As a little boy, my nephew, JD Parmely could usually be found hanging out with the men in the family, looking for ways to help with whatever they happened to be working on at the time. He was a busy little boy, and he wanted to be a part of the guys group. I guess he knew, even at such a young age, that he wanted to be a mechanic too. JD came from a long line of mechanics, so it was in his blood, it would seem…and that suited JD just fine. When he grew up, JD decided that he would go to tech school to learn everything he needed to know to be a professional mechanic, and so he spent time in Arizona at school…before returning to Casper, Wyoming as quickly as possible, to get out of what he considered to be the horrible Arizona heat.

While the majority of JD’s assistance as a child, was handing the men a tool…if he could figure out which one they needed, he has long outgrown the days when he doesn’t know about tools. Now that he is educated in the field of mechanics, he works mostly on his own projects…of which there are many, since JD is an avid car owner, who owns more cars at one time than most of us do in a lifetime…and drives them all!! JD is of the belief that one can never have too many vehicles. His “Day Job” is in the same field…mechanics. JD loves his work so much that he just brings it home with him…or, in reality, just changes locations, and works on his own vehicles in the evenings. He can’t think of a better way to relax, than to work on a car, and I think the rest of the men in the family are exactly the same way.

For many years, JD was the student, gleaning knowledge about mechanics from his dad, grandpa, older brother, and uncles, but at some point, the student became the teacher. In this family, we have mechanics who specialize in various pars of mechanics, as well as the same types as the others. What that does, is to provide a sounding board for the others, when they have an issue with something they are working on. It also provides for assistance when a job requires more than one mechanic. For me…lately anyway, it has seemed kind of odd, or maybe different, but not unexpected, that my husband, Bob, would be calling on his nephew, JD for information on a problem. I know it was bound to happen at some point, and has probably been going on for quite a while, but when I think about Bob asking JD for his help and ideas, I just have to smile, because the student has become the teacher. JD has come a long way, and yes he is another in a long line of mechanics, but somehow it just didn’t occur to me that he would be the go to guy for the other mechanics sometimes. Nevertheless, that’s what he is, and that’s what they are to him too. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

For the past year, I have worked with Amanda Ingram, who is the 15 year old daughter of my co-worker, Carrie Beauchamp. Amanda’s job is to file, make policy changes, take payments, and of course, answer the phone. It is a typical job for a customer service representative. No matter where Amanda is in the office, when the phone rings, she usually says, “I’ve got it.” Of course, that is her way of letting us know that we don’t have to stop what we are doing to answer the phone, but for me, her statement brings back years of teenaged memories…memories that the kids of today will most likely never have.

When I was a kid, we had just one phone in the house. It was the family phone, and my parents had five girls in the house. Over the years, mostly as each of us became teenagers, and had more friends, and especially boyfriends, we wanted to be the first one to the phone. It was especially important to get to the phone before our little sisters embarrassed us by talking to our friend or boyfriend and saying something that we might consider stupid or otherwise embarrassing…or simply embarrass us just by answering.

In our house, as in the homes of most of our friends, the younger kids just wanted to get to answer the phone once in a while too, but we assumed that it couldn’t be for them anyway, so they should just stay away from what we considered our own personal phone. I even recall being annoyed when the caller had the audacity to want to speak to one of my parents. What did they need to be talking about anyway. The older generation couldn’t possibly have anything important to talk about…could they? At least that was what we thought, with our typically self centered teenaged minds. It wasn’t that we were selfish, because I don’t think we were, but all teenagers are self centered to a degree. They think of themselves and their needs, as well as their insecurities, which were the main reasons that we didn’t want our younger siblings, or even our parents to answer the phone. You just never knew what they might say.

These days, with the invention of cell phones, we all have our own phone to answer, and most of the time, we don’t want to answer the phone for someone else, because that is…just annoying. Still, with the dawning of Facebook, and the fact that our friends can also reach us there, has come a new, and sometimes even better way for siblings to embarrass us in front of our friends…hacking our page. So, in that way, the kids of today can say, “I’ve got it.” And I guess they do.

Since my grand niece, Katie Balcerzak was a little girl, she wanted to be a mommy, just like most little girls do. After her marriage to my nephew, Keifer, she and Keifer were doggie parents to their puppies, but now they have decided that the time has come to have a child of a different kind. So, in February, their new little bundle of joy will make his or her appearance. In the meantime, it’s always a good thing that parents-to-be have time to prepare for their little one, and all of the changes that come along with being parents, because life is about to get really interesting for them…and for their puppy girls…who will most likely ease right into being “sisters” without batting an eye, because dogs love kids…at least all the dogs I have ever known. And especially if they get to know the baby from birth. Dogs just seem to know that they have a new playmate coming soon.

