Monthly Archives: April 2013

Allen, Laura, and Anna editedDuring the early years of my grandparents marriage, they lived  in several places, as many people do. They spent time in Lisbon, North Dakota, and several areas of Minnesota, including Loman, Minnesota, where they had a homestead. My Aunt Laura was born in International Falls, Minnesota, which is 21 miles from Loman. These days, that is a 24 minute drive, but back then it was quite a bit more, especially since not everyone owned a car in those days. In 1918, 1 in 13 families owned a car. Then by 1929, 4 out of 5 families owned a car. A lot has changed in the years since then. Most families have at least 2 vehicles. Nevertheless, at the time my Aunt Laura was born in 1912, cars, or motor buggies as they were called, were a novelty item owned by the wealthy. That said, I would expect that my grandparents were living in International Falls at the time of my aunt’s birth, and then moved to Loman, Minnesota after that time.

At some point in the year 1918, my grandfather and grandmother decided to leave the life they had built in Minnesota, spread their wings, and head south to look for greener pastures, so to speak. They had gone as far as Kansas City, presumably by train, where they bought what I’m sure was their first automobile, and headed off to Mena, Arkansas. I’m not sure how long they were in Mena, Arkansas, but eventually they ended up in Ranger, Texas, where it would appear that he might have worked in the oil fields for a time.

I can imagine how exciting this trip must have been for my Aunt Laura, who was 7 years old at the time. Not only was she going on a whole new adventure, to a whole new place, but she was going the family’s first automobile. When you are used to going places in a horse drawn buggy this new mode of travel must have been very exciting. It had speed without the horses, and better control. She could feel the wind in her hair as they flew down the road. It was a huge new adventure, a fast paced adventure, for a girl who was used to life in a slow paced world.
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I’m not sure just how long they lived in Texas, but I do know that by the time my Uncle Bill was born in 1922, the family was back in the north, living in Superior, Wisconsin. Maybe they didn’t like the heat or maybe they missed the Great Lakes region in general. I don’t know why for sure, but I do know that except for a few short years, my grandparents would live out their lives in Superior, Wisconsin. Aunt Laura, who didn’t like the cold much would spread her wings again later in her life and head out west, finally settling in Oregon, where she felt most at home.

Caryn Sue Spencer abt June 1956 editedCheryl getting ready to kiss CarynToday is my birthday. The last few days, I have been reflecting on my birthday, and my dad’s birthday just two days before mine, and how much I miss him, and what my parents mean to me. Your parents give you so much, as a baby. They supply everything you need, like food clothing, warmth, love…eveything. But before that, there was something more they did. It was something even greater…the greatest gift. They gave you life. How do you thank them for that? Oh, I know, my parents had me and my sisters, because they wanted a family, but it was their desire for a family that gave me life. It was likely something they gave little thought to…that this was a gift to me, but that is exactly what if feels like to me. The greatest gift.
Grandpa, Grandma, Caryn, Allen, and Cheryl_editedCollene, Cheryl, Hattie, Caryn, and George
When I arrived I was nurtured by my mom and dad. When I came home, I met my sister Cheryl, who loved me very much. Like me, she had been given the greatest gift our parents could give us…the gift of life. Because we lived so far away from my mom’s family then, my grandparents made the trip from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin to visit us, and share in the joy of our growing little family. Cheryl and I felt so blessed to have the happiest life there could possibly be. She and I played in our little world, mostly just the two of us, but also with our cousin, Pam, for the next three years in Superior, Wisconsin.

Our family moved back to Casper, where my sister, Caryl was added to our family, 3 years Caryn Schulenberg, Alena Stevens, Caryn Reed, Cheryl Masterson, Collene Spencer, Allyn Hadlock, Allen Spencerafter I was born. Then two years later, Alena, and two years after that, Allyn. Each of us had been given the same greatest gift from our parents. And along with that greatest gift, they had also given us another second greatest gift…the gift of siblings. My parents and my sisters have always been so dear to me. Our family has always been very close, and as it continues to grow, more and more blessings are added. With each new family member, by birth or by marriage, the greatest gift, keeps on giving. So today, on the anniversary of my birth, I want to thank my parents for giving me life. Your gift was so precious and loving…the greatest gift…ever.

 

Boys Night OutWhen a household has three boys, and one baby girl, and each of the boys have a friend spend the night on the same night, what do you have? Well, besides chaos and a severely outnumbered little girl, you have boys night out! For the boys who are staying the night with my grand nephews, it truly is boys night out. For Xander, Zack, and Isaac, it is boys night in, not that they mind that one bit. Now, as to my niece Jenny and her husband Steve, I have to think they might be just a little bit insane, but then they have been around boys for most of their married life, so I suppose they are used to the ways of little boys. I, on the other hand, having had girls, would most likely have gone insane…until I had my grandsons anyway. Being around boys does change a person.

