From Maggie’s forthcoming book “WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN”
It was typical for my sisters and I clad in ruffles and lace to be found skipping down Main Street holding hands on our way to school singing songs in three part harmony at the top of our lungs.
Once in a while, Father joined us in our skipping jubilees. We all competed to see who could skip the fastest and highest. Because Father was never embarrassed to be seen clowning with his kiddos, we weren’t embarrassed either. Sometimes our brothers joined us, but since they were outnumbered, they preferred keeping a safe distance behind the overabundance of sisters.
Sometimes tourists drove through our community. I imagine we made a fascinating picture with our unplanned parades. It was not uncommon to see unfamiliar vehicles doing the turtle drive occupied by goggle-eyed gogglers hanging out the window with tongues and cameras waggling.
The strangers seemed to think we were strange, but they couldn’t see that their strangeness was even stranger to us.
Our parents and teachers warned us to not accept rides or gifts from strangers. They said the world did not like our family structures and were busy trying to find ways to attack us and break up our community. We were taught to keep our mouths shut and not offer information. It could harm our fathers for strangers to know they had multiple wives and more children than the public thought they should have.
I was a communicator by nature, and much too friendly for my own good. But I could most definitely see the wisdom of silence. Sometimes I blundered.
One day when I was about eight years old, a stranger knocked on our front door and I answered it. I snapped to attention to see an unfamiliar face. My immediate reaction was fear, but I quickly regained my composure and offered a cautious grin. The man was a vacuum salesman. He was tall and good-looking with a mustache. “Is your mother home?” he asked pleasantly.
Without hesitation, I replied, “Nope! Neither one of them are.”
Mr. Mustache and I stared at one another, he in mock surprise, and me in horror that I had just revealed a family secret which was actually no secret at all since we had never made any effort whatsoever to hide our family relationships. We held the stare, and finally he cracked. Shaking with laughter, he blurted, “Then you are going to be in double the trouble.”
I didn’t think it was that funny. But I laughed to insure him I was in charge of the situation. Soon the mothers came home and we bought a vacuum. Mr. Mustache was ecstatic, and life went on.
In those days I suspect vacuum salesmen who were brave enough to knock on doors in Short Creek became millionaires.
In households with many children, the most valued tool of all had to be a good vacuum. I never saw one outlast a family. Any salesman with half a brain could see that if he could overlook the silly rumors of violence and death he might risk by wandering among the infamous polygamists, he might discover a goldmine.
If he could mind his manners and not ask too many questions of silly little girls who accidentally spilled secrets that weren’t really secrets, he could return every six months and make another vacuum sale.