I think for Katie, being a mom will not be something so new, because she has been an aunt for a number of years, and therefore, she knows how to take care of babies. Anytime a girl has an older sibling, who has kids, she finds herself babysitting at a young age. And when a girl babysits, she learns how to take care of children. For Katie, who has long wanted kids, working at the Montessori School has been another way to prepare for her new role as mommy. I think that in reality, Katie’s whole adult life has been an ongoing preparation for having children of her own, and I am so excited for her as she and Keifer embark on the new world of parenthood, and all the incredible joys that go along with it. Babies, while a lot of work, are a most rewarding part of life.

Katie is a fun loving girl with a beautiful smile, and I think Keifer loved her from the moment he first laid eyes on her. She has a goofy side that appeals to the kids she spends time around, and she is patient with them too, so that endears her to them very quickly. Kids love an adult who doesn’t mind playing kid games and acting silly sometimes, and Katie is willing to do that. I suppose that would make her a kid at heart, and that’s ok. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

When we think of train robberies, most of us think of the Old West, and bandits on horseback, riding up along side the train, and jumping on. Then, with guns pointed at everyone, they robbed the train, and left the same way they came in. In fact, I think most of us thought that the days of robbing a train were over, and maybe that played to the advantage of the outlaws, because on August 8, 1963, a group of 15 thieves and 2 key informants pulled off one of the most famous heists of all time.

The leader and mastermind behind the heist was Bruce Reynolds, who was a known burglar and armed robber. He was an avid “fan” of the Wild West railroad heists in America, so he decided to see if he could pull something like that off in England. Reynolds and 14 other men wearing ski masks and helmets held up the Royal Mail train heading between Glasgow, Scotland, and London, England. The gang used Land Rover vehicles which had been stolen in central London and marked with identical license plates in order to confuse the police. Unlike the Wild West gangs, this gang used a false red signal to get the train to stop, then hit the driver with an iron bar, seriously injuring him, in order to gain control of the train. The thieves loaded 120 mailbags filled with the equivalent of $7 million in used bank notes into their Land Rovers and sped off to their hideout, which was the Leatherslade Farm in Buckinghamshire, England, to divide their loot. The robbers had cut all the telephone lines in the vicinity, but one of the rail-men left on the train at Sears Crossing caught a passing goods train to Cheddington, where he raised the alarm at around 04:20.

As often happens, the media reports on these things, and before you know it, they are viewed as folk heroes by the public for the audacious nature of their crime and their flight from justice. The first reports of the robbery were broadcast on the VHF police radio within a few minutes and this is where the gang heard the line “A robbery has been committed and you’ll never believe it – they’ve stolen the train!” I’m sure that added to the charm felt by the public, because seriously, who but an eccentric, would steal a train. As always seems to happen, 12 of the 15 robbers were eventually captured. They received a collective 300 years in prison. One of them, a small-time hood named Ronnie Biggs, escaped from prison after just 15 months and underwent plastic surgery to change his appearance. He fled the country and eluded capture for years, finally giving himself up in 2001 when he returned from Brazil voluntarily to serve the 28 years remaining in his sentence…a rather odd thing to do, considering the fact that he had successfully escaped. The two Land Rovers used in the robbery were discovered at the thieves’ hideout. A car enthusiast still owns one of them today, and considers it a collector’s item.

Motherhood is not a new venture for my grand niece, Melanie Harman, because she has been a mom since her daughter, Alice Green was born almost five years ago. Nevertheless, being the mother of three children is quite different than being a mother of one child. Following her marriage to my grandnephew, Jake Harman, Melanie and Jake, further expanded their family with the addition of a daughter, Izabella on December 21, 2015, and a son, Jaxx on May 30, 2017. With Belle, family outings were not a big issue. It was cold, and no one minded staying home. But with Jaxx, summer was just beginning, and the family wanted to do some things…and, one thing in particular…camping. That’s not the easiest thing to do with a baby either.

