Friday, September 30, 2016

That's The Life For Me

 I have said many times that I lived in very small towns when I was a child. They were idyllic places to be. Children had a lot of freedom to come and go without fear.

Everybody knew everybody else in town. Adults looked out for children. If there was a problem parents could be called. We were as safe as possible.

The best thing about small town living was the community. Everyone attended community events. I already told you about watermelon day. There is more.

There were pancake breakfasts.  I remember one especially. It was at the library. For a nominal fee you had all the pancakes with syrup that you could eat. Sausages were the meat that day. It was great fun eating with other citizens of town and the surrounding farms.

I of course did not realize it at the time but those breakfasts were fund raisers. The library (which my family used all the time), the fire department, the VFW... all the organizations that served the town needed a little boost in funding. Pancakes were inexpensive to make.

The library had other festivals. Some were fund raisers. Others were simply fun activities to remind us how much fun the library is. Sometimes we would have cleaning parties to dust the books and shelves. It was fun.

School sports programs were community activities. The whole town attended football and basketball games for the boys and volleyball for the girls. We cheered out team. We bought snacks from the concession stands that helped with funding. And we had a great time besides.

Speaking of school all the grades went to the same school. Kindergarten through 12th grade. Every grading period there was a parents' night when parents could discuss the children's progress.

The teachers were members of the community so they knew the parents and the children. So these were another social event.

What I liked most was that each classroom was expected to perform at each of these events. The lower grades had three grades to a room so there were not as many performances as you might think.

What was fun for me was that there were far more boys than girls in the school. If a room was doing a dance they had to borrow girls from other rooms. I got to show off again! I am a terrible ham you must know.

My teachers also recognized the ham. And they knew that I had a good memory. I was given long poems to memorize and recite as the stage was being redesigned for a new act. I still remember pieces of all those poems.

Halloween is second only to Christmas for me. The reason is the little town life. We decorated all over town. We dressed up in our costumes and made sure we had a good supply of large paper grocery bags.

When we were finally allowed we went out for trick-or-treat. Every house had a treat for us. Some of the treats were candy bars (full sized of course),  cupcake cups full of smaller candies (including the dreaded candy corn), coins (a lot of pennies and some nickels with an occasional dime), homemade cookies, cupcakes (and sometimes a slice of a real cake), and candied apples.

When our large paper grocery bags would fill we took them home and grabbed another one. We then went back out for more goodies. We did not stop until we hit every house in town.

By the time we were finished we were so tired that bed was where we wanted to be. That was when the older kids went out to pull their pranks. My favorite was the outhouse placed at the main intersection of town.

If a child had a birthday party every child in that grade was invited. Events were all-inclusive. My mother was a master at unique parties. Each of us had one party in our lives. Each party was memorable.

On Valentine's Day we all made valentines to give to the other children in our room. No one was left out. We also took a treat to share with everyone so there was a party. Fun.

May Day was another day we celebrated. My first was when I was 5 years old. Using huge paper cupcake cups we filled them with goodies and anything to make them pretty. A pipe cleaner was used as a handle to make a May basket. We made them for each child in our grade.

My mother explained to me that I was to take the basket to the door of the child that lived in that house, knock on the door, then run. If the child caught me they got to give me a kiss.

I followed her directions to the letter. As I jumped into the car my mother was laughing hysterically. She did not make it clear that I was supposed to leave the basket on the doorstep! I still had it in my hand. Of course Susan Otradostey gave me a big kiss on the cheek when I dejectedly got out of the car to give her the basket.

I love small town life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wild, Wild West

Grandpa was a cowboy. Not the kind you see in movies that go around shooting each other. Technically those are gunslingers. But Grandpa rode the range and herded the cattle. He was out there for weeks at a time. Civilization was too far away to stop in town every once in a while. It was a 2 day ride by horse. Horse was the only transportation available unless you wanted to ride shank's mare. That means walking to you tenderfeet.

Grandpa loved the animals. He especially loved horses but all animals were special to him.  He always had a dog too. Occasionally Grandpa would be the cowboy chosen to go to town for supplies or maybe to just see people who weren't looking after cattle.

As I said it was a two day trip. Often Grandpa would stop and stay with an Indian tribe for the night. They always welcomed him. Besides letting him sleep there the Native Americans fed him. One time there was a delicious stew that he ate with gusto. He asked what kind of stew it was. They said it was made with snake meat. He was a bit taken aback but thought he dealt with it well.

Another time he stopped and there was stew again. It tasted different from the snake stew. They told him it was made using horse meat. Now Grandpa loved horses. They were special to him. However he reasoned that not everyone felt the same. And after all there would be a lot of meat there. The whole tribe could eat a nice healthy meal. He hated it but he dealt with it.

