I have watched my grandniece, Jadyn Mortensen, grow up since the day she was born. She has surprised me over the years…not because she couldn’t do anything she wanted to, but because she almost instantly became interested in horses. Maybe that wasn’t a surprise to her parents and grandparents, but since she lives in Rawlins, Wyoming and I live in Casper, Wyoming, I didn’t see her growing interest in her day-to-day life. I realized she loved horses when she was in town and out at her grandparents’ ranch. Seeing her with the horses there was a beautiful thing. She was just a girl of nine or ten years, but she was like a horse whisper…even then.
Jadyn is talented in many ways. Besides horses, she loves snowmobiles, motorcycles, 4 wheelers, boats, and I’m sure, a number of other sports. Still, for most of her high school career, Jadyn loved barrel racing. She was amazing. She won many awards, and her riding was so exciting to watch. Jadyn is fearless on a horse, and her horse is fearless when she is riding. They work and move as one unit. Not only is she an amazing barrel racer, but she is also very talented at trick riding…I guess that’s what you would call it. Standing on the back of her horse doesn’t scare her one bit, and that is amazing.
I suppose I could be biased when it comes to the riding ability of my grandniece, but that I’m not the only one who is impressed with her, so I guess that the corroboration makes all the difference. As she was preparing to graduate from high school, Jadyn received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Wyoming to be a part of their barrel racing team. They saw how amazing she is too. I know that Jadyn’s college career is going to be a wonderful experience for her, but I think her parents, Amanda Reed and Sean Mortensen are going to find this coming year to be bittersweet. While they are excited for their girl to spread her wings and fly, they hate the fact that she is flying away from home. It’s not too far away, but too far to see her every day, like they are used to doing. Nevertheless, she is going to have a great year. Jadyn is planning to study mechanical engineering, so she will have lots of studying to do, on top of her rodeo events…and of course, hopefully a few fun events too. Jadyn is a level-headed girl, so I know that her studies will be her top priority. Today is Jadyn’s 18th birthday. Happy birthday Jadyn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
My grandniece, Zoey Iverson is a mature seven-year-old girl. It’s not a matter of seven going on thirty or anything, but rather a girl who has known all her life that those people she loves need her help, and she is ready, willing, and able to give that needed help. Zoey is one of the best “mommy’s helpers” around. When Zoey came into her mommy, Cassie Franklin’s life, Cassie was mommy to Lucas, a Down Syndrome baby, and while Lucas was doing well, he had so many things to learn, and that can be exhausting for a parent. Zoey instinctively saw that her mommy and brother needed a helper, and she knew that she was just the girl for the job. So, Zoey became her mommy’s assistant teacher and helper, and it is a role she continues to this day. To Lucas, she is assistant physical therapist, teacher, playmate, best friend, and the best form of encouragement. And with that Lucas thrived. Where he couldn’t walk before, he does now, and so many other skills have improved as well. Where some little girls are instinctively the “little mommy,” Zoey is so much more. It’s just a big part of her personality.
While Zoey is a great help to her mommy, she has other interests too. These days she is into tap dancing and had a performance recently at the fair in Powell. She and her classmates did awesome. I wasn’t able to be there, but thankfully her mommy is a photographer, and she takes great videos, so I got to watch. Zoey is a petite little girl, and so dance suits her perfectly. She is a natural dancer. Zoey always loved dancing around the house, and it makes her brother smile.
Zoey has been the little sister all her life, but the big news is that pretty soon she will also be the big sister. Zoey’s mommy, Cassie and her partner, Wesley Burr are having a baby soon, and in fact, they get to find out what they are having in about six weeks. I’m sure Zoey and Lucas are very excited to find out if they are getting a brother or a sister…as are the rest of us. I know that while her life is already busy these days, Zoey will be a great help with her newest sibling. She has aways had that natural instinct, and to have a new baby to hold and help care for will be just awesome. I am so excited for the whole family, and this new precious little life that is on the way. Things are sure getting exciting for Miss Zoey. Today is Zoey’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Construction began on the White House on October 13, 1792, and was finally finished on November 1, 1800. Construction was slower in those days, because they didn’t have the equipment we have today. The current White House has 132 rooms. The original White House had 100 rooms. The White House has 54,900 square feet. The White House sits on 18 acres of land. It all it is an impressive building, but there is more to it than just that.
