History

My Uncle Bill is the 2nd child of my dad’s parents, and at 91, he is the one who has lived the longest. He is the last one left. That is something that I find to be sad for those of us who have lost our parent from the Spencer side, and happy that Uncle Bill is still with us. Reaching the age of 90 was something Uncle Bill never expected, and now, he has gone beyond that, and as far as we know, he will still be here next year and the year after that. And that does make me glad, because I love him very much and really don’t want him to leave us yet. I’m happy that God has blessed him with long life.

His health is good, but I suspect he has forgotten more about the family history than most of us will ever know. Uncle Bill became interested in the family history as a young man, and he has kept extensive records. The records he has are more than remarkable, because it was mostly done without the help of computers. He received some help later in life that involved computers, but his research was not done that way. I have also done a lot of research on my family tree, and it was Uncle Bill who inspired me to do so. I must say, however, that I did use the computer a lot, so my research has come from the work of many other people too. Not as remarkable as Uncle Bill’s work, but effective just the same.

Uncle Bill’s life was based in many ways on his childhood experiences. From his love of guns and antiques, to his management skills, he watched those people he respected and sometimes even took on the same causes, as is the case with the aunt who got him started in genealogy. The guns came from his personal experience, and his love of antiques was what got his longest career going. He collected everything… guns, coins, stamps, and antique furniture. Then he decided to start a shop to buy, sell and trade those items. His shop was an amazing place, because you never knew what treasures were hidden there. Eventually, he started a mail order business, and sold his items all over the country, and probably the world.

Today is Uncle Bill’s 91st birthday, and I’m sure that if he were not retired, you would still find him working at his shop in Superior, Wisconsin, doing his very best to make that next sale, or sitting with one of the people that used to stop by just to visit, and  talk about old times. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! We love you very much and hope you have a wonderful day!!

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Ron gave his dad, my father-in-law a calendar from 2012 that he had used at work…not for the calendar but for the pictures. They were all pictures of tractors through the years. We all took a look at that calendar, because it was interesting to see how much tractors had changed over the years, and the different makes for that matter. I remember seeing one that could have easily passed for a travel trailer, were it not for the tractor wheels. And there were makes that even my father-in-law hadn’t heard of, and having grown up on ranches, I would have expected that he would know them all.

Since the Industrial Revolution, which occurred from 1760 to somewhere between 1820 and 1840, when manufacturing transitioned from hand production to machines, technology never stops changing. There are always new ideas, and someone to invent them. I recalled seeing a couple of pictures among the old pictures I have been going through, that showed a couple of different tractors used by members of Bob’s and my families. Even though these pictures probably weren’t taken that far apart in years, the two tractors are very different from one another. I suppose that the tractors themselves could have been much different in age, since you often use a machine for many years before it wears out, and they could have been for different work, thereby requiring different designs, but I was struck, nevertheless, by the vast difference in their design. My father-in-law also told me that it could depend on the area of the country, as to what makes of tractor were available. That makes sense too, in that different climates, and growing seasons might require different types of wheels and designs. I suppose that humidity could play a part in how the engines ran as well, and so could affect what tractor make would work better in those areas.

Technology is changing so fast these days that tractors may one day be obsolete, you never know. I mean…who ever thought there would be a vacuum cleaner that cleaned by itself, and yet now we have them. I don’t mean to say that crops will ever harvest themselves, or that the ground will just stay plowed, but one day there might be a machine that does those jobs with just a little bit of programing. Then, like the Roomba, which is no longer called a vacuum, the tractor might change its name with the modern advancement of automation too.

There is so much controversy these days concerning guns and gun control, and while I don’t usually write about political events, this one hits close to home for me and my family. For many years, my Uncle Bill was a gun dealer. He and his family had always had guns. He became interested in antique guns at some point and began to collect, deal, and show the guns at gun shows all over the north central part of the United States, and possibly even in the north west part, as well. Uncle Bill and my dad, as well as their sisters were raised around guns, and yet not one of them ever killed someone.

My family and my husband’s family have been around guns all our lives too. Our parents have hunted, as have many of us children and our spouses. If you live in Wyoming, as in many other places, owning a gun is really not so unusual. It doesn’t, however, give any indication that the gun owners here, or anywhere else are likely to commit murder. And, while people who torture animals, often move on to killing people, hunters usually do not. Legal hunters have a respect for the animals they hunt. It is to provide food for their family, that the hunter hunts.

