~ Pt 21: Ma, Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade
“Civilization is social order
supporting cultural creativity.”
Taking up from “Pt 20-A-J: Ma, Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade,” it bears restating that one of my Mormon fundamentalist sisters who married so many Misters never ever caught on … never bothered to catch on how to check out, before she took on her next “husband,” whether the new “hunk” was going to treat her right — though she married wrong.
This is only one example of how the foot-washing, stoic, three-ring circus of “The Law of Celestial Marriage” works — The “BED-lam” J. Smith and B. Young loosed in this world. Their helluva law ought to be renamed The Lawless Law of Telestial Marriage — the orthodox Mormon law that undoes what it took civilization 2000 years to build.
It’s barbaric, deplorable, and inexcusable that a “gospel” could teach doctrines that break up marriages, families, and civilized life — laws that leave the wife broken-hearted, betrayed, her home downtrodden, and her life and that of her kids damaged beyond repair.
It bears repeating that, thanks to problems with polygamy, children often grow up fatherless. And the abandoned or neglected wife or Ex-wife must play the role of both mother and father to her humongous family of small children – the perfect recipe for misery, poverty, deprivation … and under-class living. Unfortunately, the above is a typical scenario that both broken and unbroken families endure, thanks to Mormon polygamous doctrines.
I’m not proud of what my mother, sister, myself, and others like us do/did by becoming involved with an already-married man, though we were doing what we were taught God wanted us to do.
As I said before, I’m sad and chagrined that Mother had a part in the dire sufferings and hell Daddy’s first wife and children went through, even if it was part of Mother’s fanatic fundamentalist Mormon “privilege” — nay, her obligation to break up marriages; i.e., to move in and marry a man already married, to make sure he went to heaven by making sure he lived “The Law of Celestial Marriage” — “the holy law of matrimony” — no matter the consequences — and no matter whether she wanted or didn’t want to participate in this plural marriage mess — which, if given a choice, she didn’t want.
Mama only entered polygamy after much stalling and consideration and at a very late stage in a Mormon fundamentalist girl’s life: She was around 23. (Especially in Mother’s time, the mid-1940s, an orthodox Mormon girl was considered an old maid if not married by around age 18.) Mother only became a polygamous wife because it had been drilled into her that her salvation depended upon it!
Nonetheless, “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation – nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.” —Mahatma Gandhi
“Pt 22: Ma Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade”
My Memoir: Ma, Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade — Part 23
“People see what they want to see
till they want to see.”
I left off in blog, “Pt 22: Ma, Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade,” saying: Mama preached polygamy and told people they would go to hell if they did not live it, but other than her first six months of marriage to Daddy, she never shared/ had to share her own husband/my father in the whole twenty-two years she was married to him.
But not long after Daddy died, she once again “helped save” a man by becoming his plural wife — as she had with Daddy. I mentioned this man in a previous blog: This new husband was an attractive LDS Mormon man around fifty years of age: Mel Orchard. He was as big a windbag as Ma! But a bigger kicker is his legal wife, a mainline Mormon, didn’t know the marriage took place! Mother was around forty-six or so, then.
She was not married to windbag Mel for long. In an effort to become his favorite wife, Ma manipulated a sixteen-year-old virgin into becoming old-man Mel’s third wife. To make a long story shorter, word has it she told this young girl and her family she’d had a revelation their daughter was to marry “her” husband Mel. But Ma’s ploy backfired on her.
After helping old-man-Mel secure his child bride, much to her ire, he neglected Mama. As you might imagine, her efforts and sacrifice to please her new husband did not bring in the appreciation and favoritism from him she believed and preached was supposed to happen when a woman got her husband another wife “to build up his kingdom.” (Mormon fundamentalism has all kinds of pie-in-the-sky, not-down-to-earth beliefs about plural marriage and how it’s supposed to work!)
My dreamer but let-down Ma was too jealous, hurt, and aggravated to remain married to her heart-throb Melvin after procuring for him a nubile maid only to find her manipulations ended up losing more of his love and time, rather than gaining her more of it. The old gentleman spent most of his time and energy trying to please his new teenage wife — trying to get it up and on with this adolescent “fawn”!
Not long after that, Ma took up with an old High School flame, a handsome Hispanic hunk — Catholic, charming, and very married — who lived in Chihuahua City, a-few-hours-drive from her residence in Colonia LeBaron. When she was in her teens, Mother’s parents would not allow her to marry him: He was of the wrong religion and race. But she and this stunningly gorgeous Mexican man had never fallen out of love.
