I exploded into life on May 22, 1952, shooting across the room into the waiting arms of a surprised nurse who wrapped me up, stuck me in a baby bin, and made sure I was fed and rocked at regular intervals until Mama came to. George Leon Ketchum had arrived squirmy screaming and bloody – named George for my father and his, Leon for my mother’s dad. My Daddy was out to dinner when I arrived. He returned to learn the truth about me and went back out to drink. The next day he delivered the bad news to my still groggy mother and they commiserated over their bad luck, deciding to make do with Georgia Lynn.
They always called me Lynn, though, because Georgia just screamed “not George”.
I grew up most of the way in the Rogue River valley. Our play yard was vast, consisting of rivers, creeks, meadows, pastures, orchards, fields and wild forests. My best playmates were big sister Janet (the first family disappointment) and our beloved black lab mix named Blackie. When Dad went to hit us we could dive for the dog, and he’d growl and bare his teeth. After awhile Daddy figured out to tie up the dog first.
By the end of every summer I was brown from the sun, with calloused bare feet, brown hair streaked with golden light. I had gashes and gouges healing into scars from our toys at hand – trees to climb, rocks to pitch, slopes to scramble up, fences, old barns. I recall running “like an Indian” with irregular steps, trying to move swift and silent. Mama used to tell me she was going to ship me off to the reservation with the other wild Indians. I remember snaking out into high grass and patting down a circle. Hidden, on my back, chewing on sweet grass, staring at the sky, imagining. Once found, blissful enjoyment might be interrupted by a bath, a dress, stupid lacy socks, ridiculous shoes. I’d get dragged to church, or to visit some relative, and hear constant variations of, “Georgia LYNN! Sit still. Don’t get dirty. Stop picking at that. Keep your shoes on. BE STILL!” And I would try to wiggle out of the scratchy nice clothes and shoes and dream oh dream of being on that reservation with my wild kin.