Monthly Archives: January 2022

Most people, these days, don’t necessarily know who William Cullen is, but historically speaking, he is a very important man. Born April 15, 1710, in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, the son of William Cullen…a lawyer and Elizabeth Roberton of Whistlebury. Cullen was a Scottish physician, chemist and agriculturalist, as well as a professor at the Edinburgh Medical School, but these things would not be the defining accomplishment of his life. Cullen saw a need for something, that many people knew they needed, but no one knew how to get it.

Years ago, towns had an icehouse. Snow and ice were stored in a cellar in an effort to keep them frozen for use by the townspeople. Then the icehouse owner would bring ice to people, and it would basically be kept in a “cooler” so food could be kept cold for a while. It was an imperfect system, but it was all they had. Cullen could see that something better was needed. I’m sure he saw the diseases that came from spoiled food and maybe even deaths from that food. That got him thinking.

After Cullen completed his education at the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh, he started his formal career. His field of study and subsequent career in medicine and after completing the studies, he started in that career, but he was also interested in working on a scientific basis to invent different things. That was when Cullen envisioned and then invented an artificial refrigerator which was used manually to save many things from getting wasted.

These days, the refrigerator is an appliance which can be found in almost every house, and it is one of the most used appliances. It comes in different shapes and in different sizes. Normally, it is made up in “the form of two compartments and one of them is insulated thermally, while the other compartment consists of a heat pump and its important function is the transfer of heat. This transfer is done to manage heat environment.” I don’t presume to understand how all that works. I just know that my food stays the temperature it needs to be to either freeze it of just keep it cold.

In 1741 he married Anne (or Anna) Johnstone, who died 1786. He was father to Robert Cullen and Henry Cullen, who became a physician. Cullen’s eldest son Robert became a Scottish judge in 1796 under the title of Lord Cullen, and later Baron Cullen, and was known for his powers of mimicry. Cullen died in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 5, 1790. He was almost 80 years of age at the time of his death.

The world was embarking on the industrial revolution, and it was during World War I that we found out just how much of a difference that industrial revolution could make in wartime. From the introduction of airplanes to the use of tanks and railway guns on the battlefield, soldiers had to contend not only with each other but with the productions of the factory floor. Even the recent invention of the telephone made its way into battlefield units, where soldiers used it to convey orders or direct artillery fire.

Nevertheless, there was one area where technology was not as “up to date” as it needed to be. The telephone while a great invention, was not as reliable as the commanders of Europe would have liked. I guess that anyone who has used a modern-day cellular phone can relate that. I’m sure that they could envision the need to arrange their operations, and they weren’t too sure the information was completely safe. So, they brainstormed alternatives in an attempt to improve combat communications. The leaders of World War I turned to a much older form of communication…the carrier pigeon.

Pigeons had been used for communication for many, many years. These unsung heroes of World War I, the carrier pigeons, used by both the Allied and Central Powers, helped assist their respective commanders with an accuracy and clarity unmatched by the modern technology. The National Archives holds a vast collection of messages that these feathered fighters delivered for American soldiers. Using these messages and the history of the carrier pigeon in battle, we can look at what hardship these fearless fowls endured and how their actions saved American lives. One of the most impressive things about the war records of the carrier pigeons was how widely the birds were used. Their service as battlefield messengers is their most known use, and the pigeons found homes in every branch of service.

The rudimentary airplanes of the embattled countries used pigeons to provide updates midair. Launched mid-mission, the birds would fly back to their coops and update ground commanders on what the pilots had observed. These strange update methods were born of the essential need for leaders to know what the battlefield looked like and what the enemy was doing in its own trenches. Planes flying over and pigeons bringing the information back quickly was the best way to stay ahead of the enemy. In addition, tanks carried the birds in order to relay the advance of individual units. Even after the introduction of the radio, pigeons were often the easiest way to help coordinate tank units without exposing the men to dangerous fire. Radios to be overheard. Of course, while it made the soldiers safer, the pigeons were not necessarily safer. Many of them didn’t make it back home, having been shot down and/or used for food for starving families. Still, without a radio set, the soldiers would have had to leave the relative safety of their tanks to relay or receive orders. These birds saved lives, even if it meant sacrificing their own. Their owners also saved lives by allowing their pigeons to be involved. They were a great asset to the war effort of more than one war.

