Monthly Archives: November 2014

cousinsBest FriendsWhen my sister, Cheryl Masterson, my mom, Collene Spencer, and I went back to Wisconsin this past summer, the goal was to connect and re-connect with cousins in the area. One cousin we got to re-connect with was our cousin Pam Wendling. Pam and Cheryl were each others oldest friends as well. Born just over six months apart and living just on the other side of a back yard fence from each other, their lives were constantly intermingled for five years, during which time the girls became very close. Our move, and the miles between Superior, Wisconsin and Casper, Wyoming would separate them, and would prove to be a very hard time on the little girls. It’s hard to have a companion you have known all your life, move away. And for little girls of only five years, I’m sure this change would seem sudden, even if they were told of its coming ahead of time. It is hard enough for adults to understand why people move away, and even harder when you explain it to little kids.

Over the years, our parents got the two families together as much as the miles would allow, but after we all grew up and married, busy lives on both sides would keep us from seeing very much of Pam and her brothers, Bill and Jim. You just don’t realize how quickly the time flies by, and before you know it, years have passed since you last saw each other…much less spoke on the phone. I don’t think we realized just how much we missed that contact, until Pam and her husband, Mike Wendling came to Casper for a visit. It was then that we knew that we needed to make the trip back to Wisconsin to visit all of the family we have there. It was such a lovely trip, and we enjoyed the time we got to spend with all of those cherished individuals

Pam then shared with us, her baby scrapbook…put together for her by her mom, our Aunt Doris Spencer. In it, we saw those cherished moments shared between to little girls who lived on opposite sides of a back yard fence. We reminisced about the many trips we had taken to visit each others families. I remembered the excitement of their anticipated visit, and how much we enjoyed the time spent with our cousins. Pam has always been someone I looked up to. She…like my older sister, Cheryl, always seems so sophisticated and so pretty. I always wished I could have possessed those qualities, and maybe people would say I do, but I just Mike, Pam, and Aunt DorisPam in her classroomnever felt that way. Pam has been a elementary school teacher for many years, and in fact, will be retiring in January, when this semester ends. She and her husband, Mike are planning to take some time to head to sunny Mexico and get away from the cold winters that occur around Lake Superior. While we are very happy for them in their new ventures, we also hope that their new found freedom will allow them to make a few more trips to Wyoming to visit their cousins, who don’t want to wait so long to see them again. Today is Pam’s birthday. Happy birthday Pam!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

70s shortsLaura HeinI was reading a cartoon yesterday morning in the newspaper…which is rather unlike me, because I don’t usually read the comics. Nevertheless, this one stood out to me, and so I read it. In this comic, a boy is looking at his dad’s high school year book, and the basketball team that his dad was on. Well, in those days, the shorts were short. The boy commented that with, “Too much leg Dad. It’s disturbing!” Upon reading this, I was taken back to the 1970s, when everyone wore short shorts…especially in sports. Of course, there was another thought that came to mind. When did kids start talking that way…disturbing…seriously!! In my day, we wouldn’t have used that word. It wasn’t that we didn’t know big words, it was just that in the era of slang, we didn’t conform to our parents way of talking. It almost sounds like kids are little grownups these days.

So much has changed since the 70s. From the styles to the way kids talk. When I was a kid, the only time most guys wore shorts was when they were playing basketball or some such sport. My husband, Bob never wore shorts until about the last ten or fifteen years. It was like he thought that shorts on a man made him a wimp. Of course, by the time Bob started wearing shorts, they were to the knee or a little below on the men, so it just felt different. In many ways, I suppose the short shorts on the men was…disturbing. I can’t say exactly why it is ok for a girl to wear short shorts, and not a man, but somehow it just is.

As the young man in the comic got done telling his dad that short shorts on men were disturbing, the dad, made the commented that he had come from a time when “shorts were worn above the ankle.” That made me laugh, at the thought of the shorts on men going almost to their ankles. It would be even funnier, if it weren’t so close to the truth. Not only are the shorts now, the length of a woman’s Capri pants, but they are totally baggy…as are the pants. In the 70s, the men wore tight pants like the girls do now. To me, today’s baggy style has a sloppy look, but it is the style of the young, and their choice. I don’t say that men need to wear their pants skin tight, but it is nice if they stay up without suspenders.

