Monthly Archives: February 2017

Sometimes the age your kids or grandkids are turning on their birthday has a tendency to shock you. That is where I am on this, my oldest grandchild, Chris Petersen’s 21st birthday. It just seems completely impossible that he could be 21 years old today. Chris has come so far. He finished college last year, and he is busy setting himself up in his chosen career. He has a degree in Culinary Arts, and his work is beautiful. I know that Chris will go far in this field, but I suspect that it will happen down the road a bit, when he is able to open his own restaurant. For now, he is busy getting some experience in all aspects of the restaurant business so that he will know what things that make a restaurant successful and what things make one fail.

A few months ago, Chris moved out of his parents home, and into an apartment of his own. He is enjoying his new found independence. Of course, it wasn’t like he wasn’t independent before, but when you live under your parents roof, there are still certain rules you have to abide by. By the same token, when you live on your own, you don’t have anyone else’s rules to follow, but you are the one responsible for your own bills and such too, so I guess it’s a trade off. Still, I don’t know of a single kid who has moved out on their own, who didn’t think it was worth the trade off in the end. Chris is no different than any other kid, moving out for the first time. He is adjusting to new things, and he really misses his family, especially hanging out with his little brother, Josh Petersen. I suppose that is why Josh has stayed the night several times. Brothers just need to hang out.

All that change is one thing, but the biggest change for Chris and every other kid turning 21 is the legal drinking age. Gone are the days of trying to con his parents into letting him have a sip, trying to find someone to buy beer for you, or going to a party and hoping you don’t get caught. Now I don’t know if Chris ever did any of those things or not, and as the grandma, I can feign innocence, and assume he would never do such a thing. It is my right. Nevertheless, today, Chris is of legal age to have a drink if he wants to. That is sure going to take some getting used to. He is still too young in my mind, so to see him drinking a beer with the guys will be one of those shocking moments for sure!! Nevertheless, that day has come. Today is my grandson, Chris Petersen’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day, and make sure you always have a designated driver!! We love you!!

When a person has Alzheimer’s Disease, everyone tends to feel sorry for them…or so they think. In reality, we don’t feel as sorry for the patient as we do for ourselves. The patient doesn’t seem to know that they are forgetting things, at least not after they are a little way into the progression of the disease. In fact, they truly live in an alternate reality, and sometimes it is a much nicer reality than we live in. If someone in their family has passed away, one of the others becomes that person on occasion. That’s how it is with my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg. Her husband, who is my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg passed away on May 5, 2013, and yet, she talked to him night before last. Of course, she was talking to her son, my husband, Bob Schulenberg, but he like the rest of her family has adapted to her altered reality, so that night Bob became Walt…if only for a minute, because that is how long it takes for that reality to pass and he becomes Bob again. I suppose people might think that strange, but it is actually kindness. She doesn’t have to grieve. Her deceased loved ones are never gone from her. They are there in the people around her, and she is happy.

My mother-in-law does not notice the passage of time, and if she does, it sometimes seems longer than it was. She might tell you that she hasn’t seen you in a year, when in reality it was the day before. Or she might say that you were just here, when you have been out of town for a week. Time is based on her own perception of it at the time, and that’s ok with me. As long as she’s happy, I’m happy.

