Friday, July 21, 2017

It's Too Darn Hot


The heat is getting to me. Even though I am inside most of the time with the air conditioning I feel wilted. I think it is a good time for me to take some time away from blogging. I will repost some of my older posts. I hope you enjoy them.


Landholder


Great-grandpa, father of my grandfather, owned several farms and almost all of town. He wanted to have a farm to leave each of his sons. It turned out that he also left each of them a business in town.

You might think he was wealthy. Not so. My great-grandfather got his holdings in an unscrupulous way. He traded whiskey to the Native Americans for their land. It was not ethical but at that time it was legal.

My grandfather inherited a farm and I believe the assay office. He eventually sold the assay office because it was not his area of expertise. He lived on the farm and raised his family there until he decided the grass was greener in Oklahoma.

The only great-uncle that I knew still had his farm and house when I was a child. I would not know how to find the farm now but if the house is still there I'm sure that it now has indoor plumbing and electricity.

His house in town is still there and looks exactly the same as it did then. I saw it a couple of years ago.

Another great-uncle is listed on a monument in front of the City Hall. He died of illness during World War I and was listed with the war dead.

Great-grandpa did not feel the need to supply the same inheritance to his daughters. I guess he felt that when they married their husbands would provide for their needs.

None of the land or businesses are owned by family any more. I can only imagine what all that land would be worth today. I could be independently wealthy, for goodness sake.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Staying Strong


When I talked to my sister the other day I was left feeling sad. As you know she had a stroke a couple of years ago. She has been in a nursing home for several months now. She hates it but realizes that it is the best option.

She is still undergoing physical therapy. She wants desperately to be able to sit up and eventually walk. After such a long time that does not seem likely.

At least her mind and speech have returned. We have nice conversations about our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We catch up on news about other family members. We talk of memories of our childhoods.

We were talking about making mulberry wine this time. Our grandparents had several mulberry trees on their farm. We would pick as many as we could.

Then we squeezed part of them into glasses of water to make our "wine'. The rest of the mulberries were in small containers. We ate the berries and drank the wine. They were fabulously glamorous tea parties for the sophisticates we pretended to be.

Somehow the conversation turned to longevity of life. I have already lived a longer life than either of my parents. My sister is getting close to the same.

I mentioned that I plan on living to at least the age of 81 years. I have always wanted to be one of those crotchety old women who say exactly what they are thinking. 81 seems to be the age I would be able to do that.

My sister told me she would hold me to that.  Then she said that she had the feeling she would not be here much longer.

I asked her why she felt that way. Is there something someone has said? No. It is simply a feeling she has.

I was taken aback. I worry that she will give up. Her life is so difficult right now.

Her husband and son love her. Each visits her every day. My nephew told me she is doing well but sometimes she has bad days.

She also has a new roommate. The woman has dementia and is often delirious. She wakes up screaming all through the day and night so my sister is not getting much sleep.

Her husband is working to get her another roommate. I hope when she gets adequate sleep she will feel more positive.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A Love Story



My aunt was dating my uncle. No, silly, they were not brother and sister. My uncle's older brother had just returned from serving in the Navy during World War II. My uncle wanted to show his brother a good time so he asked his girlfriend, my aunt, if she had a friend they could double date with. My aunt's best friend was her sister who agreed to the blind date.

The brother was a good-looking young man of 20. He was glad to be home after the horrors of war. He had an outgoing personality. People liked him immediately upon meeting him.

The sister was beautiful. At the age of 17 she had just graduated from high school at the very top of her class. She was shy but confident.

The two hit it off immediately and began to see each other regularly. My aunt and uncle eventually went their own ways and married other people. The brother and sister married each other and had a long and happy marriage. You have already guessed that the brother and sister are my parents.

My father worked as a truck driver for a time. As was the custom at that time my mother stayed home and took care of domestic things.

For their honeymoon they actually spent some time at my mother's family's farm. One day as an activity they decided to go hunting. I'll never know why because shooting was not something that interested Mom. It must have been love.

Anyway off they went. Mom had a shotgun, I don't know what kind of gun Daddy used. They had been gone for several hours before they came back. Daddy was carrying Mom. Somehow she had shot her self in the foot. She was not seriously injured but I can remember seeing her through the years picking a little BB of shot that would surface from her foot every once in a while.

Daddy was a sports fan. Again because she loved him Mom would watch or listen to and sometimes even attend a game. She soon because as avid a fan as he was. When we were older and had families of our own Mom would say, "You are welcome to come over for New Years Day (or most other holidays). I'll be cooking and there will be plenty to eat. Just don't get between me and the television while I'm watching football."

Daddy on the other hand never really understood why we did not live at home when we started our own families. He said there was plenty of room. He really did not understand it.

My parents had seven children. There were also 6 pregnancies that did not make it to term. Can you imagine a family of 13 of us?  I was the first. One year later came a brother, next year another brother, two years went by before I had my first sister. After another two years came another brother.

My youngest brother was getting ready to start school and was worried about who would take care of his mother while he was at school. My parents took care of that by giving us another sister. Then five years later our youngest brother was born. There are fifteen years between me and my youngest brother.

When my father came home from war he brought a kimono for his wife and a kimono for his daughter. He did not know about either of us at the time. He wanted a little girl and I was it. You can only imagine how special I have always felt because I was truly the twinkle in my father's eye.

Our parents loved us. there was never a doubt for any of us We didn't have a lot of things. Money was scarce. But time was spent with us and we always knew it was because they wanted to not because they had to.

A short time after my father died I dreamed that he came in the door at 4:00 like he did every afternoon. Only this time he had been gone for a long time. He was carrying a ditty bag like sailors carry.  I was so happy to see him that I threw my arms around his neck and held on for dear life. Everyone else in the family was looking on with their mouths open in shock.

All except Mom. She stood and stared for a while then she walked over and examined his neck (that I still had a lock on). She backed up to the wall, crossed her arms, and said, " I hope you know I spent all thst money." She was talking about his life insurance.

Of course she had not spent it all but that was my mom. She was practical and Daddy was more impulsive.

I was a little hesitant about telling Mom about my dream but I told her. She started to laugh. It turned out that she had dreamed about him recently too. He had come back and all she could think about was how she was going to repay what money she had spent for his funeral.

I hope you can understand what good parents I had and how lucky I was that I was their daughter. I used to hear my friends complain about how terrible their parents were. I truly never felt that way.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Aunt Tony


I briefly met two of my husband's aunts and and an uncle on his father's side. I did not know them enough to be able to write about them. Most of the aunts and uncles on his mother's side were gone by then so I did not know them either.

Then there was Aunt Tony. She was Mom's older sister. Mom was the baby of her family. Tony was a nickname but that is how we all knew her so I will not bother with her real name.

Aunt Tony was a real character. From what I have been told she and her husband Jack loved to fish. Their usual companions were another aunt and uncle. My sister-in-law has told that they were all very close but on several occasions Aunt Tony and the other aunt would get into physical fights. I can almost picture them rolling around and pulling each other's hair.

They always made up immediately and were best friends again. I have many photos of them showing off the catch of the day.

Aunt Tony had no children. I heard a rumor that she had a baby out of wedlock way way back in time. If it is true she gave it up for adoption. But it could just be a rumor too. I do not know.

Aunt Tony married Jack. I believe he had children from a previous marriage but I never met them. He was not liked by many in the family. I did not know him well. He died shortly after my husband and I married.

Aunt Tony worked at the same factory as my sister-in-law Shirley. They were both hard workers and highly thought of.

Jack did not have an outside job. With Aunt Tony's earnings he purchased three apartments buildings. They were all in a row. Jack and Tony lived in the first floor of the first building. He saw to all repairs and managed the tenants.

Family hated that Jack was a huge baseball fan and attended the World Series every year. He saved all his tickets, score books, and signed baseballs from each one..When he died each nephew was given a signed baseball from the collection.

That was also the year Aunt Tony gave each family a nice 8x10 picture of the two of them as a Christmas gift. I still have it. It is a good picture. Some people were offended by it. I think she loved him so much and wanted the rest of us to feel the same way. It was a piece of herself she gave. I appreciate her for it.

She liked to cook and to entertain. Several times she invited us newly-weds for a meal. We would sit in the kitchen and talk to her as she cooked. She was good company.

Aunt Tony also liked to drink. As far as I know it was only beer but she often overdid. Mom often clucked her tongue and said things about Aunt Tony "high stepping" when she walked. Mom did not approve of drinking. Too many of her family died as the result of alcohol.

We went back to visit one year when our two oldest sons were very little. Of course we went to visit Aunt Tony. She proudly gave them each a quarter. My husband looked at the boys and said, "Now what do you say?" My oldest son looked at her and said, "Where is my penny?" She laughed and went to get them each a penny too.

Aunt Tony was generous. Her husband had been frugal with her money and invested it well. She was careful about spending because that was her habit. But she liked to buy things for others.

Once my husband and I were visiting from the big city. She invited us in for the afternoon.

When we got to her house she insisted we walk downtown with her. She bought several small items for us. None were expensive and she chose them. She also chose cowboy hats for us. They were the most costly of her purchases.

