Monthly Archives: November 2016
In times of war, and even in times of peace, there is a group of people who stand always at the ready…prepared to go at a moments notice, into battle to defend this country and the freedoms we enjoy. They are not always treated in the way they should be treated. It’s incomprehensible to me that we can ask these men and women to protect us in times of trouble, and then protest them when we don’t like the war they have been asked to fight. Today is Veterans Day. It is a day in which to honor all who served, in all wars, whether they were killed in action, died later, are retired or discharged from service, or are currently serving. So many veterans have served this country over the years. Without our soldiers, we would not be a free nation. In fact, were it not for our soldiers, we would probably still belong to England, or worse.
Our soldiers sacrifice everyday. In a post my nephew, Steve Spethman posted today, was a good explanation of just what a veteran really is, and I liked it. The saying went like this, “What is a veteran? A ‘Veteran’ – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserved – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America,’ for an amount of ‘up to, and including his life.’ That is honor. And there are way too many people in this country today, who no longer understand that fact.” That really says it all. We think about our soldiers going into war, and fighting the enemy. We even think about them losing their lives. We think about their loved ones back home worrying and praying for their safe return every day. We think about the irony and sometimes stupidity of war, and wonder why we can’t all just get along. People protest the wars, screaming at the soldiers because they did their duty and fought the war as they were ordered to do.
We think about and do so many things concerning war, but just how often to we really thing about the honor and integrity of the men and women who actually go into war, or even stand at the ready, just in case we need them. They know that every time they deploy with their unit, that it could easily end up being the last time they see their family, friends, or their country. They put their lives on hold, missing out on their children’s sporting events, school plays, holidays, birthdays, and even their birth, all to go out and put their lives on the line for people they don’t even know. Now, that’s honor!! Happy Veterans Day to all our veterans, and thank you all for your service. This nation and all it’s people owe you a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. We honor you today. God bless you all.
In September of 1975, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I made a trip to Superior, Wisconsin to visit my Uncle Bill Spencer and his family. Uncle Bill and I had always been close, and it was a trip I thoroughly enjoyed. Part of the trip included driving around the shores of Lake Superior, while Uncle Bill gave us some history of the area, including the many shipwrecks that had occurred in the lake. Lake Superior is the largest fresh water lake in the world, and in reality it is more a sea than a lake. The lake experiences treacherous storms, especially in November when the Winter gales sweep over the it. With a huge shipping industry operating on the lake every year, accidents are bound to happen periodically, especially if a ship is caught out on the lake too late in the season. Listening to Uncle Bill tell us about the ghosts of Lake Superior, as the wrecks were called, and how you could see them beneath the water if you flew over the lake, peeked my curiosity about when and where the ships had lost their battles with the lake.
Just a month later, on November 10, 1975, while driving around the lake on his way back from a gun show, Uncle Bill experienced the gales of November from the lake shore, not knowing at the time that the SS Edmond Fitzgerald was fighting for its life, in a losing battle on the lake. The ship had made a run for it from Superior, Wisconsin, but found itself in serious trouble the next day. This was not going to be a battle the ship or her crew would survive. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald had once been the largest and fastest ship on the Great Lakes, at 729 feet in length. First launched in 1958, its service would be cut short that fateful day in 1975.
The ship left Burlington Northern Railroad Dock, Number 1 at Superior, Wisconsin on November 9th, carrying 26,116 tons of iron ore pellets. The next day it was hit with a storm packing 60 mile per hour winds and waves in excess of 15 feet. Captain Ernest McSorley steered north, trying to make it to safety in Whitefish Bay, but then the radar failed and the storm took out the power at Whitefish Bay taking with it Whitefish Point’s radio beacon. McSorley was traveling blind. The huge wave swept over the ship, and it began taking on water. A ship taking on water is never a good thing, but when you add to that 26,116 tons of iron ore pellets, that ship is in trouble. Another ship, the Anderson stayed in radio contact with the Fitzgerald, trying to help it reach the bay, but to no avail. Just after 7pm on November 10th, 17 miles from Whitefish Bay, the Fitzgerald made its last radio transmission. The ship, sunk lower and lower from the added weight of the water until its bow pitched down into the lake and the vessel was unable to recover. The ship broke in two, either from waves and water or on its way to the bottom, taking with it cargo and crew. None of the 29 men aboard survived.
