Emotional pain never leaves; it’s buried near the surface, in a very shallow grave. Every now and then it's good to look back and remember—just-how it felt to be treated like a second-class citizen. BUT—all these years later---I’ve learned my lesson---well.
One of the advantages of being a "big fish in a little puddle" or rather “an old family in a small town”, the cream-of-the-crop attorneys rally to your side, the side of the old prominent name/old established family. Eight attorneys represented my husband and fought my country lawyer and me... bully-style....like we were enemy number one! For them, it was all about winning and the tactics used were slimy, dirty, and ruthless. In Jack's attempt to destroy me, he was also destroying his children's future but---obviously, he didn't care. My small town attorney was unprepared for the flash and arrogance of the gang-of-eight; my attorney, young and inexperienced, allowed their phony confidence to dominate his simple efforts.
It took almost two and a half years to finalize the divorce. If I had been the strong woman I am today, there would have been no concessions and certainly no "sweet-little nice girl." I would have taken my evidence public, challenged the “good old boy” system, and refused to sign any papers that did not award me and my daughters a sizeable settlement. And, I would have slapped the face of the arrogant, condescending, bastard-judge who talked down to me like I was some mindless whore:
“Well, Miss Sally, I’ve heard all about you and seeing you for the first time---you’re not so bad looking; you won’t have any trouble finding a husband. Hell, once you get the word out on the streets, you’ll probably have something serious going on in a few months. But don’t go looking for love ‘cause you’re well-past the schoolgirl age, darlin. Just get out there and look for the money. The final settlement your attorney has agreed to on your behalf, is sufficient. Jack’s giving you some financial help with the kids and that way he can claim them on his tax returns. You’ll be getting 400 dollars a month (200 each child) until the kids are eighteen years old and you’ll receive a little alimony (350 dollars a month) but don’t forget, you’ll be paying taxes on that alimony--- which is fair to Jack and when you remarry, you lose the alimony. The house is signed over to you but you’ll be picking up the payments starting next month. Honey, looks like you better find that sugar daddy soon because there'll be utilities, house repairs, insurance, yard work, and all kinds of upkeep. Remember you have to pay your attorney fees out of the 25,000 dollar settlement you’re getting so that money won’t last long. Baby doll, I suggest you find a job real quick which is okay—working won’t hurt you.
Now, move that cute little butt over here beside me so you can sign this paper. And, just-like-that-honey, you’re a single woman again. You can do whatever-you-want with whoever-you-want---as long as you don’t get caught (he threw his head back for a full belly-laugh!) Sugar, I’d let you practice on me but I’m a married man with a mean-old, jealous wife!”
As I was closing the door to the judge’s chambers, a triumphant Jack stepped up to deliver the final hit. “You should know---I only married you because you were Miss Arkansas and God knows---- you’ve been one really-fu#ked--up disappointment!”
“There She Is, Miss America."
MUSIC AND LYRICS BY BERNIE WAYNE
There she is, Miss America
There she is, your ideal.
The dreams of a million girls
Who are more than pretty….
May come true in Atlantic City
For they may turn out to be
The queen of femininity.
There she is, Miss America
There she is, your ideal
With so many beauties
She'll take the town by storm
With her-- all-American face and form
And there she is…
Walking on air she is…
Fairest of the fair she is…
UPDATE: IN THE ACCOMPANYING PHOTO: I'M SINGING WITH ANOTHER MISS ARKANSAS--- AT YET ANOTHER MISS ARKANSAS PAGEANT AND JOINED BY COMPOSER, BERNIE WAYNE, THE CREATOR OF "THERE SHE IS"---THE MISS AMERICA SONG. BERNIE AND I REMAINED GOOD FRIENDS ---UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1993. HE WAS A VERY-CARING PERSON WHO FREELY-SHARED MANY OF HIS MUSICAL COMPOSITIONS WITH ME---TO SING.