Aunt Tony had been keeping company with a nice man. She cared a great deal about him. She was telling us at that visit that he was taking a driving trip through Colorado and Wyoming. If she paid her own expenses he wanted her to go with him.

She was agonizing about whether to spend the money. I finally told her that she should go if she wanted to. That is what her money was for... to enjoy her retirement.

She decided in the end not to go. She was worried about spending the money. He went alone.

Two weeks after he came home he died of a heart attack. I think the lesson is to take your opportunities when you can. She could have had memories of the trip with a man she cared about.

Aunt Tony died. She still had the apartments but they had run down a bit. There were all sorts of treasures found in her attic when they went through her things. My mother-in-law was her beneficiary.

The buildings were sold and are still being lived in. She was a giving and loving woman.


Friday, July 7, 2017

The Great Hunter


Isabella is our dog. She is getting older and has a tough time getting around but she still fancies herself to be a great hunter.

When I first moved here my son and Isabella had been here for quite some time. Even though we live in an extremely small town we keep her on a chain outside. It is for her own safety. She likes to chase (after a fashion) cars. She does not have the sense to stay far away from them.

In the back yard she has a shorter tether. It keeps her from running into the neighbor's yard. He is a little afraid of her even though she is mostly bark.

My son likes to tell the story of her chasing a cat.

There are feral cats all over town. I see fewer here than when I first moved. That is probaly because of Bella.

My son had fastened her collar to the chain in the back yard and he was talking to the neighbor. One of those feral cats sauntered into the yard. Bella took off after it barking and snarling as she ran. The cat was running for its life.

The cat ran at its top speed. Bella was fast on its tail. The cat ran. Bella ran. Then she came to the end of her chain. Just like the dog in the cartoons Bella abruptly jerked to a stop. She flew into the air with her legs still trying to run. She landed hard on her back as my son and the neighbor laughed.

In the front yard there is a cable that my husband strung between two trees. They are the length of the yard. There is a small chain that slides along the cable that we attach to Bella's collar. She can run the length and width of the yard freely.

She likes to argue with the squirrels that climb around in the trees and they like to argue with her. We often hear the barking and chattering until we make her come inside because we cannot stand to listen any longer.

When I was new here Isabella liked to chase birds too. We had to keep a close eye out because she would catch them and kill them if she had the chance.

We were watching the baseball game one evening and heard an awful scream. She had caught a bird and it was screaming in fear and pain. My son tried to get it away from her but she finally put it out of its misery.

But she is older now and her legs do not work well. Some days it is all she can do to climb the steps to get into the house. No more bird catching... or so we thought.

The other day my son heard a bunch of chattering out front where Bella was. Thinking the squirrels might take advantage of her condition he went to check on her.

There were no squirrels. Odd. But there was a goldfinch raising all kinds of a ruckus.

My son looked again at the dog and saw that there was a female goldfinch in her mouth. After she let go of it we gave it a proper send-off.

The thing is that she does not eat them; She just enjoys the chase.

She knows she is not supposed to. It is almost comical the way she slinks into the house. Of course my son yells a bit at her to make her let go of the bird but otherwise we recognize that she is an animal with animal instincts. But if you could see her looking so guilty you would have to laugh too.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Fourth Of July


Before you enjoy your barbecue and fireworks take some time to remember what we are celebrating. And remember all the men and women who have served to preserve the freedoms all through the years. We are grateful.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Mary

Mary is the only sister of my husband who is still living. She is 12 years older than I am.

Mary is still extremely active. She walks every day. Until recently she was working part time for something to do with her time. She volunteers for several places. She helps clean and shop for an older woman from her church. There is no way I could keep up with her.

When I married my husband Mary and her husband had three small children. We used to go to their house often to play cards. It was a good time for all of us.

One night while we were playing cards the conversation turned to cars. My husband liked his Fords and my brother-in-law swore by his Chevrolets.

The conversation became more adamant as time went on. Finally my husband said, "Okay. You go out and drain all the oil from your Chevy and I will drain all the oil from my Ford. Then we will drive until one of the motors blows up. That will show which car is best."

Thankfully my brother-in-law had sense enough to just chuckle. I suggested it was time for us to go home.

As Mary walked us to the door we all smelled smoke. It seemed to be close. Mary laughed and told my husband that his car must be on fire. We all laughed. She closed the door and we went to the car.

We opened the doors and saw that the front seat consisted of nothing but charred springs. Apparently a cigarette had started the fire. Fortunately it was winter and the windows were rolled tight. That allowed the oxygen to all be used up and the fire went out. Lucky for us?

My husband replaced the seat the following day but it took a long time to get rid of the smell.

Mary is a wonderful cook. I loved being invited for dinner. My favorite was called taverns. In this part of the country taverns are a loose meat hamburger. They were invented in a bar here many years ago. They are the loose meat burgers they featured on the old Roseanne show.

Mary and her husband took dancing lessons and went dancing often. Her husband died suddenly around the same time Mary's father and two sisters died. It was a hard time for her.

It has been many years since he died and Mary does love to dance. There is a friend of theirs who is widowed and he escorts her to dances. They have a good time together.

Mary also kept her husband's 1953 Chevy. It was a show car and they enjoyed the shows together. She still shows it several times each summer.

All of Mary's children live fairly close by. Most of her grandchildren are also close. She has a beautiful family.

I recently told you about her falling and breaking a vertebra in her neck. She is finally able to rid herself of the collar she had to wear all day and all night.

Mary's kitchen was one of those large old kitchens. It even had a little nook with a window that overlooked the backyard. Once she decorated it in pink and white checks. It was very nice.

After her husband died Mary decided she no longer needed such a big house. She sold it and bought a newer home clear across town. As she always does she made it cozy and welcoming.

Last winter the woman she helps from church wanted to go to Texas for the winter. She told Mary she would pay all the expenses if she would go along to help her get around. Mary jumpad at the chance. She had a wonderful time sightseeing and enjoying a warm winter.

It is so nice having Mary close by. In half an hour we can visit each other or meet for a meal at a restaurant. That is when she has time.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Shirley


Shirley is the second of my husband's sisters. Shirley was the fun and fun one.

Shirley never married. Mom told me she used to date often but when her younger sister married she just stopped. She never moved away from the farm.

We sometimes called her Shird. I am guessing that one of the little brothers could not say Shirley and said Sjirdy instead. Over time it was shortened to Shird.

Shirley bought a mobile home and parked it across the driveway from the house on the farm. It was large enough for her to have people who came for visits to have plenty of room to sleep. She also had an indoor bathroom which for many years the house did not.

Shirley liked pretty things. She had many little glass figurines that she picked up here and there. Cats were her favorite.

I remember going with her one time to the store. She found a lovely figurine of a woman in old-fashioned clothing with a parasol. When she looked at the price she decided it cost too much. She told me, "Watch this."

She hit the edge of the shelf with the bottom of the figurine. A chip came off. Then she went to the manager of the department who gave her a hefty discount. She happily bought her little chipped lady and displayed her proudly.

Shirley liked going to "the rummages". That is what they called the second-hand stores. She knew the best days to go to each and every one. Those were the days they put out new merchandise or had bag sales. Her Saturdays were spent happily browsing the rummages. She did not always buy anything but she enjoyed looking.

Shirley loved her nieces and nephews and they loved her as much. When anyone came to the farm on vacation the first thing Shirley would do is pile the children into the car and off they went. She would show them the sights of the area. Or if they were old enough she might take them to the rummages.

She made sure there were treats in the kitchen for them too. Most of the time those kinds of things were not kept on the farm because they were considered to be a frivolous and unnecessary expense.

Shirley was a hard worker. She went to work in a factory that mad tire patches and other rubber items. When my parents-in-law and Shirley would come to the big city on vacation she always brought a bag of patches and glue so the kids could repair the inner tubes of their bike tires.

As a matter of fact when I moved back to this area I was walking to get into my car to go somewhere when I saw something on the pathway. It was one of Shirley's tire patches. She had never been here and to my knowledge none of the children had any patches left.

I picked it up. It fits perfectly into the cup holder by my seat in the car. It has been there ever since.

Once when we went back to visit the farm for a vacation Dad's dog had puppies.  At the time we only had the two older boys. So each was getting one of the puppies as a pet.

Shirley was running to town to pick up something for supper. As she was backing out of the driveway she watched carefully for children. She watched the children so carefully that she did not notice my oldest son's puppy as it ran behind the car. She ran over it.

She was a lover of all animals especially dogs and was as hurt by it as my son was. Of course there was a glorious funeral and we went home with one puppy for the boys to share. For years whenever my son was with her my son would ask, "Shirley, why did you run over my dog?"

Shirley worked at the patch factory until she decided to retire. She enjoyed her retirement. She was free to do as she wished. What she wished was to stay on the farm and help her parents. After Dad died she was there to take care of Mom.

Then the doctor discovered stomach cancer. It was advanced and the was not too much they could do for her. Mom had to watch another child die.

