campfire

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.

img_1344img_5095When you think of Indian arrowheads, you usually think of the Old West or the cowboys and Indians. You think of the battles the Indians had over broken treaties and the influx of settlers into the west. That’s what you think of, but that isn’t what my nephew, Steve Moore thinks of…at least that’s not the only thing he thinks about. For Steve, thoughts of arrowheads bring thoughts of obsidian.

You might think that is strange, but Steve has learned the ancient art of flintknap. It all started with his love of wall climbing. He learned to make the hand and foot holds for wall climbing. Then, he started thinking about flintknap. Flintknap is the art of making arrowheads and other weapons from rocks, like obsidian. Steve started img_5097with pieces of broken glass, and later graduated to rocks, and even bone. He and a friend named Scott, made a trip to Oregon and brought back a truck load of obsidian, and Steve taught Scott and another friend, Jay how to flintknap. Steve, made some amazing tools to knap with.

Through the years, Steve got out of the flintknapping hobby for a time…twelve years or so, but has recently picked it up again. Flintknapping is a great hobby to engage in while sitting around the campfire or the fireplace in the evenings. Steve made two arrowheads each weekend these past two weekends. His wife, my niece, Machelle told me that when you are flintknapping, you have to learn how not to bleed. If Steve gets that talent accomplished, I know several people who would like to know the trick to it.

Steve likes obsidian the best, because it creates beautiful shine and color to the arrowheads and other weapons. The rainbow obsidian is one of Steve and Machelle’s favorites because of the beautiful colors it contains. The orange of the pumpkin obsidian is also stunning. When I looked at the pictures that Machelle sent me of Steve’s work, it felt like I was looking at jewels. The arrowheads sparkle and shine, almost like img_5096img_5094diamonds. I was stunned to find that Steve had such a talent, but then it’s pretty typical of Steve not to blow his own horn. That just isn’t his style, so I guess I’ll just do it for him, because as far as I’m concerned, Steve has an amazing talent. These arrowheads and weapons, while functional if they ever needed ammunition, are so much more than that. They are absolutely beautiful. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Alena nowThey say that when a girl picks a man to be her husband, she often picks a man who is much like her dad. It isn’t maybe a conscious thing, but it seems to be a fact anyway. Maybe it’s because for a girl, their dad always makes them feel like a princess, so it can be hard to move away from that when you get married. I think to a degree, most girls pick someone similar to their dads, because that is the first male influence on their lives, but it would sure seem that, my sister, Alena Spencer Stevens came the closest of any I’ve ever seen when she married her husband, Mike Stevens. I don’t know if she saw the Dadsimilarities back then, but I doubt it, because I don’t think most girls choose a husband based on that similarity, but she definitely sees it now. Mike is a lot like Dad in his work ethic, the type of work he can do, and in his mannerisms and temperament. They are even similar in their looks!

Alena loves to do many of the recreational things that our dad loved to do, such as camping and fishing, and she loves to sit around a campfire, so much so, that she and Mike were the first in our family to buy a backyard fire pit. That is very Dad like. I suppose that being Dad like is one of the main reasons that Alena would choose a man who is much like Dad to be her husband, because that is the type of person she is most comfortable with.Mike Stevens

Alena is a very soft hearted person, and like Dad, she doesn’t like to see people being picked on, unless of course, it is in fun, and then she would prefer to be the one doing the picking, rather than being picked on…but then, wouldn’t we all. Alena is pretty good at playing practical jokes too. In fact, she has been since she was a little girl. She pulled enough pranks on the rest of us over the years, that we learned to be pretty watchful of her. It was the best way to defend yourself. Her favorites were, of course, the ones where the rest of us ended up scared, so she could laugh at us for being a chicken…I wonder why, when we thought someone was breaking in when Mom and Dad weren’t home and it was midnight or so. Good job Alena!! Today is Alena’s birthday. Happy birthday Alena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Role ModelMy nephew, Rob is a multi-faceted person. As a little boy, he had either a keen sense of direction or he was very observant. Whenever he went somewhere with someone, if they went a direction that was other than the normally taken route, little Robbie would quickly explain to the driver, that this was not the right way to go. The offending driver then had to try to explain to Robbie that they were taking an alternate route. I’m not completely certain that Robbie was ever really convinced that they knew what they were talking about. I think he probably thought they just wandered around until they found their way, and while they always seemed to manage to find their way, they nevertheless, had done it wrong. I think it was mostly because Robbie was a very observant child.

