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Archive for February, 2021

Lane Byron Taylor

There came a day after welcoming Dale Warren in 1958 and Melanie Rae in 1960 when it occurred to me that making babies was a lovely thing to do.  It had been a difficult time for James and me.  We hadn’t learned how to fight fair, and we each had divergent ideas about what life was about.  Given that, it would seem reasonable to stop at two bundles of joy, since the future might be a rough ride.  But for some reason, I decided that since Dale and Melanie were what I loved most in all the wide world, three of those beautiful little people would be even better than two.  I smiled and tucked the diaphragm back into the dresser drawer.  That was the night that Lane Byron got his start.  It was a good decision.

Dale and Melanie were both October surprises, but Lane had a different approach to birthday timing.  During the nine months that it took to morph from a good idea to a person ready to have a go at air breathing, Jim and I hadn’t improved our style of getting along.  We did agree the night of February ninth that it would be just as well for me to sleep in one of the kids twin beds so Jim could enjoy the marriage bed to himself for a change.  Ray and Garnie had agreed to keep the little ones overnight just in case, especially since I was several days overdue, and a polar vortex had messed up mountain state weather leading to ice on the swinging bridge and snow crusting the roadways.  It would be a tough time to try and walk that frozen bridge holding onto little mittened hands, looking way, way, down at the icy current and imagining what it would feel like to fall into it. 

I was too tired for such worries to bother me overmuch, and I slept soundly, hugging my way-too-big belly to keep warm.  What woke me up was water—lying in it.  It was warm but discouragingly wet, and was sure to get cold before long.  Suddenly I knew—my water had broken.  That was different, and had never happened with the other deliveries before arriving at the hospital.  “Jim,” I called.  “Get up!  We’ve got to go.”  He wasn’t more than reasonably irritated that I had interrupted his sound sleep.  I pulled on a dry set of clothes, reminded Jim to grab the overnight bag, packed since last week, and we were out gasping the brittle air of a February morning.  I checked the kitchen clock on the way out the door.  It was just a little past two.  We made it down the hill, boots maintaining merciful traction all the way.  A fall would have made a sorry slide down the frozen slope.  Across the icy boards that paved the bridge walkway was the worst part, but our dynamic duo made it  safe to the other side one more time.  That old bridge having appeared so romantic in the summer of ‘57 posed an entirely different proposition in the winter of ‘62.

Jim turned the key and the engine turned over.  Thank you Jesus.  The truck started, and soon began generating heat inside the frigid cab.  We headed out, making speed in honor of the occasion, up the river lane crunching ice as frozen ruts crushed under our wheels, past the big farmhouse with the R.R.Taylor mailbox where Dale and Mel slept safe with grandparents who loved them.  But the rough road bounced me about on the seat with more than a bit of pain to accompany the contractions that had taken hold.  I begged Jim to slow down.  He insisted that I shut up or he would really pour on some gas.  He was petrified at the thought of delivering a kid in the cab of his truck and wanted to hurry.  The forty minute trip to Parkersburg and a warm delivery room was uneventful, and around seven am Lane Byron Taylor made his appearance, giving air a try as breathing medium and finding it very much to his liking.

It was only a few weeks after returning home and installing the red-headed, blue-eyed little darling in his bassinette, that Jim and I staged our last argument.  The casing on our well had given out, and I took issue with bits of grass floating in the water heating up for baby formula.  It was time to pack up, kit-and-caboodle.  Renting a room from a friend of mine, and showing up at the local garment factory, babe in arms and two more in tow, I begged for a job—any job.  They put me to work sewing darts on ladies blouse fronts.  The hardest part was running home at noon every day to nurse baby Lane, and then hustling back in time so as not to have my paycheck docked.  I knew it would be hard leaving the hollow, but this was even worse than my worst imaginings.  Sewing darts for eight hours every day will rot your brain, so I memorized Byronic poetry as I stitched, to make productive use of time.  No wonder Lane’s middle name is Byron.  I was a sucker for the romantics.

A woman came every day to watch the kids for a miserly wage, but she complained that I was sure to come to no good end if I maintained my insane schedule.  Lane turned out not to thrive on milk, mine or local dairy’s.  It was a time when a sick baby meant a walk to the doctor’s house, a knock on his front door, and a promise to pay when I got a paycheck.  It was Lane’s good luck that Isomil had just been invented for babies whose gut preferred soy to lactose.  He got better forthwith and commenced thriving.  It was better for me too, to give up the noontide footrace all the way home for mammary expression.  Lane definitely had a different constitution from his older siblings.  While Dale grew up to be a meat-n-potatoes man, Lane always liked greenery, the fresher the better.  I remember the Christmas he was thirteen, and his most appreciated present was a gallon of dill pickles with a red bow on top.  He ate them every one.  A big salad was always sure to please him if other offerings were not to his taste.

