School Girl Wisdom

My Aunt Gayle’s funeral and memorial services were held last week. As her children shared about their mother’s life, I came to wish I had been better acquainted with her.

Gayle arrived in 1937, born to a farm family, scratching out a living in southern Idaho. They raised cows and horses; hay and grain; sheep and chickens. As a four year old, she met her nemesis, the cocky, farm-yard rooster. Flapping his huge wings, he would crow, lower his beak and chase her around the yard. He made her cry.

Instead of sympathy, Gayle received a “pep talk.” Her father’s ­­‘tough-love’ words established his expectation that she adjust, become self-empowered and “let that old rooster know who is boss.”

Gayle’s four-year-old heart summoned “an extra lot of courage.” She “marched outside and got the biggest stick I {she} could find” and chased that stupid bird all around the farm. He never bothered her again.

My amazing Aunt Gayle was just getting started.

At five years old, polio settled into her right hand, arm and shoulder. The hot woolen wrap of mustard poultice was stinky and burned. Some mornings Gayle would hide from her mother to avoid it, but that usually led to an upset mother and extra chores.

As expected, Gayle’s right arm withered, leaving her with very limited use of it. She became quite self-conscious and would try to hide it. She wrote of her beliefs at the time, “I can remember going home after school and often crying because no one wanted me for their friend.”

Good thing the rooster didn’t know she could no longer wield that stick. But no matter, Gayle was learning to adjust. Her left hand was quickly just as strong and capable as the right had been.

Gayle grew up healthy and strong, learning to adjust all along the way. Still, as she finished elementary school she recalls her feelings, “I don’t like meeting people… I feel self-conscious and unsure of myself.”

Gayle excelled in reading, writing and arithmetic. By eighth grade she learned a lesson about life: “In the larger school (about 40 students per grade) the girls my age seemed to like me about as well as any of the other girls.”

“It was at this time I realized that when I forgot about my weakness, other people would too.”

Imagine, such insight from a junior high girl; Pretty good insight from any one at any age.

The Evelyn Gayle Buttars Bouck story could end here, but you need to know more.

The first 18 years of her life were spent serving and loving her family while learning to care for animals on the farm and younger sisters in the house. She was an honor student, social and active in many extra curricular groups.

She earned a Master’s Degree in Food and Nutrition.

She married, raised seven kids, took them to school and sports and music lessons. Gayle partnered with her husband Dave on a 500 acre farm, milked cows, fed calves, baled hay, irrigated and harvested crops.

She taught Sunday School, served as president of the women’s service organization, wrote and consulted on nutrition, kept multiple massive gardens, bottled or canned everything that can be, baked bread or something every single day except Sunday, when she was in church and caring for sick or lonely. And most folks had no idea about Gayle’s right arm.

In today’s world of personal development we would say, ‘Gayle had a clear vision of what she wanted. She was self-empowered and took action toward accomplishing her dreams. She inspired and served everyone in the process.  As a college student reflecting on her life, she wrote,

“It seems that, in time, everything will work itself out just fine and I’ll be able to adjust.”

Thank you, Aunt Gayle. I’m ready to forget about my weaknesses and take action on my dreams. And I’m taking a big stick to the proverbial roosters in my life.