snow

Mom SchulenbergJoann Knox on her colt MollyI don’t know if it was because Bob and I had been on vacation or what exactly, but when we went to visit my mother-in-law, Joann Schulenberg, she decided that she had been on vacation too. Her travels took her to San Francisco and to Oregon before finally arriving in Butte, Montana. I don’t know why she chose these particular destinations for her travels, but it is my guess that she thought she had traveled, because we told her that we had been in the Black Hills this past week. When my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg retired, they did a bit of traveling. They liked to winter in Yuma, Arizona, and then drive to Winnemucca, Nevada to visit her sister Linda Cole and her husband, Bobby. Then, they would drive up the coast to Klamath Falls, Oregon to visit his sister, Esther Hein and her significant other, Keith Leistikaw. I suppose they would have very likely driven through Butte, Montana on their way to Forsyth, Montana to visit family in that area.

It’s hard to say for sure what things trigger my mother-in-law’s past memories to come back to her so vividly, when at other times, she doesn’t really recall them much at all. I suppose it is just the way Alzheimer’s Disease works. Sometimes the memories are there and pretty clear, and other times they are just gone. For that reason, you enjoy the memories when she has them. It is always a surprise. Unexpected, and yet always fun. When the memories come, they come with clarity, so I get a glimpse into what her life was like at that time. It’s also at times like these, that I’m thankful for the research I’ve put into her life for the different stories I have written about her, because that has enabled me to converse with her on things she remembers too.

As our time with her went on, she noticed that the clouds had begun to roll in a bit, because there was a chance of rain. But since she didn’t know what month we are in, she said it looked like it might snow. We all told her that since it was the middle of July, it most likely was not going to snow. She was not convinced, however, because as she put it, “When I was out riding my horse earlier, it was snowing.” She said it in such a Mom with Pie Face (Molly's colt)Joann Knox Schulenberg aged 140001_editedmatter of fact way, that I knew she would not be convinced otherwise, so I changed the subject to her horses. We talked of Molly and Pie Face…her colt, of Danny and Twinkles, and of course, Bing. For her, it was like just yesterday that she last saw her beloved horses, because like her mom and dad, Nettie and Bob Knox…who passed in the 1980s, her husband, Walt…who passed in 2013, and her daughter, Marlyce Schulenberg…who passed in 1989, her horses are not gone. They are just at home, outside, or in the corral. They live right there, in her world, and there they will remain for as long as she lives.

Jennifer skiingSnow CoveredAfter a recent storm dumped eight to twelve inches of snow on the Casper area, I noticed just how beautiful the white blanket was, as I looked across the grounds of the nursing home where my mother-in-law lives. Not being much of a winter person, I can’t say that I always appreciate the white stuff, and in all reality, I do hope that storm was Winter’s Last Hoorah for the year, but whether it is or it isn’t, on this particular day, it looked very pretty to me. A thought came to me that maybe I should take a walk through the snow with my camera because there might be some beautiful sights to see, but we were on our way in to visit my mother-in-law, so I did not go for that walk. Nevertheless, the picture of that white blanket of snow has stayed in my mind.

Some people love all the different seasons, and they get out and do different things to enjoy each of them, but I usually prefer to snuggle up wrapped in a warm blanket and watch a good television show or movie on those cold winter nights, and not do as my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely, or her son Barry Schulenberg and his wife, Kelli do, which is to get out and ski or snowshoe through the winter scenes. I do, however, enjoy looking at the pictures they post about those activities. I guess I am more of a Norman Rockwell or Thomas Kinkade type of winter person. I’ll take a beautiful snow scene on a card or picture over the real thing any day, because while a card or picture leaves you with a warm, cozy feeling, the real thing is inevitably cold, blustery, and most generally just not fun.

Still, on that day, I felt just a slight tug…almost a desire to walk through the snow, just to see where it took me, and what beautiful scenes it lead me to. I have a feeling now, that if I had gone on that walk, I would have been somewhat disappointed. It’s hard for a summer person to actually experience that cozy feeling when they actually get out in that blustery cold. Somehow, the coziness is lost in winter’s cold, snowy air. It’s funny how something so cold, can look so pretty though. I think that if there is snow in Heaven, I’ll have to ask that it somehow feel warm…at least to me. I suppose that some people, like my sister, Cheryl Masterson will feel just the opposite, but I’m sure God can work it out to suit both of us just fine.

