Uncle Jim, my Aunt Dixie’s husband has always seemed like such a quiet, and even shy man.  I don’t think he really was shy, just quiet. I think he was a man who was often deep in his own thoughts, which is quite a bit like I am, so I can relate to it. Quiet people aren’t necessarily shy, and quite often, they really have a lot on their minds, but they just don’t always say everything they know. The strange thing is that their face almost always speaks volumes. That is how I have always felt about Uncle Jim. You could see how he felt by the smiles on his face…and he smiles a lot.

A serious family man, Uncle Jim moved his family to the country on the west side of Casper, where they live to this day. His children have bought homes that are very close to their parents…just across the street, in fact. The family is very close, and enjoys each other’s company. The grandchildren have the benefit of the closeness to grandparents, and their parents have the ability to work, knowing that the kids can be with their grandparents while they are away. It is a win/win situation.

For many years, Uncle Jim took care of his mother, who lived with them for quite some time, and also helped in the care of my grandparents when then needed help. That is really the thing that has always impressed me the most with my uncle. He is a very caring person, who always puts the needs of others ahead of his own needs. People just don’t come better than that. In this age of much better longevity, caregivers are very much in demand, and as a caregiver myself, I know what it takes to care for another person. It is a selfless act of a special person with a heart of gold that is filled with compassion.

Today is my Uncle Jim’s 75th birthday, and as usual, he is spending it busily getting things ready for the cold winter months that are coming up, because, that is simply what he does. He takes care of the needs of his family. Well, happy birthday Uncle Jim!! Don’t work too hard. We love you!!

Have you ever noticed that there are some people who seem very knowledgeable about alot of things? I’m not talking about a know it all. I’m talking about someone who just knows a lot about a lot of things. That is the way Bob’s great uncle is. He isn’t the type of person to brag about what he knows, he just shares his knowledge in such an interesting way, that it is a pleasure to listen to him.

Great Uncle Frank is the fourth of five brothers in his family. He and his wife, Helen went on to have five sons of their own. The first time I met then was when they brought Bob’s great grandparents from Yakima, Washington to Casper, Wyoming to visit the family here in August, 1976. Not only were he and his wife very interesting people, but his parents, Bob’s great grandparents were too. I could definitely see where Great Uncle Frank got his thirst for knowledge. His parents were amazing people in great health, who lived at home their entire lives. They were alert and sharp as tacks well into their ninety’s, and I expect Frank and Helen will do the same.

Frank was a college professor until his retirement, and Helen was a social worker. Frank taught Science at Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, but science was not all he knew about. He was a virtual encyclopedia of knowledge. He can carry on a conversation about almost any subject you might want to talk about, and talk intelligently about it too. Some people do a lot of reading, and some people just retain information very easily. I’m not sure which one applies to Frank, but the knowledge is definitely stored in his memory in a orderly fashion that was easily accessible. It was a pleasure to talk with him.

Having five sons, Frank was always interested in anything that would interest his boys, and help them become the best men they could be. He settled on the Boy Scouts, and he was active in the Boy Scouts for many years. I will always feel blessed to have known this amazing man, and his equally amazing wife.

My grandmother’s brother on my mom’s side, has been an interesting character to me. I always liked Great Uncle Bill, and his wife, Great Aunt Stella, but I can’t say that I always knew him very well. Recently as I have been researching my family’s history, I have again come across Great Uncle Bill, both in pictures and in stories. I found a cousin named Marlene, who had told a story about a time in Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella’s life when they lived in Kemmerer, Wyoming. Great Uncle Bill had worked for the Railroad for a number of years, and while living in Kemmerer, the railroad provided them with a beautiful place outside of town. It was a two story house and a bunk house and a little house just for the railroad car that they used every day. The bunkhouse served a dual purpose, becoming a dance hall when it was time to do Great Uncle Bill’s favorite passtime, which is dancing, and more specifically square dancing. They loved holding those dances, and usually had more than a dozen couples in attendance.

