Caryn’s Thoughts

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What would you do if your life had been ripped apart by a group of people who really knew nothing about you or your people, but hated you and them anyway. That was the position in which Joseph Harmatz found himself. Born in Rokiškis, Lithuania into a prosperous family, Harmatz and his family were transferred to the Vilnius Ghetto on January 23, 1925, after the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany. It was the worst time in his life. His youngest brother and all of his grandparents were killed and his older brother died during a military action. His despondent father committed suicide. Harmatz was left alone with his mother at the age of 16. He couldn’t stand the way things were, so he left the ghetto through the sewers and joined a band of guerrillas fighting the Nazis. Harmatz managed to survive the Holocaust, and after the war, he became part of Nakam (Hebrew for Revenge) also known as the Avengers. The Nakam was a group of 50 former underground fighters led by Abba Kovner. Their goal was to avenge the deaths of the six million Jewish victims of Nazi extermination efforts in the Holocaust. The true goal according to Harmatz was to facilitate the death of as many Germans as possible, with the group planning “to kill six million Germans, one for every Jew slaughtered by the Germans,” acknowledging that the effort “was revenge, quite simply. Were we not entitled to our revenge, too?”

Their main target was Stalag XIII-D, a prisoner-of-war camp built on what had been the Nazi party rally grounds in Nuremberg. Interned in the camp were 12,000 members of the SS (Schutzstaffel or Protection Squads). These prisoners were involved in running concentration camps and other aspects of the Final Solution…Nazi Germany’s horrific policy of deliberate and systematic genocide across German-occupied Europe. In April 1946, a member of the Nakam got a job as a baker, and he had a plan. He baked arsenic into 3,000 loaves of bread that were to be fed to the prisoners. Nearly 2,000 prisoners became ill and were thought to be seriously ill. American authorities thought that the arsenic had got onto the crust of the bread by accident, having been used as an insecticide in the wheat fields. During the investigation, United States Army investigators found enough arsenic to have killed 60,000 people and Nakam claimed they had killed several hundred victims, but declassified documents obtained by Associated Press in 2016 stated there were no casualties.

According to Harmatz’s son, his father had no regret for his attempts to kill the German prisoners. He said he was only “sorry that it didn’t work.” Harmatz wrote a book in 1998, called “From the Wings” in which he stated that the poisoning plot had the approval of Chaim Weizmann, though David Ben-Gurion and Zalman Shazar were both against the plan. An earlier attempt to poison the water in a number of German cities failed after Kovner was arrested by British forces on a ship on which the poison had been hidden, and had been thrown overboard to prevent its capture. The group was so filled with hatred that they wanted all Germans killed, even if they had nothing to do with the Holocaust. Looking back, after much soul searching, Harmatz was thankful that the plot to poison the water supplies in German cities had failed, saying that it “would have harmed efforts to create an incipient State of Israel and would have led to charges of moral equivalence between actions of Germans and Jews. Another effort to kill Nazi war criminals on trial at Nuremberg failed when the group was unable to find any US Army guards willing to participate.”

Harmatz emigrated to Israel in 1950, and worked to aid Jews resettling from countries around the world. He headed World ORT, a Jewish non-profit organization that promotes education and training in communities around the world, from 1960 to 1994. A long-time resident of Tel Aviv, Harmatz died at at his home on September 22, 2016. He was 91 years old, and was survived by two sons.

On June 18, 1972, a Trident jetliner in perfect condition, crashed into the outskirts of the town of Staines, Surrey, England, after takeoff from Heathrow Airport in London, killing 118 people. The crash became known as the Staines air disaster. How could this happen? There was nothing wrong with the airplane. It was not shot down. It was not a terrorist attack or a hijacking and the official cause of the accident remains unknown. Nevertheless, something happened. The aircraft went into a deep stall in the third minute of its flight and crashed to the ground, narrowly missing a busy main road. The public inquiry principally blamed the captain for failing to maintain airspeed and configure the high-lift devices correctly. It also cited the captain’s heart condition and the limited experience of the co-pilot, while noting an unspecified “technical problem” that the crew apparently resolved before take-off.

The summer of 1972 brought with it, serious problems facing the air-travel industry. Pilots were threatening to strike any day due to lack of security. Hijackings were becoming more common every day, and pilots were often the target of the attacks during a hijacking, so they were feeling particularly vulnerable. Nevertheless, none of the feared causes seemed to be the reason for the crash.