The following sentences are examples of confused writing. The sentences have been taken from actual application-for-support letters received by the Welfare Department:
1. I am forwarding my marriage certificate and six children. I have seven but one died which was baptized on a half sheet of paper.
2. I am writing the Welfare Department to say that my baby was born two years old. When do I get my money?
3. Mrs. Jones has not had any clothes for a year and has been visited by the clergy regularly.
4. I cannot get sick pay. I have six children, can you tell me why?
5. I am glad to report that my husband who was missing is dead.
6. This is my eighth child. What are you going to do about it?
7. Please find out for certain if my husband is dead. The man I am living with can’t eat or do anything until he knows.
8. I am very much annoyed to find you have branded my son illiterate. This is a dirty lie and I was married a week before he was born.
9. In answer to your letter I have given birth to a boy weighing ten pounds. I hope this is satisfactory.
10. I am forwarding my marriage and my three children, one of which is a mistake as you can see.
11. My husband got his project cut off two weeks ago and I haven’t had any relief since.
12. Unless I get my husband’s money soon I will be forced to lead an immortal life.
13. You have changed my little boy to a girl. Will this make a difference?
14. I have no children as yet as my husband is a truck driver and works night and day.
15. In accordance with your instructions I have given birth to twins in the enclosed envelope.
16. I want money as quick as I can get it. I have been in bed with the doctor for two weeks and he doesn’t do my any good. If things don’t get better I will have to send for another doctor.
IN MY OPINION...SOME people aren't SMART-ENOUGH to be parents.
ONLY YOU--CAN ADD ADVENTURE TO YOUR LIFE. SIMPLY- FIND A TRAIL, A COUNTRY ROAD, OR A PATH THROUGH THE WOODS AND START WALKING. IT’S MUCH-MORE FUN WHEN YOU TAKE YOUR DOG--OR DOGS--WITH YOU. I THINK YOU SHOULD START YOUR DAILY LOVE AFFAIR WITH NATURE---AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.
EVERY MORNING, CUBBY WALKS BESIDE ME OR SLIGHTLY-AHEAD EXCEPT-- WHEN HE NEEDS TO TAKE A “SERIOUS” BATHROOM BREAK. AT THAT TIME, HE RUNS INTO THE THICK FOLIAGE-- TO FIND JUST THE RIGHT SPOT. HE’S ONLY GONE FOR A FEW MINUTES BUT--- CUBBY NEEDS HIS BATHROOM PRIVACY.
CUBBY AND I ALTERNATE BETWEEN DIFFERENT TRAILS BECAUSE --EACH TRAIL HOLDS ITS OWN, UNIQUE ADVENTURE. ONE TRAIL MAY LOOK-LIKE AN ORDINARY TRAIL, SOMEWHAT GROOMED AND TAME, YET--JUST AROUND THE NEXT CURVE OR JUST BEYOND THE NEXT GROUP OF TREES--WE’LL SUDDENLY FACE THE 'WILDNESS' AND ANOTHER "UNEXPECTED" CLIMB WILL BEGIN-- IMMEDIATELY.
SOME DAYS--THE SPILLWAY DAM AREA IS CALM BUT....AFTER A HEAVY RAIN...YOU CAN EXPECT LOTS OF ACTIVITY. NATURE ALWAYS PROVIDES SOMETHING TO WATCH--SEE--AND ENJOY. CUBBY AND I LOVE THE RAGING WATERS OF THE SPILLWAY. NATURE IS UNBELIEVABLY- BEAUTIFUL--AND THE SPILLWAY WATER IS ESPECIALLY FUN--EVEN WHEN IT'S ANGRY, EXCITED, TRANQUIL, CALM, OR AGITATED!
I PROMISE-----NO ONE IS MORE-FUN TO BE WITH--DAY AFTER DAY—ON ALL OF NATURE'S TRAILS----THAN MY VERY- BEST FRIEND, BIG DOG-CUBBY DOG.
