The delicious odor of baking bread found its way into the bedroom where young Cappy Brady was snuggled deep within the covers. The redolent, pungent smell of the bread served as a gentle nudge toward the inevitability of consciousness. But Cappy resisted, willing herself to remain in limbo somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, barely aware of the sounds her mother was making as she moved about in the kitchen.
Saturday was a lazy day for Cappy. She was doing everything she could to forestall any hint of lucid thought but something kept bringing her back to awareness. She listened. It was an annoying snapping sound. A few seconds would go by and she would hear it again.’Snap’! And then another, ‘snap’. Each incidence of this strange sound brought her closer to being fully awake.
Then, from the kitchen, she could hear her mother saying to her eight-year old brother, “Earl Jr., stop popping that egg! If you don’t catch it one time, it’s going to be all over my clean kitchen floor!”
Cappy, ever curious and always observant, continued to listen.
“I’ll never miss it, Mom,” she heard her nuisance of a brother say.
“I got what they call soft hands! I can catch anything! This egg’s part of me and it won’t ever touch your clean floor, I promise!” ‘Snap’!
Fully awake now, Cappy was intrigued. What was the little monster up to now? She was accustomed to Earl Jr.’s ever changing collection of frogs, snakes and even spiders. But what was he doing with this egg? Oh well, she would learn soon enough. She looked across the room to see if her older sister, Ida Mae, was still asleep. No, Ida’s bed was empty. Must be off with one of her boyfriends, Cappy thought
Still reluctant to emerge from the luxuriant comfort of her bed, Cappy indulged in the activity that had become her favorite pastime, sorting out the complexities of her life.
She was thirteen in the year of 1928. Her father, Earl ‘King’ Brady Sr. had settled his family in the small Idaho town of Lewiston some four years earlier after Cappy’s mother, Roxanne, informed him that ‘she was absolutely done with South Dakota.’ She was not going to herd her children into an underground hole described as a storm cellar one more time, tornadoes or no tornadoes.
Earl Sr. examined the determined countenance of his wife and knew that argument was pointless. He began to make the plans that would eventually take his young family away from the harsh winters and quixotic danger of South Dakota’s tornadoes.
Much was done in a short time! Earl Sr., employed as a sign painter, gave notice to his loyal customers that he would be leaving. The owner of the large rented home on Maple Street was told that Earl Brady and family would be moving further west. Anything too large to take with them was either thrown away or given away. Buckets, ladders and wash tubs were disposed of. Space was found in boxes for anything considered too precious to part with.
All the suitcases and boxes were tied or strapped to every part of the family’s old Cadillac, making the Cadillac appear more like a tour bus than the vintage sedan it actually was.
Then there was the problem of Earl Jr.’s Border collie, Pal. His father didn’t want to take Pal along on what promised to be an extended journey west. Earl Jr. rarely challenged his giant of a father, but he was steadfast in his insistence that Pal was going on the trip with them! With bottom lip quivering and a tear falling from each eye, he informed his father that if he left Pal behind, he, Earl Jr. would stay behind with his dog. The two of them would strike out on their own!
Successfully suppressing laughter, Earl Sr. looked at his smiling wife and his two other children also in the throes of muted mirth, and said, “Son, you win! The dog goes with us!” Earl Jr. leaped into his father’s arms and gave him a grateful kiss, “Thanks, Dad! I knew you wouldn’t leave Pal behind!”
Pal was still a member of the Brady family. Joining his young master in celebration, the Border collie leaped high off the ground making his happiness known with a loud bark. Earl Sr. drilled a couple of holes in the Cadillac’s left side running board and bolted down a steel enclosure large enough for Pal to ride in.
The Brady’s said goodbye to family and friends amidst tears and hugs. With Ida Mae, Cappy and four-year old Earl Jr. ensconced in the back seat, they set off in search of a new home. The anticipation of the journey was suddenly gone and their trek west became a reality.