The man who bought their farm finally tore down Shirley's trailer last year. I was hard to drive by and see it coming down pieces at a time.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pat


Pat was my eldest sister-in-law. She was so pretty and very efficient about everything she did. She was a take charge type of person who liked things done her way even if she had to do it all to get it that way.

I first met Pat shortly before my husband and I married. She immediately took us into the kitchen. I felt at home.

Margaret was her real name. Where the Pat came in I have no idea but that is how she was known.

Pat was the mothering type. You felt safe and cared for when you were with her. Her home was usually being remodeled in some form or another. Yet it was always welcoming and comfortable.

One time we went to visit and she was re-doing all the woodwork in the house. She had an appliance that heated the paint on the wood so that it bubbled and was easier to scrape of to prepare it for refinishing.

Paint was her friend. Once she painted her kitchen in colors I had been taught were not to be used in a kitchen. It was all oranges, browns, and yellows. It is probably the most beautiful kitchen I have ever seen. The warm colors did not make me feel overly warm as I had been told they would.

Pat's husband was a short man who tended toward being overweight. Pat was a statuesque woman so sometimes they looked mismatched. From what I understand they had a turbulent marriage but I did not see it.

They had four children. The oldest was a girl who was older than three of her uncles. My husband was one of those uncles. She was only 9 months older than I was so we became good friends. She was married with a baby boy at the time.

Then there were three boys who were several years younger than their sister. They were in grade school and junior high then. They were fussy eaters as many of the family are. For instance when Pat made meatloaf she made three different loaves. One of the boys did not like onions so she made him one wit no onions. One liked cheese on top so she made one with cheese. I cannot remember the difference in the third one. I would have rotated the kind I made at any one time and whoever did not like it could make a peanut butter sandwich.

My husband and I moved to the big city. Sometime after that Pat and her husband divorced.

She decided to move to Washington state.All her children including my niece who was also divorced now moved with her.

My niece remarried and had a few more children. The boys grew up and had relationships of their own Washington was good for them. My niece recently died but my nephews are all doing well.

Pat also remarried. Her husband was a nice man who had children of his own from a previous relationship. He took good care of everyone.

When my mother-in-law became older Pat and her husband moved back here. Mom deeded Pat one acre of the farm. They put a nice house there. They were a great help by checking on Mom and keeping things in decent repair.

Pat was diagnosed with brain cancer. She and her husband had divorced. His other family needed him at home. They felt it was the easiest solution.

It was a hard time for my mother-in-law. Both of her daughters who lived on the farm died within a few months of each other. The husband of another of her daughters died in that time too.

Pat's children came to take their mother home after her death. They sold the house to someone else.

Pat lived a full life. There were glitches here and there but I believe that it was mostly the life she wanted to live.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Uncle Mickey


Mickey is the final uncle. His real name is Michael. I told you we managed to nickname all of them.

Mickey is barely 3 years older than me. As a matter of fact for four days each year he is only two years older. I was born four days before his third birthday.There are two cousins older than I am and one of them is actually older than our uncle.

We pretty much grew up together. Until I began having little lefties of my own Mickey and I were the only left-handed people in the family. In the 50's left-handed baseball gloves were hard to find and a bit more expensive. Mickey got one as a gift. If we were picked to opposite teams we each used his glove to play baseball.

Mickey was not as "into" all sports as Keith and Donnie. Baseball was what he played. He liked watching them all on television when he was older though.

So Mickey was often with us when we played. We went exploring together, played hide-and-seek and kick-the-can together, and caught snakes together.

I remember one Christmas when we went to the farm to visit after opening our presents from Santa Claus. I rushed in to ask Mickey what Santa gave him. He told me he was too old for that. I was really confused. How could he be too old? He was my age.

Mickey married a very nice young woman. They had two sons. Both were diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. So was his wife. The boys were poster children for the Jerry Lewis campaign in their state one year.

Then Mickey was in a terrible car accident. His legs were both severely injured and the doctors were not sure if he would be able to walk again. He does walk but it is not easy and he uses canes to help support himself.

His wife suffered terribly and eventually died from her disease. The boys were teenagers and had been living in a facility that helped them learn to function on their own. They both did well even though they were not on the same level developmentally.

His younger son died many years ago. Complications of his disease. The older one died about two years ago. Again complications of that horrible disease.

My uncle remarried about 15 years ago. His wife is really sweet. She cares so much about him.

For a while Mickey worked in the stands at the Cornhusker football games. It gave him a chance to be among people and sort of watch the games.

For the past few years he has been battling cancer. It is a rough fight. So far he is ahead.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Uncle Donnie


Again since I never called my mother's brothers "Uncle" I will just refer to him as Donnie. His given name was Donald. My grandmother hated nicknames. "Why give a child a name and call them something else?" We managed nicknames for most of her children.

Donnie was born on Christmas Eve. He had two teeth at birth. They fell out at the normal time so they were real teeth.

He was active even as a baby. Before he was old enough to be able to roll over (supposedly) he managed to roll himself out of bed and broke his arm.

When Donnie learned to walk he also learned to run. He was a fast runner and liked to race his brothers and sisters. He always won. They stopped racing him because they always lost. Finally he agreed to run on his hands and feet instead of upright. He still won.

Donnie was a trial to Grandma. They were farmers and the boys were needed to help with the farming. Donnie did not like to get up in the morning. This was especially true when he had been out the night before and had too many beers. He was not old enough to drink but he did it anyway.

Grandma would be so frustrated at trying to get him out of bed.

They had no electricity or running water on the farm. If we stayed up past dark we used light given off by kerosene lamps. Water came from the pump outside. Grandma kept warm water in the well of the wood cooking stove. And there was always a cold pail of water with a dipper for drinking.

As a last resort when Donnie would refuse to get out of bed Grandma would take a dipper full of cold water and dump it on his head. He got up.

Donnie was good looking too. He always had his pick of the girls. Of course it helped that he excelled in sports. He played football and basketball as well as track.

In track he participated in all the running events. Relay, hurdles and all the different meter classifications. Remember he was fast.

We liked to go to the track meets he was in. He would run like crazy, win, and then lay down on the grass. Often he was hungover but he won anyway. Then off to the next race. He was fast.

He set many records for speed in the state. This was in the 1950's. The last of his records was finally broken around 1990.

After all the cows were milked all the buckets of milk were taken to the kitchen. They were poured into the separator to sparate most of the cream from the milk. Cream was worth more than just milk. Sometimes we would catch a bit on a slice of bread and sprinkle sugar on it. Yum.

One day I had been aggravating Donnie. Something I did made him really mad. I ran into the kitchen for the safety of Grandma's watchful eye.

Donnie slammed into the kitchen with murder in his eyes. I knew Grandma would not be able to stop him. I backed away from him with my hands in a gesture to hold him back. My legs bumped into something and I suddenly sat down... right into a full pail of milk.

Of course the milk had to be given to the hogs because it was contaminated. It is the only time I can remember seeing Grandpa mad and he was mad at me. And just as mad at Donnie.

I do not think Donnie shared Grandpa's love for horses. If he could get out of going to bring in the cows for milking he would. If it was raining or if he could get someone to agree he would take the Model A Ford Grandpa had. Then we could ride with him to get the cattle.

As with everything else he went fast. When he would go around the corners of the dogleg leading to the pasture he went fast. Often coming back when he would take those corners he did it on two wheels. We loved it. I would hurt him now if he was doing that with my children in the car..

When my Uncle Raymond was married Donnie was his best man. He had more than enough to drink at the reception. He danced and drank the night away. Finally Grandma made Grandpa gather him up and take him home.

Donnie married a very pretty girl with the same name as Raymond's wife. So we called them Ray's JoAnne and Donnie's JoAnne.

Donnie died last year after a battle with cancer. He had a full life and lived it to the fullest.

Uncle Keith


Keith is one of a set of twins. His sister Carol is my aunt who recently died. Twins were expected for two of Grandma's cousins but Grandma was the one who had them. Just like Carol Keith was 5 years older than me.

I told you of Grandma's dislike of nicknames. How could you make a nickname of Keith. We did it. One of the kids could not pronounced Keith. It became Deke. After that Deke was what we called him.

Keith had a hard childhood. Or maybe it was just bad luck.

He had to have his appendix removed in emergency surgery. Back then that operation was a major one. He was in the hospital for several weeks because like most families they tried to treat the pain at home until it was too late.

He missed a lot of school while he was in the hospital. He fell behind.

Keith had not been out of the hospital long when he heard the whistle of a train of in the distance. He quickly climbed a tall tree to see if he could watch it. At the top of the tree he lost his grip and slid all the way down to the ground.

He was severely burned all down the front of his body. His arms and hands as well as his legs were also burned.

It was another trip to the hospital. He was there for months. I cannot remember if they did any skin grafting. I am sure he needed it. He still has scars where his skin has puckered while healing.

Keith was also active in sports at school. He played basketball because he was tall. Football is a sport most young men play in this area. He also was a track star. He did some running but he was usually used for pole vault, long jump, and shot put.

He married a seemingly nice girl. They had two children together. Their marriage ended in divorce.