As her birthday approached this year, I’ve been telling her that February is almost over. She doesn’t always think that is possible, and I can relate to that. Time really does fly by. So, on Saturday when I told her that her birthday was coming, she said it couldn’t be, because we hadn’t had Christmas yet. Now I would love to tell you that I had a quick come back for that one, but sometimes she catches me off guard. I told her Christmas had passed, and it was February. Thankfully she accepted that answer and the conversation moved forward. Yesterday, as we were waiting for the bus to take her back to the nursing home after he check up with the doctor, I asked her what today was going to be. She didn’t know, so I told her that it was February 28th. She perked up. I asked her what that day was, and she said that it was her birthday. I was pleased at that, so I thought I would take it one step further. I asked her how old she was going to be. She didn’t know, so I suggested that she take a guess. Well, I guess that the moment of clarity was over, because she said, “I’m 50 something.” She was only 36 years off, but it doesn’t really matter anyway, because you’re only as old as you feel…right? Happy birthday Mom!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Coal mining in modern times is mostly strip mining. Scrapers systematically strip levels of earth away, and load the ore on Unit Rigs to be taken for processing. For the most part, this is a very safe way to mine coal. Mining wasn’t always that way, and in areas where underground mining is the normal mining style, accidents are bound to happen. Coal dust can be deadly. It is a fine powdered form of coal, which is created by crushing, grinding, or pulverizing the coal. Because of the brittle nature of coal, coal dust can be created during mining, transportation, or by mechanically handling coal. Grinding coal to dust before combusting it improves the speed and efficiency of burning and makes the coal easier to handle. However, coal dust is hazardous to workers if it is suspended in air outside of the controlled environment of grinding and combustion equipment. It poses the acute hazard of forming an explosive mixture in air and the chronic hazard of causing pulmonary illness in people who inhale excessive quantities of it. Coal dust in a confined space that forms an explosive mixture, can cause a mine cave in.

On February 27, 1943, just such a deadly combination occurred and the resulting explosion at the Montana Coal and Iron Company mine killed 74 workers. It would become the worst mining disaster in Montana’s history, and the 43rd worst in the nation. The small towns of Washoe and Bearcreek, Montana, consisted almost entirely of mine workers and their families. Most of the men worked at Smith Mine #3 for the Montana Coal and Iron Company. Saturday morning, February 27, found 77 men working in the mine. Then, at 9:30am, a huge explosion rang out. The people of Washoe and Bearcreek heard the roar and then the long, wailing siren that followed. The exact cause of the explosion is not known, though some of the company’s miners claimed methane gas had built up in some abandoned shafts and was ignited after a cave-in. The two towns are virtually ghost towns now, with Bearcreek being the only one with people living there…a total of 79 to be exact.

Inside the mine, smoke was seen pouring from the entrance…the first indication of trouble. “There’s something wrong down here, I’m getting out,” the hoist operator called up. He and two nearby miners were the last men to leave the mine alive. Rescue crews came from as far away as Butte and Cascade county, and worked around the clock in six hour shifts to clear debris and search for possible survivors. There were none. The night of March 4, workers reached the first bodies. More followed until the toll mounted to 74. Some died as the result of a violent explosion in Number 3 vein, the remainder as a result of the deadly methane gasses released by the blast. Virtually every household in Washoe and Bearcreek was touched by this tragedy. All of the bodies were removed from the mine. There is a highway plaque near the mouth of the mine, which was never reopened, and there are memorials in the cemeteries in Bearcreek and nearby Red Lodge, the county seat for Carbon County.

During the Civil War, the fighting was much different than these days…not just in the weapons used, but in a much bigger way. To send men out to battle in the winter was just too risky. Impassable, muddy roads and severe weather impeded active service in the wintertime. In fact, during the Civil War, the soldiers only spent a few days each year in actual combat. The rest of the time was spent getting from one battle to another, and wintering someplace because of bad weather. Even the rainy seasons caused problems, because rain brings muddy roads, and you can’t move heavy cannons on muddy roads. They get stuck. The soldiers tended to have a lot of time on their hands in the winter, and they couldn’t just go home either. In reality, disease caused more soldiers’ deaths than battle did.

The soldiers sometimes kept journals of their time, which is where so much of the information we have about their time, came from. One such soldier was Elisha Hunt Rhodes. The winter months were monotonous for the soldiers. There was really nothing to do, but they needed to be kept in shape and at the ready, so the solution became days spent drilling. I’m sure that the boredom caused tempers to flair at times too, but the down time allowed the soldiers some time to bond and have a little bit of fun, as well. Nevertheless, the main objective for the winter months was to stay warm and busy, because their survival depended on it.