The birds’ most effective use was on the front line, as they were brought forward with their armies to help update commanders and planners in the rear. When the birds were away from their home lofts, they stayed in mobile units, which were usually converted horse carriages or even double-decker buses. I’m sure it made a strange sight. The mobile lofts were useful when the armies outpaced their established lines of communications or when the enemy disrupted communications lines for the telegraphs or telephones, as they often did during battle. While the other Allied powers were first to use birds, the United States did not lag far behind when we entered the fray. During the course of the war, many birds performed heroic deeds in the course of service and became heroes in their own rights.

My uncle, Bill Spencer went home to be with the Lord on Christmas Day 2020. It isn’t the perfect day to lose a loved one, but I think it would be the perfect day to go home to Heaven. Instead of spending Christmas in a nursing home, alone because of Covid restrictions and sick with Covid, often not remembering most people, except maybe his kids, Uncle Bill got to spend Christmas with his parents, Anna and Allen Spencer, as well as his siblings, Laura Fredrick, Allen Spencer, and Ruth Wolfe…and most importantly, he got to spend Christmas with Jesus. How awesome is that!!

Uncle Bill and his little brother, my dad, Allen Spencer were very close growing up and into their later years too. Whenever they were together, you can bet the stories flew around the room. Their antics were crazy. When those two boys got together, all bets were off. They were farm kids, so they knew how to use dynamite to blow a tree stump out of a field…or to shorten a gate post by 3 or 4 inches or wake up the neighborhood at daybreak on July 4th.

They were intensely patriotic, and both were part of the war effort during World War II…Uncle Bill as a riveter on ships and planes, and my dad as an airplane assembler and later, flight engineer and top turret gunner on a B-17. Not being able to serve was a great disappointment to Uncle Bill, who really wanted to go along with his little brother to fight the war. Thankfully, both were alive at its end, and because they were, my cousins Pam Wendling, Bill Spencer, and Jim Spencer got to have a dad, and my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Caryl Reed, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock and I got to exist.

Uncle Bill was the family historian. He loved looking into his ancestry, and because he did, we all got to know so much, or about our family that we ever would have otherwise. He was sometimes helped with his nephews, Gene and Dennis Fredrick, and grandnephews Tim and Shawn Fredrick. Uncle Bill was meticulous with the family history, striving relentlessly to get everything down on paper (no computer for Uncle Bill) and to get it correct. He was a champion of family truth, and we are the beneficiaries…as are many cousins around the country.

They have been back together for over a year in Heaven now, and I know that they and their sisters and parents are having the time of their lives. Nevertheless, we all miss them very much here on Earth, and look forward to seeing all of them again in Heaven. Today would have been Uncle Bill’s 100th birthday. It was a life well lived, and we were blessed to have him. He almost made it, going home just a month short of his 99th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Bill. We love and miss you very much.

We seldom think of the “man of the family” being 6 years old, but sometimes circumstances put families in tough situations. Harland Sanders was born September 9, 1890, in Henryville, Indiana to Wilbur David and Margaret Ann (née Dunlevy) Sanders. He was the oldest of their three children, having a younger brother and sister. Sanders’ dad was a gentle and loving man who worked his 80-acre farm, until he broke his leg in a fall. He then worked as a butcher in Henryville for two years. Sanders’ mother was a devout Christian and strict parent, who did her very best to teach her children right from wrong.

At the tender age of just 6 years, Sanders was forced to take over as man of the family when his father passed away. Often when that happens, the new “position” is just symbolic, but in this case, it certainly wasn’t. Because his mother had to get a job, and Sanders needed to help provide for his younger siblings, so he took jobs as a farmer, salesman, streetcar conductor, and railroad fireman from a young age. His mother got work in a tomato cannery, and the young Sanders was left to look after and cook for his siblings. By the age of seven, he was reportedly skilled with bread and vegetables, and improving with meat. Times were hard, and the children reportedly foraged for food while their mother was away at work for days at a time. Strange, I know, but remember that things were different in the late 1800s. His formal schooling ended after the seventh grade.

