In the notes my dad left about his youth, I wondered why he started his memoir at age 28, referring to himself as, “not worth a tinker’s dam.” A tinker was traveling repairman a couple centuries ago, who used temporary patches to repair holes in metal pots and pans. The material used for patching might have been mud, clay or wet paper. The dam wasn’t worth a damn!
My dad didn’t finish his memoir, but once my half sister, LaReta, shared letters her mother had written to our father, between 1936 and 1939, I understood. Dad was not the man I later knew him to be. (I was born in 1945). My story of his younger years, 1920’s and ’30’s, is fiction, but based on facts garnered from Webb himself, his first wife, Dorothy, and historical information. Following is an excerpt from Cat Skinner, Chapter 1.
Dorothy’s too young to be gone. Only twenty-seven, for God’s sake! Webb hunched his muscled shoulders, conditioned by years of farm labor and construction work, toward the steering wheel.
I should be lying in that coffin for the way I treated her. Twenty-eight years old and I’m not worth a tinker’s dam! Been to the top and bottom in a lotta ways, but this is the worst payback a man can get for his mistakes.
Guilt and regret were a load Webster Warren Bateman’s six foot, one hundred and ninety pound frame wasn’t used to carrying. He was a handsome Norwegian with a wavy shock of light brown hair. High cheekbones and a dimpled smile added to his good looks. His facial features were boyishly soft even though he wasn’t. Born on a farm near Milroy, Minnesota, May 28, 1911, Webb was a guy who could hold his liquor, put on a poker face, shoot pool with the best of them, and tell stories until his audience, drunk or sober, was in stiches. He was a man used to being the center of attention and liked it. The ladies liked him too… long before Dorothy and Ogallala.
Webb’s deep set blue eyes, usually mischievous, scanned the road ahead through fading light. He was headed west from Ogallala, Nebraska toward Cheyenne, Wyoming. It would take another three hours on Highway 30 before he turned north onto 87. His brows furrowed into a serious scowl. Exhaust clouds roiled behind the 1930 Chevy Sedan mirroring thoughts churning in his head. It was Wednesday evening, March 8th, 1939 and it was cold. The temperature had dropped below freezing again. At least it’s not snowing. Hell of a blizzard we worked in just four days ago. Glad it didn’t stick or I’d probably never made it to North Dakota in time.