Peach BasketAt the LakeAs to short shorts in sports, there are those sports, such as track, where clothing needs to be more form fitting so as to be out of the way, but in sports like basketball, they maybe should be a little bit longer and loose. I suppose it depends on the athlete and their style and comfort, and on the school and the style of uniforms they choose and that they can get. In the 70s, I doubt there were any basketball uniforms for boys that had long baggy shorts, so to have a uniform, schools had to go with what they could get. That was just the way it was. Sorry kids of today, back then, shorts were actually above the ankle.

Ghost TrainIn their early years, the railroads were quite powerful companies, and with good reason. The railroad reduced travel time across the United States from days or months, to hours, in many cases. They brought supplies, payroll, and people from back east to the west quickly. The railroad did not come without some confusion, however. Even as late as the 1880s, most United States towns had their own system for keeping track of time, based on where the sun was at high noon. I had never given much thought to this, but I suppose it could have been a big mess, since the train’s arrival would be very mixed up, and the end result would be that the train might be scheduled to arrive in several places at once.

Because the railroads were quite powerful, they took it upon themselves to make a monumental change that would affect the entire nation, and Canada too. At exactly noon on this day in 1883, American and Canadian railroads broke the continent into four sections, and began using a system of time zones that we still use to this day, with very few changes made to it over the years. I’m sure there were people who did not like the new system much, but most people quickly embraced it, because their lives depended on the railroad in one way or another. The root of the problem they had was that they moved passengers and freight over the thousands of miles the line covered. With the varying times in towns along the route, the train 1880 Train 1ended up with dozens of different departure and arrival times. No one really knew when the train would arrive…except possibly the engineer. I’m sure that caused chaos in the train stations…especially in the bigger cities. These days, we have to be at the airport two hours early for flights, because of screening, so imagine that kind of a scenario in the small train stations of the old west. This scheduling nightmare had to be stopped, and time zones were the only logical way to do it.

With the use of time zones, rail transportation became far more efficient. The thing that seems rather odd, is that they didn’t go to the United States or Canadian governments to resolve the problem, and if the government at that time was as inefficient as our congress is right now, I can fully understand why they didn’t. Imaging waiting six years to make a decision concerning time and its vital role in rail travel. Something had to be done right away, and the railroad was just bold enough to do it. As it turned out, no one tried to stop them either. I suppose everyone could see just how logical their plan was, and no one complained. So, the railroad companies agreed to create four continental time zones, and that decision has changed the way we live to this day.

The lines they adopted to make those time zones were very close to the ones we have today. I’m sure that any changes are based on where towns began to fall along the zone lines. It wasn’t until as late as 1918 that Congress officially adopted the railroad time zones and put them under the Interstate Commerce Commission. 1880 TrainJust imagine, if you will, if the people and the railroad had waited for Congress to act on this matter. There would have been 35 more years of unorganized and frustrating railroad travel. Something that should have revolutionized travel, would have been relegated to the stone age again, because of Congress’ lack of action. Even after the system was implemented and people finally had an organized schedule, that was relatively accurate…because you can’t predict accidents or weather related delays very well, Congress sat on their hands, and I suppose they operated the government on government time instead. In this writer’s opinion, the time zones were a wonderful idea, and have benefitted this nation very well since 1883. My family has a long history of working on the railroad, and that is a fact that I am very proud of.

Leaf Tracks 1With the Indian Summer we had this year, came a late fall…which collided with winter the other day. Usually winter snow and leaves still on the trees, spells disaster for the trees, but not this time. The weather had cooled down enough to where many if the trees were bare, and those that weren’t, had a lot less leaves than last year when we got an early storm that broke many of our trees. This frigid cold weather, and the subsiquent storm, brought snow that was much more of the powder variety, and maybe that’s why the few trees that had leaves on them were able to stand against the snow.