Keith loved his children and made sure he visited and kept them as much as possible. Suddenly he was not allowed to see them.

Someone had found cigarette burns and bruises on the children.  When questioned the children said Daddy did it. The mother's boyfriend was also called Daddy. To make sure the children were safe they were removed from their mother's home and only supervised visits were allowed while the case was investigated.

Finally it was determined that the boyfriend was the culprit. The mother did not like the ruling. She stayed with the boyfriend. After some legal wrangling Keith was awarded custody and raised them.

He is now married to a very nice woman. She came to the marriage with children and they have one together. It is a nice big blended family.

Keith and his wife only live about 100 miles from me so we are able to visit. It has been hard for him to lose his twin sister. Other than that he leads a good life.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Re-Tale



Here are some stories from my time working at a retail store. And I still cannot believe the first one myself.

I worked the midnight shift. Our store was open 24 hours. I was Authorized Cashier this particular night.

An Authorized Cashier or AC is the cashier who assigns which cashiers will work which lanes to check out customers. The AC also assigns cleaning duties and schedules breaks and lunches so there is some sort of order and the work is evenly distributed.

We had a busy evening but things slowed down after midnight as they usually do. Even so there was suddenly a bit of a rush as several customers were ready to pay and leave. I was helping one of the cashiers by bagging the purchases for her in order to move things faster. Her final two customers were two nice looking young men.

They were buying a vacuum cleaner and trash bags. They said they had a party and there was a lot of clean-up needed. They seemed to be in a jovial mood.

A few days later we saw on the news that a young woman's dead body was found in trash bags dumped somewhere. There were other trash bags there with her and in one of them they found the receipt showing where the vacuum cleaner and trash bags had been purchased. Guess where that was.

A cashier's receipt has so many identifiers on it. There is the time, date, store number, as well as lane number and cashier number. Those things told the police that the items were purchased at our store and which cashier checked them out.

The young men had indeed hosted a party. They slipped a drug into the young woman's drink so that they could rape her. Unfortunately she died.  They decided to try to clear all evidence of her being there but it did not work.

The cashier was called to testify at their trial. They were found guilty and sent to prison.

One of the cashiers did not feel well. I was working in the cash office that night. The AC called me to tell me that he was vomiting into his waste basket and continuing to wait on customers. I told her to send him home. He did not want to leave.

I went out to talk to him. He was violently ill but refused to go home. I had to get the store manager to go out and send him home. Can you believe that one? But it is true.

A woman who worked in another department was called into her manager's office one morning as she was ready to punch out to go home. Apparently she had been coming to work every night and punching in. Then she would leave with one of the men who worked in another department who was going home for the day. She would stay with him all night until it was time for her to punch out for the day.

As was the practice of the store at a time like this she was given a drug test and tested positive for cannaboids (marijuana). She claimed it was because she was in a car with people who were smoking and must have breathed some of it.

She contacted me in my position as union steward to try to keep her employment. I did my best but of course she was out of a job.

Most of the year there would be two people working in the cash office on the midnight shift. Only during the holidays did we have more.

I was working one night with the absolutely sweetest person who worked in the store. She never wants to be unkind to anyone.

We were experiencing some mild allergy-type symptoms. Our eyes were irritated a bit. As the night went on it got worse. I finally called the night store manager to see if there was something in the air of the store that could be causing it.

He sent security in to see if they could find a problem. Nothing. But it kept getting worse.

I called again because by this time our eyes were red and itching. We were both on the verge of allergic tears. They went up on top of the store to see if there was anything wrong with the air conditioning. Nothing. They checked the air ducts. Nothing.

The other woman and I were taking turns leaving for fresh air every so often just to get some relief from whatever was causing the problems. Finally the night store manager came in and said they could not find any cause for the irritation.

When I asked him what we were supposed to do he got testy with me. He said, "I don't know what you want from me! What do you think I can do?"

So I calmly replied, "As a union steward I could ask you if you were willing to leave your employees in a dangerous situation." The other woman looked at the manager with red teary eyes and said sweetly, "Well I think maybe Emma is more uncomfortable than I am." Grrrrrr.

He finally decided to put us in a more comfortable environment even though it was potentially more dangerous. We propped the doors of the office open and used fans to circulate the air. Now we were vulnerable to robbery.

We never did find the problem and it was not like that the next night.

There were few people who were able to work in the cash office. It was a specialized job. So we were a closely knit group. And we delighted on playing pranks on each other.

For Halloween we were decorating the cash office. The woman working with me and I planned all sorts of fun. We took those plastic worm fishing lures from sporting goods and planted them in drawers all over the office.

We had some ghosts from the holiday department. Some of them would make haunting noises when movement activated. Some were rigged to swoop down towards the person opening the door. There were all sorts of fun surprises for the unwary.

As we were gathering supplies the AC came to see what we were doing. He got into the spirit of Halloween and offered to help. Because he occasionally worked in the office we could allow him in.

He went and got a long black robe and a mask with that "Scream" face. Shortly before the day shift came in he would put on his disguise and sit in the walk-in safe to catch the person who counted down the safe in the morning.

The first person in that day was the head of the office. She began her counting of the safe drawer and we all chatted a bit. The AC was sitting silently in the safe. The she began to compliment us on the decorations.

She proceeded then to tell us what a chicken she is. She cannot even go to a haunted house because she is too afraid. I began to frantically find a way to call this whole thing off.

I needed to confer with my co-conspirators and there was no way I could do that. My mind was still racing as she made her way into the safe.

She went in. Nothing happened. No screams, no shrieks, no giggles, nothing. I moved over that way to find out what had happened.

There was an ear-splitting scream as she came running out of the safe. Her clipboard went one way and her pencil went another. She was racing toward me so I braced myself to stop her and calm her down. At the last second she veered to the side and grabbed the coin counting machine for balance.

Once she caught her breath she went on and on about what a good prank it was. Then she threatened to get me good one day. I called the AC and told him he could come out of the safe. He said he would as soon as his legs woke up enough so he could stand. (By the way she never was able to return the favor.)

My least favorite place to work in the store was the service desk. At the service desk we sold stamps, sent faxes, sold money orders, and in the beginning we accepted utility payments. We sorted items that were left throughout the store to be returned to the proper departments. We also processed the dreaded returns.

Most people are good when returning items for a refund. They bring the item in the original packaging with the receipt of purchase. Their identification is ready so we can take care of them quickly.

We need to know the reason for the return. If the item is damaged we will make certain it is not returned to the floor.

Without a receipt, a certificate for store merchandise can be issued under the right circumstances. If we are unsure or if the cash amount is too large we must have approval from a manager.

A woman came in one night and wanted to return a lotion gift set. It contained a bottle of lotion and a bottle of perfume. Each was only half full. I refused the return.

The woman became irate, insisting that I call a manager. I did. Then she began to call me vile names and trying to insult me in any way she could think of. I tried to stay calm because I knew she wanted me to return her anger. When the manager arrived I was still speaking calmly but I was shaking from anger.

The manager noticed and quietly asked me if I was okay. After I said I was she turned to the customer who told her how very rude I was about refusing her return.

The manager handled the whole thing so well. She told the customer that I was doing my job and that I had done the right thing. Then she turned to me and said, "I am going to allow the return but thank you for following the rules." Managers always approved the returns but at least she acknowledged in front of the customer that I was correct. After that I would have done anything for that manager.

You would not believe some of the returns approved by managers. Once we refunded money for a Christmas tree that was obviously from the previous year. The needles were all completely brown. We refunded money for a bicycle that "was a gift" and not needed. Inside the box was a very old bike, the kind that had those little balance springs under the seat. It was completely rusty.

My daughter-in-law refused the return of a vacuum cleaner. It was an older model than was supposed to be in the box not to mention that it was a brand that was no longer being made. Her store manager refunded the money. Then he told her that he was just trying to keep the goodwill of the customer.

At a later meeting the store manager was telling employees that they needed to watch costs. My daughter-in-law, bless her little heart, stood up and said, "One of the ways the costs are so high is the managers giving refunds on merchandise that is either not ours or is no good. As soon as that is stopped then you can talk to us about cutting back on our expenses." Meeting adjourned.

The manager in our toy department was liked by everyone. She was so friendly and had a really nice personality. She treated her employees well. She even made life a little easier for them when she could. For instance, turning in the cash drawer at the end of a shift is time consuming. She often took that task herself.

Imagine our shock when she was fired. It seems that she would help herself to a few dollars from the drawer before it got to the cash office.

Often the security force on duty was all male. If they apprehended a female shoplifter they liked to have a female present to try to prevent any accusations of impropriety. So there were a few of us who they trusted enough to take care of that task.

The suspected shoplifter needed to be searched. Weapons might be concealed and could be a danger to the security people.

Before searching the person we would ask if they had any weapons they wished us to know about. Then we would ask if they had any sharp objects such as needles on their person. Only after negative replies would we then pat them down.

Then we would have to wait until the police arrived. All we had to do was report that we had searched them and found nothing of danger or incriminating on the person. Then we were excused while they readied a trip to jail.