He has always looked up to his grandpa, my dad, Allen Lewis Spencer. If his grandpa did something, he wanted to do that thing too, and he wanted to do it just like his grandpa. I suppose that was the reason he was able to walk into a campground spot the family Campinghad rented for the night and take care of a little problem that the family was having. His brothers-in-law were trying to get the campfire started, and no matter what they did, the fire fizzled. Robbie, however, had been watching his grandpa build a campfire for years, and now, he knew exactly what needed to be done. Robbie didn’t say a word, but just walked up to the campfire ring, moved the kindling around a little and lit the fire, then he used a hat, just like his grandpa had always done, to fan the kindling until it grew into a nice little fire. Then, without bragging or even saying anything at all, he simply went on about his own activities. I’m sure his brothers-in-law were both amazed that he got it going so easily and thankful that he didn’t rub it in. Like his grandpa, he just did what needed to be done and didn’t make the other guys feel like they didn’t know anything about it.

As a dad, himself now, a grown up Rob knows what it means to be kind and patient with his kids, and it has created a great bond between him and them. They think the world of their daddy. He reminds me of my dad in that way too. If he continues to follow the teachings of his grandpa, he will become the problem solver his grandpa always was. He could become the go to person his Dad and Robbie and the old wagon agrandpa always was, and that would be a great goal for anyone to aspire to accomplish. I can’t think that Rob would like anything more than to become more and more like his grandpa. Since my dad’s passing, Rob has taken over many of the chores that had belonged to Dad. Everything from taking out the trash, to shoveling the walk, mowing the lawn, ad even checking in on Mom to make sure she is doing well, and has all that she wants or needs. He loves his mom and grandma, and considers it a privilege more than a duty to take care of them.Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! You get better and better with each passing year. Have a great day!! We love you!!

grandpa spencer060_editedMy dad loved camping. For him, camping and spending time with his family was the best thing to do in the world. I think that if he could have spent his entire life camping with the family, he would have totally loved it. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows in the evening, and of course, my personal favorite, having that morning cup of coffee. Coffee made over an open fire, is so good, and the smell of bacon and eggs cooking, mixing with the scent of pine trees and fresh mountain air…well, I can smell it right now. Those mornings were so relaxing, because my parents were never in a hurry to get going in the mornings. We were, after all, on vacation. I suppose most people, and I would have to include me and my family now, want to get going in the mornings, and so sleeping in and relaxing with a cup of coffee by the morning fire, are not common things anymore, but our family sure enjoyed it back then.

Those days spent camping and traveling around the country bring back such sweet memories. In fact, sometimes the memory of camping in the Black Hills is so vivid that I can almost see my dad standing around that campfire. It was a scene I saw so many times. We have always been a family of coffee drinkers, and I think we all agree that coffee around the campfire is some of the best coffee around. I don’t know, maybe the coffee is the same, but the atmosphere is what makes all the difference. I don’t know for sure, but I can say that there isn’t a one of us that didn’t love to sit and relax around that campfire.

Everyone has those old memories of days gone by. They are the ones that can be triggered by grandpa spencer021something simple that we might do every day…such as having our morning cup of coffee, the smell of wood burning in a fireplace, or thinking about going on a trip. Suddenly that memory is there, and you can see it all again, and for me, even taste that great cup of coffee. Life just doesn’t get any better than that, does it? Our lives are so hectic sometimes, and often, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Before we know it, the people most precious to us are either in Heaven, or too busy with their own lives to spend much time with everyone else. All we have left are memories. People need to slow down sometimes, and enjoy life a little, because really, there is nothing’ like a good cup of coffee by the campfire on a cool mountain morning.

Kellie Hadlock (2)My niece, Kellie is one of the happiest, most positive people I have ever met…in fact, I can’t recall a time when she wasn’t happy. Kellie is one of those people who look for happiness where ever she goes, and when you look for happiness, I believe you will always find it. She doesn’t let the little problems in life get her down. Many of us could learn something from Kellie’s happiness, because it isn’t that no negative things ever happens in her life, but rather what she chooses to do with it that makes her life happy. I love to hear Kellie laugh, because when she does, you are about to laugh too. That’s just the way it is. You can’t be around Kellie when she is laughing and not laugh too. Her laugh is the most contagious laugh I have ever heard.
Petey
Kellie is such a free spirit. She knows what she likes, and that’s what she does. Her home reflects her brightly colored tastes. Nothing dreary can exist in Kellie’s place, because that just doesn’t fit in her joy, joy, joy…down in my heart style. If you go to Kellie’s house, you will find it bright and cheery…just like her, but be aware that she has a bird. I don’t know how much Petey is loose in the house, but I think that if Kellie is there, Petey is free to roam. And maybe Petey isn’t the kind of bird who likes to dive bomb people, but many birds are. I do know that Petey likes to nap on Kellie’s shoulder. Why should he be different? Lots of people love to be around Kellie…so you can’t blame him.

