I’ve always claimed that true life makes better stories than fiction (fact is stranger than fiction) and real life culminates in stories you could never make up. It’s in that belief I bring you then next few postings. I’ll call this Part 1 and not indicate how many parts there are since I’m not really sure how many there will be.
As you already know, my father passed away at the age of 43, and my mom, having been married to him since she was 17 (would have been 24 years if he had lived until June), was lost without him. It wasn’t much later that she met and married Darrel Blumer of Independence, Ks. That was short-lived and they divorced, she moving further south to be with her sister Dorothy, in Tulsa.
Naturally we were concerned for her well being and were pleased when she called and said she had met a great guy and he was a dentist. I imagined how well he could take care of her, much in the way my father had taken care of her. Soon they had eloped to Miami, Ok, and were man and wife. Not long after that we were invited to their house which was described as being at the end of the road in a nice rural setting.
We drove down, taking the left turn off the Broken Arrow Expressway and head down the short road north. As we got closer to the end of the road we saw a nice brick home. “I bet that’s it,” I said but Kathi quickly reminded me it was the last house on the road and we weren’t quite there yet. We ventured on and soon came to the “Williams Ranch”, an old wood-sided farmhouse that had seen many better days. Not much to look at from the road but I was reserving judgment until I saw more. We pulled into the driveway and Don comes out in a white apron, smiling and welcoming us to the house. The story began to become clearer when we sat down inside and Mom told us the whole story.
It seems Don wasn’t exactly a dentist, but actually a bootleg denture maker. And the reason they lived where they did was because bootlegging dentures was only legal in Oklahoma and Arizona and they also couldn’t live within the city limits of Broken Arrow where it was also illegal.
|Front porch of theWilliams Ranch|
The house was falling down around their ears but because of the legal issues and the fact that the rent was cheap (and the landlord basically didn’t much care what they did out there as long as they paid the rent), they were staying. You could pretty much throw a cat through any of the exterior walls and it obviously had been the abode of a bachelor before Mom came along. he wood was dry as a bone and the place, if it ever caught fire, would go up in a matter of seconds. To make matters worse, it was heated with those little gas heaters that were open flame and lit with a match.On ensuing trips to the ranch, Kathi would find out our room assignment, make sure the kids were sleeping in the same room, and we'd have an on site fire plan with Kathi as fire warden. All she'd say was, "In case of fire, we're all going out THAT window!"
|Karli and Grandpa Don in the Living Room|
Don’s shop was out in the attached garage where he had a sink (that drained out the back wall into yard) and an old desk with a grinder where he would sit and grind the dentures to shape. There was plastic denture shavings all over the floor and desk and it was obvious that the shop, as well as the entire garage, hadn’t had a good cleaning since the beginning of time. It didn’t look like the kind of place I’d want someone working on something I was going to put in my mouth but I understood people flew in from all over the country to have teeth made. It wasn’t fancy, but Don could make a comfortable pair of chompers. I might stop here for just a note to tell you I wouldn't want to give a bad impression of Don. He was a very likable guy. Always smiling, generous to a fault, and easy going. But fancy creature comforts just weren't that important to him. The basics would suffice.
|Karli, Kellie, and Grandpa Don|
In the kitchen Don boiled the teeth material in a set of molds that he kept there along with the teeth that set into them. The smell of the teeth cooking always made Kathi gag as it reminded her of the molds they took when they put the dental material in her mouth to make impressions for her braces. So in the kitchen was teeth boiling on the stove-a stove of old vintage that matched the original sink and (what must have been novel in its time) a dishwasher. Of course the dishwasher hadn’t worked in who-knows-when but it made a nice storage place. One must not either miss the cast iron skillet with grease in the oven. Don never believed in washing them after use-just putting them back in the oven and melting the old grease when it was fired up again. Washing would just take off the patina and the flavor.
In future installments I’ll describe the rest of the house and you won’t want to miss out on the stories of: Bees in the Bathroom, How to fix a Water Bed; Upgrading the Plumbing, What to do When the Breaker Blows, The Arrival of the Titanic, and other interesting TRUE stories.
Happy New Year.