History

The United States has been involved in many wars in our history. Our military personnel have placed themselves in harm’s way so many times for the rights of others and for freedom from tyranny. American soldiers and their allies around the globe stood up for what was right. They fought against those who would take away the rights of others, and steal the resources of other nations. They didn’t ask why they were being sent to these places, they knew. Human rights were being stomped on and the people being tourtured and killed could not stand up for themselves. They would either continue to be abused, or someone would come to their aid. That someone would be a soldier, because that is the job these brave men and women signed up to do.

My dad, aunts, and uncles either fought in World War II, or worked in the shipyards to help with the war effort. Others have fought in such wars as Viet Nam, Korea, Desert Storm, and others. Many have served during peace time. It doesn’t matter how they served, our veterans stood and still stand always at the ready…willing to lay down their lives for people they don’t know…willing to be away from their own family, because they knew that their job was important. Their job is still important today. Whether we are fighting in Iraq, Afganistan, Iran, Lybia, or wherever tyranny lives, and freedom is being oppressed. If that is where they are needed, then that is where they will go, and they will do their very best work…they will give it their very best, and some will give all they have. That is just what brave men and women do.

Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor those brave men and women, who have done so much for us and for so many other people and nations around the world. There is no way that we can ever repay you for all you have done for us. We will continue to pray for your safety every day. Thank you so much for your service to us, your country, and the world.

Back in the late 1800’s, life in the United States was rugged, especially if you didn’t live in the East. The people who lived here had a pioneer spirit, and they were used to making their own way. That didn’t necessarily mean that they were poor, although some lost everything they had. The amazing thing about that is that even if they did lose everything, many of them found a way to start over, and didn’t move back to the East.

It was that pioneer spirit in those early settlers of this nation. They proved they had what it took to make a life in a rugged and sometimes brutal land, that they had the guts to turn this land into the great nation it is today. There are still people out there like that today. People like my cousin, Shirley and her family who live in the mountains of Washington state, and when I say they live there, I mean they live mostly off the land. They hunt and fish, and they grow a garden. That pioneer spirit still lives strong in them.

Our Great Grandpa And Grandma Spencer raised their 6 children in various places, but at this point in their lives, they were living near Rock Falls, Wisconsin, the old O’Dell place, which is another thing I find funny. It seems like once a family lives on a place, it always belongs to them, or at least their name always belongs to the place. So, no matter how many families followed the O’Dell’s, the house would always carry their name. That was a tradition I never could figure out, but it still seems to be the case.

Our great grandparents and great great grandparents built this country with their blood, sweat and tears, and most importantly with pure gut! They had what it takes to make it in a land that could be brutal enough to kill a man, much less a woman, if they weren’t strong enough.

As I was going through some old pictures, of some family members who I don’t know, I came across some very old style wedding dresses and veils. The thing I found rather odd is that while the dress seemed overly simple, the veil and especially the head piece were overly elaborate. It almost seemed to me that what cost they didn’t put into the dress, they instead put into the head piece.

When my girls got married, the wedding dress was the biggest part of the wedding planning. The veil carried a close second to that, but the dress was really what you noticed. Pearls and sequines, and satin and lace were the bling of choice. The head piece was floral, but not nearly as big as the ones from years gone by.

I have begun to wonder about the history of wedding attire, so I did a little research on it. I found that in the early 1800’s, Weddings were very simple. The dress was often just their best dress, and believe it or not, was often black, because that best dress also doubled as a funeral dress. The other thing about that dress was that it was not kept in pristeen condition, but rather, it went back to normal use right after the wedding.

The white wedding dress was not the normal attire until 1840, when the newly crowned Queen Victoria of Great Britain wed Prince Albert. Unlike the monarch before her, Victoria chose to be married in a splendid, white satin gown. In reaction, young women in England and America, fascinated by the newly married queen’s style, immediately began insisting on white wedding dresses of their own. A new style was born. Our fascination with royalty seems to affect style quite often. Personally, I like this style change, because I think a woman looks beautiful in a white wedding dress. Of course, I have also seen beautiful brides in other colors or in embellished white dresses too. I’m sure the joy of the day plays a huge part in the beauty of the bride.

The symbolism of the bridal veil is as varied as the culture it comes from, ranging from protection from wind and sun, to warding off evil spirits. The most common is to symbolize modesty and purity, indicating that only virgins should wear them, but that is probably not followed much these days. The one I like best is that the veil is lifted by the husband to symbolize his acceptance of his bride…like accepting a gift. He unwraps his bride as he takes her as his own. Of course, with women’s lib came equal rights, so many women lift their own veil to symbolize their equality. As for me, I personally like the idea of the groom unwrapping his bride like a gift, for that is really what she is to him, as he is to her. The gift of love.

