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“Every state has ghost towns. Eastern and Midwestern States are no exception. At one time or another you may have driven your car right by a ghost town, not aware of it. If you are a hiker, backpacker, or a hunter, you may have walked past or through a ghost town not knowing one was there.” I read that statement on a web site I was using to research stories for my blog. I had read many stories about ghost towns, but this one intrigued me. My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have hiked many of the trails in the Black Hills, and I can’t even begin to count the number of times we have walked past old abandoned, crumbling, falling down buildings. To us, they seemed like just an abandoned farmhouse and out buildings, but now I am beginning to wonder if we have been one of those hikers who have walked right through a ghost town, and didn’t even know it. In fact, I’ll bet we have walked right through many a ghost town during our many hikes.

I love photographing old buildings, and often find myself wondering how long they had been there, and why they were left to rot. Of course, the Black Hills is rich in gold rush history, so a ghost town or tow makes perfect sense. We have driven through, and by some of them, and even passed through some while riding he 1880 Train, but for some reason, it didn’t occur to me that some of the old buildings we have hiked by could have been part of a ghost town, but looking back now, it makes perfect sense. I have often found myself wondering who lived there and what their lives might have been like back when the house was newly built. Still, it didn’t occur to me that it might be part of a ghost town. I guess that is because I always thought that all the ghost towns would be well documented with signs alerting the tourists to the site. In reality, those signs would be placed by the town’s owner, who was trying to make a buck by romanticizing the site…and that’s ok too, but that doesn’t mean that every ghost town was so well documented. In reality, it’s the ghost towns that are less documented that hold the most intrigue, because much less is known about them.

I think that the next time we hike and find ourselves passing by an old rotting building, that I will feel much different about the place than I did in the past. I think I will still wonder about who lived there, but also about whether or not it was a ghost town that once sprung up, and prospered, only to be choked out when hard times hit and the people who lived there moved on in search of a better life. That was, after all, the fate of every ghost town. It was a town that sprung up with the promise of becoming a bustling city, but it was in the wrong place, and life could not be sustained there, so eventually it withered and died off, leaving only the buildings to tell of its presence, and then only to those who happened to pass by.

My husband, Bob Schulenberg and I were married at a young age. I wasn’t even out of high school a year when we got married. Today is our 43rd Wedding Anniversary. I’ve heard all the different marriage experts, with all their varying ideas about what makes a perfect marriage, but when I look back on how our marriage lasted all these years, I can’t say that we did many of the things the experts suggested…mostly because they were far fetched and not really us, but also because we didn’t have time for that nonsense. We were busy writing our own book. No, we weren’t literally writing a marriage book, but we were living our life, and in doing so, we discovered that time flew by, as it does when you are having fun, and before we knew it, we had been married 10, then 20, then 30, then 40 years, and now we have arrived at 43 years, and yet looking back, that seems an impossible number. It doesn’t seem like it could possibly be that long. We are among the rare few who have been married once, and have stayed married for more than 40 years. Of course, some people who didn’t make that mark, lost their spouse to death, which doesn’t count really, because they had stayed married until death. Still, we know that divorce is very common in this country, and that somehow we made it. All we knew, 43 years ago, was that we loved each other.

Bob and I have many things in common. After all our years together that isn’t surprising. We have a love for the outdoors and hiking. In fact, while you will find us walking in the mall in the winter, you should know that we find that tedious and not relaxing, at least not nearly as relaxing as a trail on a summer evening. We like the same television shows, and some of the same music. We think alike too. I think we could probably finish most of each others sentences. Many of our mannerisms are similar to, because we you are around a person a lot their mannerisms rub off on you. After all these years, we are comfortable with each other, and when you get were we are, you will see just how amazing that is. Today is or 43rd wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary Bob!! I love you with all my heart!!

For the first 51 years of my life, my birthday was always celebrated with my dad. It was our tradition. I was supposed to be born on his birthday anyway, and what difference did two days make…for birthday parties anyway. We always like having our party together. Now that Dad is in Heaven, we can no longer do that, on Earth anyway, and believe me…it has been a long ten years. He is always in my thoughts on my birthday, and every day, as is my mom.