Slumber parties…or boys night out, as my grand nephews informed me…like slumber party must be the closest thing to cooties on girls, and something they definitely would never be a part of…usually follow the same pattern. Lots of playing, loudness, wild and wound up kids, and little sleep. Nevertheless, do not call it a slumber party. I mean, what self respecting macho man would have a slumber party. There are differences between slumber parties and boys night out, however. Girls usually do things like make up, dancing, and of course gossip. Boys, on the other hand might play super hero, watch movies, or talk about their various weapons. I suppose when you think about it, the two events really are very different. And I suppose that calling this event a slumber party, could be thought to be insulting…a mistake I hope not to make in the future, because my grand nephews looked at me like I had kind of messed up in the great aunt department, and I’m supposed to be the cool great aunt, not the nerd. I guess that is something I’ll have to work to repair now, but that will have to happen in the future for now.

I didn’t ask Jenny and Steve how the boys night out went for them, but I guess it was ok, because they were both in church today, meaning that even if they feel little bit exhausted, or a little bit crazy, they did survive the event. I guess that is a good thing. And as for Aleesia, the lone little girl in the house that night, well, she was still smiling, so either they all had a good time playing with her too, or her parents kept her away from the boys so they could have their own space. Whatever the case may be, the boys told me that they had a great time at their boys night out.

Dad 1978So often, we don’t realize what our parents did for us until they are gone. It isn’t the big, notable things that hit us that way, but rather the subtle things they did. And when you think about it, you realize that it was the subtle things that mattered the most. My dad was the kind of person who held himself to a standard all his life. It was a standard that he imposed on himself. It involved things like kindness, decency, morality, and honesty. Dad was a gentleman, and you always knew he would be. You could count on it, even when you felt that it wasn’t warranted or deserved by the receiver. That’s just how Dad was. He chose to be kind and understanding even when the receiver should have been chewed out without mercy. I know this is all true, because I have been on the receiving end of his acts of kindness, and I have been told that I needed to act that way toward others…which wasn’t something that usually excited me much. It rubbed me the wrong way to give mercy for injustice, but through the years Dad’s lessons soaked in a little, and I think I do find it easier now to be forgiving, whether people deserve it or not. I can tell you, however, the journey to that place has not always been without a few rocky places in the road. Nevertheless, my dad mellowed my temper with his ways, and while I’m not as successful at the mercy for injustice thing, I try to follow his example to this day.

One thing about my dad that has always stayed in my head, and I’m quite certain that is because he had to pound it in there, is forgiveness. Dad was one to say that you should “never let the sun go down on your wrath” and he took that very literally. We were allowed to argue with each other pretty much to our hearts content, provided it didn’t get to the point of driving our parents insane. We were even allowed to argue, or as I called it, debate with our parents to a degree…one which my sisters will tell you, I took much further than they ever dared. No matter how the fight ended, you always knew that at some point Dad was going to come to you and say that you had to make up with your sister or mom. You didn’t have to say the other was right…just that you loved them too much to let those differences of opinion come between you and carry into the next day. And, Dad held himself to that same standard. It never failed. After he finally got done with my…debating…and finally told me that was enough…and I knew it was, too, he would still come to me after he had cooled down, and told me that he loved me and didn’t want us to “let the sun go down on our wrath” so we needed to make up. It was very comforting to know that no matter what you did, or how mad it made him, before the day was over, things would be ok again, and always before bedtime. That is something that has stayed with me all my life, although I can’t say that I have been as perfect at it as my dad was. It is a process, and you just have to work at it. No one is perfect at policing themselves all the time.

The lessons my dad taught to his girls, are what have formed us into the people we are today. And yes, my mom taught us many lessons over the years too that have stayed with us throughout our lives, but that is a story for another day. When I think of my dad, I see a soft spoken man, who never promoted himself, but rather lifted up those around him. He was a man who assured you that everything was going to be ok. You knew that no matter what the problem was, Dad would always love you. You couldn’t do anything bad enough to change that. To him, that was just being a dad. And that knowledge has made all the difference. If Dad were still with us, he would be 89 years old today. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad. While we miss you terribly, we are so thankful that we know where you are, and that you are having the time of your life. We will see you again someday. We love you more than words can ever express.

ZackeryMy grand nephew, Zack has always been a very loving little boy. He is, without doubt, my niece Jenny and her husband Steve’s most huggy boy. That’s just how he is, even telling those he loves, that they forgot to hug him, or that he needed a hug. He is one of those kids that don’t really care if the guys think it’s weird to hug your mom and dad…he just does it anyway.