For the most part, healthy babies can go wherever their parents go, and Jaxx was a healthy baby. Still, every young mother wants to feel like their plans for the baby are ok and safe. Melanie is no different, so she asked friends with children how long they waited to go camping. Satisfied with the information she received, Melanie and Jake moved forward with their camping weekend plans. I’m sure it was with mixed emotions, that they made plans to take their children, including their one month old son camping for the Independence Day holiday weekend. They weren’t going far, just up on Casper Mountain, which is right outside town. It wasn’t that they worried about the safety of their son, but rather all the work of camping with a baby. Still, they weren’t the first ones to do that, as lots of people have camped with a baby. As expected, the camping trip went very well, and Jaxx not only survived the trip, but Melanie and Jake did too. Sometimes, I think it is the parents who may not be ready for such an outing!! There is a lot of work involved to take a baby camping, and the tent is not always conducive to some of the required elements of bringing a baby along

Melanie is a great mom, and her kids are well behaved and sweet. She is living her life dream…to be a wife and mother. There may come a day when she decides to opt for a career, but for right now, here babies need her more than the family needs the extra money, and if a woman plans things out right, the money will usually stretch to provide for the family and yet allow her to be at home raising her kids, rather than having them in daycare, where someone else is essentially raising them. I’m not saying that daycare is a bad thing, but if a mom can stay home while the kids a small, it is really a good thing, and that is what Melanie wants to do, and Jake wants her to be able to do. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

A few months ago, my brother-in-law, Mike Reed, who is an avid hunter, took the trip of a lifetime, when he went to South Africa for a real African Safari. For a hunter like Mike, this trip was something they often never get to take, and never really dared to dream that they might take. This trip was not a family trip, my sister, Caryl, Mike’s wife, did not go. Mike went with his boss and friend. This was a guys trip, and it was not intended to be a relaxing vacation, but rather it was going to be a lot of work. Some of the animals were fairly easy to locate, but others took a good amount of walking and lots of patience.

Each new day began with the hunters in the Safari heading out in search of a different type of game. If the hunt was successful, they would come back with. not only a new trophy to be hung on the wall, but the promise of a great meal the next day. After the meal, the rest of the meat was given to the villagers. It was a win-win situation for all concerned. The people running the safari took really good care of the hunters. They didn’t want for anything. Their food was great, and the service was good too. The hunters brought back Kudu, Eland, Gemsbok, two Impala, two Wildebeest, Zebra, Sable, and Waterbuck. Mike says he liked the taste of the Gemsbok the best. Mike was also trying for a wild boar, but while he had a good hunt, he did not bring home the bacon.

The trip was truly the trip of a lifetime for an avid hunter, and one he’s not likely to take again, but don’t let that fool you. Mike is a hunter and he will go for one of some hunting trips again. In fact, he got word that he has a license for a hunt in Alaska in 2019, so it looks like he will have many opportunities in the future. If he keeps going hunting and having such successful hunts, they may have to build another room to put all of his mounts. And I don’t think he will mind that either. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The worst fate a ship can suffer is to end up at the bottom of the sea. Nevertheless, it is a hazard that goes with the territory. Most of these lost ships simply litter the ocean floor, never seeing the light of day again, but once in a while, a ship…or part of a ship finds itself being raised up from the bottom again. Such was the case with USS Monitor, a Civil War era naval warship, that sunk to a watery grave in a storm on March 9, 1862, taking with it, 16 members of it’s crew, who were afraid to go topside in the storm.

A short nine months before the tragedy of the USS Monitor, the ship had been part of a revolution in naval warfare. On March 9, 1862, it dueled to a standstill with the CSS Virginia in one of the most famous moments in naval history. It was the first time two ironclads ships faced each other in a naval engagement. During the battle, the two ships circled one another, jockeying for position as they fired their guns, but the cannon balls were no match for the ironclad ships, and they simply deflected off of the sides. In the early afternoon, the Virginia pulled back to Norfolk. Neither ship was seriously damaged, but the Monitor effectively ended the short reign of terror that the Confederate ironclad had brought to the Union navy. What a strange battle that must have been.

The USS Monitor was designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson. Probably the most strange part of the design was the fact that Monitor had an unusually low profile, rising from the water only 18 inches. The ship sat so low to the water, that it could easily have resembled a submarine. The flat iron deck had a 20 foot cylindrical turret rising from the middle of the ship. The turret housed two 11 inch Dahlgren guns. The shift had a draft of less than 11 feet so it could operate in the shallow harbors and rivers of the South. It was commissioned on February 25, 1862, and arrived at Chesapeake Bay just in time to engage the Virginia. After the famous duel with the CSS Virginia, the Monitor provided gun support on the James River for George B. McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign. By December 1862, it was clear the ship was no longer needed in Virginia, so she was sent to Beaufort, North Carolina, to join a fleet being assembled for an attack on Charleston.