It’s not hard to imagine why the shipwrecks are called the Ghosts of Lake Superior, because many, if not all of them took with them the men and women who had been their crew. Most of those lost souls are still there in a watery grave, because it is too difficult to recover the bodies. The Edmund Fitzgerald now lies under 530 feet of water, broken in two sections. It is just one of at least 52 ships that litter the bottom of the lake. On July 4, 1995, the ship’s bell was recovered from the wreck, and a replica, engraved with the names of the crew members who perished in this tragedy, was left in its place. The original bell is on display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in Michigan.
When most people think of Hawaii, they think of a tropical paradise, but for my husband, Bob’s uncle, Butch Schulenberg nothing could be further from the truth…at least not during his days in the service. When we think of Hawaii, snow does not come to mind, but in reality, “It snows here every year, but only at the very summits of our 3 tallest volcanoes (Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea and Haleakala),” says Ken Rubin, geology and geophysics professor at the University of Hawaii. “The snow level almost never gets below 9,000 feet in Hawaii during the winter, but since these mountains are taller than 13,000 feet, 13,000 feet, and 10,000 feet, respectively, they get dusted with snow a few times a year. It rarely stays on the ground for more than a few days though.”
I had no idea, as I’m sure many of you could also say. I don’t know if Butch knew what he was getting into when he and the officer he was driving for, went to one of those areas where there was not only snow, but it was cold…really cold. In fact, the only way that Butch could even begin to stay warm was to bundle up in his sleeping bag. He probably would have tied it all the way over his head, if he could breathe that way. It was a complete shock to his system, as it would have been to mine. Being stationed in Hawaii would be the dream assignment, and here Butch was…in the snow. In fact, I can just hear him telling his parents, “It’s freezing here!!” The thought is almost laughable, or would have been if it weren’t so cold.
Butch told my husband, Bob and me several stories about his driving days in the service, when we were there for a visit about a month ago. It was interesting to listen to the details that a driver would have known about the situations that the company would have been in…and probably a lot of responsibility too. Much of the details of the movements of the company and the battles they engaged in, were classified, and to say anything at the time could have put people in danger or get them killed. A good driver would have known when to talk and when to keep quiet. Butch was a good driver, and well respected. I am proud of his service. Thank you Butch. Today is Butch’s birthday. Happy birthday Butch!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Every time I think of my Aunt Ruth Wolfe, which is often, because I remind myself of her so much, I can easily see how much alike we are, and yet how very different. We were both passionate about a sport. For her it was horseback riding and racing. For me it was gymnastics. Aunt Ruth could handle horses as if they were an extension of herself. I never watched her ride or race, that I can recall, but I have seen pictures of her with her horses. It was so clear to me that she loved each and every one of them, and they loved her too. Her ability to ride was amazing. My Uncle Bill Spencer, her brother, told of the races she had won, and you could tell that he was so proud of his little sister, and her wonderful ability. I know he was, because of the number of pictures of her with her horses that graced the family history that Uncle Bill so lovingly put together.
Aunt Ruth could pick up any musical instrument and play like an expert, which is one of the areas she and I differ, because I can’t play any musical instrument. From what my cousin, Shirley Cameron has told me, her mom was able to play any instrument instinctively…and she played them beautifully. In my defense, I am more of a techy or geek, whichever you prefer. When it comes to computers, I can instinctively maneuver just about any area I need to. I don’t know if Aunt Ruth ever had a chance to use a computer, but my guess is that she didn’t. However, I have a feeling that she might have been quite capable too, at least she would have been if I’m right about how much we were alike.
The other ways that Aunt Ruth reminds me of me, is that we look a lot alike, and we laugh a lot alike. I have pictures that really remind me of my aunt, and every time I laugh, it is like going back in time. I am reminded of all the times that my family did things with Aunt Ruth’s family. Everything from trips together, to picnics, to times at their home or at ours. We always loved to have them come. It was so exciting to see them, and since they often surprised us, in the later years, it was like having a surprise birthday party. I really miss that. Today would have been Aunt Ruth’s 91st birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Ruth. We love and miss you very much, and we will see you again very soon.
It seems impossible to me that my Aunt Evelyn Hushman has been gone now almost two years. She went to Heaven just a little over two months after my mother, her sister, Collene Spencer went to Heaven. I guess that isn’t really surprising to me, even if it might have been to some people. With Aunt Evelyn’s cancer diagnosis, and the fact that it was well advanced before it was diagnosed, her passing was something that was coming…like it or not. Well, my mom didn’t like that at all. In fact, Mom said to me, “I don’t want to be here without Evelyn.”