Most of the security personnel were former police officers or officers in training. They knew the laws for surveillance and apprehension. They also had the take down moves if the suspect did not want to be stopped.

Many times there were some very large people who gave a good fight before being subdued. A security person might even end up with a few bruises.

One night there were two huge men who decided to fight. From what I understand there was a lot of rolling around on the sidewalk and a few punches were thrown. I was in the cash office and saw none of it but even employees went out to watch. By the way non-security employees are never allowed to interfere.

Finally one of the men was cuffed. The other was still fighting to get away. Then he bit the security person. And drew blood.

The man was caught. The police took both of them to jail and shoplifting charges as well as various assault charges were filed. The security person went to the hospital. He would have to undergo testing for AIDS for a period of time.

The man who bit him did apologize in court. The security person said, "Apology not accepted."

We often saw the sweet little old lady who came in regularly on our shift to buy food for her cat. She might have been five feet tall and she was of slight build. Her hair was that fly-away gray that so many of us have as we get older.

Most of us felt that she was probably buying the cat food for herself to eat. We felt so protective of her. When security took her into their office we hoped that she had just passed out from hunger and that she had not had a heart attack.

Imagine our shock to learn that she was the front for a large shoplifting ring! She was the brains of the whole thing.

In large stores like the one I worked in there are more emergency situations than a person might think. And the store has codes and procedures for all of them.

For instance in case of a fire you will hear "Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department, Code 100 deli department," over the store speakers. It is repeated exactly three times. That sets things in motion.

All department heads and security personnel grab fire extinguishers and go directly to the deli department. Authorized cashiers go directly to the front doors of the store to facilitate traffic if necessary.

The store manager, the head of security, and the cash office each call the fire department. We report that there is a Code 100 in the deli department. After the third call the fire department dispatches fire trucks and personnel. It is all orderly and calmly done.

So one night I was in the cash office when I heard a frightened voice announce a Code 100 for the grocery backroom. He only said it twice but I recognized the voice of the grocery manager and I head the fear in his voice. I called the fire department and explained what had happened. They sent someone out.

The other woman in the office left to use the bathroom. I knew she just wanted to see what was going on. She asked the greeter why he was not headed to the back room with a fire extinguisher. He was certain there had been no emergency call.

Security had gone to the back to see what was happening before calling the fire department. The night store manager was somewhere...

The fire chief came to the front of the store to ask someone to let them into the back of the store. The greeter was still arguing that there was no fire. The store manager was called. She went into high hysterical mode. She took her keys and fumbled her way to the back of the store.

Once there she could not figure out which key opened the doors. She was screaming at everyone to fix it.

Finally one of the security members took the keys and opened the doors.

The Hi-Lo that the grocery manager was operating had caught fire in the motor directly under where he was sitting. He panicked a bit when he issued the emergency call. He was not hurt. The fire sort of put itself out. The fire department made sure everything was safe before leaving.

The fire chief did come up to the front of the store to thank me for making the call. No one else called but they felt that I explained the situation so well that they needed to check it out.

So here is taste of life in retail.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Gone

It was a busy holiday weekend for me. My age tends to show when there is so much going on. I was tired and needed to rest a couple of days when it was over.

Of course you have read about my sister-in-law taking a fall. We did check on her and her children made sure she was taken care of.

My son was busy getting his things more organized than he usually has them. And he is very organized. He was getting ready to move on.

He has had a monitoring device since he left the halfway house to come stay here. It was removed Friday. He was happy to be able to move around freely. With the tether on he had to have permission to go anywhere. Usually he had a time limit of 4 hours and then he had to be home.

And of course he had to report periodically for drug testing. It is standard procedure for all prisoners. Technically he was a prisoner allowed to stay in another place. I was surprised they did not send out the person who makes unannounced home visits for one last check. He did not come.

The counselor at the halfway house made sure my son had a refill on his medication. He called the pastor of the church my son helped with work while he was in town. The counselor asked her if she could help my son get a pair of dress pants and dress shoes to go with his suit jacket that she had previously given him.

She was happy to help. She made sure to arrive while my son was having the monitor removed. She wanted to personally say goodbye. She is a nice lady.

Then we had some furniture to move around. We only have two bedrooms. Because he had to have a room of his own I was glad to give him my room for the duration. We set an extra bed in the living room for me. That is now gone and a sofa is back in its place.

My daughter and her husband came down from the big city. Both of their children had to work. I wish they could have come too.

We spent a day visiting cemeteries again. We also went sightseeing a bit too. Then there was a day we spent visiting with my sister-in-law. My daughter had not seen her aunt for a long time. My nieces were visiting their mother so we spent a pleasant afternoon together.

Then came the day I dreaded and knew was coming. My daughter and her husband went home. My son went with them.

I knew from the beginning that he would not be here forever. His children are where he is going. Oddly enough children beat out moms every time.

So now it is just my oldest son and me again. With the dog of course. I will miss the kids and hope that they will be able to visit again sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

And Jill Came Tumbling After


My sons and I went with my sister-in-law the week before Memorial Day. We were cleaning and decorating the graves of family members so they would look good when others made their visits.

First we met at the cemetery where my mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law are buried. My children's father's ashes were sprinkled there as was his request. Also the parents-in-law of my sister-in-law are there too.

Since that is so many "in-laws" I will now drop the term. We are all family. I have no family members that are related by blood here so everyone I mention can be considered to be in-laws.

We trimmed the grass and brushed off the headstones. We picked up a couple of small branches that had blown into the section. We left a few decorations to make it all pretty.

My sister had picked up a set of a mother wolf and three babies somewhere. They needed some sprucing up so my son volunteered to paint them. He did such a good job. I was impressed. He decided to paint a single letter on each one. When they were placed in order they spelled "Love".

Then we went to the cemetery where my brother is buried. He was so young when he died. He had contracted meningitis when he was a baby and was paralyzed until he died when he was about 14 years old. We cleaned everything and placed a cross with pretty flowers on it.

Then on to another cemetery. My sister's husband is there. The cemetery had done a good job of getting ready for the holiday. All we did there was to pretty things up a bit.

Then we went up the hill to where our aunt and uncle were buried. We left decorations for them too.

It was not hard work but it took some time. We were all ready for some lunch.

After lunch we had to get back. My son is still on a tether and is only allowed to be gone from the house for a certain amount of time. With permission of course.

My sister was in the mood for a rhubarb cobbler. She said she was going to go pick some rhubarb on her way home.

The next day she called. When she finished picking the rhubarb she was ready to go home too. She stood up and began to slip. The rhubarb was up a hill. She slid all the way down and then landed on her face on the road.

She is all bruised up. Her face is totally scraped. She broke a vertebra in her neck. At least her eyes are no longer black. She looks so banged up.

So she is house-bound for 2 weeks and cannot drive for at least 6 weeks. She has a "collar" that she has to wear 24 hours a day. Her daughters have been spending as much time with her as they can but they do not live real close and they both work. Her son and his wife are closer but they both work also.

We drive into town to check on her as often as we can. And she has many friends that are helping her too.

What about the rhubarb? Her friend made her a pie. He was supposed to take it to her today. I hope it was good.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Word About My Aunt


This will be brief. I recently wrote about my Aunt Carol. Five years older than me so we grew up together.

I told you about her lymphoma. She has been battling leukemia for several years.

The lymphoma won. Carol died May 15. I will miss her.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Uncle Raymond


For some reason I never called my uncles on my mother's side of the family "uncle". I knew they were uncles but they were so close in age that they were something a bit more.

Raymond is the oldest of my uncles. He was around but because he was 12 years older than me I was a nuisance to be tolerated more than anything else.

Like all my uncles Raymond worked the farm with Grandpa. Tractors and cattle consumed most of his time.

I do not think he liked farming too much. After all sons working a farm were excrutiatingly short of spending money.

When he was old enough Raymond took a ob driving a delivery truck. He had his own money.

Raymond was getting married! And I would get to go to the wedding. I had never been to a wedding before. I was 11 or 12 years old.

I do not remember much about the wedding. Such things were of little interest to me at that time.

His bride's father was the manager of the country club. That meant he took care of the golf course.

There was an interval of about 3 hours between the wedding and the reception. Pictures had to be taken you know.

So here were all these children with nothing to do. Left to themselves children will usually find something to do and it usually involves getting dirty.

To prevent that my aunt's father gave us a couple of golf balls and a couple of his golf clubs. We stayed relatively clean as we puttered around on the golf course.

The reception was held in the club house. It was not a fancy building as I look back at it. But I was entranced.

There were tables of food and bowls of punch. There was a lot of floor space for dancing. We could dance as long as we stayed clear in one corner and sort of out of the way.

The Witch Doctor by David Seville was so popular at that time. I was thrilled to hear it so many times that night. (My new aunt's father finally removed it from the juke box because he was so sick of hearing it.)

My uncle Donnie got drunk. He was funny to watch. He sort of draped himself over his date (she later married him) and moved the two of them around the floor.