The thing that makes this storm so unusual is that with most snow storms here, the leaves have either been raked up and disposed of, or they are under the snow. Not so this storm. Because we had an abundance of leaves still lingering on the trees, the wind that followed the storm, deposited them on top of the snow on the ground.
Leaf Tracks 2
As I was looking out the window this morning, I noticed that there was a trail of leaves running across my lawn. The snow was slightly melted around them, creating…well, leaf tracks. I know that makes no sense, and that most likely, an animal walked across our yard, leaving the tracks. The problem with that thought is that the tracks really didn’t go anywhere. If an animal had gone across the yard, it was either very careful to back track in the same foot prints it had made, or it left the yard by some way that I couldn’t see. All I could see was leaves in every one of the imprints. As far as I’m concerned, those are leaf tracks.

You can think what you like, and you can even wonder what goofy thing I will think of next. I can’t say, because I don’t set out to dream this up, it just hits me that way. I have deer in my yard all the time, as well as cats, dogs, and even raccoons, so it could be that one of those made the tracks, but I like the idea of leaf tracks. It lends a little bit of something special to the scene I saw.
Leaf Tracks 3
It’s funny that the snow can melt in such a way as to create something that really can’t happen and makes no sense anyway, but it does. Maybe it had the help of the leaves laying across it in such a way that it looked like a trail, or maybe it’s all in my imagination, but either way, I like the effect. There they are, leaf tracks surrounded by snow diamonds. It’s such a pretty sight, and it puts a smile on my face in an otherwise dreary day. Maybe my analogy is silly, but sometimes we need a little silliness in our lives and I think leaf tracks works perfectly. So the next time you see leaves on top of the snow, look carefully to see if any of them left their tracks across the snow, and you too might be pleasantly surprised by leaf tracks.

Stairsteps and important thingsCorrie's makeupEvery girl can tell you that there are the everyday things and then there are the important things. The important things vary from girl to girl, and are partly their personality and partly the way they mimic their mother. From the moment a girl is old enough to notice the everyday essential things that her mother has or does, she starts to develop her own list of the important things. One of the first things many little girls notice is their mom’s purse. They instinctively know that Mom’s purse is important. It seems like everything she needs in in there. With that discovery, they decide that a purse is a must have for them too. The things little girls keep in their purse are different than their mom’s, because at this time in their life, toys and lollipops are just more important.

Of course, the use of the purse changes as girls get older. With the discovery of makeup, comes not only a time of experimentation, but a time of change in purse contents. A girl just can’t go anywhere without the ability to freshen her makeup, you know. One other thing that usually happens at this point is that Mom’s makeup is no longer safe, and really needs to be put away in a place that is too high for her little angel to reach, because I don’t know a single little girl who hasn’t used her mother’s makeup and not had disastrous results…for the makeup anyway. And, yes, I think for her little face too.

At some point, maybe after the makeup phase, or maybe during the makeup phase, the dress up phase begins. Your little princess starts trading her sensible shoes, for your high heels. She may also borrow some of your clothes too, because she is pretending that she is you. In her make believe world, she heads off to work, just like you do every day, or if you are a stay at home mom, she wants to cook dinner, change the baby, or clean the house. The biggest problem with this phase is that it is all too quickly over, and she goes back to wanting to play and not help out around the house. Have you every noticed just how quickly our kids grow up and begin a life of their own, leaving behind them all of the memories of their little kid days, for us to sort through and feel quite lonely over? We miss the little person they were, and if it were possible we would love to have that person back…especially when their teenaged years begin.

Yes, when the teenaged years start, many of us begin to wonder just who the child is? We thought we knew who they were and who they were going to be. Then suddenly, and without warning, all they want to do is talk on the phone with their friends…or boyfriends, as it were. Once again, the important things have changed, as they spread their wings and try to figure out who they want to be, and the kind of life they want to live. You are no longer the only real influence in their lives. Yours are no longer the only priorities in their lives. There Christmas PhonesShai in heelsare other hopes, dreams, and goals on their minds now. You have been relegated to being the back up plan. You are the one they come to when they have a problem no one else can fix, and you become the babysitter when they want to spend alone time with their spouse. Those are wonderful things and I don’t know of a parent or grandparent who doesn’t love being there for their adult children, but somehow…in the back of your mind, you can still see the little girl…your little princess, who is trying to figure out just what the important things are, while you are trying to figure out, where the time has gone.

