December 11, 1938
August 14, 2012

Dorothy "Dottie" Bachman
Foster Bourque


Bell-Bottoms, Skunks and Reaping Reward

I'll never forget the all-nighter Momma spent sewing four western pantsuits complete with yokes on the tops and pants. We looked like a cowboy version of the Partridge Family in our bell-bottoms and boots as we stepped out of our station wagon at the XIT Ranch Rodeo that August in 1974. Momma was determined to have our western outfits completed, so she stayed up all night like the shoemaker's elf to finish the project. Having four children in five years, Momma learned that sometimes nighttime was the best time to accomplish big projects.

In the early sixties, our young, growing family moved to the farm which Daddy's family had homesteaded in the thirties. We moved into the hired hand's house about a mile from the Home Place where Daddy's parents lived. There was Momma with a newborn, a diaper-clad toddler, a preschooler and a first grader with fifteen miles of dirt road to the nearest town. To top it all off, her closest neighbors were her in-laws. Ah, paradise.

Momma was amazing. She cooked, cleaned, canned vegetables, milked cows, slopped pigs, gathered eggs, sewed and ironed. All this between kissing boo boos, changing diapers and refereeing fights. She was Ellie Mae and Granny Clampet rolled into one. She had Ellie's youth and Granny's savvy. Not every gal would embrace this country life with such love and determination, but Momma did. We still laugh whenever someone mentions the skunk incident.

Inside the house Momma was busy with domestic details as we played in the yard. A skunk started ambling toward us and I ran to notify Momma of the impending attack. She dried her hands on her pants, grabbed Daddy's gun from the back porch and dashed out to save the day. She carefully brought the gun up to her shoulder, and then closed one eye to sight the little varmint. The skunk marched steadily toward her as we stood behind her watching and whispering loudly, "Shoot, Momma, shoot."

Bravely Momma cocked the gun and squeezed off a shot that missed her target. The gunshot startled the skunk into a faster gait. As it approached more quickly, we became much more excited and urged Momma again to, "SHOOT!"

By now Momma was weak-kneed and shaky. Her eyes started to water. The gun was heavy, we were jumping up and down, and the skunk was getting closer. Momma raised the gun again. She aimed, closed both of her eyes and shot. The backlash from the gun almost knocked her down-but she opened her eyes to see the skunk dead in its tracks. We were whooping and hollering as if the Dallas Cowboys had just scored in sudden death overtime at the Superbowl. Momma was pale and limp. I'm not sure, but I think she went back to the house and, as Granny Clampet would say, 'took a little rheumatiz medicine.'

There were good years and not-sa-good years on the farm. Over forty years have passed, but I still remember seeing Momma bury her tear-stained face in Daddy's shoulder when hail destroyed our roof and our wheat crop. Then there was that agonizing look of devastation in her green eyes as she cursed when the transmission dropped out of our aged red Pontiac. I recall these emotions because Momma rarely made a spectacle over such things. Mostly she would assess a situation and take steps to correct the circumstances. She was a wizard with baling wire and duct tape. She could change a tire lickety-split. I cannot count the times we got stuck in the mud or snow and she skillfully rocked our car back and forth until we were on the road again.

The spring following our Partridge Family episode, Daddy was killed in a car accident. At age thirty-five, Momma with a petite frame, vibrant green-eyes, and carefully coifed platinum blonde hair made an attractive, young widow. She could easily have put herself "back on the market," but with four kids ranging in age from nine to fifteen, she had more baggage than most men could or would try to handle. So, she set her focus on raising the four of us--alone.

She grieved only briefly (at least in front of us). Momma's strength was forged by her courage to face challenges with her special brand of love, a heavy dose of determination, a robust sense of humor and her spirit of giving. After the funeral, she mustered that strength and courage to establish normalcy in our new situation. She purchased a pickup to replace the one totaled in Daddy's wreck. She petitioned the court for custody of us since Daddy died without a will. She went through all the financial red tape with life insurance, car insurance, and social security. She got a job, leased out the farm, found a house in town, signed a mortgage and then moved all of us from the only home we ever really knew.

As we moved our things into this new cavern the strangeness magically morphed into a home. I remember sensing a significant difference in the look and feel of the new living room once Momma hung the silky, taupe-colored drapes over the previously stark windows. Momma's love and style permeated this new home. Our kitchen and living room became THE hangout for many teenagers over the next several years until we were all out of high school. Momma barely blinked an eye the night someone at our dining table literally passed a baked potato by picking up the foil-wrapped tuber and tossing it across the room. The well-baked potato landed squarely against the wall splattering all over the china hutch. As laughter erupted around the table, Momma just smiled, shook her head and tossed the perpetrator a towel to clean the mess. She was cool like that.

Mother adores each of us and we adore her. She is, was and always will be our hero. Webster describes a hero as a person of courage and accomplishment. I would add that a hero is a person of consistent character exhibiting courage and accomplishment. Our generation has seen men lauded as heroes for their sports or political accomplishments and then seen those same men fall; victims of their own lusts and worldly desires. True heroes are like Momma, consistently exhibiting courage, love, wisdom, and stability and offering strong shoulders on which others can cry or lean. Those heroes' accomplishments are reflected in the integrity and values placed in their children and grandchildren.

Twenty-six years after Daddy's accident, with her four kids raised and six grandchildren properly adored, Momma is reaping the rewards of her labors. She found the love of another good man and remarried. At her wedding to Ivan, the four of us, hands joined, walked her to the front of the wedding chapel to 'give her away.'

Momma and Pops spent several years together traveling the country in their RV. They have now returned home to Amarillo to be closer to their families. After years of working and sacrificing vacations and her own personal life, Momma now can spend every day on vacation basking in the admiration she harvests from the caring seeds planted and nurtured over two generations.

Lissa Schoenenberger has been writing stories and poetry about her personal life for friends and family over twenty years. She is the eldest of the four well-adjusted, productive, God-fearing citizens raised by the legendary Dottie Bachman Foster Bourque. Through her writing, Lissa has quietly come to terms with the fact that her mother never taught her to shoot a gun.