Another trip to town saw him stopping again. He hoped they weren't serving horse because he loved horses. He even asked and was assured that horse was not on the menu. After a delicious meal he once again asked what they had eaten. It was dog. Grandpa never stopped again. He just could not deal with eating man's best friend.

Even before that Grandpa would often just ride all night to get back to the herd. It was beautiful out under the stars. And a cowboy doesn't mind being alone out there. It is what he does all the time.

One night he saw two glowing eyes with the creature behind them waiting to attack him. Grandpa was not afraid. He carefully lifted his rifle from its carrier, aimed, and fired. He aimed between those two glowing eyes and shot the creature right where he aimed.

It was a bobcat. Grandpa had it stuffed. The taxidermist put it in a ferocious pose. It looked ready to leap right then and there. Its mouth was open in a snarling growl.  That thing sat at the top of the stairs of the attic. I was terrified. It looked so real.

When it came the time that Grandpa decided to become a family man he quit being a cowboy. He went home to the farm his father had left him to marry and raise his children.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday The 13th

Recently we were supposed to celebrate Defy Superstition Day. This was brought to my attention by my online friend John At Reflections. If you click on the link you will see his post on the subject.

I am fascinated by superstitions. I sort of collect them for my own amusement.

My family has a Friday the 13th superstition all our own. My mother had a terrible (but funny) day and we never let her live it down. Let me tell you all about it.

My aunt and uncles went to school in a one room schoolhouse in the country. On the last day of school there was a picnic and we always went. The more the merrier, you know. This year it was held on Friday, the 13th.

We set out for the picnic with Mom at the wheel. Daddy had to work. Mom was running late as usual so she was driving a bit faster than she should have. She came to the top of a hill and saw the police car at the bottom. Instead of slowing down she panicked and stopped. When she restarted and drove down the hill she was pulled over. Luckily the cop recognized the car. Daddy was the town marshal and worked with the state police on occasion. Mom received a warning to be more careful and we went on our way.

The car was low on gas so Mom pulled in to a station along the highway. In the 1950's the pumps often had big glass globes on the top with the name of the gasoline company on them. They were pretty. When Mom pulled in for gas she realized that she was too far away from the pump. She pulled forward a bit and then backed up a bit closer... whoops! a little too close.She bumped the pump. That beautiful glass globe began to wobble, wobble, wobble, wobble... it seemed to be slowing and coming to a stop. Whew. Then it just fell right off and smashed into millions of pieces.

The man at the station was very kind. Of course we did not have to pay for it; it happens all the time. (Right!) We got our 2 dollars worth of gas. That filled it up then. And we were off again.

We turned off the highway to the county road on the way to the picnic. We were merrily driving along and Mom missed the turn onto the next county road that led to the school. Not to worry... she just backed up so she would be in position to turn. Somehow we ended up in the ditch. Some of the ditches in Nebraska were like valleys. We were rear end down with the nose of the car pointing up. Now what was she to do?

Here we were with a car full of children sitting in a deep ditch with no chance she could drive it out. As luck would have it a neighboring farmer came by on his tractor. Mom waved him down and he of course was happy to help. He was so happy to help that he could not stop laughing as he hooked the chain up to the car and his tractor. Laughing as he had Mom steer the car while his tractor strained to pull us out of that ditch. He was so happy when we were completely clear of the ditch that he kept laughing. Mom had made him so happy that he was still laughing as he drove off.

Off we went again. Mom successfully made the turn. Believe it or not we made it safely to the picnic. Of course we were extremely late but there were still a few games left to be played. After that Friday, the 13th, was a day that we no longer let Mom drive. As a matter of fact we would not even let her in the car.

This is the way many superstitions start. Got any of your own?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Teach me

 Education is so important. There are many people who will say that school did little for them and they might be right. But anyone who is successful became educated about something.

My husband was illiterate. He went to school until the 9th grade but he could not read. Because of that he thought he was "dumb". That was his expression. But in reality he was so smart.

He educated himself in things that interested him. For instance he had a friend who was a welder by trade. My husband said he laid "the prettiest" weld he ever saw.

So my husband watched him and asked questions. He had the friend show him what to do. Then he had the friend watch as he tried. He wanted his friend to tell him if he was doing something right or wrong. He was never the master he wanted to be but his weld would hold and be strong... just not as "pretty" as he wished.

I on the other hand found school to be easy. I learn fast and retain the information. I had "book learning".

I am still an avid reader and I search the internet about topics that interest me. I keep learning that way and keep my mind sharp. I am interested in so many things that I will always have something to study.

I had another advantage. I got an excellent education in school. I can count on one hand the number of poor teachers I had and have fingers left over. That includes college and the fact that I went to 13 different schools before I graduated high school.

I am also the oldest child of seven. My mother insisted that I speak correctly. (She was a highly intelligent woman.) Therefore words like "ain't" are not a part of my vocabulary. She relaxed a bit on my siblings but I am grateful she was strict about my words.

