Monthly Archives: January 2013

My Uncle Bill is the 2nd child of my dad’s parents, and at 91, he is the one who has lived the longest. He is the last one left. That is something that I find to be sad for those of us who have lost our parent from the Spencer side, and happy that Uncle Bill is still with us. Reaching the age of 90 was something Uncle Bill never expected, and now, he has gone beyond that, and as far as we know, he will still be here next year and the year after that. And that does make me glad, because I love him very much and really don’t want him to leave us yet. I’m happy that God has blessed him with long life.

His health is good, but I suspect he has forgotten more about the family history than most of us will ever know. Uncle Bill became interested in the family history as a young man, and he has kept extensive records. The records he has are more than remarkable, because it was mostly done without the help of computers. He received some help later in life that involved computers, but his research was not done that way. I have also done a lot of research on my family tree, and it was Uncle Bill who inspired me to do so. I must say, however, that I did use the computer a lot, so my research has come from the work of many other people too. Not as remarkable as Uncle Bill’s work, but effective just the same.

Uncle Bill’s life was based in many ways on his childhood experiences. From his love of guns and antiques, to his management skills, he watched those people he respected and sometimes even took on the same causes, as is the case with the aunt who got him started in genealogy. The guns came from his personal experience, and his love of antiques was what got his longest career going. He collected everything… guns, coins, stamps, and antique furniture. Then he decided to start a shop to buy, sell and trade those items. His shop was an amazing place, because you never knew what treasures were hidden there. Eventually, he started a mail order business, and sold his items all over the country, and probably the world.

Today is Uncle Bill’s 91st birthday, and I’m sure that if he were not retired, you would still find him working at his shop in Superior, Wisconsin, doing his very best to make that next sale, or sitting with one of the people that used to stop by just to visit, and  talk about old times. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! We love you very much and hope you have a wonderful day!!

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Ron gave his dad, my father-in-law a calendar from 2012 that he had used at work…not for the calendar but for the pictures. They were all pictures of tractors through the years. We all took a look at that calendar, because it was interesting to see how much tractors had changed over the years, and the different makes for that matter. I remember seeing one that could have easily passed for a travel trailer, were it not for the tractor wheels. And there were makes that even my father-in-law hadn’t heard of, and having grown up on ranches, I would have expected that he would know them all.

Since the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1760 to somewhere between 1820 and 1840, when manufacturing transitioned from hand production to machines, technology never stops changing. There are always new ideas, and someone to invent them. I recalled seeing a couple of pictures among the old pictures I have been going through, that showed a couple of different tractors used by members of Bob’s and my families. Even though these pictures probably weren’t taken that far apart in years, the two tractors are very different from one another. I suppose that the tractors themselves could have been much different in age, since you often use a machine for many years before it wears out, and they could have been for different work, thereby requiring different designs, but I was struck, nevertheless, by the vast difference in their design. My father-in-law also told me that it could depend on the area of the country, as to what makes of tractor were available. That makes sense too, in that different climates, and growing seasons might require different types of wheels and designs. I suppose that humidity could play a part in how the engines ran as well, and so could affect what tractor make would work better in those areas.

Technology is changing so fast these days that tractors may one day be obsolete, you never know. I mean…who ever thought there would be a vacuum cleaner that cleaned by itself, and yet now we have them. I don’t mean to say that crops will ever harvest themselves, or that the ground will just stay plowed, but one day there might be a machine that does those jobs with just a little bit of programing. Then, like the Roomba, which is no longer called a vacuum, the tractor might change its name with the modern advancement of automation too.

Some people have such a way with children…a gentleness really. They are so soft hearted…maybe a little too soft hearted, but you find yourself unable to be upset with them, even if they let kids get away with too much. That is always how Bob was with our girls, and in fact, if I hadn’t been much more on the strict side, they would have been completely spoiled. Bob always had a hard time with disciplining the girls. I think he always thought he would hurt them, so he either left it up to me, or he yelled at them a little, and I do mean little, bit. He wasn’t a scary guy at all, and in fact Amy, my more stubborn child, even laughed at him after a spanking he gave her when she was 5 years old, if you could call it that. He just didn’t have the heart for it.

I can’t say that his soft heart was a bad thing, exactly. I mean, did the girls get away with a little more than they should have when they were little? Yes. Is he still a sucker for his little girls? Yes. All they have to do is say, “I love you, Daddy” and he knows he has already lost. Does that fact bother Bob? Not at all. It is simply who he is. He might try to tell people he isn’t a softy around kids, but everyone knows that isn’t so.

