The Life And Times Of Wanda Bruner Butler

by Wanda Bruner Butler
Copyright © 2000

Chapter 7

* Some Much Needed Help
* Our Vacation
* Back to a Full House
* Closing the Home

Some Much Needed Help

A few days later Cathy, Vickie's sister-in-law, came over to talk about the third house, saying they had decided to accept the offer. She would work in the home for rent and a wage and they would take over while we were gone. Cathy was a willing worker and soon learned the ropes. The hardest part was learning the names and who went to school and who didn't. I made her a part of intakes and check outs; that helped as she met the new ones and knew who had left.

One day I asked Vickie's mother if she would like to help me with the ironing. It would give her a small income of her own and be a "BIG" help to me. I was very pleased as she really responded to the children and showed a real love for them. I told her ahead of time to remember the children came first. Many times, if a little one was crying, she would take time of her own to sit and rock it until the hurt was gone. I paid her by the piece and when I said it wasn't fair to use her own time, she said not to worry because tears came before ironed clothes. After the first week, I ask if she would be willing to keep coming once a week. I hated to iron and was always behind in it. It sure was nice to see all the fresh ironed clothes on hangers, instead of in baskets, staring at me.

About this time Donita, a cute, petite teenager was placed. All I can say about Donita was, we never had a dull moment. She was full of life and, also, full of mischief. It seemed things just jumped in front of her to trip her. She would get up, laugh and say, "Everyone tells me it's just a faze I'm going through and I'll outgrow it." Jewel a black teenager who also loved life was placed with us, and I can tell you life was never the same after she and Donita were placed in the same room. I think they spent the night plotting things to do and getting into mischief.

Jewel got her payback the night another girl in the next room, sneaked into their room on a dark night and started making groaning sounds. Jewel awoke to someone standing over her and grinning. She let out a scream and kept screaming until I ran down to her. As I sat on the side of her bed, I couldn't help laughing as she said, "But, Mom, you don't understand, all I could see were big white teeth, grinning down at me, like they were going to take a bite of me." I didn't know who it was until the next day when the other girl confided in me, asking me to keep it a secret. I didn't tell as I knew the girls had it coming.

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Our Vacation

At last June arrived, and we were ready for our vacation. I worked far into the night, wanting to be sure everything was done, so Cathy wouldn't have a lot of unfinished odds and ends to do. I didn't worry about Cathy handling things, but I did hope they wouldn't load her down with placements while we were gone.

It was a long, twelve hour drive to Yakima. We were tired when we arrived, but were glad to see Doug again. After a good night's rest, Jim asked if we had ever been to Canada. I said no, but had always wanted to and it sounded good to me. We sat down and planned a trip that would take us up through Northern Washington. That afternoon Beverly and I made a list of things we would need. We tried to plan things we could fix to eat on the way, as it would cost a lot for this size group if we ate at cafes.

The next morning, bright and early, we loaded Jim's large station wagon and took off. We spent the first night at Lake Chelan which is located in north-central Washington; Beverly said she had heard the bottom was never found. Jim and Wes picked out a lovely spot and everyone helped set up camp. Since we didn't have a tent, we spread our sleeping bags over some pine needles, under some large, beautiful pine trees right at the edge of the lake. While I finished helping Beverly, with the camp and stirring up some food, Carol, Curtis, and Doug and his Barber cousins, Rod, Rick, and Ronda waded in the warm water.

It was a perfect setting and felt so peaceful. Carol found a fawn and its mother that came down to drink. She sat very still for quite a while just watching them. I was so caught up in the evening, I'm sorry to say, I didn't miss, or even think of, the home; it was like a distant dream. We all had a wonderful evening and as darkness approached we settled in our sleeping bags. The children lay there talking softly and discussing their day. Then I heard something that sounded like rain drops hitting the leaves. When I mentioned it to Beverly, she just laughed and told me I was hearing things and to go to sleep. Well a few minutes later, she wasn't laughing as she jumped up and yelled, "Grab your bags and head for the car." By the time we were all in the car, it was raining cats and dogs.

