Monthly Archives: August 2016

Keifer steelers12279182_10208291253019798_4627236881389401356_nMy grand nephew, Keifer Balcerzak has always been the kind of guy who likes to laugh. He has a great sense of humor, and really can be quite the comedian. He completely embraces the idea that all women are, and always will be a total mystery to men…a fact that I’m sure his wife, Katie enjoys immensely. Seriously, what woman doesn’t want to keep their man on his toes, and off his guard when it comes to them? And let’s be real here, men do not now, nor will they ever understand women. It’s just best to concede that fact, and do whatever she tells you to do. The home will be a much more peaceful place if you do…just saying, Keifer. I have a feeling that “peace” isn’t exactly what their home is like, however, because if I know Keifer, I imagine that a lot of teasing is going on there, because he does love a good joke.

Like most guys, Keifer loves football, and is looking forward to the coming season. Thankfully for him, he likes the same team as his dad does…the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that is one place where I have to say, he missed the mark. The Broncos are the best team, and that is just not up for negotiation. Still, I suppose both of them will argue that point with me. Apparently, they both still think they can win an argument with a woman. How crazy is that? It will never happen.

I can see that Keifer loves kids, and is a great uncle them, so even though he doesn’t pick the right football team, he wins points in my book, just for that part. I think someday, he and Katie will make great parents, because it is obvious that they both love children. And with his goofy ways, kids love him too. There is a lot to be said for a man who will get out there and play with the kids, no matter what their age or gender.

Keifer reminds me so much of his dad, Dave Balcerzak. The older he gets, the more he looks like his dad, and they both have very similar abilities. They are Technology Geeks for sure. Some people have a mind for GoofyUncle Keifertechnology, and others just don’t. While I normally don’t need much help in the technology area, it is always nice to know that there are people I can call, who really know their stuff…and that would definitely be these two. When it comes to computer assistance, all I can say is that he and his dad are great additions to our family. After all, families working together and helping each other out is what it’s all about. Today is Keifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Keifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Congress in 1874The Nation of FranklinHave you heard of the nation of Frankland…or maybe the nation of Franklin? I hadn’t either, but it was a real place. Early in the history of the United States, its people operated on somewhat limited trust of the government…probably due to the treatment they received in England. In April of 1784, the state of North Carolina ceded its western land claims between the Allegheny Mountains and the Mississippi River to the United States Congress. The settlers who lived in that area, known as the Cumberland River Valley, had already formed their own government from 1772 to 1777, and their distrust of Congress led the to worry that the area might be sold to Spain or France to pay off war debts owed them by the government. Due to their concerns, North Carolina retracted its cession and started to organize an administration for the territory.

At the same time, representatives from Washington, Sullivan, Spencer (modern-day Hawkins) and Greene ben-franklin-portrait-national-portrait-gallery-smithsonian-museum-washington-dccounties declared their independence from North Carolina. Then, in May, they petitioned the United States Congress for statehood as Frankland. The simple majority favored the petition, but Congress could not get the two thirds majority to pass it…not even when the people decided to change the name to Franklin, in the hope of winning favor with Benjamin Franklin and some of the others.

When the petition failed to pass, the people in the area grew angry, and decided to defy Congress. On this day, August 23, 1784, they ceded from the union and functioned as the Free Republic of Franklin (Frankland) for four years. During that time, they had their own constitution, Indian treaties and legislated system of barter in lieu of currency. Two years into the Free Republic of Franklin’s history, North Carolina set up their own parallel government in the area. The economy was weak, and never really gained ground, so the governor, John Sevier approached the Spanish for aid. That move brought a feeling of terror in the government of North Carolina, and they arrested Sevier. The situation worsened when the Cherokee, Chickamauga and Chickasaw began to attack settlements within Franklin’s borders in 1788. Franklin quickly rejoined North Carolina to gain its militia’s protection from attack.

It was a short life for the little nation of Franklin, and eventually they wouldn’t even belong to North Carolina, but rather became a part of the state of Tennessee. It just goes to show that the growing pains of a nation can Tennessee with Franklintake on many forms to reach their destiny as a whole nation. Some changes are good ones, and continue on into the future, and others are not so good, and are sometimes absorbed into the fabric of history and time, and end up looking nothing like the change they started out to be.