Rhodes was in the Army for four years, and he kept a journal for all of that time. He was a member of the 2nd Rhode Island Rhodes and fought in every battle from the First Bull Run to Appomattox. He rose from the rank of private to the rank of colonel in four years. According to Rhodes, the winter months were pretty quiet for the soldiers. They didn’t fight many battles, and so the months were spent drilling or smoking and sleeping. Some of the troops gambled and others drank or even visited the prostitutes who hung out around the camps. Believe it or not, the soldiers actually welcomed Picket Duty, which is when soldiers are posted on guard ahead of a main force. Pickets included about 40 or 50 men each. Several pickets would form a rough line in front of the main army’s camp. In case of enemy attack, the pickets usually would have time to warn the rest of the force. Picket Duty became a welcome break from the day to day monotony, because in Rhoades words, “One day is much like another at headquarters.”

Rhodes spent most of his winter months in or near Washington DC, giving him more diversions than some soldiers in the Civil War, who were in more remote locations. On one such trip into town came on February 26, 1862, he took the opportunity to hear Senator Henry Wilson from Massachusetts speak on expelling disloyal members of Congress. After listening to the speech, Rhodes and his friend Isaac Cooper attended a fair at a Methodist church and met two young women, who the soldiers escorted home. Like other soldiers, Rhodes welcomed the departure from winter quarters and an end to the monotony. “Our turn has come,” he wrote when his unit began moving south to Richmond, Virginia,in 1864. His winter break was over, and he would find himself back in battle again. Rhodes would survive the Civil War and after a long life, passed away on January 14, 1917 at 75.

During the Civil War, money was made out of silver and gold. People would not have trusted any other form of money, but having enough silver and gold to make that money wasn’t always easy. The Northern states needed money, and they knew they had to make it, but Congress and others were concerned for the economy. If the government made money without silver or gold to back it, wouldn’t it eventually doom the economy? Most of us would call that counterfeit money, and yet our government is still doing this at times, more than we want to think about. Nevertheless, if you are part of the government, or even just someone who understands how such money can effect the economy, you might very likely be against something like the Legal Tender Act that was passed by the US Congress on this day, February 25, 1862.

This was a huge step. Prior to this time, the money was real money. It needed no proof that its value was real, the people using it could see that for themselves. The United States didn’t have money that was basically an I.O.U. before that time. The problem was that they also had a war going on that cost a lot of money, and with people fighting the war, there were a lot less people to go out and look for gold and mine silver. It was a big problem, but the Civil War was extremely costly, and it had to be financed. The government had to face the fact that the supply of gold and silver was depleted. The Legal Tender Act was not a decision they came to lightly. They discussed every other option, including bonds. Once they settled on paper money, the Union government printed 150 million dollars in paper money…called greenbacks. The Confederate government had been printing money since the beginning of the war, which proved to be folly in the end, but I guess if the south had won, it would have gone the other way. Nevertheless, the bankers and financial experts predicted doom immediately, and many legislators worried that the money might collapse the infrastructure.

The greenbacks did not sink the economy. In fact, they worked very well. The government was able to pay its bills and, by increasing the money in circulation, the Northern economy actually improved. The greenbacks were legal tender, which meant that creditors had to accept them at face value. Life went on, but there were repercussions from the new money. In 1862, Congress was forced to pass an income tax and steep excise taxes, designed to cool the inflationary pressures created by the greenbacks. In 1863, another legal tender act was passed, and by the war’s end nearly half a billion dollars in greenbacks had been issued. The Legal Tender Act laid the foundation for the creation of a permanent currency in the decades after the Civil War.