Now, many years later and a lot of water under the bridge and despite his being married, his wife not knowing about it, and his not being Mormon, Mama carried on a back-room bedroom affair with him — perhaps hoping she could convert him to Mormon fundamentalism in time (?). I witnessed a part of that affair when, while visiting her in 1973, he chanced to drop by.
Mama told her kids and me she was taking her “friend” into her den “to discuss the gospel.” But I was an astute twenty-seven-year-old who had been around the block a few times by then. The sounds coming from her lioness’s den — squeaking springs combined with climactic screams — were not the sounds of discussing the gospel, no matter how exciting the discussion was!(
Pt 24: Ma, Pa, Me, and Polygamy on Parade
To everyone their openeth
A way, ways, and a way;
And the high soul takes the high way,
The low soul takes the low;
While in between on the misty flats
The rest drift to and fro.
But to everyone their openeth
A high way and low.
And everyone decideth
The way his soul shall go.
(I memorized this poem when I was 13)
Taking up where we left off in:
“Pt 23: Mom, Dad, Me, and Polygamy on Parade:”
Today, let’s expand on a disturbing theme I mentioned earlier: My sister Mary told me Mother made advances toward her ex-husband polygamist Sigfried Widmar. (He already had a number of plural wives at the time.) Ugh!
Not sure if Mumma married Siegfried. But it’s disgusting to court, let alone marry your own daughter’s ex-husband — especially given that he very badly mistreated her daughter, my sister Mary, while she was married to Sig. Not only that, Sig had greatly neglected and maltreated his three sons Mary bore him (Mom’s grandchildren), including never visiting them nor sending child-support after the divorce!
Mother was taking care of herself and lacked a sense of boundaries. But messy Mormon fundamentalism and religious polygamy leave ample space for disgrace — ample justification for fornication. Incest is common. Mothers and daughters married to the same man, in some polygamist cults, is but one example.
While Daddy was still living, Mother had designs on MY husband William Preston Tucker! She was in love with him, idolized him, and fantasized that she would be married to him in the celestial kingdom (if not sooner!) — one avenue Mormon polygamy allows! (Orthodox Mormons believe righteous Mormon men will have any number of wives in heaven — so it doesn’t matter that here on earth they are your own mother, mother-in-law, daughter, et Al!
Ma would turn on like a Christmas tree fawning over MY husband polygamist Billy Tucker whenever he came around! She literally preened about like a peacock in heat waving her fan along with her tailfeathers to wow my “cock” — showing him she was his fan … wanted him to be her fan.
As a part of her courting fanfare, peacock-hen Ma performed for my lover Bill her fanciest piano pieces — difficult classics like Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto in C Sharp Minor,” “The Swan” by Saint-Saens, (https://youtu.be/zNbXuFBjncw), and Debussy’s “Clair de Lune.” Oh, Mum knew how to impress — knew how my beloved Billy took toclassical music!
Bill fancied himself classy when he listened to and appreciated such music. Thank God Mum’s mom, my Pianist/piano-teaching Grandma Maud LeBaron saw to it Mummy got ample years of private piano lessons and plenty of time to practice and perfect her pretty fancy piano pieces; otherwise, Mumma wouldn’t have had much to impress others with — fat ‘n’ 40 with her fourteen beautiful kidlings straggling along behind her fantastic fan feathers!
Though Bill had a Bachelor of Science degree with honors and an Honorary Masters degree from UCLA and had also taught for a while at Texas Western University, he was always conscious of the fact he grew up poor (He was born during the Depression era). He was ashamed of his father, who, though an artist and talented musician, was never well-to-do and made his living as a machinist and Foreman in a factory.
But that’s only the half of it when it comes to Mumma flying in, in her fantasy world (for let it be known that Mumma lived in quite a dreamworld) and coming on to my hubby like a peacock spreading its fantastic fan feathers! She was strutting her stuff while fantasizing about being Bill’s favorite wife in the hereafter — if not in the here-and-now — while I was still married to and greatly neglected by my Billy … and she was still married to my daddy!!
She was having her problems with her hot-tempered, tyrannical spouse — my mean, aged papa twenty-six years her senior. But I was having my troubles with Bill too! He was no saint! Just an Alpha Male many women and men were in love. They, like me, idolized and adored gifted “Charming Billy.”