Everywhere Bob goes, little kids seem to come out of the woodwork. No, I don’t mean strangers, I mean the children of friends, people he bowls with, or people he works with, and of course, family members children. They are just drawn to Bob. I think that soft heart shows on his face, personally. And if you think you can hide that from a kid…well, get over it. They can read you like a book. Those little kids instinctively knew that Bob was a friend.

Not much has changed over the years, and the grandchildren know that their grandpa is going to help out in any way he can. He is the second call, after their parents, when they have car trouble or any other such problem, because if their parents can’t fix it, or can’t get there right now, their grandparents will find a way…yes, I’m a bit of a softy too. And they know that he will most likely let them get away with a little more than their parents might, simply because he hasn’t changed since their mothers were little. Once a soft heart, always a soft heart.

You know one…that person who can keep a straight face while telling you a complete lie. No, I’m not talking about a malicious lie, but that joking thing, where they tell you some wild tale and by the time they are done, and their face hasn’t exploded into laughter, you find yourself actually believing them. Then you say something like…”Really!!” And the look on their face tells you that you were just caught…again.  In our family, that person is my son-in-law, Kevin. I can’t tell you how many times I have been caught in his trap, and then he proceeds to laugh and laugh. You can just see the delight dancing in his eyes.

Most people are more like me, I suppose. Sometimes they can keep a straight face, and sometimes it is impossible. My husband, Bob is pretty much the opposite of Kevin. If what he is saying isn’t true, he laughs every time. He would love to be able to keep a straight face, and make the joke work, but it just doesn’t happen. I suppose it is a matter of being able to control certain emotions, and if that is the case, then Bob must not be able to control his funny bone, because if it is remotely funny…even if the punch line hasn’t been given yet…Bob has to laugh about it.

I know that Bob wishes he could be more like Kevin in that way, because he would love to be able to put one over on people, and in a lot of ways I would love to be more like Kevin too, because I can only hold back sometimes…or for a little while. Then I can’t help but laugh. That’s how my girls are too. It isn’t a matter of self control exactly, but rather laugh control, and facial muscle control. Either you have that control or you don’t I guess. Kevin is one of those people who can hold it back until just the right moment, and then, when he’s got you…that’s when, he really gets a good laugh, and you simply have no choice but to laugh too, because, it’s never malicious…it hilarious!!

When I was a kid, we always enjoyed having my cousin, Denny and his wife, Sandy come over for visits. They were just fun people to be around, and while they were older than we were, they didn’t act as if my sisters and I were bothersome little kids who should just go play and leave the adults alone. That was something I always appreciated, and it made for a good relationship with them. As the years have gone by, and they moved to Oregon, we haven’t been in touch as much as as we used to be, but once again, Facebook has come to the rescue, and we are back in touch again. Being back in touch, has also brought back some memories for me, and I think my readers will find this one interesting. I wrote yesterday about the flinching game, so today, I will tell you about the hand slapping game.

One day, Denny and Sandy were at our house visiting, and Denny and I were playing the hand slapping game. You know the one, I held my hand over his hand, and he tried to quickly come over the top of my hand and slap it before I could move it out of the way. Needless to say, Denny was much better at that game than I was at that age, and my hands were often the ones slapped. It was all done in good clean fun, and never intended to hurt anyone, but sometimes things can happen, as we all know.

On this particular occasion, we were sitting there playing the game, and as usual, Denny was winning. It was his turn to try to slap my hands, and he was doing a real good job of it. I think he must have decided to try to give me a break, because when he swung his hand over to slap the top of mine, he lifted his hand really high so I would have a fighting chance. He knew that I would move my hand, so he started coming down really fast, and when I moved my hand, he couldn’t get his hand stopped in time. The problem was that my hand had been over his leg, and when he couldn’t stop in time, he slapped his own leg. He let out a little bit of a yelp, because I’m sure it hurt, but I really think it was more an expression of shock. While he knew I would move my hand, he just didn’t think of where his hand was going to land. In the end, we both laughed about it, because you have to admit, it was pretty funny.

For years, my son-in-law, Travis liked to play a game with his wife, my daughter Amy and their kids. They got pretty good at the game as well. I don’t really know how it got started, but I always seemed to be the sucker who fell for the whole thing. The way it is played is this. The person who randomly decides to play, simply makes the ok sign with their hand, and then says your name. When you look at the ok sign, it is as if you had flinched. At first Shai and Caalab weren’t very good at it, and they got the good ole double punch in the shoulder, but after a few of those, they decided to figure this thing out. I don’t know how often they managed to catch their dad on it, but my guess is that it wasn’t much…Travis is really good at it.