Family is the biggest thing in Kellie’s life. She is very close to her parents, my sister, Allyn and Kellie and the kidsher husband Chris, sisters, Jessi and Lindsay, sister-in-law, Chelsea, brother, Ryan, brothers-in-law, Jason and Shannon, and of course, her nephew, Ethan, and niece, Aurora. She loves taking pictures with all of them, to keep as memories of the great times they have had. She loves spending time up on the mountain at her parents place there, just hanging around by the campfire. In Kellie’s life, the only thing more important than her family is her Lord. Kellie loves music ministry, and is an amazing singer, and forever an uplifting person. We are all very blessed to have Kellie in our lives. Today is Kellie’s birthday. Happy birthday Kellie!! Have a wonderful 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.

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.

My parents were hard working people in their working years. They always made sure that we had whatever they needed to have a good life. One of the greatest gifts they gave us was travel. For as long as I can remember, we took a summer vacation and went somewhere! The places we went were varied. But, I can say that we have been in more states than many of the people we knew, and our teachers were surprised when they asked us what we did on our summer vacation. It was one of the richest, most priceless gifts my parents gave their daughters. A unique view of the country we live in.

Mom and Dad loved the outdoors. They loved being in their garden and backyard. They created many new gardening designs and they were beautiful. Their yard was their favorite project. I remember so many family gatherings being held there, under the shade of the several big trees they had. Dad would be at the grill cooking our meat, and us girls would be helping Mom in the kitchen getting things ready for the family dinner that would follow. These days, families just don’t eat together as much as they used to. I notice that even Bob and I, with the caregiving obligations we both have, will eat our evening meal alone as often as not. Not so in my childhood. Mom and Dad wanted our family to have as many meals together as we could. I suppose that was because they knew that all too soon, that would end.

They loved their home, yard, and garden, but the places they loved the best were when they were out in the woods, camping. They loved to wake up in the morning and make breakfast over the campfire, with the smell of the pine trees heavy in the air, and the birds singing all around. They never liked the lake much, but the mountains, were their place of refuge. Their chance to get away from the hurry up world we live in. So many people can’t seem to allow themselves to slow down or sleep in, and just take life at a slower pace, but when we traveled, Dad was never in a hurry. We would get where we were going…and see the beauty of the world around us along the way. Yes, Mom and Dad gave us a wonderful life, and opened the door to a world of beautiful places and things…the places they loved the best.

Our goal this year for miles on The Mickelson Trail will not materialize, due to the second hike up Harney Peak. That’s ok with me, because I would hate to have missed Harney Peak. We love it up there so much. We walked 5 miles one way/10 miles total on the Mickelson Trail today, so we will be 10 miles short of our goal. I still feel good about it, because of the added difficulty of Harney Peak. What the Mickelson Trail lacks in difficulty, we make up for in distance, so while the workout isn’t the same, we still get a workout.

Bob and I have hiked for a long time, and we have learned that sometimes hiking isn’t about socializing. We have a tendency to walk at times quietly, each in our own thought world. I find myself, especially in the Black Hills, thinking of my Dad. The Black Hills was a favorite spot of his, and his echo is everywhere here. I hear him in the breeze through the trees, the crackling of a campfire, the rushing of water over rocks in the river, the chirping of the birds, and because he wanted us to see the historic places and deep patriotism that are here, I am reminded of him in everything I do here. He would have loved the places we have seen on our hikes. You just can’t see them from the main roads.

The animals that we have come across are always a total surprise. From the deer on the trail to a fox running away. From a chipmunk looking for food to a woodchuck watching us curiously and .yet not really wanting to run away. He seemed almost as curious about us as we were about him…peeking at us from his hole and ducking ever so slightly if we moved too much, then coming back up

I am always amazed at how much I need the hikes in the Black Hills. It’s like I come alive again, like I can breathe again. I think the Black Hills are simply in my blood. I need a week of trekking through them to refresh my energy again. I look forward to my yearly trips here, and am always sad to see my time here end. Nevertheless, because of the Black Hills, I go home refreshed and feeling very much alive…and very thankful for my time there.

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