What would it be like to have nine siblings? Nine! Did you ever imagine having such an enormous family? For Rick Henderson no imagination is needed. He grew up in Boise, Idaho in the 1960s with his nine siblings. Surely chaos reigned at their house.
Actually, Rick remembers that his father, Warren, was a master at keeping the kids organized and busy. While it is no doubt true that there were times when the Henderson children ran wild Warren harnessed their energy in a way that benefited the family. For instance the Henderson house had a basement that could only be reached by an outside stair. Winters in Idaho are pretty cold. So, for the space to be useful they needed to enclose that stairway. Warren kept everyone organized and contributing. Even if all a child could do was haul wallboard he or she would still pitch in and help.
Another good example of the children helping the family’s bottom line was at harvest time. Southern Idaho is a bowl of volcanic ash perfect for growing potatoes and the farmers allowed gleaning. Gleaning is picking the produce left behind after the field has been reaped. The machines used to reap the fields pulled the potatoes to the surface but would allow some potatoes to fall back to the earth. Rather than allow those potatoes to rot in the fields farmers allowed local people to glean the leftover potatoes.
At times there would be 50 to 100 people gleaning the fields. Some people even brought shovels. However, with their small army of laborers the Hendersons found enough at ground level. In fact, these small workers could acquire a two months supply of potatoes in as little as an hour and a half. Though the family filled all the seats of the station wagon there was enough room in the back if they piled the potatoes high. The trip home often took longer than gleaning of the field.
Potatoes were eaten by Rick and his siblings in every conceivable incarnation: mashed, fried, in soups. In fact, there were so many potatoes that the children even used them in play, carving them up to form potato stamps. The Hendersons also invested in a gadget that would cut potatoes into French fries. And with money being so tight, they continued to use the French fry cutter even after one of the wire blades broke. The other blade worked. So they shoved the potatoes through once, rotated, then shoved them through again. With so many people to provide for it was important to salvage what was salvageable.
“Rick was number 6 of the 10 siblings. And he was quick to learn he could not force control. A fact that was driven home by the Great Potato Incident.”
Ten siblings could certainly made life interesting financially. But what was more interesting was being in the middle of those 10 siblings. Rick was number 6 of the 10 siblings. And he was quick to learn he could not force control. A fact that was driven home by the Great Potato Incident.
While his oldest brother, Doug, was 8 years older and his youngest brother, James, was 10 years younger. The sibling closest to him in age was one year and four days older—his brother Steve. The Great Potato Incident began with Rick and Steve in the midst of a dispute. Steve was determined to get even with Rick for the perceived slight to which brothers are prone. So he devised a plan.
At the time of the Great Potato Incident the family had just started the remodel on their outdoor stairway. Their father had just finished organizing the installation of the wallboard. Painting had not yet begun. Steve decided to use that work and his knowledge of potato stamping to frame Rick for the perfect crime.
Armed with a potato stamp carved in the shape of an inverted R, Steve snuck into the newly enclosed stairway. It did not take him long to cover the new wallboard in incriminating R’s. Steven then crept back upstairs and waited for the crime to be discovered.
Rick was taken by complete surprise when his mother began spanking him. He tried to profess his innocence, but to no avail. After all, why would anyone have stamped the new wallboard they’d all worked so hard to install? Rick didn’t have to wonder as Steve could not resist gloating. Looking up Rick saw his brother smirking at him from behind their mother’s back.
And the feud escalated. Two could play at this game. Rick was going to get even with his brother—force him to concede. That night, after preparing an S stamp from the ever abundant potato supply, Rick marched downstairs with thoughts of revenge utmost in his mind. Unfortunately for Rick, his mother came upon him as he was vengefully stamping S’s upon the wall. Rick got spanked a second time that day.
Thus the Great Potato Incident taught him he couldn’t force control. Having 10 siblings instilled a habit of providing a helping hand and helped him to not even feel the need to force control. Firstly, because he couldn’t if he wanted but he also discovered that influencing people worked. Rick learned to negotiate with his many siblings.
Thank you Rick, for sharing your Story with us.
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© 2009 by Rachelle Mobley and Story of My Life®