I think that as we get older, our birthday becomes a day to reflect on all the blessings we have been given. In my mind, there is no greater blessing than the parents who have me life in the first place. I just couldn’t have asked for better parents than they were. They taught me all of life’s important lessons…the ones I needed to know to become an independent and responsible woman, and trust me when I say that I was not always the easiest student. I would not be where I am today, were it not for them. I am also thankful for my sweet sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock…and for their families. We always had each other, and we knew that we always would. I knew I could count on them…no matter what.

As I grew up, I met the love of my life, Bob Schulenberg. He is my support system through everything life brings my way. When he took our wedding vows over 42 years ago, he meant every word, and he has kept every vow perfectly. He has been a huge blessing in my life. He is the father of my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce. My girls…wow!! Where do I begin? Besides being the wonderful children they were and the beautiful women they have become, they were always there, willing to do whatever was needed, especially in the years while we were taking care of their grandparents. We couldn’t have done it without them. Caregiving is truly a unique situation, and anyone who has done it knows that it definitely takes a village. My girls were an intricate part of that village, as were their husbands, Kevin Petersen and Travis Royce, who both sacrificed so much time with their wives and children so they could be there for their grandparents. My grandchildren…another wow! How many children, ten and under, willing come in and become CNAs in every sense of the word…and do it well. None I can think of. Each of my grandchildren, Chris Petersen, Shai Royce, Caalab Royce, and Josh Petersen, are more of a blessing to me than they can ever know. I want my family to know that I am so proud of each and every one of you.

And no reflection over one’s life would be complete without considering the blessing of loving in-laws. Bob’s parents, Walt and Joann Schulenberg became like a second set of parents to me, and with my marriage I also gained four sweet sisters-in-law, Marlyce Schulenberg, Debbie Cook, Jennifer Parmely, and Brenda Schulenberg, as well as a brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg. They, along with their families have made my life complete. As my birthday arrives, it is with sadness, because of those who are in Heaven now, but also with a deep understanding of just how very blessed my life has been. I thank God for each and everyone of my family members, as well as wonderful friends, like Jim and Julie Stengel, Carrie Beauchamp, and Becky Thorne, who have also been a great part of what makes my life blessed. Looking at my past, I know that I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s perfect just the way it is. Life doesn’t get sweeter than this.

img_5129img_5133When you think of a town within a town or city, you often think of New York City, where you might find Queens, Harlem, or Yonkers. Or you might think of New Orleans, where you might find the French Quarter or the 9th Ward, but people really never think of a town within a town, when the town is a small town, like Forsyth, Montana, population of about 1,777. Nevertheless, Forsyth, Montana was a town that had within it a town…so to speak. When my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s grandpa, Andrew Schulenberg was a young married man, he built a couple of houses there. The houses were next door to each other. Andy’s parents lived in one house, and he and his wife, lived in the other. Across the street was another house owned by Schulenberg family relative, Bob’s Great Aunt Hennie. Being such a small town, there were other Schulenberg families very nearby, and since Andy’s parents, Max and Julia Schulenberg had ten children, it made for a lot of Schulenberg relation living in a neighborhood in Forsyth, Montana. Well, before long, the people of the town found themselves calling that neighborhood, Schulenbergville. I’m not sure just exactly when img_5109the neighborhood got its name, but since Andy was the sheriff of Rosebud County from 1955 to 1972, my guess is that it was either during that time, or it was his job as sheriff that solidified the name to that area of town.

I had the chance to see the two houses that Andy Schulenberg built, and to find out that the second one was the house that Bob’s Uncle Butch Schulenberg was born in. I love to see the homes where loved ones were born, partly I suppose, because so few people are born at home these days. In those days, however, being born at home was a very common practice, and it makes me think about the history that the house has witnessed. The house got to see little Butch Schulenberg growing up…or at least starting his life, since I don’t know when the family might have moved out of the house. Nevertheless, the area remained Schulenbergville for a number of years, and I don’t think the locals have forgotten it to this day.

