Modern Screen magazine, Nov 1945 cont'd.
Mother was the stuff that saints are made of. Deeply religious herself, she wasn't given to preaching. By what she did, rather than what she said, they learned to know her. Never did her children hear her speak ill of anyone. If she had nothing good to say, she said nothing. To the rearing of her brood of young hellions, she brought a rare combination of patience, humor and tenderness. Crises did arise when she'd have to ask Dad to take over -- and others that she felt even Dad couldn't cope with. When Mother'd reach her limit, she'd dump the whole thing in God's lap. "He sent them to me, so He must have known what He was doing. I've tried everything, now it's up to Him..."
facts of life . . .
Just as Wilton and Harlan, the eldest, were special friends, so were Dana and Charles, the next two. The older boys educated the younger. When you've got a raft of brothers, you learn self-reliance fast, you learn to give and take, you learn not to sulk or whine or feel sorry for yourself, because all that gets you is the cold shoulder or a kick in the pants. Dana was five and Charles four, when Wilton and Harlan decided they'd been babies long enough.
It was two days before Christmas. "Well, kids," said Wilton, who was eight, "it's time you found out about Santa Claus..."
"What about him?"
"See this closet?" He opened the door. "See those toys? That's what old Santa's supposed to bring down the chimney Christmas Eve. With his ole sleigh and reindeer. Well then, how did they get here? Mother 'n' Dad bought them, that's how."
"Is Santa Claus sick?"
"No! He's not sick. There never was any Santa Claus. That's just stuff for babies."
Charles broke into a wail -- "I'll tell Mother" -- but Harlan's hand nailed him down.
"You wanna make her cry?"
Dana was shaken too, but he got the point. Santa Claus was a game grownups play with kids, and their feelings were hurt if you didn't play along. He took Charles's hand. Charles would do whatever he said. "We won't tell, " he promised.
It was a household that got along on what the Lord provided, and he didn't provide much cash. The boys were Mother's helpers. They loathed it, but that was all right. They weren't required to like it, just to do it. By turns they made beds, scrubbed floors, baked biscuits, and scrapped like wildcats over whose turn it was. They delivered papers in winter, and in summer hoed weeds from dawn to dusk for fifty cents a day. Dana's one good suit was a hand-me-down from Wilton or Harlan. Birthdays went unheeded except for Mother. Even the birthday child forgot what day it was, till Mother appeared in the doorway with a lighted cake.
But they had the kind of fun which is independent of money. Uvalde, Texas, was set in the midst of cattle country, and all outdoors was their playground. They fished and swam and rode horseback, they went camping for three or four days at a time, unhampered by adults.
"Wilton's old enough to take care of himself," Mother'd say serenely, "and smart enough to look after the younger ones."
Lack of funds never interfered with the Christmas spirit. Granted the wherewithal, it's easy to walk into a shop, plunk down your dollars and say, give me this or that -- only takes a few minutes. But the Andrews clan spent weeks of affectionate toil on Christmas gifts for one another. Dana and Charles would collaborate on a racing wagon for Harlan, a breadboard for Mother, a tie rack for Dad. The things weren't so pretty, maybe, but the folks must've liked them, because they stuck around for years.
Summer nights they'd gather 'round Mother on the front porch, listening to tales of her father's cotton plantation, which they'd left when Dana was four.
Brothers Harlan, Wilton, and Dana (at right, age 11)
raised cain as kids, so now Dana can't be too severe on
son David when he goes fishing in private lakes...
so long as he throws the fish back!
At 17, Dana secretly dreamed of an acting career, even took
the lead in a high school play, but wisely kept silent when
his older brothers talked of their plans for the future.