Their grandma…was another story. I think I must have been their best practice session provider. It wasn’t my fault really, because I mean…after all, your grandma is supposed to pay attention to you when you are talking, and look at the things you show her. I mean that is understood, isn’t it? Whether that is how it is supposed to go or not…that is how it went with me. Call me gullible if you want. They caught me 90% of the time…at least!! And I wasn’t trying to be nice and let them either, it’s just that when my grandchildren ask me to look at something, or even just call my name, I have a hard time thinking they have diabolical plans for me…again, call me gullible.

The kids had a great time with the flinching game, for a number of years, but as with any of these types of games, you outgrow them after a while…at least for now anyway. If I know my grandchildren, this particular game could be resurrected at any give point, if one of them decided that they could get away with putting one over on grandma again. To avoid these surprise attacks, I would need to be alert and vigilant. I would need to avoid being too trusting. Right…that’s gonna happen!!

My mom’s younger brother, Uncle Wayne has always been such a funny man. He loves to make the kids laugh. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Wayne had dentures, and he loved popping them in and out of his mouth when the kids were around. He could pop them part way out of his mouth and make them act like they were going to bite you…all with no hands. The first time we saw it, we screamed with delight, and then we begged him to do it again. When we were little enough not to understand what dentures were, we would try to pop our own teeth out too, a comical site for sure, as we pushed our lower jaw out , or pushed on our teeth with our tongue. Uncle Wayne’s eyes just danced  and beamed with delight as he watched us try, then he would show us how “easy” it was, if we just knew how. Every time we saw him we asked again and again, to pop out his teeth. If Uncle Wayne got tired of that, he never showed it. He would simply grin and pop out those teeth, and then sit back with a smile on his face and wait…for a second or two…until the kids started begging him to do it again.

Uncle Wayne’s funny side developed early in his life. He was the younger of my mom’s two brothers, and one of two boys in a family of nine children. You could look at that situation in a couple of ways. You could call him and his brother…out numbered, and you would be right. Or, you could say that the boys had lots of potential victims…for all of the antics boys are bound by their very nature to engage in. Since my mom was born right in between those two boys, and they were often her playmates, and she was either a prime victim or a partner in crime…depending on how she or they felt at the time. To be sure, my mom and her two brothers got into plenty of mischief together. What one didn’t come up with one of the others would, and when you put those three heads together…oh boy, look out!!

Today is my Uncle Wayne’s 75th birthday…which is a landmark by any standards. His life has been one filled with laughter, much of which was his own making…the best kind of life. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!!  Have a wonderful day!!  We love you very much!!

It’s strange to think about the amount of things you don’t know about your dad, or anyone else for that matter, but when I think about my parents, I expect that I should know most things about them. I guess there are stories that were never told, or little things that just didn’t seem important, and so were passed over. Such is the case with my dad’s time in World War II. I’m not talking about the major things that Dad couldn’t talk about in his letters home, but some of the smaller things. Today I was reading his letter dated August 1, 1944, in which he talks about having a little down time from flying missions. He and a friend went to the gym. In his letter, my dad mentioned punching a bag for a while, among other unnamed exercises.

I never knew that my dad had any interest in boxing, although I vividly remember playing a little boxing game with him every once in a while in the hallway at home. Of course, he never hit me, it was a game. Dad was very quick, and no matter how much I tried to defend my face, he always managed to get a tap in. Looking back, I think my dad taught me a lot about self defense in those little sparring matches, but it never occurred to me that he had any real interest in boxing. I just thought it was a natural ability he had.

Dad had a great time with those sparring matches, and I guess I must have been a bit of a Tomboy, because I did too. I managed to get in a few good taps during those years, but I promise you, it was very few. Talk about feeling uncoordinated!! Nevertheless, if I got one in, I knew it was real and it was an accomplishment, because he didn’t just let me get one in…which is something I was always grateful for. Letting a little kid win at a game once in a while is fine, but if you do it too often, they don’t learn to play well, nor do they learn sportsmanship. Dad’s laughing, fun way of teaching me self defense was something I will always remember fondly about him, and now I know a little bit more about what he was like back then.

