Saturday, August 21, 2010

Tonya Dawn (Miller) Dustin

Written by Wanda (Miller) Draper

I want to take you back in time to so you all can know what Tonya’s family believes were the happiest times in her life.

It all began when 2 sisters married 2 brothers. The eldest couple had 3 children and the youngest couple had 2. This created a close knit 5, 2 boys and 3 girls. The people in town couldn’t keep them all straight, the close knit 5 were often asked which couple they belonged to.

Tonya Dawn or Tawny Dawn as her mother frequently called her was the youngest and the smallest of the 5. However, she took great offense if you mentioned her size. One of her friends from school mentions she was so proud when she received her driver’s license even though her restriction was that she had to drive with a pillow behind her back.

She was amazing as a child. She learned to read very early and her parents were very proud while the rest of us marveled (and of course were probably a little jealous). She did well at kindergarten round-up while Cousin Troy had to be saved by his older sister. Tonya and Troy would spend kindergarten through graduation in the same class.

The close knit 5 were farm kids and were raised as such. The 2 families were more like one. They lived only a mile apart and depending on which way you went were only separated by a gravel road and a corn field or the other way by timber. The walks that would be taken, if only walked by a few, would take 20 minutes from point 1 to point 2. But if Tonya was along it would take an hour because Tonya tended to piddle fart around.

Besides the other kids, Tonya had some furry family members over the years. First there was Augie doggie and then there was Dusty, no mailman was safe when he was around. Then there was the all time favorite cat Ralph and when he was gone there were more Ralph’s that tried to follow in his footsteps. Tonya loved and hugged them all. Of course there were also rabbits for awhile. Tonya was not so happy when she found out they were for eating and not petting.

Then anyone who grew up on a farm ought to be able to remember chicken butchering time. Each member of the close knit 5 viewed this horror in their own special way. Tonya was right on everyone’s heels when we were sent into the weeds to fetch headless chickens that had flopped out of sight
Of course the 5 were not alone, there were cousins in town. James, Wanda, Michele, Troy, and Tonya were joined by Bobbie and Robin on the weekends and during the summer.

Many a night was spent camping in the backyard with Michele and Tonya. Most times it was the girls but occasionally the boys joined in. Secrets were shared, idealized childhood dreams were planned out, and of course there were fights. We built forts and dug through the garbage ditch, we swam in the river where Tonya seemed to be so tasty that she ended up with all the leeches. For which, Bobbie and Robin were banned from ever swimming in creek again (don’t tell Pennie we all did it again anyway).

There were also picnics held out in the timber. The town cousins, their parents, the close knit 5, and the 2 sisters who married 2 brothers were all there. Sometimes other extended family members were present. No matter who was there, you could hear Uncle Larry yelling about not dropping hot dogs in the fire or not waving flaming marshmallows around. Tonya joined in the laughter when Cousin Jim took one in the eye.

On the DeLong side of the family other memories circled around the holiday times. Christmas’s spent sitting in a hallway eating our dinner. All 7 suffered together. To this day a family joke still exists, “Go sit in the hallway” is not a sign of bliss.

The thing that I think that Tonya enjoyed the most during her childhood was Michele. Not because of the love she had for her sister but because she loved to see her sister miserable. When Michele was in trouble Tonya was at her happiest. Whether it was Michele being sat on to pull a loose tooth or when they spent the night at Aunt Jan’s and Uncle Larry’s and Michele was forced to eat peas. While Michele was choking and gagging Tonya was giggling and writhing with laughter. Then there was the infamous flyswatter at the Miller home, it didn’t really matter who had it in their hand, someone was getting whacked with it.

Of course Michele got even in a big way. Probably should not talk about such things in public, but let’s just say Michele took a picture regarding Tonya to school for show and tell. I am told Tonya had since destroyed the evidence including the negative.

Along with most all of the other children, Tonya inherited hairy arms. Once upon a time Tonya decided to shave those arms. After her mom scared her by telling her that it would grow back thicker and darker, she gave up shaving her arms.

In her teen years, I have it on good authority that Tonya was one of only three brave souls who actually skipped on Senior Skip Day. Fishing with friends seems kind of mild for all the trouble she could have been in. Her nickname in high school was Tonto, and you know if you receive a nickname it is a sign that many people love you.

I don’t know if Tonya ever figured out that she was the child of people who were well known in the community. Driving around the flag pole at the school was something she got busted for, she said she didn’t know how they found out. In a small town of 750, parents find these things out. Of course the flag pole was not the only driving stunt Tonya did. While spinning donuts in the factory parking lot, she hit a pile of gravel, blew a tire, and had to sneak to Jay’s shop to get it fixed before her parents found out.

And then she grew up. Becoming a mom meant a lot to her. Two beautiful children, Scarlet and Grayson whom she loved without measure. I know she loved her new home it was something she could be proud of and I hope she had the chance to really enjoy it.

And so today we are here to celebrate the smart little girl, who for me never grew up. She will live on in our hearts, in the hearts of her children, and all who knew her. The close knit 5 plus 2 town cousins will never again be the same but we will all honor her in our own special way.

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