My nephew, Rob Masterson has had what his wife, Dustie recalls as a “not very interesting” year, but as I talked to her, I determined that maybe that analogy wasn’t quite accurate after all. Rob, who is a supervisor in the auto shop and tire sales area of Sam’s Club, has done something that no other employee of that area of Sam’s Club has done so far. Rob became the first Sam’s Club employee, at this location, to complete all of his out of state tire trainings. At his trainings, Rob learned everything anyone could possibility ever want or need to know about tires, and probably more than most of us ever cared to know. Nevertheless, Rob found it quite interesting. He told Dustie that he drove cars with new tires on the front and then another one with them on the back to feel the difference. He got to drive all kinds of tracks on many different vehicles and wheels.

Dustie is sure, and I would agree, that Rob’s favorite training trip was to Las Vegas. The Vegas trip was the final training trip, so Dustie told me that the training was a little more relaxed. I would say so!! According to Dustie, “He got to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and an Alfa Romeo on the last Vegas speedway. He got some video of it. He was driving like a madman!” Not many of us, who are not racing drivers, get the chance to feel what it is like to race on an actual speedway…much less to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or an Alfa Romeo in the manner of a driver in a real race. Rob got that opportunity, and he relished it. I’m sure many men would have.

Work, for Rob, might not have seemed interesting to Dustie either, but for most of us, this year has been quite interesting, indeed. How many years have most workplaces adopted the practice of wearing medical masks. Not many who are not medical workplaces, I would wager. Nevertheless, while at work, and especially while helping customers, masks have become mandatory in many businesses. The jury is still out as to how effective the wearing of masks is, in disease prevention, but for now, this is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Because they have worked so much this year, Rob and Dustie and decided that they owe it to themselves and their children, Raelynn, Matt, and Anna to take some trips this summer. They decided that even though travel is necessarily somewhat limited right now, Wyoming has enough historic and beautiful places to allow them to spend all summer traveling and learning the history right here in their home state. They are planning trips to Devil’s Tower, and Thermopolis for sure, and are looking are several other places too. I’m sure they will have a wonderful summer, for sure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister, Caryl Reed is a retired Respiratory Therapist. With everything going on, I’m surprised she was not asked to come back for a time, but the hospital where she worked was a smaller hospital, and maybe that made the difference. Still, she did go back to work part-time at Professional Home Oxygen, where she works about 12 hours a week as a tank fill technician. Caryl’s road to respiratory therapy was not an easy one, and at one point got completely railroaded. Caryl was living in Oak Harbor, Washington at the time, and had walked to the school to pick up her daughter, Andrea Spicer. On the way, it began to rain, and she slipped on the wet grass and badly broke her leg. The break required surgery to place pins and screws in her leg. Needless to say the recovery time caused her to completely lose all the time she had put in. If she wanted to be a respiratory therapist, she would have to start all over. It was a devastating blow, but Caryl would not be deterred. She persevered and began again.

During the time that she was trying get things restarted, her life changed in many ways…not the least of which was a move to Rawlins, Wyoming with her new husband, Mike. The Carbon County Memorial Hospital made the decision to put Caryl on in their Respiratory Therapy Department, contingent upon her finishing and passing the necessary tests to receiver her degree and license. It was a good risk for them, as Caryl did finish and pass the tests. She soon became one of their head Respiratory Therapists, and when she retired, they truly hated to see her go, but shift work and long hours on her feet convinced Caryl that it was time. She and her husband, Mike were preparing to go another direction…their eventual move to Casper, after Mike retires. They have been paving the way for that move by buying a beautiful and large piece of land west of the city, and proceeded to build their home there. Caryl hasn’t lived in Casper, for most of her adult life, and we have missed her. We ar all looking forward to having her and Mike living in Casper, where we can all spend more time together again. Of course, she is already enjoying her retirement, and being able to do the things she wants to do, and previously didn’t have the time to do. She had a wonderful career, and it is something she will always be glad she chose to do. Her perseverance just goes to show that even in the face of adversity, we can be victorious if we push forward, and never give up. Today is Caryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Caryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandson, Caalab Royce met a girl a while back and they have been almost inseparable ever since. Her name is Chloe Foster, and she is as sweet as she can be. These kids are perfect for each other. Both are dedicated to their families and to each other’s family too…and the cool thing is that their families like each other too. It’s always special when you can join two families…because the kids got together. When Caalab met Chloe, his whole life changed. I really didn’t hear about anything else but Chloe, and when we met her, we could see what he saw in her. Her personality was totally infectious, and I enjoyed meeting her very much.

