My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg has spent time in several areas of Wyoming in her lifetime. Most of them, I didn’t really know about. One place in particular was a surprise…the small town of Wapiti, Wyoming, where Rachel lived during her elementary school years. Rachel seems to have really enjoyed those years, and talks about walking by the “Weird and Wacky Smith Mansion” every day. When I look at the pictures of the Smith Mansion, I can see how it would be very interesting…especially for a kid. The mansion looks “haunted” in many respects, but it also looks somewhat like a “three ring circus.” It seems to have unusual entrances, strange floors…some of which are like a terrace, and in general, a look that is very similar to an oil derrick. I don’t know if the kids ever got in there to play, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find out they tried.

Rachel went to a sweet little country school in Wapiti, and apparently, the country life suited her…to a degree anyway. These days, she is back living in the country, but the roads in Homa Hills really don’t make country living easy. I lived out there for a while myself, and the Gumbo Clay is sticky and sloppy. It’s nothing like the picture perfect country lanes we all read about. Still, for Rachel and my brother-in-law, Ron it’s home.

Rachel’s years in Wapiti were sweet, and also bitterly sad. It was here that her mother, Connie Rae Mooren Franklin passed away. Rachel was just past 10 years old at the time. It was a devastating part of Rachel’s past, because she will always miss her mom. The family moved away from Wapiti shortly thereafter. Rachel had some tough years after her mother passed away, but one wonderful person came from her grief to give her purpose in life. Her daughter Cassandra “Cassie” was born when Rachel was 16 years old. Cassie says they went through high school together, and I’m sure that’s true. Many schools had an on-site daycare for young mothers. She graduated high school with her baby girl, went on to college, and got her accounting degree shortly afterwards. While she was in college at Northwestern Community College, she and Cassie lived in Trapper Village West. After her marriage and divorce, from her first husband and with two sons, Riley Birky, and Tucker Schulenberg (who was legally adopted by my brother-in-law, Ron), Rachel worked in home health for quite a while. Cassie tells me what an inspirationally hard-working single mom. She made their lives as close to normal as could be. The family had two dogs when Cassie was a teenager…a Poodle and a Shih Tzu.

Before her marriage to my brother-in-law, Rachel worked for and the family attended Glad Tidings Church. She met my brother-in-law, through her nest friend, Machelle Moore, who was not only with her through the good, bad, and ugly things in life, but was also, Ron’s niece. It was a marriage made in Heaven for both of them…and it made Machelle her niece too. Things just kept getting better and better. Then when Ron adopted her younger son, Tucker, it was the topper on what was to be a beautiful cake of life. Add two precious little grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey, and life is perfect. Of course, loss can continue to come, and Rachel recently lost her second mom (technically step-mom) Jan, and her grandmother. Today is Rachel’s birthday. She is an inspiration to a lot of us. Life wasn’t easy, but you made it beautiful for you and your family. Happy birthday Rachel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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