Monthly Archives: January 2014

Jim hugging the cousinsWhenever our cousins came to visit from Wisconsin, we always had such a great time. Hanging out in Uncle Bill’s bus, playing in the yard, playing cribbage, going for ice cream, or just hanging out with the cousins…it didn’t matter what exactly, just that they were here to visit again. We felt that way about all of our out of town cousins. In fact, the only thing that was bad about those visits was the end of them, and it always came too soon. I’m one of those people who really hates to say goodbye, especially when I know it will be for a long time. If I had my way, all those people that I love would live in the same town.

When it was time for them to begin the journey home, everyone tried to lighten the mood. We did goofy little things to make each other laugh, even though we were all sad. Of course, we had to take the pictures that last day too, because we wanted something to remember each other by, until the next time we got to see each other. There was still so much to say, and everyone wanted to talk at once, hoping to get just a few more moments with the cousins. A week just isn’t enough time to spend with your cousins. We promised to write to them more often, even though we had promised before and did for a while, and then got busy with our own lives again. I think we knew that writing wasn’t really going to happen, as we promised. Finally it was time to go, and all that was left was the hugging and waving goodbye, and the wishing that the week was just starting, instead of ending. Life seemed a little more mundane after they left. We had to think of things to do, and nothing seemed interesting now. Even the things we had done when they were here were less interesting.

The sad thing is that as we grow older, and have families of our own, sometimes those relationships are lost and become distant, because everyone is so busy. Seldom do the kids Cousins and Jimmyget together they way they did when they lived at their parent’s home. Families grow apart, and then comes the point when they almost don’t feel comfortable sitting down to talk, because they don’t know what to say to each other. They have both lived such different lives, with little in common, and it just gets awkward. Soon, it’s just easier to forgo the visits all together. Then comes the moment when the cousin or their parents pass away, and you feel bad because you have been out of touch for so long…and you feel great regret, but it is too late. I wish I had more time with all my cousins and I’m thankful for Facebook, which has reconnected so many of us virtually, and that is the next best thing to being there.

Freak storm 1Freak storm 2In October of 2013, Wyoming and some of the surrounding states were hit by an early snowstorm that broke many branches from the trees, because the leaves had not had a chance to fall off of them. Casper looked like a war zone for weeks and weeks. It was such a devastating loss for the town, and it saddened many people. Trees that had been here for a long time, were virtually destroyed. It remains to be seen how well these trees will come back in the spring, and of course, some are gone completely and families will have to plant new ones in their place. Cars and roofs were damaged from falling branches too, and had to be repaired.

As I was looking through my old family pictures, I came across a couple of pictures of a Minnesota Ice Storm that caused much of the same damage, but to trees that had no leaves. It is hard for me to imagine a storm that can bend and break leafless trees, but I suppose that if it is so cold that ice forms faster than the water can run off of the branch, it is possible. Indeed, it was more than possible in Minnesota that winter about 1935, it happened, and my dad and his brother, Bill and sister, Ruth can attest to that. I think my Uncle Bill felt the loss more deeply than the younger kids, because he was older, and he loved being out in the wooded areas near their home.

These days, you can go to the local greenhouse or landscaping store, and buy trees to replace the ones that were destroyed, but back then it wasn’t so easy. You might be able to transplant a small tree from somewhere else on the property…if those survived, but in this storm, that was unlikely too. The thing I find quite strange is that it doesn’t appear that there was much Allen & Ruth after ice storm IAllen & Ruth after ice storm IIsnow really, but rather that on the ground, it soaked in, but on the trees, it just froze…likely because the air was colder than the ground. It’s sad anytime that trees are destroyed by the weather. It doesn’t matter if it’s fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, insects, ice, or snow, the destruction is the same, and the loss of the beautiful trees we love leaves us sad, but I guess that is the way nature works sometimes…on its own timetable.

Ida Spencer BrownMy Great Great Aunt Ida Spencer Brown Nass, married Andrew Alfred Brown on October 1, 1872. They had two sons, Elmer Ellsworth and Andrew Alfred. It is unknown what happened to Ida’s first husband, but she later married  Sjur Johannesson Nass, who went by Samuel, and they had two daughters, Ellen and Ethel.