My grand niece, Christina Masterson has spent the last year working hard to move her life in a new direction. It’s not that her life was going in the wrong direction, but rather that she has decided what she wants to do with her life. For the last year and a half, she has worked at Macaroni Grill in Colorado Springs, and has been saving her money and making preparations to start the next step in her life. As Christina turns twenty one, many things in her life will change. Twenty one is as big a step as eighteen is. It’s one more move in the direction of full adulthood, although most eighteen year olds might argue that point. Still, when people think of someone who is eighteen, certain privileges come to mind, but more come to mind with twenty one. The obvious privilege is being able to drink alcohol legally. Christina actually had that privilege before, while living with her mother in Germany, because the legal drinking age there is nineteen. Nevertheless, when they moved back to the United States, Christina had to abide by the laws here. I’m sure she thought that was a bummer, but those days are behind her forever now. Just make sure you have a designated driver, Christina!!

Christina might be old enough to drink, but that is not really where her focus is. Christina has started attending Everest College and is planning to be a dental assistant. That career might not be for everyone, but it is a necessary and important occupation, nevertheless. Dentists couldn’t really accomplish their jobs without them, and sometimes a patient only needs to see the dentist for a couple of minutes, and then the rest is up to the assistant. I’m really proud of Christina for working so hard to get herself into a position to have a good paying career that she will enjoy doing. It is another step into the adult world for her, and I know she is excited about it. She is really carving out her own path.

Probably the biggest move into the adult world is the fact that Christina has been saving her money, and she is making a big move…into her own place. Having one’s independence is always a special thing, even though her family will miss her at home, especially her brothers, but I guess they could always go spend the night sometimes…after a time for her to settle in, that is. Today is Christina’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Christina!! You have arrived. Have a great day!! We love you!!

Growing up, I didn’t have any brothers, and in fact, other than my dad, there weren’t any guys in the family at all until my sister, Cheryl got married, and they lived most of those early years in upstate New York. I wasn’t around him much. So, I never had a little brother until I married my husband, Bob Schulenberg, and his little 7 year old brother, Ron Schulenberg became my brother-in-law. Bob, Ron, and I got along well even during the time we were dating, and he often went places with us…a privilege he found quite acceptable. He was a good kid, and we enjoyed being around him. When I think about the fact that Ron has been my brother-in-law for almost 42 years now, I just can’t imagine life without him. I never really felt deprived of a brother, but then I never thought of Ron as a brother-in-law either. He was my little brother…from the time I first met him. I think it was a good thing Ron and I got along so well, because he and Bob have always been close. They were the only boys in a family of six kids, so banding together was kind of a necessity, and over the years they have always been able to count on each other for any help needed, and just to be friends too. These days, their age difference doesn’t seem like much, but there are almost 14 years between them. Back then, I suppose it was odd for Bob to hang out with his little brother, but for the most part Bob enjoyed having Ron around.

Some things were a little hard for Ron, and I felt kind of bad about that. Bob and his dad, Walt Schulenberg, worked so well together at fixing things up on the place, fixing the cars, and even building the garage, and because of his age, Ron always seemed to be in the way. He wanted to help too…so badly. It’s hard, in the middle of something you need to get done, to stop and teach a little 7 or 8 year old boy how he can be of some help. Of course, as time went on, Ron grew up and he became a great help to his dad and brother. I’m sure that to him, it felt like he had “finally arrived.” That was a big day for Ron. I don’t know if he ever regretted that day, because once you can help, you have fewer days to play, but then, I don’t thing Ron cared about that at all.

I think that for Ron, the role of parent is the one he has always wanted the most…besides husband, of course. After he married his wife Rachel, Ron became dad to her children, Cassie, Riley, and Tucker. Cassie is married, and Riley lives in Powell, but Tucker is at home, and as far as he is concerned, Ron is his only daddy. He is the man who is there for him. Ron is the role model that Tucker wants and needs. They are a great little team, and I am so happy for Ron, because this has made his life complete. Today is Ron’s birthday. Happy birthday Ron!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister-in-law, Debbie Cook loves all things grandchildren. Debbie has four grandchildren of her own…Weston Moore, Jala Satterwhite, Easton Moore, and Kaytlyn Griffith. The kids are involved in a variety of activities, from the little plays and programs that Kaytlyn is in, to the variety of sports the other children are in. Debbie tries not to miss out on these events, and can often be seen in the audience. It doesn’t matter what activity the kids are into this time, the grandma in Debbie can’t help but be there to watch. I can totally relate to that, because I went to everything my grandkids did too. It is simply the grandma thing to do. Those years go by so fast, so a person would be foolish to think there is always the next time.