(Remember the song: “Oh, where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy? Oh, where have you been, charming Billy?) People in the cult couldn’t get enough of Billy Tucker. Many wanted to mate with him to get even closer — wanted to be a part of this amazing creaton … wanted to connect sexually. (Not sure how many ever did but they wanted to.)
Fuck! As luck would have it, much to my grief, Bill, my spouse the louse, left me after four-and-a-half trying years. That is, he “put me aside” — separated from me because, after too much suffering and disappointment, I had dissociated — had withdrawn bodily feelings for him. I had told him I no longer felt anything — was numb during conjugal relationships — no longer even felt when he fondled my once highly sensitive breasts! I’d managed to shut off physical feelings for him so as to distance myself from the eternal emotional pain caused by him and polygamy.
His “putting me aside” — that is, separating from me — though it devastated me, didn’t bother Mama at all! She saw it as a windfall for her! So it goes without saying, she didn’t sympathize with me and my sorrow, let alone did she try to help her twenty-year-old me patch things up with my precious hubby. Instead, Ma gleefully licked her chops for her chance to top me and take up with Billy in my place; i.e., displace me! (How would you like to have your mom as your competition — as if Bill’s other wives, boyfriends, and suitors weren’t competition enough!)
But a few months later, as Lady Fuck fanned her cards, Mother’s aces in the hole fell like dumped dominoes: After Bill separated from me, he secretly skipped out of Colonia LeBaron and Mom’s life! Then, safely hidden from Mom’s brother my uncle Ervil LeBaron — and his Danites — Bill announced he had left the LeBaron cult and Mormon fundamentalism for good and forever.
Then, three months after that, Bill died! “God took Bill!” said the true-believing cult members. “It’s payback for his leaving the one and only true church!“
Actually, Bill died of a ruptured appendix — payback for years in a cult where he couldn’t afford physicals even if he would visit a doctor. Sadly, Bill was allergic to the wonder drug Penicillin, the modern miracle medicine that has wiped out most deaths these days due to a burst appendix. (Penicillin cures the once-fatal infection, peritonitis, that quickly sets in following a ruptured appendix.)
You should have seen Mother at Bill’s funeral! It was held in Southern California. But she made sure to catch a ride leaving Mexico to go to the United States though she couldn’t afford it. Esther LeBaron-McDonald de Spencer simply had to attend her son-in-law (fantasy lover) Bill’s burial!
At the graveside, Ma was so caught up in her “poor me” misfortune of losing her fantasy lover Bill that her daughter, myself, was insignificant in her eyes. She wanted everybody to feel sorry for HER because SHE lost her “son-in-law.” So caught up in her attention-getting drama and trying to get in touch with her own feelings was Mama that she never once acknowledged me and mine. Never walked over to say hello to me, her grieving girl, let alone did she show me any other sympathy or empathy — never inquired as to how I might feel about my adored husband’s suddenly and unexpectedly dying! Of course, I had left her church by then so perhaps she was simply shunning me. (?) But so had her “Billy” apostatized from her church! Go figure.
At the Memorial Service, immature Mama hadn’t comforted me, either. She was probably unnerved that I was there! And it seemed I was supposed to be fawning over her! Go figure again. I already have … long since: The poor lady had a narcissistic personality disorder. 20 Diversion Tactics Highly Manipulative Narcissists Use to Silence You I was only an appendage swinging off her like a pendulum: If she was okay, I was okay. She didn’t totally see me as a viable and dynamic entity separate from herself. (We’ll discuss this topic more in a future chapter.)
Pt 25: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, Pa, Me, ‘n’ Polygamy
Taken around 1956-1957: My parents and 9 of their then 10 children. I’m around 10 or 11 years old in this picture–just got back from cherry-picking in a friend’s orchard so my hair is all mussed up.
“Never complain about
what your parents couldn’t give you.
It was probably all they had.”
I left off on “Pt 24: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, Pa, Me, ‘n’ Polygamy.”
Let’s change the topic a bit and go back to when I was twelve and we inquisitive LeBaron-Spencer siblings — 11 of us by then — were once more huddled in the living room around our loving, peaceful parents. Those who could manage to get there first were sitting on the colorful rag-rug Mama had made and spread out in front of our warm fireplace hearth Daddy designed and built.
The periphery of the fireplace was artfully decorated with shades of variegated vermilion petrified-wood — rock-work laid by my artisan father’s own skilled hands. I loved to study its eye-catching splendor while listening to our parents’ religious lessons.