It wasn’t that any of her siblings passing was acceptable to her, because they weren’t. She missed her sister, Delores Johnson and her husband, Elmer Johnson. She missed her brother, Larry, one of her partners in crime, when they were kids. She missed her brother-in-law, Jack McDaniels, and of course, she missed her own husband, my dad, Allen Spencer. It was simply that Mom just couldn’t bear to lose another one of her loved ones. She had stayed and kept on living after my dad passed away, because she knew we needed her. But, mom didn’t want to go on without her sister Evelyn, with whom she had always been close. Mom knew that her children would be alright, because she and Dad had trained us in the way we should go. When Mom left, it was not because she was sick, but rather that she knew that it was time for her to go. It was time to join Dad, and she would see her sister again in Heaven…all of her siblings would join her someday. In reality, she was tired, just as Aunt Evelyn was tired…and, now they aren’t. They are revived, healthy, and strong.
Aunt Evelyn was the oldest of the Byer siblings, and the leader, I suppose. As often happens with the eldest sibling, they are the first to do many things, and then show the younger siblings the way. They are the standard the younger siblings want to live up to. The Byer siblings all married at relatively the same times and had children about the same times, but my parents and Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George, did things together a lot. They double dated, hung out together, and even bowled together. That made Mom and Aunt Evelyn very good sister friends. I think that the thought of her sister being in Heaven was something that made Mom yearn to go too. Now they are both there, and while I miss them both very much, I know that they are in my future now, and not my past. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.
When we think of gunslingers from the old west, a number of names come to mind…among them, Doc Holliday. John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane (McKey) Holliday. When John was just 15 years old, his mother died of Tuberculosis on September 16, 1866. His adopted brother also died of Tuberculosis. In 1870, at the age of 19, Holliday left home for Philadelphia, and on March 1, 1872, he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. Holliday graduated five months before his 21st birthday, so the school held his degree until he turned 21, which was the minimum age required to practice dentistry.
Many people remember Doc Holliday from the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, but prior to that time, he was in Saint Louis, Missouri and Atlanta, Georgia. He started has practice in Saint Louis, but switched to Atlanta less than four months later to join a dental practice there. While in Atlanta, Holliday and some friends got into an altercation, and in the end, Holliday went and got a shotgun. He came back and started shooting, either at or over the heads of the other men. Whether or not anyone was killed is up for debate, but Holliday gained a reputation as a gunslinger.
Soon after moving to Atlanta, Holliday developed a bad cough. The doctors told him that he had Tuberculosis. I can’t even begin to imagine how Holliday felt about that diagnosis. He had watched his mother die of that very disease, as well as his adopted brother. Holliday was told he needed to move to a dryer climate, if he wanted to extend his life. He moved to Dallas, Texas. His dental practice could have suffered because of his ill health, or it could have been caused by the fact that he would rather play poker than work on teeth. Holliday was a decent poker player, so he found that it was a pretty good way to make a living. In 1875, Holliday was arrested in Dallas for participating in a shootout.
Holliday left Dallas and began drifting between booming Wild West towns like Denver, Cheyenne, Deadwood, and Dodge City. He made his living at card tables, with heavy drinking and late night. All of these things were quite aggravating to his Tuberculosis. By 1887, Holliday’s hard life had caught up with him, forcing him to seek treatment in a sanitarium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Finally, on this day, November 8, 1887, Doc Holliday, gunslinger, gambler, and occasional dentist, lost his battle with Tuberculosis, just like his mother and adoptive brother before him.
About a month ago, my husband Bob and I went to visit family in Forsyth, Montana. We had a wonderful time visiting, reminiscing, and learning new family information. It was a trip we needed to take, because it had been far too long since our last visit. The family there is just so important to us. We knew we couldn’t let any more time pass before we went to visit. Two of the people we wanted to spend time with, were Bob’s aunt and uncle, Eddie and Pearl Hein. Eddie recently had a couple of strokes, and we wanted to show him how important he is to us, and Pearl had been taking care of him, almost on her own, and since I have been a caregiver, I know that she needs support too, even if it is just moral support. Caregiving is exhausting work, and while the patient wishes they didn’t need you to work so hard…the fact remains that they do, and they know that without you, they would be in a nursing home, or worse. Still, caregiving takes it’s toll on the caregiver, and I was worried about Pearl too. But Pearl loves Eddie, and she did what she had to do, and she has been rewarded with a husband who is healthy again, and getting stronger every day.
