bears

Not everyone can handle the rigors of a remote mountain lifestyle, but my cousin Shirley Cameron has mastered them quite well. For most of her adult life she has lived off the grid…long before off the grid was cool. Shirley has been asked a number of times, why she still lives up there, often snowed in during the winter. Her answer is always the same, “I love my mountain.” I must admit that the top of the mountain, where Shirley lives with her grandson, Tyrel Cameron, is a beautiful place, with stunning views, but I don’t know if I could stand to live up there, so far away from civilization. Oh, I admit it is peaceful, and Shirley has made the yard quite beautiful. Her home is simple, not elaborate, but it works for her. The animals, who roam freely through her property, might be interesting, except for the occasional bear, which I would not like…no, not one little bit. Shirley even takes the bears in stride. I suppose that when you live around them, you know when to be outside and when not to. No matter how much work living off the grid, high on a mountain is, Shirley and her grandson, Tyrel have made it seem easy.

You might be wondering what they do during those long winter months. Shirley had a huge library of books and she does a lot of reading. Her favorites are westerns like Zane Gray and Louis L’amour. She loves getting on Facebook to connect with her many friends there. It’s so nice that internet can be anywhere now, or she would not be able to get online. That could make for a long winter, if she is snowed in. Even having her grandson with her, Shirley would need to be comfortable in her own skin, because there is time she spends doing her own things, while Tyrel does his own things. You must be ok with alone time to be comfortable with that.

Shirley loves to cook, can, and make jelly…a large variety of jellies. When we last visited her, she sent us home with jellies, and man…were they good. The meals we ate there were delicious. I suppose Shirley has had a lot of time to perfect her cooking skills. She knows what tastes good, and what will go with what. She and Tyrel even mix their own spices, and they are wonderful. They sent some home with us, so I know that for sure. Yes, Shirley has made living off the grid look easy, even though it is usually a lot of work. Today is Shirley’s birthday. Happy birthday Shirley. Have a great day!! We love you!!

The reality is…raccoons are known pests. They tear through the trash. They eat food that is supposed to be for the dog or cat. They go into people’s homes by way of their doggy doors, and the resulting home invasion is disastrous. All that is true, but then you look at their antics, and I for one have a really hard time “hating” them. I know that lots of people will totally disagree with me, but just look at their cute little faces. No, I have not had a raccoon sneak into my house, but my neighbors have, and the stories they tell are…well, yikes!!

I suppose that their stories should have made me realize just exactly what pests raccoons are, but they really don’t know any better. They are just doing what comes naturally. As human take over more and more of the world, there is little chance of avoiding all interaction with animals, and truth be told, I don’t think I would want to. For anyone who has stepped out their back door to see deer lounging in their yard, watched the squirrels on the power lines deliberately teasing the neighbor’s dogs to make them bark, the woodpecker pecking on the neighbor’s metal chimney early in the morning, and yes, the sneaky raccoon stealing your dog’s food, their antics are sometimes really funny. I love the videos of dancing deer, bears sitting at the picnic table, deer and cats playing together, and funny shots of animals in all stages of being startled by each other.

Yes, there are dangerous animals, and we would do well to keep our distance from them, but there are more animals who seem to have a wonderful sense of humor, and if we can get a peek at them when they aren’t aware of us, we might see them in some of their funniest antics. The raccoon washing his bread before he easts it, even if it totally dissolves before it gets to his mouth, or laying lazily in a tree branch sleeping with its leg hanging over the sides. You might even get to see a little raccoon peeking at you from the tree branches where he is hiding. Yes, they are pests. Yes, they get into things, but they are just trying to share the space we all live in. Next time you are outside, take a look around you. You just might be surprised to see a wild animal being totally funny.

Dad and MomMy dad, my sister, and meNine years ago today, my world, and that of my mom and sisters was turned upside down when Dad left us to go to Heaven. I don’t think we will ever feel like things on Earth are normal again, because obviously, normal for us was having him in our lives on a daily basis. It’s hard to pass this day without feeling a sense of loss…no matter how many years have passed, because all that’s left to us are the memories.

