Caryn

When my dad, Allen Spencer and his brother, Bill Spencer were young boys going to school, their dad, Allen Luther Spencer worked for the Great Northern Railway. Because they lived a good distance from school, the boys and their sister, Ruth Wolfe had a dependent pass to ride the train to school. That pass didn’t stop the boys from “hopping” the train…in true Hobo fashion. Of course, we know that “hopping” a train is illegal now, but back then it wasn’t. My dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Ruth had passes however, so while they weren’t supposed to hop the train, it wouldn’t have been illegal anyway, because they had a pass…just not to hop the train.

During the Depression years, there were a lot of Hobos. The railroad was a quick way to get to jobs far away…and it wasn’t technically illegal…just frowned upon. President Roosevelt even created the 1933 Federal Transient Service, which built 600 shelters alongside the trains, to provide food, board, and medical care for working migrants…aka hobos, or at least part of them. As organized crime began using the railway for it’s own purposes, these services were shut down, and “hopping” a train became illegal. Nevertheless, illegal or not, there are actually tons of resources online to help hobos, and most hobos carry smart phones, and even laptops, so they can take advantage of the online forums and Facebook pages available to them. I looked at these online sites, and I found that they call themselves misfit travelers.

Over the years, hobos have developed their own code and language. I found that to be very interesting. Life on the streets, and especially train hopping can be a very dangerous kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, people living on the streets and traveling by hopping trains, need help…even if they find themselves in a position whereby they have to bend the law a little. Th codes and the language they developed help them maneuver this world in a little bit more safe way. I’m not condoning breaking the law, but these people are already there. They just took a wrong turn, and now they need help to make it, and hopefully make it back.

Without a doubt, the greatest thing to happen to a person in life is becoming a parent. That is the life change that happened to my grand-niece, Siara Olsen and her husband, Nick on October 28, 2019. Now, Siara is celebrating her first birthday since becoming “Mommy” to little Alec Todd Olsen. It is so hard to believe that Siara could be a mom already, and yet, she has stepped into the role as naturally as if she had been a mom for years. Watching her hold her baby puts a smile on my face, and the faces of all her family too. She just looks so content…and, so does Alec. There is nothing like having a baby to snuggle with, to bring home just how precious life is.

Siara is a bubbly, sweet girl who is very capable in her job at Platte Valley Bank, here is Casper, Wyoming, where she works as a personal banker. I don’t think there is one customer at the bank who doesn’t know Siara by the smile on her face and her sweet personality. Of course, going back to work after giving birth to Alec wasn’t easy, as any mother who worked, knows well. I felt so bad for her, because I know how short maternity leave is, when it comes right down to it. Eight weeks or whatever amount each mother has, seems like a long time…if you are waiting for your baby’s birth!! Once your baby has arrived, eight weeks is nothing. It’s over almost in an instant, and leaving your child in daycare, even if you know the people well, is heart wrenching. Eventually thought, you get used to it, and while you miss your baby terribly, you begin to look forward to the end of your work day, when you will be reunited with that sweet bundle of joy. Then, when you pick him up from daycare, your whole world is smiling again. And then, Siara and Nick have the whole evening to enjoy their precious little son, who keeps them smiling with his sweet little face, filled with smiles. The evenings are just perfect for this young family.

Now that little Alec is here, life for Siara and Nick is always looking up. I think that most parents can relate to the tremendous joy they feel with each new day. With each smile, each landmark, each passing year, and each new sibling that comes along after Alec, life will continue to get better and better for them. I am so happy for Siara, as she celebrates her first birthday as a mommy, and for Nick too, as he celebrates his family. The future is bright for both of them, and I look forward to watching little Alec grow up and be such a great blessing to his parents and his family. Today is Siara’s birthday. Happy birthday “Mommy” Siara. Have a great day!! We love you!!