As Chloe’s birthday approached I began to wonder about this girl who holds my grandson’s heart. I knew that she is studying criminal justice in college, and that she is a Christian, which makes me very happy. She has a sweet spirit, which I have seen in the things she posts. Caalab tells me that she has been spending part of the “shelter-at-home” time in which we have all found ourselves, studying the Bible. She is a girl who prays and allows God to lead her in the way she should go. These kinds of things make my heart glad.

Chloe is also a very talented artist. She recently sat down and is just a few hours she had painted a watercolor picture of Bob Marley. Caalab really likes Bob Marley, so he was very impressed with her work. I don’t know too much about Bob Marley, but I know enough to recognize him in her painting. She did a good job. Recently, I friended Chloe’s mom on Facebook, and when looking at her pictures, I saw some of the funnier ways that Chloe uses her artwork…namely, greeting cards. I won’t display them here, but let’s just say she thanked her parents for their part in giving her life…her mom for Chloe’s first home, and her dad for putting her and her brothers, Tyson and Tanner, in the race in the first place. The cards were tastefully done, and very sweet in a funny sort of way, but they told me more about this girl who has loved cows for much of her life. I thought it funny, when my granddaughter, Shai Royce, Caalab’s sister, told me to buy Chloe something with a cow on it for Christmas…now, I can see that Shai knows Chloe pretty well. Shai loves Chloe as much (well almost as much) as Caalab does. As a grandmother, I can say it is heartwarming to know that someone cares so much for my grandson…that she not only holds his heart, but she protects it too. Today is Chloe’s birthday. Happy birthday Chloe!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Mike Stevens, who has always liked fishing, had the opportunity this past winter to try something new, when he and his son, Garrett went ice fishing for the first time. The trip took them out on the Tongue River Reservoir, just outside Sheridan, where Garrett lives with his wife, Kayla and their daughter, Elliott. The spot they went to is just a couple of miles into Montana, next to the coal mines up there. Kayla’s grandfather has an ice shanty there. The morning was not very productive, other than lots of visiting, but they did see one Northern Pike, which Mike quickly speared. The fish, it turns out weighed 14 pounds…nice!! Since the fish didn’t seem to be hanging around that area, they decided to go down the ice to where Kayla’s uncle had a shanty. After just 10 minutes, they speared two smaller, approximately 9 pound Northern Pike, about 10 minutes apart. Then, 15 minutes later, a big 15 pound Northern Pike came in and swallowed the lure, they had to spear him to get him out of the water. Garrett tells me that Mike was “hooked after that first one and then having the other 3 come in so fast just solidified it.” They are talking about going again next year, and Garrett plans to build his own shanty. It is a wonderful new way for father and son to connect.

While Mike likes to fish, that is not the draw that Sheridan has on him these days. Garrett and Kayla and their daughter are the main reasons Mike and Alena want to go to Sheridan. Elliott is their first grandchild, and they are so in love with her. Having the kids live a couple of hours away has been hard on them, but with FaceTime, they are able to keep in touch, and they go to Sheridan as much as they can, to spend time with them. My sister tells me that whenever they FaceTime with the kids, Elliott asks for her Papa, but Alena is still sure that she loves her Namma the most, hahahaha!! I suppose Mike will argue that one.