imageI think that in many ways, my mom’s family is unique. It all started with Grandma and Grandpa Byer, of course. The family had grown to a size that was far too big to get together at their house, so they came up with the idea of holding a family Christmas party at a central location in town, that would hold all of us. It was truly the only way for all of us to get together at the same time, but I think Grandma and Grandpa had an ulterior motive for doing this. They wanted their growing family to stay close, even though it wasn’t always easy. Most of the family still lives right here in Casper, but we are all very busy people, so getting together on any kind of a consistent basis is really hard, and it gets harder every year as we grow in size. Still, it was Grandma and Grandpa’s dream that we would not stop the get togethers, which has grown to include an annual family picnic in August.image

Every few years, the number of the original siblings seems to dwindle, and of course, each of the original siblings that are left are growing older. For that reason, I feel a strong urging to go to these events, to spend time with them. I’m not saying that everyone can make it, and that’s ok, but I feel the need. My aunts and uncles are getting older, and they have so much information that they can pass on to us…stories of their childhood and stories passed down from their parents. These are stories that will be lost if we don’t hear them now. Since my parents have passed away, I can’t ask them the things I have wondered about since they left. And I won’t say that I would have wondered those things while they were still alive, but I know that I wish that I had asked them many things about their families and their lives while they were still here, because I do wonder now, and now I’m stuck with unanswered questions where my parents are concerned. That is the thing I don’t want to have…those unanswered questions with my aunts and uncles too.
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The Byer family Christmas party and the Byer family picnic are two chances for all of us to spend time with and talk to these precious people before it’s too late. What I have noticed is that the same people come to these events and I suppose that is how it will always be. We always have a wonderful time, and I do look forward to both the picnic and Christmas party. As I said, my mom’s family is unique…especially in that they hold two family reunions a year. We may not get the turnout that reunions that are further apart get, but no one can say that they didn’t have the opportunity…and any unanswered questions are purely the fault of those who would not come and ask.

CCI06282012_00038_editedfWar is never pretty, and yet somehow, I had a picture in my head of the time my grandfather, George Byer spent in World War I that made it seem very benign. I never pictured him being in any danger. You see, my grandfather was a cook in the Army during the war, and somehow I pictured him working in a safe place where the war was a very distant reality, and not something to be faced or dealt with. The cooks in World War I didn’t even get a gun, so they must not be in danger…right? Wrong…very wrong!! The men on the front couldn’t drive home to the safety zone every night after work, like I had pictured in my head. The kitchen was very close to the front. In Grandpa’s case, that kitchen was a commandeered kitchen in the lowest floor of a French castle. As far as anyone knows, the residents of the castle still lived there, although I’m not sure how their meals were handled. Perhaps, their own cooks were allowed a little time in the kitchen, or maybe their meals were served along with the men in the Army. I don’t suppose we will know the full answer to that question in this lifetime.

For a very long time…until just a few months ago, in fact, I carried the impression in my head that Grandpa’s job was really uneventful, other than the pressure of getting the meals to a large group of hungry men on time. Then, I came across a picture that I had seen several times over the past five years, but this time I was also Grandpa Byer's Military Photolooking at the list my aunts had made about what the pictures were about. In that moment, my idea of my grandfather’s service was changed forever. On the list they had written, that the man on the right, or the man in uniform, was Grandpa. The second picture was tagged with, “Castle in France. Owner of castle died in Daddy’s kitchen” and “cooks, who worked under Daddy.” I was instantly intrigued. I spoke to my aunt, Sandy Pattan about it, and found out that indeed, the kitchen was commandeered for the Army’s use, and the owner had been wounded and ran into the kitchen for help. Grandpa tried to save him, but the wounds were too bad, and the owner died right there. The man’s injuries told me that the front was not far from the castle. I suppose you might think I was reaching a little on that thought, but you would be wrong, because as I talked with Aunt Sandy, she told me something else that really clarified the danger my grandfather lived with every day of his time in the service.

It was another day in the castle kitchen, the men were working on the next meal. Suddenly an American soldier ran in and told the cooks to run for the woods. It seemed strange to me that running would be the order they would receive, but remember that Aunt Sandy told me that the cooks had no guns. If they stayed in the castle, they would be sitting ducks, because cooks or not, they were in the American Army, and that made them enemies of the Germans. The reason the men were told to run for the woods…the Germans were coming CCI06282012_00038_editedgand they couldn’t stop them. The soldier didn’t have to tell the cooks twice. They dropped everything and ran. One of the cooks, while running into the woods, stepped on a dead man. The man had been dead a few days, because the cook’s foot went right into the man’s chest. Aunt Sandy told me that the smell was so bad and so permanent that when they couldn’t get the smell out of the man’s clothes, they had to be burned. I had no idea of the things Grandpa saw, nor of the danger he faced. It gave me a whole new picture of Grandpa Byer’s time in World War I. And I came to clearly realize that no job in the service is less dangerous than another…and least not on the front. It’s no wonder that most men don’t want to talk about the war.

imageimageFor most of her life, my granddaughter, Shai Royce made it very clear that she was not into exercise, and most definitely not into outdoor exercise. As she grew up, she would consider going to the gym…but only if there was no other way to stay in shape. Then, she got into Zumba, and going to the gym started to be fun, instead of a lot of work. Still, outdoor sports were just not it for her…even though I tried to get her to join her grandpa and me on the walking path we often walk on.