It was Family Home Evening again — our Monday-night Mormon family get-together my parents held sporadically. As was customary in our family during these times, we older children were taking advantage of the time together with our seemingly Godlike mom and pop to pump them for information about their past. After we’d heard about how they met and married, I couldn’t help but interject the all-important question: “Mama, were you a virgin when you married Daddy?”
I don’t know what prompted me to ask that question. I should’ve “known” Mama was a virgin, given how she so strictly instilled within us children that it was a matter of life or death that we be virgins on our wedding night. That was good old Mormon fundamentalist doctrine!
A man could have lots of wives … But the man had to be a virgin too … on his first wedding night, anyway! (After that, he could marry any number of women though he was no longer a virgin! Still, each of his wives had to be a virgin! But there were exceptions to this rule, too, such as in the case of divorce.)
But it was an all-important question to me, given Momma and Papa had so fervently impressed upon me and my siblings that we be chaste virgins when we married. We were not even to kiss a man till we were at the marriage alter! I repeat: We were not to KISS our loved one till we were at the marriage alter!!
Therefore, I was taken aback when Mama flushed, then exchanged with Papa an embarrassed equivocal half-grin implying, “Don’t ask; don’t you tell.” Then, having established an unspoken agreement and understanding with Papa, Mama carefully chose her words as she formed her response: “Why … of course, I was a virgin on my wedding night!”
But I sensed the look exchanged between her and Papa suggested a special and personal secret held between the two. It left me with the impression the jury was still out on the Ma-plus-Pa virginity equation.
Given their equivocation, I only wonder: Was Pa on the bottom or the top? And was their “wedding night” in the back of the pickup bouncing toward Ma’s parents’ home? That’s all I want to know! It’s more than I could know at the tender age of twelve … You have to know a little to ask a lot. At that age, I barely knew how babies were begot … and wished I knew NOT … if it was what I thought.
But I certainly wanted to believe my parents abided by the chaste rules they taught from the time I was a tot: People must NOT lose their virginity! And, I repeat, Shouldn’t even kiss until they were at the marriage alter!
Older and wiser now, I suspect some of that bouncing of the pickup bed that carried Mommy and Poppy from Mesa, Arizona to Chihuahua, old Mexico was created by more than the bumps in the rutted, rugged 1944 roads those many hours the truck sped along at top speed towards Mama’s parents’ home. (Perhaps Uncle Ben was doing his utmost to get these two lovers — my future parents — to his father’s presence while his sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law were still “chaste”?)
Oh, well. What the hell! Nature has purposely made the attraction between two people in love too difficult for abstinence — especially when they’re alone and getting to “know each other better” in the back of a secluded pickup. At least, that’s what I surmise. What’s your opinion?
I also suspect (from what I learned when Mother let me read her diary she wrote when she was in her late teens) other activities also had something to do with whether Mother’s hymen was still unbroken. I’ll tell you what I mean in an upcoming blog. Meanwhile, who knows what else may have passed between Ma, Pa, and those five years following the incident she wrote about in her diary!
PS: Mother told us she and Daddy had gone to Mexico to get permission from her parents to be married — and were also married in old Mexico. I’ve recently learned that was not the case. They were married by Joseph White Musser in Salt Lake City, so I suspect they didn’t even get permission from my mother’s parents before they got married! But they sure did want us to get permission from them before we got married — is probably the moral of the story she told me!
Pt 26: More Memories of My Mom Esther LeBaron Spencer
My mother Esther LeBaron-McDonald Spencer at age 21
“You can never go home.”
Another variable in the equivocation, as to Mom’s virginity on her wedding night, is the following (Perhaps I’m throwing a hand grenade into the equation?): When I was about fourteen, Momma told me how girls she knew, when she was growing up, used things like bananas, carrots, and broomstick handles to put up “the place where babies are born.” Also used these and other devices to try to achieve an abortion!
I barely knew what she was talking about … and didn’t know masturbation or the need for such existed. Don’t know why Mum told me this stuff. I assume she was expounding on thoughts she had at the moment. Or was she suggesting I use the same tools, should the need arise — only don’t tell anyone the idea came from her?
That’s questionable, given part of virginity means an unbroken hyman. I think she was simply telling me some of the “worldly” things she knew “bad girls” used to do — but things she thought I wouldn’t do because I was her girl so “wasn’t worldly.” She believed I was better than they: I was “born a Saint.”