Another new thing for Mike and Alena this year, was hiking is the Sheridan area. They hiked along the Tongue River, and Alena said it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I can totally relate, because my husband, Bob and I love to hike too. I haven’t spent much time near the Tongue River, but I suspect that Mike and Alena will find themselves hiking that area a lot more. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Life takes many turns and journeys around winding roads sometimes. Sometimes we think that the dreams we had will never come to pass, and then, suddenly, we find ourselves right in the middle of our life’s dream, and we are just a little bit stunned at how we got there. For almost as long as I have known her, my grand niece, Katy Balcerzak has wanted to be a mom. I think that for part of that time, she honestly didn’t think it would ever come to pass, but then, suddenly she found herself and her fiancé, Dylan Herr expecting a child. I can imagine that the sky lit up with rainbows and fireworks at the news. There are few things that truly compare to bringing a child into the world. For so many couples, it is the picture of their love.

Katy’s life had already taken many wonderful turns, when she met Dylan. They are just so happy together. They always look so serene when they are together, but as anyone who has been in love knows, that is the look of love. Now they have that look, not only for each other, but for the new little life that is growing inside Katy. June can’t come soon enough for anyone in this family. Our Katy is absolutely glowing.

Katy has relocated to Brighton, Colorado, where Dylan owns the latest of his three Red Wing Shoe Stores. We miss having her here, but Colorado isn’t so far away that they can’t come for visits sometimes. I know that will be especially important for the parents, step parents, and family members she has here in Casper. Thankfully, in this day of Facebook, texting, cell phones, and ease of travel, I know that Katy and Dylan will be able to keep both sides of their family involved in their baby boy’s life. Life is shaping up nicely for Katy and Dylan, and we are all very happy for them. Today is Katy’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday Katy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I’m not a superstitious person…don’t believe in that sort of thing, but I can a strange coincidence as clearly as the next guy. Ramon Artagaveytia was born July 14, 1840 in Montevideo, Uruguay, to Ramon and Maria Artagaveytia. December 24, 1871 found Artagaveytia sailing on the America, a ship out of Uruguay, when the boiler overheated and caught fire. The resulting catastrophic damage doomed the America to the ocean floor. Witnesses said that the America had been racing another ship into the port at Montevideo Harbor at a high rate of speed, and it is thought that the excessive boiler pressure caused it to catch fire.

At the time of her sinking, America was carrying 114 first class, 29 second class, and 30 “popular” class passengers. I’m not sure what “popular” class, was, but I assume steerage. Of the 173 passengers, only 65 survived the sinking. Artagaveytia probably would not have been one of them, but he made a last ditch effort and jumped overboard and swam for his life. He recalled later that so many of the passengers were badly burned, and the ensuing nightmares Artagaveytia suffered, kept him too terrified to travel by ship for the next 40 years. That was particularly hard for Artagaveytia, who came from a family of sailors.

In 1905, Artagaveytia took over a farm in Garamini, Argentina. In 1912, Artagaveytia was still living in Argentina, but decided visit his nephew, who was the head of the Uruguayan Consulate in Berlin. Before returning home to Argentina, he decided to visit the United States, and it was that decision that sealed his fate. Artagaveytia told his cousin that he finally felt at ease about traveling on a ship. He thought he might even be able to sleep while on board, and not stand always at the rail wearing his life jacket. The thing that finally made him feel better about travel by ships was the wireless telegraph. He finally thought that someone would know where these ships were, and that they could arrive quickly to help if needed. With that knowledge and the peace of mind it brought with it, Artagaveytia boarded the Titanic. Everyone knows the fate of the Titanic, and how so many mistakes were made…from sailing too fast, to ignoring the warnings, to turning off that all important radio. Ramon Artagaveytia had survived the sinking of the steamer America, but he would not make such an escape from Titanic. About a week after the disaster, his body was pulled from the North Atlantic. Once they were sure of his identity, he was returned to the Uruguayan Consul at Halifax. His body was forwarded to New York and then to Montevideo, Uruguay. He was buried in Cemeterio Central in Montevideo on June 18, 1912.

