Monthly Archives: June 2015
With this year marking the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, there is much celebration in the arena of those who love to celebrate the history of the Pony Express. Every year the first couple of weeks in June find many riders marking the amazing accomplishments of the Pony Express by riding the route once again. The riders follow the original route from Saint Louis, Missouri to Sacramento, California. They travel on horseback, just as the original riders did, and they ride 24 hours a day, just as the riders before them. Today, June 20, 2015 puts them traveling through the state of Wyoming. They left Atlantic City, Wyoming June 20, 3:00am, Farson, Wyoming at 9:00am, Green River Crossing at 11:00am, Granger, Wyoming at 12:30pm, Uinta County Line at 1:00pm, Fort Bridger, Wyoming at 4:00pm, and cross the Wyoming/Utah state line at 9:00pm, arriving in This Is The Place Heritage Park in Utah in time to depart on Sunday, June 21, 3:30am, to continue on to their destination of Sacramento, California with a planned arrival at Old Sacramento, California on Thursday, June 25, 11:30am.
The Pony Express is one of the few services that achieved so much recognition in such a short history. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day. Eventually, it gre to more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. Their delivery record was amazing in that during their run, only one mail delivery was lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence.
While it’s time was short, the Pony Exoress has become a beloved historic icon. In fact, in many ways, the service the Pony Express provided, makes our current mail service pale by comparison. I realize that there are many very good mail service workers, but there are also many who couldn’t care less about the mail they deliver, or the people sending or receiving it. They are, unfortunately, among the sorry generation of people who think a paycheck shouldn’t necessarily depend on the work performed, or not performed. That mentality was totally foreign to the Pony Express riders, who risked their very lives every day to make sure that communication in this great nation was possible. Happy 155th Anniversary to the Pony Express.
With all the rain we have been receiving, our area, along with many others have received multiple flash flood warnings, as well as flooding in many areas. When river water crosses a road, we are told not to drive through the flood, because it can take your car and cause your death. So many warnings are given to us in a flood situation. So much has been learned over the years about how to stay safe. So much has been learned about early warnings. So a lot of preparation is put in place, and yet, sometimes it’s just not enough. Such was the case on June 19, 1938.
At that time, they didn’t have pickups that drove the rail system to check the tracks for problems. Instead a track walker was sent out to areas where there was a possible problem. Custer Creek is a small winding river that runs through 25 miles of the Great Plains on its way to the Yellowstone River. Minor streams like Custer Creek are prone to flash floods because their small capacity can quickly and easily be exceeded during heavy rains. A track walker was sent out to make sure everything was ok on the trestle at Custer Creek in Terry, Montana, and he reported that all was well there. Just a few hours later, a sudden downpour came through the area. The rising water in Custer Creek washed out the bridge and when the Olympian Special came through, it went crashing into the raging waters with no warning at all.
Two sleeper cars were immediately buried in the muddy waters, and the moonless night extremely hampered rescue efforts. In the end, 46 people lost their lives. The rear cars stayed above the water, but many passengers were seriously injured. To make matters worse, they could not be evacuated until the following morning. To hear of a train going into river in a flood is…at the very least, rare. I’ve heard of trains derailing…we all have, but this was different. On a moonless, pitch black night, my guess is that the engineer had no idea what was about to happen. The shock must have been sickening to say the very least. Just knowing that people were going to die and there was nothing you could do about it, must have been the most horrible experience of an engineer’s life. Completely unimaginable.
These days there are different safety measures in place, but that still doesn’t guarantee that such an event couldn’t happen again. I don’t know what the solution would be in these situations, but I’m sure that if there is one, technology will find a way to fix the problem. In those days, with the technology they had, they had done all they could, and yet, lives were still lost.
Not all of us can say that we knew a US President, before or during their presidency, but my uncle, Jim Wolfe could say that. Uncle Jim was in the army during World War II, and was on his way to England on a ship. Being the kind of guy who liked to see how things worked, Uncle Jim was laying on the back end of the ship watching the propeller go in and out of the water. Ike came up behind him and asked him if he was sick. Uncle Jim said, “No, I was just watching the prop.” Ike said, “Lord, man I would be so sick it would kill me and I’m on ships all the time.” He told Uncle Jim to come with him and they were going to go to Officers Mess and have coffee. Dad said “I can’t go there I will get in trouble.” Ike informed Uncle Jim that as long as he was with him, they wouldn’t say anything to him.
