on a farm east of
Fort Collins, Colorado
We headed to Church on a bright fall Sunday. We were all piled into the pea-green Dodge — there must’ve been about 14 of us in the car this particular day. After going to Sunday School, Dad needed to get some gas in the car. He always got his gas at Box Elder Gas Station, about 5 miles east of town so we skipped going to Poudre Valley Creamery. Dad told us we could have an ice cream cone at the gas station. They carried Poudre Valley ice cream, but just not the full selection.
When we got to the gas station Dad was counting how many ice cream cones he was going to buy and came up missing one kid — his own! Ginger! He turned a “pale shade of white” (another terminology he used to like was “dark black”) and he asked, “Anyone seen Ginger?” No, we all said. He shouted at us to get back in the car with such urgency we were scared. We pushed and shoved our way back into the car.
Dad turned around “on a dime and left some change.” in the middle of the road and roared back into town. “I must’ve left her at the church,” he repeated under his breath many, many times! “I must’ve — oh my gosh!” His hands griped the steering wheel as he looked straight ahead. He could not get back to town fast enough, barely stopping at stop signs or not at all, taking shortcuts and careening around corners.
We all were holding our breath as we were looking intently ahead. Not a word was spoken! He pulled up in front of the great big church with a great big stairs going up to the church doors and at the very top of the stairs was Ginger crying and sobbing. She was sitting there with Dad’s good friend Rev. Grether.
As Dad got out the car and ran up the stairs, Ginger stood up and with all her 5-year-old might, shouted “Dad how could you leave me?” And then she began to sob and sob. It broke Dad’s heart! He lifted her up and gave her a big hug and told her he was so, so sorry over and over again. He shook Rev. Grether’s hand and walked down the stairs was Ginger clinging to his neck, head on his shoulder, sobbing and sobbing. He made whoever was sitting in the front seat “scoot over.” He put Ginger down and scooted in beside her, patted her on the head and drove off with his arm around her all the way back to get ice cream at the gas station.
Dad never, never told this story — ever! We told it on him and he always felt so bad. “Dad, remember the time you left Ginger at church?” He would just hang his head and say yes, yes I know. But the worst part of this whole story is as he had to tell Mom.
Ginger’s place was sitting beside Dad in the front seat from then on and we never complained or fought about it because we knew why!