Nor have they forgotten the sheriff who really made the Schulenberg name a household word in the little town of Forsyth. Andy was a different kind of sheriff from those you normally meet, and that is a story I will tell sometime, but it’s too long for this story. Suffice it to say that he was dearly loved, and there is more than one img_5132img_5135adult who owes the fact that they weren’t in prison…or worse as kids, to Sheriff Andy Schulenberg, and they will be happy to tell you so. The two houses Andy built still stand, as do the houses of the neighboring Schulenberg clan members, although some are no longer occupied. I find that a bit sad, but it is a testament to good construction work. Now they stand as a treasured memory for those who knew Schulenbergville well.

biosphere-2-habitat-lungI think a lot of us have thought about just getting away from it all for a while. Life gets too busy, and we just think that if we could have a little time away, with nowhere in particular to be at any given time, we could come out of that stressful sort of funk we find ourselves in. Now I don’t know if that was what medical doctor and researcher, Roy Walford, along with Jane Poynter, Taber MacCallum, Mark Nelson, Sally Silverstone, Abigail Alling, Mark Van Thillo, and Linda Leigh had in mind or not when, on September 26, 1991, they entered a facility called Biosphere 2, for a two year stay inside…without leaving, but that is what they did. Granted, they weren’t alone in the facility, but they were there for two full years, finally emerging again on September 26, 1993.

Biosphere 2 is an agricultural system that produced 83% of the total diet, which included crops of bananas, papayas, sweet potatoes, beets, peanuts, lablab and cowpea beans, rice, and wheat. No toxic chemicals could pond-in-bioshpere-2be used, because they would impact health. That first year was tough. The eight inhabitants were continually hungry. Things got better in the second year, when they produced over a ton more food. They were eating more and so regained some of the weight lost during the first year. They took with them, domestic animals for the agricultural area during the first mission, including four pygmy goats and one billy goat from the plateau region of Nigeria, 35 hens and three roosters a mix of Indian jungle fowl (Gallus, Japanese silky bantam, and a hybrid of these), two sows and one boar pig, as well as tilapia fish grown in a rice and azolla pond system originating long ago in China. These were designed to round out the diet. There was public excitement, as well as doubt, especially when an injured member was allowed to leave and return, bringing in plastic bags. The public thought it was food. In the end, I’m not sure if they deemed the project a success or not. I suppose it would depend on who you talked to. The system could not produce enough oxygen so that had to be pumped in. Also, some of the species died, and some of the dead fish clogged the filtration system.

plants-in-biosphere-2The eight members of the team survived, so I suppose that would be considered a success, and they did stay the full two years that had been planned. It was an interesting experiment I’m sure, and it would be a definite getaway from normal, everyday life, but I’m sure it had it’s downside too. Not being able to be with your family, seeing only the facility, and eating the same food, day in and day out, just to name a few. Personally, I think that two years might be a little bit of a long getaway…in fact, I think I would probably go just a little bit stir crazy…or maybe a lot stir crazy. The second experiment didn’t go so well, with a number of problems precipitating the premature exit of the team. Maybe they went stir crazy too.

1977014_785573824840729_4512717937708797914_n13537721_1172142732850501_1713751929367062279_nSeldom does it seem like a person is truly the light of someone else’s life, but that is how my grand niece, Melanie Harman seemed to be for my grand nephew, Jake Harman, the first time I met her. I have to think Jake, while not old by any stretch of the imagination, thought that he would never meet that special someone who would truly complete him. It’s hard to imagine how a person can feel when they honestly think they will be alone in this life. We knew that Jake felt that way…not because he said it, but because it showed in how he was. That always made me sad, because I knew that Jake had something special to give to that person who could see something special in him, and it was hard to see that there didn’t seem to be someone out there who could see that.

Then Melanie came alone, and suddenly, Jake was complete. Melanie is such a sweet, loving girl, and when he is with her, Jake just blossoms. I suppose that sounds odd, in light of the fact that he is a man, but men can blossom too. They suddenly become the person that God had in mind for them to be. Melanie was truly a gift to Jake, from God, to bless his life in every way. Melanie brought with her, a daughter, Alice, who simply adores Jake, and now together, they have another daughter, Izabella, who is Jake’s mini-me. Life is suddenly good for both Jake and Melanie, and it will only get better and better every day, week, month, and year they spend together. 12278715_1030129097051866_7408744507240113633_n13325557_1150755371655904_8772301167133340237_nTheir love for each other is simply beautiful.