Nevertheless, on that day, and with that particular snow storm, I could picture in my mind’s eye just how Barry snowshoeingKelli snowshoeingbeautiful it would be to take a solitary walk through the cold, snowy park in the moonlight. I could picture the moon’s light creating snow diamonds across the pristine snow. I could imagine that I didn’t feel cold at all, but rather that a cozy feeling prevailed over the evening. I could even picture a deer quietly walking in front of me, seemingly not afraid at all. And maybe I could even picture the two of us walking through the snow in quiet, peaceful harmony. At least, that was what I could picture in my mind’s eye, even if the reality would have been very, very different.

094aYears ago, long before refrigeration was safe to use, most people had a more primitive way to keep foods fresh or frozen. I say that this was before refrigeration was safe to use, because mechanical refrigeration was actually invented in 1748 by William Cullen and was demonstrated at the University of Glasgow. This version was not used for any practical purpose, however. In 1805, an American inventor named Oliver Evans designed the first refrigeration machine, and the first person to make a practical refrigerating machine was Jacob Perkins in 1834, using Ether in a vapor compression cycle. American physician, John Gorrie, built a refrigerator based on Oliver Evans’ design in 1844 which he used to make ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. German engineer Carl von Linden, patented not a refrigerator but the process of liquefying gas in 1876 that is part of basic refrigeration technology. Refrigerators in the late 1800s and up until 1929 used toxic gasses, such as ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide as refrigerants, which were responsible for several fatal accidents in the 1920s. I suppose the cost and the dangers of these early models were the main reasons that people continued to used the old fashioned version.

The old fashioned way to keep foods fresh or frozen, involved using ice and snow, which they would bring in from the mountains, or use what was on the ground, if it was available. They would dig a cellar in the ground, 087aand line it with wood or straw. Then they packed it with snow and ice, and the food was placed in the cellar. It was this type of refrigeration system that my grandparents, Allen and Anna Spencer, were using at the time my Aunt Laura Fredrick was a very little girl in about 1913. My grandparents were living in a wooded area in northern Minnesota near American Falls. Grandpa was working in the lumber business at that time.

According to my Uncle Bill Spencer, who was their second child, the cellar was probably not needed much in the long winter months, because the house stayed pretty cold up there anyway. I’m sure that they had wood for a fire, but then again, I suppose that everything they burned, was something that could not bring in money. Also, they lived in a log cabin, that was apparently not very well built, or at least the spaces in between the logs were not really well packed with mud to keep the cold winter air on the outside of the house, where it belonged.

I’m not sure how far the cellar was from the house, because, I can’t see the house in the picture, so it might have been a little way from the house, or the picture might have been taken from the house. Either way, getting food from the cellar was a bit of a process, because you don’t want to upset the cooling process by removing the straw too often, as it was part of what kept the ice and snow from melting.

059aI can’t say when my grandparents got their first real refrigerator, but I expect that like many people of that time, they were a little bit leery of the early refrigerators, after hearing about people dying because the gasses leaked out of the unit. I suppose it was the price people paid to be able to use some of the early inventions, but many people felt that the price was too high, so they waited until these new fangled gadgets were proven safe before they took a chance on them. And, I’m sure that like any new thing, they were pretty expensive early on too. The cellar would work just fine for now, and therefore, that is what my grandparents were using at that time in our family history. These days, we would be shocked at such a method of keeping food fresh.

529380_4160756552351_801291584_nMy nephew, Barry Schulenberg’s wife, Kelli is a summer girl. Winter is simply not her style. I can relate to that, because if you are the kind of person who loves to get outdoors and do some hiking, winter really cramps your style. Most summer girls don’t snow ski, ice skate, or snow mobile, because those things require cold weather. Even if you dress warmly…it just isn’t enough. A summer girl loves the warm weather. The heat goes clear to your bones and after the long winter, and even the early spring…you are finally warm. The thing that probably surprises me the most is that while Kelli is a summer girl, she has never lived anywhere but in the north, and at least for now, that doesn’t look like it will change soon.

I suppose that there are a lot of things that are harder to do in the winter. It can be rather cold riding horses or bicycles. Even driving a car is no fun in winter’s snow. Slick roads make driving treacherous, especially when 10629691_10202096841617695_5380123168372700253_nyou live in the country, as Kelli and Barry do. Kelli, especially doesn’t like driving on slick roads, and so she often rides into town with Barry, so she doesn’t have to drive the roads herself. I can understand that, because Bob and I used to live in the area they do. It is something I can’t say that I miss in the slightest.