Marlene tells about the summer she and her siblings got to spend with Great Uncle Bill and Great Aunt Stella. She painted a picture of Great Aunt Stella cooking on the old wood cook stove the house had. For one of the dances, Marlene and her siblings got to help bake cupcakes for the dance in that old wood cook stove. She tells me that Great Aunt Stella could make that cook stove create the most wonderful things to eat. The cupcakes were frosted with green and blue frosting, which were met with mixed feelings at the dance…probably because of the blue and green lips they would create.

Great Uncle Bill also loved to play the fiddle and was an excellent caller for the square dances. Marlene always had such a great time, because she had learned to square dance, and was better than most of the adults. It must have been great fun to be able to keep up with the adults at a real square dance. And Great Uncle Bill could really play the fiddle. It was his passion. He had won many competitions and was a grand champion, several times over.

After emailing back and forth and reading the story Marlene posted on, I feel like I now know my Great Uncle Bill and my Great Aunt Stella better. Great Uncle Bill passed away in December, 2005, and Great Aunt Stella passed away in December, 2009. Today, his birthday, Great Uncle Bill would have been 96 years old. I can’t help but think about how sad it is that the fiddle is now silenced, the dances over, but then, that is just on this earth. I’m sure there is room in Heaven for a dancing fiddle player like my Great Uncle Bill and his favorite partner, Stella.

In researching my family history, I have seen many names change as people misspell them, Americanize them, or they change because part of the name is no longer important or does not exactly apply. The Spencer name has taken many twists and turns, going from being an occupational name, when it was Despencer, to a French sounding version when it was Le deSpencer, to the name we all now recognize following the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles in London on July 29, 1981. One of the most interesting things I found with the Spencer name is when it was hyphenated, and for some reason, many people did not realize that it was a hyphenated name. Many people think that Winston Spencer Churchill’s last name was Churchill, but that is really not the case. His name really was Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.

In 1700, following the 1698 death of his first wife, Arabella Cavendish, Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland married his second wife, Anne Churchill, who was the daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough. This was an important alliance for Sunderland and for his descendants. Through it, he was introduced to political life and later the dukedom of Marlborough came to the Spencers. It would seem that this alliance was important enough to keep the Churchill name in the marriage, because their children also carried the name originally.

The Spencer family divided into two branches at this point. The older children kept the Spencer-Churchill, and later Churchill name in many cases, and the younger children continued on with the Spencer name. From the Spencer-Churchill branch, came Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, who went by Winston Churchill as often as he went by Winston Spencer Churchill. I have not really found any evidence that he personally went by Winston Spencer-Churchill, although there are some documents about him that correctly list his name that way.

Princess Diana’s line came from the youngest son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland, whose name was John Spencer. This branch of the family took the correct name, which was Spencer, without the hyphenated addition of the  Churchill name, no matter how important the alliance of the two families was at the time of their joining. In researching the lines of a family, the thing that makes it the most difficult is the altering of the original names, because it makes it difficult to be sure we are following the lines correctly

I am often amazed at the changes in our weather. No, I don’t buy into the Global Warming thing, which is ridiculous, but I do think our weather runs in cycles. We have droughts and then wet years. We have years with little snow and years with huge spring runoffs. Back in the 1980’s, while Bob was working at Shirley Basin in the Uranium mines, we has one of those huge runoff years. It had snowed an awful lot that year, especially in the mountains, and when Spring arrived, there was so much water that it caused part of the road he drove to and from work to wash out. I know this kind of thing happens periodically, but this was really our first experience with anything like this.

It was quite a big deal. They had to make a way for the men to get around there so they could get to work and I believe that for a time, that meant taking the long way around, adding time to the drive home. Thankfully this was a big enough issue that the highway department got things fixed in a big hurry, but for a time it was quite the novelty. I think probably every person that worked at the mines had their picture taken at the site of the washout. It was the only washout that occurred in the years that Bob worked at Shirley Basin, even though we have had other bad flood years since that time.

One such washout, or in this case, landslide, happened in May 2011, when a huge hillside near Jackson, Wyoming blocked Highway 26/89 for 10 days. And then there was the flood that practically wiped out Kaycee, Wyoming in August 2002, wiping out one of the bridges on I-25. Even though these situations were not the first ones I had ever heard of, they still shocked me in a big way. Wyoming is normally such a dry state, that to think of floods and landslides is unusual. It’s just something that can happen in any state if the conditions are right.

