My nephew, Barry Schulenberg, and his wife, Kelli have been doing some remodeling on their bathroom and their home outside of Casper, Wyoming. Barry has a knack for carpentry, and that reminds me of the little boy that was Barry, helping his grandpa, my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg build the family home north of Casper. It seems like so many years ago, and yet in my memory files, I can see it so clearly. In those days, Barry wanted to do anything his grandpa was doing…so much so, in fact, that Barry had decided that he didn’t need to go to school. He was just going to go to work with his grandpa. I can’t say exactly how much Barry learned about carpentry from his grandpa in those days, but I think he took something away from that experience, even as a little two year old boy. I think he found that he liked to build things, but more than that, it built a bond between grandfather and grandson that would last a lifetime.
Over the years, Barry helped his grandfather do anything he was doing. From splitting wood to working on cars, the two of them were almost inseparable, except for the inevitable job/school times that each had to go to. Barry lived for the time when his grandpa would be home from work and they could go work outside. I’m not sure if my father-in-law felt worn out or not, but if he did, he rarely showed it to Barry. They were best buddies and that was all that mattered. The three granddaughters that my father-in-law had then, were his little princesses, and were treated as such, but Barry was his working buddy, and that was just the way it was. I think the girls were ok with that too, because carpentry and cars really weren’t their idea of fun anyway.
I don’t know if Barry realized how special his relationship with his grandpa was, but I really hope he did or does now, because it was special. Not every little boy gets to spend the time with their grandfather that Barry did. That was a blessing beyond blessings for both of them, and it was special to watch too. My father-in-law has been gone now for over three and a half years now. I have to wonder if Barry misses his grandpa as he is working on the current project he has set himself to now. It’s not that Barry can’t do the work himself and with Kelli’s help, but I have to wonder if he doesn’t hear the echo of his grandpa’s voice guiding him through the steps to remodeling the bathroom. His grandpa really knew what he was doing, and to top it off, Barry looks like his grandpa too. No wonder they got along so well. They were two of a kind. Today is Barry’s birthday. Happy birthday Barry!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
This summer when Bob and I were in the Black Hills, we were looking around in the gift shop at Mount Rushmore, when I came across a book called “Women’s Diaries Of The Westward Journey.” Since then, I have been thinking about what it must have been like to travel in a covered wagon…especially for a woman. Of course, times were different back then, and people did not have the luxury of a daily shower, or even a real bathroom…and that was in their own homes. So, imagine what life would be like on a wagon, traveling in a wagon train headed west in the mid-1800s. As the emigrants were traveling west, they were making their own roads, hunting their own food, and cooking over a campfire. For a lot of people, I’m sure this sounds like going camping, but then imagine doing it for months at a time. A day’s travel averaged about twelve to twenty miles, meaning that on the plains, they often stopped for the day within sight of the site they had just left that morning. For travelers now, that would seem insanely slow, but for the wagon trains, it was just the normal day’s journey. They knew no other way.
People back then would have been somewhat crazy to set out alone for the west…or to set out any later than spring, because either scenario was bound to fail. They needed the protection of the wagon train, as well as the additional supplies, should a wagon be lost to fire, a river crossing, or an attack by Indians. It was their back up plan. They couldn’t just stop at the next town at a store and buy more supplies. There were no towns, stores, or even roads. When we travel, even in the rural state of Wyoming that I live in, we are used to seeing miles with very little to catch the eye, other that an occasional farm house, and an occasional town, but remember that we have roads to follow so we don’t lose our way. And even then, many of us use GPS to make sure we are taking the right road. They had none of that. They had to use the sun and landmarks to make sure they were going the right direction. They depended on people who had taken this trip before them. It was all they had. I think most of us today would go nuts if we never saw a house, a road, or a town. We would wonder if we were insane for setting out on this crazy adventure at all. One woman wrote to her husband, who was waiting at the end of the line, with the spelling ability she had at the time, “I can tell you nothing only that were hear and its strange I wish we had never started … it seems impossible to get their.” She had set out in a wagon train with her four children, without her husband, and that in itself must have been scary.
Days on the wagon train began long before dawn with a simple breakfast of coffee, bacon, and dry bread. After breakfast, the people secured their supplies, hitched up their teams, and hit the trail by seven o’clock in the morning. Most people walked because of lack of space, and the fact that the wagon was so uncomfortable. The train stopped at noon for a cold meal of coffee, beans, and bacon, which had been prepared that morning. During this break, called nooning, men and women would gather and talk, children would play, and animals would rest. After that, the travel would continue until around six o’clock in the evening, when they wagons would circle for the night. Some people would visit after supper, but most went to bed, because they were exhausted. Some slept in the wagon, but most slept on the ground, because oddly enough it was more comfortable. While traveling west on the wagon trains was a necessary journey to be made to grow this country, it was not an easy journey to make, and for that reason, I have to stand in awe of those who did it.
It would be hard for most of us to imagine a world where we got to go to town only once a year, and yet that was the way of things back when my Great Aunt Bertie Schumacher was a little girl. The Schumacher family moved from Minnesota to a place 8 miles from Lisbon, North Dakota, and the school house was 3 miles from where they lived. Bob and I, in our many evening walks have walked 8 miles at a time, but not in the winter, and since that walk takes us 2 hours, I can’t say that it would be feasible as a way to go to town for groceries, because then there is that walk back loaded down with groceries. Just the thought of 4 hours of walking in the winter cold is enough to make me cringe.
