Monthly Archives: October 2020

Anyone who finds Winter and the shortened nights depressing, can understand how a person can crave the sun. There is even a condition known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that comes out of the limited or even lack of sunlight. People in Alaska and other areas near the pole regions often suffer from it in the dark winter days. The polar regions aren’t the only ones with the problem, however.

There is a tiny town in Norway, called Rjukan. For hundreds of years, the inhabitants of this tiny Norwegian town went without direct sunlight for almost half the year. It’s not because this town is situated near the North Pole, because it isn’t. Nevertheless, the place Rjukan is situated is the problem. Rjukan is wedged at the bottom of a steep east-west valley in southern Norway’s Telemark region. It’s surrounded by mountains, including the 6,178-foot-high Gaustatoppen.

Rjukan is a company town, founded for the employees of Norsk Hydro, an aluminum powerhouse that is still going strong today. At first the town built an aerial tramway, Krossobanen, to give employees and their families access to the winter sunshine. Sam Eyde, the founder of the town, began to consider building sun mirrors on the mountain as far back as 1913, but the tramway was built first. It was the first such system in northern Europe, and still functions today. The tramway served a purpose, but really didn’t solve the problem.

Still, the desire for the kind of direct sunlight first shared by Eyde never went away. Then, more than 90 years later, a local resident and artist, Martin Andersen took up the idea from the history books. He began to think that maybe the idea was a good one. So, on October 30, 2013, almost 100 years to the day when the idea was first presented, the Rjukan sun mirror officially opened. For the first time in the town’s history, the sun actually shown on the town in the winter months. The people were elated. At first, not everyone was on board with Andersen’s plans. Many locals criticized the $750,000 project, believing the money could be better spent elsewhere, but when they saw how excited everyone was with the day, it was hard to continue to be negative. The people put on sunglasses, and basked in the sun’s light and warmth. It was like a big party. The sun mirrors continue to be a big hit in the town, oddly in the summer, as well as the winter.

Local residents now enjoy an approximately 6,500 square foot ellipse-shaped beam of sunlight into the town square. Between 80% and 100% of the sun’s light is transferred down into the town. The mirror system has helped the tourism industry. It’s said, “This summer there were several tourists who turned their backs on the real sun, and sat instead with their faces to the sun mirror.” Locals and tourists can even hike to the mirrors. As unusual as it may seem, Rjukan’s sun mirror system is not a world first. The small town of Viganella, in Italy’s steep Antrona Valley, celebrated its own day of the light in December 2006, as a sheet of steel was installed to reflect sunlight into the town square from November to February. The system in Rjukan is significantly more advanced, however. Each of the three 182 square foot mirrors are controlled computer-driven motors called heliostats. They track the movement of the sun across the horizon and constantly reposition the mirrors to keep the reflected light as consistent as possible. What a cool idea for a town and its people who can’t get easy access to the sun.

My niece, Michelle Stevens met her future husband Matt Miller when they were both in 8th grade. They became friends for life, and that hasn’t changed. That is not something you see every day, but it is their story. Michelle said that Matt reminds her a lot of her grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer. I don’t know if my dad was the class clown, but she says Matt certainly is. Both Matt and my dad love to tease their love ones, and make people laugh. It’s a great trait to have.

It’s amazing sometimes, that two people can like each other for a long time, but are not “brave” enough to take the relationship to the next level…one of being a couple. I suppose they worry about the friendship ending if things don’t work out, but for Matt and Michelle, that needn’t have been a concern. They have been a couple now for nine years, and are engaged to be married…when the pandemic allows. They had planned a tropical wedding, but that is on hold, and they might just decide to do something different too. They don’t want to wait for the pandemic forever, after all.

Matt works at the North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in Gillette, Wyoming. It is owned by Peabody Energy. Matt has worked there a little over three years. Matt works long hours driving some of the biggest equipment in the world. He likes his job very much, and other than the long hours, Michelle does too. I know just how she feels, because my husband worked at a uranium mine early in our marriage. It’s tough, especially since several hours of their day are spent just getting to work. Nevertheless, you do what you have to do, and you make it work. Shift work is especially hard.