My beautiful children seemed to inherit the best qualities of both parents. They are much more intelligent than I am. They learn easily as I do. They also educate themselves as their father did. Add the wisdom they got from their paternal grandmother and they are all impressive people.

Sadly they went to school in the big city. The number of good teachers  combined among the four of them can be counted on one hand with fingers left over. Sad.

I taught all of them to read because the schools were poor. Often they taught themselves other subjects and would come to me if they had questions because the teachers were not accessible. Again sad.

My oldest son went to school with a star basketball player. He was often in the news. It was reported also that he was such a good student and had high grades.

My son said he never went to class. The school had him sit at a table in the counselor's outer office all day. He just sat there pretty much doing nothing for the whole day. But he was a basketball star and valuable to the school.

He was automatically enrolled in a Big Ten school for college. He promptly flunked out because did not know how to learn and was used to having his grades taken care of.

He tried out for the NBA. That did not last too long. He was good but not better than a lot of other players. The last we heard he was playing professional basketball in Italy. Sad.

What a disservice the school did to him. Because he was a big star in a big city he knew he would be rich from playing basketball. He and his family were not concerned with whether or not he had an education. Unfortunately neither was the school.

Education is too important to ignore. Not everyone is cut out to excel scholastically. That is fine. But you must be educated about something to accomplish anything. Traditional schooling  is a good base to build on.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Old Man Of The Tree

Have you ever seen the Old Man of the tree? If you are a lover of trees like I am you have probably seen a few.

He looks as if his face is coming out of the tree like the picture above. That is an un-enhanced picture.

I have noticed that there are not as many here as there were in Michigan. Perhaps they do not feel the need to be seen here. I do not know.

I have noticed that whenever I see one he looks as if he is in pain. Does that mean his tree is in danger? Maybe he is simply lonely and crying out for someone to notice him.

Now it may be that I see the Old Man more often than some do because I love trees so much. I have been known to stop along the road to glory in a particular tree.

Each tree has a distinct character and some seem to call to me. Sometimes it is the fullness of the tree. Sometimes it is the way the branches spread. Sometimes it is just a feeling that the tree and I connect.

Even dead trees are attractive to me. I can see what they once were. I appreciate the graceful lines that are still visible and envision what they might have looked like.

I close with a well-known poem by Joyce Kilmer.

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

He Is Home!

Well almost home. My son is out of prison. He arrived a few days ago.

Another son and I met him at the bus station. He had traveled almost two days to get here so he was worn out.

He looks great but older. I know that his health is not as good as it should be but I am hoping that he will improve now.

He had called me the first morning of his trip to let me know that he was on his way. He was released a couple of days ahead of what we thought so I was surprised. He was too.

He asked me to call and notify everyone he cares about. I was on the phone for several hours because of course everyone had questions. Most of the answers I did not know.

He also had a request that I knew he would have. "Bring me something to eat!" He wanted fast food so a home cooked meal would have to wait.

So we met him at the bus. It was a wonderful reunion.

The only problem was that he had only half an hour to check in at the halfway house. We were able to catch up a little on the way but of course there was not enough time.

That is why he is only almost home. We have no idea how long he will have to stay there. He will be able to leave under certain circumstances for short periods of time after he is situated. I am waiting for that now.

He did call me that evening to let me know he was getting settled. It seems like a nice enough place. He was wondering if we could take him shopping for clothes as soon as they will let him go.

So I almost have my son back. It is not enough but it will do for now.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Watermelon Day

During the summer Saturday nights were special nights. The farmers came to town to purchase what they needed from the grocery store and the feed store. It was a small town so there were not many other stores there.

What we did have was the free show. The free show was a big movie screen with a bunch of benches set up for us to watch. And it cost absolutely nothing.

I got 25 cents each week for allowance. Five cents went into the collection plate at Sunday school but the rest was mine all mine. Before the show started I would stop at the store and buy a bottle of pop and a candy bar. It took half of what was left but it was worth it. Besides I would get back a penny when I returned the bottle for the deposit. That penny was worth two pieces of bubble gum.

I loved sitting outside watching those movies. It was just like being at the theater. Except we had the stars above us.

The reason the free show was there was to keep the kids busy while their parents shopped and socialized. The fire station was where the men would gather to play cards and discuss manly things. The women stood off to the side talking about children and whatever else they talked about.

We lived just a block and a half down the street from the free show so I always went. Unless it rained. Then us kids would join the adults in the firehouse.

At the end of the summer came the best day of all. It was watermelon day.

On watermelon day all the farmers brought part of their harvest to town. Someone donated a cow and someone else donated a pig. They were both roasted in a huge pit dug in the ground. They started cooking a day or two before.

