At age twelve, I had a newspaper route and rode my one-speed bicycle every day to deliver The Twin Falls Times-News to seventy customers around the village of Wendell, Idaho. The Old Folks Manor was on my route. I remember dashing in with the papers and seeing the elderly people sleeping in their chairs. The ones who were awake begged me to stay and talk.
“Hey, Missy,” said a man everyone called Shorty. “Why don’t you stop and chat. Did I tell you about the farm I had?”
“I can’t stop today, Shorty. I need to finish my route. Some day you can tell me about it.”
“Are you coming tomorrow?” asked a toothless woman with wispy patches of hair on her head. “Can you bring me some milk?”
I stopped and placed the newspaper in her lap. “Sorry, June, I can’t carry milk on my bike.”
I always hurried out the door and continued my route. I returned, forty years later, when my mother lived there for a few months. The sights, sounds, and smells remained the same.
I often think about my newspaper route with ambivalent feelings. The experience taught me a productive work ethic and reinforced my social skills; however, I struggled with weather issues, fierce dogs, and constraints on my time that prevented other activities. I remain afraid of dogs after being chased and bitten countless times. In my upcoming memoir, Frozen Dinners, I include several original poems. For an assignment in a college creative writing class, I wrote a poem about being a newspaper girl. It’s titled “1964 Town Crier.”
1964 Town Crier
Ragged, rhythmic clouds of breath escape from my mouth
as I push my burdened bicycle over the patches of frozen snow.
Frost fills my nostrils and hardens wayward hair
poking beneath my knit hat like spikes of rigid spider legs.
The only sounds on this dark moonless morning
come from the rustle of my frozen pant legs
and my boots squeaking and crunching through the crusty layers.
I know every house on my paper route, so I keep my head down
in a futile attempt to ignore the bitter winds that slice through my coat.
Take a newspaper from the bag, slap it into a roll, stick it into the can, keep going.
I’m 12 years old, and I’m outside in the brutal
Idaho winter at 5:30 am to deliver 70 newspapers.
Every day. By myself.
My fingers hurt. Snot freezes on my lip.
A dog growls but doesn’t leave its shelter. Crunch. Breathe.
My bag becomes lighter as a sliver of daylight emerges through the dark.
I arrive home, and my father sits to read the newspaper
while my mother hands me hot cocoa with marshmallows
happily bobbing and melting on top.
My aching hands circle the mug, and I lean over
so the steam can warm my face.
Silent tears roll down red cheeks.
I am the Messenger. I am the Town Crier.
The premiere party for Frozen Dinners – A Memoir of a Fractured Family is Thursday, November 8 at Telaya Winery. Guests can receive autographed copies, custom cedar bookmarks, prizes, and TV dinner food.