Following his marriage to a wealthy widow named Virginia Mason, Wilmer McLean moved onto her small plantation in Manassas Junction, Virginia. The property was beautiful, and a small stream called Bull Run ran through it. Fourteen slaves tended the fields of Yorkshire, named for the home county of English native Richard Blackburn who had established the plantation in the early 1700s. Little did Wilmer know at the time of his marriage, that in a mere eight years, their plantation would be the center of the beginning of the American Civil War.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, McLean was too old to serve on the Confederate Army, but that did not prevent his involvement in the war. When I think of the Civil War, I somehow think of two armies coming together out in the middle of nowhere in an open field. Of course, war isn’t that simple. War takes place in towns and villages and city streets too. When the two armies, the Union and the Confederates came to the place of their first battle, it would just happen to be ight in the middle of McLean’s plantation. The battle, the first major engagement between Union and Confederate forces, taking place in July 1861, would be remembered as the First Battle of Bull Run…fought right there at the stream on the McLean plantation.

As Union forces approached on a 30-mile march west from Washington DC, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard took over the Yorkshire Plantation farmhouse in Manassas as his headquarters. Soon, McLean took his family to safer ground, and the next day, July 18, 1861, during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, a Union shell tore into the fireplace of McLean’s detached kitchen and ruined the dinner being prepared for Beauregard and his staff. Three days later came the Civil War’s first major encounter, the First Battle of Bull Run. The barn quickly became a makeshift military hospital, housing both wounded Confederate soldiers and captured Union fighters. The men all shared the floor of the barn, which had become, in addition to the hospital, a prisoner of war jail, as well.

Yorkshire was ravaged in the battle, and when McLean had safely tucked his family far away from the battle, he returned alone to survey the damaged plantation. I’m sure it must have been a devastation blow to McLean, but he stayed worked as an unpaid Confederate quartermaster through February 1862, before reuniting with his wife and five children in the spring.

Back at home in Yorkshire in August 1862, McLean could not believe what he was seeing when the Second Battle of Bull Run began on the Yorkshire Plantation. It seemed that he just could not outrun the war and keep his plantation too. When the Union and Confederacy clashed once again in Manassas at the Second Battle of Bull Run in August 1862, McLean began to plan on a way to better protect his family from the war. In the fall of 1863, McLean moved his family 120 miles southwest to the quiet little town of Appomattox Court House on the other side of the state of Virginia. He purchased a beautiful house, originally built as a tavern in 1848, along the Lynchburg-Richmond State Road and regularly traveled on the nearby Southside Railroad to tend to his business supplying sugar to the Confederate army.

McLean thought he had finally managed to move his family to a place where they could live in peace and quiet, but little did he know that even in Appomattox, he could not outrun the Civil War. Once again, the Civil War came calling at his door again. On April 9, 1865, Confederate Colonel Charles Marshall rode into Appomattox Court House and asked the first man he spotted, who just happened to be McLean, to help him find a suitable home to hold a meeting between the Union and Confederate commanders. McLean showed him a place, but it was a pretty dilapidated, unfurnished brick house, and Marshall quickly rejected it. Reluctantly, McLean offered his own comfortable, well furnished home…hoping that this would not be a repeat of the beginning of the war, when his home was pretty close to being destroyed.