The USCGC Spencer (WMEC-905) is a U S Coast Guard medium endurance cutter. It was named after my 5th cousin 5 times removed, John Canfield Spencer. He was born January 8, 1788 in Hudson, New York, and died May 18, 1855 in Albany, New York. During the War of 1812, he served in the U S Army where he was appointed the brigade judge advocate general for the northern frontier. John was the 17th Secretary of War from October 12, 1841 to March 4, 1843 and the 16th Secretary of the Treasurer from March 8, 1843 to May 2, 1844, under President John Tyler. As one of few northerners in an administration dominated by southern interests, John found it was becoming increasingly difficult to serve in his cabinet post, so he resigned as Treasury Secretary in May of 1844.

WMEC-905 is the third cutter to serve the United States bearing the name “Spencer”. The history of Spencer started in 1843 when the original Spencer was commissioned to serve in the Revenue Cutter Service. An Iron hulled steamer, she served as a lightship off Hampton Roads, Virginia until 1848. The second cutter to carry the name Spencer was hull number W-36, commissioned in 1937. At a length of 327 feet, she first started service as a search and rescue unit patrolling Alaska’s fishing grounds. After the United States entered WWII, the Coast Guard temporarily became part of the US Navy. Spencer saw significant combat action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. In the “Battle of the Atlantic”,  Spencer acted as a convoy escort and hunted German submarines, sinking the U-225 and the U-175 in 1944. In late 1944, Spencer reported to the Navy’s Seventh (Pacific) Fleet as a Communications Command Ship. There she was credited with taking part in numerous amphibious invasions including Luzon and Palawan in the Philippines.

After the war, Spencer returned to her Coast Guard duties serving at an Atlantic Ocean Station. Here she provided navigational assistance for the fledgling trans-Atlantic air industry and more importantly, acted as a search and rescue platform for both airplanes and ships. In January 1969, Spencer returned to combat duty off the Coast of Vietnam. For ten months, she provided surveillance to prevent troops and supplies from getting into South Vietnam. In November 1969, Spencer returned to the United States to continue her peace time mission of ocean station keeping. The second Spencer served the nation for more then 37 years and when decommissioned in 1974, she was the most decorated cutter in the Coast Guard’s fleet.

The Spencer of today was commissioned into service on 28th of June 1986. She is credited for confiscating over 46,000 pounds of marijuana and 8800 pounds of cocaine. In 1991 she towed a disabled U.S. Navy frigate, twice her size, to safety, and participated in the search for a missing Air National Guard paratrooper during the “Perfect Storm”. In early 1996, she responded to the Alas Nacionales plane crash off the coastal waters of the Dominican Republic in which 189 people were killed. When the fishing vessel Lady of Grace became disabled during a severe storm in November 1997, Spencer was there to save the crew and tow the vessel to safety. In 1999, Spencer was the on-scene commander for the crash of Egypt Air Flight 990 off Nantucket, controlling both U S Navy and Coast Guard assets in search and recovery efforts. In 2005, Spencer was an initial responder during Hurricane Katrina.


I would like to thank TxHwy105 and Len Eagleburger on Ancestry.com for providing the Spencer historical information and the US Coast Guard site for photos of the Spencer.

My mom grew with stories about the Indians her grandfather had known in his lifetime. Of course, my Great grandpa Byer passed away before my mom was even born, but his legacy lived on long afterward. He had been a friend to the Indians, and had been invited to take part in their Pow Wows. I don’t really know how much this impressed my mom, but I know that she often talked about the stories she had heard so many times in her youth. I remember, Mom’s stories well…probably because she used to use examples of Indian things when she spoke to us in everyday life.

As with most kids, we figured shoes were optional in the summertime, and in reality, they were in the way. As a result of this belief, our feet spent the better part of the summer looking as black as the ace of spades. My mom liked to joke with us about our feet. She would say such things as, “Look at those feet! The are completely black! Are you part of the Blackfoot Tribe!” I didn’t know much about the history of the Blackfoot Indians, but apparently they got their name because of their moccasins, which were often black from walking through the ashes of the prairie fires. Many of the Indian tribes would set the prairie on fire as a way of…well, mowing the lawn. Tall grass provides a hiding place for enemies, be they animal or human. So, burning them made riding and walking easier, and gave the protection of the open areas with no place to hide from the tribe’s people. It was the best protection they could have.

