We are sad to announce that on May 28, 2021, at the age of 84, James Merrell Patterson (Apache, Oklahoma), born in Lawton, Oklahoma passed away.
He was predeceased by: his parents, James Earl “Buck” and Merrell Fleta Patterson (Dietrich); and his sister Molly (Sybil). He is survived by: his wife Katie; his children, Mary Kate and Jimmy (Cyndi); his grandsons; his sisters, Patsy and Lotsee; his nieces and nephews; and his great-nieces and great-nephews.
Jim, you were a legend. The kindest, best, funniest Dad a seventeen year old could have wished for. I still tell people how you taught me to go ‘countin’ fence posts’ in your red pickup truck, cooler box filled with Coors as we drove around while you taught me about life. Katie too, taught me about life: Peter, who do you think chooses their partner? ‘Why, the man of course, Katie!’ – gales of laughter. Lemme tell you Peter, when Jim walked into the bank I said to my girlfriends, ‘I’m gonna marry that man.’
Today is gonna be a sad day of reflection for me. Also wonderful memories. Great fondness. I must get hold of Katie and Mary-Kate.
I see Peggy Manar (83) and Eugene Mindemann (85) also died – both in October 2020. And so things change. Like Jim and Katie, they too (and their spouses Tom and Odie) were wonderfully kind to me in my year in Apache back in 1973. As were the Hrbaceks, the Paynes, the Crews, the Lehnertzs, the Swandas, the Rotary club, the school, everyone. A magic year, 1973.
So many memories. I’ll come back to this post and add over time.
Another Jim moment: Jim was asking me what subjects I was taking in my senior year at Apache High School.
But first lemme explain: I had finished school back in South Africa. I was done. I was here to have fun and learn new things – things other than school. So I told him: I had to take American history as I was a foreigner; I had to take English as I spoke the Queen’s English and that needed fixing; Then I took Ag shop, Annual staff, Phys Ed and Typing.
He looked at me in amazement: (or was it envy?) – ‘What? They didn’t have Basket Weavin’?!’ he asked with a huge grin.
Sister Sheila returned to me letters I had written to her and to Mom and Dad back in 1973:
4 July 1973 – Aerogram to Sheila with apologies for being late for her seventeenth birthday. We had been out in the sticks camping in Canada, north of Lake Superior on her day 26 June, next to ‘one of the most beautiful white-water streams I’ve ever seen.’ Then we had canoe’d and camped in Quetico Park, west of Thunder Bay – caught in pouring rain. Then to the Lake of the Woods, ‘absolutely fantastic, unbelievable.’ Five in a VW Bug, three Oklahoman lasses, an Aussie and I. I rave in the letter about what perfect traveling companions they were and hint – shh – that Dottie is ‘sort of the girlfriend’ – adroit with the lasses as always! Sigh!
The blue aerogram – postage 15c – was written from Dubuque, Iowa, where the Okie lasses and Kneebone the Aussie had dropped me off with my last host family Don and Jackie Lehnertz, who would ferry me back to Apache. ‘Fraid I mostly slept in their car, after the excitement of drinking, camping and jolling with that great first-class team of friends. We did go up the stainless steel arch in St Louis, I remember that. Cramped up in a little cocoon and then a narrow view from 630 feet above the Mississippi. Cost a dollar and I wouldn’t pay a dollar to do it again. ‘Course I was way too polite to say that then.
29 July 1973 – Nine-page letter to whole family. 21c postage. Written in Durango, Colorado where Jim and Katie Patterson had taken me and Dottie Moffett after two weeks in New Mexico. One week with the Manars in a lodge in Red River, The Ponderosa; and then a week in Granma Merrill’s cabin in Pine Valley outside town. The rest of the Apache ‘Bunch’ then arrived en masse – so now we were five couples with five 4X4 jeeps and lots of kids! The Paynes, Hrbaceks and Mindemanns joining to make a party of twenty nine, of which nineteen festively crowded into Granma’s double-story cabin!
We jeeped up steep, rough switchbacks, stopping for beers and bloody marys in the hebcoolers tied to the tailgates, full of ice; we hiked up the Sangre de Christo mountains to 12 682 feet, still the highest I have ever climbed above sea level.
