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Sunday, January 15, 2017

There was a barn and horses.

I woke up this morning remembering the barn.  The horse tank was out the back door of the house and off to the right.  For years it had a "pitcher pump" and we all took turns pumping to keep water for the animals.  Ever now and then we had to fish a chicken out because chickens can not swim.  That was not very often, because chickens are fairly smart that way.  We had Muscovy ducks and they occasionally took a spin around the tank, but they were very leery of those big horse teeth and mostly stayed around the back of the house where the kitchen sink drained out on the ground.  That was back before there were laws about that.
There was a red milk cow.  Her name was "Bossy".  She shared the barn with the other animals.  She eventually gave birth to a black calf that I immediately named Dennis.  She then took sick with milk fever (?).   My dad and the neighbor man tried to save her.  They even cut her tail open and put salt and pepper in it and bound it up.  That was sure to cure her.  Unfortunately, it did not.  Dennis took sick soon after and I think that was because he had no mother to feed him.  He also died, which broke my heart.
There was a brown horse named "Danny" that was my sister Josephine's.  It was her's because that was the meanest damned horse in the world and she was the only one who could ride him.  The rest of us kids were relegated to a Shetland pony whose name was "Star".  Dad would put one of us up on his back and then lead him around the corral.  I never did like either Star or the rides so I mostly hid out when that was going on.  The little kids got a kick out of it though.
My Dad had a big scar on his upper arm (think that is called a bicep).  (For this reason I have always been afraid of horses thinking that one might bite me.)  It dated back to when he was in the Army (World War 1).  He was in the Cavalry.  His job was to tend the horses and one bit him.  I knew my father to be a very mean man sometimes.  He never mistreated us kids physically, but he did tend to mistreat animals.  One of the things used to control horses was a stick with a loop of rope on the end.  The rope was put around the upper lip of a horse and twisted.  The horse was then pretty much at the mercy of whoever held the stick.  I do not remember what that thing was called.  Of course there was a black snake whip that hung in the barn for when the horses were really out of control.
Dad had a fondness (more like an obsession) for show horses.  They were not just show horses, they were work horses that were beautiful.  My dad was one of the last people to give up the horse and plow.  He would never buy one horse.  He always bought a matched pair.  The last matched pair he had was the only pair I even remember.  They were Strawberry Roans.  They were big and a light pinkish color.  They had blonde tails and my father would stand for hours brushing them.  When he went into town their tails were braided and he was a sight to behold.  My father.  (pause while a flood of memories leaves me in tears.)
The upper part of the barn was called the "hay loft."  It was called that because that is where the hay was stored.  That was also where the old cats went to have their kittens.  When the cow was alive and we milked her, there was a bowl by her stall that was always filled with fresh milk at milking time.  The one legged stool hung on a peg above it. 
When the hayloft was filled with fresh hay, we had to check it periodically through the day.  If some of the hay that went in the loft was not quite dry enough, it would heat up and if not turned to get air to cool it, burst into flame.  First it started to smolder and usually we picked that up right away.  We took the pitch fork and pulled that part of the hay stack out and threw it out the opening onto the ground where we spread it to cool, or burn if it was that hot.  Lots of barns burned to the ground because of that little problem.
My dad was pretty much a share cropper and us kids were put into use real regular. Sometimes we went to wheat fields and pulled out the Rye that sprung up magically.  If the elevator man found Rye in the load of wheat being sold, he would "dock" dad on the pay.  Sometimes we harvested field corn.  We picked the dry ears and stripped them in the field and then tossed them on the corn wagon.  The corn wagon was just a horse drawn wagon with board added on the back side so the corn bounced off and landed back in the wagon with the rest of the corn.  We picked rocks out of fields.  We pulled weeds in the garden.  Especially fun was cleaning the manure out of the barn and hauling it to the pile in the corner of the corral.  We gathered eggs.  Brought in fire wood.  Carried out the trash.  Made the beds. Washed the dishes.  In the winter we tried to stay warm and in the summer we tried to stay cool.
One of my clearest memories is laying on my stomach by the chicken house with my brother and watching the "dead animal wagon" back up to the fence in front of the barn.  The man pulled the wench chain out and over to the barn where he wrapped it around Star's neck.  He hit the button and Star was unceremoniously drug up over the sill, across the pen, under the barbed wire fence and up into the back of the truck.  My last memory of Star was seeing the truck pull onto the road and drive off with Star's  legs sticking straight up into the air.  Jake and I were very quiet the rest of the day and night.  Then life resumed, just like there had never been a Shetland Pony named Star in our life.
And now I sit here with my memories.  I see the house just as clearly today as I did then, only now I appreciate it more for it's simplicity.  I see my brother in his overalls.  The scar on his face was put there by Star many years before. 
There are only 2 of us left now.   I feel closer to the past then I do the future.  I long for those days when I could feel the breeze on my arms and face.  Back then I could not wait to grow up and get away.  I wanted my own home.  My own family.  Well, I got it and here I set.  If there is one thing I would tell the people I know it is this:  Hold on to today, because today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.  Yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes.  I think they wrote a song about that.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