Ida and Andrew’s son Andrew Alfred, who usually went by A.A. Brown, married a woman names Emma Caroline Haessler. Their marriage was filled with love, and blessed with ten children, Gertrude Flora, Alwyn A, Emma Henrietta, John Henry “Johnie”, Bessie, Warren Winston, Elizabeth Ida, Edward Spencer, James Robert, and Fredrick Valden. While their lives were happy, they were not long. Emma passed away on October 31, 1918, leaving Andrew to raise their seven children…a difficult task with small families, but much harder for a man with seven children. Andrew was doing quite well with the task, even though his oldest daughter, Gertrude, who had most likely been a big help, was married on April 20, 1920, leaving him with one less helping hand around the house. Their son Alwyn had preceded his mother in death on June 10, 1918, as had Johnie on September 12, 1905 at 3 years of age, and Bessie on September 10, 1905 at 3 months of age.

On January 29, 1921, tragedy would again strike the family, when Andrew was killed in The Great Olympic Blowdown. The storm, which was one of the worst in Washington state The Great Olympic Blowdownhistory, came in off the coast at around 8:00 am on January 29, bringing with it, hurricane force winds estimated at 125 to 150 mph. The Forest Service estimated the loss of timber at several billion board feet. The loss of life was one, Andrew A Brown, who was an engineer working at the Anderson-Middleton Lumber Mill in Aberdeen. He was killed instantly when a sudden gust blew down a smokestack pinning him against a broken steam pipe and scalding him to death.

Once again, a grieving Gertrude, who had married Patrick Mint House, stepped in, taking the remaining six children into their home and raising them as their own. Emma was 21 years old by then, so I don’t know if she lived with her sister or not, but the rest of the children ranged in ages from 4 years to 14 years. The littlest ones would most likely not even remember their parents very clearly in the coming years. Their parents hadn’t shared memories of their childhood even with their eldest daughter, Gertrude, so the memories the younger children would have would only be what little bits and pieces she could tell them of her childhood years with their parents. I have to commend Gertrude and Patrick for their heroic and selfless act of taking in her siblings. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for them. In looking through the genealogy records, I can’t find any evidence of Gertrude and Patrick having any children of their own. I don’t know Armyfirespotterif that was because they were unable to have children or that they had a ready made family. Either way, I find that very sad, because I think they must have been wonderful, loving parents. I imagine that it was an enormous job to take on six children…especially when one is only 23 years old herself. Still, they were family and she loved them. She could not bear to have them go to an orphanage, so she and her husband did what they had to do, and raised her siblings in a happy, loving home…an act of kindness the children never forgot.

 

Pretty FishyMost little kids don’t really like fish much, unless it is in the form of fish sticks, and I don’t think fish sticks existed when my sister, Cheryl and I were little girls. I don’t know why Cheryl wanted to have her picture taken with all these fish, or if my mom just set her there because she would be a good point of reference to show just how many fish there were here, but I do know that it would have been a good thing that the fish were dead already, because if they had been flipping around, Cheryl would have probably been freaking out for sure…I know I would have, but then I was a baby. The fish were Smelt, and there were lots of them.

Rainbow Smelt, which are silver-colored fish about 6 to 9 inches long, are not native to Lake Superior, but rather to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Smelt entered the Great Lakes accidentally in 1912 when they escaped from an inland lake in Michigan where they had been stocked as forage fish. After that, they quickly spread throughout Lake Michigan and were finally discovered in Lake Superior in 1946. By that time, Sea Lamprey, which had also invaded Lake Superior, had begun reducing the number of native lake Trout, so there were far less Trout to eat the Smelt and they began to rapidly increase in number. Every year in mid-April, the Smelt head for the streams to lay their eggs. They are light sensitive, so smelting must be done at night. The best place to go smelting is at the mouth of the streams where they enter the Lakes. The rapids make it more difficult for the fish to jump over them into the stream, and so they are in abundance at that place. Smelting was a big deal at the time we were living in Superior, Wisconsin, when Cheryl and I were little girls.

When April came around in 1957, Mom, Dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Doris took Cheryl, me, and our cousin, Pam, and went smelting. Of course, the women pretty much just watched the proceedings, while Dad and Uncle Bill gathered up the buckets of fish that would be our haul for the evening. It was a good run, and the amount of fish they took home was amazing. The fish were then cleaned and frozen for lots of good eating down the road. I’ve never been smelting, at least where I actually participated, but I can imagine that it was pretty exciting to see all those fish all at once. usually think of fishing as a lazy day sport, and normally it is, but during a smelting run, it sounds pretty exciting to me!!

