Helen Ogston

Helen was one of the first "liberated women" around and the first I ever ran into. In her 40s, she taught English and Music to 13 kids in four grades at Death Valley Union High School. She had traveled the world as the wife of a Ranger for the National Park Service and had seen a lot of life and nature. It must have pained her that we were all so poor we had little choice of career. Boys went off to work in the mines or drive a truck; girls got married to have kids.

Helen was fully aware of herself, who she was, how she felt and what she was about. She communicated that aura to me with the love of a type I had not known from a woman before. Freely given, no strings, supportive and wholesome. She never overdid or gushed praise. It had always to be earned.

Helen found me a summer job in 1946 so that I could go to college. I tried but was much too immature to make it. Five years later, in a marriage by then, I did. More than anyone to that time, Helen enabled the motivation. It was mostly her human qualities. She connected with the world and imparted some of that connection on to me. She was worldly in thought as well as in experience. She had her own emotions in order; something my own family often did not. She could recognize talent in the weed patch. I was stunned that my father and many others did not even like her. But after all, she was a truly sophisticated woman in a vast desert of roughnecks where living was hard. She knew people like Amelia Erhart and several famous people in films and entertainment. She always dressed well with perfect but not obtrusive makeup. And totally non-athletic. Her mind was where and who she was. But she enjoyed simple pleasures, her animal nature. Her psyche was well formed—"By my father" she used to say, "he liberated me". Helen "prepared me" for Kris.

Helen passed away some years ago, I regret that I didn't even hear about it. She nursed her husband Ted until he died well up in his 90s. I miss her to this day. The last time I talked with her she was well up in her 70s and she wanted to meet Kris, my second wife who shares some of Helen's traits. They never met because my career took me always somewhere else and Kris had a career of her own. But Kris felt a kinship with Helen, in part because they both loved me, and also for their similar and optimistic "can do" outlooks. To sum up, Helen's approach was personal and honest. No hidden agenda, just straight out and real.

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