Waltons? No, the Trcka’s. Dirt under long finger nails and only the rain and water trough to wash the sweat down his back. The pelt traps hurt little Wenceslaus’ cuts and soars. Not owies and skinned knees from “Red Rover, Red Rover”. No, it was the willow switches that mother had him fetch for his daily lashings.
God, his mother wondered, why did she marry an ignorant poet who loved polkas and cows but resisted bills, forms, and paper work. Mathias understood only the simple mathematics of music and verse and loved to wrestle and dance with his children in the watermelon patch. But none of this stoic nurturing and comradery could keep the farm from going under. Hard work and discipline, that’s what the family needed, Katja thought. Mathias would team up the 13 children to make fun of Mamma for him, but never stood up to her himself.
Funny how he was never around come whipping time. He’d sing and dance too loudly to hear Wenceslaus’ crying. He resisted the reminder of the wailing children that his revengeful rapes gave Katja those 117 months of pregnancy and its varicose veins, hemorrhoids, back aches, and on and on. He’d rape her again to show her who was the man. Then off to the melon patch again to blot it out of his mind.
The townspeople knew those Bohunks were queer. There were rumors about Mathias and his sister Zora in the cornfield. And the same with Wenceslaus and the cows. The women folk knew how Katja washed the laundry, dishes, and children in the pigs’ trough, and without soap. And those silly clothes made of flour sacks. But Mathias didn’t care. Blessed be the poor! Flaunt it. Wear your most tattered clothes, to the school polka, even if you have a suit at home.
At the dances, if you were tall enough to reach the bar, you were old enough to drink. So Wenceslaus did. It made the crying stop and the laughing start. Hard. He would sing his favorite cowboy song, “Dry whiskey, dry whiskey, dry whiskey I cry. If a tree don’t fall on me, I’ll live ‘til I die”. Dreams of becoming like a cowboy were fulfilled when Wenceslaus learned how to Yodel, drink, and dance – well, very well.
Wenceslaus dropped out of school at age 12. His English was good enough, so why stay? His parents needed him to work the farm. He may not have been worthy of love and praise throughout his childhood. He may have had to learn to interpret the world by himself. But his work was important. When all the siblings left home, good ol’ Wenceslaus was still sticking it out, trying to save the farm.
Finally, temporary relief came. The Navy and drinking took him all the way to Tokyo. Thank God there wasn’t a war on.
His service did come to an end, though; and he found himself back on the farm. In his absence it had fallen further into the red. Hence at sundown, he drove truck in the city, but the pay check wasn’t enough. On the weekends he therefore took another job – ballroom dance instructor.
Here he met Leatrice, who soon became his wife. A big busted protestant city girl, his Catholic parents hated her. Her conversion to Catholicism did not satisfy them. Eight children of his own, he began to repeat his parents’ dance – drinking, whipping and molesting the children, and raping the wife. As they grew older, the family watched TV together, favoring the show “The Waltons.” Wenceslaus insisted they were just like the TV family, despite being so opposite. And anyone who disagreed, got it even worse. Like a family heirloom, the ragged dance continued, with mirrored choreography, down on the farm.
Dexter Cruthaim is a working, playing, fighting grrl.