Saw mule deer, a badger, a weasel, squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, rabbits, groundhogs; also many hummingbirds, blue jay, stellar jay, cardinals, western tanagers. Dottie and I played tennis at a Taos ski resort. She was a really good tennis player, ranked as high as No.2 in Oklahoma; she toyed with me, but I recorded the score; I got one set off her! (yes, she probly let me!); 4-6 8-6 6-3 and 6-2 she whipped me.
We visited a hippie commune in Arroyo Hondo. We visited Taos pueblo where some famous characters would hang out and bail out of the rat race. Crazy actor Dennis Hopper – 1969’s Easy Rider – was one, around about that time.
Off to Colorado – Durango to Silverton on a steam train – spectacular
Ouray – ‘Switzerland of America’
On to Arches National Monument, Utah
Bryce Canyon, Utah (passing a turnoff to ‘Koosharem’!):
Zion National Park, where we hiked and swam:
Las Vegas. We all gambled till 5am, Dottie and I continued to 9am. I immediately lost $11, then recovered till I was $12 up, continued, refusing to go to bed till I’d ‘paid my dues.’ When I was down a dollar or two we quit. Meantime I also had $5 from Odie Mindemann which I increased to $11, tipped the dealer a dollar and when I got back to Apache I gave her $10. She immediately gave me $2.50 – ‘commission’!! The second and last night Dottie and I gambled till 7:30am.
On to Hoover Dam where we took the tour down into the depths of the wall. Then overnight at the Visitor Centre at South Rim, Grand Canyon, Rose early to see sunrise on the edge. Dottie and I decided to walk the eight miles to the Colorado river at the bottom along the Bright Angel Trail. After 4.5 miles we got to an oasis, ‘big trees, birds, squirrels and chipmunks; and a drinking fountain.’ 3.5 miles later we were looking down at the river flowing ‘clear and swift and strong over great rapids – I’d love to canoe it’ I wrote. Seven and a quarter hours later we were back – and I had forgotten to take a picture of the river!
Drove to Albuquerque to overnight with Jim’s sister Pat; and the next day back to Apache. The day after was the Rotary meeting and I ‘gave the program,’ whatever that means – spoke to the good people of my sponsoring club, I guess. (Which was better than I did fifteen years later on honeymoon! Trish and I were out birding and clean forgot about the weekly meeting! Really REALLY embarrassed about that unforgivable slip!).
Soon Dottie had to go home to Ardmore near the Texas border; Good ole Katie – she who had organised that we had this amazing three weeks together – drove us there.
A while later Jim took me to Dallas to watch the Dallas cowboys beat the St Louis Cardinals.
29 August 1973 – Letter home. Moaning about the heat in Apache – practicing football in two layers of clothing, knee, thigh, hip, bum and shoulder pads; helmet with chinstrap and teethguard. ‘I’m playing fullback on offense and safety on defense and still don’t know much about either!’ At school I’m taking typing (‘my wrists ache’ – !?) Annual Staff, producing the school yearbook, Ag Shop, learning to weld, Oklahoman history and P.E! Then I’ll be helping the science teacher with one of his younger classes. School is from 8:30am to 2:20pm and then football starts and continues to 6:15pm, so I don’t have time to get much done, I moaned! Lots of moaning!
Went to Ardmore to visit Dottie; met her folks and her twin sister Dale. Her Dad, Dr Denny Moffett, gave me a lovely book, which, the more I’ve read it, the more I think Dottie’s Dad was telling me ‘The history you were taught is not the true history of how things went down.’
I had broken my tennis racquet strings in Cobleskill, New York on our trip up north and Dottie had it restrung for me in Ardmore free-of-charge! In Ardmore she entered me in a tennis tournament. Lost in the 2nd round to the eventual winner. Dottie had sent a Las Vegas photo of me to Mom Mary (I said Good! It cost me $7) and Mom – thinking maybe a daughter-in-law was in the making? wrote back to Dottie. Katie picked me up and took me home to Apache after a visit to her folks down in Shreveport. The next time I saw Dottie was at UCT in Cape Town, two or three years later.
Back to Dallas with Bob and Carol Crews. Watched the Texas Rangers beat the New York Yankees at baseball; saw the grassy knoll where John Kennedy got shot; spent the rest of the day at Six Flags over Texas amusement park. ‘Breathtaking and hair-raising rides.’ Two hours in the queue for the biggest ride!
After that back in Apache, football season was starting, we had practice matches or ‘scrimmages’ against Cache, and Temple, then our first game against Snyder. Lost. Lost. Lost.