Memories of childhood days come up in my memory first. The many camping trips our parents took us on, and the things we saw, and learned, and did. It was Dad that taught us how to read a map by taking out the atlas and allowing us to help map out our trips. My friends had no idea how to read a map, and while I use GPS these days, I can read a map without any trouble. It was Dad who taught us to build a campfire, and we who taught him that girls are sure that if Dad puts another log on the fire, the bears will stay away. It was Dad who filled us with the wonders our great nation had to offer by taking his family all over the country, and showing us things like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Washington DC, the Black Hills, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and so much more. Our summer vacations were filled with adventure, and we knew that we were very blessed.

As we grew, our relationship obviously changed, but the values that Dad, and Mom too, taught us remained. Dad was always one to live by the Biblical principle, “Never let the sun go down on your wrath,” and so if we argued with each other, or our parents, Dad would be the one to come to us and tell us that we had to make up before the day ended. We may not have felt like doing so, but we obeyed Dad, because he was our dad. I can’t say that I have ever regretted making up with my family, although I may not have liked it at the time. It was what kept our family close. Dad knew the importance of forgiveness, and instilled that in us too.

As my parents grew older, time was the top priority for them. They wanted their daughters to come over…often, to spend time with them. And they wanted the grandchildren to come too. Their family was the top priority, and they wanted us to know how much we meant to them. Lunches spent at their house, with all the Dad, Alena, Allyn, & CarylAround the Campfiregirls talking, and Dad barely getting a word in edgewise, were the normal things in their house. I don’t think Dad really minded that either. He loved hearing the voices and the laughter of his girls, and seeing their smiling faces. Dad was all about family, and I will never regret the lunches and evenings spent there, because that was when blessings took on the feeling of warmth. It saddens me that my dad has been gone for nine years now, and all that’s left are the memories…but I am very thankful for those memories, because they are what keeps him close. We love and miss you so much Dad.

ChrisMy brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock had been a law enforcement officer since the early to mid-1990s. He started out in the Natrona County Sheriff’s office, and later transferred to the Casper Police Department in 1997. He quickly became one of the up and coming officers. I’m sure that when it came to arrests, his 6’4″ stature didn’t hurt matters any. Most of the people he was about to arrest took one look at him and changed their mind about putting up a fight. I do say most of them. There were a few crazy people who truly thought they could fight their way out of the situation, and manage to get away. Right…rethink that one people. It’s just not going to happen.

Over the years Chris’ abilities have been noticed by his superiors, and Chris was encouraged to take the Sergeants exam, which he passed with ease. That promotion put Chris in charge of the officers on his shift. He was the go to person for certain situations that might come up, and the final say during the hours of the shift and on things like who patrols where and such.image

This past year has brought Chris to a new place in his career. He took the Lieutenants exam and once again, passed with ease. This promotion put him in charge of investigations. I think this has been one of the most exciting parts of his career. It is an entirely new kind of work, and the perfect challenge for him. Chris likes the workings of this new department and the detectives who are under him. I can understand that, because investigative work is interesting to me too, although I don’t think I could do Chris’ job. It takes a special person to be able to do that work, and that is what my brother-in-law is. He is enjoying this, the next adventure very much.

This past year has also found Chris, and his wife, my sister, Allyn busy remodeling their basement. This is imageanother type of work that Chris is really good at. His attention to detail, and his ability to see the big picture really serve him well when it comes to carpentry, as many people have seen in the to work he has done for others. Everything from banisters to chain saw carved bears. His artistic talents are evident.

This birthday will find Chris and Allyn on vacation in Montana. Allyn thinks Chris is a lot like our dad when it comes to traveling. He loves to get out and pull the trailer behind them and see the countryside. It gives him the chance to relax after a long winter of hard work. I know they will have a great time. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

CampingMany people can’t wait for summer, so they can go camping. As kids, my sisters and I loved it. It didn’t matter if we were sleeping in a camper or on the ground, as long as Dad was willing to put another log on the fire to keep the bears away…which is what we thought would work…and it probably did no good, but we were girls…what did we know.  All we cared about was that we were traveling and had no school, and we got to see new places and do fun new things. Of course, one of the things we always liked was the campfire at  night. The smell of the burning wood, roasting marshmallows, looking at the stars, and just enjoying the warmth radiating from the fire, made the evening so fun and relaxing. Those were times we enjoyed so much, and times that I miss sometimes. Around the campfireIt’s funny, because I’m not much of a camper these days, although I love to go hiking. It’s just that at night, I kind of like a nice soft bed and a room without bugs and cold air. I do still love to sit around the fire though.