Lacey StevensWhen a family has sisters in it, there is always the possibility of fights going on, and even more the possibility of arguments. It is no different with my nieces, Michelle and Lacey. Most of the time they get along very well, and they always love each other…that is just a given. I suppose it could have been different when they were little. They might have had the sibling rivalry, the kid sister, or just the you touched my stuff fights, but those things didn’t completely dominate their young life.

As little girls, I didn’t think there was a huge resemblance between the girls, but as they get older, I find myself thinking that maybe I was wrong. Recently, Lacey posted the above picture on her Facebook page, and I had to do a double take. She looked so much like a picture of Michelle that I remembered seeing, that I couldn’t believe it. Sisters can resemble each other sometimes, but rarely do they look like they could be twins, unless they are twins. The girls dad, is a twin, of the fraternal type, and I think these girls look more alike that their dad and his twin brother. I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t noticed it before. Well, I had to point that out on the picture that Lacey had posted, because I knew that they were very close, and they would like that.

Lacey did like the comment, but little did I know that my comment would start a sparring match between the girls. While Lacey liked my comment, Michelle posted, “Haha, she wishes!” Then, Lacey came back with, “I got the good genes…Michelle is just jealous!” Michelle followed with, “Good genes? More like identical genes.” Now on that comment, I think Michelle Michelle Stevenshit it right on the button. That seems to be exactly what my sister, Alena and her husband, Mike managed to do…create identical twins 5 years apart.

The girls and their brother Garrett always have a lot of fun when they are together. They share a great sense of humor, and a love of laughter. They don’t mind clowning around to make people laugh either. Lacey can be the quiet one of the bunch, but when she gets to know the people around her, she can clown around with the best of them. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Happy birthday Lacey!! Have a great day, and don’t fight with your sister so much ok, hahaha!! We love you!!

John Clark SpareMy great aunt, Mina Albertine Schumacher, who went by Minnie as a child, but Min for most of her adult life, married John Clark Spare in Fargo, North Dakota on January 8, 1921. In the years preceding their marriage, John had enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard, Company B, at the age of 17 years. His company was assigned to the Rio Grande River Patrol on the Mexican border at Mercedes, Texas. Company B was patrolling one day, and John had an empty gun, because at that point, there was not enough ammunition to go around. Basically, the men who had loaded guns would have to cover the ones who did not, in the event of anything illegal happening along the border. I suppose that was the only thing that they could do, but I have to tell you that I would not feel very comfortable being one of those guys who did not have any ammunition at the border between Mexico and the United States. I realize that these days that border is probably more dangerous than it was then, but maybe not. Many of the outlaws from both countries ran to the other country to hide out from the law in their own country.

On that day, John was patrolling near the bridge by the encampment, with his empty gun. Suddenly, a herd of horses was seen thundering toward them. Behind the herd was Pancho Villa and his gang of bandits. The gang was in a gun fight with the men from the Third Cavalry, from whom the gang had stolen the horses. The time had come for the border patrol to do their duty. It would be the job of the ones with the ammunition to engage the enemy and assist the Cavalry. The remainder of the men would need to dive under the bridge for cover. The men immediately prepared to take their necessary positions, and with one accord, all of the men of the border patrol dived under the bridge. Unbeknownst to the men, at least until that moment, they all had unloaded guns!! While that might seem like a funny thing to see all those men diving under that bridge because they did not have the ammunition to fight in the battle that was looming down on them, my guess is that it would also be a horrifying situation to the men hiding under the bridge hoping the battle would continue to go on down the road, and not circle back.

Following his time as part of the border patrol, John was called to the Guard full time, and assigned to guard the Fargo Armory, just as bombs were being placed at strategic points around the country to blow them up if it became necessary. I think it is a bit ironic that on his first assignment, John had no ammunition, and at his second assignment, when he was just going on 19 years of age, he was guarding a building that held larges stores of ammunition. I have to think that he must have thought to himself, “Where was all this ammunition when we were at the border?” John’s company would be taken into the Federal Army as the United States entered World War I. John would later re-enlist and fight in both world wars before he finally decided that he had served his time. I’m sure my Great Aunt Min was glad when he came home for good.