In the Officers Mess, Uncle Jim and Ike talked for a long time and then went their separate ways on the ship. When they got to England, Uncle Jim saw him a few times and then on D-Day, they found themselves on the same ship again. When they disembarked, they were under heavy fire, and my cousin Shirley Cameron tells me that Ike got a hold of her dad, my Uncle Jim and asked him how his shooting was. Uncle Jim said that it was good. Ike said, “See that guy in that tree way up there.” Uncle Jim said that he did, and Ike asked if he could hit him. Uncle Jim shot, hit, and killed the man. Ike said for Uncle Jim to stay with him. They were together for quite a while before they got separated. At that point, Uncle Jim was sent to another area.
Uncle Jim ended up opening up some of the concentration camps. That was probably the worst part of his service. He said the men were like the walking dead. They were sick, weak, and skinny. All they could do was grab hold of him and thank him over and over for getting them out of that horrible place. Shirley tells me that he saw little wooden sheds that had bodies stacked from bottom to top, There were also pits that had bodies stacked in them ready for the heavy equipment to push the dirt over the top. She told me that experience gave him nightmares for years. He used to have pictures of all of that and the people that they helped out of the camps, but unfortunately they were lost in the fire that destroyed his home a number of years ago. After his time there, Uncle Jim was sent to France to help with the Liberation there. I’m sure he came home with many stories of the war, but as far as I know, that was the last time he ever saw the man who would later become our 34th US President, Dwight D Eisenhower…aka Ike.
The states we now know as Montana and Wyoming, were originally supposed to belong to the Indians…a fact that many people don’t realize. Unfortunately, the White Man only stuck to a plan as long as the plan worked for the White Man. When gold was found in the Black Hills, there was no holding the White Man back. The plan was to try to buy the land from the Indians, but when that was not well received, they gave them an ultimatum…report to the reservations…or else. It was a matter of sell to us or we will take it…sound familar? The Indians simply did not take to the White Man’s plan very well. War broke out pretty quickly, and it was different than other wars, because the Indians did not play be the White Man’s rules of engagement. It was a very different type of war, and to win, the White Man would have to learn how to fight in a very different way. And it was a way they were not very good at.
Most people remember the Battle of the Little Big Horn, in that so many men rode to their deaths. While Custer was in a place he shouldn’t have been, and a battle in which he was outnumbered, it is my opinion that he took a bad situation and did the best he could do with it. He went into battle knowing he would not survive it, and in that way it was brave. Even if the battle was not going to be won, it was brave. Still, that battle was not the only battle that showed bravery against daunting odds.
Just eight days earlier, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians won a major victory over General Crook’s forces at the Battle of the Rosebud. General Cook was in command of one of three columns of soldiers who were converging on the Big Horn Country of southern Montana that June. Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and several other chiefs had joined forces in the area. They were there in defiance on the US demands that the Indians confine themselves to the reservations. The army saw this protest as an opportunity to launch a massive three-proged attack, fully expecting to win a decisive vistory over the Indians.
Crook and his men marched north from Fort Fetterman in Wyoming Terretory, intending to join the two others, the columns of General Gibbon and General Terry. General Terry’s force included the soon to be famous 7th Cavalry under the command of General George Custer. Given the distances between the troops and the lack of reliable communication, it was difficult to coordinate the three armys. Their plan was to converge on the valley of the Big Horn River and stage their assault. The biggest problem was that they had only a vague idea of how many men their enemy included, and they were way off.
Upon their arrival in the area, Crook’s scouts told him that there were signs of a major Sioux force in the area. Crook was convinced that the Sioux would run rather than fight, and he thought they were encamped near the Rosebud Creek. He wanted to attack before they had time to run. Unfortunately for him, they did not have the intel to know that they were severely outnumbered, not did he know that Crazy Horse was a brilliant war chief. The scouts tried to warn General Crook that Crazy Horse would never allow him to attack a stationary village, and he soon learned that they were right.