Kids, especially love to be around the campfire. They want to add wood to it, stir it and everything that they are so sure is important to having a campfire. I love to watch little kids around the campfire, they just get so excited…but then which one of us isn’t a kid at heart when it comes to campfires. These days you can even buy a little fire pit to have in the back yard, so your can enjoy those fires whenever you feel like it. It’s not exactly like camping, but it gives you a little bit of that feel…or whets your appetite for summer…or at least summertime things.
Camping in Ethan's bedroom
Sleeping in a sleeping bag these days isn’t my favorite thing to do, but then it does remind most people of camping out. Some people love it so much that they can’t wait for summer to go camping. It is a matter of have sleeping bag, will camp. For those people, and my grand nephew, Ethan and grand niece, Aurora certainly qualify in this category, it simply doesn’t matter where you camp out. The campground, the back yard, or even Ethan’s bedroom will do, as long as you are sleeping in a sleeping bag, and not in your bed. I don’t know how much sleep Ethan and Aurora got on this little camping trip, but they definitely had a great time.

Amy and Travis, Sept 16, 1995Eighteen years ago today, my youngest daughter, Amy married her best friend, Travis. It’s strange to think that your children have been married for many years now. It forces you to realize that they aren’t kids anymore. Oh, you know it…really, but the very fact that they could have been married for eighteen years or more…well, time just goes by so fast. Still, time has gone by, and they are so suited to each other. They have the same interests, likes, and dislikes. They think a lot alike. And as the years go by, I see that more and more. People do that. They become more and more like the person they love and spend their life with.

Amy and Travis love to ride their motorcycle and take trips to Deadwood with friends. They are also into Blues music, and they like to go to the Wyoming Blues and Jazz Society sessions. They even names their second dog…you guessed it, Blues. Their lives have centered around music and jokes, both of which Travis is very good at. His quick wit brings laughter to most gatherings they are at. They love to get together with family and friends, especially if they can barbeque. They have also started making wine, but unfortunately, they will not be able to have some of their own wine on their anniversary.

With all that they have in common and that they agree on, you would think that all would be bliss, but there is one thing that they simply do not agree on…football. Oh, they both love football, but they each root for arch rival teams. Amy goes for the Packers and Travis goes for the Bears. It is a constant battle in their house during football season…no, not a real battle, but a football battle for sure, with each one cutting down the other’s team. These football battles don’t interfere with their relationship, much like Bob attending Football RivalryNatrona County High School and me going to the rival Kelly Walsh High School. You just have to take the teasing in stride…especially when your team loses.

Their marriage has been blessed with two wonderful children, Shai and Caalab, who are also a great blessing to me and their grandpa. The years have flown by so fast. It seems like only yesterday that they were getting married. I remember the ceremony clearly, even though it was eighteen years ago. Today is Amy and Travis’ eighteenth anniversary…eighteen years and counting. Happy anniversary Amy and Travis!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!

imageAs we head into summer, many people start making plans to go camping. Bob and I like hiking a lot, but we really don’t go camping…strange I suppose, especially considering the fact that my parents took my sisters and me camping every summer of our childhood. And, I liked camping then, but Bob and I like the comforts of a motel room, and we get our nature fix when we go hiking. I know lots of people would laugh at that idea, but to each his own, I say. Things change and people change, and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a different thing than before. I still love to sit around the campfire at night, just enjoying the warmth and beauty of the flames, but it sometimes gets pretty cold at night, and in the early morning, and standing around a campfire in my coat wishing I was warmer, isn’t my idea of fun.

Still, the memories of the days when we went camping are fond ones. We used to sit around the campfire until midnight or later, and then sleep in the next morning. We woke up to the smell of the campfire and coffee brewing. It was a smell that sure could make you hungry, and then you still had to wait until breakfast was cooked before you could eat. The pine trees gave off a scent all their own too, and to this day, the scent of real pine trees, reminds me of camping…and of being out in the fresh air. Memories…like echoes of my past.