There have been a number of rooms that began as one thing, only to become something else later on. One of the rooms that has had a couple of identities is the Press Briefing Room. These days it is the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. It was so named after White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot and permanently disabled during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. That room, located in the West Wing of the White House was not always such a necessary room, mostly because press briefings are really more of a modern-day thing. The room has always existed, however. In 1909, it was the White House laundry, and during President Truman’s time in office (April 12, 1945 – January 20,1953) it was the White House pool.
By 1950, the White House was 150 years old and in a serious state of disrepair. In order to make is inhabitable again, the entire building was gutted and rebuilt to make it more stable. It also seemed like a good time to improve on its design, so some improvements and additions were made. White House architect Lorenzo Simmons Winslow designed and built an air raid shelter under the East Terrace on the orders of naval aide Rear Admiral Robert Dennison. There had been a bomb shelter before, but it was built in 1942 and with the invention of the atomic bomb, the old shelter was not strong enough to withstand such an assault. Because little research had been conducted into how to withstand such an assault, construction of the shelter took more than two years and required the removal of the East Terrace entirely. Unfortunately, the 1952 shelter was rendered obsolete when the first test produced a force of 10.4 million tons. This shelter was designed to withstand a force of only 30,000 tons, so this would never work.
In addition to the new nuclear shelter, a tunnel was added. These days those tunnels are big in the news, but back then, they were probably a little-known addition. This reinforced concrete channel ran from the West Wing to the East Wing. Though not enough to stop a nuclear incident itself, the tunnel allowed quick passage from one end of the White House to the other, as well as access to the new air raid shelter. The presence of the tunnel demonstrates just how concerned the Truman White House was about securing itself against air assaults at that volatile time in history. That first tunnel inside the White House isn’t the only underground feature. In 1987, a second tunnel was built under the name Project ZP. That tunnel, accessible from a secret passage within the Oval Office, leads to the basement of the East Wing and on to the Treasury Building. Its construction, which was largely secret, created a large sinkhole in the White House rose garden. The tunnel was reportedly built to quickly get the president out of the office during an incursion, but it was also used at least once to sneak former president Richard Nixon into a foreign policy meeting. I’m sure there are other changes to the White House, that we are not privy to, and may never know, because there are always secrets in this kind of building.
My grandniece, Raelynn Masterson is very smart, but she, like so many other people, is also timid and shy. Once she gets to know people, she does great, but it takes a little while to get comfortable with people. In the past, she wasn’t aways confident in her abilities, or in herself, but she is working on that. For one thing, Raelynn was never really good at cooking, but these days she is not only spending time in the kitchen with her mom, Dustie Masterson, learning to cook, but she is learning about nutrition, and how to better take care of her own body and health, which of course includes exercise and fresh air too.
Raelynn has also been stepping outside of her comfort zone to make so new friends and hang out with them. The social aspect of things hasn’t always been easy for her, and like many people, when Covid hit, being on lockdown made the social interactions hard, and many people just started leading online lives. Stepping back out, or stepping out for the first time, is not easy, and I’m very proud of Raelynn for pushing herself to be more of a joiner.
Raelynn likes to write stories and develop characters for her stories. The friends she has made have similar interests, and they like to bounce ideas off of each other concerning their stories and characters. Sometimes it’s a big help to brainstorm together about what you want to do with a story or character. Also, every character needs a backstory. They need to have come from somewhere, and that isn’t always easy to develop or to make interesting. Raelynn is also into art and uses her drawings to illustrate her stories. Raelynn says that using her drawings in her stories “makes it easier for me to visualize that character and what they would do so I draw them at least once and then maybe later in a scene I wrote them in.” She doesn’t necessarily think she is very good, but I think that she is doing very well, and as with any skill, practice makes perfect. She knows that too. She is ok with the progress she has made. She obviously hasn’t seen anything I can draw, or she would really understand that she is leaps and bounds ahead of my skill level.