Such are the things my pure, perfect … perfectly-fanatic Mormon mum told me on the sly in moments of weakness and reverie. I suppose they were things too interesting to keep to herself. And I was Mum’s confidant.
Here’s another piece of juicy information Mumma shared with me after I asked her to explain what a “dirty joke” was. A couple of my sixth-grade classmates used the term but laughed at me when I asked what it meant. They said, “Go ask yer mom!” So I did.
At first, Mum told me “Johnny fell in a mud puddle” was an example of a dirty joke. But I was dissatisfied with that answer, so she caved in — but only after securing from me a promise I’d never repeat what she told me! Then she quickly recited the following bawdy rhyme she’d learned as a youngster. I admit I’m breaking my promise for I’m repeating what she said:
“Mary had a little lamb;
It wasn’t worth a Tinker’s damn.
She took it to bed with her to sleep.
The sheep was found to be a ram,
So Mary had a little lamb.
“When Mary had a little lamb,
The doctor was horrified.
But when Old McDonald had a farm,
The doctor almost died!”
Mum had to explain what this “dirty joke” meant — but I had no trouble converting the rhyme to memory.
You get the idea, though: The jury is still out on whether Mumma was indeed a virgin on her wedding night — and it will always be out. So your guess is as good as mine. And my guess is she wasn’t — despite the fact she and Pop had raised me to believe suicide was preferable to losing my virginity. Had I lost my virginity before my wedding night, I would have committed suicide. It was that serious!
But I was raised on triple standards! I didn’t know it then. I know it now. Little ears have big listening capacities. During my growing years, I learned many things my parents had no idea I was picking up on. I recall illicit things I experienced and heard before I could barely babble. But I had the adults fooled. So take my advice: Never assume a baby who can’t talk, can’t understand and remember what YOU are talking about or doing!
Well, I’ve said my piece. Now peace to you till next week’s blog … or “journal jog.” My head’s beginning to nod. ‘Tis time for bed … to roll some rrrr’s before the sun peeps ‘neath my window shades once more.
Pt 27: More Memories of My Mom Esther LeBaron and Dad Floyd Spencer
“One I love with all my heart,
Mother, dear, it’s you;
And I want to make you glad;
Yes, indeed, I do!
I will help you every day,
Smiling as I go,
And I’ll never make you sad
Because I love you so.”
We left off in “Part 26: More Memories of My Mom Esther LeBaron Spencer” with me questioning Mom about her early years. As I continued to query her about her early life and how she met and married Pop, she moaned: “I NEVER wanted to leave my family and Old Mexico. But yer pa wasn’t allowed to make a livin’ in Mexico, being a US citizen. By marryin’ him, I was forced to live in “The States” … far from my family for thirteen years!!
“I was always homesick for my family in Mexico. Yer pa knew this so his favorite song was, ‘I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen.’ (See: https://youtu.be/TEHnzFC7M9A ) He would tear up when I played it for him on the piano … or sang it to him while accompanyin’ myself on the guitar.”
Dad kept his word to Mum. Soon as he turned sixty-five and could retire with full Social Security and Veterans Pension benefits, he moved Mum back to Mexico. We eleven kids went along for the ride!
One more stowaway sneaked along too … hidden in Mum’s belly! Well, everyone knows it’s cheaper by the dozen. At least that’s what Mumma always told everyone. (US dollars went further especially back then– if you lived in Old Mexico as opposed to the United States.)
So in August of 1960, my family returned to Old Mexico to settle in Colonia LeBaron, Chihuahua on their homestead my grandfather and grandmother had continued to build and enlarge upon — on land Dad bought in 1944. (Dad and Mum turned their “parcela“ over to my grandparents Dayer and Maud LeBaron in 1947 when they decided to take their budding family and move back to the US.)
Grandpa Dayer and Grandma Maud could never afford to move out of Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. But once Dad married Mum (secretly) on Feb. 17, 1944 — as a plural wife* — he’d had to “Get the hell out of Dodge:” ** Moving to old Mexico to live near my mother’s family was the perfect “get away” hideout for my parents to dodge the law for about three years — just long enough for me and my older sister to be born in Chihuahua, Mexico — thereby becoming American-Mexicans.