The Monitor was an ideal type of ship in the sheltered waters of Chesapeake Bay, but the heavy, low-slung ship was no good in the open sea. Knowing that, the USS Rhode Island towed the ironclad around the rough waters of Cape Hatteras…a plan that would prove disastrous. As the Monitor pitched and swayed in the rough seas, the caulking around the gun turret loosened and water began to leak into the hull. More leaks developed as the journey continued. High seas tossed the craft, causing the ship’s flat armor bottom to slap the water. Each roll opened more seams, and by nightfall on December 30, it was clear that the Monitor was going to sink. That evening, the Monitor’s commander, J.P. Bankhead, signaled the Rhode Island that they needed to abandon ship. The USS Rhode Island pulled as close as safety allowed to the stricken USS Monitor, and two lifeboats were lowered to retrieve the crew. Many of the sailors were rescued, but some men were too terrified to venture onto the deck in such rough seas. The Monitor’s pumps stopped working, and the ship sank before 16 of its crew members could be rescued. It amazes me that a ship that could deflect cannon balls, was taken down by loosened calking.

On this day in 2002, the rusty iron gun turret of the USS Monitor rose up from the bottom of its watery grave, and into the daylight for the first time in 140 years. The ironclad warship was raised from the floor of the Atlantic, where it had rested since it went down in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during the Civil War. Divers had been working for six weeks to bring it to the surface. The remains of two of the 16 lost sailors were discovered by divers during the Monitor’s 2002 reemergence. Many of the ironclad’s artifacts are now on display at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

Hitler was an insanly, evil ruler, and he hated the Jewish people…that is a known fact. It wasn’t anything they did, it was just his own twisted mind. That said, the Jewish people found themselves hiding in order to save their lives. Anne Frank was one of the most famous of those persecuted Jewish people, most likely because of her diary, which was published by her father following her death at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, and his release following the liberation of the camps. Annelies Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929. She was the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Frank-Hollander, both of Jewish families that had lived in Germany for centuries. With the rise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in 1933, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam to escape the escalating Nazi persecution of Jews. In Holland, he ran a successful spice and jam business. Anne attended a Montessori school with other middle-class Dutch children, but with the German invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 she was forced to transfer to a Jewish school. In 1942, Otto began preparing a hiding place in an annex of his warehouse on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam. It was a wise move, given what was coming. The family moved in on July 15, 1942, when Anne’s sister, Margot received a letter telling her to report to the labor camps in Germany. Knowing what that meant, the family took refuge in the secret hiding place they had prepared. This would be their home for the next 25 months.

Nineteen months earlier, on December 1, 1940, Anne’s father Otto Frank moved the offices of the spice and gelling companies he worked for, Opekta and Pectacon, from an address on Singel canal to Prinsengracht 263. The warehouse on Prinsengracht Canal, where Otto Frank ran his business, was a perfect place to create a safe room for his family, should the need ever arise. On July 15, 1942, the need arose. The ground floor of the building consisted of three sections. The front was the goods and dispatch entrance, basically the storefront. Behind the storefront was the middle section where the spice mills were located. At the rear, which was the ground floor of the annex, was the warehouse where the goods were packed for distribution. On the first floor above were the offices of Frank’s employees…Miep Gies, Bep Voskuijl (known in Anne Frank’s diary as Elli) and Johannes Kleiman were in the front office. Victor Kugler in the middle and Otto Frank in the rear office above the warehouse and below the floors which would later hide him and his family for two years until their betrayal to the Nazi authorities. The Achterhuis (Dutch for “back house”) or Secret Annex…as it was called in The Diary of a Young Girl, an English translation of the diary…is the rear extension of the building. It was concealed from view by houses on all four sides of a quadrangle. Its secluded position made it an ideal hiding place for Otto Frank, his wife Edith, two daughters, Margot and Anne, and four other Jews seeking refuge from Nazi persecution. Though the total amount of floor space in the inhabited rooms came to only about 500 square feet, Anne Frank wrote in her diary that it was relatively luxurious compared to other hiding places they had heard about. Those in hiding had been so careful. The entrance to the secret annex was hidden by a hinged bookcase, and former employees of Otto and other Dutch friends delivered them food and supplies procured at high risk. Anne and the others lived in rooms with blacked-out windows, and never flushed the toilet during the day out of fear that their presence would be detected. In June 1944, Anne’s spirits were raised by the Allied landing at Normandy, and she was hopeful that the long-awaited liberation of Holland would soon begin.

