My Story

 My Story by Kathleen Rader Du Houx

A long time ago; far, far away, a little girl was born. Well, maybe not so little, after all she was already 1 foot 9 inches at her birth.

Anyway, this little girl grew up in a loving family with a mom and a dad and a big sister.

She loved to learn, especially about animals, and plants, and rocks and minerals. She was very lucky because she got to spend almost every weekend and a large part of the summer on her grandparents’ farm. She spent hours talking to the chickens and cows. She slopped the hogs and tried to talk to them too.

She also tried to become friends with the 20 or 30 feral cats that were usually around. They would come when she came out to feed them, but if she tried to pick them up they would scratch her to pieces.

She loved to take long walks in the fields, back to the woods, or up the gravel road that ran in front of the farm. Her grandmother taught her the name of many plants.

She also loved to spend hours sitting in the gravel driveway, looking for pretty rocks. She especially liked the perfectly rounded white ones.

In the summer she and her cousins would catch tadpoles and raise them into toads. There were plenty of flies around to feed their toads; after all it was a farm with all kinds of animals. In the evenings, they would catch fire flies. Sometimes they would put caterpillars in jars to watch them build their cocoon.

She and her family would sit on the porch swing and talk to the bobwhites and other birds.

At night, the sky was full of stars.

She grew up with a deep love of nature and science.

She also liked to read. In the summer, her favorite place to read was sitting backwards on her pony Abner, with her book propped against his rump. She would tie him up in the front yard of her grandmother’s house. Abner would graze on the grass, and she would read.

This girl was very tall. She was three feet tall by the time she was three. Because she was so tall, everyone thought that she was older than she was. They started asking her to play the part of teacher in their pretend schools, even before she was old enough to go to school. Everyone thought that she made an excellent teacher. As she got older, and in school herself, she began to hold a play school in her basement. She taught all of the neighborhood kids about science. It was a lot of fun.

When she was in 4th grade, she decided that she would be a geologist when she grew up. Santa heard her desire and brought her a geology lab for Christmas. Her grown cousin had just finished several classes in geology at his college. He took her on some collecting trips and gave her all of his rocks and minerals he had collected during his classes. In the summer, she took a class on fossils at 4-H camp. She loved geology.

When she was in 8th grade, she had a Language Arts assignment to write letters and find out about different jobs. Since she knew that she wanted to be a geologist, she wrote to companies that hired geologists. They all wrote back that women could teach or do lab work, but that they could not be geologist. (Remember this was a long time ago, long before women were given the chance to prove that they could do almost everything that men could do).

These responses made her very angry. She was determined that she would be a geologist.

To reach her goal, she put a lot of effort into her studies. She usually had straight A’s, and still had time for other things. She played the piano, read, was in Campfire and 4-H, youth group at church, and belonged to many clubs at school.

She liked to participate in plays at school. Because she was so tall, she usually got to help make the scenery for plays, but was only given small parts to act out. She even made the newspaper once with one of the signs she had helped make for the play Guys and Dolls.

She did not participate in sports, girls did not have much opportunity to play in sports back then, only boys got to play on teams. She didn’t care, she was too busy riding her horse and her bike, she didn’t need to be on a sports team.

In high school, she decided to take an opportunity that was presented to her. Most students look forward to their senior year, she chose to become an exchange student and spend her senior year in another country. She thought her language skills were pretty good since she had studied Spanish for five years and Latin for two years in junior high and high school.

Lots of countries speak Spanish; and Latin is the basis for Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese, so she figured that she should be able to learn any of those languages easily. She assumed they would send her to a country that spoke Spanish or a Romance (Latin) language. They sent her to Germany.

They don’t speak much Spanish or Latin in Germany, they mostly speak German, so she had to learn German. She went to a German high school called a gymnasium six days a week. She studied English, German, Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Calculus, History, Geography, and Religion. On her days off from school, she enjoyed having picnics on the Rhine River with friends. (This was back in the hippy days, people dressed different back then).