At around 8:00am on this day, June 17, 1876, Crook halted his force of 1,300 men in the bowl of a small valley along the Rosebud Creek to allow the rest of his men to catch up. The men unsaddled their horses, and within minutes a mass of Sioux Indians converged on them. They were hit by a force of 1,500 Sioux Indians and unbeknownst to Crook, Crazy Horse had an additional 2,500 warriors in reserve. Crazy Horse’s 4,000 warriors outnumbered Crook’s divided and unprepared army three to one. Had it not been for the wisdom and courage of Crook’s Indian allies, the battle would have ended just like the Battle of the Little Big Horn. There were numerous brave acts on both sides, including a Cheyenne girl who rescued her brother after his horse had been shot out from under him. In the end, 28 men were killed and 56 were seriously wounded. Crook withdrew his men. The warriors were emboldened and eight days later they joined up with their tribesmen in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, which of course, wiped out General George Custer and the 7th Cavalry.
On this day, June 16, 1961, the star of the Soviet Union’s Kirov Opera Ballet Company, Rudolf Nureyev defected while on a tour with the ballet company in France. He was 23 years old. It was a huge blow to the Soviet Union, both in the loss of Kirov Opera Ballet Company’s star, and that it severely damaged Soviet propaganda that touted the political and artistic freedom in Russia. But, Nureyev was not the first to defect, nor would he be the last. Communism had taken over Russia after the Russian Civil War, in which the Red Army successfully defended the Bolshevik government against various Russian and anti-Bolshevik armies. The Bolsheviks were Communist, and Russia would never be the same after their takeover.
My 4th great grandfather, Johann Georg Beyer was born in Germany in 1752, but the family immigrated to Russia in the mid 1700s, probably due to a poor economy in Gemany at the time. Later, when things heated up in Russia, the family decided to make the move to America. They worried about the impact Communism would have on their family, not to mention the fact that people were being pressed into service…even as young children. I believe that they got out pretty much in the nick of time to keep their family from being torn apart, however, one son was taken and to my knowledge, never heard from again.
There are many reasons why people would do everything they can to escape a Communist regime, and I’m sure that is also why Nureyev defected. I suppose that his life was different, since he had a talent that Russia wanted more than putting him in the army, but what if he could no longer dance? And what of his family should he have one? They might not be able to dance, and so might be forced to go into the army. And Russia has been saying that they had political and artistic freedom, but as we all know, that wasn’t true in reality. After defecting, Nureyev continued his career as a dancer. Over the next 30 years he danced with England’s Royal Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. He was in great demand as both a dancer and choreographer, and even made a few films, including an unsuccessful stint as the silent film star Rudolf Valentino. In 1983, he took over as ballet director of the Paris Opera. In 1989, he briefly returned to the Soviet Union to perform. He died in Paris in 1993.
While, Nureyev chose to return to Russia for a performance, possibly to show them that he was a free man, my grandfather’s family chose never to return to Russia, or to German as far as I know. It could have been that they distrusted the ability to get back out, but I think they just longed for a peaceful life, in a free nation, free from the tyranny of a corrupt government. That makes me wonder what they would think of things here in America now.
My grandfather, George Byer was a very gentle, soft hearted man. He could not bear to hurt anyone, nor could he stand to see anyone go without. Grandpa would give a man the shirt off of his back if they needed it. And while I don’t recall that he ever had to actually give the shirt off his back, he gave many people a good meal at his table. My grandmother, Hattie Byer was a great cook, and she always found a way to stretch the meal a little further, so they could feed the many less fortunate people who found their way to the Byer table from time to time.
Grandpa was such a family man. He could allow his daughters to play beauty shop, complete with nail polish on his nails, and yet no man would think him a wimp. They just knew that he loved his family. As to his hair though, I have a feeling that those of us in the family who love having their hair played with or brushed, and you know who you are, probably got that from grandpa, because he could sit there for hours and let the girls brush his hair. I know exactly how he felt, because for me, there is nothing more relaxing…especially after a hard day at work. Funny thing about people who enjoy having their hair brushed…they don’t enjoy brushing someone else’s hair so much. And believe me, if you like having your hair brushed, it’s really hard to find someone to brush it for you, a fact that is really sad.
Grandpa was always such a sweet man, as I said, and for his grandchildren, it was so much fun to go over to their house. I don’t remember ever having Grandpa say a harsh word to me. I think he was just too soft hearted. I suppose that is why Grandma always had to do any discipline that was needed concerning the grandchildren. Nevertheless, I don’t think Grandpa could stomach it. I have to wonder if he ever spanked his own kids. I know my grandmother did, and I think that like my husband, Bob, Grandpa just couldn’t bring himself to spank a child much. That is just the way my grandfather was…just like a big teddy bear. Today would have been Grandpa Byer’s 122st birthday. Of course, he has been gone for some time now, but I can still here his voice saying, “Come on in, Kid!” Happy birthday in Heaven, Grandpa. We love you, and miss you very much.
