Me

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For a number of years I have wondered why my sisters all had a sweetheart chin and jawline, while mine was pretty square. It wasn’t something my sisters particularly noticed, and maybe my parents didn’t either, but I did. It just seemed so…square. I always thought it made my face look fat…especially if I was seated in the front in pictures. In reality, I suppose it isn’t so different from my sisters, and most people would never notice it unless I pointed it out, but we are usually our own worst critic, so I definitely notice that jawline.

I was talking to my sister, Cheryl Masterson about it the other day, and we began to wonder just where it came from. I decided to take a look at the pictures I have of ancestors on my Ancestry tree. It took a few minutes, but I came across a grandmother, Mary Ann Jeffries, who married James Fishburn. Grandma Fishburn seems to have the same jaw line that I do. I don’t think I really look like her in most ways, but that jawline is pretty distinct. My sister had to agree too. We know very little about Grandma Fishburn, because she passed away back in 1913, long before I was born.

Mary Ann and her first husband, Andrew Lake were apparently divorced, because he died after her, but she went on to marry my 2nd great grandfather, James Fishburn in 1863. She and her first husband had a son, Christopher Daniel Lake in 1859, and with her second husband, she had Hanna in 1867, Almira in 1869, and Edna in 1871 (my great grandmother). James, my 2nd great grandfather, died in 1897. In about 1900, Mary Ann married John Parker, who died in 1914, about a year after she did. I don’t really know anything more but the woman with whom I share a jawline, but it seems to me that he was not a quitter. She didn’t let life’s disappointments destroy her life, but rather picked herself up by the bootstraps and moved forward. Maybe it was because she had children to care for or live for, or maybe she just understood that life isn’t always a bed of roses, and we must each play the hand we are dealt. With perseverance, and faith in God, we go forward, and live on. As for me, I finally know where that jawline came from.

During our visit to Superior, Wisconsin, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I were treated a couple of wonderful tours of the area. Our cousin, Pam Wendling and her husband Mike took us down to Canal Park, where we watched the Paul R Tragurtha coming into port to pick up a load of coal…that come to Duluth by train from none other than Gillette, Wyoming, by the way. The Paul R Tragurtha is known as the “Queen of the Lakes” and is the longest vessel on the Great Lakes at 1,013 feet 6 inches. Watching that great ship come into port is amazing. It was also great to have Pam and Mike there to give us the lake and ship history. Though we had been to Canal Park before, it just never gets old.

Pam and Mike also took us up the North Shore of Lake Superior to Two Harbors, Minnesota, and showed us all the sights in that area. The lighthouse there is really pretty, and we were able to get lots of pictures. There was a ship in the harbor that was loading Taconite, which is a low-grade iron ore. For a long time, when the high-grade natural iron ore was plentiful, Taconite was considered a waste rock and not used. Then, as the supply of high-grade natural ore decreased, industry began to view Taconite as a resource. Had it not been for Mike’s knowledge of all these mining, railroad, and shipping industries in the area, and in the United States, we would have seen these things, but really wouldn’t have know anything about the rich history that went along with it. It takes someone, like Mike, with a love of history to give us that.

Pam and Mike also do some hiking in the area, and we were shown some of the beautiful hiking trails, and the beautiful wooded areas around the lake. The streams and waterfalls especially appealed to us. That area has so many more trees that we have in Wyoming, and all that greenery made me long to get out and wander down the trail, but we just didn’t have the time, unfortunately. Pam suggested that Bob and I consider a hiking trip to the area, we may have to try to do that. The tours were beautiful, and the time we spent with them was very special to us. I am so glad that we have reconnected with all of our cousins in the Superior/Duluth area, and all over the nation. Amazing family connections.

A few years back, I connected with a member of my Schumacher cousins, Tracey Schumacher Inglimo, in what would become a quest to get to know all of my Schumacher cousins, and like my Byer cousins, there were lots of them. The journey has been a wonderful trip, as my sisters and I have cultivated friendships with these precious cousins, some of whom we met on our 2014 trip back to our roots in Superior, Wisconsin. Now, four years later, my sister, Cheryl Masterson; her daughter, Liz Masterson; and I have returned to Superior, Wisconsin for a family reunion. We have been so excited for this reunion to happen, and in fact, have looked forward to reuniting with all of our cousins since we first met or found each other on Ancestry and Facebook.