19 September 1973 – Short letter to family at home. Mom had written saying Jock was going to be given away. I pleaded for him to be kept.
23 October 1973 – Letter to family at home. Busy – four Rotary talks in four days: Lawton’s Lions Club; Apache Rotary Ladies night; Boone school; Anadarko Women’s Club with Eve Woodhouse from Durban and Helen Worswick from Marandellas, lovely and popular fellow exchange students. Someone would have driven me south to Lawton, west to Boone and north to Andarko – they were all so kind to me! In Lawton an elderly man came up to me, greeted me in Afrikaans and sang My Sarie Marais at the top of his voice! His mother had moved to Oklahoma in 1909 and taught him those few words and that one song all those years ago!
Played golf in Fort Cobb, Eve’s town, with Andy Claborn, then went to Cameron College with Andy, Robbie Swanda and Jay Wood. Then to Norman with Junior school principal Jim Stanton to watch Oklahoma University beat Colorado University 34-7 at college football. Katie fetched me in Norman and we drove down to Dallas again to meet her folks, Mama and Papa Hays. Went to the Texas State Fair; then Papa and lil Jimmy and I went to another Dallas Cowboys game, where the Cowboys beat the New York Giants 45-28.
Back in Apache I resumed my rivalry with Robbie Swanda in international darts and pool. We were pretty evenly matched. This is where I learned that ‘closies don’t count, ‘cept in handgrenades and horseshoes’ which I changed to handgrenades and jukskei. Then out to Jim Patterson’s farm where he was planting wheat, as the rain had finally stopped, enabling him to get into his fields. We’d decided I would bunk school and help him, but Danny Swanda put his foot down – exchange students shall not drive tractors! He was right. So I only did some harrowing – on the quiet, though. Two laps of Jim’s 180 acre field took me an hour on the tractor.
Challenged the football coach to table tennis – so we were still on good terms, despite my abandoning football! A great weekend lay ahead: The Swandas invited all the SA, Zim, Kiwi and Aussie exchange students for the weekend! Eight exchange students!
31 October 1973 – Letter to family at home. Jock must have got a reprieve, as I asked them to ‘remember his birthday, he’s getting middle-aged.’ I had made his birthday on Larry Wingert’s birthday 4 November. Went to Fort Cobb again to speak to Rotary. Stayed with Eve Woodhouse’s family and ‘helped them harvest peanuts’ – actually watched the Mexican hired hands doing the work. Was planning on joining Jim and Jimmy Patterson at the OU – Nebraska college football game in Norman soon. At school the Indian Club had a big dance, got me to join in and then presented me with a beautiful shirt, bead necklace and choker.
Went to Carnegie to speak to their Rotary club; hosted by Helen Worswick; beat her at tennis 6-4 6-4 6-4. Spoke to Stony Point Rod & Gun club.
The gang of exchange students had been. We had played table tennis, darts, horseshoes, pool and tennis (in which Jim Patterson’s uncle from California beat me 6-4 6-2). Watched football the Friday night. Apache beat Mountain View, where Jenny Carter from Bromley in Zimbabwe was the exchange student. To rub it in we put the Saturday news report on her breakfast table place on Sunday! Then we headed out to the beautiful Wichita mountains south of town. Tall, good-looking, pommy-accented Helen Worswick from Marandellas in Zimbabwe, Africa, saw a tiny little snake cross the path, shrieked, turned round and ran over everyone behind her like skittles, proving to the Americans in the party how rugged and bush-wise (they’d have thought jungle-wise) we Africans are.
Rotary clubs used to get Helen to talk to them ‘just to hear the King’s English!’ She’d probly been to some posh private school infested with Pom teachers straight outa Blighty, pale skin and necks burnt red by the hot African sun?
The next week I saddled up and went ‘real cowboyin’ with host Dad Jim and host Grandad Buck Patterson. We had hats, boots, horses, cattle and dust, as we rounded up the cattle, coralled them and then separated Jim’s from Buck’s, then separated the calves from their mothers. They’d been in the wheatfields so they had the runs and we got it – some even in my hair. Half an hour after getting home I was due to give a talk. Made it. Wished I’d taken my camera on the roundup!
