The Depression never really hit the Sanders ranch since they were already living a self-sustaining lifestyle. Grandpa hired cowboys to bring his cattle to market, and they had livestock in the barns and vegetable gardens near the house that supplied fresh produce and dairy products as well as poultry. And, of course, there was always more than enough beef and pork to go around. The girls grew up around cowboys and were rough-and-tumble tomboys who, according to Mom’s account, could ride like the wind.
Nora followed her daughters to an early grave due to an illness that she was unable to have treated properly. J.D. Sanders was unable to recover from depression and eventually lost the ranch. Marian, nicknamed Cottontop, then Sandy (because of her platinum hair which eventually turned auburn), was shuttled off between her married sisters until she was old enough to fend for herself. By her teens, she was a spitfire who learned to drive cars with the breakneck speed and daring of her days as a horseback rider. She developed a severe case of wanderlust and often drove back and forth between her sisters’ homes, Frank Pilcher in Arizona, Marge Abbott in Fort Worth, Texas and Jim Tibbetts in Colorado. She thought nothing of crossing the border into Mexico or going as far west as California. I’m pretty sure I inherited that road warrior spirit from her as well.
As the Dizon family made it through the Depression, Dolfo became a reclusive bookworm who would one day make history as a nuclear physicist at NASA. After a messy divorce, he made ends meet as a deputy sheriff and was again part of a historic Texas episode during a shootout with Mexican cartel drug lord Jose Carrasco. Back in the day, however, he gave place in grade school to Manny and Daniel, who had been getting boxing lessons from their Uncle Butch. Ed Welk, a pro boxer, (a distant relative of Lawrence Welk) married Stella’s sister Charlotte and spent lots of time with the boys, Manny being his favorite. Manny took his fair share of lumps from Butch but, along with Daniel, put away every school bully they faced during their early years. Freddie would try and fail to follow his brothers’ footsteps but would go on to a career in the Marines as a drill instructor. Now you can surmise how I got to be such a hard case.
The clan was stunned by the loss of Stella, who died of uremic poisoning in her mid-twenties. Grandpa was left to raise the boys, and Manny stepped up as big brother in helping raise Freddie. Manny was an excellent student who made the National Honor Society alongside Dolfo on a regular basis. After school, he and Daniel began training at the Alamo Street Boxing Club on East Houston Street and soon became Golden Gloves standouts. Manny was one of those people who excelled both academically and athletically, and was also quite the ladies’ man, like his Dad.
(To be continued...)