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Sweet Secrets

Story ID:2261
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Period Piece
Location:Yakima Wa. USA
Year:1947
Person:Kathe
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Sweet Secrets

Sweet Secrets

Sweet Secrets

SWEET SECRETS

by Kathe Campbell

We were big city high school girls, the cheerleaders, the actresses, the track and swim team, teacher's aides, and the top students. Well, not quite. I always suffered a C or two, and of course, we were blessed with Betty Grable legs and figures, or at the very least, that's how we perceived ourselves.

Summer was well upon us, and at 15 I was old enough to go to Aunt Mary's ranch. Aunt Mary was a friend's aunt and fussy about the kind of girls she accepted each year, stating her Tacoma girls had never let her down. She was widowed, had lost her two sons in WWII, and enjoyed having young people as her working guests. For me, the two weeks would culminate in ranch dreams come true, a dream so foreign to my very urban family, but nonetheless respected.

I wasn't in the least disappointed to find Aunt Mary the spittin' image of the lady on the Betty Crocker flour sack, until she brusquely hollered orders at the foreman. The boss had spoken and we respected her every rule. The big old white three-story house, hidden high in the mountains aboveYakima, fit mammoth cattle ranch grandeur perfectly. Sack lunches and riding quarter horses for the day to see real live professional cowboys working cattle over the 20,000 acre WBarB. I could hardly wait.

We younger girls knew what to expect from those who had gone before and were eager to show our stuff. Along with the house staff at first light, we packed saddle bags with lunches and thermos bottles for a dozen or so trail hands. Mornings were spent picking and preparing fresh veggies, cleaning bunkhouses, plucking geese, bathing the cow dogs and pups, plus any number of multifarious tasks. The simplicity of city life laid in sharp contrast to our duties on this enormous operation. We were constantly amazed, reverent, and learning much. We were having a ball.

After the first day, we organized our schedules to allow time for swimming in the big pond just out of sight from the main house. When we heard the ti yi yipping of cowpokes returning, we quickly ran combs through our hair, smeared on lipstick, and shifted into casual bathing beauty modes on the dock. The seemingly indifferent cowhands sprang from behind bushes on a dead run, showing off on the diving board, splashin' and hootin' and hollerin', seeing how much water they could displace to drown us. Seems to me times have not changed, for the daily ritual was just made for teasing and laughing at the mile long supper table on the screened porch.

Dessert and supper chores over, spiffied up men appeared in Aunt Mary's parlor to play the piano and guitar and sing current hits. Harmonizing and strumming ukuleles improved daily. Occasionally the ranch foreman invited us to ride fresh horses 'til dark, always with a few outriders to drawl cowboy yarns down the twilight trail. Scents of hay, pine trees, and leather, combined with fancy yodeling under a full moon, conjured up more than a few dreamy visions. Other than crickets, a howling coyote, or a whinny, nights were deathly still until punctuated by distant laughter toward the swimming hole. Speculation ran rampant wondering what the older girls could possibly be finding to do in those wee hours. Maybe next year we would be the older girls sneaking out for some skinny dipping.

After 60 years I still recall it being my turn to rub down and curry a few broncs just as darkness fell without notice. One of the archaic 20 year old cowpokes entered the barn, and without a word, whirled me around and kissed me very hard. It was a Gone With The Wind moment that let me know I needed to be kissed, and kissed often, and by someone who knew how. And mercy me, did he know how, musky aftershave and all! Almost nothing in my 15 years had sent shivers up and down my spine like that very first grown up kiss. It was so incredible it scared the bejabbers right outa' me. A dozen feelings overwhelmed me, including the fear someone would find out, and yet I almost didn't care. My high school sophomore year had been changed before it even began.

Sending a bunch of moonstruck girls home with sweet thoughts of a lifelong memory was undoubtedly a cowboy ranch tradition. Meanwhile, I remain transformed while Montana has reinvented me. This big city girl never quite got over ranch life and was eventually able to do my own thing. On a smaller scale, of course.

I've been blowing kisses, pecking cheeks, smooching, and grown-up kissing ever since. I do hope you have too, for without kisses, I figure life would hardly be worthwhile. What a magnificent invention. As far as I know my best friends never knew of the cowpoke and my first romantic encounter, even after I arrived in my room just a wee bit late. I figured they never would, for it was a sweet secret told to my mouth instead of my ear.

*****************

Betty Grable look-alike at the ole swimmin' hole.

15 and 16 and havin' a ball.

Kath - 15.