When Matt is not working he’s all about hunting, fishing, and his toys! He’s a typical outdoorsman. It doesn’t matter what sport it is, as long as it in the woods, by a stream, or at the lake. Matt even broke a record in deer hunting with a bow. I have never been able to figure out how these guys could be so accurate with a bow. Still, Matt is accurate. From water sports in summer to snow sports in winter. Matt likes it all. He also loves to watch movies. Star Wars is his all-time favorite, and that would explain the names of their two precious dogs…Obi and Leia!! The dogs are 2½ years old, and they are sisters. They fell in love with the puppies the minute they saw them. They are very happy with their little fur babies. Today is Matt’s birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Absaroka…have you ever heard of it? No…I hadn’t either, but it was of some importance to the United States, and it would have been of some significance to me and my family had it not been a temporary situation. You see, when President Franklin D Roosevelt put “The New Deal” in place, there were a lot of people who didn’t think it was such a good deal…much like “The Green New Deal” of today. “The New Deal” was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. The idea was to “help” by responding to needs for relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression. The plan created major federal programs and agencies, including the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). They provided support for farmers, the unemployed, youth, and the elderly. The New Deal included new constraints and safeguards on the banking industry and efforts to re-inflate the economy after prices had fallen sharply. The New Deal programs included both laws passed by Congress, as well as presidential executive orders during the first term of the presidency of Roosevelt.

The New Deal failed because Roosevelt misunderstood the cause of the Great Depression. When a doctor misdiagnoses the symptoms that present themselves, the doctor cannot prescribe the right medicine to cure the disease of a patient. Similarly, Roosevelt prescribed “The New Deal” to cure the economy of the United States from the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s “medicine” did not work because his administration failed to recognize the true causes of the Great Depression and therefore prescribed the wrong medicine. Roosevelt assumed that the free market, and not the government caused the Great Depression. Roosevelt believed the Great Depression was partly caused by poor investments and stock manipulations by rich people. To complicate matters, he blamed the Great Depression on bankers, speculators, and journalists. In reality, the causes of the Great Depression boiled down to three major causes…which explain why there was a banking crisis, why the stock market declined, why exports vanished, why trading partners were upset, why major industries collapsed, and why there was uncertainty on the administration’s policies. These three explanations of the causes contrast with Roosevelt’s assumption that the private, not the public sector caused the problem. First, the negative consequences of World War I, increasing debt from less than $2 billion to over $20 billion, while at the same time, US loans to Europe amounted to over $10 billion. Second, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act…the highest tariff in US history, which affected over 3,000 imported items and even increased taxes on some items. As a result of those high tariffs, foreign goods became less competitive and similar domestic goods more competitive. Third, the Federal Reserve did not prevent a banking crisis, but rather helped cause one. It was argued that the economic contraction was exacerbated because of the bank failures and the massive withdrawals of currency from the financial system while the Federal Reserve did not provide the necessary liquidity that the system required.

As people became more and more agitated about the unsuccessful New Deal, an idea began to form…secession. One of the leaders of the secessionist movement was A R Swickard, the street commissioner of Sheridan, Wyoming, who appointed himself “governor” and started hearing grievances in the “capital” of Sheridan. The new state was to be called Absaroka, which means “children of the large-beaked bird.” They planned secession in 1939. This region largely belongs to the Crow people and the Sioux, according to the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1851). Absaroka is also the namesake of the Absaroka mountain range. The area involved was the entire northern part of Wyoming, the western part of South Dakota, including the Black Hills, and the southeastern corner of Montana. Increasing tourism to the region was a motivation for the proposed state because Mount Rushmore (constructed 1927–1941) would be within Absaroka according to some plans.

The region’s complaints came from ranchers and independent farmers in remote parts of the three states, who resented the New Deal and Democratic control of state governments, especially the government of Wyoming. In preparation for state secession, state automobile license plates bearing the name were distributed, as well as pictures of Miss Absaroka 1939. The movement was unsuccessful and fairly short-lived. The chief record of its existence comes from the Federal Writers’ Project, which included a story about the plan as an example of Western eccentricity. Oh those eccentric Westerners!! Imagine wanting to limit government, high taxes, and strict laws and mandates!! What were they thinking? Freedom, limited government, capitalism vs socialism…yep among other things, that’s what they were thinking.

My niece, Susan Griffith is a Client Development Executive by trade. She works for Blue Cross Blue Shield, but there is so much more to Susan than that. Like her mom, Debbie Cook, Susan likes to cross stitch. She is currently working on a special picture for a friend’s babies. Those baby cross stitch patters are so cute, and I just know it will be beautiful when it is finished.

Susan is an avid reader. She finds reading to be very relaxing and informative. As with most adults, there is likely not much time to read in her busy day, but because the family loves to go camping, I’m sure she finds a little bit of time to do more of that, while everyone is hanging out in camp. Nevertheless, reading isn’t all they do while camping. Susan and her husband, Josh own several horses, and they do a lot of riding. Their girls, Jala Satterwhite and Kaytlyn Griffith are excellent equestrians, as is Josh. Susan, being a city girl, is learning, and becoming more comfortable with each ride.