For centuries, people have owned guns, and during all those years, mass school shootings were unheard of…until recently. Christians, like myself, mostly agree that it is largely because we have kicked God out of our schools. That makes so many people angry, because they think we are talking about God being angry at the schools because He was kicked out, but that isn’t it at all. In my opinion, when we removed God from our schools, we stopped teaching morality. Generations of kids have grown up with a changed view of right and wrong. Then those same kids are out there making television shows, video games, writing books, creating pictures, and so many other things that our impressionable kids are viewing. Wrong has become right…if it seems right to the person doing the wrong. It has become a matter of “the devil made me do it” or simply a matter of not allowing anyone to step on our feelings. It has become a good thing to be bad, and a good show is called wicked.

I think, that is we want to change things in this nation, we need to change what we are teaching our kids in school, and in life. Guns don’t kill people…people kill people, and very often, guns are not the weapon of choice, in fact, guns are used the least amount of the time. We can’t remove every possible weapon for the hands of people, unless we want to live in a Nerf world, and even then, people will use their hands, or they will just use rocks. We have to start teaching our kids and our adults the value of human life, and to respect each person’s right to life. We have to realize that few people intentionally set out to hurt the feelings of others, and as with bullying, the ones who do need to be swiftly punished. We need to stop looking at others as less important than we are, and treat each person with respect, no matter how the look, talk, and no matter what their race, gender, or age is. Our ancestors carried guns for many centuries, and did not shoot up schools or other public places in order to make a point, possibly because of the values our nation started on. Maybe we need to work to make all people feel like they are a person of value, because it isn’t the gun that kills, it is the person bent on revenge who kills people.

Most of the time, when I think about the faces from my parents’ past, I think of ancestors, or school friends, or maybe even old flames. All of those people bring questions to mind, but most of them can be answered, and the relationship laid to rest, at least in the case of old friends or old flames, but some faces continue to run through my mind again and again. Such is the case with the men who served in the Army Air Force with my Dad at Great Ashfield Army Air Base, which is just North of Ipswich in Suffolk, England. I know these men were Dad’s good friends, because they were important enough to him to take their pictures to preserve their memory for the rest of his life, but for whatever reason, their names were not put on the pictures, so I don’t know who they were.

Dad never talked much about the war, something that, while common among people who have fought in such battles, I nevertheless find strange. I always knew that he was a top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17 Bomber during World War II, but much of that information came from my mom. I guess she didn’t really know why Dad wouldn’t tell his daughters about something that made her and us so very proud of him either. I guess it just wasn’t his style, or maybe the memories of what he had to do there were just too hard to talk much about. Dad has always been such a gentleman, and had such a gentle spirit, that I’m quite certain that killing, even from a plane with a bomb, and not having to look at the faces of those who died, was something that was hard to live with, even though it was necessary, and even though he felt strongly about the purpose for which he was fighting.

In his letters home to his mom and family, he mentioned some names of friends from home, or people he trained with, but they were so restricted on what they could write about during their time in England, and the people they were with, that few names were mentioned. It was only after Dad had passed away, and we were going through pictures from his past for his slide show, that we found these pictures of his friends from his military days…those faces from Dad’s past, that I wonder about now. It was too late to ask Dad who they were then, and I have always been sorry about that. My niece, Michelle asked him about some of his military days for a report she was doing, but she didn’t know about these pictures then, or she might have asked.

I will probably never know who these men were, or if they were members of Dad’s crew on the B-17 he assigned to, and I am sorry about that. I have been trying to find out more about his military days and the men he served with, and these pictures could have been a great source of valuable information. Sadly, I will probably always wonder about the faces from Dad’s past, and the impact they had on his life.

Remember when life was simple. You were a kid with no responsibilities. You went to school and then you went outside and played with your friends. Sometimes, when life gets to be too much and my stress levels are through the roof, I really wish that I could go back there again, but then I suppose many people do. Life wasn’t always so complicated. Back in the old west, people didn’t have so many places to go. Families spent time together. Kids seldom went to play at someone else’s house, and spending the night was something saved for trips back East to visit family that you had not seen for many years.

The kids in a family had really two places the went…school and church. Other than those places, they were at home, helping out around the place or doing their homework. With no television or radio, there was no big news story to occupy their minds. They used their imaginations to pass the time. Kids might pretend to have families, or they might pretend they were on a train to visit famiy, or maybe even fighting Indians, although I seriously doubt that many girls played that game.

Today, the kids get bored if they don’t have a video game to play, or the MP3 player playing their favorite tunes, or television coming up with newer and more exciting ways to entertain them. Reading books is almost a thing of the past, and I don’t mean because of the Kindle, which I consider to be a form of reading a book, but because they would rather watch a show on television than read about it. Their imaginations don’t seem to be able to take them into the book like we used to be able to do. It’s all about what action is put in front of their eyes, not about turning words into pictures in your imagination.