The other day, I saw on her Facebook, where my grand nephew, Ethan Hadlock’s mom, Chelsea Hadlock had registered him for middle school for the fall semester. Chelsea mentioned that she suddenly felt old, and I found myself shocked that Ethan could be so grown up…already!! My sister and Ethan’s grandmother, Allyn Hadlock told me, “It seems like just yesterday that he was 2 and I was chasing him around our house. He loved the chasing game and I would catch him and give him little love pat spankins.” None of us can believe that he is almost in middle school now. The time has flown by so fast. While Ethan is growing up fast, he is not outgrowing everything he likes to do. He still loves games, but now it’s board games, “I Spy” games, video games, and sports. Typical of kids his age.

Ethan loves to get together with the whole family. He is a very social kid, and the family had a great time at Christmas and New Year’s. They hung out and enjoying each other’s company. They played bingo, letting Ethan and his sister, Aurora Hadlock take turns being the bingo callers. They loved rolling the cage around and getting the numbers out. Ethan is very kind and empathetic, and he truly cares about people. He wants to make sure that family and friends around him are comfortable and feel loved. He really is the sweetest boy, and it is something our whole family knows. Ethan’s dad, Ryan Hadlock is a playful teaser from way back, and Ethan has proven to be a quick study in that art. He has already started giving all of the family a hard time whenever he gets a chance.

Ethan and his cousin, Adelaide Sawdon have formed a special bond and can often be found “securing the perimeter” anytime they are together. Apparently, they both have an interest in spy games. They take their toys guns (whether an actual toy gun or a stick they have fashioned into one) and walk around the area we are in to ensure no spies, enemies, or unwanted guests can get in. He takes care to be patient and kind when explaining the rules of the game to his younger cousins, so they have a chance to play with their older and “adored” Ethan. He is so fun loving and the best nephew in our family…never mind that he is the only nephew!! His sweetness would still make his the best one.

With each birthday, the birthday boy or girl gets to choose where the family goes for dinner, and Ethan didn’t hesitate to choose Buffalo Wild Wings for his dinner tonight, so the family will all gather there to eat wings and celebrate their little boy, who isn’t so little anymore. Ethan is now almost 5 feet tall. It looks like Ethan will take after his dad and grandpa, Chris Hadlock, both of whom are very tall. Ethan has so much going for him. He is such a good kid…both kind and tender hearted. He is the kind of kid you like to have around. Today is Ethan’s 11th birthday. Happy birthday Ethan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

It is a strange idea to give a pilot minimal training and then send them out to do a mission, but it depends, I suppose on the mission they are sent out to do. With Japan losing the war and most of the well trained pilots gone, as a result of major battle losses, a new breed of pilots was born. These new pilots were called Kamikaze or Suicide Bombers. They required only minimal training, because most would not return from their missions. It was part of a strange plan that required the pilot to deliberately give up their life for the mission. Of course, every soldier knows that the next mission could end badly, and that losing their life is never out of the question, but the idea of heading out with the specific plan of crashing your plane into a ship is very foreign to me.

From a training aspect, I suppose the Japanese felt it was a good tradeoff. The Kamikaze pilots needed little training and could do great damage taking planes full of explosives and crash them into ships. Still, it seems to me that the cost of the training, and the loss of the planes on every mission…not to mention the loss of pilots, would completely defeat the purpose of the pilot training. Nevertheless, Kamikaze pilots have been around a while, and some nations see suicide missions as honorable somehow. Everyone knows that in a war, people are going to die, from both sides, but to specifically plan to take your own life for the mission, seems crazy to me, and to most sane people.

For the Japanese, the Kamikaze mission brought a temporary measure of success, I suppose. At Okinawa, they sank 30 ships and killed almost 5,000 Americans. In that process, 30 pilots, who paid for the victory with their lives, were also lost in the mission. And in the end, the Kamikaze missions made no real difference in the war’s outcome. They still lost the war, and to me, that does not make the Kamikaze missions worthwhile. I don’t think it ever pays to take so little consideration for the lives of the people who serve under you. I believe that is the biggest mistake made by these horrific regimes. Such a murderous nation cannot long succeed, because people will eventually put a stop to it. The only sad part is that sometimes it takes so long to put a stop to these horrific acts. Kamikaze pilots, suicide bombers, and any other soldier who’s mission requires his own death, all fall into the category of a price too high to pay.