Luckily, Jim remembered a shelter where you could cook and eat. It had cement floors, a coin-operated gas stove, some picnic tables, and was protected on three sides. I can tell you it looked pretty good to us right then. We spread our sleeping bags on the cold, hard cement floor and spent a long, cold night trying to get comfortable.

The next morning Beverly had bruises from the hard floor. After gathering all the sleeping things and loading the car, Bev and I fixed a hot breakfast. After breakfast we cleaned up and started for Canada, stopping along the way to eat and see the sights. We had beautiful weather and the children enjoyed themselves. After passing through customs, we decided we should see about renting a tent as the sky behind us was looking dark and rainy. If it came our way we would need a shelter and we didn't want a repeat of the night before. After finding a rental place and getting a couple of tents, (they didn't even ask for I.D. or a deposit) we arrived at the most beautiful lake I had ever seen which was just outside the city of Pentiction, British Columbia.

The lakeside park was filled with people walking, ducks swimming in the water, and park benches, with people just enjoying life. I remember the old gent that talked to the children, asking where they came from and if they were enjoying their vacation. After enjoying the beauty for a while, Jim drove around the lake to the campgrounds.

After setting up camp and Bev assuring me it wouldn't rain, we fixed a camp fire and roasted hotdogs and marshmallows. It was another perfect evening. As darkness approached, we saw the lights of a large dinner boat, on the opposite side of the lake, and soft strains of music floated across the water and into our little camp. It was like a magic land, with the music and soft lights. After settling the children in their sleeping bags, [inside the tents, as it still looked like rain] we just sat and enjoyed the peaceful evening. I think that's when it first hit me that we needed more days like this, a change from the hectic life we led.

It was good that we enjoyed our first day in Canada because, in the middle of the night, the rain caught up with us. By morning it was raining so hard the water would run inside the tent if you touched the canvas, wetting everything in the tent.

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* Back to a Full House

Wes and Jim packed the car while Bev and I rounded up the kids, making sure everyone had everything, and nothing was left behind. Next on the list was to find a place where we could eat, then head back for the border. We had no problem returning the wet tents, or crossing the border. By now the storm had passed and the weather was once again beautiful.

We took highway 97 to the cut off for Grand Coulee Dam. Jim stopped at the information booth for literature on the dam. When he came back to the car, he said if we wanted to see the big motors and to take a tour, we would have to do it now as they planned to close down next week for expansion. All the kids were yelling to go see it, except Ronda, who refused to go underground. I told her it was O.K., as I wasn't about to go either, so Ronda and I stayed atop. We could feel the vibration as we stood on the bridge and that was enough for us. After the tour we reloaded the car and headed down the road

Our next stop was Dry Falls. They told us, that at one time, it was one of the largest falls known. It was getting late in the afternoon so Jim said we would make one more stop and then head for home. We made a short stop at Soap Lake, bought everyone cold drinks and was back in Yakima before dark. The next few days were spent resting and driving around seeing the local sights. Wes and I did a lot of talking about Yakima and about the possibility of running a Children's home there. We really liked the layout of the town.

One morning Beverly said, "Get your duds on, Jim's taking you to town to talk with the people at the Welfare Department. If they say they need another home, then we will get busy and find a suitable house." By noon, that day, I was sure we would be moving to Yakima because the Welfare Department offered us a deal we couldn't turn down. During the past year, more and more of our placements had been teenagers and some were using drugs, although not hard drugs like today's teenagers use.

The lady we spoke with said the homes in Yakima were divided into age groups, and they needed another home that was willing to work with the older age group. It wasn't hard to get homes for the younger ones, but very few were willing to work with teens. The pay on placements was almost double what we were getting in California. They paid less on beds but more than made up for it with higher pay on placements. Once again, we were promised we would only be licensed for 6. ( HA, HA.) That evening we discussed with Carol ,Curtis and Doug the possibility of moving to Yakima. All were in agreement, especially Doug, who had met Linda, ( His future wife) and didn't want to leave her.

