Mary was the child-bride (victim) of an old-goat in his seventies. God only knows what kind of situation he’d rescued her from, since she clearly adored him. When I first met them on a ramble with Daddy when I was about ten years old, they lived with their two babies on a creek bank an old school bus that had been converted into a trailer for hunters. Two full bunks ran across one end. Twin army cots were stacked along both sides. A stove, powered by propane sat near the front door. The family’s few belongings were stored in boxes under the beds. Though I was only a kid, I could see that Mary was just a teenager. Mother later told me she was only eighteen. She was hugely pregnant. I was enchanted with their trailer, thinking how nice it would be if our family lived such an adventure.
Not long afterward, the neighborhood learned of the family’s dilemma, helping them into a small rental house not far from us. My youngest sister Marilyn was an infant at the time with rampant milk allergies. In consultation with her doctors, Mother had tried many formulas. Finally, in desperation, she and the doctor settled on a frequent feeding regimen, supplemented by feeding her warm Jell-O in her bottle, so she would still have the experience of sucking. Finally, she thrived. Young Mary, struggling with two babies under two and newborn twins and a husband averse to working, was struggling find milk for her babies. All four of her children cried all the time. The neighbors brought food in, but the newborns just looked pitiful. She was visiting one morning and told Mother she had put her babies on Kool-Aid, like Mother had, thinking it would help, but it looked like the babies were starving. Mother was shocked and explained that she was giving her baby Jell-O, not Kool-Aid, and supplementing with frequent feedings.
The church provided many cases of canned milk, as well as other food. All the children did much better. Social Services was notified. Mary got some help, though she did have four more children over the years before we lost touch with them.
We did eventually end up with that classy camper, but that’s a story for another day.