FOR THE LAST THREE DAYS, OUR COMMUNITY HAS EXPERIENCED HEAVY RAINS. THESE DAYS, OUR HIKES HAVE LED US OVER MANY SMALL BRIDGES THAT NOW COVER TROUBLED WATER. CUBBY AND I ARE FASCINATED WITH LOTS OF WATER. WE CAN WALK THROUGH IT, BESIDE IT, AND OVER IT-- SINCE MOST TRAILS LEAD NEAR, BESIDE, OR---CLOSE-TO THE VILLAGE'S MANY LAKES, STREAMS, AND DAMS.
I LOVE THE FACT---"BIG DOG" AND I ARE THE ONLY -TWO WHO DAILY-CHALLENGE THE COLD AND BAD WEATHER TO WALK/HIKE THE TRAILS. SEEMS MOST PEOPLE "OUR-AGE" PREFER TO WALK WHEN WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE PERFECT-- LIKE --WARM WEATHER, SUNNY SKIES, NO WIND, AND DRY WALKING SURFACES. THOSE PEOPLE COULD NEVER HAVE "MADE IT" ON MY JOURNEY OF THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. ON THE OTHER HAND--THOSE PEOPLE ARE PROBABLY LIVING STRESS-FREE AND PREDICTABLE LIVES--- THAT ARE SAFE AND FINANCIALLY -SECURE.
A FEW TIMES---I'VE ASKED MYSELF: "SALLY, WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO EXCHANGE YOUR MANY FIRST-EVER PHOTOS; CLIFF-HANGING MOMENTS; AND ONE-OF-A-KIND EXPERIENCES----FOR A WORRY-FREE, SAFE, AND SECURE LIFE?"
I'M LAUGHING AND SMILING AS I ANSWER MY OWN QUESTION: "NO, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES---NO!"
“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a Happy Tune---so no one will suspect—I’m Afraid.”
The wind was unforgiving and dark clouds were hanging low as I reached the top of one of the highest mountains outside Datong. Exhausted, I knew it was time to call-it-a-day. My watch read 5:00 PM but my body said it was much later, probably because of the early darkness. As I unfolded my tent, I was concerned the strength of the wind could carry my tent--like a parasol--up and over the mountain’s edge. Deciding to move closer to a small hill of rocks for protection, I hurried to connect the aluminum poles with the ground, raise the tent, then place my belongings inside.
Within minutes, heavy rain began falling, forcing me inside to prepare for a stormy night. As the tent fluttered and swayed around me, I prayed my body weight and that of my possessions, would anchor my nylon shelter.
Using my flashlight, I followed my commitment to write about each day's activities in my journal. Proudly I entered my total mileage for the day as 36 miles. I also noted most-all of those miles were straight uphill! While checking the map for tomorrow’s trek, I realized the sounds of rain, dripping off the tent, had triggered my bladder.
What an inconvenient time for a bathroom break! Going outside on such a stormy and dark night seemed a scary challenge. Smiling to myself I thought--- if I had male parts, I could just open the tent flap, take aim, and, in a few minutes, I'd be settled-in for the night. But, thinking of the “what ifs” only prolonged the in-evitable. Taking a deep breath, I climbed outside into a riveting, cold rain, pulled down my tights and, unceremoniously, squatted. Seconds later, I hurried-back inside.
I was zipping the tent flap closed---when I heard it. It reminded me of a childhood visit to the St. Louis Zoo and watching a tiger pacing-- relentlessly-- back and forth. That tiger howled the very same ear-piercing cry. And then-- it cried again. This time it was more of an anguished scream! I panicked, realizing the cries were coming from a very high-up-place close to my tent. The next cry seemed louder and much-closer.