Some kids take to having their parents leave them with a grandparent or aunt while they go out of town better than other kids do, and I suppose that as an only child, my grand nephew, James Renville felt that he shouldn’t be left out of anything, and for the most part he wasn’t. One advantage to being an only child is that you have the full attention of your parents most of the time. When James was five years old, his parents, my niece Toni Chase, and her husband at the time, Jim Renville, decided to go to Las Vegas for the weekend. They left James with my sister, Cheryl Masterson, who is his grandmother, and headed out for a nice weekend.
Now, I can tell you that James had a wonderful time, because when his parents came back, he was in the back yard playing cops and robbers with his cousins, Garrett Stevens and Jake Harman. When Jim said his name, he turned and pretended to shoot his dad. Then, he ran and hid under the picnic table. When his dad picked him up, he said, “Take me to Steve’s…he’s my daddy now!” Steve Spethman, being his uncle had apparently now become the guy he wanted to replace his dad when he was mad at him. Of course, he would never shoot his dad, and he didn’t want a new daddy, but he had been feeling a little bit abandonded, and so was a little mad at his parents. After about an hour, he forgave them, and that horrendous, but in reality kind of fun, first weekend away from his parents was over. James stayed with his grandmother other times, and had no issues with it, so apparently he wasn’t traumatized too much.
He wasn’t traumatized on that issue anyway. One day, when James was in preschool, his mother, my niece, Toni Chase was getting him ready to go to school, and he was throwing a fit because she was dressing him in a pair of adorable green bib overalls, and a Bob the Builder t-shirt. Toni thought they were adorable. James was fighting her every step of the way. Finally in frustration she asked him why he didn’t want to wear them. His answer was, “Cuz, I’m too cool!!” Aparently Bob the Builder simply wasn’t cool at all, so that would traumatize him.
For some reason, while most parents threaten their children with the other parent when they are acting out, Toni and Jim used to threaten James with his Aunt Chantel Balcerzak, who is Toni’s sister. Now personally, I can’t see that as a threat, because, Chantel is a real softy, but that is what they did. When I talked to Chantel about all this, she told me that she simply doesn’t know how James turned out to be so sweet, but he did. And anyone who knows him would have to agree. James is a real sweetie. Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
The moonless night was dark, quiet, and peaceful. The children were tucked in their beds in the trailer, while their parents, my sister, Alena Stevens and her husband, Mike sat outside by the campfire. It had been a beautiful day on vacation. They love camping, and this was the perfect ending to a perfect day. After sitting by the campfire for a while, they decided that it was time to go to bed. They tip toed into the trailer, where the candle in the sink that Alena had left burning for a night light for the kids had burned itself out, leaving the trailer very dark. They climbed into bed, and started to drift off to sleep. Suddenly the quiet was shattered as their ten year old son, Garrett sat up and yelled, “I’m blind!!” To which my sister said, “No you’re not. It’s just dark. Go back to sleep.” I’m sure it was all she could do to hold back the giggles that were bubbling up inside her. I know it would be hard for me.
This was not the first time Garrett would do some goofy thing, nor would it be the last. When Garrett was about three or four, he decided that he wanted to ride a big boy bicycle, so his parents got him a two wheeler and put training wheels on it. Garrett was floating on air. He loved riding around on the bike. That didn’t mean, however, that he was in any hurry to get rid of the training wheels, because he wasn’t. Garrett rode around on that bike with training wheels for quite a while…so long, in fact that eventually, one of the training wheels fell off. Even then, Garrett didn’t feel the need to take off the other training wheel. No, he rode around on three wheels until the other training wheel broke off, probably during a leaning turn that only a kid who doesn’t need training wheels can make. And so it was that Garrett learned that he didn’t need training wheels, and probably hadn’t for some time.
Not all of Garrett’s antics were on his own, of course. His sisters, Michelle and Lacey got in on some of them too. I’m sure you think you know what to do with a sleeping bag, but you would be wrong. A sleeping bag isn’t just for sleeping. No, it makes a perfect sled too. The three kids used to get on the sleeping bags and slide down the stairs in the classic style of the Home Alone movies. The biggest problem was that unlike the Home Alone movie, where McCauley Calkin used the sled and went right out the front door, their stairs ended with a wall a very short distance away. Nevertheless, the fun continued until one of the kids hit the wall a little too hard and ended up crying. Then Alena had to make them stop.