They traversed through several states stopping to look over cities and small towns with names like Sheridan, Sundance, Hyattville, Wyola and Billings. Each day, when twilight descended and Earl Sr. became tired of driving, they would find a stream and put up their tent; Roxanne Brady would delegate chores for the children while she prepared the evening meal.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast the Bradys and Pal would climb into the Cadillac and ease out onto the road in search of the next town. The ancient luxury car, motor humming, made its way over good and bad roads alike with only an occasional bump that would awaken any snoozing Brady with a start.
Pal, riding outside the car in his box, became bored with the inactivity and invented a game he could play with the Cadillac. Every hill the car had to climb gradually slowed the overly burdened, boxlike projectile down. When the car was slowed enough, Pal would jump to the road and, in a canter, easily keep pace running alongside the Cadillac. Then, with a burst of speed and all four legs pumping, he would begin to outdistance the car, much to the delight of Earl Jr., applauding the dog’s victory from the back seat. Once the road leveled again, Earl Sr. would stop the car and a tired but happy Pal would jump back into his box.
They continued to cover more ground going through Butte, Boulder, Anaconda, Missoula, Stevensville and Orofino. Roxanne, the Brady matriarch, knew her family was gradually tiring of the search for a new home but she was determined to find just the right place to put down their roots. A premonition told her they were close.
They made their way to Washington State where they visited Walla Walla, Waitsburg, Dayton and Pomeroy. Finally, leaving Clarkston, Washington, they crossed a bridge and dropped down into the quaint, picturesque city of Lewiston, Idaho’s oldest community, quietly nestled at the point where the Snake and Clearwater rivers merged.
Cappy remembered feeling a hint of excitement as she looked through the windows of the big Cadillac. She saw energetic activity everywhere! Grown ups were sauntering from store to store, children of varying ages, all smiling and laughing as they lined up to enter a movie theater. Next to the theater was a small café named Hattie’s, and lying in front of the café was a large Irish Setter.
The exteriors of the stores were brightly painted and the sidewalks were clean, leaving a good impression on Roxanne. She saw happiness displayed on the faces of the children. Earl Sr. was very impressed with the smooth movement of his sedan over the pavement of Lewiston’s Main Street and he made note of the many businesses that would have a need for his sign painting talents. And more businesses to come! All could easily provide a comfortable and secure future for his brood.
Cappy, excitement in her eyes, glanced over at her brother. Earl Jr.’s head was hanging over the edge of the window looking down at the box where he expected to see Pal. The box was empty.
He yelled, “Pal’s gone! Stop the car, Dad! Pal’s gone!
Earl Sr. pulled the Cadillac over to the side of the road and stopped. Telling his son to stay in the car, he stepped out and looked around. He saw Pal running toward the café and the Irish Setter. When the Setter saw Pal he rushed to meet him.
The two dogs circled each other, end to end, stopping occasionally to sniff, then circling some more. Just as Earl Sr. reached the dogs, Pal stretched himself out in a supine position indicating a willingness to be peaceful and welcome a new friend.
The Setter, a breed of dog known for its friendliness, simply assumed a position beside Pal and placed his head between his paws, seemingly happy to be near his new companion. Earl Jr. could sit in the car no longer. Jumping from the back seat he ran over to the two dogs bending to pet each in turn.
A few minutes later, with Pal safely back in his box, the big car pulled back onto Main Street and the Brady’s went in search of the residential part of Lewiston. Soon they found themselves on a street of modest homes gently shaded by large oak trees.
The street was named Clearwater Avenue. The For Sale sign on the small home at the end of the short street as yet had gone unnoticed. Roxanne, considering the size of the homes, wasn’t concerned knowing Earl Sr.’s unusual ability with a hammer and nails. She didn’t want to rent this time, she wanted to own their new home. The size of the new home would not be an issue. Earl Sr. could increase the number of rooms easily.
There were tire swings hanging from trees, bicycles leaning against porches, and in front of the second to the last home on the street, a clean-cut boy of fifteen or sixteen, wearing jeans and a red and black checkered shirt, was raking leaves.
Ida Mae saw the well-muscled teenager and quickly cast her vote. Running a hand over her copper colored hair, she said, “I like this town! Let’s put down some roots! I’m tired of riding around in this car.”
