My Life as a “Wild Indian”

Left: The booming metropolis of Downey, California.   Right: Grandpa Teemley

My Real Memoir

First off, I apologize for the offensive stereotype in the title. It’s not a reference to Native Americans. It’s what my Grandpa Teemley called me almost from the moment I was born. It was a common term of endearment back then for particularly excitable toddlers. In fact, I’m told one time I…

But I digress.

As I said previously, I was born in Whittier, California, home (decades earlier) of Pres. Richard Milhous Nixon. The Milhous family had a long, if somewhat forgotten, history in Whittier. In my late teens, I once discovered an overgrown lot in Whittier full of Milhous gravestones; the original cemetery was apparently now a fast food franchise (which raises rather chilling questions regarding the content of their hamburgers). I considered snatching Nixon’s maternal grandfather’s grave marker as a unique memento. But one doesn’t simply “snatch” a granite headstone.

But I digress. I do that a lot, so henceforth let’s just use the initials “BID.”

Unlike our infamous former president, I didn’t grow up in Whittier, but in nearby Downey, California, a Spanish ranchero founded in 1777, while 3,000 miles away there was some kind of hissy between the east coast colonialists and Great Britain.

Later, Downey famously became the birthplace of the Apollo Space program and home of the oldest still-surviving McDonald’s, as well as the singing duo The Carpenters. Oh, and me. I briefly attended college with The Carpenters when…


While saving up for their first home, my parents lived with Grandma and Grandpa Teemley. I’m told my husky German baker grandfather was the only one who could channel my “wild indian” antics. He did this by tossing me roughly eighty feet up into the air (I may be a little off on the exact number), a precursor to the Apollo Space program, no doubt. I have faint memories of adoring Grandpa’s rocket-Mitch launches more than anything else during those first two years of my life. Perhaps that’s why, for the next decade or so, most of my dreams were about flying straight up into the air.

Oh, yeah, and about that wild indian thing. One morning, right after we’d moved into our first home, I escaped from my crib and out a window while my parents were still asleep. I was dressed, I’m told, in nothing but “warpaint” (Mom’s lipstick, plus—cringe—that-which-shall-not-be-named from my discarded diaper). A neighbor called the police, and they promptly returned me to our new home, holding me at arm’s length, I’m sure.

My parents reinforced my crib.


Nevertheless, one time…


My Real Memoir is a series. To read the next one, click here.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in Humor, Memoir and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to My Life as a “Wild Indian”

  1. They called me a wild Indian, too. Which confused me, because I didn’t look anything like the Native Americans on the western shows my dad liked to watch.

    I just checked the map, and you grew up several hundred miles south of where I lived as an infant and toddler. So I don’t suppose you experienced the strong earthquake that is my first clear memory in life. I had nightmares about that, for years.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      No, I don’t seem to recall any earthquakes that early on, Linda. Only later, after I moved to La Mirada at age 7.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The earthquake that I recall was in the very northernmost part of California. I believe it was a 6.7 or something like that. It woke me up in my crib. Everything was banging, shaking, and rattling. Pictures, lamps, and other items were falling off the walls and off of tabletops and shelves. I heard someone scream outside the apartment. My mother was hysterical.

        Later that day, we drove out and saw where part of the highway had fallen into the sea. I was terrified, I thought my dad was going to drive us right off the broken highway.

        In researching earthquakes in that area, I believe this one happened in December 1954. I wasn’t quite two years old yet.

        Liked by 3 people

      • mitchteemley says:

        Wow, early memory. But then that’s a pretty memorable event for a two-year-old.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I like to think of it as my welcome to the world 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Please digress with stories of the Carpenters.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      In a nutshell: we were in the college choir together. They’d signed with A&M records, but their first album flopped (jazzy and sophisticated stuff unlike their hits-to-come). Then one day they showed up with two recordings A&M was considering as their first single. One was written and sung by Richard. The other was a previously unsuccessful tune by Burt Bacharach, rearranged by Richard and sung by Karen. “Which one should be our single?” they asked us. The choir voted for the second one, “Close to You.” And the rest is history. Or rather, herstory.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Good childhood memories, I would like to know more about stories with the Carpenters too.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Great information about the history of your Birthplace.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I sure wish I could unsee the image of you escaping from your crib and out into the neighborhood.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Gina Cash says:

    What a great diversion from the humdrum of my day! Made me smile and chuckle a time or two!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Tim Harlow says:

    Awesome story! Now I need to know more. Thank you so much for such a fun read.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. revruss1220 says:

    Great story… and artfully told! It really is fun, reliving childhood memories, isn’t it?
    Thanks for that!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Love it! You were your own person from day 1!! 😀

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Very entertaining story!

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Kathleen Ellerman says:

    My daughter’s great grandmother would lovingly refer to her as her “wild pony”. She told me that ” wild ponies grow up to be the best horses”. I don’t refer to my daughter as a good horse, but she hasbecome a truly, wonderful person!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. masercot says:

    My mom would say that we kids were running around like Indians… but, we actually are. Registered with an Oklahoma tribe.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    Wow. You make the rest of us look like angels, Mitch. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. grAnnie Roo says:

    I wonder how close to Rose Hills you’d wandered back then to find the Milouse markers. Turnbull Canyon Rd was my favorite place to blow off steam. Sure, one had to navigate behind Rose Hills, and at night imagination swerved, er, uh served me well to forget my teen troubles for a while. I enjoy revisiting those home town days, The Quad, Whitwood, Bob’s Big Boy and cruising Whittier Blvd (before Thee Midnighters published the song). Great piece Wild One!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Cheryl Burton says:

    I do remember Mom telling me you were a terror. Lol

    Liked by 3 people

  16. da-AL says:

    I live not far from Downey!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: An Imaginary Life | Mitch Teemley

  18. Pingback: Cute? Don’t Let the Picture Fool You! | Mitch Teemley

  19. Pingback: My Real Memoir (Maybe) | Mitch Teemley

  20. Pingback: Alone Again, Naturally | Mitch Teemley

  21. Pingback: My Recurring Nightmare | Mitch Teemley

  22. Pingback: The Day the Movies Came to Me | Mitch Teemley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s