Nevertheless, the children needed to be in school, so Great Grandpa Carl Schumacher got up early every morning, to get the horses out and break a trail, then hook up to the sleigh for the 3 mile drive in to the school with his older children, Anna (my grandmother), Albert, and Mina. Aunt Bertie remarks in her journal, that she and Elsa were very glad that they could stay home with their mother. The sleigh was nothing like the more romantic New England cutters we all think about, but was rather a grain wagon box placed on two heavy runners pulled by their sturdiest horses because of all the deep snow the area got. Great Grandma Henriette would bring the older 3 children out to the wagon, and place bricks she had heated by their feet. Then she would wrap them in blankets that even covered their faces to protect them from the bitter cold. In all the time the children went to that school, they were there everyday, unless they were sick. It was by far the best attendance record in the school, and the Schumacher family lived the furthest away from the school. When Aunt Bertie went to school, a place she was not very fond of, she had to force herself to do what she needed to. It was at this time that she met the only teacher that would remain in her memory for the rest of her life. She was beautiful, and well dressed, but it was her graciousness and her love for children that made her the best teacher little Bertie would ever have.
Not long after Bertie started school, the family moved closer to Lisbon, and the school was only a mile away, and much to Bertie’s delight, it had an indoor bathroom. No more running outside to the outhouse in the middle of a freezing cold day and then running back inside in the cold again. Bertie felt like she was attending school in a palace, I’m sure. One day, when her mother had to drive the long distance into town on a very cold winter day, she decided to leave little 4 year old Elsa at the school with Bertie and their brother, Fred for the day. Elsa had never been away from her mother before, and they were very close, so she proceeded to cry. The older children could not console her, and finally a teacher came and took Elsa under her wing, calming her and allowing her and her siblings the peace of knowing that everything was going to be alright. Bertie recalls how it is funny that the memories that really stay in your memory are the ones where someone showed such love and kindness that the memory of it lingered on for years to come. What a lovely way to be remembered. That is something I think I should like to be remembered as. Loving and kind enough that the memory of my acts of kindness and love stay in the memories of those whose lives I might have touched.
My sister, Alena and her husband, Mike have been planning some renovations and upgrades on their bathroom. They have been planning this project for a while now, but they weren’t ready to begin just yet. The plan was to renovate the bathroom during the summer when they have a little more time. Unfortunately, the best laid plans sometimes go awry, and that is exactly what happened in this case. The bathroom had a different idea. In November, the pipes sprung a leak. To repair the pipe leak when they were going to have to remove the repaired area again so soon seemed like such a waste of time and money.
At his point many people would have resigned themselves to what seemed the inevitable, but not my brother-in-law, Mike. He has always been a problem solver, and is used to having to make repairs to different things on the spur of the moment. Sometimes, that means rigging things to make the repair, using unconventional methods and unconventional parts.
Mike set out to make a temporary repair to the broken pipe. He cut the bottom and top out of a couple of beer cans. Then he cut the side of the can and wrapped it around the pipe. Then Mike put a layer of silicone to make sure there would be no leaks. Then he used tie straps to hold the cans in place. The idea worked, and the repairs held…and they held until now, when they are ready to do the remodeling!! The seemingly inevitable costly repairs were avoided.
Now, if you ask his kids, the repairs were…original to say the least. In fact, one of his daughters, Lacey said, “Can you say Redneck?” We both laughed about that one, and I guess she or one of her siblings, Michelle or Garrett must have also mentioned the word Redneck, because Alena quickly came to Mikes rescue when she said, “You might call it Redneck, but I call it Genius!” While the repairs to look unconventional, I would have to agree with Alena, it is pretty genius. Another job well done and it didn’t cost a dime. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My parents had 5 daughters…and no sons. I’m sure that the early years were the same as they are in most homes, but with each additional daughter came a little less control for my dad. Now don’t get me wrong on that word control, because my dad was the boss. If we got to be too exasperating for Mom, her big threat was Dad, and while Dad rarely had to spank us, just knowing that he would was enough to make is behave ourselves.
The type of control I’m talking about is a little different. Being the only man in a houseful of women, especially when there are 5 daughters, means being seriously outnumbered. Imagine vying for the bathroom…and we had only 1 by the way…against 5 teen and preteen aged girls trying to get ready for school. I’m sure you get the picture. If Dad wanted a shower, he had better get it before 5:00 am, or he was most likely out of luck. And if he needed to use the bathroom…well, it might be easier to go somewhere else, or should I say quicker.
These kinds of things continued for most of Dad’s life. He always had to be the one to kill the bugs…especially the moths, which put his little princesses into screaming fits, instantly. We made him get up in the middle of the night while camping to “put another log on the fire” to keep the bears away…never mind the fact that we were inside, and the bears couldn’t get us anyway. I’m quite sure he watched more chick flicks than he ever wanted to as well. Nevertheless, Dad took it all in stride, allowing his girls to feel like princesses…with chores, of course…but still princesses. He gave in to the girlie side of his girls, and probably spoiled us pretty good. The house was filled with dolls and kitchen sets, tea sets, and cribs…all the things we needed to play house.
Later came the waiting on us to finally get ready so we could go somewhere, because we all know that it is impossible to leave the house without our makeup…and I mean it!! Dad knew quite well, that he might just as well sit down and read the paper, because he would have time to read the whole thing. I am reminded of the Brad Paisley song, “Waitin’ On A Woman” when I think of all the times my dad waited patiently for his girls to all get ready.
When there is one person, male or female, who happens to be the only person of that gender in their household, and they find themselves seriously outnumbered, yet they manage to keep their wits about them, I can’t help but think back on everything we put my dad through over the years. It occurs to me that they might just be a saint…or else they have just resigned themselves to the inevitable.