When we saw Eddie and Pearl, we were very pleased to see that they were both doing quite well. They looked a little tired, but then right now, everything they do is harder…physically harder. Eddie is in the process of re-learning how to do many things that we all take for granted every day. I didn’t know what to expect when we were getting ready to see Eddie, even though, Bob’s Uncle Butch Schulenberg had told us that Eddie was really improving. We didn’t know if Eddie could talk well, or walk well, or what. We were so relieved when Eddie walked into Butch’s house, smiling and talking clearly. We were so relieved, but we should not have been surprised. No, we should have known that Eddie would be back, because he is a strong man, and he won’t ever give up.
Eddie spent most of his adult life working in the Peabody coal mine in Colstrip, Montana. He worked hard to support his family, and when he was home, he worked to renovate their home. He and Pearl have always had a garden, and worked together to grow fresh vegetables for their family. In fact, they have both worked hard all their lives. That is what has made them the strong people they are, and that is why I know that Eddie will come back from this stronger than ever. Today is Eddie’s birthday. Happy birthday Eddie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I were group texting yesterday, as we often do. It gives us the chance to be together, without needing to be in the same room. We love those conversations, because we can laugh with, and at, each other, in good fun, of course. It also gives us a chance to share ideas on everything from our faith to politics, and be thankful that we all agree on both. We keep each other informed if we are traveling, just like we did our parents, when they were here on Earth. Those texts are part of what keeps us close. We all work and Caryl lives in Rawlins, while the rest of us are in Casper, so our lives are busy, and we can’t always get together on a regular basis. Texting, especially has become a great way for us to connect, and we all love it, because we love each other very much and always will.
Our family has always been a close one, and our parents, Allen and Collene Spencer instilled values in us about faith, right and wrong, and family. They are values that we will never allow to fade from our lives. Mom has been in Heaven now for almost two years, and Dad for almost nine years, and yet we can still hear their voices in our heads guiding us in love. They taught us to laugh, and not to be upset when we were the one being laughed at, because it’s better to laugh with those who are laughing at you, than to get upset about it. And in the end, you usually have to agree that it was pretty funny anyway. We were taught that laughing at yourself is a good thing, and while we may not always have practiced that, we have learned that it is a true statement. Sometimes the worst thing we can do is to take ourselves too seriously. Laughing at ourselves helps us to remember to put humor in our lives too.
Around the holidays, however, our conversations often turn to our parents, and how much we miss them. Such was the case with our conversation yesterday. My sister, Alena saw an old friend of our parents, and wanted to tell Mom that she had seen him…then reality set in. I mentioned a story I had written about a piece of family history I had found, and how I couldn’t wait to tell Mom…then reality set in. My sister, Cheryl had received a catalog, and saw a glittery top that Mom would have loved, and thought it would make a great Christmas present for Mom…then reality set in. My sister, Allyn has taken Mom Christmas shopping for a number of years, and the thought came to her that she should ask when Mom wanted to go…then reality set in. The conversation continued with each of us mentioning times that we instinctively thought of calling Mom and Dad, asking them something, taking them somewhere, or just how much they would love something, only to have reality set in again. All we have now are the sweetest memories of the greatest parents on Earth. We can see them in all the places they were…the house, church, our homes, the drives they loved to take, the front porch where they loved to sit and enjoy the day, camping in the Black Hills, and picnics on Casper Mountain…all the places they loved. All the places where their echo still exists and their memory still lingers. Reality always sets in, and we know they are gone, but they will always live on in our hearts and minds, and they are in our future now, not our past.
Since I’m not in the manufacturing trade, especially where wooden shingles are concerned, I had no idea that there was a trade called shingle weaving. I would assume that if shingle weaving is still done today, it is probably done by machine, because I would think that this rather dangerous occupation is one that not too many people would voluntarily put themselves into. Shingle weaving, for those who don’t know, was an extremely dangerous process in which the shingle weaver hand-fed pieces of raw wood onto an automated saw. Despite the danger of the profession, the industry was a large one throughout Washington and Oregon and by 1893 Washington state alone had 150 mills which converted Western Red Cedar into shingles and shakes for the roofing and siding of American homes. The workers normally worked ten hour shifts, standing in front of two steel saw blade disks whirling at a speed of two hundred rounds a minute. With his left hand he is feeding blocks of cedar wood into the saw, and with his right hand, he is examining the wood that came out of the left saw for knot holes to be cut out by the saw blade disk in front of him. The worker cannot stop what his right hand and his eyes are doing to see where his left hand is, creating a situation whereby his left hand could easily be cut up or even off, if he doesn’t have a good feel for where his hand is at all times in relation to that left saw blade disk. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the concerns the workers had.