The reunion took place today at Pattison Park, and it definitely lived up to every hope we had for it. These precious cousins were friendly, hospitable, and informative, while also being curious about us too. We all shared tons of stories about our families, and of course, pictures of our kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. We hugged on the little ones, most of whom looked at us with a sense of wonder as to who we were, and maybe even wondering if we should be hugging them at all…at least until their parents said it was ok. We moved from group to group, and person to person trying to get to know everyone, all the while knowing that there just wasn’t enough time. We found out who the jokesters were too, because what family would be complete without those wonderful people who keep us laughing. We built bonds that will last a lifetime, and parted ways with expressions of sadness that the time had passed far to quickly. We tried to see how soon we could feasibly do this again, knowing that for most of us Facebook would have to suffice until the next reunion.

The time went by far too quickly indeed, and while we wish we could have had far more time to sit and talk, we all knew in our hearts that we had been given a precious gift…a gift of family, friendship, love, and a sense of belonging, because after all, that is what family reunions are all about. Families grow quickly, and the numbers can quickly grow to a point of losing sight of the ones who started the family in the beginning, but at reunions, those who have left us are remembered and discussed, because everyone is trying to put into context, just exactly where they fit in with all these people. We talked of those who weren’t with us with love and sadness, because they would have really loved that their families have made the effort to keep the closeness going. To all those who made this reunion so very special, we love you and thank you for making our family reunion amazing.

The longer we are married, the more blessed I feel with my soulmate. And…I’m not the only one that is blessed by my husband. Bob is a mechanic…through and through. For years before he had his own garage, we went to his parents house so he could work on cars there. When we bought our current house, it didn’t have a garage either, but it had enough room in back to build one, so we did. It was strange for him to simply have to go out in the back yard to get to the garage where he was working on someone’s car, but it made him very happy. In fact, I can’t think of a “gift” Bob has enjoyed more, or gotten more use out of than his garage. Most people would not even consider the garage to be a gift, but for Bob, it really was. No longer would he have to stand out in the wind and cold to work on a car, or make a trip to his parents’ house to work on a car. He had a place of his own to do that.

Bob has been working on the cars of his friends and family for as ling as I’ve known him. People often ask him, or me, if he ever gets tired of it. The answer is always quick, “No, he likes it. It makes him happy.” Most people want to come home after a long day at work and just relax, but not Bob. There’s lots of time to relax after it get dark. I suppose that Bob is of the “make hay while the sun shines” generation. After a long day at work, Bob would often put in another couple of hours out in the garage. Finally, he found that he had too much to do to waste time going to work anymore. That was a couple of years ago, and he hasn’t changed his mind about that one bit. He likes working for himself much better!!

After his retirement, I think lots of people thought Bob was just going to park in front of the television set and fade away. They were wrong. Bob’s work continued..it just changed locations…and bosses. No he simply walks out the back door to go to “work,” if that’s what you choose to call it. As to his boss, I’ve tried to tell him that I’m his boss now, but he doesn’t believe me. In fact, he seems to think that he is his boss, and I supposed he is right, but I don’t think I’ll ever admit to that. It doesn’t matter anyway, since he is doing what makes him happy…no matter who is bossing him. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Bob!! Have a great day!! I’ll love you forever and ever.