His personal life took a hit, because of the stresses and pressure he always seemed to be under. His first wife, wife Josephine King, with whom he had three children: Margaret Josephine, Harland David Jr, and Mildred Marie, left him in 1947, and in 1949, he married his mistress Claudia Ledington-Price…cheating being his biggest failing, in my mind, but things happen. In September 1970 he and his wife were baptized in the Jordan River. He also befriended Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell.

After his son died at the age of 20, Sanders dealt with severe depression. Through this depression, though, he finally found a business he could succeed at: restaurants. At age 40, Sanders was running a service station in Kentucky, where he would also feed hungry travelers. Sanders eventually moved his operation to a restaurant across the street and featured a fried chicken so notable that he was named a Kentucky colonel in 1935 by Governor Ruby Laffoon. Sanders had to essentially restart the business after roadways had diverted traffic from passing by his restaurant. Nonetheless, his restaurant was eventually rebuilt and his chicken, with its famous new cooking methods, were celebrated. After selling KFC, Sanders would go on to disagree with the direction of the company that still used his face as its advertising, and he even went on to sue his former company. He continued to work for the company until his final days and was reportedly never seen in public without his white suit. Sanders was diagnosed with acute leukemia in June 1980. He died at Louisville Jewish Hospital of pneumonia on December 16, 1980, at the age of 90.

A year seems like a long time, but in reality, it goes by so fast. One year ago today, my sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven. She had a stroke, and recovery was not to be. Rachel left behind a husband, Ron Schulenberg; daughter, Cassie Franklin; sons, Riley Birky and Tucker Schulenberg; her dad, Cliff Franklin; and brother, BJ Franklin, grandchildren, Lucas and Zoey; as well as lots of family and friends. Life wasn’t always easy for Rachel, but she was in a great place. She and my brother-in-law were so in love, and they had been happily married almost 11 years. Ron had adopted her son Tucker, and we are all thankful for that, because no one knew the future, but Tucker needed to be with Ron.

Now, a year after Rachel left us, a number of things have changed. Her daughter, Cassie was in a bad situation, and Rachel was worried about it. Cassie was able to walk away from that situation, and I know that Rachel would be so glad. Rachel’s son Riley struggled through the years, but Rachel always stuck by him. Today he is engaged to a great girl, Sierah Martin, and together they are raising her little boy, and expecting a new baby in August 2022. Rachel would have been glad. Tucker is getting ready to go to high school next year. High school…how could that be!! Tucker should still be that 2-year-old boy who firat came into our lives when Rachel and Ron got married. Ron and Tucker are doing ok. They are working hard to take care of each other, and about that, Rachel would be glad. Tucker went to a grief camp that included horses last summer, and not only did he find a love of horses, but he found out that a school friend also lost his mother about two years ago.

Ron probably hides his feelings more than most and tries to use physical labor to help him through it, but we are having monthly family dinners, and trying to pull him into socializing more. It’s hard, and we don’t pressure him, but rather we let him, as well as the kids, know that we are there for them in whatever way they need…and I think Rachel would be glad. Rachel was a loving caring person, and that is impossible to replace. The hole left in our hearts when she left is impossible to fill, at least without God. Rachel knew Jesus as her personal Savior, and so we know that she is living a wonderful life in Heaven. While that doesn’t make us miss her any less, it does remind us that she is happy, and she is looking forward to the day we all join her there. Happy first year in Heaven, Rachel. We love and miss you very much.

Sometimes, all it takes to make a hero is to be at the right place at the right time. Most of the time, these “right place right time” moments are truly just miracles…they couldn’t be anything else. There is simply no other way that many people could be in the right place at the right time. It was miraculously orchestrated by God, and because it was, people’s lives were saved. No one will ever make me think differently about it, because twice, I was there in these situations.

In 2003, a sixty-seven-year-old woman named Dorothy Fletcher had a heart attack on a flight to Orlando, Florida. A heart attack in any situation is bad news, but on a flight with limited medical supplies and even fewer medical staff. Immediately following Fletcher’s heart attack, the attendant, as often happens, asked if there was a doctor on board. In a medical emergency, like a heart attack, any doctor is better than no doctor, but what she got was so much more than what she expected. In response to her anxious inquiry for a doctor, 15 cardiologists stood up. Not just doctors…cardiologists, and not just one, 15!! How could this happen? Well, as it turns out, Fletcher has her heart attack on the perfect flight. The 15 cardiologists were on their way to a cardiac conference. Totally a God thing!! Needless to say, she survived.

