LEARNING FROM ALORTHA
MARY WALKER BARON
I lived with Alortha Aston during my sophomore year in high school. My parents correctly reasoned that, since her husband, Lomax had recently died, she could use the extra income.
Alortha was born in Missouri. One of her favorite expressions was, “I’m from Missouri. Prove it to me.”
For the entire year I lived with her, Alortha worked at Upton’s Café in Globe, Arizona.
She visited her husband’s grave every day. Often, sometimes after dark, I would go with her.
Every Friday after school I rode with another ranching family to the little town of Young (population 200). The trip took well over three hours, often on dirt roads. Then either my father or mother would pick me up at the Young Post Office for the more than an hour and a half ride to our home on the Flying W.
Alortha was a member of the Church of Christ in Globe. The Church of Christ is not famous for its liberal view of life. Alortha’s brother-in-law, Loathar Hamilton, was the song leader. He used a pitch pipe. This created such a schism that the church dissolved and moved elsewhere outside of Globe. Ultimately Alortha bought the building on Deveraux. My brother and I once visited her there. She was doing all of the remodeling on her own. Alortha Aston was truly an independent and remarkable woman.
I learned a lot from her during that sophomore year. She insisted that I hung up my clothes with the hangers all pointing in the same direction. Her reasoning was that in case of fire one could easily remove all one’s clothing. To this day I still hang my clothes with the hangers all pointing the same direction. My reasoning differs significantly from Alortha’s. If my house were on fire I would not feel an urgent need to get my clothes out of the burning house. I probably wouldn’t even worry about my clothes. My goal would be to get all the living creatures, human or otherwise, to safety.
Sad to say, Alortha wasn’t much of a cook. We generally ate dinner at Upton’s. I ate breakfast and lunch at her house—lunch alone because Alortha was working as a waitress at Upton’s. Alortha taught me to eat what I didn’t like first because then I would always save the best for last.
I’m a writer. I didn’t learn much about writing from Alortha but I did learn a lot about living from her. I believe that good writers must necessarily know a lot about living.
During the year I lived with Alortha Aston I learned a lot about living and I thank her for that.