I always used to wonder why she would say that we were from the Blackfoot Tribe, and then I checked into it. No, we weren’t wandering around the prairie, walking through the ashes left from mowing the lawn, but we did wear moccasins for a time, when they were in style. The reality, however, was that she was reminded of the Blackfoot Tribe, by her own little tribe of barefoot girls with feet as black as soot, running around, carefree and happy, in the summer sun. Her own little tribe of Blackfoot Indians.

You can’t research your family history without reaching the conclusion at some point that each of us is an amazing mixture of different heritages, cultures, and nationalities. The names that have combined to bring us to the point of our place in history, come from all walks of life, and from many different countries. After centuries of marriages, the bloodline changes to the point of becoming almost unrecognizable. If good records are not kept, it can get to the point of not being able to trace the family history at all. I have personally come up against parts of my family history where I am at a dead end, and all I can do is hope that somewhere along the way, someone had some information that they will input into their history, so I can continue on with my line.

When I think about the different nationalities that have come together to bring about the person who is me, I am in awe of how it can all mix and still keep some semblance of who the original people were. Of course, there is a definite loss of the cultures, languages, and homelands of the prior generations, but the bloodline doesn’t really lose its history, it just becomes somewhat like muddy waters. You can’t easily see all the details of each part of what makes up the whole, but you know that it is there…somewhere.

I find it so interesting to look at all of my ancestors. There were some amazing characters in my history. Famous names mingle with not so famous names throughout my history, and it makes me wonder how these different people ever got together in the first place, but then most people aren’t famous until later in life. Some are born into it, but many achieve greatness through the course of their life, and many live their entire lives with their greatness known only to their lives ones and close friends.

I believe that no matter who we are or where we come from, whether we are famous or not, we are an amazing mixture of all that is in our ancestry. No matter what country we now live in, most of us have come from many nations to arrive where we are. It is what makes us who we are, and it is why each of us is unique. Even siblings can take more of their line from opposite parents and thereby come more along the lines of that parent than the other. It is an amazing mixture.

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.

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.

These days graduation pictures are often very casual. They probably are more of a portrayal of the person, but in some ways, it takes away from the significance such an important event. When a graduation occurred back in my Aunt Evelyn’s school days, they often went out an bought what very well could have been the first new dress the graduate had owned. They also might have made the dress themselves, but either way, the dress was special. In many cases, it may have been more elaborate than the prom dresses of our day.

Such was the case for my Aunt Evelyn’s graduation. She looked stunning. When I saw the picture, I had to ask my mom what event this was for, because I expected it to be for prom or some other dance. I was a little surprised that it was for graduation, but as I thought about it, I realized that it made perfect sense. Other than marriage, graduation is the most special day in a person’s life, or at least the events that you might dress up for. Some people still dress up some for graduation these days, although not as much as my aunt’s attire, and I think it is kind of sad that the others don’t, because she looked amazing. In fact, this picture is one of my very favorites of my aunt. She is a beautiful woman, no matter what age she is at, but this picture is so elegant.

When I look at amazing pictures like this one of my aunt, is feel a sense of loss with the graduation pictures of today. I understand the desire to portray one’s self in their graduation pictures, but maybe it would be nice to add a few shots in a really nice outfit or even a prom style dress or suit for a man, so that the people like me who like a bit of elegance in our world, might have a picture of our loved one looking elegant like my aunt does in this picture.

In a time where it seems like it is every man for himself, I like to look back into the family history and see how things were done back then. People in the towns banded together. If someone needed to build a barn, they had a barn raising. All the neighbors came over…and brought pot luck dinners to feed the workers. These days you have to buy your friends a case of beer and a steak dinner just to help you move! Now, I know that doesn’t apply to every situation, but think about the number of times you or someone you know couldn’t get anyone to help them move without bribing them.

If we look back a few years though, we see that harvests were often brought in with the help of neighbors. They would start at one farm, and move to the next and the next, until the harvests were done. Harvesting can be a huge job, and one family really can’t harvest a big farm alone. Their neighbors had the same problem, so by working together, they could all get the job done, and everyone made a profit. Farming was and is a tough life, and when money is scarce and equipment was expensive, it was a real struggle. Many people couldn’t make it just because of weather alone, much less the inability to get the harvest in, in time to save it from the elements.

These days, so many people are struggling to make it on their own, because there is no one to help them.  I don’t mean lots of government help. I mean good old fashioned elbow grease and muscle. Most people can do most things on their own, but sometimes it is easier or more fun with the help of friends and neighbors. That is how things were back then, and the best part was that it gave these neighbors who often lived miles apart, a chance to get together and enjoy each other’s company. So many people miss out on the camaraderie of friends, because they don’t allow themselves to be willing to help out a friend. It’s something we should all think about.

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