A story of a young man named Bull Frog, yes, this was my name until I was christened Donald Rix, at the age of two. I was born to a seventeen-year-old hippy mother in mid-July of 1976. According to my great aunt, who was the midwife, I was just a “perfect” baby and the joy of my newly married parents.
They were married, but hardly ever together and legally separated by the time I was two. Mother had another child, a girl, named Dew a sickly preemie and constantly in and out of the Warsaw Community Hospital and Buffalo Children’s Hospital.
Around the age of two, Mother moved us to Buffalo, New York, to prove to her grandmother, who raised her, that she could take care of the children on her own. Due to Mother’s lack of financial resources, rented an apartment in a section of the city that was impoverished. Mother did her best, by working various jobs and late nights; eventually ended up as a call-girl, better known as a “Chippewa Girl.”
Dew and I were placed with babysitters, or brought to the bars, or workplaces, and left in the dressing room to wait. As time progressed, Mother fell into drugs, alcohol, and prostitution to support us. Mother eventually returned home to her grandmother in Warsaw, but each time it only lasted a couple of months. Mother would then returned to Buffalo with another boyfriend or “daddy.”
I began kindergarten at age five, in an all-African American Buffalo school; I was the only “white” kid. I did not attend an integrated school until second grade when Mother met and “fell in love” with a farmer/salt miner, named Ducky, a man who just separated from his wife. Mother meet him while bartending at the Genesee Bar and Grill Inn. I would wonder to this day if there was more to that meeting. Actually, I try not to think of it, knowing Mother.
Mother moved Dew and I in with Ducky about six months later in a tiny one bedroom flat in the town of Genesee, around the corner from the bar Mother worked. After living in this one bedroom for about three and half months, Ducky declared that he received the farm, the house, and his four daughters, ranging from one to eight-years-old, from his ex-wife in a divorce settlement.
A Real House
I will not forget getting off the school bus in mid-September and being thrilled about getting an “A” on a spelling test. I was so proud of the “A.” I walked in the door and
I won’t forget getting off of the school bus in mid-September and being thrilled about getting an “A” on a spelling test. I was so proud of that “A.” I walked in the door and saw Ducky and Mother sitting at the kitchen table, talking excitedly. I tried to show Mother my “A.” But it got pushed away, and I was told to go out to the Ducky’s van because we were going over to see the farm.
Mother was excited about living in a real house and not in an apartment.
I was not thrilled about living on a farm, nor living with four strange girls. I trudged out to the van and waited. Ducky drove us to a hamburger stand and then out to the Farm in Koy, New York, where we met Ducky’s ex-wife, Art, who looked worse than the massive call-girls Mother used to work with on Chippewa Row. As Ducky introduced his daughters, I clung to Mothers’ leg. His older daughters frightened me because of their size and demeanor. I was a tiny, scrawny boy compared to his heavily-built daughters.
Art had a pig and a small pony living in the house with her and her four daughters.
What a shock! The house was a filthy, smelly, flea-ridden, run-down shack. It had three bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, and a full basement. I asked if I could go to the bathroom. Ducky directed me to what he called the bathroom. It had a toilet that was cracked, caked in muck, almost black; it stunk so bad that I nearly pissed my pants. The tub was in even worse condition. I almost threw up and dashed out to the woods to take a pee and get some fresh air.
The “yard” was just as bad, with three cars, all in some dismantled phase, sat buried in the high grass that rose over me. There was farm equipment, broken bottles, mud patches made by the chained dogs and loose livestock. The pig barn was leaning to one side and propped up with rotten boards. The chicken coop was just an old dog kennel, with a tarp pulled over it and secured by cinder blocks.
The dairy barn looked like the roof had been ripped apart by high wind and then patched with tarps. The milking parlor entrance had a makeshift door to enter, and the milking stalls were filthy, and oh the stench! I barely was able to hold dinner down.
None of this seemed to bother Mother and stated that she could see the potential of the house after a good cleaning.
I hated this place and the smell and size of the farm animals. The unnerving quietness of the country, broken with the braying of the cows and horses, the weird guttural sound of the pigs, to the chicken scratching and their insistence clacking, or was it chirping? At night, the country brought its own sound of new noises: an owl hooting to a coyotes howl. The house also made some terrible noises – the creaking of the floor boards, the scratch of mice in the wall, the wind whistling through the chimney and the windows. I never could sleep in that house; sleep would embrace me little.
Ducky would take Mother in the morning to the Farm so that she could clean the house. Ducky then would go to work in the salt mines in Silver Springs. Mother would spend the day scraping feces from the floor and walls, throwing out broken furniture, and tearing out the carpets. She even would repaint the rooms when she got them clean. If I remember, correctly she started in the bathroom and each day would tackle a new room. I do remember how tired Mother looked in the evening, but she held a smile through it all.
After school, I would board a different school bus than the one I took in the morning so that I could go to the farm afterward. I hated going there, knowing that I would have to go into that house and be eaten alive by the fleas. The smell of cat urine and feces, pig droppings, and the horse manure; plus the smell of rotten feed, made the place nearly unbreathable. That house should have been destroyed! No sane human should have to live, nor clean, such a disaster.
After only about a month from the infamous visit, Mother and I eventually got the place “livable,” it was the week of Thanksgiving. I will never forget that It was like a blizzard outside in my child’s mind and the walk from the van to the front door was awful. It did not help with what seemed like thousands of steps from the driveway to the front door that was icy and slippery. The steps appeared to be a mountain that did not want to be climbed. To carry boxes up, this incline was nearly impossible for my small frame.
Ducky’s daughters came over Thanksgiving Day, about midmorning, to help with the move. That evening they went back to Artie, their mother, which left Mother and I to finish moving stuff. Ducky, most of the time, sat in his recliner, drinking beers and smoking — this seemed to be his favorite pass time when not in the barn or at the salt mines. I hated that man. To make things worse, if I could not lift a box, Ducky and Mother would scream at me, tell me that I was not “pulling my weight.” He would say that his daughters could do it. If he was standing up and near me, he would smack the back of my head, and tell me that I was a worthless piece of shit. Mother would sometimes chime in about how I needed to be a country kid instead of a city kid. Finally, by the end of Thanksgiving break, we completed the moved into that house.
It was not until two days before Christmas that Ducky’s daughters moved in. Up to this point, I had my own room and was not sharing it with Dew. Now that they were moving in, this meant that I was to be moved into a corner of the dining room. The two older daughters would get my room. The two younger girls would share my sister’s room. I remember Ducky saying that I was a boy and needed no privacy; I hated this change and feared what would happen the next holiday.