My parents’ days living in Old Mexico ended in early 1947 when Daddy was involved in a devastating near-death incident: While working to repair a flour mill in Colonia Dublan, Mexico, his leg accidentally slipped, fell into the mill’s grain grinder, and was badly chewed up before he could regain his balance. Being a World-War-I Veteran, Daddy was taken to the Veterans’ hospital in El Paso, Texas where he remained for nearly three months while doctors and nurses struggled day and night to save and repair his leg so he could walk again.
What he did! Their dedicated efforts and peoples’ prayers paid off. Daddy’s leg was not only saved but he was able to even run on it. However, the immense amount of scar tissue in the damaged leg was to hurt him for the rest of his life — or the next 18 years. Poor Daddy!
This excruciating pain didn’t slow down the industrious hard worker he was. However, it added to his temper already compromised by aging, physical pain from his bad back, arthritic pains, and post-traumatic-stress issues brought on by his World War I Army Service. Add to that his emotional pain that included loss of his first wife Eva and his eleven children he had with her — and my mumma’s poor housekeeping and cooking — and you’ve got a walking volcano ready to errupt at any moment!
Nonetheless, this stalwart, dedicated, religious man, my papa, never gave up for a moment! He hung in there like a true soldier, holding fast to his beliefs and values till the end when, on April 18, 1965, a heart attack took him precipitated by an incident in late 1964 some like to call a “work accident.” (More on that in my upcoming book.)
*They were married by the Mormon fundamentalist leader Joseph W. Musser. This was kept a great secret: Polygamy was illegal and so was Musser’s performing such marriages/ sealings. (See: Joseph White Musser: Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_White_Musser)
** Daddy told me he had to flee with Mama to live in old Mexico because his first wife Eva, a mainstream Mormon, had created a huge public stink and gotten him in trouble with the law and LDS church for taking a plural wife and becoming a Mormon fundamentalist. Can you blame her? (See my previous writings on this in blogs about my father and Mother.)
So, in 1944 Daddy sold in a hurry — at a loss — his belongings in Arizona and bought cheap land — a parcela — in Chihuahua, Mexico, not far from Colonia Juarez where Mama grew up. But he had to work in the United States to earn a living. It was illegal for Americans to earn a wage in Mexico — part of Mexico’s efforts not to lose more of their land to the USA — as they had in the war of 1846. Mexican–American War – Wikipediahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican–American_War)
Pt 28: Ma ‘n’ Pa
“Home is wherever I’m with you.”
by Edward Sharp
and the Magnetic Zeros
“Home,” by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros
“Home is whenever I’m with you.”
Beginning where we left off in “Pt 27: More Memories of My Mama Esther LeBaron-McDonald and My Papa Floyd Otto Spencer:”
In early 1947, Pa was lying incapacitated in a Texas hospital. In order to be near him, Ma hurriedly packed up all her belongings, including me and Doris not quite potty-trained, and moved back to the United States — with two stowaways in her belly besides ... Twins!
On April 18, 1947 I turned a year old, “big” sister Doris 2.5 years old, and Ma 25.8 years old … her hands full and her belly too. She was expecting but NOT twins! Nonetheless, June 21st, 1947 — ready or not — they popped out headfirst to greet everyone. Fourteen months my junior, these twins — darling though they were, a novelty, and an attention-getter — quadrupled Ma’s handful during her time of crisis.
To lighten pressures, Pa’s first wife Eva divorced him Oct. 30, 1944 — a month before my parents’ first child Doris was born November 27 (Thanksgiving Day), 1944. So Pa no longer had to fear being tossed in jail for bigamy. This lessened my parents’ load immensely! No longer polygamists, except in belief, now they lived in the United States without worries of prosecution. It was persecution they had to worry about from then on, being Mormon fundamentalists.
As mentioned earlier, before my parents left Mexico, they turned over to Grandfather and Grandmother LeBaron the land they had bought there in Galeana, Chihuahua — land Pa bought in Ma’s name as she was born in Mexico.
Heretofore unnable to afford to move out of mainstream-Mormon Colonia Juarez, now, thanks to my parents, in 1944 my maternal grandparents were able to finally leave their homestead of 20 years, leaving with it the many years of rejection they’d suffered and halfway survived in the Mormon colonies.
Settling on Ma and Pa’s “ejido,” my scrabble-farming grandparents and their children who still remained at home began building a new life and world. It was indeed a struggle. (You shall hear how they fared in Mexico down past the Rio Grande!) But The Mexico LeBarons (Dayer, Maud, their kids, and extended family) at long last had escaped the rejection and ostracism they’d painfully endured while living in the mainstream Mormon townsites.