Those days of being a silly little boy are long gone now, but Garrett is still a joker in any way he can think up. I guess some things will never change…or will they. These days Garrett is busy making plans of a different kind. He is ready to take the next big step in his life, as he and his fiancée, Kayla Smiley plan their wedding to take place some time next summer. Their marriage, however, will probably not change Garrett’s funny side. While Garrett is the kind of man who is always ready to help whenever he is needed, he also still loves to pull pranks and other jokes on people whenever he can. I’m quite sure that they will never have a dull moment in their lives together. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My cousin, Shirley Cameron lives on the top of a mountain in Washington state. It was a beautiful, rugged, tree filled area, that is quiet and peaceful. She raises chickens and ducks, for their eggs, and gardens in the summer months. She loves to can food, and make jellies and jams of all kinds of unique flavors…and believe me, they are wonderful. In the summer months, there are bears in the area, which I think would bother me a bit, but Shirley is used to it, so she just knows how to stay calm and wait them out. She has lived on this mountain top for many years now, as did her parents before their passing. The place might be a bit wild by city dwellers standards, but for Shirley it is home, and I don’t know if she could really ever see herself living anywhere else now.
There was a time, however, when Shirley lived in the very populated areas of Reno, Nevada and Vallejo, California, which is possibly the main reason she lives where she does now. Too many people in one area can drive you crazy, and then the best solution is for find peace in the general solitude of a mountain top. Now don’t get me wrong, Shirley isn’t a recluse. She enjoys being with people, getting online and connecting via Facebook, and even going into town and meeting up with friends, but when she goes home, it is to her beloved mountain. In many ways, I think it is there that Shirley feels the closest to her parents. They loved the mountain top too, and in fact, at one time the whole family lived up there on separate places. It was their little slice of Heaven on Earth. And it is where Shirley still loves to be, because of its quiet, peaceful beauty.
Shirley loves to take photographs of the different wildlife in the area. I have deer that come into my yard on occasion, but Shirley sees moose in her yard, and bald eagles in the trees. There are fox, deer, and every other animal imaginable too. I can see why she likes it there…in the summer anyway. And then there are the flowers. Wild flowers are everywhere, of course, but Shirley has a green thumb…unlike her cousin, aka me. She is able to grow not only a vegetable garden, but beautiful flower gardens as well. Her pictures of Iris and Peonies are stunning. While country life is not really what I want anymore, I still think it would be very inspirational to sit a while in her yard. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley!! You are an amazing woman. Have a great day!! We love you!!
My Aunt Virginia Beadle is a soft spoken, teeny little woman, who is beautiful, inside and out. Beauty is a trait the Byer family kids all had in common, although I’m sure the two boys preferred handsome. Nevertheless, my grandparents did give birth to nine very beautiful people. Aunt Virginia was the second of my grandparents’ children, following my Aunt Evelyn, who was about two years older than Aunt Virginia. Like her older sister, Aunt Virginia was a friendly person who was liked by everyone she met. Since the Byer family has lived in this area for many, many years, that could be a very long list of people too. In fact, I am often amazed at the people I run into who know or knew my Aunt Virginia and her siblings.
Being the second oldest brought with it a certain degree of responsibility as the younger siblings came along. While grandma didn’t work outside the home, big families require the cooperation of all its members, and the older ones are first in line to help out. I suppose it was with the older children that the singing while you work tradition came about in my grandparents’ family. They would sing while they did the dishes or cleaned the house. It made for a happy home, and it was with the help of the older siblings, like Aunt Virginia that the younger siblings learned the songs and tradition. It was a tradition that was a tribute to my grandmother, Hattie Byer. She instilled in her children a love of song, happiness, and hard work.
As a child, I remember Aunt Virginia’s soft laugh and her sweet smile. She was always so much fun to be around. Her gentle spirit always made me feel loved. What more could a little kid ask from their aunt. I have always felt very blessed to know my Aunt Virginia. With Aunt Evelyn’s passing in May, Aunt Virginia became the oldest sibling left in the family. In many ways, that is kind of a wake up call for all of us…take the time to touch base with her whenever you can. Today is Aunt Virginia’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Virginia!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!