The Griffith family was able to get a lot of camping in this year, and that gave Susan time to do another of her favorite pastimes…rock collecting. I had no idea Susan loved rocks, but is is something a lot of people do. Susan tends to look for a specific rock, called a wishing rock. This was something I had never heard about, although I have seen them. When she told me about the wishing rock, Susan’s daughter, Katylyn encouraged me to look it up to see what it was exactly. I did, and I found that “a ‘wishing rock’ is a beach stone with a single perfectly unbroken stripe all the way around the circumference of the rock. For a rock to qualify as a true wishing rock, there can be no breaks in the white quartz circle. Most of us have seen striped rocks, but to find one with just a single perfect line is not easy.” So, I found out something new, thanks to Kaytlyn. The Idea is that if you find such a rock, your wish will come true. Of course, like wishing on a star, we all know that the “wishing rock” can’t grant wishes wither, but they are a very unique, and really very pretty stone, so I can see why they would capture Susan’s eye. They are truly beautiful. Today is Susan’s birthday. Happy birthday Susan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Dustie Masterson is always an upbeat happy person. She married my nephew, Rob Masterson in 2003, and they have been soulmates since that time. They have worked very hard to build a good life for themselves and their children, Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna, as well as Rob’s grown daughter, Christina, when she is in town. Dustie works as a shift leader at Walgreen’s…a job she likes very much. She is a great person to be shift leader, because she is a motivator without having to be grouchy. People just naturally like Dustie, and they want to do their best for her. That really helps in the work world. Dustie is always helpful to those in need, and that also endears her to many people. She would bend over backward to help someone who needed help.

Not everybody can join a family and fit right in. Often, people have to get used to a person, and their quirks, but apparently Dustie had the same quirks the rest of the family did, because there was very little adjustment needed. Of course, it helps that Dustie loves to make people laugh, and she isn’t shy about making a face or doing something that accomplishes that goal. Dustie always puts a smile on the faces of the people around her. And speaking of smiles, Dustie has a great one. When she smiles, her whole face smiles. That is a very special trait, and one that describes Dustie very well. Dustie is also very good to my sister, Cheryl, and that have endeared her to our family is a big way. Dustie has loved Cheryl as a mom, and that is awesome.

Dustie is a great mom. She hasn’t forgotten her own teenaged years, and with three children in that age group, a parent needs patience and wisdom. The teenaged years are emotional roller coasters, even for the calmest of kids. Now, with two of her kids in various stages of learning to drive, she really has her hands full. Of course, Rob will help with that too, but anyone who has had kids of driving age knows, every time they want to get into the car, they want to be behind the wheel. Of course, most kids learn how to drive very quickly, but there is always the snow factor, which adds a good deal of stress to the parents of these new drivers. I know that both Dustie and Rob will do well with that, because like most parents, they will make their way through the different abilities and personalities. And after these two, they only have one more new driver to go. There is hope!! Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My aunt, Sandy Pattan is the youngest child of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer. Being the youngest, gave her a unique perspective concerning her family. The rest of the siblings grew up around each other, so their lives didn’t really seem like anything special. They were kids, doing kid things, but Aunt Sandy was born just two years before her eldest sibling, Evelyn Hushman was married. Her first niece, Susie Young was born just after Aunt Sandy turned three, making her an aunt for the first of many times. As she grew up, her siblings were getting married, working at jobs, and going to school.

Aunt Sandy had a tendency to catch just about every bug that went through, so she also spent more time with her mom during those days when she was sick. That gave her access to the many family stories that her mom told, when they were still fresh on Grandma’s mind. The stores Grandma told were also from a unique perspective these days…one of being there during times we would classify as history. Days of Cowboys and Indians were basically just another day for Grandma, and she made the stories come alive to her youngest child. Of course, being sick was not a blessing, but those stories were…both to Aunt Sandy, and now to any of her family who want to hear them.

I love talking to Aunt Sandy on the phone, because She always has so many interesting things to say. She remembers all those stories, and is happy to share them, and I love hearing them. Her parents were born in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The American Indian Wars raged in this country from 1609 to 1924…probably one of the longest wars ever. Many of us think of growing up in times of wars in other nations, in which our young men might have to fight, as being scary. We think of times like the current unrest as scary. So, imagine having 315 years of wars on our own soil. Of course, none of us would live through all of that period, but many people lived with it for their entire lifetimes. It was always there. It was part of everyday normal life. That was the world my grandparents grew up in. Those of us born after 1924 would really not know what that was like…living with the fear of war that could erupt right in front of us at any moment. Aunt Sandy, like me, loves history very much. It’s like a time machine, giving us a really interesting glimpse into the past. That is probably why we can talk about it for hours.