Once Mother’s brothers born in Mexico (Ervil, Floren, and Verlan) reached the age they could each own a “parcela” (i.e., government land parcelled out to Mexican citizens to homestead on), they acquired surrounding pieces of property that joined the land my father had bought and registered in American-Mexican Ma’s name. That’s how “Colonia LeBaron” came to be … how it got its start! Many pieces/parcelas came together to make this pie.
By the time my family, “the Spencers,” moved back to Mexico in August 1960, Pa had turned sixty-five, Ma thirty-nine, and I fourteen. Ma’s pa, Grandpa Dayer, died nine years earlier so of Ma’s parents only my Gramma Maud remained. (Born in 1892, Gramma was but three years older than Pa. Just thought you’d like to know!)
Given this bit of backstory, you now know how, when my parents returned to their agrarian Chihuahuan desert home now called Colonia LeBaron, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico, they “landed” on property they already owned. It was within walking distance of Gramma — though Pa and Gramma didn’t get along so we didn’t see much of her at our house. But some of Mother’s brothers and extended family homesteading in Mexico also lived near us, including Uncle’s Joel, Ervil, Floren, Verlan, their wives and children, and my Aunt Lucinda’s three children.
Soon after my Ma’s repatriating to Mexico, the land of her nativity, Ma and Pa bought another piece of property in her name* “The Galeana Springs.” It was located within a few miles of our homestead in Colonia LeBaron and had a natural running spring on it!
Once back in Mexico on her Motherland, Ma shed joyful tears, crying, “It’s so wonderful to finally be back with my family again — back home where I belong in Old Mexico with my kids and Pa … on our own ‘rancho’ !”
*My pa, being an American, wasn’t allowed to own real estate in Mexico. Ma had dual citizenship, having been born in Mexico in 1921 of American parents; therefore, she could own property in Old Mexico.
- Thanks, cousin Dena McLean, for sending me the YouTube link to this lovely theme song “HOME” !
Continued November 20, 2018, “Pt 29: My Ma Esther LeBaron Spencer and My Grandma Mau
Pt 29: My Two “Ma’s,” Esther LeBaron Spencer and Grandma Maud LeBaron
“The hand that rocks the cradle
rules the nation and its destiny.”
South African Proverb
I wonder: Did my attractive mama Esther LeBaron marry a father figure—my papa Floyd Spencer was 26 years older than she. Could part of my gifted, outstanding 22-year-old mother’s attraction to my not-well-educated autodidact 48-year-old father have been a subconscious need to make up for her father’s frequent absenteeism much of the time she was growing up?
At the time my talented, beautiful, bright mother met and married my over-the-hill father, she was in college. She was not without prospects. To say she had also been around the block a few times by then is putting it lightly. She had even dated the gifted and powerful Mormon fundamentalist cult leader Rulon Jeffs, father of the infamous, incarcerated-for-life, self-proclaimed “profit”/ Prophet-of-evil Warren Jeffs.*
Therefore, it’s almost inconceivable choosy, particular Mormon Mama would enter into marriage with a married man—handsome, talented, and charming though he was—with one foot already in the grave (as Mama’s ma Maud, liked to put it).
While Mama was growing up, even when her father Alma Dayer LeBaron was home, he was so busy working, catching up on repairs around the old home and property, and otherwise dividing his time between two wives and a huge herd of kids—ultimately, he begat nineteen of them—he scarcely had time to say “Boo!” to his amazing but rather neglected middle child Esther, fourth daughter of his first wife Maud—not to mention his four other gorgeous daughters by second wife Onie—and his ten all-important Mormon-priesthood-holding boys.
Naturally, these special siblings ran amazing Mother competition for their father’s few moments of attention and even fewer favors. Top that off by his being gone so many months at a time working in the United States that when he came home he was like a stranger. Some of his children didn’t know him! It added to the trouble he had getting them to mind and respect him.
Being a Mormon polygamist with two wives and a ton of children to support and feed is an impossible feat to pull off gracefully and successfully no matter where or when you live. But Grandfather Dayer and his humongous family, as of 1921, were living in old Mexico, a country where Americans were/are not allowed to earn a living; therefore the necessity of Dayer LeBaron’s working in the United States to make a living while homesteading his wives and children in Mexico safe from America’s laws that were then being strictly enforced, when he came to polygamy.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, in 1929 the US Stock Market crashed, leading to the Great Depression wherein jobs, money, and wages were nearly impossible to come by. This economic depression lasted until World War II ended in 1946. Many times Grandpa Dayer LeBaron’s family and children went without food and other necessities of life.