Heart attacks are scary no matter where you are, and when an emergency happens, things move very fast. On Sunday afternoon, October 14, 2018, in the Walmart parking lot on the east side of Casper, Wyoming at 4:45pm, I faced my own emergency when my husband Bob Schulenberg had a heart attack in the Walmart parking lot. Before I even knew that my husband was down behind the car, a man who watched him fall was with him. By the time I got to him a cardiac care nurse was treating him. Almost instantly, a transport worker from the hospital who also knew CPR assisted, and then another cardiac care nurse showed up. The first man on scene had called for an ambulance, and with that came the firemen, most of whom my husband, as their mechanic for a number of yeas knew. Within two hours, my husband was recovering from the Widowmaker heart attack. People can say what they want, but without God’s orchestration, my husband would not have had all those people there and every procedure in lace to save his life. Everyone was in a place they normally weren’t, and none of them knew why. Even the heart cath team was at the hospital when they normally wouldn’t have been at that time.

My own emergency, fell into place in much the same way. When I was on a hike in the mountains, I slipped and fell…breaking my shoulder. We were ¾ mile from the end of the trail and the car. So, what is the miracle here? Well, there is one. When I fell on that trail, I was with a group of people. My husband and I have hiked many trails…just the two of us. We have never had a “situation” on the trail. On this day, I was with, not only my husband, but my sister-in-law and her partner, a nurse and life flight pilot, respectively. In addition, I was with my other sister-in-law, who is an experienced caregiver, as are my husband and me. The other people with us were physical therapists. When I said that I had broken my arm (shoulder), I immediately had a medical team at my side. They quickly fashioned a sling out of a bandana and a dog leash (amazing), but when they got me stabilized, and were ready to try to get me up, two hikers came over the hilltop saying that they were CNAs and they could help get me up. Unbelievable!! Then, they gave us a sweatshirt to usa as a gait belt for stability. All those people there for me when I needed them most!! That is totally a God thing. Yes, all these people were in the right place and the right time, but you will never convince me that it was a complete accident that they were. Nope!! That was a God thing!!

These days, we know that washing our hands and our bodies is important to good health. Of course, washing of hands cleans away dirt, germs, and bacteria, as well as many viruses that cause disease, but in the Old West, there were actually people who thought that bathing could actually make you sick, therefore bathing did not occur on a daily basis in the wild west. I’m sure you can imagine just how stinky things got. I suppose that if two people got very near each other, it would be a competition to see who smelled the worst. The reality is that we have all encountered someone who really needed a bath. Most of us would never tell that person that they stunk, but we might really hope that this wasn’t going to be the norm, or we might have to rethink the friendship.

Women in the old west “bathed” a little more often than the men, if you could exactly call it that. Mostly any daily bathing would consist of a pitcher of water and a washcloth, with the ritual performed in the bedroom of the home. Men on the cattle trail might take a plunge into a watering hole to get “cleaned up”, and quite often the bathing and the laundry would happen at the same time, meaning that a good portion of the body didn’t really get scrubbed up. Nevertheless, it was a good way to rid yourself of that nasty trail dust accumulated on the trail that day…or maybe the prior several days. This type of bathing might also involve armed guards to keep the Indians away.

To make matters worse, when people did bathe, it might be done in the kitchen in a large tub of water, used by the husband first, the mother second, and the children by ages on down the line. As you can imagine, the water got pretty black by the time the youngest child was bathed. Then the water was finally dumped. That is actually where the term, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water came from.” Sometimes being the youngest had its perks, and other times not so much. Some people would go to public bathhouses, where they might actually have to pay extra for “clean” water, and the guy after them might end up using their water, if he didn’t want to pay the extra fee.