It seems impossible to me that my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg could be gone now for two years. She was such a fighter, when it came to her health. There were a number of times that we thought we had lost her, but she always bounced back…until she didn’t. The end of her days had come, and with it, there were no parents in our lives again. My parents, Al and Collene Spencer and my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg were gone, and now my mother-in-law had joined them in Heaven. It felt empty here on earth. The loss hit hard with each of my four parents, but with my mother-in-law, there was also the finality of it. We had no more parents. We, their children, are the matriarchs and patriarchs of our families now, but it feels like we are orphans. The knowledge that you have no parents, really brings that orphaned feeling home.

My mother-in-law, was a homemaker for most of her life, and very skilled in things like cooking, sewing, knitting, crocheting, and canning. These were things she passed down to her daughters, and to me. Of course, my own mother taught me part of these things too, but we didn’t can often, other than making jelly, and the things my mother-in-law cooked were different from my own mom, so that added variety to my abilities. My mother-in-law, was probably best known for her sewing, knitting, and crocheting. She sold many of her crafts at craft fairs over the years, adding to the family budget and to her craft budget as well. She also loved to bake, and her “Murder Cake” was a family favorite.

My in-laws lived in the country for most of the time I knew them, but they moved to town in the last years of their lives. While she preferred the quiet of the country, my mother-in-law did enjoy watching all the activity that took place near their home at the corner of two busy streets in In her later years, my mother-in-law developed Alzheimer’s Disease. Casper. After she had to be moved to Shepherd of the Valley nursing home, she enjoyed the activity there, especially at the nurses station, because she was a “people watcher” all her life. She liked to see what everyone around her was up to, and figure it all out, even wondering why they spoke to the people they did, or did the things they did. I was glad that her curiosity never left her. It made her time in the nursing home must more interesting. Finally, on January 4, 2018, she lost her health battle. Like most Alzheimer’s patients, it was not the disease that took her, but rather that her kidneys gave out. She passed peacefully that evening, after having her family around her earlier in the day. She simply went to sleep, and went home. While we were so sorry to see her go, we knew she was tired of fighting. We love and miss her very much.

Every United States Presidential election brings heated debates, and many arguments from both sides of the aisle. I’m sure it is the same in most other nations, who have the opportunity to vote too. Being an unapologetic Conservative, it is my belief that the less the government controls the citizens the better. Socialism and Fascism are both forms of government control, and while some people think these are great, they ultimately find out that what the government gives, the government can also take away. This was what we saw with Adolf Hitler. He came into office as an elected official, and before long, he changed everything for the German people, and in many ways the world, especially the Jewish people, Gypsies, and any other groups he disagreed with. The people were fooled into thinking he was a great man, until it was too late.

Similar to Adolf Hitler, Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini did not become the dictator of a totalitarian regime overnight. Mussolini started out as a schoolteacher and an avowed socialist. After World War I he became a leader of the nascent Fascist movement. Like much of Europe, Italy was in the middle of great social turmoil following World War I. During the turmoil, paramilitary groups and street gangs frequently clashed over their competing ideas for the new political order. A close confidant of Mussolini formed a Fascist paramilitary group, known as the Blackshirts or Squadristi, and because Mussolini was their leader, the gangs found that government fears of a communist revolution allowed them to operate without state intervention. Apparently, the people thought Socialism and Fascism were better than Communism. By 1921, Mussolini had been elected to parliament as the leader of the growing National Fascist Party.

Soon after Mussolini’s election…the party’s Chosen One…armed Blackshirts marched on Rome, demanding that the king install Mussolini as Prime Minister. Why the king allowed this to happen, is beyond me, but in a decision that utterly changed the course of Italian and European history, King Victor Emmanuel III ignored Prime Minister Luigi Facta’s pleas that he declare martial law, leading to Facta’s resignation and Emmanuel’s invitation to Mussolini to form a new government. It was a move that was completely insane. The Fascists and their moderate allies began dismantling Italy’s democratic institutions. Mussolini was proclaimed dictator for a year, like that was going to be all it was, and increasingly merged his party and its paramilitary wing with the state and the official military. He also undertook a program of privatizations and anti-union legislation in order to assure industrialists and aristocrats that fascism would protect them from socialism. Before long, the Italian government didn’t even resemble its former self.