Raymond died 3 years ago after a long fight with cancer.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stormy Weather


As all of you have been experiencing this has been a strange year as far as the weather is concerned. In the winter we had balmy days right before getting 10 inches of snow.  In the fall we had unbelievably hot weather right before temperatures would fall below freezing. This spring began early but there were cold days often accompanied by snow.

Here in the plains states there has been a lot of precipitation. Most of it has been rain. There has been a lot of wind. Tornadoes have become common.

Right here where I live I feel somewhat protected from some of the severe weather. Tornadoes have hit within a few miles but I am nestled against a hill. It is not likely that a tornado will touch down here.

I live less than a mile from a big river. It has been known to flood and completely engulf the fields just across the highway from me. That is a distance of about 3 blocks. However the fields across the highway are several feet lower than the little town I live in. It is not likely to flood here.

I think the biggest problem we have other than the occasional hail storm is the wind. Because of the hill the wind seems to blow almost directly from the north to the south. It can be pretty fierce sometimes.

There are a lot of older trees around us. Even a moderate wind will blow small branches all over the place. We are constantly picking up twigs and small branches from all over the yard.

Then there are the big branches that break off and fall. Last year the neighbor's tree lost a huge branch. The base fell right next to the trunk of the tree. The branch itself filled both our yards. It missed our house by less than 2 inches.

One of our trees lost a big branch a few years ago. It was in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. The branch was on the roof and hanging off the edge with the base of the branch resting on the ground. It was too large for us to move without causing some serious damage to the house.

I called a tree service. They made an emergency call for us. They told me that it was a good thing I called. It was a big branch.

While they were there I asked what they would charge to trim the tree over the house. It was a reasonable fee so they did it while they were here.

It was so cold that day. Of course the wind was still blowing a bit making it colder for those poor men. But they were troopers. It took them about 3 hours. I stayed inside where it was warm.

We still have to clean up the small branches that blow from the trees including that one.

Then last night just as I was almost asleep I heard a bang and a tinkling of glass near me. The whole place shook.

I jumped out of bed to make sure my sons were safe. They were coming to see if I was okay.

A quick look outside revealed that a branch had fallen from another tree. It landed on the house right above my bed. It was not nearly as large as the other one had been thank goodness.

My son got up early and got out the ladder. He was able to pull it off the house before I even woke up.

I also realized the tinkling sound of glass was actually from a small wind chime that hangs from the ceiling in my room. No broken windows.

So far we have been really fortunate that there has been no damage to the roof. Knock wood!

I suppose now I will have to have the other tree trimmed too. It never ends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Butt Of The Joke


I am often the one that makes my family laugh. I do not always do it intentionally but they laugh anyway. Laughter is good for the innards so I am happy to help keep them in good health.

Everyone knows how much I love baseball. My sister-in-law just smiles and shakes her head as she says, "You and your baseball."  But my children are another matter altogether.

We lived for a long time just a few miles from where my favorite major league baseball team played their home games. We went often. My children were able to watch some great baseball and great players. When we were not able to go to a game we would watch on television.

Even after my father died my mother and I had a good time watching baseball together. We would moan when our batter's hit was caught just before it appeared to be going over the fence for a home run. We would cheer when our outfielder caught the ball hit by the other team just before it went over the fence for a home run. We would scream and yell at any perceived infraction to our sensibilities committed by either team or the umpires. It is great fun.

But my children, nieces and nephews, and younger brother and sister were the ones having the most fun. They would sit in the back yard on nice summer days and laugh at us as we screamed at the television.

These days my children still laugh because I am still screaming at the television during ball games. They are joined by my grandchildren. Soon my great-grandchildren will be joining in. At least the dog does not run and hide any more.

I love music. I am the weirdo you see in the supermarket bopping down the aisle when a favorite song comes over their music list. I will being watching TV disinterestedly and suddenly find myself chair dancing to the music of a commercial. And of course I sing long and loud with the radio.

Now I know I cannot sing. If you put the tune into a briefcase and locked it I would not be able to carry it. But I have a lot of enthusiasm. Does that count for anything?

Of course my whole family laughs at me. When I begin to twitch in the grocery store my children used to scatter not wanting to be associated with the crazy lady. Sitting in a restaurant with my grandchildren brought head shaking and comments like, "Don't do that." Listening to music on the computer brings wails begging me to stop singing. (It is my house. I sing.)

When my children were young I would try to plan activities we would all enjoy. Movies were a good bet but we often did not want to see the same movie. Theaters that show multiple movies worked well because we could see the movie we wanted to see then get together afterward for something to eat.

But there were movies that we all enjoyed. Star Wars was one of those. So off we went to Star Wars. But it seems that everyone had a favorite place to sit in the theater. It works for us.

Toward the end of that movie Darth Vader is killed by his son Luke Skywalker. It was an emotional scene and I cry easily at the movies so I was dabbing my eyes and (I thought) quietly crying. Then I hear son number 3 chuckling. He was sitting several rows behind me and to the left.

He then stage whispers to son number 2. "Hey, Mom is crying because Darth Vader got killed." All heads in the theater craned to see me dabbing at my eyes. Son number 2 chuckled as did son number 1 and my daughter. Then the whole theater erupted into soft laughter. Think how good they all felt inside.

After the movie I had plans for us to go downtown in the big city. Summer weekends they held what they called Ethnic Festivals. It was an attempt to introduce people to other cultures and learn more about their own. It was one of the best ideas they ever had.

Anyway this weekend was the Irish Festival. Seeing that I had four little Irish children we went to the festival. After much searching we found a parking structure that was almost within walking distance.

As we were walking into the riverfront area where the festival was being held there were so many people milling about. Son number 3 took great joy in walking up to as many as he could and saying, "That's my mother. She cried when Darth Vader died."

Most people just had confused looks on their faces. But a few of them laughed. My son was having a good time. Add to that the fact that we had a good time at the festival. It was a great day.

It truly does not bother me when people laugh at me. Know why? I laugh at them too. Ridiculous things happen all the time. The trick is to recognize them for what they are and enjoy them.


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Screaming Dog


My son's dog needed to go to the vet today. She needed a rabies shot which she has not had since he got her. She also was in desperate need of a pedicure.

The boys made an appointment to take her in. They went together. She was so happy to go for a ride with them.

She is not a huge dog but she is between a medium size and large. Her markings make her look a bit like a bull dog but she has no bull dog ancestry.

She got to the vet's office and trotted right in. She felt so important going along with her two favorite people.

Because of her size a couple of people held tight to their pets as she strutted by. The boys chuckled to themselves.

Because she had an appointment the vet called her right in. The boys were ready to hold her down. The vet put a muzzle on her as a precaution.

First came the vaccination. She did not like it at all. But it was over quickly and she was ready to leave.

When the vet began to clip her nails she was not happy at all. My oldest son was holding her head tight. My second son had a tight grip on the other end.

Apparently something hurt because she began to scream. Not growl. Scream.

Somehow she popped the muzzle right off. No paws... just opened her mouth and popped it off. The vet looked up in shock but saw that the boys had a tight grip so he kept on clipping.

She was screaming so loud that one of the women waiting with her pet came back to see what they were doing to that poor animal.

The dog was so happy to leave that terrible place.

When they came home she wanted nothing to do with getting out of the truck. She was taking no chances.

Finally they got her in the house. After drowning her sorrows with a long drink of water she laid down and went to sleep. She steered clear of the boys for a while. You should know that she tends to hold a grudge.

That was all a few hours ago. She has calmed down. She has sort of forgiven the boys for inflicting all that indignity upon her. But I see her giving them sidelong looks every once in a while. I laughed and told them they need to be careful when they go to sleep.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Uncle Norman

Uncle Norman is my father's younger brother. They were both much younger than the rest of their siblings.

Uncle Norman was the reason my father met my mother. Uncle Norman was dating my mother's younger sister. When Daddy came back from the war they arranged for Mom and Daddy to double date with them.

Uncle Norman and Aunt Luella eventually stopped seeing each other. Mom and Daddy got married.

Uncle Norman served during the Korean War. After he came home he somehow met a nice woman from Tennessee. They married and had a couple of children.

They came to visit for a day when I was about 8 or 9 years old. It was early in the morning. The rest of us kids were in school. As part of his morning ritual my little brother took his penny and went to the store for a piece of candy.

Mom always watched my brother until he turned the corner on the next block. The woman at the store was waiting and watching for him. When he left the store she watched until he turned the corner going home knowing that Mom was watching then. It was a good arrangement.

So the morning Uncle Norman came he saw my brother walking home but of course didn't see Mom. He rolled down his window and kept asking my brother what his anme was and where he lived.

My brother knew he should not talk to strangers so he hurried home. When my uncle saw my mother he was laughing about my brother not talking to him.

When we went on a long vacation part of it was spent with Uncle Norman's family. They had a son and daughter at the time.

His wife Patsy made us a snack one evening. I raved about how good it was and told my mother she should get the recipe. Finally Mom took me to one side and explained that it was simply donuts made from cans of biscuit dough dredged in frosting.

Uncle Norman decided to show Daddy around town. He was the barber so he just closed his shop and off they went.