That afternoon, in pretty much the same place it had started…the McLean parlor, history was made as Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his forces to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, marking the beginning of the end of the Civil War. McLean’s homes had become a “pair of bookends” to the long four year war. Like the first meeting between McLean and the army, this one would also not end well. As General Lee departed on his horse Traveler to break the news to his troops, the Union officers launched their final raid of the war by ransacking McLean’s parlor for souvenirs of the historic meeting. According to Civil War historian, Shelby Foote, “Something close to pandemonium set in. As McLean protested, the Union entourage walked out with the tables and chairs used by Lee and Grant, a stone inkstand, brass candlesticks and even the favorite rag doll of his 7-year-old daughter, Lula. They tore apart McLean’s cane-bottomed chairs and cut upholstery strips from his sofas as mementoes. As compensation, the soldiers shoved money into the hands of the unwilling seller and threw it onto the floor when he refused to accept it.” War is an ugly thing, and men don’t always act in a gentlemanly way to the losers, or the winners. Nevertheless, the losers are often treated far worse than the winners, as has been seen in many a war.

In the 1800s, women in medicine were nurses, and not well trained. They were often taught by a doctor, on the job. It was mostly because he needed help in his medical office. It was somehow decided that women just didn’t have the capability to be doctors, and the idea of a woman performing surgery was just beyond anyone’s comprehension. Be that as it may, women would soon become intent on finding a way to succeed in medicine with or without the help of men. Like it or not, the world was going to change, and women were going to spearhead some of that change.

In 1865, a decorated surgeon named James Barry passed away from dysentery. That was not an unusual event in those days. Medical experts had not figured out exactly what to do for dysentery. Barry’s death was a sad thing for all those whose lives he had saved with his surgical skills. As often happened in those days, the family or the help was charged with preparing the body of the deceased for burial. When a housemaid began preparing Barry’s body for interment, she discovered a shocking secret. As it turned out, Dr Barry was not a man at all, she was a woman. Barry was born Margaret Ann Bulkley was born in Cork, Ireland, around 1789. The daughter of a grocer, Margaret grew up frustrated by the limits placed on her because of her gender. At just 18 years old, Margaret yelled at her brother, “Were I not a girl, I would be a soldier!” Of course, the idea of a woman, intelligent enough or not, going to medical school was forbidden. So, Margaret Bulkley, determined to become a surgeon, became James Barry. Even after graduating from medical school, she knew that she would have to continue the persona if she was going to have any patients.

In 1809, when Barry arrived at Edinburgh Medical School, one of the top medical schools in Europe, he wore a long overcoat and 3-inch shoe inserts. Fellow classmates remember Barry speaking in a high-pitched voice. Barry never took off his overcoat, even in summer, and stared down anyone who questioned his story. After graduation, he just continued the charade. For nearly 50 years, Dr. James Barry, disguised as a man, worked hard and became one of the top surgeons in the 19th century, but how did she manage to carry of such a deception for so many years? Someone must have known the truth. It’s hard to say if her desire to be a surgeon was just so strong that she would successfully carry out her plan, forsaking things like marriage and children, in favor of medicine, I’m sure that after a while, it just became easier to live as a man. The people of that era, obsessed with scandal speculated about Barry’s true identity and why the surgeon lied for decades. I’m sure all of the ladies had a great time with their afternoon tea parties.

When Dr. James Barry’s housemaid, Sophia Bishop discovered that Barry was biologically female, her screams could be heard all over the house. The undertakers were brought in and they quickly confirmed Barry’s secret. Like a flood, the news spread across the British Empire. Barry’s secret life raised a number of questions, starting with, how a nearly 5 foot tall woman was able to pass as a man for decades. Bulkley/Barry fooled everyone…for 50 long years. She was a surgeon ahead of her time. It’s just too bad that she couldn’t tell everyone that she, a woman, was a great surgeon too.

My niece, Andrea Spicer is a single mom, who is very dedicated to her son Topher. He is her world and she wants the very best for him. During the current, Covid-19 Pandemic, Andrea and Topher have been “sheltering in place” like most of the rest of the United States. Andrea is a chef at The Turnbuckle restaurant at the Best Western Hotel in Rawlins, Wyoming. Because she worked in a restaurant, and they have been closed down in the quarantine, she has been laid off and spending most of her time at home. My first thought about that was the question, “How is Andrea adjusting to being a homeschool teacher?” The answer was that she didn’t have to. Topher is in high school, and so the online classes set up by the schools were handled on his own. He is a good student, so there has been very little help needed by Andrea.