One day, when the water at Pathfinder Reservoir was so high that it was overflowing the dam, we invited her to go out with us to see it. There was a bit of a walk to get imagethere, but that wasn’t what affected my granddaughter. It was what was at the end of that walk that grabbed her attention. The falls were stunning, no doubt about that. Shai and several friends made repeated trips back out to Pathfinder Reservoir and the falls.

Then, we told her we were going to hike the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain. Shai decided that she wanted to go along, but I was skeptical. I remembered her telling me that she didn’t like this sort of thing. I told her I wasn’t sure she was up for it…even thought she had walked the Platte River Trail with us a week before. I’m not sure if Shai was offended or determined, but she informed me that she could do it. So, we made the hike. Shai did amazing…better than I did actually. She liked it so much that she and I went again, two days later. She wanted to go again, but time didn’t imageimageallow it. Before I knew it, Shai was moving to Washington to join the rest of her family, but she left here a different girl…an outdoorsy girl, in fact.

Shai has been in Washington just a little more than a month now. She and her brother, Caalab met a girl named Heidi, and Heidi likes to hike. She took them on what Shai deemed the hardest hike she had ever been on, last week. The hike took them to Winchester Mountain. She texted me pictures, and I must say that I need to hike it too. What a magnificent place it is. Shai has come a long way over this past year, and finally my girly girl, who hated the outdoors, has become an outdoorsy girl!! Who would have thought that would happen?

13912350_10207057251805632_4629287734358484729_n13912684_10207057251645628_8716124590429560063_nWhile my grand niece, Aleesia Spethman is very much a girly girl, she has an alter ego too. Aleesia has three brothers, and when a little girl is raised around three brothers, it soon becomes obvious that she will take on a few…or even a lot of Tomboy traits, and that is exactly what Aleesia has done. She is a girl, and she likes dressing up like a girl, and wearing pretty hair styles like a girl, but she can totally keep up with her brothers too. In fact, she pretty much has her brothers wrapped around her little finger…or very buffaloed, because she rules that roost.

One day, while playing with her cousin, Anna Masterson, it had rained outside, and the girls decided that this was the perfect time to try out a new pastime…collecting worms. Aleesia had a little fish container that had an Mischievious Princess Aleesiaopen mouth, and after working a while, she came running up to Anna’s mom, Dustie and told her that she had some “squirmy wormy worms” in the fishes mouth. She certainly did, and one of them was probably five inches long. Of course, she let the worms go home to their mommies, because she didn’t want them to die, after all. For such a girly girl, our little Aleesia has no problem with bugs and other insects. Another time, Anna had decided to kill some hornets that had come into the back porch of the girls’ grandma, my sister, Cheryl Masterson’s house. Anna was stepping on the hornets, and it was working quite well. Aleesia decided to kill hornets too, and while she was successful at stepping on it, she didn’t understand that shoes were really needed for this project, so she got stung. Being the tough little girl she is, once she stopped crying about it, she had to tell everyone about the event. It was like a badge of courage to her, and she wanted everyone to know how brave she had been.

Aleesia has a unique relationship with her Uncle Rob Masterson too. The first time I witnessed that one, I was 13938465_10207076503446911_633692106537575975_n11390309_10152794405387237_3442690048188662626_nsomewhat shocked that Rob was picking on her in such a fashion…until I found out that this was a mutual attack. It’s a game the two of them play, and Aleesia thoroughly loves it. In fact, she is often the one to provoke him!! Practically the instant she walks in the door, she is ready to spar with her uncle, and he is just as ready. It is quite hilarious to watch. After spending time around Aleesia, I often wonder how she could possibly be a girly girl at all. Nevertheless, she is, but she’s a tomboy too. Today is Aleesia’s 4th birthday. Happy birthday Aleesia!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

scan0033_editedscan0056 (2)When my daughter, Amy Royce and her family moved to Washington and bought a house, she found herself the proud owner of a walnut tree and an apple tree. Her husband, Travis is the only one who really likes walnuts, but they all like apples. I think most people do. When the apples ripened, they picked them…lots of them. Then came the decision about what to make with them. For Amy, it was really a non-decision, because she knew she wanted to make Apple Butter…mostly because it reminded her of her great grandma, Vina Hein.