The family remained hidden here for two years and one month, praying that the war would end, and Hitler would be defeated before they were found. They stayed there until they were anonymously betrayed to the Nazi authorities by a Dutch informer, arrested, and deported to their deaths in concentration camps. Of the hidden group, only Otto Frank survived the concentration death camps. It was on this day, August 4, 1944, that time ran out for the family and friends in the secret annex. The Nazi Gestapo showed up at the warehouse, and they knew everything they needed to know about how to find the group of Jews in the secluded hiding place. They went right to the bookcase door and charged into the secret rooms. I can only imagine the terror that followed…the screaming, the running, the fear of knowing what was probably coming next. They were sent to a concentration camp in Holland, and in September Anne and most of the others were shipped to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In the fall of 1944, with the Soviet liberation of Poland underway, Anne was moved with her sister Margot to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. Suffering under the deplorable conditions of the camp, the two sisters caught typhus and died in early March 1945. The camp was liberated by the British less than two months later. Otto Frank was the only one of the 10 to survive the Nazi death camps. Two short months…or six short months, if you look at when they were captured. What a waste of a life or lives, and all because of the insanity of one man.

When a man retires, life slows down, and he begins to take it easy. Ok, let get real. he majority of men retire and have dozens of “honey-do’s” to get done, and not only for their wives. Somehow the “daddy-do’s” are just as big a part of life now…not that Daddy would want it any other way. After all, at least for my brother-in-law, Lynn Cook, his girls, Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith are his princesses, and what they want or need, he will try to get it for them. And of course, now that he is retired, he has lots more time to spend with his grandchildren, Weston and Easton Moore, Jala Satterwhite, and Kaytlyn Griffith too.

Over the past month, Lynn has found himself in the middle of a daddy-do at his daughter, Machelle’s house. For quite some time, Machelle and her husband, Steve had to shovel the snow off of the grass, because there was no sidewalk. Anyone who has done that, knows that it can be a pain in the neck, but you don’t want to wade through the snow ether, so you shovel the grass. Recently, Machelle and Steve decided that the time had come to put in a sidewalk and a patio. Thankfully, they were able to call on Lynn to help with the work…and it does help to know people, who know people. Lynn was able to find a dump trailer and skid steer, and then he worked on digging everything out while Machelle and Steve were working during the day. It was a wonderful help to them!! They all worked together, digging some areas by hand and others by machine. Finally they were ready to pour the cement, and when it was all done, it looked amazing. Machelle and Steve couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

Of course, when Lynn isn’t doing his daddy-do’s, he and my sister-in-law, Debbie, his wife of 43 years, love to go camping in the Big Horn Mountains. They will head up the mountain, and stay there two weeks of so, just hanging out, enjoying the quiet peacefulness, and the crisp mountain air. It s a retreat they both love very much. When they aren’t camping, Lynn has been fixing things up around their house…just to keep busy, and enjoying his retirement by spending time with his family. Today is Lynn’s birthday. Happy birthday Lynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Sean Mortensen is a mechanic for Anadarko, by trade. Since I have been married to a mechanic for 42 years, I can tell you that they work very hard. Being a mechanic, of any kind, is a hard job, and from what I’ve seen, the mechanic is usually the only person taking care of the vehicle or equipment. The operator, on the other hand, is usually pretty hard on the vehicle or equipment…after all, it isn’t theirs, so what difference does it make…right. That’s what the mechanic deals with every day. By the time they get home, they often feel exhausted.

That’s where Sean differs from a lot of other mechanics…at least on the weekends. You see, Sean’s motto is work hard…play hard. When the weekend rolls around, it’s time to cut loose, and party at the lake with friends. Sean, and my niece, Amanda have lots of great friends, all of whom enjoy the lake and summer fun. And when you think about it, why do we work anyway? It isn’t because we all love working, it’s because we want to be able go out and do the things we like to do in life…like play at the lake. Of course, the lake is only Sean and Amanda’s summer playground. In the winter, they are out on the snowmobiles, getting as deep as they can in a snowdrift. The colder weather doesn’t slow down their fun on bit. Many people tend to hibernate in the winter, longing for the summer months, but not Sean and Amanda. They just change playgrounds, and the fun continues.

I suppose it sounds like all Sean and Amanda do is party, and that might be something they really enjoy, but they are also very responsible people. They work, own their own home, and they have raised a beautiful 13 year old daughter. Adulting is a fact of life they take very seriously too. People depend on them and the fact that they will do their jobs. If no one worked, how would anything ever be accomplished. There are people who don’t want to be a part of a working community, but would rather that the government take care of them, and I am proud to say that Sean and Amanda are not a part of the “hand out” community. The things they have, they have earned. There is a certain amount a pride that can be taken away from that. They work hard, and they play hard, because they have earned it. Today is Sean’s birthday. Happy birthday Sean!! Have a great day!! We love you!!