Raelynn may have held herself back in her earlier years, with shyness and a lack of confidence, but she is breaking out of that shell now, and like with any caterpillar, we are seeing the beautiful butterfly emerging. Raelynn has always been a beautiful girl, whether she knew it or now, but as she becomes more and more social, more people are able to see what we all saw…just how beautiful she is, inside and out. Today is Raelynn’s 19th birthday. Happy birthday Raelynn!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
On July 26, 2022, my nephew, Riley Birky and his partner, Sierah Martin welcomed their new little son, Ryder Scott Birky into the world. Already the parents of Sierah’s son Jace, they now have a new addition to their little family. Jace is so excited to have a baby brother, and he can’t wait for Ryder to be old enough to play with him. Jace has been an only child for a while now, so having a full-time friend is a really big deal, and Jace is determined to be the best big brother ever.
Little Ryder was born at 9:48pm and weighed 7 pounds exactly. He is 18 inches long. His daddy, Riley was there to assist in his natural delivery, and his mommy, Sierah was a champion throughout the whole process. Sierah and Riley are already experienced parents, and good ones too. Having a second child is the next logical step in their lives, and they have been excitedly awaiting the glorious day, when their precious new addition would make his appearance. Ryder is a sweet natured little boy, just like his mommy. Sierah doesn’t let things get to her much. She has a calming effect on her whole family, and I think that is probably what drew Riley to her in the very beginning…along with the fact that she is a beautiful girl.
Riley’s mom, Rachel Schulenberg passed away January 19, 2021, and I am sad that she did not live to see her new grandson, but I know that she is in Heaven, and I know that she is rejoicing over this new family that her son, Riley has gained. I know that she has always loved her son very much, and that she is filled with joy over the direction his life is going. I can actually hear her excited voice saying, “Look at my son!! He’s a daddy now!! And look at my brand-new grandson, his mommy, and big brother!! Isn’t he just beautiful!!” I know that Rachel is already in love with little Ryder. She is one very proud mom and grandma. Congratulations to Sierah, Riley, and Jace, on your wonderful new son, Ryder!! We love him already!!
Anyone who has studied history in school knows about the Civil War. It was, of course, fought over slavery. The South wanted to keep the slaves and the North wanted to free the slaves. The Civil War was unique in another way too. Most wars are fought with soldiers who are rough and tough, ready to take on the elements, and battle to the death for their cause. The Civil War was that too, but the men of the South during the Civil War Era, were part of an era of the southern belles and southern gentlemen. This was an era when a type of lifestyle was borrowed from the English countryside, and basically transplanted into the American south. The lifestyle included a glorification of elegant horse riding, hunting, and of course, etiquette. This era and the people in it felt like there was a proper way to do things and that a certain level of decorum must be kept at all costs, in order to preserve their way of life.
Tobacco played the central role in defining social class, local politics, and the labor system. In fact, it shaped the entire life of the region, and in doing so, actually shaped the Civil War. While the Civil War was a war, somehow the men of the South who fought in it felt like it needed to have that high level of decorum and decency. Tradition needed to be kept and carried on and while they knew that they were fighting a war, I’m not entirely sure that they understand that there would be, by necessity, loss of life and loss of that decorum and etiquette. For the men of the South especially, the Civil War was one of the most devastating events to challenge their way of life. This was also the most devastating event ever to occur on North American soil. While the loss of life was great, and in fact the Civil War caused more Americans to lose their lives than both World War I and World War II combined, the people of the South lost much of that “British Countryside” lifestyle that they thought so essential…and afterward, they didn’t quite know how to recover from that. The Confederate Army wanted to separate from the Union and maintain slavery, and the fight to combat that notion didn’t end until 1865. The differing ideas were a cause for rift long after the war was over.
Nevertheless, despite the high stakes, the American soldiers from both sides still had several unofficial truces. Wars are usually long and tedious, and sometimes the men just needed to stop the fighting for a short time and try to be human again. Although these unofficial truces or ceasefires were usually frowned upon by military superiors, the men on either side would frequently call truces at the frontlines so Union and Confederate soldiers could chat, share information, and trade smokes. Imagine that…as the fighting is heavy, someone yells, “Wait…Smoke Break!!” Then both sides would stop shooting, walk out to the middle of te battlefield, and everyone would light a cigarette. I’m sure that’s not exactly how it happened, but they did actually hold such unofficial truces at times.