As our vacation comes the an end, I found myself contemplating a few things about the Black Hills, and why we love them so much. Of course, Harney Peak (now renamed Black Elk Peak, but always Harney Peak in my mind) is our favorite hike, and one we have hiked 16 times now. As we were driving to Keystone to catch the 1880 Train, which is our last day of vacation tour every year, I can get a glimpse of Harney Peak, and it occurred to me that I might be much the same as Doctor Valentine Trant O’Connell McGillycuddy, the white man whose ashes are entombed at the top of the peak at the fire tower there. McGillycuddy was the first white man ever to climb Harney Peak. And when he was an Indian Agent, he was respected and even called “Tasunka Witko Kola” (Crazy Horse’s friend), because he was of course, Crazy Horse’s friend, but was also loved and respected by all of the Lakota Sioux tribe. As a doctor, he treated Crazy Horse’s wife, which brought about their lifelong friendship. He also treated many other Lakota Sioux warriors when they were wounded in a wrongful attack by the army. To the Lakota Sioux, even his old enemy, Red Cloud, McGillycuddy was known as “Wasicu Wakan,” which literally means Holy White Man. It was probably the greatest sign of respect he could have received. Now I’m not saying that I could even begin to compare to McGillycuddy in all the things he did, but in one way, we are the same. We both love the Black Hills, and especially Harney Peak. After McGillycuddy passing, and as a show of respect, and to commemorate his love of the Black Hills and Harney Peak, his ashes were entombed in that amazing place.

Of course, for us there are many special places in the Black Hills. We love the trails. Among our favorites are, of course, Harney Peak, Sunday Gulch, Horsethief Lake, Cathedral Spires, the Flume Trail, the Mickelson, the Centennial, and French Creek trails. These trails take us to beautiful areas of the Hills that you just can’t see from the road. They are inside places like the Black Elk Wilderness areas. These are remote places where you have to sign in, just in cast you don’t come back out. It gives them a place to start looking for you. In reality, it would be hard to get lost, provided you stay on the trail. The trails are well marked and easy to spot. It’s just not easy to get lost. Some of the trails are really hard, however, and sometimes it just depends on the shape you’re in. A trail that was really hard one year can be a lot more tolerable the next year. The Black Hills are a challenge, at least for the tourist who gets away from the touristy things, and looks for the remote beauty of the Black Hills.

Since I was a caregiver for 13 years before the passing of the last of my parents and in-laws early in January of this year, I can tell you that being a caregiver, or a CNA is a big job that often gets very little recognition. Many people don’t really have any desire to do such a job, but because they remain in caregiving positions, Career Nursing Assistants provide predictability and stability to care, which in turn enhances the feeling of security for our aging, frail, or chronically challenged population. CNAs also bring wisdom, patience, humor, and a general attitude of caring to the daily lives of the residents in their care.

Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. It is a day founded by the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants to promote recognition, education, research, advocacy and peer support development for nursing assistants in nursing homes and other long-term care settings. This is especially close to my heart for a number of reasons, such as the care given to my parents and in-law, but most recently because my daughter, Corrie Petersen is now a CNA working toward her degree as a nurse. She currently works at Elkhorn Rehabilitation Hospital in Casper, Wyoming, and we couldn’t be more proud of her. Having been a caregiver, I can tell you that the work that CNAs do is vital to the well-being of their patients, whether in a nursing home facility, a physical therapy facility (which is where my daughter works), at the patient’s home, or in hospice facilities.

According to the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, “Nursing Assistants are the best thing about ‘caring.'” Nursing Assistants “Brighten Lives” according to Dawn Silva, CNA, New Hampshire, and member “Safe Patient Handling” committee. As more and more people are living longer, caring for the elderly has become more and more vital. With that care comes an increased focus on the people who care for the elderly…largely nurses and CNAs. It’s a noble occupation. While the work is hard, and what some might consider demeaning, the sense of peace it gives the patients makes being a CNA worth it.

Every CNA is a blessing to those they care for and the nursing staff they work with. They support the facility they work in and the patients they care for. They bring a smile to the faces of their patients, and the patients are grateful for the help they receive. I don’t know of a facility out there that could run effectively without its CNAs, and I know how hard it is when a facility is shorthanded on CNAs. It makes everything harder for everyone working there, and especially harder on the patients who depend on them every day. Today is National Career Nursing Assistants Day. I am very proud of my daughter, Corrie Petersen, and of all the other CNAs I know. Thank you all for the work you do. Have a wonderful day, each and every one of you!! Happy National Career Nursing Assistants Day!!

My older sister is without doubt, one of the nicest people I know. She is always careful of peoples feelings, and is generous to a fault. If she can help someone, she will help them. Cheryl is just a very caring person. She gave up much of her time to take care of our parents when they were ill, and often takes her youngest granddaughter, Aleesia for the evening, so that her parents can go to the summertime activities in downtown Casper with their sons. I’m sure that one day Aleesia will choose to go with them, but he loves her grandma very much and loves spending time with her.