Melanie is loved by everyone in the family, and everyone who knows her. It’s easy to see that her special kind of personality has been such a sweet blessing for Jake, and that endears her to all of us. Jake has never been happier, and Melanie is the reason. She is an excellent mom to the girls, and they are so blessed to have her for their mom. Melanie couldn’t fit in this family any better, if she tried. Today is Melanie’s birthday. Happy birthday Melanie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Anna Louise Spencerimg392Autographing a yearbook, or in the past, an autograph book is a tradition that really never goes away. The school year…or a certain period in a person’s life is coming to an end. Friends want to be remembered and people want to remember their friends, so they write something in their yearbook that they hope will sound profound, sophisticated, grown up, or at the very least, not sound too stupid. It doesn’t matter that you know the annual yearbook signing is coming, when the moment arrives, you find yourself on the spot again. Do you write a poem? Do you say something goofy? Or, do you say something with deep feeling, knowing that you may not see these people much anymore…if at all? Of course, it depends on who you are speaking too. Goofy works for the class clown, and profound might be great for the valedictorian, and if these are your good friends, you might write something with a little more feeling, but if the classmates are little more than acquaintances, what do you want to say to them? I suppose that is more when the poem or saying of the day comes into play. I mean, you are on the spot, and you can’t take all day.

Still, there are times when the poem of the day says exactly what you are feeling, like the friends of my grandmother’s and my dad’s who had hoped that they would not be forgotten as the years passed. In reality, I think most of us remember most of our classmates, whether it’s is just their face, or even their name, but that doesn’t mean that we spend a lot of time with them over the years, unless they were really a good friend. Nevertheless, there were very few classmates who completely faded into obscurity to the point that we don’t even remember that they were classmates at all, and sometimes classmates come back into our lives to a degree, as is the case with people we reconnect with on Facebook or in some other online form of social media. That still doesn’t mean that the friendship has been completely rekindled, but rather that curiosity came into play a little bit, for a little while.

The main reason for autographs, I think, is to make a way to remember a time in our lives that we really can’t visit again. Even with class reunions and such, you really don’t go back to that time exactly. You and your classmates might talk a little bit about what you did in school, and a lot about what everyone is doing now, but Allen Spencer as a boyimg487at some point, there just isn’t that much to talk about anymore. Your lives have taken different directions, and you have very little in common. That’s probably why class reunions last for just a weekend, because if they were longer, no one would go. There just isn’t a weeks worth of conversations, unless you continued on as friends after your school days were over, And then you wouldn’t need a class reunion to get you together so you could catch up at all. I guess that’s why I think class reunions put you on the spot all over again.

BobExperienced hikersHaving been married to my husband, Bob Schulenberg for over 40 years, means that I have lived more of the memories in his life with him, than he has lived without me. The first twenty years of his life is all there is that I didn’t witness, and in reality less than that, because we dated for a little over a year prior our marriage. Of course, I haven’t been with him every minute of the last forty one plus years, but I have been there or heard about most of them. That’s because Bob is my best friend, and I am his. We like to do things together. Of course, with work and other things in life, we can’t be together all the time, but when we are together, we enjoy a friendship that has lasted throughout the years, and will continue for the rest of our lives.

For a number of years now, Bob and I have taken our vacation during the week of his birthday. We love going to the Black Hills and hiking there. I don’t know if everyone would consider hiking to be a great way to relax, but we do. It seems that the tougher the hike, the more worth it the journey is. Our hiking has taken us to many places, in search of the next trail, and we both really think it has enhanced our lives. There is so much beautiful scenery in this country, that cannot be seen from the road. You just have to get out there and walk around on nature to see its true beauty. Our time spent hiking, is I think among the best times of our lives.

While Bob loves his time off, I’m not sure he will take well to retirement when that time comes…at least not in the traditional sense of the word. He will enjoy not having to go to work, but I seriously doubt that he will ever stop working on cars. He loves doing mechanic work, and really it is as much a social time for him as it is a side job. People call him up with questions, or to set up an appointment to have him work on their cars, and in reality, when he is in the garage, he is in his element. I have actually had people apologize to me for taking up his time, but working on cars is what makes him happy, so it’s fine with me…as long as he doesn’t forget to go hiking with me…like that would ever happen.

Bob is such a sweet man, who I have to admit spoils me rotten. In fact, I have to be careful what I ask for, IMG_6158IMG_6371because he will do his best to get it for me. Now, I know that you will think that is not a bad thing, and I suppose you would be right, but then, I try not let him spoil me too bad…right, I am a woman, so let’s just be honest. Spoiling is good. And, Bob is good at spoiling. It makes for a great combination…for me anyway. Nevertheless, the thing I want most from Bob…is Bob, so it’s all good. He is the love of my life!! In that way, he can spoil me all he wants to. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Sweetie. You are the best husband a girl could ever ask for. Have a wonderful day!! I love you with all my heart!!