That fact could have left Andrea with nothing to do but sit at home. Nevertheless, she has decided to try her hand at a few new things instead. Andrea is a chef at work, but that is a different thing than being a baker. Now Andrea has discovered that she has a real talent for baking, and from what her mom, my sister, Caryl Reed, tells me, Andrea is a very successful baker too. Caryl sent me a couple of pictures of Andrea’s baked goods, and told me that they were absolutely yummy. I especially like the Apple Crumble Pie. The pictures she sent told me that they were also very pleasing to the eye. Both details important when it comes to food. It looks like her baked goods have passed the test in both of these areas. She might be the new baker at the Turnbuckle.

Andrea has also decided to try her hand at painting. I can tell you this, my own painting is best seen covering a wall, rather than hanging on one. I think my talents are best expressed elsewhere. Andrea likes abstracts, and she has put her interest on the canvas. I think they are great. They are very bright and they draw your imagination into the painting. Abstracts become different paintings to different people. That’s what makes them so special. If a painting can only be one thing, then that’s what it is, but an abstract can be many things. Sheltering in place can be boring and hard, but Andrea has found new ways to stay busy and engaged, and the time with her son has just added to her blessings. Today is Andrea’s birthday. Happy birthday Andrea!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Uncle Larry was born during the years of the Great Depression, in an era of big families. He was the 4th child and first son of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer. While times were tough, the one thing that George and Hattie had plenty of was love. The family was rich in that. My mother, Collene Spencer, followed Uncle Larry in quick succession, arriving when he was just 20 months old. Following Mom, Uncle Wayne arrived two years later. Their childhood would be spent as close friends and allies, along with the associated sibling arguments too, I’m sure. While I’m not sure how the boys felt about Mom tagging along in things, they didn’t really complain too much, and defended their sister when needed. For her part, Mom considered these brothers, the only ones she had, to be…maybe her charges too somehow. She might very well be prone to protecting them, whether they needed it or not, even against their mother…to her detriment sometimes, because it earned her the same punishment that Grandma Byer was dishing out to her sons. Still, my mom looked up to and loved her brothers. I suppose that to a degree, being the girl between the brothers made her a bit of a tomboy, but it also shaped her into the wonderful woman who became my mom.

Uncle Larry was a determined man, who wanted something better for his family. I believe that land ownership was a part of that desire. I remember wondering as a kid, why he and my Aunt Jeanette chose to live in the country. The rest of the family at that time, were city dwellers (though Casper wasn’t a large city) and it always seemed strange to me that they lived in the country. Lots of land, however, gave them the ability to have a big place to entertain, and outbuildings to pursue any other activities they might be interested in, such as ceramics. They proudly hosted ceramics sessions with any of the family who wanted to join in. Grandma and Grandpa Byer were some of those who loved going out to get their “Crafty Side” on.

All of my grandparents kids lived most of their lives in Wyoming, most of them in Casper, so when Uncle Larry took a transfer to Louisiana with Texaco, I remember being quite shocked. I’m not sure why I should have been, because my own mother had lived for 5 years in Superior, Wisconsin, where my older sister, Cheryl and I were both born. Still, at the time, I felt kind of shocked. The refinery where Uncle Larry worked, here in Casper, closed, and he wasn’t old enough to retire, so he could take the transfer or take a layoff. The choice was simple really. They mover to Louisiana and lived their until his retirement before returning to live the rest of his life in Casper, where both of their children, Larry and Tina both live too. I remember being quite happy when they moved back here. I felt like having the family back together again. My husband, Bob and I loved running into them on occasion, often at a home improvement store, where we were both looking for some new item we needed for our houses. When he passed away, I felt very sad that those impromptu meeting would now be over. Uncle Larry passed away on December 22, 2011, and I still miss him very much. Today would nave been Uncle Larry’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.

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