Monday, November 9, 2009

An April Fool...

April 1, 1984 Sunday, April Fool's Day

Dear Ophelia,
"Yea, breakup started (awhile ago). I am in a happy frame of mind. Yesterday I had a horseback riding lesson at Diamond H Ranch. Debbie is my new trainer. It went very well. Debbie says that I'm comparable to her best riders.


Here in Alaska, people ride very differently. They keep a loose reign and use their legs for control. I'm going to have to learn it all over again but it'll be easier this ti
me. Lessons are $20. I'm going to (most likely) start working at Diamond H. I can take a bus there after school then Mom can pick me up.

There is a pony that Debbie has. Awhile ago she leased the pony to people who kept a tight reign on her. And it almost ruined the pony which used to be a good show pony that would jump anything. Debbie asked me if I wanted to try and retrain the po
ny a little.

I have to explain something. Debbie doesn't own Diamond H so she has to board her horses there since she lives in Palmer. What Debbie suggested was that I lease the pony with her (pay for half the boarding). Then I could ride the pony everyday after school and in my lessons. It will be like owning my own horse. Yeaa. The pony is a big pony like Jewel. I can't wait till Next Week. I hope everything
works out.

Now for some bad news. Pumpkin hasn't come home yet and I don't think she will. Your friend, Jennifer."


Pumpkin has been missing now for 16 days. She was an indoor cat with no claws and she was out roaming Alaska by herself. The Burl Court condos backed to a wild bog. Fox and moose and all kinds of wildlife lived back there. Jennifer did not think her cat, feisty as she was, could survive.


Jennifer ended this diary entry with her second diary drawing--a pony!


Looking back at Debbie of Diamond H ranch, Jennifer suspects that she was a bit of an opportunist. She wanted Jennifer to retrain the pony because Jennifer was tiny. Debbie was not. She literally could not ride the pony. She needed Jennifer. Debbie saw a way to not only have Jennifer train the pony, but to have her pay for the pony as well.

Jennifer would end up working at Diamond H as a groom. In exchange she earned free riding on all the horses. But in reality, Jennifer was just an unpaid worker. She cleaned tack and exercised horses for free--which was a huge help to Debbie--but she still had to pay for her lessons! Debbie was no dummy....

Diamond H Ranch is still there on O' Malley road in Anchorage. It is the oldest and largest horse boarding and training facility in Anchorage. It was established in 1959. Debbie is no longer there.

April 2, 1984 Monday, 61 days until school is out

Dear Ophelia,

"5 days till my next lesson, I can't wait. Mom and I found a bus that will take me to the zoo after school. Diamond H Ranch is right next to the Alaska zoo. Yea. Last week Jeff was g
one all week in the lower 48. He is coming back tonight.

Anyway, track starts today! I might join for this week but next week I'll be riding so I can't join track. I don't mind at all, I'd rather ride. I hope Cheri and Shannyn understand. I think they will. I didn't go to school today cause I'm sick. I feel ok now but I still have a stuffy nose and stuff. I almost wish that I went to school. I'm counting off the days till Saturday. 5 more days. Yea. Well, I gotta go. Bye Op
helia. By the way, I stopped smoking. Joel hasn't. Yet. Your friend-4-ever, Jennifer. P.S. I'm also counting the days till school ends. In 61 days school will be over. Yea!!!!"

Jennifer was thrilled to return to her first love--horses! She has perked up quite a bit!

Also, Jennifer mentioned on April first that breakup was under way. Breakup happens in the spring in Alaska. The snow melts fast, the ice breaks. There are puddles everywhere. It's time to break out the "breakup boots". It also means better weather and more daylight every day. Spring breaks up depression, as well as ice, in Alaska!

April 3, 1984 Tuesday, 60 days until school is out

Dear Ophelia,

"Today in typing I found out that I'm the fastest typist in all the classes. 34 words a minute. Yea!


After school Adrienne came over. I smoked two cigarettes but only because she did. If (when) I start going to the ranch after school, I'll stop. I only smoke w
hen Adrienne is over. At 4:00pm, Adrienne left so Alicia and I played Frisbee. We had Swiss steak for dinner. Alicia lives across the street. I went to her birthday party. She's really nice. Well I gotta go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."