Cheryl is a legal secretary for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville legal firm, and works for one of the busiest attorneys there, often working late hours to get everything done that needs to be done that day. She is very good at her job, and the attorney she works for has said that he would be lost without her, and really wishes she could see her way clear to refusing such things as vacation, because it is a real hardship for him when she is gone. Nevertheless, he has to persevere, because everyone needs a vacation.

Cheryl is a big fan of old movies or chic flicks, and so every Thursday night, she and I go to dinner with her daughter, Liz, and then we go back to her house and watch a movie. She and I don’t always agree on what makes a good movie, but usually we do. She has pretty good taste in movies…once you get away from things like “The Sound of Music” anyway. I know she would roll her eyes at me on that one, but there are just some shows that I can’t get into. Nevertheless, she got me going on the “Love Comes Softly” series, and “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” both of which I really enjoy. That sister time is really important to both of us, as we are very close, and we like to keep it that way. We have been good friends (and sisters) all our lives, and we don’t see any reason to change that now. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My dad was the top turret gunner and flight engineer on a B-17G Fortress Heavy Bomber during World War II. That was something that my family always knew. Dad didn’t talk much about it, but we were always very proud of him. What we didn’t know about all of that was that my dad was on the toughest plane ever built. At the time of his service, this little known fact probably wouldn’t have brought much comfort to his parents or siblings, but now, all these years later, it somehow brings a good measure of comfort to my dad’s daughter…me. My dad made it home from the war, of course. I know that there were times that his plane sustained damage, but it always brought the crew home.

The testing of the B-17 Bomber, as is the case with most planes was rigorous. Is this great trial, the B-17 Flying Fortress put up one of most impressive displays, proving not only an effective carrier of firepower in which the plane delivered over a 3rd of the ordnance dropped by the allies in Europe and much of the ordnance dropped in the Pacific, but an astoundingly tough plane. Pilots and crews soon learned that the B-17s, which flew tens of thousands of missions under heavy anti-aircraft and fighter-plane pressure, could take extraordinary damage and still get home.

During the war years, the B-17s proved time and time again just what a wonderful plane they were. While they may not have brought their entire crew home every time they returned, they came home with part of them even with parts of the nose, propellers, and wings missing…and even with a tail that was hanging on by a thread. Of course, if the wing was torn completely off or the plane took a hit that ripped it in half, it did go down, but that is to be expected, as was the case with B-17G-15-BO “Wee Willie,” 322d BS, 91st BG, after direct flak hit on her 128th mission.

Still, the condition in which some of these planes came home would have shocked the builder altogether, if you ask me. I have looked at the pictures of these damaged planes, and I don’t know how they stayed in flight. The “All American,” with the 97th Bomber Group, made without a doubt, the most astonishing return. The plane had a huge gash in it’s tail section from a collision with an enemy fighter, whose wing sliced almost completely through the fuselage. The tail gunner was trapped at the rear of the plane because the floor connecting his section to the rest of the plane was gone. The plane was piloted by Lieutenant Kendrick Bragg, who flew 90 minutes back to base with the tail barely hanging on. One crew member said that the tail wagged like a dog’s tail. The pilot, proceeded to drop his bombs, and then made a U-turn taking the plane in a wide turn over 70 miles, so as not to stress the tail. When the plane landed and came to a complete stop, the tail finally broke off. Now that is one tough plane!!

Wyoming has just two escalators, and they are both located in Casper. One is at Hilltop National Bank, and the other is at First Interstate Bank, in the historic part of Casper, the downtown district. My connection is to the escalator at First Interstate Bank, which was First National Bank then. The building that the bank occupies is located at 104 South Wolcott Street. Construction began in in 1956, the year I was born. According to a write up on nps.gov, “That building opened in June 1958. A pamphlet published by the First National Bank of Casper around 1959 stated: “The dream of the directors began to take shape in 1953, when Architect Robert Wehrli presented preliminary plans for the bank and tower building that was to rise at First and Wolcott…” At the time of its completion it was the tallest building in the state and featured the state’s first escalator. Drive-through windows and two levels of underground parking were introduced in the early 1960s.”