Aunt Patsy was sure they were up to no good and dragged Mom to go looking for them. Mom said they saw every illegal still in the county. The menfolk were waiting at home when they got there.

The last time I saw Uncle Norman there were two more children. They were there for Daddy's funeral.

His children obviously did not want to be there and were not shy about making it known. To be fair they did not know us so I am sure they felt out of place.

Uncle Norman was very nice to us. Like family should be. Patsy and the kids never had the opportunity to know us and they felt like outsiders.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Practical Jokes


I like practical jokes... not the kind where someone is hurt or where someone is seriously embarrassed or belittled. I think jokes that make you laugh with yourself and others liven up the day.

That is not to say that I have not always used good judgement in practical joking. I wish to blame age but youth is not a good excuse. But for the most part my practical jokes hurt no one.

Of course there are the standard "Your shoe is untied" and "What is that spot on your shirt?" as you flip your finger up to their nose. Most people do not fall for those any more. But they are funny when you 'get' them.

When I was in my early teens I was wandering around downtown when I came across a novelty store. By novelty I mean the kind of store that sold things like whoopie cushions and fake vomit. I must point out that every two or three years my children and grandchildren receive whoopie cushions for Christmas as part of their stockings. So beware when visiting.

Back to the store. I found all sorts of delights but was fascinated by the loads. I say loads because they were out of cigarette loads. All they had in stock were cigar loads. I had always wanted to try them because I had seen them on television. Besides they were extremely inexpensive and I had little money.

My sister was with me. We planned and plotted. Who would be our victim? We discussed our mother. but she might have a bad reaction to it. Who else did we know who smoked? It had to be someone we had access to. It also had to be someone who would be around when the cigarette was lit so we could watch. There was only one other candidate. Daddy.

When we got home from work we managed to grab his cigarettes while he was in another room. I carefully pulled one cigarette out of the pack. I then took the loads out of their wrapping. They looked like small pieces of straw. Even though they were made for cigars they were so small. I decided to put in three just to make sure they worked.

My father smoked non-filtered cigarettes so I was not sure which end he would light so I needed to push them into the center of the cigarette. I used a toothpick and it worked quite well.

Now all we had to do was wait. Only my sister and I knew what was going on. We were on pins and needles all evening waiting, waiting, waiting...

Finally he took out the loaded cigarette. He lit it. Nothing happened. He took a few puffs; nothing happened. Duds thought we.
.
Suddenly BANG!!!! That cigarette sounded like an M80. It exploded right under my father's nose. His eyes popped open wide and his whole head turned red with anger. He was mad!

As he was demanding to know who did it all of us kids were finding ways to leave the room. Mom was already at the kitchen door so all she had to do was go back to cooking.

I never did admit to Daddy that it was me and my sister. I think that even after a lot of years had passed he might have spanked us. Mom told me after Daddy died that she knew we did it. She never said a word.

As I said age is not an excuse but it is the only one I have. And I was not even able to enjoy it because I was scared that he would find me out.

One of my dear friends was getting married. The best man was a notorious practical joker. When another friend of his got married he went to the honeymoon hotel the before the wedding and he and some other friends removed all the furniture from the room. Because of this the present honeymoon destination was a closely guarded secret.

After a great deal of persuasion and more than a little liquor we were able to pry the hotel name from the groom's father. It was just across the border in Canada.

About 6 of us waited an indecent amount of time. Then we went to the hotel and asked for their room. The clerk was wise enough to not divulge that information.

However we had another trick up our sleeves. One of us was the bride's sister. The clerk finally agreed to connect us to the room if we would go to a house phone.

Sister was on the phone with the bride who did not believe for one minute that we were in the hotel lobby. Until sister began to describe the fountain, the entrance to the lounge, and what band was playing in the lounge. The newlyweds came down to see us.

The poor things agreed to go with us to a little outdoor restaurant for a drink. The groom was in obvious discomfort and the bride was trying so hard to be gracious. I am sure it was the high point of their honeymoon.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I do not believe in violent or destructive mischief but it is a good time for people to be good-naturedly scared. I have assisted in planning many haunted houses.

I was working in the cash office of a large department store chain. We were isolated from the rest of the store because we had all the money and records in with us. We often decorated for holidays.

One year I got the bright idea to make tombstones for those of us who worked the cash office. Of course we needed epitaphs so I wrote funny little epitaphs for each of us. The others in the office liked them so much they invited people from other offices to see them. I had to make them for those people too.

Another time those of us on the night shift decided to decorate the office right. We had access to merchandise from the store. All we needed was someone with the authority to write off the expense. We went straight to our friend and part time co-worker. Then we set about getting our decorations.

We built a scarecrow using things people left on the lanes when they were shopping. (We held those items for 30 days to see if they would come back to reclaim them.) There was a jacket, sunglasses, a hearing aid, a cane, false teeth, gloves, boots,  and even a prosthetic leg. Add a mask and we had a proper scarecrow.

We set up flying ghosts and bats to attack the cashiers when they came in for their cash drawers. If our inner office door opened there were shrieks and moans. We had ghosts and bats hanging from the ceiling. In all the drawers (of which there were many. Each drawer had a special use and each was used often.) there were surprises. There were plastic worms and spiders and all sorts of disgusting things. But the best part of all was the little haunted house we had set up in the vault.

At the beginning of each shift one person had to balance all the money in the office. That included going into the vault to count the money in there.

When the morning shift came in they would have to count the safe which is what we called it. And inside the safe sat our dear friend. We had a long cape and mask on him and he just sat there and waited.

The head of the cash office was doing the counting this day. She counted the stamp drawer. Then she counted the safe drawer. Thne she counted the service drawer. Then she counted the cashier drawer. All the time she counted she was talking about how much she liked the decorations. We were smiling to ourselves and anticipating the moment she went into the safe.

Then she began to talk about how afraid she was of haunted houses. She said she had never been able to go into them because she was so scared. I had a sinking feeling about her going into the safe. As I was trying to find a way to tell her not to go into the safe without betraying my co-workers she went into the safe.

Nothing happened. Still nothing happened. I went over to see if she had dropped dead from fright when she screamed and came running out of the safe. I thought she was going to run me over and go right through the wall into the shoe repair. At the last minute she made a left turn at the coin counter and ran to a corner at the opposite end of the room.

As she leaned against the counter panting I told our dear friend he could come out. He said he would as soon as he could move his legs. He had sat there for so long without moving that his legs would not work.

When he was finally able to stand he came out and told us what happened. She had gone into the safe and started counting the boxes of rolled coin. She was so intent on her job that she did not even notice that he was sitting there. When she lifted her head a bit he slightly lifted his hand and gave her a little wave. That was when she screamed.

She was such a good sport after she had ascertained that she was not going to have a heart attack. We laughed about it for the rest of the time that our shifts overlapped. She also promised that she would find a way to get me back. I welcomed the threat.

These are just a sampling of practical jokes I have been a participant in. I am sure they will not be the last but it is harder to be original the older I get.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Uncle Gerald


Finally an uncle I knew! Uncle Gerald lived in a near-by town from Grandma.

Uncle Gerald was older than my father. In fact his oldest daughter was close to the same age as my mother.

I was surprised to learned that Uncle Gerald had a first wife. I thought that Aunt Sophie was the only wife he had. I do not know (yet) what happened to his first wife.

Uncle Gerald and Aunt Sophie had four children. Three were girls. Of course they were quite a bit older than me. One was married and had children near in age to some of my younger siblings.

The other two girls liked to take me to their house for the weekend. They would fuss over me like a live doll. Then on weekends they would take me on their dates. We went to drive-in movies or to the auto races. I saw my first demolition derby with them.

Often my aunt and uncle would come to Grandma's house on Friday. They would all get spiffed up and go out to have fun. I think Uncle Gerald and Aunt Sophie usually went to the bar. My cousins would have dates and go with their dates to whatever was happening for young people at the time.

Like so much of my father's family Uncle Gerald's family was on the selfish side. They thought little of other people's feelings. I know that sounds odd after telling you that they paid a lot of attention to me. But that is the way they were.

When my brother was killed in Viet Nam family began calling my parents to offer sympathies. My father sat up most of the night. Every time the phone rang he would say, "That will be Gerald." Uncle Gerald never called.

In fact Daddy did not hear from him for a couple of years. Aunt Sophie sent a letter telling Daddy that Uncle Gerald had cancer and was not doing well. Oh by the way it was a shame about my brother.

Daddy was so hurt. I was furious. They had hurt my father so bad. The one family member he had been around could not even call to see if he was okay.

All of them are dead now. I had contact with the oldest daughter for a while online. Her children and grandchildren live only a few hours from me. They are doing well.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Uncle Willis


We have yet another uncle I did not know well. He did not live to far from us but we did not visit back and forth.

My grandmother did not visit him either and he did not visit her. For some reason Grandma did not like his wife. She never had anything pleasant to say about her.

My uncle had three sons. They are all close to my father's age. I'm not sure I ever even saw one of them.

Uncle Willis was a fireman. It was his life's work. Because of his hard work and love of his job he eventually became the fire chief of his suburb of a large city in the area.