I don’t miss camping so much, but I miss those days in my childhood…days when we were all together, with no one missing. I think that was what made camping fun. Being out in the woods, but always knowing that my dad was there to keep us safe. Being outside at night, but knowing that Dad would keep the fire going, to keep the bears away. It was such a special time in our lives, and I don’t think I could feel the same about it now. And yet, I don’t think I will always be able to see, in my mind’s eye, those memories…the echoes of my past.

If he was still alive, my dad would have been 88 years old today. He lived such an interesting life…experienced so many things. As a young boy, he and his brother shot off dynamite and rode trains around the Wisconsin area because his dad worked for the railroad. When he was older, he worked at Douglas Aircraft Company building airplanes. During World War II, he was a top turret gunner and the flight engineer on a B17 Bomber.  He traveled the United States and parts of the world. And he took his family along on as much of it as he could.

We were so blessed to have Dad as our family leader. He somehow made everything alright. From the scariest situations to our fear of moths. From our concerns over imaginary bears in the campground to the very real spider that always seems to show up on occasion. Dad was an amazing problem solver. It didn’t matter what problem we had, from the simplest to the most serious, he would find a solution. He was so understanding.

Dad loved to tease his girls, and he had many funny little sayings that always made us laugh. I can still hear him saying some of the things we all remember well. They were always designed to make us laugh. He was quite a joker. And he always managed to act shocked when we would tease back. There are times that I can hear his voice so clearly…almost as if he is standing next to me. And I can see the looks on his face when he was acting like we were abusive, when we flicked him with our finger…never mind the fact that it did not hurt and often, he flicked us first. He was just goofy.

Dad was forever in love with Mom, and always showed her just how much she meant to him. He treated her like a princess. He was one of the last of the true gentlemen left here on Earth. A man who set a high standard for himself. There were words that he never said, because he wanted to set a good example. He was a Christian and he made sure his family was too. We all grew up knowing our Lord.

My dad was the most wonderful dad that ever existed. I am so thankful that he was my dad. I will miss him for the rest of my life, but I know that there will come a day when we are all together again for eternity, and for that I am grateful. Happy birthday in Heaven Daddy!! I love you very much!!

My parents had 5 daughters…and no sons. I’m sure that the early years were the same as they are in most homes, but with each additional daughter came a little less control for my dad. Now don’t get me wrong on that word control, because my dad was the boss. If we got to be too exasperating for Mom, her big threat was Dad, and while Dad rarely had to spank us, just knowing that he would was enough to make is behave ourselves.

The type of control I’m talking about is a little different. Being the only man in a houseful of women, especially when there are 5 daughters, means being seriously outnumbered. Imagine vying for the bathroom…and we had only 1 by the way…against 5 teen and preteen aged girls trying to get ready for school. I’m sure you get the picture. If Dad wanted a shower, he had better get it before 5:00 am, or he was most likely out of luck. And if he needed to use the bathroom…well, it might be easier to go somewhere else, or should I say quicker.

These kinds of things continued for most of Dad’s life. He always had to be the one to kill the bugs…especially the moths, which put his little princesses into screaming fits, instantly. We made him get up in the middle of the night while camping to “put another log on the fire” to keep the bears away…never mind the fact that we were inside, and the bears couldn’t get us anyway. I’m quite sure he watched more chick flicks than he ever wanted to as well. Nevertheless, Dad took it all in stride, allowing his girls to feel like princesses…with chores, of course…but still princesses. He gave in to the girlie side of his girls, and probably spoiled us pretty good. The house was filled with dolls and kitchen sets, tea sets, and cribs…all the things we needed to play house.

Later came the waiting on us to finally get ready so we could go somewhere, because we all know that it is impossible to leave the house without our makeup…and I mean it!! Dad knew quite well, that he might just as well sit down and read the paper, because he would have time to read the whole thing. I am reminded of the Brad Paisley song, “Waitin’ On A Woman” when I think of all the times my dad waited patiently for his girls to all get ready.

When there is one person, male or female, who happens to be the only person of that gender in their household, and they find themselves seriously outnumbered, yet they manage to keep their wits about them, I can’t help but think back on everything we put my dad through over the years. It occurs to me that they might just be a saint…or else they have just resigned themselves to the inevitable.

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