Still, many Fascists felt Mussolini was moving too slowly, so they took matters into their own hands. In 1924, assassins with ties to Mussolini killed socialist leader Giacomo Matteotti, leading most of the parliamentary opposition to boycott Mussolini’s legislature. The Fascists felt that their moment had come. On December 31, they issued an ultimatum to Mussolini. Three days later on January 3rd, he addressed the remainder of parliament, declaring “I, and I alone, assume the political, moral, and historical responsibility for all that has happened,” obliquely referring to the assassination of Matteotti. In doing this, Mussolini dared prosecutors and the rest of Italy’s democratic institutions, as well as the king, to challenge his authority. It was their last chance, but no one opposed him. Thus, from 1925 onward, Mussolini was able to operate openly as a dictator, styling himself Il Duce (meaning The Leader) and fusing the state and the Fascist Party. For the next two decades, suppression and brutality became the norm, culminating in Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany and World War II. I heard it said that, “You can vote yourself into Socialism, but you will have to shoot your way out of it.” It is a good warning for all of us as we approach the next Presidential election. We have a number of candidates who want Socialism, and it would be a dire mistake to allow that to happen to our free, Capitalist nation. People don’t always understand how important our elections are.

My nephew, Allen Beach has led an interesting life. As a child, his family moved several times, giving him the ability to live in several states. After graduation, Allen joined the United States Navy, and became a corpsman. After his training, he was stationed at Bethesda, Maryland at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he cared for, among others, the President of the United States.

Following his time at Walter Reed, Allen was stationed in Japan. I think that of all his travels, it was this period that was his favorite. It was there that he met his wife, Gaby, who changed his life forever. Gaby was also in the United States Navy. He was immediately taken with her, and they soon became an item. Eventually, Allen took Gaby on a trip to Bali, where he proposed, and she accepted. Allen felt complete, but their travels were not over.

Allen and Gaby moved back to Bethesda, Maryland, where both of them finished their Navy time, and began their college educations. After Allen finished his college, with a degree in hospital administration, and Gaby had decided on Nursing, the time had come to move again. This move to a place where Gaby could get into a good nursing program. It was this move that surprised our whole family the most. Gaby looked around, and found that the nursing program right here in Casper, Wyoming, where most of Allen’s family lives, was the best one. So they moved to Casper. It was a good decision for Allen too, because with his degree and his skills, he was quickly grabbed by Wyoming Medical Center to work in administration there. Allen is the department manager over the referral and communications departments. Allen loves his job, and of course, his family all hope that they will stay here in Casper after Gaby’s college is over. We have really enjoyed having them here, close to the family, after so much of his life was spent so far away from us. Today is Allen’s birthday. Happy birthday Allen!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For many people, starting the new year off right means making New Year’s resolutions, and planning to make big changes in whatever areas they don’t like about themselves and their lives. That is a noble idea, even though most New Year’s resolutions are forgotten by February, but that is not how my family started the new year…nor did we finish the last one like most families either. That was because of my mom, Collene Spencer. It wasn’t that Mom did anything to make the new year extra special…she was a typical mom who loved her family, and worked hard to give us a happy life, but then so did most parents. It was the fact that Mom’s birthday was January 1st, that started the year off special…and ended the prior year in a special way too.

My dad, Al Spencer loved our mom so much. She was his princess, his “Doll,” and he was always happiest when they were together. Dad worked hard to make our lives, and especially the life of his “Doll,” the best life anyone could ever have. And he succeeded very well. We were a very happy family, and New Year’s, both eve and day, were very special. Our year ended with a New Year’s Eve party…one that we kids got to attend too. It was a gathering of friends and family at our house, when we were little. Many parents go out and get a sitter for their kids on New Year’s Eve, but we lived where the party was, and we were welcome, as were our cousins, and later our friends. Dad never wanted his kids to be out in the world on New Year’s Eve, because of the obvious dangers of drinking and driving. We always got to party, and we were always safe at home. The party was about the end of the year and the beginning of the new year, but mostly it was about our mom. This was her celebration, and our dad always made it an awesome one for his “Doll.”