Hattie GoodmanWhen Hattie Goodman, who is my husband, Bob’s 3rd cousin 4 times removed, wrote her family history book about the Knox family, back in 1905, computers and the internet were far in the future. The Knox family knew that their roots were is Scotland, but during her lifetime, the connection was never made. Having searched, fruitlessly at times, for my own roots, I can relate to the frustration she must have felt at hitting that brick wall. I can’t imagine how slow the process must have been when the only ways to search the records were by mail or a personal visit to the city whose records you were researching…or word of mouth, which can be highly unreliable. Her own search ended with her passing, but since that time, much has changed in the genealogy realm.

While she was unable to link the Knox family to Scotland, that link has since been made. According to John Knox, of the Knox-Laffoon clan, “John Knox, emigrant progenitor, represented by the trunk of our Knox Family Tree, was a native of Scotland, born about the year 1708. The exact locality of his birthplace is not certainly known. Some of the descendants on two different branches have it by tradition that Renfrewshire was his native place. He went from Scotland to Ireland, with other Scotch emigrants, by invitation of the King of England, to constitute a balance of power against the insurgent Irish Catholics. He married an Irish Presbyterian wife, Miss Jean Gracy, whose mother’s name was Jean Sinclair. They emigrated to America (from Coleraine, Ireland) about 1740, in company with his brother-in-law, Patrick Gracy, and others. It is thought that he first settled in Pennsylvania before coming South to Carolina. He was one of the early settlers of Rowan county, N. C. He bought six hundred acres of land on the south side of Third Creek for £37, 10s., which land had been granted by Earl Gran­ville to James Stuart.”

At some point, my father-in-law, Walter Schulenberg, who had married my mother-in-law, Joann Knox, was given a CD containing much of the history of the Knox family, in the form of Hattie Goodman’s book and many family pictures. I downloaded that to my computer, and have since very much enjoyed reading her writings, and especially enjoyed all the pictures that were included. I have used several of them in previous writings about the Knox family. What a wonderful thing for someone to have transferred all that information to a CD, where it could be shared and enjoyed by so many people. Originally, Reverend James Knox drew a sketch of his family tree, as far back as he knew. During Hattie’s lifetime, she was able to add many people to the original tree, and in the end produced a wonderful heirloom tree with about 2,200 names on it. Many copies were made and given to various family members. I was privileged enough to be able to see one of those copies when Bob and I visited Hattie-Goodman-Family-Tree01his great grandparents, Edgar and Nellie Knox in September of 1976. It was a magnificent tree, and while I can provide a copy here, it could never be as impressive as the extra large one I got to see.

I suppose that many people might think that today’s ability to research family histories is almost cheating, but I think it is better to be able to find the answers…even if it’s taking the easy way, than never to find the answers at all. These days, the research has gone far beyond pouring over records stored in some dark basement room at city hall. Besides the internet, and the vast amount of records that are shared there every day, there are also DNA connections. I have had my DNA analyzed, and have connected with many family members from that one test. It is amazing how far we have come, and I think that in the future, we may find ourselves even closer to being able to connect to our roots, be they Scottish or one of the many other nationalities.

Break TimeOpinions vary on the matter of child labor, and who can legally have their child work and at what kind of job. Some people take it to the point of saying that children shouldn’t even do chores around the home, which is, in my opinion, silly. It is my thought that children need to be helping out around the house, but beyond that I suppose the water gets a little bit murky. In the distant past, children were farmed out to spend their days working at a job that should have been done by an adult, and the kids really had no childhood to speak of. That is cruel treatment, and the current child labor laws prevent that from happening…unless people are so illegal that they do it without the knowledge of the government.

That said, there is a group of kids…even today that do work every day, and it is not illegal at all. These are the children of farmers and ranchers. I don’t know of any of those kids who don’t help out around the farm or ranch. There are stables to be cleaned, and cows to be milked, and animals to feed. There are also crops to be cared for and planted. These kids work and there is nothing illegal about it. Of course, their parents do have to Young Workersbe careful on a few matters. The children must get their schooling, and they have to be working on the parents farm or ranch.

