The Littlest HelperA True HelperMy 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 Barry & Kelli SchulenbergWalt Schulenberg and Linda Knox 1949_edited (2)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!!

ChrisMy brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock had been a law enforcement officer since the early to mid-1990s. He started out in the Natrona County Sheriff’s office, and later transferred to the Casper Police Department in 1997. He quickly became one of the up and coming officers. I’m sure that when it came to arrests, his 6’4″ stature didn’t hurt matters any. Most of the people he was about to arrest took one look at him and changed their mind about putting up a fight. I do say most of them. There were a few crazy people who truly thought they could fight their way out of the situation, and manage to get away. Right…rethink that one people. It’s just not going to happen.

Over the years Chris’ abilities have been noticed by his superiors, and Chris was encouraged to take the Sergeants exam, which he passed with ease. That promotion put Chris in charge of the officers on his shift. He was the go to person for certain situations that might come up, and the final say during the hours of the shift and on things like who patrols where and such.image

This past year has brought Chris to a new place in his career. He took the Lieutenants exam and once again, passed with ease. This promotion put him in charge of investigations. I think this has been one of the most exciting parts of his career. It is an entirely new kind of work, and the perfect challenge for him. Chris likes the workings of this new department and the detectives who are under him. I can understand that, because investigative work is interesting to me too, although I don’t think I could do Chris’ job. It takes a special person to be able to do that work, and that is what my brother-in-law is. He is enjoying this, the next adventure very much.

This past year has also found Chris, and his wife, my sister, Allyn busy remodeling their basement. This is imageanother type of work that Chris is really good at. His attention to detail, and his ability to see the big picture really serve him well when it comes to carpentry, as many people have seen in the to work he has done for others. Everything from banisters to chain saw carved bears. His artistic talents are evident.

This birthday will find Chris and Allyn on vacation in Montana. Allyn thinks Chris is a lot like our dad when it comes to traveling. He loves to get out and pull the trailer behind them and see the countryside. It gives him the chance to relax after a long winter of hard work. I know they will have a great time. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

1385803_540236469386418_1650768861_nI don’t know how much of the Spencer genes, my cousins Gene, his son Tim, and even his grandson Daniel think that they have, but it’s possible that it’s more than they realize. Gene was a master carpenter, building beautiful furniture that anyone would be proud to own. In fact when I looked at pictures of the furniture Gene made, I wondered if he missed his true calling in life. Oh don’t get me wrong, because he was very successful, but that furniture…well, STUNNING doesn’t say enough!! Gene’s work was beautiful, and he passed that talent down to his son. Tim recently built a desk that is also quite beautiful, and shows that he has his dad’s talent. Daniel, while still a very young man, shows signs if that same talent for building things too.

Their talent is definitely amazing, but where did that talent come from. Well, I don’t know about the Fredrick side if their family, but our grandpa, Allen Luther Spencer had talent in that CCI12032013_0002area too. I have never heard anyone talk about his abilities as a carpenter, and usually when we think of carpentry, we think more on the lines of building a house, but the finer side if carpentry is furniture making. I hadn’t really given much thought to the type of work my grandfather did for the railroad, but when I saw the picture of the table Grandpa built, I was reminded of an dependent card my dad  had that said the his dad was a carpenter for the railroad.

Having been a passenger on the 1880 Train in Hill City, South Dakota, I have seen the work of the railroad carpenters. They have transformed those old train cars from junk to a thing of beauty. The carpenters who work on the 1880 Train have done just that. Still, of all these people, I have to say that the ones who have perfected the art of carpentry the most, would be the Fredrick family…and I’m sure you will agree with me on that one.

CCI08292013When you have known someone a long time, you assume that you know pretty much everything about them. That is not always the case, however. Sometimes, you learn great things about people after the have passed away. Such was the case with my father-in-law. I always knew that he was a very capable mechanic. He had also trained himself to do cement work, carpentry, and masonry work…building their house himself back in the 70’s, when my girls were just little toddlers.  His skill in building that home amazed me. He just instinctively knew how to do it…or so it seemed to me at the time, and maybe it was so. People sometimes to have a skill they just come by naturally, and without any real training.

I also knew of all his craft skills. He could re-weave lawn chairs with the design of the person’s choice, and he could make lawn decorations, such as whirligigs, birdhouses, and tin men. He was well known around Casper, and even had a story written about him in the Casper Star Tribune. All that work kept him pretty busy in his retirement years, and with his passing there have been a lot of people who miss him very much…you see, part of his charm was that he didn’t just make something and sell it to y0u, he talked to you…got to know you…and made you his friend.

Still, when you are a self taught, jack of all trades, one would expect that the work you do is…along the lines of simple…nothing elaborate. With my father-in-law, that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I was looking through the pictures we took from his home, I came across some pictures of masonry work he did while Snow Birding in Arizona. He was never a man to sit around and do nothing, so even though he was supposed to be retired…and relaxing, here he was building patios, steps, and garden enclosures in Arizona. I suppose that the fact that the work was done in Arizona, and the fact that my CCI08292013_0001father-in-law was never a man to brag on himself, makes it a little less surprising that I didn’t know about this work.

When I looked at the pictures of the work he had done, it occurred to me that I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did. Here was a very talented man…self taught, to be sure, but amazing well taught too. The work is beautiful, I’m sure you will agree. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 84th birthday, and it is the first his family has spent without him. Happy birthday in Heaven Dad!! I know it will be a great day!! We love and miss you very much!!

MikeFor the last eleven years now, my brother-in-law, Mike has been a part of our family. When they married, Caryl moved to Rawlins, which was where he lived. They continue to live there…for now, but when they retire, they want to move to Casper again. Caryl was born and raised here, but has hardly lived here since her first marriage, so it is going to be quite a change to have her and Mike living here. We are all happy about that future plan.

Since they purchased their ranch on Poison Spider Road, Mike and Caryl have been working to tear down the sheep birthing barns and put up new fence around the property. Their plan is to rent the house out for the next 8 years, until they are ready to retire. In the mean time, they are planning to have their dream house built for them in about 5 years. The barn had an area in the back the they will turn into an apartment for them to stay in while they are working on the ranch. It is not going to be a fast process, since they can only work on the ranch on days off and vacations, but they have plenty of time, since that retirment is 8 to 10 years down the road.

Mike has done lots of construction projects for my parents, as well as carpentry, so any finishing touches he does on their own home will not be much of a stretch for him. He is very good at planning out a project and designing everything. I know their home will be great when it is all done. I’m sure their retirement ranch will be a place of refuge for them for many years to come.

Today is Mike’s birthday, and while he is celebrating in in Japan this year, and I’m really jealous, I do hope it’s great. Happy birthday Mike!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Mike StevensMy 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 Beer Can Repair Jobinevitable 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!!

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