Cautiously, I pulled the zipper open on the tent flap and aimed my flashlight into the black rain. I aimed the light on the rocks nearby-- then stopped. There, encased in the small spotlight, I saw two slanted yellow eyes, a wide-opened mouth, and a full set of long, white, pointed teeth. Looking farther-down, I could barely-see two muscular legs, dominating a platform of rock, approximately 15 feet above me. Temporarily-paralyzed by the bright light, the massive Black Cat looked statuesque, as if molded from black marble. I turned off the flashlight and nervously zipped the tent opening—closed. My body was shaking from head to toe as my brain frantically-raced through possible solutions to the dilemma around me. I had to do something immediately---but what?!?!?!?
Long ago, I'd seen photos of China's famous animals, now extinct. I recognized the animal outside as a Black Leopard. This extremely large and dangerous animal could destroy my shelter--and me--with one swipe of it's powerful paw. Unprepared for such an encounter, I only had a whistle and a Swiss Army knife. I reviewed my options.
For some crazy reason, I remembered the dogs in Beijing. Waiting to start my Great Wall Adventure, I ran the streets of Beijing every morning, and saw many owners walking their dogs. I "spoke" to the dogs in my usual “hi, sweet puppy, you are so cute,” voice but, unlike American dogs who usually responded with wagging tails, the dogs of Beijing squealed in fear and ran away.
I laughingly-remarked to one dog owner: “I’m sorry your dog doesn’t speak English.” The same pattern kept repeating itself on my journey of The Great Wall. Entering villages in search of food and water, I tried to befriend village dogs but, they ran from me too. Dogs were always my friends except-- in China!
I knew this situation was different and not the simple challenge of a dog but--just maybe--my look, my smell, and my voice could scare the Leopard---like it scared the Chinese dogs.
I unzipped the tent opening. The faint spotlight from my flashlight showed the unwelcome visitor now at ground level, only a few feet away. Placing the whistle to my mouth, I blew with all the breath I could muster, again and again. The Leopard appeared startled and ran back to his rock perch. The slanted eyes never shifted from my face. Remembering the dogs, I tried talking in my usual “sweet baby” voice. The animal twisted his head from side to side, puzzled at the unfamiliar sounds.
Five minutes later, wet and cold, I clicked off the flashlight and closed the tent opening. Both frightened and cold, I shivered as I tucked my sleeping bag around me to consider a plan. I would open the tent flap every ten minutes and, in addition to my “doggy” dialogue, I would interject some singing and whistle-blowing, too. The idea would be to keep the animal startled, confused, never-knowing what to expect. Still trembling, I counted the minutes.
Sensing movement outside the tent, I didn’t have another minute to spare. The animal had climbed from his ledge and joined me again. Now---the tent's fabric wall was the only barrier separating the two of us. I began singing, moving the flashlight above me, all around me. On and on I sang-hymns, show tunes, even nursery rhythms. I alternated between whistle blowing and hand clapping-- anything to keep the large animal confused and off-center. Not only did I hear him but…I also felt him as he brushed the tent walls with his strong body but… I never stopped entertaining. At some point during the endless night, the sounds stopped--the tent ceased to move, like the animal had left but--- had he?
Thinking he might be trying to “outfox” me, I continued to perform until the rain ended, the winds died, and the rising sun topped the mountain. Cautiously stepping into the light of a new day, I saw evidence of the Leopard-- everywhere. The ground was covered with overlapping paw prints and the tent’s sides were smeared in a thick, muddy design – like a child experimenting with finger-paints. What a night!
After that unforgettable incident, I never felt completely safe in the tent, ever- again. Every night, I stayed ready to "Expect the Unexpected".
FOLLOW-UP: After my journey of The Great Wall ended, I lectured at Beijing University and shared some of my experiences on China’s beloved Great Wall-- including my night with the Black Leopard. Several weeks after my talk, one of the University's professors mailed me a Beijing newspaper clipping that had appeared during my Great Wall Journey. The front page article stated: “Black Leopards, once believed extinct, have been sighted in the mountains of North China. Rare sightings of Black Leopards have recently been reported by villagers living near The Great Wall.”