From Part 1 (“The Beginning”):
I am sitting beside my older sister, Dorothy, and, with our father, we chug along in a Model-T Ford on a dirt road leading from our farm and finally stop at a house in an African American neighborhood in Port Lavaca, Texas, to see a family who has a new litter of German Police puppies. I am not quite two years old. My second birthday comes at the end of the month, July 31. Dorothy is three and a half. A young barefooted boy crawls under the family's graying clapboard house and, clutching one of the litter, brings him out and hands him to Daddy, who has gotten out of the car but admonishes us to “stay put.”
“'Bout how old is he?” Daddy asks.
“He's born 'most a month ago,” the boy replies.
After some inspection, Daddy hands the squirming pup to me, and Dorothy and I take turns cradling him and burrowing our faces down in his dusty coat as we drive back to our farm. He is muddy orange with white feet, and we call him Tiger.
When we return to our farmhouse with our new, somewhat frightened friend, we learn that our mother (Alma) has given birth to another girl, Bonnie. It seems that certain events are indelibly etched on young minds while other events leave only veiled impressions or fleeting vignettes that skip across our awareness as if emerging from some shadowy recess, and still all inform our learning. Any time frame is blurred, so that it becomes difficult to remember where or when one event ends and another begins. But I can't recall another early event that remains as vivid as that hot, dusty day in July when I get both a baby sister and a new puppy in a single day.
From Part 2 (“December 7, 1941"):
. . . on December 7, 1941, we were invited to the Orth farm with a couple of other families. It was a warm, sunny day, and we younger girls ran around the farm and played various games like hide-and-go-seek or stick ball, similar to softball but played with a stick and rubber ball. The women always gathered separately from the men. At one point, I noticed the men had quit talking as they sat around a battery-powered radio in the center of their circle, with their heads held in their hands, while staring intently down at the floor. Although I didn't know it at the time, they were listening to the broadcast of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Soon the families and their children left, and we did as well. I knew something important had happened, but I had no idea of the enormity of that event.
The next day at school, the teachers assembled all the children (except maybe the younger children) in one classroom, with the teachers at the front of the room, instructing us to be quiet because we were going to hear an address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. My teacher, Mrs. Anita Meurer, paced along the side of the classroom and stared out the windows. She was divorced and had a teenaged son, about seventeen or eighteen years old. A small arch-shaped radio was placed on the teacher's desk with the volume turned up as we all heard the “date which will live in infamy” speech. I did not know what “infamy” meant, but I did understand what “many American lives have been lost” meant. Most of us could not grasp the significance of this “state of war” now existing between Japan and our country. It was a short speech, and then classes resumed. Great Britain joined the United States in declaring war against Japan that same day. So a period of waiting and wondering began. Three days later Germany declared war on our country, and we then declared war against Germany. And a discernible somberness enveloped the town almost overnight.