My mom was the middle child in a family of nine children. With a brother on each side of her and three sisters on each end of the family. As with many big families, the different age groups tend to do things together. That’s how it was in our family. We had the older two girls, and the three little girls. It was the same way with my mom’s family. Grandma and Grandpa had the three big girls, my mom and the boys, and the three little girls. Each age group seems to have their own groups pictures to further accentuate the fact that the other children are really almost in a different generation than these children, even though there are only about two years in between each of the children.

My mom’s little sisters, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy, were the three
little girls in the family. The older siblings were regularly treated to the goofy games the three little girls liked to play. From little tea parties with their niece Susie, to dress up moments, possibly before school, the little girls kept things lively for the rest of the family. As we grow up, it’s easy to forget the fun little girl things in life, because we are so busy trying to be big. The grown up responsibilities of life come on us so quickly, that is is a shame to lose those days of freedom and wonder-lust so soon, but that is what we usually do. We are in such a hurry to grow up as kids, and then as adults, we wish we could go back.  For a large family, however, there is that unique ability to look backward in time a moment, without friends treating us like we just reverted to babyhood, and remember the fun times we had, and the goofy things we did as little kids. It is a true blessing, if we take that opportunity and our loss, if we do not.

These three, my youngest aunts, have not always seemed like aunts to me, after all, they are only 15, 13, and 11 years older than I am. It seems like aunts and uncles should be so much older, really. I mean, Aunt Sandy and I were both in school at the same time. Nevertheless, they were my aunts, and the three little girls in their family, and they have always been a blessing in the lives of all of us. They kept the family younger, longer. They blessed us with their laughter and antics. And now, they are able to tell us more of the family home life stories, that we can’t get from the older children in the family, because they had already married and moved out. I, for one, hope to be able to hear lots more of those stories for many years to come.

My nephew, Ryan takes after his dad, my brother-in-law, Chris in many ways. They are both very tall at about 6’4″. They also tend to use that towering height to their advantage when they are doing their favorite pass time…picking on those who are smaller than they are…which is pretty much everyone, so don’t think you are safe in this matter, because no one is safe!! Ryan has a great sense of humor, and loves to pretend that he didn’t do it, even though no one buys into that story! If Ryan is behind you or even in the general vicinity, you already know who did it…unless his dad is in the area too.

Ryan wasn’t always so big, of course. He had to start somewhere, and while he had little chance of being short, and he was a tall kids at every stage of his development, he still had to go through childhood like all kids did. He had some great humor role models during those years. His Grandpa Spencer was a teaser from way back, and Ryan, being the observant child that he was, quickly learned the lessons taught by his grandpas and dad. He couldn’t wait until he was big enough to fully participate in the tease-a-thons that were always standard procedure in our family. I’m quite sure he actually started his practice on his mom, my sister, Allyn and sisters, Jessi, Lindsay, and Kellie, who by the way can hold their own in any tease-a-thon, so I’m sure they all honed their skills on each other to perfect this skill.

Ryan was always a good boy…teasing aside, and has grown into a wonderful man, husband, dad, son, nephew and grandson to our entire family. These days he spends his time picking on his wife, Chelsea, and teaching his kids Ethan and Aurora the ropes, because if Ryan has anything to say about it, his kids will be as good at teasing as he is. It is a big job to pass on the time-honored traditions of a family, and like my dad, Ryan’s grandpa, it can be a very tiring job too, for adult and child, so of course, you need to make sure you get lots of sleep…which is something else Ryan is quite good at, but then again, he had a great teacher!! Today is Ryan’s 26th birthday, so if you happen to be around him at all, give a little bit back…teasing that is, because it takes a bunch of us to ever really get one over on Ryan!! Happy birthday Ryan!!

My Uncle Jim and my dad were a couple of characters. They loved to get together and when they did, oh boy…watch out. They would tease the kids and our moms, and manage to get everybody laughing. It was always such fun to have Aunt Ruth and Uncle Jim and the kids come to our house or to go to their house. It didn’t matter how you felt before they got started, because after they started joking around, you felt great. It was just an ability they both had and when you put the two of them together, they were doubly funny. Sometimes I think they drove our moms crazy…especially when they got us kids going. And since they moved away, I think my dad always did his best to live up to the old tradition…or maybe he started it in the first place. It’s hard to say.

