Smitty’s Ode to the House cleaner
As a young pizza-faced drummer boy, my ultimate goal in life was to just live.
I really had nothing to live for because I was a product of a very dysfunctional family. My folks divorced when I was 6. I thought it was the end of the world when my bio-dad sat me down in the park in Roundup and informed me that I would no longer be his favorite fishing partner. He also informed me I probably wouldn’t ever get to see him again. Life shattering, to say the least. “Just live through it #1 Son”. That’s what I got told. My longest relationship with my best friend at the time, ended in a park. Detrimental.
Fast forward a whopping couple of years. My mother married the man that became the rock of my world. As a stepdad, Jr. was the quintessential hard-working cowboy that most people would call evil in today’s society, He was honest, fair, and mostly quiet to the grown-ups. When Jr. barked, you knew he had a reason. The ass- whoopings received from that man were ALWAYS earned, and never done in spite. Every time it happened, I deserved every bit of it, as did my brothers and sisters. We seven kids all had extremely different personalities, and he shaped us all into the adults we have become to this day. All of us different, but also all respectable members of the communities we live in.
Looking back, we all were raised in an “old fashioned” style. Yes Sir, No Ma’am,, Please, Thank-You, Eat with your damn mouth closed, Hold the door for the ladies, Believe in God, Clean up your plate because you don’t know the next time you are going to get to eat, and general stuff like that were all instilled into us. The girls did the inside chores, and the boys ramrodded the outdoor things that needed to happen. Occasionally, there was some cross work between the two, but not often. The animals got fed before we ate. If you forgot to chop the ice for the cows to drink, you didn’t drink. If you didn’t feed the dogs, the dogs got your food, while you ate the dogfood. THIS is where I learned some of my foundational values. It all boiled down to the fact that his discipline style was well thought out, and pretty much summed up the Golden Rule. Yes, we seven messed up as kids, but none of us ended up in prison or with a major drug problem
Jr. taught us everything we needed to know to survive. Between raising cattle to raising crops, we were taught the value of everyday things, and to treat them as if they were your own. He also taught us that sometimes, shit just breaks, and then taught us how to fix it. Fixing it was usually cheaper than running to town and grabbing it, thereby shutting down an entire day’s worth of work. Jr. graduated the 8th grade and made his mark on the world from there.
Moving forward again, we had a series of fires, droughts, and even a damn tornado that had ruined us financially. We gave up the farm and ended up moving from school in Custer to going to a school in Melstone, starting my Freshman year. We will just call ALL the years from my 7th grade until my Senior year “fuzzy” to say the least. I was already a professional, yet functioning alcoholic by the time I reached Melstone. It was at this time in life that, in my world, girls were toys, and partying was a way of life. Then, something strange happened… Instead of me, or my brothers, or any of my drunk friends, God had this magnificent idea to strike my 6-year-old sister (the youngest of us 7 kids) down on the gymnasium floor with a brain hemorrhage / aneurysm. They flew her to Denver Children’s Hospital where she lived for a long time, along with my folks. Not long after that, I shattered my left knee, ending my athletic career in school. Everyone would think this would have had a major impact on our lives. The funny part is that instead of us failing as children, we did everything that were taught growing up. We raised and milked the cows. Were calved the small herd we had, we branded the calves, we doctored the sick, and we LIVED with no direct supervision, because that is how we were raised. On top of all we had going on, we kept going to school and passing with flying colors. People we amazed, and they tell us to this day they don’t know how we did it. Little do they know, we did it with a LOT of alcohol. I am truly surprised none of us died.
Due to my terrible acne problem, I was not a big hit with the ladies until they found out how easily I scored the wine coolers they liked, but boy was I a great drummer. I think the priorities in my life at that point were misplaced (obviously), but I can also say I was one of the only people to have set a single row of Everclear on fire from the Sportsman’s bar all the way to the high school in the middle of the dirt main street…. Accomplishments, right?
Well, party time started to come to a close. The folks came home from Denver and informed us that we were once again moving. This time we were going to try irrigated life down in the Miles City area. I thought I had said all my goodbyes at the end of my Sophomore year, but we will revisit that soon. Remember the “housecleaner” later in my story.
I started my Junior year in Miles City and was bored. So, so, so board. Everything about school was something I despised, but I kept my grades up, because I didn’t even need to try. I honestly think that had school been more of an actual learning process instead of an institution that was boring, I probably would have been a bit smarter in later life. On top of doing the farming and ranching stuff back at the house, and enduring the monotony of the public school system, I am took on a job cooking at a fast food joint so I could have money to support my drinking and “dating” habits. Once again, being bored and not being able to play sports, I had at least some things I was good at. I would go back to Melstone and work for the summer between my Junior and Senior year. Then it happened…
I was approached by a guy in a fancy coat trousers with a red stripe, who shook my hand with a white glove. Medals hanging on his chest, making me think about how they came to be on his chest, and thinking how they could someday be on mine… Take me away from here Mr. Marine! “That’s Sergeant Driver to you Boy”. So June 14th, 1991, I signed up to become a US Marine. Do you want to know why? Well, I will tell you. It is because nobody in my immediate area of knowledge had ever been one. I had a cousin that washed out. I am sure there were others, but I wanted to be the first in my family to be “The one”. Finally. I had something to shoot for. I still drank like a fish and partied with the ladies like a rock star, but I knew it was finite from the moment I signed up in the delayed entry program. And this is where I screwed up, concerning the nerdy housecleaner.
