What surprises me weekly in pursuing Bite Size Memoir, is that the memories of others opens a pathway for my own. The prompt has me going, then I read Lisa Reiter’s responses and several new memories intrude. I see her picture and a different set of memories flicker to mind. When I read other responses, still more memories churn to be noticed.
Where do I keep all of these? Suddenly I renew respect for my mind that files all these clips as if it were my internal “cloud.”
To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled to try memoir, even in bites. Lots of memories taste bitter and others I doubt. But you know what? They are mine, and I’ve found a safe release valve of sorts where I can let them steam to mind and it’s my choice what I share.
This week, Lisa prompts us to remember “First Jobs.” Her prose touches upon what it’s like to be a woman at a man’s job. She even relives the triumph of surviving the first day among men who tell the women to “pee in the trenches.”
That certainly brought to mind a similar situation that I faced at age 19. Working road construction was its own special hell, but the money was triple anything else available. But before that job, the first one I held outside of the forced labor for my parents, I had already learned to go when you had to go.
Peeing Like a Cowgirl
From the time I was 12 until 18 the local ranch paid me to push cattle to summer pastures. That first fall round-up when I rode with the other ranch hands, peeing posed a problem.
I could pee outside, just not in front of a bunch of lanky men in Wranglers and boots. Whispering my dilemma to the foreman, he shouted at the cowpokes, “Don’t watch!”
Thus I did. And no one watched. Cowboy code of dignity. But such codes didn’t exist off range. At 19 my first labor union job was flagging for road construction crews; mostly men. “Flaggers” were the token females.
When it came time for our union pee-break, our boss laughed and pointed at the sagebrush. The other men, knowing we wouldn’t dare, jeered at us, crossing their legs in fun of our discomfort. So I walked out to the sagebrush and peed like a cowgirl.