New Year’s Day always included a big birthday dinner for Mom, and of course, birthday cake and her presents. Our year always started of with a big celebration. While many people used the day as a way to get over their hangover, and mostly sleep the day away, our day was filled with joy, laughter, and fun. That was because of the great love our dad had for Mom, for us, and for making our lives fun. The memories my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I, as well as our families, have from all those New Year’s celebrations over the years will always warm our hearts. Mom and Dad are in Heaven now, but we do our best to continue the tradition in their honor. Today would have been Mom’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Mom. We love and miss you very much. We will see you and Dad again soon.

In 1995, during the Christmas season, Lena Paahlsson was baking Christmas cookies with her daughters at their farm in northern Sweden. As was her habit while baking, Lena took off her wedding ring, and placed it on the counter. While they were cleaning up after baking, Lena could not find her ring. It was a devastating end to the year. Lena and her family hunted for the ring everywhere, even pulling up floorboards…hoping against hope, but to no avail. The ring had vanished…lost forever, or so they thought.

Then, one day in October 2011, while she was pulling the last of the carrots from her garden, Lena was stunned to see her wedding ring wrapped neatly around the top of the carrot. Lena had given up hope of ever finding the ring she cherished. The family speculates that the ring must have fallen into the sink, and been mixed with the potato peels that were later composted or fed to the sheep, because the soil in the garden is made from composted vegetables and sheep dung. They have no idea why it took 16 years for the ring to work its way to the surface again, but they are sure that if the ring had not had a tiny carrot seed land in its middle, it would have still be hiding there in the rich dirt of the garden. In the end, it was a Carat Carrot that returned her ring to her.

Unfortunately, after all these years, the ring no longer fits Lena. It will need to be sized before she can wear it again. They fact certainly didn’t dim the joy and happiness the family felt at the return of the precious ring. Lena says, “I had given up hope. Now that I have found the ring again I want to be able to use it.” I’m sure that the Carat Carrot made the meal it was used in just that much better. Imagine…the carrot had a very special job to do, before it went on to do what it was destined to do in the first place.

The life of a spy is a dangerous one. Getting caught spying is often punishable by death, so the key to being a successful…and later old spy, is not to get killed, and therefore not to get caught. The spies had a number of way so fool the Nazis. One of the ways was to research the proper clothing for the area and the times, and make sure that the clothing of the spy didn’t stand out as being foreign or outdated. To miscalculated that aspect of the spy, could mean certain death.

Clothing wasn’t always the concern. When a spy is being followed, footprints can be very telling. One of the ways that the spies fooled the Nazis was the spy shoes they wore. The shoes were very functional as a way to disguise what was going on, but the looked hilarious. The idea of the shoes was to make the person following the spy think that the spy was going the opposite direction from that which the spy was really going. Basically, the shoe was put on the sole backwards. That way, the person following the spy, would think he was walking toward the spy, when he was actually walking away from him. The technique gave the spy precious time to get far away from the enemy who was tracking him. The only problem for the spy was the shape of the shoe. It seems to me that the shape of the shoe would feel very odd to the spy. Nevertheless, the shoe was necessary, and so the spy got used to it. I suppose the feeling was similar to a child putting their shoes on the wrong feet. It is thought that the shoes might have first been used by Moonshiners during the prohibition period.

Our more modern day thought concerning spy shoes and other equipment is probably far more advanced. The shoes might have contained a knife in the heel or even a shoe phone, like Maxwell Smart…on the show “Get Smart.” Of course, much of that is fiction, and I don’t know if real modern day spies even use special shoes or any other special spy tools, for that matter. The Backward Spy Shoes were a very simple tool, but it would seem that they were highly effective during World War II. The only problem I see with a shoe that takes a tracker back to the starting point of the spy who is being pursued is that it would make it impossible to return to the point of origin for fear of being tracked there. Of course if the spy walked to a public place, like a train station, and then switched shoes, they could easily get lost in the crowd, never to be found. Either way, the shoes were a clever way to outsmart the enemy.

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