Such was the case for my husband’s great uncles and his grandfather. Many people owned farms when those boys were young, and the kids helped out with just about everything. Most families back then really couldn’t afford to hire the amount of workers that it would take to run the place, so they hired what they had to, and the kids learned to work. I really can’t say that I think this is a bad thing. The kids often like the work…especially taking care of horses…since they often get to ride them too.

If you look back on the lives of our parents and grandparents, you will find that many of them grew up on a farm or ranch, and most of them were working to help out on the place at a very young age. Really, what a wonderful way to bond with the parents. Running a ranch or farm is a big job, and most kids like to do the things their parents are doing, because they want to be just like their parents. If a child is interested in doing the same kind of work their parents do, or take over the family farm, they need to know how to do this from the bottom up. What better way could there be, than to help out as a child.
A True Helper
Of course, not every family owns a farm or ranch, and while they may live in the country, they don’t have that kind of work to do. Still, the kids can and should help out with things. My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, loved helping his grandpa split firewood. He ran the splitter while his grandpa loaded the wood into it. Barry was about 4 years old, but you couldn’t have pulled him away from that job for anything. He was the one who did that, and that was all there was to it. Maybe some people would think he was a bit young, but there was never a single accident when he worked the splitter. I think sometimes we don’t give these kids enough credt. They can often do more than we think they can. They just need to be given a chance.

Cornealius and Luther SpencerAfter my 2nd great grandfather, Allen Spencer passed away suddenly at the young age of just 56 years, my 2nd great grandmother, Lydia Spencer found herself in one of the hardest positions anyone ever has to face. In those days, few of the women worked outside the home, and with her husband and the bread winner of her family gone, she had some hard choices to make. She still had several children at home, including three sons and one daughter. Her daughter, Teresa would marry later that year, and eventually move to North Dakota. Her son Allen would follow his sister to North Dakota, and eventually move to Washington, where he would marry and live out his life. That left Lydia in Iowa, with her two remaining sons, Cornelius and Luther…at least for a time. That had to have been the hardest part of the time too, considering the grief she must have been feeing.

Luther married Ellen Dykes in 1885, and Cornealius married Leona Stinson on February 1, 1888. By 1900, the two brothers along with their families and their mother had moved to the Deer Creek, Oklahoma area. I know that in the years following their fathers death, these two men took on the role of caregiver of sorts for their mother. It wasn’t necessarily that she needed a caregiver, at only 53 years of age, but rather that these two brothers took on the role of picking up the pieces of her shattered life and helping her through the rough transition years, during which she went from being a wife to a widow. It isn’t that she was incapable, but it would be really hard to find yourself widowed at such a young age. You had thought you and your souse would grow old together, and now you have been left to try to figure out how to move on alone.

Little has been said about the role the two brothers played in her life, and I suppose that is because it was just expected of them and so everyone assumed they just did their job. I suppose that is true to a large degree, but there were other children in the family, and yet they chose to take on this role, and she chose to go to Oklahoma with these two sons, rather than move to North Dakota, Wisconsin, or Washington with her other children. She loved the others very much, and the pictures tell me that she saw them whenever she could, but she moved to Oklahoma with Cornealius and Luther, and lived in Luther’s home until her passing in 1906, at the age of 75.

Lydia Quackenbush Potts SpencerIt takes a very special person to move their elderly parent into their home, and I don’t just mean that parent’s child, but the spouse of that child too. You can’t take in your parent without the ok of your spouse, because this is going to affect the whole family. In this case, it is likely that the time Lydia lived with her son Luther and his family in Oklahoma, was about ten years, but in reality, that is a long time. The last days could have been very stressful and trying, given the way, aging parents get weak and tired as they get closer to death. Yes, I think that Luther and his wife, Ellen had to be very special people to make sure that Lydia was taken care of, and not lonely. I’m sure that went a long way toward picking up the pieces of her life, after the loss of her husband, Allen. That leaves me with a lot of respect for these sons and their families.