After a year in Germany, she came back home to the US to find that her mother had bought a bunch of toilet paper and had invited all her friends to TP her house. Her mom had called the cops too, to let them know that the kids had permission to TP the house. Her house had lots of very big trees; it took weeks for all of the toilet paper to blow down. She had to collect toilet paper from up and down the street for a long time.

After learning to speak English (actually American) again, she was off to college to study geology. She took all of the science classes that she could and a lot of math too. She worked in the geology department, first as a student assistant in geology labs, then as a tech to some of the professors, and finally as the rock preparatory room technician, where she got to use lots of machines to saw, slab, crush, pulverize, sieve and polish all kinds of rocks. She did research and wrote a senior thesis on “A Petrographic Analysis of Hydrothermal Alterations in the Pierre Shale from Breckenridge Colorado”.

She spent a summer learning to map, by being out in the field and walking all over the plateaus, mountains and valleys of central Utah. She was in the field from about 7 am until 6 pm, six days a week, and had to work on the copy of her final map at night, based on what she had found out during her field work each day. She graduated, with a bachelors of science in geology. She could now say that she was a geologist.

Very few people in her family had ever gone to college. They were all farmers and factory workers. Going to college was a big deal in her family. But she always liked to do things differently from the rest. She didn’t think that a BS was enough. She wanted to learn even more about the Earth. So her parents and friends helped her pack her stuff in a rental truck, and she and her cat Herman, moved to Texas to go to graduate school.

While at UT, she took lots of geology classes and had several opportunities to go on field trips. She also taught geology labs for introductory classes and mineralogy classes. She was very good at teaching, but was given an opportunity to do research instead, so she quit teaching and started staring down a microscope, looking at thin sections of rocks.

She liked this type of work. She had done some of this work as an undergraduate and wanted to use these skills for her master’s thesis. She started a project, but the company that was to furnish her samples was having problems getting them for her. The man she was dating at the time was graduating and had gotten a job in Denver. He invited her to join him, so they moved to Denver. Oh yes, Herman the cat got to move again too.

In Denver she worked for several oil and gas exploration companies. Her boyfriend had asked her to marry him just before they moved to Denver. They decided that since none of their family lived in Colorado, and they were just out of college and broke, that it would be cheaper to just get married at the courthouse. She never was one to do things the way others do. Instead of a wedding dress, she wore a red suit. After all, they were getting married during lunch, you just can’t show up at the office in a wedding dress and expect to get any work done.

She went back to school at CU and took more geology classes. She was still working as a geologist too. She did research and wrote a thesis, the title of which is “Petrographic and Subsurface Analysis of Pennsylvanian Morrow Sandstones of Southwest Kansas”.

She also gave birth to a baby boy. She spent time feeding, and playing, and changing diapers, all the things mothers are expected to do. They were a happy family.

She wanted her son to know his extended family and to learn about nature. They took lots of trips to see relatives. Her mother had moved to Florida, so they would go to visit her and the beach. I think they really went to go to the beach.

They also went on several trips to her grandmother’s farm. Her son got a chance to learn to talk to cows and slop hogs and try to catch feral cats.

She also took him camping a lot in the mountains. He learned to love nature and science.

The oil and gas business had had problems for years; there was no more work for geologists. She needed to find some type of job to do, so she thought she should try teaching. She knew that she liked teaching and that she was pretty good at it, so she went to college to take classes that would allow her to get her teaching license. She was assigned to Campus Middle School to do her student teaching. Unfortunately, her husband decided that he did not want to be married anymore and moved away. While she was student teaching, her son got the chicken pox. She had no one to stay with her sick son, so she had to drop out of her student teaching for a while.

It was now almost the end of the school year; she had to find a job to support herself, her son and their two cats, Greg and Gus. She was talking to a friend who mentioned that Gates Rubber was looking for a college student to work in the Synchronous Belt Test Lab for the summer. Technically she was a college student. She didn’t know anything about timing belts, but she needed a job. She went to the interview. The lab was the size of a football field and was full of very loud machinery. You had to wear eye protection and ear protection when in the lab. The lab was also very hot, lots of motors running meant lots of heat was being generated. She was scared to death, but she needed a job, so she did not let them know her true feelings. They hired her. She didn’t know what she had gotten herself into, but it paid pretty well, and she needed money.