No matter where you live, I’m sure you have had encounters with grasshoppers. They are an unfortunate fact of life in this world. Some years are worse than others, and some areas are worse than others too. There are a few facts about grasshoppers that I didn’t know about, and some I did. Unfortunately, there are no chemical pesticides to control grasshoppers, but since cool, moist conditions slow them down and encourage the growth of fungi (which cause disease in grasshoppers), keeping plant beds moist and well irrigated may help ward them off. To protect small areas, try using a sticky paper or screening. Most of us find that in dry hot years, the grasshoppers make us as miserable as the heat. Never was that more evident than on July 26, 1931, when a swarm of grasshoppers descended on crops throughout America’s heartland, devastating millions of acres. Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota were already suffering from a bad drought that brought severe damage to the crops in the region. The grasshoppers really just finished them off.
Anyone who has grown a garden, crops, trees, and even grass, have struggled to prevent insects from eating their crops or plants. Locusts and grasshoppers, which are insect cousins, are among the most feared pests. If the conditions are right, their populations can suddenly explode, and while just their presence is enough to make most people’s skin crawl, the speed with which they are able to eat through a field of crops is impossible to comprehend, unless they have witnessed it for themselves. A plague of these insects occurs when drought conditions cause their populations to suddenly explode. The egg pods don’t do well in wet conditions, so when the soil is very dry, swarms can develop. “They explode from beneath your feet. There’s sort of a rolling wave that forms out in front of you. They hit up against your body and cling against your clothes. It’s almost like being immersed in a gigantic living being,” says Professor Jeff Lockwood of Wyoming.
The swarm in July of 1931 was so thick that it actually blocked out the sun. The grasshoppers had to be scooped up with a shovel. They ate the cornstalks down to the ground, leaving just stubs, and they ate everything in the fields, down to the bare ground. Thankfully, the United States hasn’t seen swarms since the early 1930s. Many other areas of the world are not so fortunate. North Africa and parts of the Middle East continue to experience problems with insect swarms. In fact, the swarms in some of those areas have involved as many as a billion bugs. I don’t know about you, but now my skin is really crawling. Eeeeeeewwwwwwww!!
Each year, approximately 40 million lightning strikes hit the ground in the United States, with Tampa, Florida having the most, and Florida being listed as the Lightning Capital of the United States. While Florida is known as the Sunshine State, it is notorious for thunderstorms, lightning strikes and fatalities. On average, Florida has 3,500 cloud to ground lightning flashes per day and 1.2 million flashes per year. Nevertheless, the odds of a human being struck by lightning in a given year are less than one in a million, and strangely, almost 90% of all lightning strike victims survive. The odds of being struck multiple times is even less, with the record being seven times in one lifetime. According to the National Weather Service, lightning causes an average of 62 deaths and 300 injuries in the United States each year. People can be at greater risk for being struck if they participate in outdoor recreational activities or working outside. Regional and seasonal differences can also increase the risk of being struck by lightning. Being outdoors in a lightning storm is certainly not a good idea.
Lightning strikes to humans have been going on as long as times and lightning strikes have been going on. We just hear about them more today than in the distant past. Rarely, humans are struck by lightning, and even with the record of known strikes to humans in one lifetime being seven, it is still a very rare phenomenon. The first time Major Walter Summerford, an Englishman, was said to have been struck by lightning was in 1918 on a World War I battlefield. He was reportedly riding a horse at the time and, while the animal died, Summerford was only temporarily incapacitated by the strike. It’s possible the horse took the bulk of the hit, because Summerford’s feet were not on the ground, meaning that it traveled through Summerford, through the horse, and then on into the ground. That is the nature of lightning. It travels through something with electricity (which humans have, by the way) and then into the ground. So unfortunately, the horse became a part of the connection and actually finished the connection…costing the horse its life. Sad, for sure, but the horse saved the life of its rider.
Summerford’s documented additional strikes included two more times…in 1924 and 1930. Then to make him even more unique, Summerford was technically struck after he had died. It happened that two years after he was buried in Vancouver, Canada, a lightning storm went through the area, and lightning actually struck his gravestone in 1936. The bolt was packed with so much power, that Summerford’s gravestone was completely destroyed by that fourth lightning strike. Now that’s got to be the most unique human/lightning encounter story in history.