There is so much controversy these days concerning guns and gun control, and while I don’t usually write about political events, this one hits close to home for me and my family. For many years, my Uncle Bill was a gun dealer. He and his family had always had guns. He became interested in antique guns at some point and began to collect, deal, and show the guns at gun shows all over the north central part of the United States, and possibly even in the north west part, as well. Uncle Bill and my dad, as well as their sisters were raised around guns, and yet not one of them ever killed someone.

My family and my husband’s family have been around guns all our lives too. Our parents have hunted, as have many of us children and our spouses. If you live in Wyoming, as in many other places, owning a gun is really not so unusual. It doesn’t, however, give any indication that the gun owners here, or anywhere else are likely to commit murder. And, while people who torture animals, often move on to killing people, hunters usually do not. Legal hunters have a respect for the animals they hunt. It is to provide food for their family, that the hunter hunts.

For centuries, people have owned guns, and during all those years, mass school shootings were unheard of…until recently. Christians, like myself, mostly agree that it is largely because we have kicked God out of our schools. That makes so many people angry, because they think we are talking about God being angry at the schools because He was kicked out, but that isn’t it at all. In my opinion, when we removed God from our schools, we stopped teaching morality. Generations of kids have grown up with a changed view of right and wrong. Then those same kids are out there making television shows, video games, writing books, creating pictures, and so many other things that our impressionable kids are viewing. Wrong has become right…if it seems right to the person doing the wrong. It has become a matter of “the devil made me do it” or simply a matter of not allowing anyone to step on our feelings. It has become a good thing to be bad, and a good show is called wicked.

I think, that is we want to change things in this nation, we need to change what we are teaching our kids in school, and in life. Guns don’t kill people…people kill people, and very often, guns are not the weapon of choice, in fact, guns are used the least amount of the time. We can’t remove every possible weapon for the hands of people, unless we want to live in a Nerf world, and even then, people will use their hands, or they will just use rocks. We have to start teaching our kids and our adults the value of human life, and to respect each person’s right to life. We have to realize that few people intentionally set out to hurt the feelings of others, and as with bullying, the ones who do need to be swiftly punished. We need to stop looking at others as less important than we are, and treat each person with respect, no matter how the look, talk, and no matter what their race, gender, or age is. Our ancestors carried guns for many centuries, and did not shoot up schools or other public places in order to make a point, possibly because of the values our nation started on. Maybe we need to work to make all people feel like they are a person of value, because it isn’t the gun that kills, it is the person bent on revenge who kills people.

Most of the time, when I think about the faces from my parents’ past, I think of ancestors, or school friends, or maybe even old flames. All of those people bring questions to mind, but most of them can be answered, and the relationship laid to rest, at least in the case of old friends or old flames, but some faces continue to run through my mind again and again. Such is the case with the men who served in the Army Air Force with my Dad at Great Ashfield Army Air Base, which is just North of Ipswich in Suffolk, England. I know these men were Dad’s good friends, because they were important enough to him to take their pictures to preserve their memory for the rest of his life, but for whatever reason, their names were not put on the pictures, so I don’t know who they were.

Dad never talked much about the war, something that, while common among people who have fought in such battles, I nevertheless find strange. I always knew that he was a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Bomber during World War II, but much of that information came from my mom. I guess she didn’t really know why Dad wouldn’t tell his daughters about something that made her and us so very proud of him either. I guess it just wasn’t his style, or maybe the memories of what he had to do there were just too hard to talk much about. Dad has always been such a gentleman, and had such a gentle spirit, that I’m quite certain that killing, even from a plane with a bomb, and not having to look at the faces of those who died, was something that was hard to live with, even though it was necessary, and even though he felt strongly about the purpose for which he was fighting.

In his letters home to his mom and family, he mentioned some names of friends from home, or people he trained with, but they were so restricted on what they could write about during their time in England, and the people they were with, that few names were mentioned. It was only after Dad had passed away, and we were going through pictures from his past for his slide show, that we found these pictures of his friends from his military days…those faces from Dad’s past, that I wonder about now. It was too late to ask Dad who they were then, and I have always been sorry about that. My niece, Michelle asked him about some of his military days for a report she was doing, but she didn’t know about these pictures then, or she might have asked.

I will probably never know who these men were, or if they were members of Dad’s crew on the B-17 he assigned to, and I am sorry about that. I have been trying to find out more about his military days and the men he served with, and these pictures could have been a great source of valuable information. Sadly, I will probably always wonder about the faces from Dad’s past, and the impact they had on his life.