the business to Zeke. Tails, Zeke would be the one hitting the road.
After the toss, my daddy said his goodbyes’ to his workmen, picked up his lunch-kit and thumbed a ride back home to Bristow. In a matter of days, Dad moved the family down to Pasadena, Texas. Lynda was about 10 years-old, Larry eight, Susan five, and Dennis about two. I was to show up a little later as the first of the Hayter family to be born in Texas.
In Texas, Dad had little trouble getting a job on another oil rig. He later got a job helping to build row upon row of houses that became the suburbs of Pasadena. Dad would eventually get a job working in one of the refineries along the Ship Channel. It was there that he worked until the age of 61, when he had to take early retirement due to a heart problem. He had been retired for one year when he died of a heart attack.
Last week, Lynda’s grandson found some old family photos that Lynda had stored away. At the time the photos were taken, our family was living in an old, wooden shack along a dirt road that would come to be known as Spencer Highway.
One photo shows Dad kneeling in the dirt with a cigar in his hand. Lynda has one arm wrapped around Daddy’s neck and her arm on his shoulder with her hand supporting her face. Larry and Susan are huddled-up on the other side of Daddy, and he has his arm around the both of ‘em. Everyone is smiling big… except for Susan. The girl was born with issues. However, the photo immediately became my favorite picture of Dad. He looks as happy as I’ve ever seen him. And, Lynda, Larry and Susan are just precious.
Mom was probably feeding me or changing my diaper, because neither of us is in the picture. And Dennis? Well, he was about three-years-old at the time, so he was likely taking the picture. A talented kid, my big brother. Taught me to juggle.