They gave her a blue lab coat with her name on it. She had to have earplugs that were molded to fit the inside of her ears. She had to cut her hair short so that it would not get caught in machinery. She was assigned a toolbox. A big toolbox, that was about as wide as a student desk but twice as long. It was on wheels, and had several drawers full of tools, many of which she had never seen before. She learned to love this job!! It was so noisy, that you could sing at the top of your lungs, and no one could hear you. It used science, physics to be exact. This was an area of science that she did not have much experience with. She learned all kinds of neat stuff and got to sing all day long.

In the fall, she did her student teaching at Powell Middle School in Littleton. Since she was in the middle of a divorce, she decided that she needed some time before she looked for a teaching job. Gates Rubber hired her back on contract. She could do science and sing all day long again.

After a year and a half she was ready to get a teaching job. She had pretty much finished the projects she was working on at Gates, so she left and got a job at the Littleton YMCA summer day camp. She was in charge of 50 – 60 campers, aged 9-12 from about 8 am until 4 pm everyday. She did not have to handle this many kids by herself; she had a staff of high school students that helped her. She spend the summer going on field trips, doing crafts, swimming, hiking, just having fun outside with lots of kids.

In the fall she started teaching 7th grade at Flood Middle School. She taught science, math and social studies at Flood for seven years. She had some wonderful partners and coworkers who were just as crazy as she was.

While at Flood, she took advantage of opportunities that were presented to her. She got to take a two week class at Steamboat Springs for free and was given the chance to develop a unit on Africa, which she not only used with her students, but also taught to other teachers.

At a teacher convention she was presenting her Africa unit at, she found out about a group that was going to take teachers to China. She got involved with them, and even got to go to China with them, and they paid for most of the trip. You may have seen the pictures of her eating bugs while she was there.

After seven years at Flood, her mother got very sick. She quit her job at Flood and ended up taking three trips to Florida to see her mother and handle her mother’s memorial service and other matters after her mother died. Her grandmother in Ohio also got sick and died at about this time, so she also traveled to Ohio.

She was ready to go back to work by early November, but she was not yet ready to return to the classroom. She got a job for the holidays as a portrait photographer at Sears. Another adventure, she was glad when Christmas Eve finally came, and her career as a photographer at Sears was over. She then did commercial cleaning, followed by another microscope job. She got laid off from that and ended up doing administrative assistant work. She had to pay her bills, so she took what jobs she could find.

She then got hired by a great school in Cherry Creek. She was now teaching 6th grade science and math, with the best students she had ever had and a wonderful teaching partner. Unfortunately, her mother’s death had taken more out of her then she realized. She had a great time with her students at school, but had no energy left for anything else when she got home. She was not as young as she used to be.

She was approached by a former employer who asked if she would be interested in working there again, in a different type of position. She loved her students, but she needed to have a job that did not demand so much of her energy. She talked it over with the former employer, her best friend, and her teaching partner. She decided to take the job. She knew that leaving these wonderful students would be difficult, but her life had taught her to take advantage of opportunities when they were presented to her.

She worked at the language translation company as an office manager for several years.  In her spare time, she learned to do hand drumming, and even made some of her own drums.

She attended the Dances of Universal Peace every Wednesday night, and helped with the set up crew for over a year.  She went on Peace Dance retreats with dancers from all over the country. 

At a drum circle, she met a very nice man.  They started dating, and eventually got married.  That is why her last name is now Du Houx.

In 2004, she got laid off from the language translation company.  She had been thinking she was ready to get back to the classroom, so her job loss helped her take the step back into teaching.  The school year had already begun, but she was very lucky that Slavens had a science position open – and she is very grateful that she teaches at this wonderful school.  She is very grateful to have such supportive parents and wonderful students to teach – students who come to school to learn.

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