A real character was Buck Patterson. You had to call him Buck. Thassall. Buck. His grandkids Mary-Kate 9 and Jimmy 7 called him Buck. Only Buck. Just like my granny made us all call her Annie. Only Annie. As his new grandkid, aged 17, I decided I’d call him Granpa Buck and everyone was amazed he let me. He’d even boast about it: ‘He’s my grandkid from Africa. He calls me Granpa Buck.’
Here’s a letter from the year before. I was still in matric and my good mate Steph de Witt was Harrismith’s Rotary exchange student in Ohio.
My four-stage 1973 road trip started in Apache Oklahoma. In Stage One Katie Patterson drove us down in her Ford LTD to stay with her folks, Mama and Papa Hays, in Shreveport, Louisiana. There we ‘visited’ as Oklahomans say; We were spoiled – I was a third, honorary grandchild! We played golf – I recall smacking the ball into one inch ‘rough’ under big old trees draped in lichen, or old man’s beard; And we ate superbly.
Papa Hays gave me a beautiful old book:
Larry and his sister Ginny joined us, having driven down from Cobleskill NY and we got ready for Stage Two of my Great North American Road Trip: Heading north-east in a light greenish-grey Volkswagen Bug.
Larry and Ginny had packed their camping kit on the back seat; One more passenger meant we now needed a U-Haul carrier on the roof.
I remember surprisingly little about this trip north-east! We left the Red River and crossed the Arkansas River near Little Rock; I remember camping:
I remember crossing the mighty Mississippi River in or near St Louis, where the Missouri joins it;
The only thing I remember clearly is hoping my ID would be checked at the door when we went for my very first legal beer at a TGIF bar in Missouri. I had drank beer as a schoolboy in the Vrystaat, led astray by good friends, then as a seventeen yr-old in Oklahoma, in a 21 state, I had drank beer in Louisiana and Arkansas, but I turned 18 on the road that day, and now at last I was eighteen in an 18 state! Legal at last!
I held my SA passport ready . . I now know it was a Sunday; Richard Nixon was the President; We were listening to Killing Me Softly With His Song, and Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree; and NOW, at last, I would be checked and blessed for the first time . .
But the man at the door just waved me through. ** sigh! ** why have I always looked much older than I am? Nowadays people think I’m a hundred in the shade. Next they’ll be wanting to take away my drivers licence . . .
Oh, well, at least some other world-firsts happened that week: The first cellphone call; The World Trade Center twin towers opened; the first international rugby sevens tournament took place; the last American soldier ignominiously left Vietnam; and Pablo Picasso died.
I also remember getting to Larry’s hometown Cobleskill, a beautiful little town in upstate New York, and meeting his parents. I’d heard about Cobleskill since 1969 when Larry breezed into Harrismith and we spent a fun year making memories and amok; early experiments mixing beer and petrol – which he called gas. Well, we had a gas! Fun times!
That’s a really vague and sketchy recollection of a magic route! Larry doesn’t remember much more. In fact he confidently remembered the VW Bug as being red! ‘Tis not only my memory glands that are dodgy, I’m relieved to tell.
He’s going to ask his sister Virginia. She’ll know more. I know we went here, cos my trusty Olympus trip 35 camera recorded it, but where is it?
A few days later, another VW Bug arrived, full of gorgeous Oklahomans; and one less-than-glamorous Aussie (where are you, Jonathan Kneebone?) . . . and this Bug was red.
Here’s our my correspondence to Larry in 2017 went:
Subject: Lost in the USA. Hey Larry – Help a lost Vrystater who can’t remember where he has been! I know we left Shreveport in your lil greyish-greenish VW Bug and headed up to Little Rock (I guess on highways 49 and then 30) but after that I’ve hit a blank. And I know you took us to some interesting places. Do you remember the route you took? I’d love to hear it. Sort of a trip down Forgettery Lane. Cheers – Koos
Larry: Forgettery Lane? You’re talking to someone who’s pretty much strolling down Alzheimer’s Avenue! (at least where 40+-year-old memories are concerned). BTW, if we traveled in a VW Beetle, it must have been red.
Fortunately for us both, Ginny tends to be much better in the recall department than I am. I believe we started the trip as a way for me to check out some law schools (which I was sort of seriously considering at the time, but — fortunately — never pursued). She was good enough to volunteer to come along as a companion/navigator, though I’m afraid I was a bit tough on her in that latter capacity, especially when I got freaked out driving in Washington, D.C., where the traffic was a bit intense for a kid from the country and the city center is famously laid out like the spokes of a wheel, as opposed to the more traditional grid pattern. Not what I’d call intuitive.