Her mother glanced around at Cappy, and asked, “What do you think, Cappy?”
Cappy had known instantly. This is where she wanted to live! But she’d been waiting for a positive response from the others before voicing her feelings. Now she said it so all could hear, “Mom, Dad, I’m sure this is the right place! Looking just beyond the boy raking the leaves, Cappy spotted the For Sale sign in front of the last house on the block. “Look, that house is for sale!” she said, pointing to the house with obvious delight.
Her mother looked at her and smiling, said, “Calm down, Cappy! One thing at a time!” She hesitated, looking at the three of them in turn. “Are we all agreed, this is the place?”
Her children had never spoken the same word at the same time, ever, but this time they did. In unison, they said, “Yes!” Roxanne looked at her husband, the weariness of the many days of driving showing on his face. Smiling, he nodded his agreement. The Brady family’s journey had come to an end. They were home!
Snap! The sound was louder now and Cappy could hear it more clearly. Earl Jr. was just outside her bedroom door.
“When is Capitola getting up? I want to go swimming, Mom! Do you think she’ll take me swimming?”
The little germ! I’ll break him of calling me that horrible name somehow, she thought. Maybe he could drown while swimming? She was immediately overcome with guilt. If something happened to the little pest she would actually miss him! Something strange had occurred over the last couple of years and she admitted to having grown fond of her little brother.
“Not if you call her Capitola that’s for certain!” she heard her mother reply to Earl Jr.
“Earl Jr. stop with the egg! You’re going to drop it! Cappy knew when her mother was reaching the end of her patience. Earl Jr. was on thin ice and Cappy’s curiosity was finally getting the best of her.
She checked the alarm clock. It was 9:45. Time to get up.
She slipped into her coveralls and cinched a belt around her waist. The belt gave her a ‘I mean business’ look that would have been absent without it.
As she slipped into her shoes she heard Earl Sr. call her mother into the living room. Emerging from the bedroom into the kitchen, Cappy saw her mother, holding a wooden spoon, leave the room to see what her husband wanted.
That left only Earl Jr. in the kitchen as she entered. She immediately understood what was making the snapping sound.
Her brother had his upper right arm extended and horizontal to the floor. His forearm was at a right angle and vertical to the floor with an egg resting in the palm of his hand. Earl Jr. dropped the egg and it fell toward the crook of his arm. As the egg fell he straightened his arm out popping the egg about three feet into the air. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cappy come into the kitchen. His focus momentarily distracted, the egg began its descent to Roxanne Brady’s clean floor.
Cappy, fully aware of her brother’s confusion as he watched the egg fall, instinctively launched her body until it was parallel to the floor, extended her hand, palm upward and felt the egg nestle into her hand just two inches above her mother’s pristine floor. The length of her body came crashing down on the floor and the impact propelled the egg back into the air. With extraordinary focus, Cappy reached for the egg once again, grasping it firmly this time and holding it safely out of danger.
Looking up from the floor at a relieved Earl Jr., Cappy said, “This egg can easily fall the rest of the way to the floor, Earl Jr., and it will if you don’t agree this minute to never call me ‘Capitola’ again!”
Indecision was written all over Earl Jr.’s face.
“I can hear her coming back! What’s it going to be, yes or no?”
“All right, you win! Now give me the egg!” he exclaimed.
“Give me the egg…..” she said, pausing and waiting.
“All right, all right! Give me the egg, Cappy!” he said in a resigned tone. Cappy got to her feet and handed Earl Jr. the intact egg. Taking in a long breath and then exhaling, he sat down at the table contemplating the egg.
Roxanne Brady came back into the kitchen carrying the wooden spoon. Seeing Cappy, she said, “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been going through with your brother. He’s been popping that egg into the air over and over. He’s going to drop it on my floor! And when he does….!” She left the sentence unfinished but waved the wooden spoon.
Cappy smiled at her mother. “He’ll never miss it, Mom! He has what they call soft hands. He can catch anything!” she said, winking at her brother.