And I remember when 9 below was nothing, or so it seemed.

I crawled out of the sack this morning and man it was cold.   I heard it was supposed to be -9, but I just checked and it is -2.  So I inched the furnace up just a hair and thought back to 65 years ago, when the best I could do was huddle around the wood stove in the front room and try to get just a little heat going.  It was mostly Jake's job to get up very early and get the fire going.  It just was easier for him to bank the fire and throw on another log through the night than it was to get up and build a whole new fire.  That way at least a little heat was going.  The stove was closest to the room where Dad, Jake, Josephine, Donna, Mary ande I slept.  Momma slept in the back bedroom with Dorothy and sometimes Mary.
Going to bed was never really anything to look forward to, if you know what I mean.  In the summer it was not so bad because we kind of spread out and slept wherever there was a flat place, but winter meant getting out the blankets and all of us piling on the one bed that was not occupied by dad.  It was a matter of survival back then.  Blankets were mostly the old wool things that came from the Army.  They were scratchy wool and if we were really lucky one side would have a sheet or something tacked on to it.  The idea of a sheet under us and one over us was unheard of at that time. If such a thing existed they would be on dad's bed.  Elbows were pillows.  Jake slept across the bottom of the bed wrapped in his own cocoon because he was a boy after all and could not sleep with his head near our heads.  I realize this is a weird way of thinking and would be considered scandalous today, but it was what it was back then in the "Grapes of Wrath" world of John Stienbeck.
Usually this sleeping arrangement worked pretty well, but there were times it failed.  Mary was not completely dependable when it came to sleeping the whole night without an "accident".  On those nights she was unceremoniously awoken and hauled off to mothers bed and we were left to sleep around the circle of wet  mattress where she had been previously.  We usually tried to put her on the edge of the bed because then her little bed wetting problem was not so catastrophic.  And another bad habit she had was chewing her toenails and the edge of the bed gave her better access to her chosen target. ( I often wonder if she ever gave up on that little habit.)  Mary was always Dad's favorite because she was little, quiet and very sweet.
Josephine eloped when she was 15 or so.  That freed up some bed space and we were very happy to have those few inches of mattress.  Now I have to go on record here as saying she eloped with a man who was 29 years old.  Today he would be tarred and feathered, but then it was fairly normal.  The legal age for a girl to get married back then was 13 in the state of Mississippi and not much older in most of the other states.  I think that is right.  And if a girl wanted to get married younger than that she needed one of her parents to sign for her.  We have definitely improved on that law!
Back in those days if a boy got in trouble with the law, he could join the service and they would drop the charges.  He had to be at least 16.  Jake changed his birth certificate and got in when he was 16.  He was in the service and back out before most of his classmates graduated.  He was sure handsome in his uniform.
I can remember walking home from school after a snow storm.  We had a friend named Jim Davis and mother made arrangements with him to walk in front of us and break a trail in the snow.  Had he not done that we would probably still be there.  I recall once it was so bad dad brought the horse to break the trail.  When they talk about record snow falls, I know what they are talking about.  We measured it in feet back then.
So this morning I set here in my warm little house and look outside at the snow on the ground and wish I could stay home, but no such luck.  But I have a car that goes in the snow very well and if I just use a little bit of common sense I can make it to town and back.  It is supposed to warm up today and being the heat seeking woman I am, I am looking forward to that.

Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Whittlin' Joe and Smokin' Johnny Carson

We lived down on Strong Street and they lived up on Highway 96.  They lived the second house in from the corner in a brown tar paper shack.  I call it tar paper but it had a coating on it with flecks of brown, red and black.  You know what I mean, kind of like the asphalt shingles on roofs today.  Their yard was small but it was big enough for a chicken coop and an out house.  It had one tree and that is where Whittlin' Joe could be found every afternoon after school.  He sat on a wooden chair and leaned it back against the tree trunk and whittled his little things he whittled whatever they were.  I suspect he was there all day and not just after school, but that is when I saw him.  The chickens ran free in the yard and some times one could be seen coming out of the house.  They had a small trailer and it was said by my brother (who knew these things) that the trailer was full of things they had whittled and in the summer they went on the road and sold stuff.  I could not argue, because I did not know.  I just know I walked on the other side of the street because they scared me.
I had heard rumors that sometimes Hank Windiate would stop and pass the time of day with them.  Hank lived at the end of our street and was crippled.  I do not know why, just that one arm and one leg were pretty small.  He had a buckboard and an old brown horse which he harnessed and hooked up to it on a daily basis and "went into town."  I have no idea why he went into town every day, but he did.  There were rumors that he had been married at one time and his wife had died.  Hank was another one who let the chickens run in and out of the house.  Hank took sick and died and the town people came and built a fire in his yard and burned everything that was inside.  I never understood that.  And I do not know what happened to the goats, chickens and horse either.  This is just how I remember it.
Between us and Hank were two houses.  First was Rudolph Reinke and his girls, Irene, Delores, Florence and Venita.  He had several more girls who had grown and gone, but Irene was my age and Delores a year or so older.  The mother had died when Irene was a wee tot and Rudolph was left to raise the kids.  He did handyman work and left early and came home late.  He also raised pigs and he could be heard doing his chores and singing hymns in German while he went about his business.  The girls made doughnuts every Saturday morning.  They also had a cow so they made real butter.  They used to trade us butter for the white stuff with a yellow dot that passed for margarine in the old time.  I liked that.  They had a dog on a chain that barked all the time and I do not think anyone ever petted it.
Between Reinke's and Hank was Jake Smith and his wife who I never knew because she looked really mean and stood very straight when she walked.  She walked into town and was a cleaning lady for someone.  Jake was a retired peace officer and he liked to show us his gun and tell us what would happen to us if we ever did anything wrong.  He would arrest us because he still had his badge and he could do that.  He had a chair in the yard and used to tip it back against the tree and nap.  Pretty sure Jake was the instigator of the "sneaking up on Jake Smith while he was asleep and tying him to the tree."  Boy, was he mad!  Of course he was not tied very tight, but it was just the idea of catching him asleep that the boys could not resist.
Walt King lived over on the highway on the other side of our block.  He raised beautiful flowers and a garden to die for, which he did one afternoon.  We saw him sleeping face down in his garden all afternoon and so when mother came home we told her and she and Rudolph went to investigate, but we had to stay home.
The Feins and their son Howard lived between us and Whittlin' Joe on the highway.  Howard was probably 25 years old and still lived at home.  He worked in his garden a lot.  He raised mostly flowers.  I stopped to see him sometimes, but once he made his false teeth jump out at me and scared the living shit right out of me.  I did not even know there were such things as false teeth.  When I told mother she just laughed and said to stay away from there because I was probably aggravating him.  I pretty much avoided him after that.
Right catty cornered from our house was a lot that was a square block with an empty house on one side.  I mean a deserted falling down house with no roof.  Joe Hedrick held his rodeo's there.  I always liked to watch them ride the broncs.  Joe or Jerry.  One was an old man and one was my age.  Today they have an exotic animal farm on the other side of town.  I think it is a bed and breakfast, or it was.  I have not been back in years so I do not know.
Behind our house about half a mile was the cemetary.  I used to love to go there because it was quiet and sometimes there were pretty flowers.  I just looked at them.
So, these are my thoughts this morning.  I sure wonder where they come from?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

And our saviour was born in a cattle stall.....