As a growing-up kid, Lane was good at most things, but his most standout talent was dealing with people.  It began to be apparent when he was still little.  As a son of a single mother, he had to move around a lot as I chased the job market.  Whenever we ended up in a new place, he soon seemed to have a whole passel of new friends following him around.  I asked him how he managed that.  He explained that he would locate the new crowd of kids and start throwing rocks at them.  They would get mad and start chucking back.  As soon as that happened, he would approach them and suggest that they all be friends instead.  He had established instant intimacy by starting an altercation, then assumed the power position and turned it into friendship.  Given this capability, he has always found a way to create success and generate money.

Our family has always celebrated having a crazy aunt instead of a crazy uncle.  Her name was Margaret.  Although arguably eccentric, she had a whole list of endearing qualities and had brought a whole lot of love to my growing up years.  Most people ignored her, so it was a good thing when we could help make her life a bit happier.  For Lane it just came naturally.  He always spent time with her when we visited the farm, playing card games and bringing her thoughtful presents.  It was Lane who put a baby kitten into her hands.  He had once enjoyed a kitty that met an untimely end, and he knew how much joy a pet could engender. 

Back in the days when discipline was meted out with switch or paddle, a day arrived when Lane was too big to be spanked.  He refused to assume the position.  Since he was nearly as big as I, it seemed time to negotiate a better way to assure good behavior.  We talked.  I finally suggested that if he wanted to get what he wanted from me, he might behave in such a way that I might naturally do what he wished instead of acting out his displeasure and just making me mad.  He began forthwith getting his way by manipulating me with remarkable finesse.  I never again felt any need to spank.  He would begin a conversation wherein he would lead me through a litany of questions to the very result we both wished for.  Having agreed with his position, I walked away with the assurance that it was my idea all along.  This facility he carried into a career in sales that brought him more money than he knew how to spend.  It seemed such talent might lead to an opportunity as a trial lawyer.  He would have won every case.  But he didn’t want to waste time in law school.  He had plans that worked for him.

Unlike most people whose talent can entice money to float their yacht, Lane has a moral compass.  His first sales job was when we moved to LA to find jobs, after closing up High Country Drafting in Lee Vining illustrated that.  He found a position as entry-level sales associate with an outfit that sold solar hot-water heaters to poor black families in Torrence.  The idea was to sign up the customer for a high-rate-financed heater, secured by the value of the home in which it was installed.  When the creditor couldn’t make the payments, they foreclosed on his second mortgage and paid off the first.  The scumbags were purported to be in the solar heat business, but they were really in the business of stealing homes.  Lane’s first month bested any previous sales record in the company’s history.  He liked the customers and enjoyed getting them set up with a system that might help them save money as well as the environment, but when he realized that the deal was destroying them, he gave up the job and started selling cars.  “People come to me,” he explained, “and want to buy a car.  I help them find one they can afford that works for them, and I don’t have to ruin their lives.”  He ended up in the finance end of auto sales, now working as General Sales Manager at a local Pontiac-GMC dealership.  It’s a good living.  He’s in a position to make a lot of people’s lives better, while making his own better as well.  For a while Ford tried to study Lane’s approach but finally gave up, deciding it was just a Lane thing.  His happy customers tended to walk away saying Lane had nothing to do with it.  It was their idea to sign that deal.

Back when he was in school he took Lee Vining’s Mono High School by storm, became a star running back on the football team and later moved to starting Quarterback and Team Captain.  He won lead in the school play his junior year, but in spite of all that, followed Dale back to West Virginia to matriculate.  He missed the farm, and Grandpa, and those green hills.  He always knew what was important.  Lane was a whiz kid at math but was too people-oriented to be a nerd.  He went to West Virginia University on scholarship, but got bored with freshman math and ended up tutoring the kids in his class for extra credit while working ahead on differential equations.  He wanted his abstractions to be practical.  Making money is a utilitarian application of mathematics.  Having learned that happy quirk about himself, he quit school and began building his estate.  Lane knows what he can do and has nothing to prove to anybody. 

He has discovered how to make little people to delight in and make life worthwhile.  He has two wonderful sons to share his joy at being a father.  Recently he brought tears to my eyes trying to explain what it feels like to hold his first grand-son.  They are welcome to my tears—all of them.  Tears of happiness are the very best kind.

Happy Birthday Lane!

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