Kevin & CorrieWhen my daughter, Corrie and  her husband, Kevin were dating, there came a day when Corrie was at her Grandma Schulenberg’s house to visit. Kevin came by, and they were sitting on the front porch talking. Corrie was sixteen years old at the time, and Kevin was nineteen. It was a nice day, and they were just enjoying each other’s company, when her grandma came out of the house and said that they were going grocery shopping, and asked if Corrie wanted to go along or stay there at the house. Corrie said that they would just stay at the house. Well, apparently that was the wrong answer, because her Grandma said, “No, you are going with us!” That was the end of the story. Corrie went grocery shopping and Kevin went home.

Corrie’s grandma grew up in a different era. Not the one where dates had to have a chaperone, but you didn’t leave a young couple at a house by themselves. I’m not sure what they thought was different about a house as opposed to a car, or any other place where kids could be alone, but she apparently felt that it was her job to make sure nothing happened. Corrie was old enough to drive, and had driven herself over to their house, so she could have just locked the house and told them to go home, but that didn’t seem appropriate to her, so she made Corrie go grocery shopping, and the kids dutifully obeyed her. If you had ever been grocery shopping with my mother-in-law, you know would that it is a three or four hour ordeal, and Corrie left her car at their house, so she was stuck. I went shopping with her once, and that was enough for me, but that is another story.

The kids never told me about that occurrence, until we were coming back from visiting her in Joann Schulenbergthe nursing home a couple of days ago. My mother-in-law had been talking about Kevin a few days earlier, and with his job, it wasn’t easy for him to get the time to go out there with us, but on this day, he was able to come. With her Alzheimer’s Disease, I wanted to make sure that he understood that even though she had been talking about him, she still might not recognize him. When we got there, I asked her if she knew who all her visitors were, and she looked at him and said, “Yes, Kevin.” Kevin has been in the family longer than any of her other grandchildren-in-law, but I was still surprised. I guess that his respectful handling of that awkward moment twenty two years or so ago, made a good impression on her…that and all the other nice things about Kevin.

Aunt Bonnie, Aunt Dixie, and Aunt SandyWhen you see a cute picture like this one of my aunts, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy, you immediately think, “Oh, those girls must be best friends and sisters, not just sisters. Or their parents must have really trained them very well, for them to stand there so obediently.” Well, you would be right most of the time, but as we all know, siblings fight sometimes and kids act out occasionally.

Younger siblings can be a joy and a pain…within minutes of each other. They can make you laugh and then make you mad, usually because they are so needy. Then, when the older siblings become teenagers, every request, every question, and especially the presence of the younger sibling within a mile of the older one, is a huge annoyance, and some things are the worst thing in the world!!

We have all been there…at least any of us with younger siblings, or even cousins, so you can’t exactly fault your own kids when they try to do the same things you did. You can hope they won’t, but you really need to be realistic. It’s just the way things go in families. There will come a day when they will be friends for life…when they will look back at these days and think about how silly they were to worry about having their younger sibling around them. Like it was going to steal all their coolness away. We realize that they just wanted to be like us, because they thought we were so cool. How could they not see the serious lack of confidence we had? How we felt so very not cool, and we were trying to show the world that we really were cool. Thankfully those days are very short in the total of our life. And thankfully during those days, that feel like forever, there are a few golden moments when they forget that they don’t want that younger sibling around.

It is in those precious moments that they find that it’s kind of fun to have someone who looks A little help pleaseup to you. It isn’t something that happens very much, after all. They see that they are someone of value to this, their younger sibling. They find that they like helping out. After all, it’s just a helping hand to get up on the bed of a pickup, because the littlest girl can stand behind her taller sisters and it will make a great picture. And it is kind of funny when you are both a little clumsy at getting her up there, because while she is your little sister, she isn’t so much smaller that you can easily lift her, so you let her push up on you and she slips a little, and the whole thing is so comical that all you can do is giggle. Pretty soon, it isn’t just her who is saying, “A little help, please!!” It’s both of you, because you can’t stop laughing long enough to get her up there.

Anna Louise SpencerAs time marched forward toward the United States entering World War II, many people were afraid for the lives of their sons. My dad’s mother, who had two sons, was among them. Things were really heating up while my dad was working in California, and the family really wanted him come home. The word was that any young men 18 to 20 years of age were going to be deployed by Christmas 1942, putting my dad and my Uncle Bill squarely in that group. It was a fearful time in our country. People didn’t want their sons to go to the war, but they knew that Hitler had to be stopped. The things Hitler was doing were so horrible that everyone knew that he must not be allowed to take any more countries over. He was completely insane and dead set on controlling the whole world. They knew that while the fear of sending their sons into battle was almost more than they could possibly bear, it was also going to be the only way to stop this horrible man.