On May 1, 1916, the workers decided that they weren’t receiving enough pay for this very dangerous occupation, and the mill owners disagreed, so the Everett Shingle Weavers Union went on strike. The strike was quickly settled, in favor of the mill owners, at all but the Jamison Mill. It was at this point that the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) got involved. A 1909 IWW strike in Spokane had cost the city over $250,000, a great deal of money at that time, so when the IWW came to Everett, the city government quickly became quite nervous. When IWW organizer and speaker James Rowan arrived in Everett on June 30, 1916, Everett became the home of the IWW’s newest Free Speech Fight. The fight, while starting out relatively peacefully, escalated when Rowan chose the corner of Hewitt and Wetmore, where public speaking was illegal, to begin his work…even though free speech was legal at other corners. I’m sure his plan was to provoke the city government in any way he could, and maybe to bring in the press. Speakers were arrested and released, keeping the jail busy for a month and a half. The delicate balance of the negotiation process continued until August 19, 1916, when violence broke out at the Jamison Mill. It was Strike Breakers against the picketers, which is usually how those things go. The mill owners didn’t have to be involved, because when people ran out of money, they had little choice but to go back to work. Those left, didn’t like the line crossing strike breakers. The police didn’t get involved, because they said the fight was on private property, and so didn’t concern them.
On October 30, all that changed when 41 IWW members came by ferry to Everett, to speak at the now notorious corner of Hewitt and Wetmore. The Sheriff and his deputies beat these men, took them to Beverly Park, and forced them to run through a gauntlet of “law and order” officials, armed with clubs and whips. After that horrific incident, the IWW organized a group of 300 men to board the steamers Verona and Calista from Seattle and head north toward Port Gardner Bay, on November 5 for a free speech rally. The event ended in gun battle now known as the Everett Massacre, in which 5 strikers and 2 vigilantes calling themselves “citizen deputies” were killed and approximately 45 others wounded. The vigilantes met the IWW free speech protesters, who were on the Verona, at the dock. As the gunfire ensued, the men on the Verona ran to the opposite side, almost capsizing it. Some fell off and drown. Few of the men on the Verona had weapons, and so were defenseless. The vigilantes who were inexperienced in this type of fighting, were careless in their aim, and so in the end, many of the vigilantes who were killed or wounded were shot in the back by their own group. The massacre, also known as Everett’s Bloody Sunday, was the bloodiest battle in Pacific Northwest labor history.
Every year as the month of November arrives, my niece Jenny Spethman and her husband, Steve meet it with a sense of dread, because it is the month when their daughter, Laila Elizabeth was born and eighteen days later passed away. The grieving process has been a long and empty armed one. It’s not that they don’t have other children, because they do, and in fact, they have another daughter as well, but each child is a unique gift from Heaven, and when one is not with you, whether they passed away or moved away, your arms are simply empty where that child is concerned. No new child can replace the child who is gone, and no one can say how long the grieving process will be, or even should be, for any one person, or their loss.
Still, I think that time changes, not the sadness of a loss, but rather how we are able to compartmentalize our feelings. This year as I listened to how Jenny handles this month, I found myself in awe of her…courage. She told us that one thing that helps her to prepare for the month of November, is to watch shows about near-death experiences. It helps her to be able to glimpse Heaven from the perspective of one who has had a glimpse of it themselves. To hear of the love and peace they felt while experiencing Heaven, and to hear of loved ones they saw there, gives Jenny a feeling of hope in the knowledge that their daughter is not in their past, but rather in their future. And that future is bright and beautiful, even if it seems very far away right now. Laila is in a beautiful place, and she is happily waiting for her family to join her.
After Jenny told us about the shows she watches, and how they had helped her so much, she was talking to her boys about how the month of November is a sad one for her, but today…November 4th, which is Laila Elizabeth’s 6th birthday, should not be a sad day, because it is the day that they received the gift from Heaven that is Laila Elizabeth. It is the day she was born, and that will always be a special day, because it is her day…her birthday. Any other day in the month can be a sad one, but this day, Laila’s birthday is a day that her family received a great blessing that will always belong to them. It is the day she was presented to them, and she was beautiful. Their love for their little girl…their first little girl, after three beautiful boys…knew no bounds. She couldn’t have been more perfectly beautiful. Now, six years after her passing, even though the rest of the month will lead to the sadness of the 22nd, they find themselves able to rejoice in the gift from Heaven that Laila was, and the gift in Heaven…waiting for their arrival, she will be in their future. Happy birthday in Heaven Laila Elizabeth. We love and miss you very much, and we will see you soon.