But Mama adored her Papa Alma Dayer — or A.D. LeBaron, as he was often called. Likewise, she adored her husband—my father F.O. Spencer … totally idealized him. Obsessing over HOW WONERFUL he was, she often told us children what a perfect Saint our daddy was. Said he was the greatest man in the world! His holding the Mormon priesthood further heightened Mama’s pride in HER “Daddy” — the moniker she usually used when referring to my Daddy.
As the world turns, around 1965, Aunt Onie, my grandpa Dayer’s plural wife/ex-plural wife (she divorced him many years before — after bearing him six children) paid the LeBaron colony her one and only visit, that I know of, since she had taken her kids and fled in disgrace, grief, and disillusionment many years before. I lived in the LeBaron Colony, was married, and around nineteen years old when Aunt Onie visited.
The last time I had seen her, we were still living in Hurricane, Utah, within walking distance of her home. In August 1960, we had visited Aunt Onie one last time to say goodbye just before we moved to Colonia LeBaron, Mexico.
So, needless to say, this many years later Mama was overjoyed to have “Aunt” Onie, her “second mom,” visit her in her new homestead in LeBaron. But after a day or two had passed and my Grandmama Maud still had not visited with Aunt Onie, I asked Gramma if she was going to see Onie:
Caught off guard, she hissed a superlative under her breath I didn’t quite catch, then, through clenched teeth spat out:
“I’ve seen enough of that woman to last me a lifetime!!”
Regaining control—embarrassed by her slip—she told me SURE she’d be seeing Onie “soon,” no doubt. But honesty had prevailed. To keep face, Grandma was forced to see her ex-sister-wife, eventually, while she was visiting the LeBaron colony.
Note: Polygamist women ever try to set a good example by pretending they “do” plural marriage WELL. My grandma, Matriarch of Colonia LeBaron, mother of the self-proclaimed prophet Joel LeBaron, was no exception. Above all others in the clan, she was expected to be perfect when it came to living polygamy—especially since she unswervingly preached and proclaimed the righteousness of sharing one’s husband with his other wives—including the getting along with them as though polygamy were heavenly—HEAVEN on earth … and the only path to celestial glory!
Grandma was also trying to set … expected to set a perfect example for us Mormon Plygs so we would want to go into or continue “practicing plural marriage—the law of Sarah.” Furthermore, a female Mormon fundamentalist “Saint” is looked upon as a bad, unspiritual, fallen woman if she can’t pull off polygamy perfectly and with a bang!
Well, Gramma did eventually visit with “Aunt” Onie (We called Onie “Aunt” to show respect.) while she was still there in the LeBaron colony. She had to. Her “face” was hanging on it! (:<} ~I’m told they had a “nice get-together.” I hope so! Only know I didn’t envy Gramma. It had to be a tough situation to be put in.
Aunt Onie had long since rejoined the mainline Mormon church and remarried, so it was extra big of her to make the effort to go to Old Mexico to visit the fundamentalist Mormon colony that still homesteaded many of Grandpa and Grandma LeBaron’s children, including Mama — one of Maud and Dayer’s many children Onie helped raise along with her own six little ones.
NOTE: Years later, Aunt Onie again visited Grandma Maud who was then living in San Diego, California with her youngest son Verlan LeBaron and his first wife Charlotte and their flock of kids.
Once more, that was very big of Onie. And big of Grandma — because I’m certain she did her best to act like she had been a good, God-fearing “sister wife,” as she hugged Onie and put on an act of sheer enjoyment that she was seeing her dead husband’s ex-plural wife/ her ex-sister wife again after many years apart and tons of tears, blood, and water below the bridge.
After all, keeping up appearances is much of what Mormon fundamentalism IS all about — especially for the woman in a polygamous marriage — an impossible-to-follow religious philosophy! You have to “keep sweet” … have to appear to be that ideal saint Mormon fundamentalist wives and women are expected and biased to be!
*Note: Warren Jeffs is, nonetheless, still leading and controlling from his jail cell his secluded Mormon fundamentalist cult in Short Creek/ AKA: Colorado City, Arizona!!
(Continued December 10, 2018, in Pt 30: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer and Grandma Maud)