For my whole life I have known the story of the birth of our saviour.  When I was very young it was the one Sunday out of the year that many people went to church.  The only Sunday we were allowed to miss was when we were loaded kit and kaboodle into the back seat of what ever old car we had that was running and off we went to grandma's house.  It was an all day trip because we had to stop several times and put water in the radiator and one of us always had to hop out and go pee in the ditch.  It was an all day ordeal making that 22 mile trip over to Plevna and back, but it was the one thing momma insisted on doing at least once a month.

Dad never went to church.  He did not buy into that malarkey and until the day he died he never ceased to remind us that we were damn fools.  His funeral when I was 25 years old was held in the Lamb Funeral Home and I am not sure who officiated, but I am sure he was up there some where looking down and pitying us poor fools who were trying to get him into a place he never believed in.  I was just devastated because we were burying my father and I never knew him.  Eight months later we buried my brother.  I digress.

Everyone who knows my story knows that I married at 19 and immediately had 4 kids, took a short break and had the last one.  My husband was an athiest and so church was not important.  It was not that I forgot any of my upbringing, but it was just easier to not push the buttons that set him off.  After our divorce when I became truly independent, I made sure the kids got to Sunday school and back every Sunday.  Well, most of them any way.  Now that did not mean that I went, but they did.

And so I grew into adulthood cherishing my beliefs, but not doing much about them.  And much like the parables in the Bible, I had my awakening after I married Kenny.  Things happen in our lives that tend to bring us full circle and we end up on our knees.  So it was with me.  We all have our moments and as I look back, I wonder what in the world I was thinking.  At age 16 I wanted to be a missionary and was on the right track.  10 years later I was a single mom and working 2 or 3 jobs to feed my brood.  But I never lost hope.  Never once did I think there was not a God that loved me.  Several times I wondered why he did, but there he was.

Someone asked me the other day if I really bought that story of Jesus Christ being born to a virgin.  That just doesn't seem possible.  My answer at the time and will always be, " I beleive that story with my whole heart, soul and being.  I always have and I always will."  Then my friend asked why Jesus suffered and died on the cross.  He could have run away and hid.  He did not have to do that.  To that I say, "He died for my sins and your sins.  He died so we could have life ever lasting."

And that, my friends, is what I beleive.  It is why I get up for in the morning and it is my last thought at night when I go to sleep.  I am not scholarly in my Bible like some people, but Lou Mercer is a true beleiver  and I will be when I take my last breathe.

I beleive in Christmas miracles and I beleive in August 4 miracles.  I beleive there are angels among us and they guide our feet so we do not dash them on a stone.  I beleive there is good in everyone and if I die tomorrow I will meet Jesus with a smile on my face.

I would love to see you at my church because we have a very nice pastor named Karen Howe, but if I don't see you, please know I love you and accept you as you are.

And with that, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.  May peace and prosperity be yours for the whole year and the rest of your life.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A sharecropper Christmas or Gibby is gone, but the memories are not.