Dad and Uncle Jim liked to invent different soups too. They would just start throwing different ingredients in and cook it up. They were pretty good at all this, because no one complained. Many men can’t cook at all, much less make up a recipe as they go along. In fact, a lot of women can’t do that. I know I’ve tried to add things I thought would be good, and it wasn’t so spectacular. I guess you were just born with a certain knack for it.

We always had so much fun when Uncle Jim and Aunt Ruth and the kids lived here, and it was really sad to see them move away. Time and distance have pushed our lives further and further away from each other. My cousin Larry passed away in 1976, Aunt Ruth in 1992, and my dad in 2007. We hadn’t seen much of Uncle Jim, Shirley, or Terry for a long time, until Facebook brought us back together. That is something I am very happy about. My Uncle Jim turned 90 a few days ago, and while he is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s Disease, I am still thrilled that he has reached such a grand old age. And I’m quite sure that whether people see it or not, there is still that little boy in there somewhere. Uncle Jim and my dad were always just a couple of little boys at heart 

So much has changed in the area of aviation over the years. I’m quite sure that the Wright brothers would be amazed. One thing that hasn’t changed since those first airplanes, however, is our interest, or in some cases obsession with flight. Many places around the country have displays of actual planes that are low enough to the ground to get you up close and most of these are displayed right beside entrances to memorials or other sights that are about flight. Planes, perched on a pole, give us the ability to stop and take pictures that we can use as a memory of our visit to the site.

Bob and I have made several of these stops to get pictures with an airplane of one type or another, and now looking back, I see that my parents and grandparents liked to do the same thing. There is just something about flight…the feeling of freedom, that draws us to it, but what really fascinates me is the changes in the planes over the years. If the Wright brothers were here, and a helicopter or a Harrier Jet took off, I’m sure they would stand there staring with their mouth wide open. The speed it took just to get their plane in the air for a few minutes compared to the lack of speed to get these in the air would be shocking.

When you compare the fighter planes of the past to those of today…well, just imagine if America had today’s planes in World War II. The war would have been over after one battle. No other nation would have been able to hold us off. The passage of time has brought new technology to the levels of being very dangerous in the wrong hands. I suppose it is a good thing that it came about slowly, so we could adjust our way of thinking. Still, craziness knows no generation, and there are always those who would start a war. And just a side note, be sure to take a good look at the cars in the first and last picture. Much has changed in the auto industry too…but, that is another story.

My Aunt Deloris was always a sweet and gentle spirit. She was one of the few people out there who, to me, seemed truly humble. She never tried to promote herself, and in that act, she stood out as someone very special to me. She didn’t have to show you how amazing she was, because you could see for yourself who she was. Sadly, Aunt Deloris passed away in 1996 of Brain Cancer. It was a sad time for our family. She was such a wonderful person with such a kind heart, and we wanted her to be with us for a much longer time.

I remember so many times when Aunt Dee, as we all called her, would come over to the house for visits. We all loved sitting around talking with her. She was always the kind of person who would help you with anything you ever needed help with. She especially loved buying things for the family, like the piano she bought for the family, that was a blessing to the family for generations, unless you happened to be Greg, who got his fingers slammed in it more than once. She also liked to dance, and taught her sisters and brothers how to do the Mexican Hat Dance when she was in 5th grade. She had an amazing imagination, and created many fun adventures for her sisters and brothers as well.

I will always remember Aunt Dee’s sense of humor, and her wonderful laugh. She had a way of changing a quiet moment into a laughing moment…especially when there was an argument going on. Like the time her sisters and brothers were fighting and Grandma got tired of it and said she didn’t want to hear another peep out of anyone. Of course, Aunt Dee couldn’t resist. She waited a moment or two and said quietly, “Peep!” After a moment of shock, in which her siblings wondered if she was going to live through such a bold move, everyone started laughing, and the fight was over. I’m sure Grandma didn’t really mind that one little case of disobedience.

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