In Weldon’s Photo
Children do not fathom the sketchy dotted lines of kinship.
Like prized jewelry, we adorned Mother’s arms and lap. My youngest sister held her fist to her mouth and years later insisted she wasn’t sucking her thumb. With grease and Brylcreem controlling his cowlicks, Weldon positioned us around a wobbly wicker sofa on the patio.
He wore tight, short rolled-up jeans and a thin black belt. After his last klick, he packed his camera into a leather bag. “Mama, I must accompany those young’uns through Tule Canyon.” She warned of legends: the 1,000 phantom horses arising on moonlit nights from the vast bone pile where Mackenzie’s troops slaughtered them during the Red River War. And rattlesnakes would find him easy prey. “I didn’t bring long pants when we left Amarillo.”
His father died in a motorcycle accident weeks before his birth in 1933. His mother Grace worked as the elevator lady at a department store in Amarillo. He spent summers with her brother Clyde and his wife Monte, who painted china dolls. Her brother Penney, a rich banker, never married and lived with them. Penney offered Daddy a trip to Ruidoso where they’d gamble at the Clubhouse & Café—all meager details of distorted connect-the-dots stories.
After Grace died, Weldon married a widow with two children. We exchanged Christmas gifts—his bride sent us gargantuan hose. Mother sent them coloring books and paint-by-number sets. Ten years later, they made the drive from Amarillo. We laughed at our misperceptions of age and size.
At Mother’s funeral, Weldon stood by the grave and wept. I noticed his shaggy greasy locks while we exchanged words people use at funerals. At my parents’ house, he touched the photo and reminisced. I realized the layer of kinship—although Grace and Clyde were thirty years older than my mother, they were all first cousins.
Adults lament lost polyester photographic images of times past.
Weldon’s reality: he with his step-son recruited needy boys for weekend campovers at Mackenzie Dam and Reservoir on Tule Creek.
1994: In the Panhandle, convicted of indecency with children by sexual contact
1997: Paroled, mandatory supervision, risk level moderate
2015: In Fort Worth, convicted of sexual contact with a male child
In his mug shot, he positions his head to his left side. His long, sparse white hair drapes inside his blue cotton prison shirt. With his cheap, oversized plastic frames, his body appears disconnected from his head.
His wife determined she’d stand by her man throughout this life of toil and trouble until they reached the happy summerland of bliss. Until then, she derives minimal comfort from the inscription on their unoccupied gravestone: “Love lives on.”
Like Archie Bunker, an inadvertent master of malapropisms, Daddy declared with certainty, “Well, he never was very energetic.”