There were eight of us living in a lathe and plaster house where the snow blew in sometimes because there were chinks in the plaster, but Christmas was always Christmas.  It was the one holiday a year that really mattered in that 2 bedroom house at 709 Strong Street in Nickerson, Kansas.  There were 3 things that would happen that day without fail.  Santa Clause would have stopped by in the middle of the night, Dad would stay sober and  there would be a meal on the table.  The wheels of progress had started probably the Christmas before when Mother started counting her pennies and making the list of what each one of us would receive. She always had a stub of a pencil and a list in her pocket. I never really got a good look at that list, but I am sure my name had appeared there some where.   All year she worked towards that one goal.  Mother's do that, or at least mine did.
School got out for vacation about a week before Christmas.  Every classroom had a Christmas tree. and every tree had tinsel.  The last day before vacation started was the day to "take down the tree."  The tree then went home with who ever did not have a tree up yet.  We counted on getting one.  There were 6 of us little urchins and the teachers would decide.  We always got one!  I remember the year I was the lucky recipient.  Can you imagine my pride at dragging that tree home the whole mile to our house.  I was so damn proud I thought I would pop!  And the teacher had left all the tinsel on it.  Of course by the time I got it home the tinsel had thinned quite a bit on the side that was dragging in the dirt.  I thought I would pop my buttons when momma propped that tree up and Christmas was on the countdown!
We did not have stockings, but rather we wrote our name on a piece of paper and placed it where we wanted Santa to put our gifts.  Funny, I don't really remember ever giving my mother a gift in all those growing up years.  I made her cards, but never a physical gift.  And then there was the time I babysat and earned some money and went to Doc Wards store and got her a stainless steel mixing bowl.  I did that because I had broken her glass one and felt really bad about that.  Well, when I grew up and moved away I would send her stuff, but that really doesn't count.
As the years went by and mother picked up more house cleaning jobs the piles grew bigger at Christmas.  The first one I remember was a coloring book, colors, a red rubber ball, and an orange.  The last Christmas I remember Santa Clause was when my brother woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me he had helped mom and dad put out the gifts and there was no Santa Clause.  That year I got one of those tin doll houses that clipped together.  You know, the miniature ones with mother, father, sister and brother and all the tiny furniture and you could buy more!  And always there was new underwear and socks!  Wise mother to make the piles bigger with stuff we had to have anyway!
And then it was my turn to be Santa.  In all fairness, I do not remember much about those years.  The kids dad and I divorced when the kids were small and he was good at bringing presents, but not much for the child support.  His reasoning was that I had the kids and all the pleasure they brought so why should he have to pay me?  He was the one with not kids to keep him company and in my warped mind I saw the reasoning that made him tick!
I was always a procrastinator and sometimes Christmas got there before I realized that as Santa I had work to do!  One year my friend Gibby was kind enough to help with the last minute shopping the day before Christmas Eve mind you!  We rushed from store to store and finally had the trunk full.  The next evening I put the kids to bed and Gib came and we began to assemble the gifts, one of which was a tin miniature doll house for Debbie.  Luckily (?) he had brought a bottle of wine and luckier still that I had lots of band aids because those damn little tabs were very sharp and the wine was very strong!  Well, and there may have been a second bottle!  I woke up on the floor and no sign of Gib.
(An aside here, I must tell you about Gib.  He was a friend of my mothers and they worked at the Red Rooster together.  Gib was gay and one of the first to die in the AIDS epidemic, when it was an epidemic. He died in California and we never knew where he was buried.  I do know when I conceived the Pueblo AIDS Memorial Quilt  he was foremost in my mind and the first panel made was for my sweet Gibbie.)
Many years have passed and many Christmas's have come and gone to bring me to this Christmas.  I do not have a tree.  I gave all my lights and decorations to my son.  I do not buy gifts.  I do not fight the crowds.  I will spend Christmas Eve in church and Christmas Day I will attend church and come home.  I am not bah humbug at Christmas, I just prefer to live with my memories.  The best part of memories is that they can be altered to fit the occasion and this year I shall have beautiful memories of wonderful children and bountiful love and I wish you all the same!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!  

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Life is not always as it appears, or I am the eternal optimist!