Every summer of Amy and her sister, Corrie Petersen’s childhood, Bob and I took them to visit their Grandma and Grandpa Hein. It was there that the girls first tasted Apple Butter. Since that time, Amy thought of imageGrandma Hein every time she ate Apple Butter. Corrie doesn’t like apples, so I guess Apple Butter is nothing special to her, but Amy…like the rest of us does, and Apple Butter is a very special. Having it remind us of Grandma Hein is icing on the cake. It’s a memory treat because she comes to mind when we eat it.

Going to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein was more than just real cream, cows milk, and Apple Butter, though. The time we spent with them was precious. They were such an important part of our lives and we loved visiting them. We played cards, and the kids played with the toys grandma had, but it was still more than that. Grandma told us about her childhood, and showed us pictures of the family. It gave us a sense of belonging. We did belong, of course, but we found out how we belonged. Our visits were so much fun and the girls got to know their grandparents, and that was the most important thing, after all. There were other family members there too, and the girls got to know them too, but there was just something special about being able to spend time with Grandma and Grandpa.
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Her style of cooking was very much ranch style. They butchered their own beef, and Grandma made all kinds of beef sausage that was used for sandwiches. They canned fruit, and the fruit with real cream was the dessert. Eggs from their chickens and toast with Apple Butter, were staples for breakfast…and plenty of coffee with real cream, which has ruined regular cream from the store for me. But the biggest memory for Amy, was the Apple Butter, so to be able to make it at home now is the best memory treat there could ever be.

Earthquake LakeI read in the paper on Monday about the 57th anniversary of the August 17, 1959 Hebgen Earthquake that created Earthquake Lake in Montana, just west of Yellowstone National Park. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was the second strongest quake in the lower 48 states in the 20th century, according to the United States Forest Service, killing 28 people, including five people in one Idaho Falls family who were entombed in the ensuing landslide, and are still there to this day. I was only three years old when that quake occurred, so I wouldn’t remember it, nor am I aware that it was felt in Casper, Wyoming, where we live, although it might have been felt there too. Still, I doubt I would have remembered it.

What I do remember, is the trip our family took when I was a child, that included Earthquake Lake. I don’t recall whether I was told about the 28 people who died there, or the ones they never found, but I rather doubt Hebgen Earthquakeit, because things like that tend to be something that sticks with me…even really bothering me when I was younger, because I almost felt like I was a trespasser on their graves. These days, I realize that being near someone’s grave, whether in a cemetery or a natural grave such as Earthquake Lake became, is still nothing more than a final resting place. What impresses me more now is the sadness of the loss. That family was on vacation, and suddenly their lives were gone…over in an instant. Along with the loss of life, there was the damage to roads, making it even harder to bring help in to the people who were trapped, although I’m not sure it would have made much difference.

I remember feeling the enormity of the catastrophic event that took place that day a number of years earlier. I was impressed by the ability of an earthquake to change the face of the landscape around it. What had been the Madison River, was blocked by a massive landslide creating Earthquake Lake. The deaths were random. A couple, Edgar and Ethel Stryker were killed by a boulder that crushed them, while their three young sons, Hebgeb Lake Montana Earthquake Aug 1959sleeping in a nearby tent, were unhurt. Irene Bennett and her son Phil were saved, but her husband Purley and their three other children were killed. Myrtle Painter died of her injuries, while her 16 year old daughter Carole survived. That was the story of the event, this one died, and that one lived. I think that while I probably didn’t know about all those deaths, that I still felt the sadness of that place, because it is a place I have never forgotten. An earthquake that happens in a rural area seems to make us think that it was simple a change of the landscape, but that is rarely the case. It seems that there are almost always a few people in the area, and that means a loss of life. A very sad event indeed.

cheryl236Dad and MomSaturday afternoon, after hiking the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain, Bob and I went up to hike the Braille Trail with our daughter, Corrie Petersen, her husband Kevin and her son, Josh. Black out glasses were provided to give a sighted person an idea of what it is like to travel through life blind. Josh and I decided to hike that way, and what an experience that was. I must say that Blind Man’s Bluff will not prepare you for the reality of going through life blind. I have a lot of respect for any blind person who gets out and lives their life on their own terms. It would take a lot of courage. Of course, since I cannot read Braille, we took off the glasses at each sign that told about the area. It was very interesting to hear about the rocks, trees, the creek, and plant life we were seeing around us.