For Kelli and Barry, summer means travel and concerts. Their weekends, during the summer months, often include day drives to Colorado, just to look at the beautiful scenery, and do a little shopping at their favorite stores. I can relate to that too, because while I don’t care much for shopping or concerts, I love nice long drives and beautiful scenery. Being nature girls, probably makes us both feel the same way about the scenic drives you can find in the Rocky Mountain area. Wyoming and Colorado are both filled with mountain scenes and lots of rivers and creeks. Camping and hiking can be done in so many places in the Rocky Mountains. Barry and Kelli have been to a number of them too.

Kelli loves animals too, especially their dog, Dakota, and donkeys, which she doesn’t own any of yet, but given 1908338_10201360299764609_2677605985421931183_ntime, I think she just might someday. That was one of the reasons they bought a place out in the country, and while this place didn’t turn out to be exactly what they had hoped for, in time it will either become what they want or they will find a different place that will provide what is needed to fulfill their dreams.

As winter approaches, I’m sure Kelli will be staying at home more, doing her nesting. She loves her home and works hard to make it pretty…with a western flair. Staying home and reading or getting on Facebook and Twitter are favorite pastimes of Kelli’s…when she can’t be outside hiking or riding her bicycle that is. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Leaf Tracks 1With the Indian Summer we had this year, came a late fall…which collided with winter the other day. Usually winter snow and leaves still on the trees, spells disaster for the trees, but not this time. The weather had cooled down enough to where many if the trees were bare, and those that weren’t, had a lot less leaves than last year when we got an early storm that broke many of our trees. This frigid cold weather, and the subsiquent storm, brought snow that was much more of the powder variety, and maybe that’s why the few trees that had leaves on them were able to stand against the snow.

The thing that makes this storm so unusual is that with most snow storms here, the leaves have either been raked up and disposed of, or they are under the snow. Not so this storm. Because we had an abundance of leaves still lingering on the trees, the wind that followed the storm, deposited them on top of the snow on the ground.
Leaf Tracks 2
As I was looking out the window this morning, I noticed that there was a trail of leaves running across my lawn. The snow was slightly melted around them, creating…well, leaf tracks. I know that makes no sense, and that most likely, an animal walked across our yard, leaving the tracks. The problem with that thought is that the tracks really didn’t go anywhere. If an animal had gone across the yard, it was either very careful to back track in the same foot prints it had made, or it left the yard by some way that I couldn’t see. All I could see was leaves in every one of the imprints. As far as I’m concerned, those are leaf tracks.

You can think what you like, and you can even wonder what goofy thing I will think of next. I can’t say, because I don’t set out to dream this up, it just hits me that way. I have deer in my yard all the time, as well as cats, dogs, and even raccoons, so it could be that one of those made the tracks, but I like the idea of leaf tracks. It lends a little bit of something special to the scene I saw.
Leaf Tracks 3
It’s funny that the snow can melt in such a way as to create something that really can’t happen and makes no sense anyway, but it does. Maybe it had the help of the leaves laying across it in such a way that it looked like a trail, or maybe it’s all in my imagination, but either way, I like the effect. There they are, leaf tracks surrounded by snow diamonds. It’s such a pretty sight, and it puts a smile on my face in an otherwise dreary day. Maybe my analogy is silly, but sometimes we need a little silliness in our lives and I think leaf tracks works perfectly. So the next time you see leaves on top of the snow, look carefully to see if any of them left their tracks across the snow, and you too might be pleasantly surprised by leaf tracks.

IMG_6109For most children, their first friends are their siblings or cousins. Their families get together, so the kids get to see each other often. The days flow from one to another, and for a time, everyone expects that nothing will change. I suppose that is why change always hits us so hard. We have convinced ourselves that it will never happen. Then comes the day when one of those first friends moves away. For some people it doesn’t happen until a sibling moves out of the house for the first time, but for others, as was the case for my sister, Cheryl Spencer Masterson and our cousin, Pam Spencer Wendling, it can come at a very young age, and it can feel quite devastating, for everyone involved.

So often, the two friends only hear one side of how the two of them are feeling. I know that my sister missed Pam a lot. I don’t recall my own feelings concerning the matter, but then I was only two and a half, so that isn’t surprising. In reality, it was Cheryl and Pam who played together every day, and who were so close. They IMG_6115did everything together. It didn’t matter if the day was warm or cold. They were outside playing in the snow or taking care of their baby dolls in the warm sun. It was so cute.