They say all the trouble junior high kids get into happens between 3 and 5pm. The kids are home alone and they make bad choices. It was sure true for Jennifer. Yes, she may have done all these things anyway--but not until she was older at least. Both of Jennifer's parents needed to work--but whenever a family can afford to have a parent or relative home to watch their children--they should do it. My opinion.

Jennifer moved to Alaska, in part, because she knew she needed supervision. The freedom at her dad's was a little scary. She was right to be scared. Given freedom between 3 and 5pm--Jennifer managed to fill it with trouble!

April 4, 1984 Wednesday, 59 days until school is out

Dear Ophelia,
"Mom and Jeff caught Joel and I smoking. I'm not sure how mad they are. I hope it doesn't effect my horses. Since Jeff is going to Fairbanks, they are going to tell us our punishment Saturday.
Mom and Jeff and I went to Bartlett High School today at 7:00pm. We just found out a little about the school. Well, I gotta go. By. Your friend, Jennifer. P.S. my address: 3655 Burl Court.
My current school, Wendler Junior High. Age (mine) 13."

There is nothing like waiting to deliver a punishment. Jennifer and Joel had to sweat it out for three long days!

Jennifer kept smoking and vowing that it would not become a habit. She was clearly aware of the dangers. Yet she did it anyway. She was smart and a good runner. It breaks an adult's heart to see a kid like her smoke. It doesn't break the kid's heart. Knowing something is bad for you is different than believing it. It's as different as knowing about God and actually believing in God. Jennifer liked the way it felt, so grown up. She liked the little nicotine buzz. It just didn't seem so bad and anyway, she could stop anytime.

By the age of eighteen, Jennifer would be smoking two packs a day. She would set her mattress on fire while sleeping on it and she would burn herself while driving and almost cause a wreck. She would become unable to walk up a flight of stairs without panting. She would have a hard time sitting through an entire movie in the theater. If you're a kid, don't smoke!! (hey, even if telling a kid not to smoke doesn't work, we still have to tell them!!!)


Above: Burl Ct. where Jennifer smoked and played Frisbee!
Below: the view from Joel's window of the wild bog and the mountain range.
Pumpkin was somewhere out there with no claws!

April 5, 1984 Thursday, 58 days until school is out

Dear Ophelia,

"I stayed home sick today. Last night I had a really neat, long dream. Anyway, I cleaned my room and did a health article. It took two hours to clean my room but I did a super job.
I hope I can still do everything I planned with horses. I hope the smoking won't have an effect on the horses but I'll find out Sater
day. Well, I gotta go, bye Ophelia. Your friend, Jennifer."

Jennifer liked to stay home from school but not when she was sick. Nine times out of ten, she faked her illness. Even into her college days, Jennifer skipped school when she needed a mental day. She learned how to work the system. She was a great student. She paid attention the first time something was taught. She tended to skip review days because they bored her.

She was dedicated to school though. If a new concept was being introduced, Jennifer could be sick as a dog and she wouldn't miss her classes.

April 6, 1984 Friday, 57 days until school is out

Dear Ophelia,
"I went to school today and had a pretty good day. I got an A on my math test. Yea. Tonight I watched Cujo and part of Creepshow. It was weird. Mom and Jeff went out for dinner. I don't have any homework. I sure hope that I can lease the pony. I hate waiting. I can't wait until tomorrow. I gotta go, bye. Your friend, Jennifer."


See, she was a good student :) You'll have to wait until the next post to find out what her punishment for smoking was...

Did you sneak cigarettes after school? Who got you started smoking?

Palmer, Alaska
Began as a railway station in 1917
Settled as a colony by 200 mid-westerners under an FDR plan in 1935--families drew 40 acre lots for farming
42 miles northeast of Anchorage (68km)
Population around 7,000
The only city in Alaska built on a farming economy
Home of the Alaska State Fair!


Palmer, Alaska

1 comment:

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