A few days later we took off on a camping trip to Spokane. This time we enjoyed not only a beautiful lake, but beautiful weather. We found what we thought was the perfect spot to set up camp. The water was warm and the lake had a large slide that you could slide down and into the water. The children also found paddle boats and Curt found a fishing pier; we would always know where to find him as he was the fisherman of the family.

That night we settled into our sleeping bags under the stars and what a view God put on for us. The sky was full of stars and everything would have been perfect if we had picked a more level spot to camp. We had picked a slight slope, and spent the night pushing ourselves back into our beds; but we were stuck with it as all the other camps were full. I was dreaming of a more peaceful life for all of us and even Wes said this was best. Don't get me wrong, I loved all our children, but I was wearing down, and would welcome a less hectic lifestyle; and remember the welfare department had promised, NO MORE THAN 6 PLACEMENTS AT A TIME.

Our two weeks had drawn to a close and, once again, we loaded the car and headed down the road, only this time we were heading back to a full house. We had been in contact with Kathy and she informed us we were full as usual. When we arrived home I didn't get a chance to slowly return to things, but it was immediately back into full swing. I was back to being mama to 16, plus Carol and Curt.

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Closing the Home

Doug had decided to stay in Yakima, so he could be near Linda. He also talked us into buying him a horse. We agreed to his staying, only if he agreed to return home in time to help me drive, as Wes would be driving the pickup and pulling a trailer. In one way our family was shrinking but also growing. Sue had three children, Deborah Kaye, Vicki Sue, and Steven, plus Alan and Vickie's first child was due in September. Our placements were down but some were staying longer. For the month of May we had a turnover of seventeen. For June only nine new ones were placed but July was up a little with eleven new ones.

Toward the middle of July, Jim called to say they had found a perfect house for us. It was on Bell Road out toward Moxee. It had three bedrooms, two baths, sat on six acres and was only two years old. I said I didn't know if that was large enough but Jim said, "No problem," the garage was large enough to make two extra large bedrooms, plus a large storage room. He felt sure that he and Wes could do all the work. Wes said for Sue and me to drive up and check it out as that would give her a chance to see her uncle, and the house. Cathy could come in and run the home and he would help with the laundry and school lunches.

A few days later we started early in the morning so as to be there before dark. The next morning we drove out to see the house. Jim had done a good job picking out a house. Since the people had already moved out, we had plenty of time to check out everything. The front of the house was brick half way up and a white board fence surrounded the yard. The front fence was made of cross boards, giving a very pretty setting. A large picture window looked out on hop fields, beyond which was a mountain range that changed colors as the sun moved. The hops grow on tall poles and are used in making beer. Wires stretch from pole to pole, and the vines, which cover the wires, have little bean-like pods hanging.

The house was all-electric, and a large brick fireplace covered one wall. The kitchen had built-ins, even a dish washer; now that was enough to sell me. The dining area had a large sliding door that led onto a patio. Off the kitchen was a mud room with hookups for a washer and dryer and an outside entrance so winter snow and mud wouldn't get tracked on the carpets. The bedrooms were large and would accommodate two sets of bunks. Doug kept saying, "Remember I have a horse, there sure is plenty of room to ride a horse." I told Jim that Wes and I would discuss the house and get back to him in a day or two.

The trip home was long and tiring. Vicki Sue cried much of the way home because she was hot and tired. Sue decided to stop at Klamath Falls Lake, in Oregon, to let the kids play in the water and cool off. After we were on our way, again, Vicki Sue fell asleep and was fine the rest of the way home. We arrived home before dark and were surprised to find only three new placements. After getting everyone settled in bed, I finally had a chance to tell Wes about the house. He was more interested in whether I thought it would pass licensing and if I thought we could make a deal. I told him I didn't see any problems with any of it. The next morning I called Jim, and ask him to check and make sure welfare still wanted us, and if it was still all go, then to see what we needed to do to start things rolling on the house.

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