The fact that bathing was inconvenient, and for some, scary, made people sometimes resort to other methods to rid themselves of the stinky odor. After all, lemon verbena wasn’t just a type of perfume. It helped to mask the odor that would come quickly with infrequent bathing. To make matters worse, people lived in primitive surroundings with lice, fleas and bedbugs, and the smell of their own dirty bodies drew flies and mosquitoes. Hopefully, the lemon verbena would help to keep the pests away…but I wouldn’t count on it really. I don’t think it masked the smell that well.

These days, we not only know that bathing is important to keep the stinky smells away, but it’s important to keep sickness away too. Most of us wouldn’t think of going long without bathing, after all, warding off sickness is important, but warding off that smell is vital!!

A number of presidents and their families have suffered the unthinkable during their time in the White House…the loss of a child. The Adams, Lincoln, Coolidge, and Kennedy families all suffered the loss of a child while in office; the Pierce family lost their last surviving child while en route to Washington to attend Franklin Pierce’s inauguration. John Adams’ grown son Charles died of alcoholism in 1800, shortly after the president lost his reelection bid. Thomas Jefferson’s grown daughter Mary died in 1804, three months after giving birth to her third child. Franklin Pierce lost all three of his sons at an early age. Eleven-year-old Benny, his only surviving child, was killed in a train accident in January 1853, two months before Pierce’s inauguration. Abraham Lincoln lost his son William “Willie” in 1862 in the middle of the Civil War. John F Kennedy lost his son, Patrick two days after he was born on August 7, 1963.

While it is always horrible when a child dies, whether the parents are famous or not, I find the death of Calvin Coolidge’s son to be among the saddest. While the deaths of these other presidents’ children are sad, little could have been done to change those losses. Calvin Coolidge had two sons, John (the oldest) and Calvin Jr. The boys spent the school year at boarding school, but they spent breaks from boarding school at the White House after he became president in 1923. The oldest son, John was born on September 7, 1906, and Calvin Jr was born on April 13, 1908.

On June 30, 1924, John and Calvin Jr were playing tennis on the courts at the White House. It was a hot summer day…the 91° heat was sweltering. The boys felt that it was too hot for socks, and during the game, Calvin Jr got a blood blister on one of his toes. Within a few days, Calvin Jr was not feeling well. He was diagnosed with blood poisoning…specifically a staphylococcus infection that, at the time, was usually treated with mercury. I’m no doctor, and many advances in the prevention and treatment of infections have been made over the years. One of the best ways to prevent a staphylococcus infection is proper hygiene…proper, frequent handwashing, and hygiene…or in this case, washing the toe several times a day. The feet are often a breeding ground for bacteria, because they are constantly in a hot, sweaty shoe.

By July 2, Calvin Jr was limping, running a fever, and had swollen glands in his groin. The blister on his third toe darkened, swelled to the size of a thumbnail, and red lines streaked his legs. This was in the days before antibiotics, and Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin was still four years off. In the words of the attending presidential physician, Calvin Jr was “in trouble.” As Calvin Jr battled sepsis for a week, his father battled despair and really pure panic. It was the kind of agony that only a parent who has lost a child can really understand. Calvin Sr tried to trust that his son was getting “all that medical science” could offer and tried to keep up hope that “he may be better in a few days,” but Calvin Jr passed away at Walter Reed Army General Hospital on July 7, 1924.

President Coolidge and his wife, Grace, were at Calvin Jr’s bedside when he passed, and according to observers, the president’s face resembled “the bleak desolation of cold November rain beating on gray Vermont granite.” Their hearts were broken, and the President often wept, looking out his window where Calvin Jr once played tennis. It was his thought that if he hadn’t been president, his son would have been with them still. He said, “We do not know what would have happened to him under other circumstances, but if I had not been President, he would not have raised a blister on his toe, which resulted in blood poisoning, playing lawn tennis on the South Grounds.”

Starting to live life again after such a horrific loss is never easy, and many people really never make that return to life. Trying to grieve the loss of a child in such a public setting would be excruciating, and I can’t imagine being forced to live that way. Nevertheless, while much of the wind went out of their sails, the Coolidge family did go forward, as their son would have wanted them to. It’s what a family does. John married and had two daughters…Cynthia and Lydia. The daughters gave President two grandsons and a granddaughter. I think Calvin Jr would be pleased to know that they went forward to live a good life.

