Ponysboy: The Early Years

I’ve spent a lot of time doing research on Rick Wood; spent a lot of time reading about a person as if he's a character for a project - which in reality he is. But, I don't really know who Rick Wood was, I’m relying people’s stories and a lot of paperwork and raw information. 

I have to believe that he didn’t start out being a bad guy, intent on a life of child abandonment and husbandly desertion…or should I? 

My grandfather, Richard Emory Wood, Sr., was married three times. His first wife, Esther, my grandmother, and he were married when they were 16 years old. It was rural Kansas, in 1927, and they were having a baby. Richard Emory, Jr. arrived two days after the fourth of July, and was the first of their four children. Family number one lasted until 1939 with the birth of the last child, my Aunt Barbara Jane. 

By late 1939 Richard Sr., had abandoned his first family and was on to the second. Meanwhile in Kansas 1940 was a busy year for Esther. With the ink barely dry on her divorce decree or her marriage license, a newly re-married Esther Wood-White was having her first child with second husband, Truman White, Jr. 

With a new husband and another new child, Esther had to make room and which meant sending her two oldest, Richard and Virginia to New Jersey to live with an uncle on their father’s side. Esther and Truman had more two more children in 1942 and 1943, before his untimely death in 1947.

Rick enlisted in the Army in 1948 while still in New Jersey. His military records show that he sent 100% of his pay home to his mother who now had five children to care for. It was due to this hardship that Rick got just that, a hardship discharge just one year and six months into his contract.  Esther wrote a letter to the Army explaining that Rick could be making more money if he weren’t enlisted. In fact, as I went through his military records I found in three different places where Rick had listed his civilian pay and each time his salary grew higher; first 40, then 50 and finally 60 dollars.  

At that time Esther was receiving $118.25 a month as a widow, in addition to the $37 that Rick was having sent to her, and it just wasn’t enough. So, on September 19, 1949, he was a free man…and then he re-enlisted on March 17, 1950.