I remember reading about him in the paper once. He demonstrated that an oil fire could be extinguished with water if other methods were not available.

My grandmother had cancer. Uncle Willis and Aunt Irma were the ones who offered to take care of her while she recovered from surgery.

When the doctors went in to try to remove the cancer Grandma was so full of cancer there was nothing they could do for her. They simply closed the incision. When she was ready to leave the hospital she wen to stay with my aunt and uncle.

Both my aunt and uncle had back problems. It was not easy for them to take care of Grandma but they did.

Toward the end another aunt and uncle went to visit Grandma. Aunt Irma mentioned that Grandma would not eat.

My other uncle became furious. He screamed at her that she had to feed her no matter what. Force it down her throat if she had to.

The following day Aunt Irma called the doctor. She was worried that she was not taking proper care of Grandma.

The doctor told her that she was doing a good job. He said that very often terminal patients have no appetite, If she wanted something to eat by all means give her something. Otherwise let her alone. Ice chips and sips of fluid were the most important.

We went to visit. It was to see Grandma before she died. She really did not know we were there. Except for my youngest sister who was her favorite.

My sister was only 4 years old but she seemed to understand that Grandma needed her. She sat with her all day holding her hand.

Grandma died that night after we left.

My aunt and uncle were left to take care of all the necessary things one needs to do after a death.

All from the ones that Grandma had no time for. I respected them for that.

I learned that you never know who will be important in your life or why. It is best to treat everyone with kindness. You may someday need a kindness from them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Family


I need to pause in telling you about aunts and uncles to remind you of a couple of things.

As i have told you before both of my parents came from large families. Eleven babies were born into each family. Two babies on each side died soon after they were born.

That leaves 18 babies. My parents are not included as aunts and uncles so the number drops to 16.

You will notice that I will write about fewer than that. The reason is that my father's family was quite a bit older that my mother's family. Some of my father's siblings I know little about.

I know he had a brother who had epilepsy. Rather than the family suffer the stigma of a "defective" child he was placed in a home. Back then there was little they could do to control seizures and children were often placed in institutions.

I did not know until I was grown and had children what really happened to him. Grandma always said he died in a Juvenile Delinquent Center.  It was preferable to having a son with epilepsy.

I know of a sister too. She married and had children. I have seen her grave not far from my grandparents' graves. Her husband is buried there and several children. I know nothing about them.

So that is why there are fewer than I should have to tell about.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Uncle Rolan


I did not know Uncle Rolan well. I only remember seeing him twice.

The first time I saw him was when my family moved to Washington. Uncle Rolan had lived there for years. He was showing us a few sights.

The only sight I remember is the Grand Coulee Dam. Everything was so new. It was a little too much for a 9 year old to take in.

The second time I saw him was when Grandma died. I am sure he loved her but she was not an easy person to spend time with. So my feeling is that it was sort of a duty thing.

Uncle Rolan and Daddy went to Grandma's house after the funeral to see if they could find the little bust I made of clay. I really wanted to have it. But they found nothing.

Uncle Rolan had a wife and three children. When I saw him in Washington my aunt was in the hospital. I do not know why. It was not discussed in front of me.

One of their sons died when he was a year old.

Their daughter I did not meet either. She was a teenager and certainly not interested in a bunch of little kid cousins.

The other son was with Uncle Rolan the day we went to the dam. He was also a teenager. He did not seem to mind us too much. My parents saw him playing in the Army/Navy football game one year.

It is really sad that I know nothing more about them. I have no way to learn either because all of them have died.

I discovered that while working on my family tree. I found no records of either of my cousins having families.

So this is the first uncle I introduce. Unfortunately I have little to tell.

Friday, April 14, 2017

In Your Easter Bonnet


Last year for Easter my grandson took pictures of him and his daughter making Easter eggs. The eggs were made of Play Doh. They were beautiful in the way that only homemade items can be. Beyond that he spent hours with his daughter creating something they could be proud of and that they enjoyed doing together.

It made me think of Easters past. Of course I love thinking of things from the past so I reveled in the memories.

My family did not have much in the way of material things when I was a child. For Easter we had plenty of eggs to color because we had chickens. The Easter bunny left baskets with candy. Mom made a fancy meal. Then we re-hid the eggs over and over all that day.

New clothes were not often bought for Easter. We just dressed in our Sunday clothes like most of the rest of the children where we lived.

I only had one Easter bonnet. Out house had burned and a collection was taken and placed with a neighboring department store for us to purchase new clothes. There was a little extra money and I was able to talk my parents into letting me have my only Easter bonnet.

However we used to make Easter bonnets at school. They are fun and fairly easy to make.

Some of the items we used were disposable aluminum pie pans, facial tissues, crepe paper, and ribbon. Paper plates could be substituted for the pie pans but they are not as sturdy. You will also need scissors, paste or glue, string or thread and something to punch small holes into the pie pan. Paint might be an addition but is optional.

First we made flowers with the tissues. We separated the plies so that each tissue was two. Then we used several layers. More layers make a fuller flower. After stacking the tissues we would pick up the stack in the center and bunch it. Then we tied the center with thread to hold it together.

We trimmed the corners from the tissues so they will not stick out past the rest of the tissue. Then comes the fluffing. Gently separating each tissue and arranging them so that it creates a full soft looking flower. If you cannot find colored tissue you can spray paint the flower for the desired color.

Use either crepe paper or ribbon or both you fasten a band around the hat. Paste or glue into place. Then punch a hole on each side of the pie plate. Pass the ribbon through each hole from the top. It should be long enough to be able to tie beneath the neck to hold the hat in place.

Punch more holes in the pie plate. When you have decided the placement of the flowers you will need to be able to secure it to the hat by putting the bottom end through a hole. A little bit of glue helps keep it in place.

Bows can be made as well as any other decorations you wish to include. After allowing time for the glue to dry completely You have an Easter bonnet fit for any princess.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Aunt Luella


My Aunt Luella was a couple of years younger than my mother. She had five children who were close in age to my younger siblings. My sister liked to go to their house a lot. She had other girls to play with.

I have said before that my grandfather raised horses. They were a necessary part of the farm besides the fact that he loved them. The horses were the method of transportation.

Luella seemed to have a love/hate relationship with horses. Jenny was her favorite. That was the horse she usually rode to school.

But there was a problem with Jenny. When she was close to home she made a bee-line to the barn. She liked being home I guess.

So one day Luella was on her way home. She was not paying much attention to Jenny. You can do that when you are riding a horse because they will keep moving. Suddenly Jenny took off. She was ready for the barn.

Luella tried to slow her down but Jenny wanted to be home. So Luella sort of allowed Jenny her head. Straight to the barn doors they went.

There was the problem. The barn doors were open... at the bottom. The top halves were closed. Jenny went right on through. Luella was not so lucky.

No she did not fall off. That might have been easier. Luella's upper half was smooshed into the upper doors of the barn. Her lower half was still on Jenny inside the barn.

Luella tried to make Jenny back up so she could dismount but Jenny was having none of that. She was home.

It took some time before someone realized what a predicament they were in and came to rescue Luella. I am not sure how they accomplished it but Luella and Jenny were both unharmed.

Bird was another horse on the farm. She was a good horse. Bird was the horse we all learned to ride. She seemed to understand that a small or inexperienced rider needed her to be more gentle.

But older experienced riders were fair game. One of her favorite tricks was to hold her breath and puff up her belly when her saddle was being put on. If the rider was paying attention they would wait for her to let her breath out and then tighten the cinch. Sometimes it would even take a poke to the stomach to make her breathe.

Luella was going out to bring in the cattle for milking one afternoon. Her mind must have been elsewhere when she was putting the tack on Bird. She climbed up in the saddle and off she went.

There was a dog-leg part of the trail out to the pasture. Right at one corner was a huge walnut tree. Bird decided to walk right under a low hanging branch. Luella leaned to one side to avoid it. The saddle kept moving and Luella ended up on the ground. I can almost hear Bird chuckling to herself.

Luella married a man who drilled water wells. He was partners with his brother. They made a good living because in that area there was always a need for good water.

They built a new house to her exact specifications. It was spacious with plenty of room for all their children. They lived on a small farm outside of a small town. They raised sheep and bees.

Luella was also a fashion plate. She wore the modern styles in clothing. She was the first person I saw wearing culottes.

My sister has many of Luella's facial expressions. My daughter has many of my sister's facial expressions. So I guess you could say my daughter got them from my aunt.

Years after my uncle died my aunt remarried. I lived a long way  from her so I never met the new uncle.

My aunt's sons bought the well drilling business. They drilled wells all over the world and conducted seminars about the business. Eventually they sold it for a hefty price. Neither has to work any more.

One of them makes periodic trips to Africa to help with water concerns there. For him it is an act of love.

The girl cousins married. The youngest was in the army for a long time. She became a welder. Because they needed women to fill quotas she could pretty much decide where, when , and how long she would go to any assignment.

My aunt died of cancer a few years before Mom died. She was able to see her children grown and settled and that is what most parents hope for.