Just because Zack is a huggy boy, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t up for rough housing with his brothers. And of course, that also 579729_4769894281196_2019074641_nmeans joking around. In fact, getting the better of your brother is the best thing a guy can hope to do…especially if you are the middle brother. It seems like the middle brother always has more to prove than the other brothers. And Zack can hold his own against his brothers. Not that they spend much time really fighting. It’s usually more like a fight for supremacy. And it’s always in good clean fun.

These days, however, Zack has a new job. He is not only the little brother of Xander and the big brother of Isaac, but he is the big brother to Aleesia. Having a 541812_4849143662381_1951834541_nsister is a whole new ball game, but Zack is up for the job. Being the brother that likes to hug, he is a good choice for someone to help out with the baby…not that he would get to be the only one, because Aleesia has three brothers…and don’t you forget it. Nevertheless, Zack has given himself a new job when it comes to his little sister. Zack is the giggle maker. He feels like it is his job to make sure that Aleesia has plenty to laugh about. From making faces to goofy dances, Zack will pull out all the stops just to see the smile on his baby sisters face. Does it get any better than that? Today is Zack’s birthday. Happy birthday Zack!! We love you!!

Grandpa playing the violinOn the back of the violin is a name, Allen Spencer. I assumed that it was carved lovingly into the wood by my great great grandfather when he was young. I have no way of knowing just exactly when it was written, but it would seem like something a child would do. Grandpa was born in 1826, and died in 1883, and as near as I have been able to find, the violin might have been made in 1866, which would mean that my great great grandfather was 40 years old. No matter how old he was when he engraved his name into the violin, the length of time the violin has been in our family tells me that music to some degree has been in my family for several generations. That violin was handed down from my great great grandfather, to my great grandfather, William Malrose Spencer, to my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, to my Uncle William Malrose Spencer II, who passed it on to my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer, with the request that we keep it in our family. We have had several violinists in our family, my sister Allyn, and my daughter Corrie, to name two. The violin is in great condition, and has been well used throughout the years.

My grandfather, Allen, enjoyed jamming with his brother-in-law, Albert, who was playing the accordion. I can imagine that their jam session was a lively time, as those two instruments don’t usually go together. Nevertheless, when a couple of brothers get together and try to outdo each other in their play, and from what I have seen of these two brothers, they liked to joke around. They always seem to have a twinkle in their eyes in the pictures I’ve seen. I have a feeling that the brothers could be…maybe a little mischievious.
Grandpa's Violin
When we received the violin, it occurred to me that this was a pearl of great price, so to speak. Maybe the name engraved on the back reduces the value in the eyes of an antique dealer, but it only increases the value to us. So often you have very little that belonged to your great great grandfather…especially when he died 73 years before you were born. That is the real thing that gives it value to me and my family. This was something that my great great grandfather, great grandfather, grandfather, my uncle, and my dad all took pleasure in, and something my mom, my sisters, and our families will all take pleasure in for years to come…because it was my great great grandfather’s violin.

My first car 1Bob and I were having dinner at Shifters, the drive in fast food restaurant, where you might remember that the A & W Drive-In used to be, here in Casper. Shifters is decorated in a nostalgic gas station motif, and part of the decor was a display of old toy cars. It reminded me of my first car…or rather, the car I had to share with my sisters. There is just something wrong with having to share your car with your sisters. Nevertheless, that was the way it was, and since none of us had a driver’s license, we didn’t have much chance of getting our own car in the near future.

Lots of kids have cars these days that are battery operate, and require only the ability to steer to make the whole thing work, but our car was different than that. I suppose it was like a cross between a car and a bicycle, except that the pedals were fairly level to each other, for obvious reasons. Even with the pedals set so you could operate the car, you had to be careful, or you might whack your knees on the underside of the hood. I guess that is one of the hazards of being the engine. The car was just barely more modern than the one Fred Flintstone drove, and then only is it’s weight and the more modern use of the legs. I guess I should be thankful for that part, because that whole running down the road with no shoes on…not, exactly my cup of tea. My feet are too tender.

You wouldn’t have found one of us driving our car down the highway, like you have seen of the battery operated models of today, because that was just too far away for a little kid to peddle, but it could take an ambitious kid down the street to the corner, and then back…mostly because we knew that if we went further, we would face the wrath of Mom, and you simply didn’t want to go there, because if Mom’s spankings didn’t do the trick, Dad would fix your wagon when he got home. Needless to say, we didn’t stray outside our limits. And since we didn’t stray too far, we were allowed to have a really good time with My first car 2our little car.