So, I’m sure you are wondering what that information and that building could possibly have to do with me. Well, with the pamphlet came a public invitation to tour the new bank at their open house. My mother, Collene Spencer decided to go and take her three daughters with her, my older sister, Cheryl, who was 5 then; my younger sister, Caryl, who was a baby; and her 3 year old daughter…me. The open house was very cool, and there were a lot of people there. We toured every floor, and found it all to be interesting and sparkling with newness. Of course, the highlight of the whole bank was the escalator. It was the first one in the state and everyone wanted to see it, and have a ride…and we were no different.

As we prepared to leave, my mom assisted me into the escalator, and then turned for my sister, Cheryl, who had stepped aside to look at something. By the time Mom got Cheryl on the escalator, I was a couple of people ahead of them. It had only taken a couple of seconds really. Nevertheless, my place in historic downtown Casper was sealed. As I approached the bottom, the older woman in front of me wasn’t sure just how to get off. In her momentary panic, she started backstepping. At 3 years of age, I had no idea how to do that, and so when my feet hit hers, it pushed her off of the escalator, and I fell. My screams could be heard all over the bank. My frilly dress became entangled in the sharp teeth of the escalator’s steps as they cut my elbow and chin. With that incident, while few people ever knew about it, and you would not read about it in any historical accounts, I became the first person injured on the first escalator in Wyoming. The bank president came running over, promising to pay for medical bills and a new dress, while begging my mother not to sue the bank. Of course, back then things were different, and a lawsuit was the last thing on my mother’s mind. For me, while I was only 3, the picture of that woman backstepping on the escalator steps has always remained clear and vivid in my memory files, and the scars on chin and elbow remain too. While I can use escalators, I still get a pain in the pit of my stomach every time I get on or off.

This is a guest blog, written by my daughter, Amy Royce, for my birthday. Thank you Amy. I love you.

If I had to describe my mom in one word, it would be “selfless.” – Concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with ones own. That is the definition of my mom.

She has shown that in so many ways throughout my life and the lives of those around her. She was at every single game, play, concert or awards assembly when my sister and I were growing up. This continued on when my kids and nephews were in school and I have no doubt that she will also be in attendance for all of those things for her great grandchildren as well. She is very excited about the arrival of her first great granddaughter in June. More recently, she had taken on the task of caregiver for family several members. She was always willing to put her needs aside to help them. I know that if someone asks, she will do it again and again.

My nephews, Chris and Josh, remember when she would take them to school everyday. She always made sure that they were on time….even if she was having a bad day because she broke her heel or because of a train going back and forth and she was running late for work. (They love bringing this up every now and then! Haha) Not only that, she would pick them up from school and take them to the Boys and Girls Club after school. I remember multiple times when she would take my kids or nephews to work with her when they were sick, just so that my sister and I didn’t have to take time off of our jobs.

Chris also told me that now that they are older, if they ever need someone to talk to or guidance through life, she’s always there. This statement is so true! She has been there with words of encouragement for my sister as she is going through nursing school. She is always there, with a willing ear, for me when I have problems in my job.

Jenny, my mom’s niece, told me that my mom bought her wedding dress for her. She came to the hospital to see all of her kids when they were born. She even let her move into their house for a couple months when she was a teenager. She loves it that my mom goes over and spends one night a week with her mom, Cheryl.

Carrie, our friend and her co-worker, says that my mom always has Godly advice and takes the time to listen. She is always ready to help explain things at work and she takes the time to explain them until Carrie gets it. She takes care of anything going at work when Carrie is not there. She has ALWAYS been there to help her through struggles; big or small. Carrie loves that she knows the Word and can always let her know “what point of view or perspective will better serve her.”

Quite honestly, I could go on for days about how selfless she is, but in addition to all these wonderful things I have told you about my mom, she has found yet another way to make others feel special! On someone’s birthday, when we normally send a quick Facebook or text message, my mom takes the time to write up a complete story. She doesn’t have to….she wants to. Today is my mom’s birthday and this is my story for her. We love you mom. Thank you for all you do…for all of us. Have a great day!

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