19250_102234259806044_4460089_nSometimes in life, you find that something is just meant to be. This is a story of just that…something that was meant to be. A while back, my niece Lacey Stevens introduced her brother, Garrett Stevens to a friend of hers, Kayla Smiley. That was the first step in a journey that for Garrett and Kayla would lead to happily ever after. They became engaged in a romantic setting in the Big Horn Mountains, with the involvement of her family, in which Garrett popped the question on the top of a hill while the fmily was taking pictures. Kayla had no idea. Good job Garrett.

For the rest of the family, this relationship has been a bit unusual, in that Kayla lived right next door to our mom’s house. I suppose that many people would feel like that could be a bit awkward, but not Kayla and Garrett. In fact, it was there that Kayla’s true self was shown to all of us. Kayla is a very caring person. She gives of herself easily, and that was exactly what we needed at that time in our lives. During Mom’s last couple of years, there were a times when an ambulance had to be called, because she was having some occasional bronchial issues. That is such a stressful thing for the children, especially when one child, in this case, my sister, Cheryl Masterson had to be there by herself at the time the ambulance needed to be called. Kayla, the instant she heard the ambulance, came right over to see what she could do to help, and if for no other reason, just to be there and be supportive to me sister, my mom, and to me as well. If you have never been in the position of needing to call an ambulance for your parent, you simply can’t know how devastating that feels. You find yourself forced to watch the proceedings, and there is nothing you can do to help. All too often, the emergency workers are so focused on their patient…as it should be, but they have no Garrett & Kaylatime to see you standing there quietly falling apart. Kayla…and Garrett too, while they were as worried as we were, came to support us as we went through this horrible ordeal. That is a kindness that can never be forgotten, much less repaid.

We knew that Garrett had found a gem of a girl, and so when he called to say they were engaged, it was with much joy that we congratulated them. They are both such sweet, loving people, and I know that their life together will be blessed in so many ways. God will repay their kindness with joy and love for years to come. I am so excited for them. Today is Kayla’s birthday. Kayla we just don’t know what we would do without you in our lives. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Pam & Aunt DorisWhen my mom, Collene Byer Spencer was married and moved to Superior, Wisconsin to live, she was a young woman, who for the first time in her life lived far away from her large family. I think that must have been so hard for her. She was used to living in a house with her parents, sisters, and brothers, and now it was just her and my dad, Allen Spencer. Of course, that was all she needed in most ways, but a girl needs friends too. For Mom, finding Aunt Doris Spencer there, meant a friendship, as well as a sister-in-law. The two liked each other immediately, and became instant friends. They did everything they could together.

While both of them were slender women, they always felt the need to diet. If they gained a pound, it was a big problem…I guess some things never change. Like all dieters, hunger pangs are always the worst part of dieting, so to aid in the dieting, Aunt Doris decided that each of them could have a single Puffed Wheat cereal piece to hold them over on one occasion. I’m sure this sounds crazy, but it does fit into the mentality of a dieter…and all of you who have ever dieted would be dishonest if you didn’t agree. When we look at things now, we know that like all dieters, this idea would pass as an impossible way to diet, but they tried it anyway. Whenever I hear the story of their diet antics, I have to giggle, because I can picture either one of them doing the funny things they did. They almost seemed like girlhood friends from junior high school, except they didn’t know each other then. They were just a lot alike.

They shared so much in those years, motherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. For my mom, it was like going to a scary new place and finding a bit of sunshine in the middle of the clouds of loneliness. It wasn’t like Mom was drowning in loneliness, but she really needed someone to share all of her girl talk with…someone to spend some of her spare time with, and since they lived just across the backyard fence from each other, someone to Aunt Doris & Momtalk to while the children played or napped. Aunt Doris was a friend sent by God to help my mom through the transition, and to be there for her through the years.

After we moved to Casper, Wyoming, the two kept in touch. Even after Aunt Doris, and her husband, my Uncle Bill divorced, Mom and Aunt Doris remained friends. They wrote letters and called each other sometimes, but didn’t get to see each other for years. Then last year, my sister, Cheryl and I took Mom for a visit. It was a wonderful reunion for both of them, and we were so glad we took Mom, since it was the last time before she passed. She got to see her forever friend one more time. Today is Aunt Doris’ 91st birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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