After looking at the cars mounted on the wall at Shifters, I felt maybe just a little twinge of jealousy. Our car was a dull gold color…very plain, and these had obviously received a little bit fancier paint job, and they were built for one…a little bit sportier. While, our car was a two seater, and you would be taking your sister along…if you knew what was good for you. I might have chosen the Barbie Doll type car, had it been available, but then, what good was going for a drive, if you had no one to talk to. No…I guess my first car was just what I would have chosen…looking back now, anyway.

Playing ChaseAs I started up the walk to my house today, two birds, who were chasing each other buzzed by my head.  They were so busy with their play…or was it an argument, that they didn’t even notice me, as they flew very close to my head. I have always liked watching the birds in all their activities, but have normally had very little real contact with them. And while I find it fascinating to watch them playing chase, I’m not sure I really want them to be buzzing my head, or dive bombing me.

I watched as the birds flew here and there, chirping and chattering, and I occurred to me that they were probably having a little argument, and if the one bird caught the other…well, someone was going to be sorry they said or did what they did. I guess things in the animal kingdom must be similar to things in our world, because when you get in trouble, you have to pay the consequences in both.

The thing was that these two birds didn’t seem like parent and child, so I figured that this was an argument between two adults, whether they were male and female, or two males fighting over a female. It is, if course something I will never know, nor will I know if they were fighting or playing. It was a chance encounter with the animal kingdom that will likely not happen again.

I suppose that when we live in the same world space as the animals, these encounters are going to happen once in a while. One or the other of us, or even both, simply aren’t paying a lot of attention to those around them. Like most of us, when we are in an argument, they pay very little attention to anything but the argument. That is exactly what those birds were doing. I might not have even been in the area for all they noticed. They were simply too busy chasing each other.

Delores Fern Byer JohnsonI didn’t know my Aunt Deloris as a child, which is to be expected, but one thing I have noticed is that she was always smiling. I only wish some of the pictures I have were a better quality. The things Aunt Dee, as we all called her, saw around her seemed exciting to her. And yet, she seemed to have a shy side to her. The Aunt Dee I knew in my childhood would bear that out too. She had a shy smile that always warmed my heart. I loved to have her come over. And it was always so much fun to hear the stories about the past that she and my mom talked about.

Aunt Dee was always coming up with some new invention or idea. She wanted to find a way to feel like flying, and not alone. So she came up with the idea of using her dad’s trench coat and she and my mom got in it and off they went. She loved doing things for her family, like catching fish at the river, and putting them in a wading pool for the other kids in the family to enjoy. She bought a piano for the family for $35.00, and it was in her mom’s house until her passing. She taught the rest of the family a dance that she learned in 5th grade, and to this day, my mom remembers that dance.

I remember her laugh, that could light up a room. She would come up with some funny thought, and then start laughing. Well, you couldn’t help but laugh right along with her. I have a feeling that her sisters and brothers found a lot of her schemes…or at least the scheme failures, to be pretty funny too. When things worked exactly as planned, it was just pretty cool.

Aunt Dee passed away in 1996 from Brain Cancer. If my she were still alive, she would be turning 81 years old today. I still miss her very much. She had a loving nature that was very endearing. It makes me sad that we were not able to have more time with her. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Dee. We all love you very much.

Doing the ChoresThrough the ages, kids have thought that the work done by their parents is fun. They do their very best to mimic everything their parents do. The funny thing is that often, the things they see as being vitally important, are the mundane tasks that we do because we must, but try to get done with as quickly as possible, because they are so boring. I’ve never been able to figure out why those tasks catch the eye of our little ones, or why they place more importance on those tasks than some of the really important things we do every day. I suppose it is just the difference between the thoughts of a child and the thoughts of an adult.
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All in all, it’s not a bad thing that kids like to mimic their parents, because before long, they can do the real chores that they were pretending to do before…if they still want to by then. Of course, that is when your real work starts, because when you tell your child to do their chores, most kids take on a look of being instantly half sick. Their shoulders drop, along with their smile. They look like they have run a marathon, and here you are making them slave around the house, when you know that the only marathon they have been running is a marathon session on the play station. Funny, how that can suddenly be exhausting when you ask them to stop and do those chores.
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Then, in your mind, you see that little kid, begging you to let them help, and if you were ever going to get anything done, you knew you were going to have to buy them a pint-sized version of whatever cleaning tool you were using. If you were ever going to get your work done, you were going to have to find a way for them to help you without actually using the tools you need, because you really don’t want to discourage them. The days that kids want to help are few and far between, after all, and before you know it, watching your kids doing the chores with a smile, are over.