The letters from home to my dad in California were filled with worried questions. They had heard rumors of the impending deployment back home in Holyoke, Minnesota, and were desperately hoping that what they heard in that small town was wrong. They questioned my dad, as to why he thought he would be going so soon. Uncle Bill and Dad had both decided A Letter from Grandma Spencer to son, Allen Spencerthat if one was called to go, the other would join up too. I’m sure they were thinking that if they went together, they could watch each other’s back. In the end, that was not to be, because Uncle Bill had flat feet and a hernia that needed to be repaired. It was a devastating blow to him. He wanted so desperately to be there with his little brother. He had always been there for him, to protect him, and it seemed impossible that he couldn’t do that this time. He was scared for his little brother. He even tried to get him to take welding classes, because he mistakenly thought that my dad wouldn’t have to go if he was working in the shipyards. I don’t know if dad took the classes or not…he did at some point, because he worked as a welder for many years…but if he did, it did no good, because they needed men in the war zones, and that was more important to the country. In the end, he chose the Army Air Force, and went to the war, did his duty to his country and the world, and he lived!!

For some time now, I thought that the main reason my dad’s letters home were always upbeat and positive was so that he could protect his mother…keep her from worrying about how bad things were. Now, after reading her letters to him, and the letters from his brother and sisters, talking about how worried their mother was, I realized that he wasn’t trying to keep her from worrying…she had already voiced those fears…she was already in the middle of serious worry, and now she was in the middle of praying that her boys wouldn’t have to go, and if they did…please dear Lord, take care of them and bring them home to her!!

It is hard enough to go into battle or to send your son into battle…to deal with the fear in your own heart…much less to know that your soldier was scared…and for the soldier, to know that Dad's military daysyour family is scared. Knowing my dad like I do, I know that he was in the process of pushing his fear back, putting his faith in God, and setting his mother’s worried mind at ease. He knew he could not stop what was coming, but the hardest thing to accept was that he couldn’t really stop his mother’s fears…no matter how excited, positive, or fearless he made his letters sound. And, that tore him up more than anything he would face in the war. The days leading up to, and during World War II, were filled with the worries and fears of a nation. The letters to the soldiers and home from the war, were carefully worded so as to try to alleviate the fears that could not be alleviated until the deployed loved ones were home again.

Dad Schulenbergscan0159My father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg could build almost anything, and so it was that when the family moved 12 miles north of Casper he built the house they owned, as well as the big garage on the place they had lived prior to that. After they moved to a house on McKinley Street in Casper in May of 1989, he decided that he wanted to give the front of the house a little face lift. He had always liked the look of natural stone, so that was what he did to the lower half of the house. While I was watching the work on their house progress, I found myself thinking, “How does he know how to do all this stuff?” It looked amazing when he got it done.

I think a lot of people really liked the work he did…especially he brother, Butch Hein. Butch liked it so much in fact, that my in-laws made a special trip up to Forsyth, Montana, where Butch lives, so they could do the same kind of thing to Butch’s house. The rocks around Forsyth are quite different form the ones we have here, so Butch’s house looked very natural to the area. I assumed that the quarry, or wherever they got those rocks, must have been local, but I can’t say for sure. All I know is that any rock work he did, always looked great.

That is the kind of man my father-in-law was…always ready to lend a helping hand when it was needed. Whether it was a car that needed work, a new sink installed, or just somebody to sit at the house so a repairman or carpet layer could come when the homeowner needed to be at work, he did whatever was needed. His family has always come first, whether it was his wife and kids, or his in-laws, or his parents and siblings…they came first…and second to that, his friends. Isn’t that the kind of people you want in your life? I know it is for me.

Even during his retirement years, when he spent some time in Arizona, the people around him found out just what a talented man he was. I guess that wherever you can find or buy rocks, RockworkButch Hein and Walt Schulenbergyou can have rockwork to dress up your home, and it didn’t take very long before my father-in-law found rockwork jobs to occupy him in all his spare time. He was always a bit of a workaholic, and sitting around was not really his style. He wanted to be busy, and I suppose that is what kept him young for as long as it did. He wanted to be creative, and so he found people to put him to work…so much for retirement. He was too busy lending a helping hand.