Then, we read the sign about the tornado that had torn through the Braille Trail in 1978. My memory files immediately took me back to July 20, 1978 at 6:40pm. No, I didn’t know that July 20th was the exact date or that 6:40pm was the exact time, but I’m quite sure it was. My Aunt Ruth Wolfe and her family had come to town to celebrate my parents’ 25th Wedding Anniversary, which was July 18, 1978. The memory was so vivid in my memory files that I can clearly see my Aunt Ruth standing in my parents’ kitchen. Suddenly, she stopped talking and almost ran to the back door. She said, “There’s a tornado somewhere!” She was so serious, but I was still skeptical…until we heard that there had indeed been a tornado on Casper Mountain at that exact time. I was stunned. How could she have known that? I was a young mother of two girls then, and had never been around a tornado. Casper doesn’t get a lot of them, even though we have had warnings, and even tornadoes in the area. Casper Mountain gets even fewer tornadoes than the main Casper area. Still, my aunt, who had been around a few of them, knew the atmospheric changes that precede a tornado, and she was certain that one had struck somewhere in our immediate area.

Now, over 38 years later, while walking a trail on the mountain, that whole scene replayed in my mind. Life is strange that way. Sometimes, memories come in and out of your life like you are watching a movie. It seemed so real that I felt like I could have walked across the room and touched my aunt. I remembered always being imageamazed at the wisdom she had concerning tornadoes. In reality, all of my parents siblings were that way. They had the wisdom that comes with their years on the earth. That was how Aunt Ruth got her wisdom too…living life. It was a great memory of her. As to the Braille Trail, since it had the dedication of the Lions Club and the community, the people came together, cleaned it up, and repaired the damage. The Braille Trail has been damaged a total of three times over the years of its existence…the 1978 tornado, the 1985 flood, and the 1995 winter storms, each time the damaged trees were removed, and the trail areas rebuilt, so that the trail could continue to serve the visually impaired and the community at large. I know I will definitely go back again.

imageimage My grand niece, Jala is turning 14 years old today, and very soon will begin her final year of middle school. This summer has been a new experience for Jala and her little sister, Kaytlyn. In previous years, their mom, my niece Susan has worked outside the home, so the girls had to be up and heading to daycare by 7:00am. Now that their mom works from home, the girls have been able to sleep in, and then have lazy days around home…something most kids would love to do, but few get to. Of course, with school starting on August 24th, they are getting up early again to get back into the swing of things.

For Jala, the year of sports begins August 22nd with Volleyball practice, so the year is starting out with a busy schedule already. Jala is very athletic, and loves a variety of sports. Last year she participated in Volleyball, Swimming and Diving, Basketball, and Track. I think every parent loves watching their kids in sports, but some things hold a special place in your heart. That’s how it is for Susan with Jala’s diving. Susan loves watching Jala dive. Joann Knox on her colt MollyDiving is such a graceful sport, so I think a lot of people can relate to Susan’s love of Jala’s diving. It is Susan’s hope that Jala will continue to love sports, so she will continue on with them in high school next year.

This summer found Jala, her sister Kaytlyn, and cousins, Weston and Easton traveling to Bear Lake, Idaho in their Great Aunt Pam and Great Uncle Ralph’s new motor home. The kids were very excited about the trip, and about the Cook Family Reunion they were attending. The kids got to stay in the motor home that first night, then they were joined the next day by their grandparents, Debbie and Lynn Cook, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. They rented a little cabin for the rest of the weekend. It had been twelve years since Jala had gone to a reunion, and at two, she didn’t remember the last one at all. Jala got to know lots of cousins and other family members this trip. It almost like having a whole new set of forever friends.

This weekend, Jala got to go with her other grandparents to the Tensleep Music Festival as a birthday present. It was to be a weekend full of concerts, what more could a teenager ask for. Susan is pretty sure that Jala is having a fantastic time, because she has not heard from her once. I guess there is too much going on to have time to call home. That’s the way to know that she was having fun, but it can leave a mom feeling a bit lonely.

Living in the country, on a place with horses, allows Jala the chance to ride once in a while. She loves it. She
imageimageand her Papa Griffith like to ride together, but it hasn’t been often enough to suit Jala. Once the horse gets used to her more, they will allow her to ride alone too, and that will give her lots more time on the horse. Being a horse woman could be in Jala’s blood, since her great grandma, Joann Schulenberg, absolutely loved horses, and spent many hours riding them as a girl. Today is Jala’s birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!