Neil Armstrong made history on July 20, 1969, when he became the first person to step on the moon. That is something we all have known about for a very long time. What we didn’t know about was that the Wright Brothers also made history on the moon. You might wonder how that could be, considering the fact that Orville and Wilber Wright died in 1948 and 1912, respectively. With that many years between their time and the 1969 moon landing, how could the Wright brothers possibly land on the moon. Well, it was simple really. As part of the mission, Armstrong and his team carried small bags of belongings called personal preference kits.
The men were supposed to choose things that had meaning to them and maybe even to the mission they were on. In Armstrong’s bag were souvenirs of another important aircraft… believe it or not, they were parts of the fabric and propeller from the Wright Flyer, flown by Armstrong’s fellow Ohioans, Wilbur and Orville Wright, on December 17, 1903. He must have felt a connection to them since all three of them were from Ohio. Some of those souvenirs remained with Armstrong after the flight to the moon, while some of the others went to the Smithsonian Institution.
In an interesting sidenote, another swatch of fabric from the Wright Flyer went with John Glenn, when he went into orbit aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1998, and a postage-stamp-size piece has gone to Mars aboard the Ingenuity helicopter. It makes sense that the men who first made flight possible, should somehow have a place in what would have been the future of flight for them, if they were still alive. The Wright brothers started something with that first plane, and it wasn’t just flight. Without that first flight, space travel would never have been possible. They started the ball rolling on an amazing future of space exploration. What mor fitting tribute could there be that to take part of that first plane into space and allow it to land on the moon, mars, or just to be in flight in space at all.
Bringing the Wright brothers into space by proxy was an amazing feat, but there was one other thing that I found odd anyway. When they mission returned home, they actually had to go through customs. That whole thought made me laugh. I mean…what did they think was going to be “smuggled” in, anyway? Nevertheless, going through customs was a requirement, so customs it was.
My grandniece, Siara Olsen met Chris Kirk in early September of 2021, when she boldly went up to him in the local Loaf and Jug convenience store in Casper, and told him that she liked his freckles. She started calling him her “Loaf and Jug Boyfriend” that very day. How could he resist that?? The year prior had been the hardest year Siara had ever faced, and when she met Chris, her joy returned. She once again became the happy girl we had always known and missed very much. I won’t go into the sadness of the prior year, because this story has a happy ending, and I will focus on that. Chris has the ability to put a smile on my grandniece’s face, and in my book that makes him a great guy. Chris fits well into Siara’s family, and she fits well into his. Theirs is going to be a wonderful and exciting future.
Siara and Chris have so much in common. They are both very athletic, and love doing te same activities. The first pictures I saw of them together, believe it or not, they were doing a couple’s workout, and it was obvious that they were “head over heels” in love with each other. You never saw a picture of them where they weren’t smiling…unless they were making a face for the camera. They love to joke around, and their happiness just flows out of both of them.
Siara has long been a fitness buff, and Chris either is too, or he has become one since meeting her. They like to go hiking with Siara’s brother, Jake Harman, his wife, Melanie, and their kids, Alice, Izabella, and Jax. A favorite spot is the Bridle Trail on Casper Mountain. I like to say that families should work toward staying fit together, because it makes for a long and happy life. Hiking and hanging out with her brother’s family also gave everyone a chance to get to know Chris, and they all liked him too. Siara is close to her brother and his family, so that was important.
Chris surprised Siara when she had her back to him and he dropped to one knee, just as she turned around. His proposal was sweet and beautiful, and Siara was swept off her feet. I couldn’t say it better than she did, in her own words, “Turning around to you down on one knee asking me if I trust you with my life and my heart it was so easily a yes, but you asking me if I would marry you was the easiest yes of all! Our souls are so deeply connected through God already, but this makes it mean so much more. I love you more than anything, Chris Kirk!” It makes everyone in Siara’s family so happy to see these two tie the knot today. I wish you both all the love and happiness in the world. Congratulations Siara and Chris!! We love you both!!