I’m sure that as a little girl, she loved hearing about things her older siblings were doing. I’m sure it all seemed very glamorous to her. She did get to do some cool things as the youngest, like take a train to Superior, Wisconsin with her mom to visit my mom and her sister, Collene Spencer. Since Bob and I traveled by train a while back, I can relate to that trip. Things were quite likely much different on her trip, because the more modern trains, while not like flying, are more comfortable than their predecessors. To ride miles and miles sitting up straight would be awful. Aunt Sandy has lived an interesting life, and I enjoy talking to her about it. Today is Aunt Sandy’s 75th birthday. I feel very blessed to have her still with us. Happy birthday Aunt Sandy!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Tucker Schulenberg is quite a guy!! He loves wheels…all kinds of wheels!! He loves to go out on the four wheeler, his motorcycle, and his rip stick. If fact, he has used his rip stick so much that he wore out his wheels. He just may be the first kid to ever do that. It certainly isn’t something I’ve ever heard of before.

Tucker is a soft hearted guy, who likes to do things for other people. He likes to sleep in, but he gives that up in the winter months do he can get up and build a fire for his dad, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg, (who recently adopted him…the best day in all of their lives). Tucker is very dedicated to keeping his dad warm and usually is a very good helper doing oil and sweeping the garage. Tucker loves spending time with his dad, and even work doesn’t seem like work when they are together. Although Tucker has this “hard-core armor” on outside he is very sensitive on the inside and always worries about his family especially his brother, Riley Birky and his sister, Cassie Iverson! He loves them very much because he has such a huge heart. Tucker also loves his dogs and his cat.

Tucker is a comical guy. In school he is very popular because he is the class clown. He is always funny and joking around. Nevertheless, he is smart as a whip, and does well in school. He has a couple of really good friends…Joey, who he has known since preschool, and with whom he is very close. Their friendship has been a strong bond for both of them. His cousin Easton Moore is another of his close friends. They love to play Xbox games together, over the phone, since they live in different towns. And…like many boys his age, Tucker has a girlfriend. I’m not surprised, because he is a cute guy and so all the girls swoon over him.

As with most teenagers, Tucker sometimes gets “a little mouthy” and his mom, Rachel Schulenberg had to threaten to take away his privileges. Like most men, he never picks up his clothes or his towels. He definitely not a “neat freak,” but she is trying to teach him the way to be a good husband in the future. I’m sure his future wife will appreciate that effort very much. It’s funny that Tucker doesn’t pick up his clothes, because he is very “into” the way he dresses. He enjoys looking nice and up-to-date with the current fashion trends. He was real excited to get a new leather jacket and cowboy boots for his birthday. Tucker has his head on straight, and in very informed about politics. He is a Trumper all the way, and that makes all of his family very proud. Today is Tucker’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grand niece, Reagan Parmely almost shared her mom’s birthday, but she stalled just long enough to have her birthday the next day. I know how that is. I was supposed to be born on my dad’s birthday, but I stalled two days. It wasn’t our fault. After all, we didn’t know, we were just being born when we were supposed to. Well, all kidding aside, the day Reagan was born changed the lives of her parents, Ashley and Eric Parmely, forever. That was the day they became parents. They were no longer parents-to-be or a couple. They were parents and they had a family. It is the most amazing day in a person’s life. That was 8 years ago, and now Reagan is big sister to three siblings…Hattie, Bowen, and Maeve. Life is good!!

Reagan has grown up around farm animals, and for most of her life, that was all about the cuddling and chasing of the animals and their babies, but as she grew, she began to understand that sometimes, you are raising your family’s food, and that as such, the food must be killed so it can be eaten. I don’t think that is an easy lesson for anyone, adult or child. I have raised cows too, and I didn’t want to watch on butchering day, but you have to help, and there it is. Reagan understands this, and while she may not like that part, she knows that it puts food of the family table. I am very proud of Reagan’s maturity in these things.