Portrait of Angeloah ShawFor some time now, my Shaw family line has been stalled at Angeloah, who is my 3rd great grandfather. I have always known that he was my grandfather, and that he was a religious man, but other than that, he has remained a mystery to me. Most of the time when a side of my family history stalls, I just move to another branch, because at that point I need a break from the frustration of a fruitless search. That is what I had done on that branch, until I was contacted by a man who was researching a Shaw branch of his family. So far, I have not found a connection between his family and mine. But in my search, I found a story from a history document about Catarogus, Allegany County, New York. In that document, it said that Angeloah’s father was Joseph Shaw. That was what I had originally thought to be correct, but then during my search, I saw where his father had been listed as Nathaniel and also as John. For a time I wasn’t sure what to believe, but this document made it very clear, and it was the first one that did. What it didn’t make clear was who Angeloah’s mother was. I find that so odd…and frustrating!!

From his childhood until about 1860, Angeloah lived in Lyndon, New York, where he met and married his wife, Mary Delilah Sapney. They moved to Derinda, Illinois before 1860, as they were counted in the census taken in 1860. Then in 1864, they moved to Tremplealeau County Wisconsin, and is shown to have owned land by 1869. The land totaled 160 acres, and Angeloah took up farming. his son, my 2nd great grandfather, John Brad Shaw, helped out on the farm until he was 24 years old, before moving to Nebraska. Angeloah and the rest of the family would stay on in Wisconsin for a number of years before following John in 1874 to Nebraska where Angeloah lived out the remainder of his life.

He was a very religious man, and some of the pictures we do have of him showed him reverently holding his Angeloah ShawBible. I’m sure that in the early years he was a preacher of sorts…at least in his family. That reminds me a lot of my dad, in that he was the patriarch of our family. We always looked to him to have the answers and to show us the right way to go in all things. I doubt if any of us would have been who we are today, had it not been for that leading. I can’t say for sure if Angeloah was the same kind of father to his children. Those were very different times, and parenting was different too, so I can’t say what his parenting style was like or what part his faith played in his parenting style.

Basically, that is all I know of my 3rd great grandfather. That makes me sad in many ways. It seems like some families didn’t keep records that were up to date as much as other families. I had hoped that with the abundance of pictures out there, I would be able to find much more documentation on him and his life, as well as his parents. Instead, I am left with nothing but the continuing mystery of Angeloah Shaw.

Dad and Gene FredrickVeteran’s Day is a day about sacrifice and honor, duty and dedication, war and peace, but the day cannot pass for me without thoughts of my dad, and how much I miss him. I know I am not alone in these thoughts, because my mom and sisters also miss him, as well as the rest of our family. Still, no one who has lost a loved one who was a veteran, whether to war or after, can pass this day without thoughts of their loved ones. I think of my Grandpa Byer, my uncles Ted Byer, Cliff Byer, Larry Byer, Jim Wolfe, and my cousin, Larry Wolfe…all gone now, but not lost in war, thankfully. I think of those who, in World War II, couldn’t serve in combat, and so they served at home in the shipyards as builders and Rosie the Riveters, like my Aunt Ruth, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Bill, who couldn’t go because of a hernia and flat feet. And I think of the loved ones…too many to list here…who have fought and returned, and those who continue to fight to secure our nation, and stop terrorist acts all over the globe.

Theirs is a sacrifice beyond measure, a debt we cannot repay. Every day of their service they work, without knowing if they will return to their loved ones, or if this will be the day that a bullet, rocket, or bomb will have their name on it. They go to work knowing fear, as if it was their closest friend, and yet knowing that it is no friend at all. They have to bite back that fear and do their job…because it is needed…they are needed…because without them we are a nation unprotected. Most of us go to bed at night, secure in what the next day will bring, because we live in a nation where freedom belongs to everyone. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is not free. Over the years, our nation has lost so many young people to war. They were really our hope for the future. They were people full of promise. People with plans and dreams…all gone now.

Veteran'sDayWar is a horrible thing, and none of us really want to engage in it. Still, evil exists out there, and it does its very best to reek havoc upon the world. If we do nothing, many innocent people will die. And so God created soldiers. He knew that they would have to be people of honor and dedication, with a strong sense of duty and love for their fellow man. They would have to be people of courage and bravery…able to bite back the fear that dwells all around them. God knew the kind of people they would have to be…Heroes. And that is what every veteran is, was, and always will be…a hero. Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor those who have given so much to keep us free. Thank you all for your great service. God bless you…everyone of you.

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