Now, life is so hectic. Most people have several places to be right after work, and they can’t go home for an hour or more after they get off work. Dinner is often late, or picked up at a fast food joint along the way. There is just no time for a home cooked meal, unless maybe it is on the weekend or in a crock pot. No wonder TV Dinners became so popular…and the microwave, of course. I mean who has time to cook stuff in the oven either.  No one!! Life was so simple then…what happened?

As I was sending out a text today, I began to think about the changes in communication we have had through the years. In the very early years of our nation’s history, when a child married and decided to move West, it sometimes meant that family members never heard from each other again, and if they did, it was hit and miss. I’m sure that there were many broken hearted parents as a result of those moves, and I am equally certain that those moves brought about the changes in communication that we see today.

First, of course came the Pony Express, which while it greatly improved things, was still pretty slow, and news of family members passing or giving birth arrived quite some time after the fact. Not that anyone would have been able make it back in time, but it would be hard to find out after it is all over. The invention of the telephone greatly improved communication, and I’m sure people found it comforting to be able to hear the voice of their loved ones once again.

Today, with so many forms of communications, as well as ease of travel, we are able to see loved ones so often that we, maybe take it for granted. Even if you can’t be with family members, you can Skype, Video Chat, and Face Time, so not only can you hear their voice, but you can see their face, in real time.

Our modern communication abilities have maybe spoiled us to a degree. We have so many ways to talk and travel, and yet, I don’t know about you, but one of the main ways we communicate…texting,  is probably the least personal. It seems like in our busy world, it is easier to text and then wait for the answer, than to talk on the phone. The main reason for this is that you have to hold the phone to talk, so unless it is a long conversation, or one that should be held in a more personal way, we choose the more impersonal…texting. Many people think we text too, as a way of not being too social, and maybe that is so. It seems like we are becoming more of a solitary people in some ways. Still, texting, like the Pony Express, the postal service, the telegraph, telephone, computer, and cell phone are all ways of keeping in touch.

Many of the school children in Wyoming have had the unique opportunity to take a field trip to Fort Laramie, but most people didn’t go there as a family trip. My family, or I should say, my parents, liked a lot of things about the old west, especially any historical sites or trails. Over the years, we went to many of the sites around Wyoming and the surrounding states. Living in Casper, we have seen Fort Caspar, of course, but there have also been trips to Fort Laramie. One such trip, taken after I was married, and so not including my sister Cheryl or me…something that probably didn’t bother us then, but now, looking back, I’m sorry I didn’t get to go…mostly because Dad’s knowledge of the history of these places, and his love of teasing or role playing at these places always made things interesting. Dad would pretend to be one of the soldiers, or a trapper, or a shop keeper, so that he could pull us into the history of the place…hoping to pique our interest in the rich history of the area we live in. Most of the time, at least as we grew into our teens, his efforts failed to do much for us, other than maybe get a laugh if he was really acting funny, but as the years have gone by, I find myself very interested in the history of our great nation.

Fort Laramie, for example, was originally established as a private fur trading fort in 1834, but later evolved into the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains, before it was abandoned in 1890. It was originally named Fort William after it’s founder William Sublette, and was purchased in 1841 by the American Fur Company and renamed Fort John. In 1949, it was purchased by the United States Army to protect the many wagon trains of migrant travelers on the Oregon Trail. At that time it was known as Fort John on the Laramie River, which later became Fort John-Laramie, and finally Fort Laramie. As a side note, the Laramie River was named after Jacques La Ramee. In 1815 or 1816, Jacques and a small group of fellow trappers settled in the area where Fort Laramie would later be located. He went out alone to trap in 1819 or 1820 and was never seen again. Arapaho Indians were subsequently accused of killing La Ramee and putting his body in a beaver dam. The river was named “Laramie” in his honor, and the name would later be given to the Laramie Mountains, the fort, and the towns of Laramie, Wyoming and Fort Laramie, Wyoming.

Today, I find all that history very interesting, but as a kid, history seemed like dry memorization of names and dates. Now I think I wouldn’t have minded living in those exciting times, or maybe just have the ability to travel back in time once in a while to see what The Old West was all about. I suppose I am a little too tech-minded to really have enjoyed that more primitive time for very long. Nevertheless, I guess my dad accomplished his goals with me. I do love the history of The Old West.