Debbie loves to quilt and cross stitch, and makes these items for the craft fairs she has sold at. It’s a big job, and sometimes one is about all she can muster, but she really finds making the beautiful things she makes to be relaxing and enjoyable. Quilting, especially is a really big job, but all the grandchildren in the family have reaped the benefit of Debbie’s ability, when she made memory quilts from their grandparents clothing after her dad, Walt Schulenberg passed away. The ability to make quilts is an amazing one, and the recipients have something they will always treasure. I think Debbie got that ability from her grandma, Vina Hein, who made quilts over the years too…and maybe from her aunt, Esther Hein who got it from her mom too. However the ability came to her, it is a blessing to her family, and I believe she is trying to pass it along to her granddaughters, Jala and Kaytlyn.

Another activity that Debbie likes to share with her grandchildren is playing cards, and their favorite game right now is “Nuts.” I can’t say I have ever played that one, although, maybe I have. If I have, and I were to attempt it again, I would have to have it completely retaught to me, but Debbie’s grandkids know how and whenever their busy lives allow enough time to play, they go to their grandma’s house, and get a game going. I’m sure this activity, like all others that apply to grandchildren, will someday come to an end, for the most part, but maybe they will try to keep it alive, so that they have something they can share with the grandparents over the years.

Debbie and her husband, Lynn Cook, love to go camping, and now that both are retired, they spend a lot of time in the Big Horn Mountains. It is a way for them to unplug from everyday life. Telephone service up there is spotty, so they have time to get back to nature. In the summer, they might not come down from the mountain for a couple of weeks, and then after a few days, they are ready to head back up the mountain. It is really their place of solitude. Even though they don’t live in a big town, the busy activity in town can be overwhelming sometimes, and the mountains are a great place to unwind. Of course, they love having their girls, Machelle and Susan and their families come along. Seriously, why not make it a family affair. Today is Debbie’s birthday. Happy birthday Debbie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As the second anniversary of my mom’s passing drew near, my family and I have been talking more and more about the woman who was our mother. Mom was many things, as most mothers are, but one of the parts of my mom that never ceased to amaze me, was her ability to maintain a certain level of innocence, or at least what we thought was innocence. As I look back now, she was a wise woman, who managed to keep her world…quite pure and innocent. I’m not talking about her personal life, but rather our family life. There were certain lines we all knew not to cross. My sisters and I would never have cussed in front of our parents…if we wanted to live, that is, but somehow we knew that our boyfriends and husbands would be required to live up to that standard too…and they did. It was out of respect for her, my dad, and their home. That was something I always though amazing. I don’t think I even remember having to tell a boyfriend twice, not even the ones who weren’t the keeper I ended up with. It was as if they thought mom might pass out if they were to talk in an inappropriate manner. I don’t know…maybe she would have. I never dared to find out, and I’m not sorry that Mom was that way, because my sisters and I were raised to speak decently, and we have never regretted that.

Another way that my mom always seemed so innocent was in her sense of humor. Mom never cared if she looked silly, if it could make her arguing children laugh. When you have five daughters, complete with all the drama that can be associated with it, you either get silly, or you go crazy. Well, mom was an expert at making her girls either straighten up, or laugh, usually in a very unique way. I remember Mom clearing the living room floor so that two of us could “fight it out” and once we had a good hold of each other’s hair, and were both basically pinned to the floor, the room broke out in laughter, because lets face it, it was pretty hilarious. I remember Mom making some crazy faces that we couldn’t help but laugh at, and even if we knew that Mom was mad, it was sometimes hard not to laugh about her face, but we knew that it was in our best interest not to.