Reagan and especially her sister, Hattie, has become excellent horsewomen. Their brother, Bowen is coming along too. When these kids were little, I found myself feeling amazed at these little kids standing on the ground beside these great horses, and they weren’t afraid at all. Now, these little kids can ride horses like the wind, and they are only getting better and better. When I first saw them on those horses, they looked so…little, and since I have not grown up around horses, I thought that it looked so dangerous, but these kids, and Reagan first felt right at home. Of course, they have been on these horses since they were just babies riding with their mom, who has also been riding since she was little. These day, with Reagan leading the next generation, the Parmely kids are spending lots of time riding their horses, and really enjoying the outdoors. Today is Reagan’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Reagan!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Ashley Parmely is a very busy girl these days. She has long been a farmer…raising horses, cows, chickens, goats, pigs, dogs, cats, and farmers. There may be others too that I am unaware of. Taking care of all those animals and her four little farmers too, keeps her running all day. Personally, I don’t know where she gets the energy for all of it, and as if that weren’t enough, this year, with the ongoing pandemic, she has taken on a new role…that of teacher to her three little students…all while also keeping her youngest girl, Maeve busy while she teaches the older children, Reagan, Hattie, and Bowen. If she doesn’t know why she might be tired, I say…”Let me enlighten you!!”

Being the teacher is a very new concept to Ashley. I don’t think it was a role she had ever imagined herself in. Nevertheless, with the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the hornet’s nest it stirred up in the education system, she and my nephew, Eric Parmely have decided that it is the best way to educate their children. Now as the teacher, you are held to a high educational standard, and it was here that Ashley came across her first stumbling block. No, it wasn’t academically, she’s fine with that. No…it was in penmanship. Not the part about being able to read her writing, but rather, her struggle with “chalkboard writing.” Seriously…how can you aske your students to write in nice straight lines, when you are unable to do so. Hahahahaha!! Ashley is working hard on this problem, and now, a little way into the quarter, I believe she has it under control.

For Ashley, homeschooling the kids is in many ways a dream come true. She has her children at home with her, and they can have relaxed classes on the farm. Homeschooling isn’t a new concept. It has been going on for many years, it’s just that now, with the pandemic, more people have opted for homeschooling. Ashley and Eric are concerned over some of the new radical education plans for things. Some of the things their kids are learning, really seem extreme to Ashley and to many other Christian and Conservative parents. Kids need time to be kids, and with Ashley, I know that the kids will have just that. Ashley has a wonderful sense of humor and isn’t afraid to look silly sometimes. I believe it will make her the kids favorite teacher. Today is Ashley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane…known by most of us as a parachute jump…is something that the majority of us would probably not do. Still, there are many people that love to jump, and others who would love to try it. I would have thought that this was a rather new hobby, and a even fairly new way to fight fires or fight wars, but I would be wrong. The first parachute jump is said to have taken place in 1797…yes, I said 1797!! How could that be? There weren’t even any planes?

That first parachute jumper was André-Jacques Garnerin from a hydrogen balloon 3,200 feet above Paris. Military jumpers jump at altitudes between 15,000 feet and 35,000 feet…which seems a bit high to me, but what do I know. The lowest altitude to jump is an almost suicidal 100 feet. That put Garnerin’s jump on the low end of the safe spectrum. Garnerin first came up with the idea of using air resistance to slow an individual’s fall from a high altitude while he was a prisoner during the French Revolution. Although he never employed a parachute to escape from the high ramparts of the Hungarian prison where he spent three years, Garnerin never lost interest in the concept of the parachute. He thought that given enough height, he could have escaped from that prison.

After he was released, he continued to experiment with the idea. Then in 1797, he completed his first parachute. The parachute consisted of a canopy 23 feet in diameter, attached to a basket with suspension lines. He was finally ready. On October 22, 1797, Garnerin attached the parachute to a hydrogen balloon and ascended to an altitude of 3,200 feet. He then climbed into the basket and cut the parachute loose from the balloon. To say it was a perfect trial, would be an epic mistake. Garnerin had failed to include an air vent at the top of the prototype, and he oscillated wildly in his descent. Nevertheless, he landed shaken but unhurt half a mile from the balloon’s takeoff site. Unless you are an expert on parachutes, or even an amateur, you probably wouldn’t know about the vent hole. Nevertheless, it is quite important. I would expect that Garnerin’s wife would have been ready to choke him for trying something so crazy, but I would be wrong. In 1799, Garnerin’s wife, Jeanne-Genevieve, became the first female parachutist. I guess he married a woman who was as much an adventurist as he was. They continued on with their work, and in 1802, Garnerin made a spectacular jump from 8,000 feet during an exhibition in England. Unfortunately, he died in a balloon accident on August 18, 1823 while preparing to test a new parachute.

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