In 1958 Alvin Nelson, 1957 World Champion Saddle Bronc Rider, and my husband, Charlie Bull, were serving in the United State Army. Charlie and I and Alvin and Kaye Nelson lived in the town of
Wertheim in what was then , and the four of us met there. West Germany
The Main and
Tauber Rivers unite at , and none of us will ever forget the town, especially the medieval castle in the distance. However, the hill that the Bull and Nelson families lived on cannot be seen in this picture. Wertheim, Germany
And I will never forget the day I met Kaye for the first time. Charlie and I lived in an apartment down the hill from the apartment house where Alvin and Kaye lived, and I went up the hill to visit another young army wife. As a Texan and a ranch manager’s daughter, it isn’t surprising that I was wearing jeans. I remember that I was also wearing a pink plaid cowboy shirt, and Kaye must have noticed. Besides Kaye, I was probably the only girl on the base who wore western clothes.
Anyway, the four of us soon became friends.
Back then, each army couple under US Forces Germany were required to have a seven-day supply of food stashed in what was called our “alert gear.” The alert gear was expected to get us through in case the East Germans or the Russians crossed the border, and the army base was attacked.
Though the American dollar was strong back then compare to the German mark, draftees and their wives had very little money to live on. Toward the end of each month, Charlie and I would run out of money, and we would eat the food in our alert gear. Then on payday, we would restock the stash.
I would put in potatoes and can-goods, and I will always remember one night when Alvin and Kaye paid us a visit. The next day was probably payday, and I wanted to invite them to supper. But all we had left in our alert gear were three potatoes and a can of Spam. I really wanted them to stay and eat.
At last I told them that was all we had to serve but would they please stay for supper. “Yes,” they said—almost before I finished asking. “We would love to stay for supper.”
Later, I learned that all they had left if their alert gear were a couple of tomatoes.
Yes, times were hard, but we made it through and probably learned something from the experience.
Kaye Nelson is an excellent cook and an excellent seamstress. In fact, she made many of my maternity clothes in preparation for the birth of our first child. The four of us are still good friends, and we share many happy memories.
Kaye Nelson is a cowgirl in the true sense, and next month, we will learn what it was like to be a cowgirl and a
North Dakota rancher’s wife from 1959-2009.
Kaye Nelson with her grandson when he was one year old.
The child is wearing a shirt that reads “Bestemor loves me.”
The Nelsons are descended from Norwegian immigrants,
and Bestemor is grandma in the Norwegian language.
And as for Charlie and I, we are going strong—with three grown sons, five grandchildren and one grandchild on the way. As they say, we aren’t getting older, we’re getting better.