Recently, on our visit to Wisconsin, Pam was telling us about a baby album she had with lots of those early childhood pictures in it. They included Pam and Cheryl, and me too, but there were several of the two little friends going about their daily play. It was so obvious that these two cousins loved each other very much. Our two families lived just across the yard from each other, and since the alley ran along the side of the house, the two yards shared a common fence. In those days, you could let your kids go outside to play with a lot less supervision and worry, so Cheryl and Pam were outside playing together all the time. It was the perfect setup…until all that changed.

In November of 1958, our family moved from Superior, Wisconsin back to my mom’s hometown of Casper, Wyoming. As I said, I was really too little to understand how much Cheryl missed Pam, and until this trip, we IMG_6119hadn’t heard just how much Pam missed Cheryl. Apparently, Pam must have asked her mom why she couldn’t go play with Cheryl, and was told that the family had moved to Wyoming. I’m not really sure where the discussion about trees came into the whole thing, but somehow Pam associated the move with trees. That is odd, because I would have to say that there are a lot more trees in Wisconsin than in Wyoming, but Pam didn’t understand that. She just knew that the move made her sad, and there had to be a reason…in her mind anyway. When that subject came up, Pam cried and said, “Cheryl’s Wyoming has trees!!” Maybe she thought that was why we moved, or maybe she just thought that everything must be better in Wyoming, but whatever the reason, she knew in her heart that Cheryl’s Wyoming had trees.

Kids & CowsKids have always had a fascination with animals. Any animal will do, but pets don’t seem to fall into the same category as other animals. I suppose that the reason for that is that after a little bit of time with a pet, they become normal everyday parts of the family. It doesn’t mean the child doesn’t love the pet, because they do, but the pet is an animal they see everyday, often in the house, so it’s nothing special. Farm animals, on the other hand are something different. Here is an animal that isn’t a domesticated pet, and yet it isn’t afraid of people either. They understand that they need people to bring them their food and water, and they also understand that people aren’t usually scary. Yes, the animal could hurt a child, especially if it stepped on the child, but for the most part the animal is as curious about the child as the child is about the animal.

As small children, my dad and his siblings lived on a farm, so being around farm animals was a part of life. Still, that did not stop the curiosity about those animals from forming in their minds. When they went out to play, a part of their time outside always seemed to be spent visiting the other residents of their home. They would trek out to the haystacks where the cows would be feeding, and watch those strong, yet gentle animals eat, while the cows watched these tiny versions of the people who cared for them watching them. Funny how we all teach our kids not to stare, but when put in a situation like this, all that rudeness doesn’t seem to matter. Both sides are staring anyway, and since it isn’t a person…it just doesn’t matter. I suppose in many ways the whole situation was a lot like the petting zoos that most city children have been to as their only real interaction with farm animals.

When my girls were little, we too had a little place out in the country, and we raised a cow now and them. The girls were quite curious and really wanted to help with our cow. I had to be careful what they helped with, because when it came to grain…our cows always became pigs, and a tiny little girl could get trampled in the cows effort to get to what the cows considered candy. Most of the time the cows were a gentle as they could be, but the grain had to be given in a certain way, and very quickly, because they couldn’t wait to get to it. One cow we had named Rosie, due to her red color, was so excited that she was trying to follow me and still scratch her belly too. The end result was one good, but unintended kick to the back of my knee. It left a knot that stayed with me for the better part of 6 months. It was a good thing for Rosie that I liked her, and it wasn’t butchering time, or she would have been on our table in a matter of days.

Hay was always a very different matter. Little kids could be around cows eating hay, and there Allen, Ruth, & Bill (2)was not a dangerous rush to the food. I suppose that was the vegetables of the whole deal, and we all know how kids, which is what cows are a lot like when it comes to food, are with vegetables. The girls loved to help put the hay in the feeding troths for the cows, and then sit and watch them eat. I suppose it was an interesting sight. If you have never watched a cow eat, you might not know it, but they really are strange when they eat. I suppose that is why Aunt Ruth, Uncle Bill, and my dad were just standing there, out by the haystack when they could have been playing in the snow, just watching the cows eat.

DevastationToday’s 8″ to 10″ of snow and still falling, takes me back to  the severe storms we got when I was a kid. I remember one in particular in about 1972 or 1973, where the snow was taller than my little niece, Chantel, who was about 1 or 2 at the time. I don’t know for sure where that picture is, but I can picture it in my head. As I recall, it was almost taller than my dad, who was squatted down next to her in the picture.