Some people have a way of letting you know what just might be coming, by the look on their face. My uncle, Wayne Byer is that way. Uncle Wayne is a character, and the first sign that something is about to happen is the mischievous grin that appears on his face. As the youngest of, in my mind, the famous “Byer Middles” and the “Mischievous Three,” Uncle Wayne learned his mischievous ways from the very best. Uncle Larry may have been the leader of the pack, and my mom, Collene Spencer was probably guilty by default…at least at first. She could get into trouble with the best of them, because she looked up to her brothers, and always wanted to be right there in the middle of whatever it was that they were planning that day. Being the only girl in the “Mischievous Three” didn’t bother her one bit, in fact I think she rather liked it. The boys did things differently, and for my mom, that was all the more fun.

Uncle Wayne Spent much of his career around kids. He worked in the schools, as a bus driver, then as the supervisor over the bus garage. I think everyone of the kids in the family, whether we rode a bus or not, thought it was great that Uncle Wayne was in charge of the whole operation. Running all those busses for a large school district was no easy job, and Uncle Wayne did a great job of it. Everyone liked Uncle Wayne, and when they knew we were related, we were liked too. It made us very proud of his accomplishments.

Uncle Wayne loved kids, and he lived making the kids laugh. Maybe that was the biggest “take-away” for him being the youngest of the “Mischievous Three” for all those years. Some things you just don’t grow out of, and as many of us know, it’s very hard to take the “little boy” out of the man. Once they are goofy, they always seem to be goofy. They just love to see people smile and laugh, and that is really who Uncle Wayne is. Today is Uncle Wayne’s 84th birthday, although he really doesn’t seem 84. His is still a kid at heart. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

John F Kennedy never really wanted to be the President of the United States, but his dad wanted one of his sons, and maybe more that one of his sons to be the president, and Joseph Kennedy Sr made that fact well known to his boys. It was always assumed that Joseph Kennedy Jr would be the son to make their dad’s dreams come true, but life doesn’t always go quite the way we planned it.

Joseph Kennedy Jr was the Golden Boy, touted by his father as a child destined to be “the future president of the nation.” He was a skilled athlete, charismatic, and intelligent, he was educated at Harvard and the London School of Economics. His father had groomed him to be president from a very young age, but it was not to be. When World War II drew the United States in, Joe Jr felt called to enlist. He joined the US Navy in 1941, and in 1943 was sent to England, where he flew with the British Naval Command and volunteered to take part in Operation Aphrodite.

Operation Aphrodite and Operation Anvil were the “World War II code names of United States Army Air Forces and United States Navy operations to use Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated PB4Y bombers as precision-guided munitions against bunkers and other hardened/reinforced enemy facilities, such as “Crossbow” operations against German long-range missiles,” specifically the V-3 Super Gun that Hitler was having built. During one of his missions, on August 12, 1944, the explosives aboard a plane flown by Joe Jr detonated early, and the eldest Kennedy son was gone.

As the second-oldest son in the Kennedy family, John F Kennedy was aware that the political aspirations of his father, Joe Sr, rested heavily on his older brother, Joseph P Kennedy Jr. When his brother was killed during WWII, John was also aware that the political torch had just passed to him…and so it did. It didn’t matter that John “was sickly – described by the family patriarch as ‘a very frail boy’ with ‘various troubles’ – and less willing to conform to his father’s will, he had been educated in much the same way as his older brother and was politically astute.” John had always been more of a passive observer. John apparently told one of his friends, “Now the burden falls on me.” Later, in an interview, he recalled what it was like to be shifted into his father’s spotlight, saying, “It was like being drafted. My father wanted his oldest son in politics. ‘Wanted’ isn’t the right word. He demanded it. You know my father.”

By 1947, John Kennedy was a member of the US Congress, the first office he held as he began his journey to becoming the President of the United States in 1960. His father was very determined and would stop at nothing to be able to say, “my son the President of the United States.” He also wanted his other sons, Robert and Ted to be in politics as well. Joe Sr’s “push of his sons” really was the indirect cause of the deaths of John and Robert, in my opinion. Of course, there were other factors, as we all know, but for them, being thrust into the spotlight did place a target on their backs. I don’t know if Robert and Ted were originally interested in politics, but the influence of their dad had to have played a big part in their future political lives.

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