A couple days ago I was working in my little kitchen.  My home is a split level so the office is 4 feet higher then the main level.  I heard something  crash into the office window so I sprinted up the stairs to investigate.  I looked out the window and down at the ground and saw a dark bird standing there.  He appeared to be immobile but in no pain.  A closer look and I saw that he was standing on another bird.  Well, that was strange.  I watched for a little bit and the dark bird moved around and positioned himself on top of bird #2 and began to make jumping movements.
My first impression, being the optimist I am, was that bird #1 was giving artificial respiration to bird #2 and trying to revive it.  It was probably his wife.  As I stood at my window watching I realized I was seeing a miracle that few people would ever witness and I silently prayed for success and waited with bated breath for the gray bird to show signs of life.  Then the realist in me took over.  The bird flat on it's back with wings outstretched was a dove.  The dark bird perched on it's chest was darker, had stripes on it's tail feathers and a hooked beak which was now ripping the throat out of the bird it it's clutches.  It was a chicken hawk!  At that moment I realized what a damn fool I was.
The chicken hawk had chased the dove into my window with such force that the dove had fallen to the ground and became easy prey for Mr. Chicken Hawk.  Closer examination of said window proved this was not the first time this had happened.  The doves tend to hang out in the cherry tree outside the window and the predator birds know this.  When the hawk chases a dove it flies into my window and falls to the ground.  I now have the curtains closed on all my big windows.  I do not like having my windows closed as I feel trapped inside, but that is how it is for now.
And of course, I understand nature enough to know that while the doves eat seeds and such hawks are meat eaters.  I am a meat eater, but I can go to the store and buy my food.  Nature does not work like that.  It is called survival of the fittest.  The hawk outsmarted the dove.  That is how it is.  And isn't life much like that?  Somebody holds the mortgage on my house.  If I do not pay, they take my house.  My car needs gas to run, if I do not fill it up, it does not move.  On a daily basis I am outsmarted by the dogs and geese.  And the cat.  They expect food in their bowl and like a silly fool, I take my money and buy them what they need.  Elvira goes to the beauty shop, but I braid my hair.  How many of you out there are slaves to the same Gods?  (Did you ever notice that GODS and DOGS have the same letters?)  Our reward for the attention we give them is they will sometimes let us pat them on the head.  Not the geese though.  The only thing I get from them is the privilege of cleaning out the goose house 3-4 times a year and carrying water to them in the winter.  All they do for me is poop where I need to walk.
So I will keep the curtains closed for a while.  When the doves migrate away I will open them back up and delude myself into believing that all is well with the world and no one is eating anyone else.  I am an optimist and I shall stay an optimist because to not look for a brighter tomorrow is doom myself to a life of darkness.
So fly away, my little doves!  There is a brighter world some where!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving, happy birthday to Susie and here comes the cat!

Yesterday is over and I think I accomplished everything I set out to do.  Told Susie happy birthday, went to Florence and ate way more food than I should.  Played with the baby for 16 minutes and then drove home the back way through Wetmore.   Pretty drive but I only seen one lonely little deer.  I got home and lit the emergency candle I am making for the homeless.  I had lit it at Arlene and Hillary's and let it burn for 2 hours.  This one is made of cardboard strips and paraffin in a cat food can.  It started out very small and burned like that for about an hour and a half before I blew it out and came home. Perhaps I should back up and tell you about said candles before you think I am nuts.
I know the homeless population needs a heat source at times so I got on youtube (and I do love that channel) and typed in "emergency candles" and up popped my information.  This particular one calls for tuna/catfood/altoid cans, paraffin and wicks.  Looked pretty simple to me, so I assembled said ingredients and began the process.
Something to melt it in.

And, voila!  There you have the finished product.
Of course this was many tedious hours later after I had cut many cardboard strips and wound them around a tiny wick and pressed them into my chosen containers covered them with melted paraffin and let them cool. Trust me, the winding around the tiny wick with stiff cardboard strips was no easy task, but it can be done.
The finished product is ready for testing.

And like any kid with a new toy, it was imperative that my creation be tested and the testing witnessed by an impartial audience.  I started out with Arlene, Alonzo, Jamie, Bret, Amanda, Jiraiya, a  little black dog.  That was before Bret hollered that the flame was about to get into the curtain, so I came home and finished with this audience.

The findings were thus:  A candle in a tuna can will start out as a small flickering flame and burn for  about 1 hour.  Then the flame begins to spread and burn the wax from the cardboard.  At this point it is best to move it away from the kitchen curtains, blow it out and bring it home to finish the test, and that is what I did.  Of course, I decided to set it in a bucket just in case and it is a good thing I did.  Before it was all over there were flames over a foot high and the whole can was an inferno.  Total burn time about 3 hours.  Oh, the things I do for my projects.
Ok, it is ready and I shall deliver them to Posado on Monday when we make supper for the kids there.  For now, I am off to the shower and then going to do some baking.  And going out east to see Shirley and her grandson and probably pop in on Los Pobres just for grins and giggles.