Of course, like today there was no school and no unnecessary travel in the area, and about the only people moving were those with snowmobiles. The main difference then is that we had power at our house, which I do not have today. Thankfully I have one of those Olde Trying to save the treesBrooklyn Lanterns, or I would be sitting here in relative darkness, since it is still pretty early in the morning. I’ve read that many businesses are closing due to the weather and due to the “no unnecessary travel” warning, because of trees down and power outages, caused by power lines down.

Occasionally, I hear the cracking of branches in the trees. Because so many still have most of their leaves, they are very vulnerable. That makes me sad, especially since one of the trees we have been nurturing from the day it sprouted…a volunteer from one of our neighbor’s trees…is among those trees that have lost branches. My daughter, Amy’s trees have also lost branches. So far my daughter, Corrie’s trees are ok. The streets look like a war zone, and of course, we have made national news with our freak storm. It is so early in the year for so much snow to hit here… but not impossible as you can see.

What makes this feel so bad, however, is the loss of so many trees. The skyline has War Zonechanged in many ways. When I look across the street from my house, many of the trees are much shorter. It is hard to tell at this moment if they are just bent or if they are broken, but I know that many are broken. It is simply heartbreaking. So many years put into growing those trees, and now they are gone, and there is no guarantee that they will come back. With God’s help we will persevere and we will nurture those trees that make it, back to health. Freak storms are a part of life, I just hate the look of the war zone that they leave behind them.

Grandma and Laura (I think)In years gone by, when it wasn’t as easy to get to your job site as it is today, many people lived as near their work as possible, especially when their work was out in the woods. Jobs in the cities and towns don’t require long drives, but when you travel on a horse, and work from sunrise to sunset; it’s nice to be close to home. Working in the logging industry, like my grandparents did, living in the woods was just part of the job.

I’m told that their little cabin in the woods was near International Falls, Minnesota, where their daughter, my Aunt Laura was born. I would imagine that the winters were very cold there, and the best thing for anyone who could was to stay indoors, but them I seriously doubt that my grandmother was a woman who was afraid of a little but of cold and snow. Still, the cold and snow would really make it hard to work out in the woods…nevertheless, that was the job that had to be done. Maybe that was another good reason to live near your work. You could get home to the nice warm house sooner, and maybe Little Cabineven be able to go home for lunch.

When I look at these pictures, it reminds me of the “Little House on the Prairie” books. Everywhere you look seems to be a new adventure. I can imagine how the Ingalls girls felt living there…the adventures they must have had…the adventures my Aunt Laura must have had there, playing with the children of the other logging families that lived in the woods too. I’m sure there was an abundance of forest animals to see and be in awe of. I love photographing the animals…when I happen to be in the right place at the right time. The pictures can be amazing. I can imagine all the beauty all around the little cabin in the woods.

July 4, 1973Most people think of the 4th of July as a hot, mid-summer holiday to celebrate our independence, and they would normally be right…but not always. In Wyoming, and I’m sure there are a few other places as well, there are times when the 4th of July can be cold. We don’t get that too much, but we do on occasion. The year my oldest daughter, Corrie was born, I recall that it snowed on the 4th, and I found myself thinking, “How can this be happening?” Another year that saw snow on the 4th of July was 1973, which was almost 2 years before I married Bob, so I didn’t know his family then.

Apparently, they decided to take a trip up into the Shirley Mountains that day, and were surprised to find snow…quite a bit, in fact. It was obvious to me that they were unprepared for what they found in the Shirleys that morning, because the kids had on shorts and even, bathing suits. It would seem that it had been pretty hot, so when they came across that snow, everyone wanted the chance to really cool off. Everyone started dancing around on the snow… some of them, barefoot!! They were out there on the snow…dancing!! It made me think of the Ice Capades…or in this case, the Summer Ice Capades!!

They had such a good time, and I’ll bet they didn’t even notice, if their feet got cold. Or maybe they didn’t. The day doesn’t exactly look like it was cold, but it must have been, Summer Ice Capadessince there was still snow on the 4th of July. I know that it felt cold on July 4, 1975, when it snowed 4 days after Corrie was born, but maybe this snow simply hadn’t melted yet. That would indicate a colder summer, but not necessarily as cold as it was two years later.

Whatever the case, a surprise snow bank brought a cool down moment to a summer day. Sometimes, it’s the little things, things you would never expect, that end up being fun. And sometimes, when you can let go of the everyday things and see the unusual, and allow yourself to be goofy…you just might find yourself having a really great time. Happy Independence Day everyone!!!