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Filling Auntie’s Purse While Zipping Down Old Highway 80

My cousin, Patty currently struggles with cancer. Family stories seem to cheer her up a bit as well as events she and I shared. This family story is for Patty. I ask that God grant her peace and comfort.

It was summer 1950 on Old Highway 80 between Pecos and El Paso, Texas. Aunt Maggie instigated this family trip by suggesting, “We need to visit our El Paso relatives.” Darrell and Auntie sat on a bench seat in front. Darrell’s wife Mille, his daughter Patty and I piled into the back.

The road felt smooth and straight until we began to navigate hills and twists in the highway around Van Horn, Texas. Hills gradually grew into craggy desert mountains filled with mesquites, cedars, and brush. An occasional tumble week crossed our path as Darrell continued our drive west. Without air conditioning, hot, dusty air assaulted us through the open car windows.

Once we reached the hills, five-year old Patty stopped listening to the book I was reading aloud to her and began to squirm. “I’m going to be sick” Patty stated. No one responded and I continued to read. Standing up, Patty announced in a louder voice, “Daddy I’m going to be sick.” Darrell calmly replied, “Sit down, Patty. You’ll be ok.” Patty sat back down beside me and continued squirming and grumbling. The story resumed with little success at gaining her attention.

Suddenly, “No, Daddy. I mean it! I really am going to be sick.” Patty dramatically finished the sentence, leaned over the front seat, and lost her breakfast in Aunt Maggie’s new purse. This bag, shaped like a sack with a handle, had pockets that circled an enclosed section of the bag. The outer pockets fit Patty’s needs perfectly.

Abruptly, Darrell pulled the car to the shoulder. Aunt Maggie emptied what she could from the purse before eventually giving up and throwing the bag into a trash container on the side of the road. No one said a word as the adults attempted to clean Patty’s face and hands. As we continued down Highway 80, I noticed that an unpleasant odor permeated the car. A satisfied Patty returned to her chatty little self as she wondered why I had stopped reading.


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