Life with our mom was never dull, but then again, Mom would probably tell you the same thing about life with her girls. If there was some crazy antic that we could come up with…we did. I remember ruining my brand new penny loafers because I felt the need to go trudging through the mud and the construction site at the new Kmart building. The shoes cleaned up ok, but they were now of a size to fit my younger sister, Caryl. My sister, Alena was a whiz at concocting formulas. Of course, using the “shampoo” she created was out of the question, because it would probably burn your hair off. As far as terrorizing my sisters…that would have to be, yours truly. I was born with strong fingernails…well daggers actually, and I did not hesitate to use them. Sometimes I wonder how I survived childhood, because if anyone drove our mom crazy, it was me. I’m sure that my wedding day was cause for celebration on many levels. Just thinking about what I put my mom through…well, I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. I think that is how Mom had to have felt. It really was get silly, or go crazy in our house.

The Indian tribes in the United States had a spoken language, but in the early years they had no real need for a written language, other than hieroglyphics. At some point, a young Cherokee man named Sequoyah noticed something about the men in Andrew Jackson’s platoon, while he and some other Cherokee men were volunteering in the fight against the British in the War of 1812. In dealing with the Anglo soldiers and settlers, Sequoyah became intrigued by their “talking leaves” or printed books. Sequoyah realized that somehow the “talking leaves” recorded human speech. In a brilliant leap of logic, Sequoyah comprehended the basic nature of symbolic representation of sounds and in 1809 he began working on a similar system for the Cherokee language. Little did Sequoyah know that his work would change things, and in fact, change life for the Cherokee people. Still, it was not without it’s downside. Sequoyah was ridiculed and misunderstood by most of the Cherokee. Nevertheless, he made slow progress until he came up with the idea of representing each syllable in the language with a separate written character. Finally, he perfected his syllabary of 86 characters, a system that could be mastered in less than week. After obtaining the official endorsement of the Cherokee leadership, Sequoyah’s invention was soon adopted throughout the Cherokee nation.

Finally, it was time for the next step. The General Council of the Cherokee Nation decided to purchase a printing press. Their goal was to produce a newspaper in the Cherokee language. When the Cherokee-language printing press arrived on this day, February 21, 1828, the lead type was based on Sequoyah’s syllabary. Within months, the first Indian language newspaper in history appeared in New Echota, Georgia. It was called the Cherokee Phoenix. The Cherokee tribe was one of what the Americans called the “five civilized tribes” and they were native to the American Southeast. The Cherokee had long ago decided to embrace the United States’ program of “civilizing” Indians in the years after the Revolutionary War. In the minds of Americans, Sequoyah’s syllabary showed the Cherokee desire to fit into their dominant Anglo world. The Cherokee used their new press to print a bilingual version of the republican constitution. They also took many other steps to assimilate Anglo culture and practice while still preserving some aspects of their traditional language and beliefs. The press worked well, but would have been useless had it not been for the extraordinary work of Sequoyah.

Sequoyah was born about 1770 in Tuskegee, Cherokee Nation, near present day Knoxville, Tennessee. He died August 1843 at about 72 or 73, in San Fernando, Tamaulipas, Mexico. His name in English is George Gist or George Guess, which I find to be…well, crazy. Why was it necessary to butcher his name. Sequoyah was a Cherokee silversmith by trade, but his biggest claim to fame was the creation of written Cherokee. In 1821, when he completed his independent creation of a Cherokee syllabary, he successfully made reading and writing in Cherokee possible. This was one of the very few times in recorded history that a member of a pre-literate people created an original, effective writing system. After seeing its worth, the people of the Cherokee Nation rapidly began to use his syllabary and officially adopted it in 1825. Their literacy rate quickly surpassed that of surrounding European-American settlers. In recognition of his service, the Cherokee Nation voted Sequoyah an annual allowance in 1841. He died two years later on a trip to San Fernando, seeking Cherokee to return to Oklahoma with him. The giant California redwood tree, Sequoia, was named after him.