Then there were tables set up. They held cooked potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh salads, vegetables, fruits, homemade breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, homemade jams and jellies... you name it, it was there. And watermelon.

After eating more than you could possibly eat, you had to go back for a huge chunk of watermelon, then another one, and so forth. It was everyone enjoying the bounties of the harvest.

There were games like sack races and other fun group activities. When the sun went down there was the free show.

The very nicest hing about watermelon day was... IT COST NOTHING. It was just people getting together and enjoying each other and the offerings from the land. It is one of my favorite memories.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


My second son and his family lived on a very busy street in the city.  The noise from traffic would be unbearable if you were not used to city traffic sounds.

This is also a city known for violence. Drive-by shootings were not unusual even if they were not as frequent as some news reports would have you believe.

For those who do not know a drive-by shooting is when a car drives by and occupants of the car shoot guns. Sometimes they have a specific target in mind such as a person sitting the the porch or a certain house where someone they were angry with lived. Sometimes they simply want to shoot their guns.

One night we had a family get-together at my son's house. We were sitting inside and talking. The children were watching television. It was a relaxing evening.

We all jumped when we heard what sounded almost like cannon shots one after the other. There were four in all. Boom, boom, boom, boom!

Of course we knew it must be a drive-by. We made sure all the little ones were accounted for and safe. Then we asked each other if we were safe. Then we started to wonder if the neighbors were safe.

Having no idea what had actually happened we were puzzled. But you cannot rush outside because the shooters might go around the block or something. So we waited.

There was no one screaming outside. No police came.

After a considerable amount of time a few of us went out to see what damage had been done and where it had been done.

My son's house had no bullet holes. We saw no damage to neighbors' houses. My son went across the street to where he parked his semi truck. Nothing there.

Then he started to laugh. When he was finally able he pointed to my car. I had four flat tires!

No they were not shot. I had little money and desperately needed different tires. They had chosen that day to all explode and go flat.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Stand Up

I am so proud of me. A little background will come first.

I am a person who does not want to hurt someone else's feelings. That is a virtue most of the time. But it can be limiting to me.

I do not like to argue. That does not mean that I cannot argue; I just do not like it.

I once made that comment to a co-worker. She took it to mean that I would always back down from a conflict.

I worked in the cash office and she was manning the service desk that night. If postage on a package was an unusual amount the service desk would come to the cash office for a metered postage stamp.

She proudly came to the window and ordered 87 85-cent meters. I told her to use the 85-cent stamps provided for her in her cash drawer. That is why the stamps were there.

She said there were too many packages for her to lick that many stamps. I said that was why there was a moistened sponge beside the weight scale. She stomped away.

After a time she was back at the window. She had 87 85-cent stamps that she wanted to exchange for meters. I again refused her. She stormed away.

She came back with a stronger demand for the meters. "Do you mean to tell me that the United States Postal Service is refusing to serve me?" I told her, "No. I am." She managed to get the stamps on the packages by herself.

To be honest I probably would have given in and made the meters which would have taken me from my other tasks if she had not come at me in such an imperious way. Then I would have been in trouble with my superiors for not having her use the stamps in the first place.

That is an example. I was not trying to hurt her feelings. She had a job to do but she wanted me to make it easier for her at the expense of me being able to do my job. She was obviously not concerned with my feelings.

But I digress.

I needed new tires for my SUV. I went to a tire shop. They gave me the price of the tires and told me I would have approximately a 2 hour wait. I gave my keys and went to wait. I had something to read with me so the wait seemed less than it was.

I was called up to the counter. I was ready to pay.

I was told that three of the lug nuts would need to be heated and taken off that way because they were fused to the wheel. It was estimated as a two hour job. I would be charged according to the amount of labor actually used so I might pay a little more or a little less depending on the actual labor time.

What choice did I have? I reluctantly agreed.

Almost exactly 1 hour later I was called to the front. My car was ready to go. All I needed to do was pay them.

The man presented me with the bill that included the charge for 2 hours labor to take off the lug nuts. I half-heartedly questioned the price because it took less time. He explained that the technician had charged for the full 2 hours.

I sighed and began to turn my head in disgust. I was going to have to pay for something I did not receive but what was I to do?

Then it hit me! Stand up for yourself, dummy!

I pointed out to the man that it had been only an hour since he called me up to explain the problem. He looked at me and begrudgingly said he would give me a "discount".

The discount was the same as 1 hour of labor. I stood up for myself. I was not rude but I was firm. I did not yell or cry or make a scene. I simply asked for my due. And I got it.

So yes I am proud. Perhaps not for the reason you might think.

I learned a lesson. That is the reason I am proud of myself. I did not hurt anyone. I simply asked not to be hurt myself. I am probably a little old to have learned the lesson but learn it I did. And I am proud I did. I stood up for me.