Seventy one years ago today, one of the most horrific attacks ever launched on US soil took place. Following that attack, the United States entered World War II.  That would eventually lead to the men who would become my dad and my uncles, also entering World War II. So many people think that the United States loves to go to war, but that is simply not the case. The United States is a nation of people who try to give everyone the right to live and let live, but if we are provoked or if another nation is in need, most nations or terrorists will find that we are a nation they will wish they had not messed with.

Our family has not lost a soldier to war that I am aware of, at least not as far back and including World War I, so I don’t know what it feels like to lose someone to combat. I do know that whenever our nation is involved in a war, my prayers go out for protection for all our soldiers…those I know and those I don’t.

There have been times when our nation has been divided over whether or not we should be involved in a war, but when it is an attack on our soil, very few people protest the war. It just feels different, more personal, whether we know anyone who lost their life or not. They are our people, and this is our nation…our safe zone, and we don’t like having anyone come in and violate that safe zone. The attack on Pearl Harbor came as such a shock to so many people, because they had been lead to believe that we had made an agreement with Japan that they would honor, but no matter what they are like today, they did not honor the agreement made than, and many people paid for our nation’s trusting ways with their lives.

The attack on Pearl Harbor will forever be embedded in the minds of those who lived it and those who have studied it. Today, I want to honor all the men and women who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor and in World War II, and all the men and women who have served their country in World War II and all the other wars our nation has been involved in. Thank you all for your service.

During the holidays, my thoughts often turn to our military men and women who will likely spend their holidays far from home, whether they are in a war zone or not. I was never in the military, but my dad was, as were and in some cases, still are, brothers-in-law, nephews, and cousins. It is such a lonely feeling to think of being so far away from loved ones during the holidays, and it isn’t just about the festivities. For many spouses, and even children, it is about hoping that everything is under control back home. Worrying about things being broken down, needing maintenance, or even if there is someone to help with decorating for the holidays, are all things that are on the minds of our military men and women all the time, and especially during the holidays.

My dad was not married at the time he served in the military during World War II, but he and his brother and sisters had always played a big part in the running of the family farm, while their dad was away working on the railroad. I was reading the letters he wrote home in the days leading up to and including Christmas of 1943. Dad was always such a caring person, and he especially struggled with the idea of his mom and younger sister trying to run the farm by themselves. In Dad’s letter he expresses his concern, and then asks his brother to rent a house in town for the girls. Dad was also always concerned that they might not have enough money. He rarely spent much money on himself, saying that he didn’t really need much. That way, he could send more money home. He told his mom to use any or all of the money he sent home to save for when he got out, saying that he could always make more, and their needs were more important than a savings account.

Dad’s letters to his mom and siblings have been a treasured window into the person my dad was. He was a deeply caring man, who always took care of those he loved. Like so many other military men and women, he wished he could be home for the holidays, but he understood that he was doing something very important. He was fighting for freedom for our nation, and the nations around us who couldn’t fight for themselves. Dad’s sacrifice and the sacrifices of so many other military men and women have made so many freedoms possible, and yet, they themselves lose so much. It is something that we don’t always think about, and something I want to commend today.

I love the way that kids can be so inventive. They have some great ideas, and while they can’t always make their ideas into reality by themselves, with a little help, you will find that they will get it done. No one really knows who created the skate board, but it was designed by attaching wheels from a pair of skates to create a surfing effect. That way they could surf, even if the ocean waves weren’t cooperating. A good idea if you ask me.

Then there were the go carts. Made from things in the garage, they were usually wooden and used the wheels off of a tricycle or some such item. Of course, I would expect that the brakes took a little more figuring. I’m sure those first go carts ended in crashes more than they didn’t, and eventually someone found a way to make them stop. If they hadn’t, I think they would have stopped riding them after a while, since there is only so much crashing a person can take before they decide that this just isn’t worth the ride.

What I find very interesting, is the types of things the kids back in my parents’ day did when they wanted to create a new mode of transportation. It would appear to me that they were trying to make a sleigh, and they had no wheels…or snow, for that matter. I would imagine that it was a bumpy ride to say the least, but them these boys don’t seem to mind that thought much. I’m quite sure they were very proud of their new contraption. It also makes me think of the many kids these days, who have done their very best to hook their dog up to a wagon and have the dog pull them around. While that might work ok with a dog, I’m not so sure I would want to try it with a horse, but then, I don’t know that particular horse, and they surely did. It is quite possible that the horse knew the typical antics these boys pulled, and like any pet, who loves it’s master, the horse was gentle enough to go along with the new fangled vehicle that was hooked up to it.

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