It was seven years after the Great Depression had leveled the fortunes and morale of the nation and raised the hopes of my parents for finally producing a boy after three lovely daughters. The richness of the desert was the only richness around. The Andresen’s never had much, but we never lacked. In 1939 Hitler launched his invasion of Poland and Czechoslovakia. I was safe in the desert of West Texas. Before I would reach my teens, the silence of the desert would be blasted by the roar of maneuvering tanks and the shouts of sergeants; and from Biggs Force Base, five miles across the desert, the drone of B-17s leaving to their bases in England from which to bomb Germany, and B-29s to the Pacific to bomb Japan. It was a thrilling time for a young boy.
Seven identical red brick houses formed an island in the West Texas desert, holding the families operating El Paso Natural Gas Company Station #3, one of seven “booster stations” on the pipeline delivering natural gas from the fields of Texas and New Mexico to California.
The desert around us was full of mystery and beauty for me. With my dog, Jeannie, I trekked through the desert until I lost sight of home. It was always a thrill to lose sight of my house and the tall water tank emblazoned with the company emblem. Then the adventure began. The desert was full of living things: coyotes, jack rabbits, prairie dogs, hawks, tarantulas, and a myriad of small birds. But in all my life in the desert, I never saw a rattlesnake. I learned they hid during the heat of the day and would come out at dusk. My dog would come home with her long ears full of cockle-burrs. I often had a sunburn so painful my mother would put me chest down on the bed and rub me with calamine lotion. That was all we had in those days.
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