August of 1991, I was working my summer job in Melstone, still drinking, and still playing with the ladies, but it was getting time to get ready to go back to school in Miles City. A housecleaner (who was also a classmate) got hired to come clean my living quarters. This pretty much meant doing everything from throwing away my stack of “magazines” I had accumulated, vacuuming, washing floors, and all the other crap that 17 year old boys do NOT do… Hell, for all I know, she even cleaned upstairs where the raccoon lived. I wouldn’t know. I didn’t bother going up there. I was getting ready to have my BIG going away party, so what did I really care? The house just needed to be clean for the party. A couple chicks and dudes and lots of alcohol showed up, and for a 17-year-old boy, it was an epic party. Later in life, I found out that I seemed to have forgotten to invite the housecleaner to the party. My little overlooking of this could have changed a LOT of lives forever I believe. I had forgotten to say goodbye to her when I left Melstone to move to Miles City, and I had forgotten that I gave her a ride in the tractor I was operating so she could collect the money for cleaning the house. I forgot a lot of stuff in those days. Had I put two and two together, my life probably would have been a LOT different.
I invited a few friends from Melstone to come for my High School graduation in Miles City, but once again, forgot the housecleaner. June 14, 1992 was the day I was waiting for. I loaded up and was off to Butte after a VERY unfulfilling Senior year. Standing on the yellow footprints at MCRD San Diego, I was now ready to become a Marine. 13 weeks of intense training to learn to kill. Learn to survive. Learn that pain is weakness leaving the body. Learning to subdue every passion except 3. God, Country, and Corps- The only 3 things a Marine really needs to know. I ate it up and graduated meritoriously from Boot Camp. Graduated meritoriously from Motor T school where I had learned to do my chosen job, and then shipped off to Okinawa for 2 years. While in Okinawa, I meritoriously picked up Corporal with eighteen months in, and lost it the same day… What an adventure!!!
While in Okinawa, one fateful night my fellow Marines and I were at the E-club when a gaggle of white girls walked through the door. Remember, 2 years in a foreign land, and these were not Nationals, and we were well into a great night of drinking. Inevitably, I offered them a ride home, which they turned down due to the whole drinking thing. I had a great idea and offered to walk them home, and so we all stumbled for miles until we found where they were staying. It was that night I informed Jenn that I was going to marry her someday. June 14, 1996, I departed from my beloved Corps because of the same reason so many trained killers do- LOVE, plain and simple. Or so we all think…
July 27, 1996, Jason and Jenn get married, because that is what everyone is supposed to do, right? RIGHT? Wrong. I will not badmouth my wife of 21 years, but I will tell you that I had no idea what love actually was until my first daughter was born in February, 2000, and my second daughter 3 years later. These two beauties were brought into my life as an attempt from the Great Architect of the Universe to tell me it was time to start settling down. I am sure of it. Did I listen? Absolutely NOT! Partied harder than ever! Had a great job, had a house all paid for and a roof over the kids’ heads. I was doing great for myself. My marriage, not so much. I was the epitome of a bad husband. We looked good in public, but we couldn’t look at each other behind closed doors. Is that what LOVE is supposed to be? Is this the great secret of marriage? It is just living together and staying for the kids because “that’s what you are supposed to do the right thing?” If you answered yes to ANY of the questions I just asked, you WILL fail, sooner rather than later. October 31, 2015 was my failure date. Think about that. Do the math. Almost 30 years of hard-core drinking, with a 3 month break for Boot Camp.
That fateful Halloween night, I literally shattered more lives than I can even tell you about. The residual effects will neve be gone from the memories that happened that night, which eventually led to my divorce, literally 2 years later. A divorce is a very expensive undertaking by the way. What, you ask is my point to all of this? Well I have a couple, which I am going to spell out in no particular order.
- You will always find a way to overcome adversity.
- Don’t drink and drive.
- Don’t think your acquaintances are your true friends. They are actually not
- ALWAYS invite your house cleaner to the party, even if you think she won’t go.
- ALWAYS thank God daily for what you have.
- Never say never to anything, especially if you find true love.
- Discipline your offspring so others won’t need to.
- Hug you babies and tell them you love them always.
- Tell your true friends how much you love them as often as possible.
- Foster every relationship as if it the first day you met them.
- Don’t believe anything you read in the papers, and only about half of what you see in real life
- Don’t give up, ever. Choose to LIVE!
- Never, and I mean NEVER think that you are on a higher plane than any other, including the janitor.
- Remember that sometimes your nerdy house cleaner could be the love of your life.
- Never be afraid to take a leap, even though the last one was your “first and absolute last”.
And there ya have it. Life, according to Smitty.