Thankfully we’re still on speaking terms, which I fear I put in jeopardy there for a while, so I’ll ask her (by means of CC-ing her on this e-mail) for any details she may recall. Unless I traumatized her so badly that she’s repressed the entire experience! Or perhaps it had the opposite effect and seared it into her memory — let’s hope for that. We were just together (in Roanoke) over the Easter holiday; wish I could have asked her about it directly.
That’s a very long way of saying no, I don’t really remember our route — sorry. I’m still hopeful Ginny may be able to save my bacon.
. . . in Las Vegas in 1973 ! Whoa! Can that be true? When she died recently, I went searching for details of her Vegas show way back then.
She was 40yrs old already – and she was delightfully rude. She and Petula Clark were double-billed at Caesar’s Palace:
Hollywood Reporter – August 1, 1973 – Bravo Sid Gathrid of Caesar’s Palace for giving the summer crowds one of the freshest, brightest and most entertaining bookings of the year in the lady stars Petula Clark and Joan Rivers. Destroying the old hand-me-down Strip myth that two females are artistically incompatible and or have ineffectual drawing power, Pet and Joan’s opening string of standingroom-only crowds found the duo irresistible. There’s a delightful mix-up of interplay of the stars’ talents; Petula does comedy bits and Joan sings! The “raid” on the other’s forte only adds to the evening’s abundance of style, polish and charm.
Color My World / You Are the Sunshine of My Life / Don’t Sleep in the Subway / Beatles medley: Something / Penny Lane / All You Need is Love / You and I (from Goodbye Mr. Chips) / I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love / Your Cheatin’ Heart / You’ve Got a Friend / I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar) / What the World Needs Now / Downtown —————————————- ——————————
I went with wonderful Oklahomans Jim & Katie Patterson, magnificent host family of Apache Oklahoma, and very special lady Dottie Moffett of Ardmore Oklahoma, who had been a Rotary exchange student to Cape Town the year before. Clever Katie saw we were keen on each other and arranged for Dottie to join us!!
I went looking for Dottie, wondering where she was and what she was doing. And found an obituary on the internet!
Dottie Moffett Butler died unexpectedly at her home in San Diego, California on Wednesday 5 July 2006. Dottie was born 8 July 1955 in Daytona Beach Florida. At the age of seven her family moved to Chickasha Oklahoma and then, several years later, moved to Ardmore Oklahoma. Dottie graduated from Ardmore High School where she was active in several student organizations, including the women’s tennis team.
During her junior year she was a Rotary Exchange student to South Africa.
She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and then her master’s degree in psychology from East Central University in Ada Oklahoma. As a psychologist, Dottie was a compassionate and caring counselor whose gift for helping others through difficult times will long be remembered. Dottie is survived by her husband, Dr. Harrison Butler, in San Diego; her mother, Dorothy Moffett McCall, in Durham North Carolina; her sister, Dale Moffett, in Cary North Carolina; two brothers, David Moffett and his wife Mary, Minneapolis Minnesota, and Denny Moffett and his wife Mary, Tulsa Oklahoma, as well as several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her father Dr. J. Denny Moffett Jr.
Condolences to the family may be sent in care of Dorothy McCall (her mother), Durham, NC (note: since deceased – in 2014, aged 88).
Her family suggests contributions in Dottie’s memory be made to The Wilson House, East Dorest Vermont. A remembrance service for Dottie was held July 15, in San Diego. A second service will be held on Saturday, 4 September 2006 on Mt. Desert Island in Maine, where Dottie and others in her family have enjoyed the serenity and peacefulness of Long Pond.
Information provided by Haigh-Black Funeral Home and Cremation Service.
Devastated. Too soon! Dottie was a special lady. I knew her only for a couple years, in Oklahoma and in Cape Town, but she was unforgettable – her big heart, her hearty laugh, and much else – just a special person . . . . . darn!
Here’s Dottie with Jim Patterson of Apache OK in the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico in 1973.
UPDATE July 2020: I have just discovered a bunch of old letters in boxes in the garage; some of them from Dottie! Lovely surprise. I had visited her in Cape Town and she was all confused. Something about a boyfriend. Good thing she didn’t ask for advice – I was pathetic at relationships! She was taking him home to meet her twin sister Dale and her Mom and I think there was some nervous tension.