Everything was running smoothly that day at Heathrow Airport outside of London. British European Airways morning flight number 548 to Brussels was full and weather conditions were perfect. The Trident 1 jet took off with no incident, then just after its wheels retracted, it began simply falling from the sky. On impact the plane split and an intense fireball from the plane’s fully loaded fuel supply exploded, scattering the fuselage and passengers. Of the 118 passengers and crew members on board, only two were pulled from the wreckage alive. Both of these died a short time later.

After a thorough investigation failed to produce any clear reason for the crash, or any real reason at all, the investigators were left with speculation. The investigators’ best guess concerning the cause of the crash was that the jet was either carrying too much weight or that the weight was improperly distributed and the plane could not handle the stress. The only possible clue to the probable cause of the crash happened at 3:36pm, when flight dispatcher J Coleman presented the load sheet to Captain Stanley Key whose request for engine start clearance was granted three minutes later. Then, as the doors were about to close, Coleman asked Key to accommodate a BEA flight crew that had to collect a Merchantman aircraft from Brussels. The request was granted, but the additional weight of the three crew members necessitated the removal of a quantity of mail and freight from the Trident to ensure its total weight (less fuel) did not exceed the permitted maximum of 91,998 pounds. This was exceeded by 53 pounds, but as there had been considerable fuel burn-off between startup and takeoff, the total aircraft weight (including fuel) was within the maximum permitted take-off weight. So they assumed that everything was fine. There is still no confirmation that overloading was the problem, but it is the only thing that was questionable, and whatever the cause, it cost 118 people their lives that day.

John Tyler, the tenth president of the United States, was born on March 29, 1790 in Virginia to John Tyler Sr and Mary Marot (Armistead) Tyler. He had two brothers and five sisters, but his mother died of a stroke in 1797 when John was seven years old. I can’t imagine how hard it was on young John to lose his mother. That wasn’t the only hard part of his youth. John was frail and sickly most his young life. Considering the start he had in life, it would not seem likely that John Tyler’s life would have amounted to much…but those who think that would be wrong.

John Tyler came from a political family, and he was destined for the presidency. Tyler was admitted to the Virginia bar at the age of 19. He was actually too young to be eligible, but the admitting judge neglected to ask his age. By this time, his father was Governor of Virginia (1808–1811), and John Tyler Jr started a legal practice in Richmond, the state capital. In 1811, at just 21 years of age, Tyler was elected to represent Charles City County in the Virginia House of Delegates, an office he held for five successive one-year terms. As a state legislator, Tyler sat on the Courts and Justice Committee. Following the War of 1812, Tyler’s father died in 1813, and Tyler inherited thirteen slaves along with his father’s plantation. In 1816, he resigned his legislative seat to serve on the Governor’s Council of State, a group of eight advisers elected by the General Assembly. He then ran for the US House of Representatives, narrowly winning the election. Later he served in the US Senate, before being elected as Vice-President of the United States under William Henry Harrison. Harrison served from March 4, 1841 to his death on April 4, 1841, after which John Tyler took over serving until March 4, 1845.

You might think that Tyler’s political career was the defining point in his life, but he is actually known for something much more surprising. Tyler fathered more children than any other American president, but it isn’t even that fact that is so surprising. His first wife was Letitia Christian and together they had eight children, Mary (1815–1847), Robert (1816–1877), John (1819–1896), Letitia (1821–1907), Elizabeth (1823–1850), Anne (1825–1825), Alice (1827–1854) and Tazewell (1830–1874).. She died of a stroke while they lived in the White House in September 1842. He married again on June 26, 1844, to Julia Gardiner (July 23, 1820 – July 10, 1889), with whom he had seven children, David (1846–1927), John Alexander (1848–1883), Julia (1849–1871), Lachlan (1851–1902), Lyon (1853–1935), Robert Fitzwalter (1856–1927) and Pearl (1860–1947). Tyler’s son, Lyon was born when Tyler was 63 years, and while he was not his youngest child, it would be Lyon who would bring about the thing that really makes Tyler something special. Lyon would go on to father two sons of his own…one when he was 71 and one when he was 75. One of those sons, Harrison Ruffin Tyler is still alive, meaning that John Tyler, tenth president of the United States, who was born in 1790, has a grandson who is still alive in 2021. His older brother, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr passed away in September of 2020. The fact that their great grandfather was the tenth president, is unbelievable to the children of Lyon’s sons.

A few days ago, my friends, Rikki and Tony Ramsey (who is stationed in Germany) and their three sons, Jameson, Jackson, and Jordan posted some pictures of a trip they took to Salzburg, Austria. On the way there, they went to a place in the mountains, and posted pictures of them in front of a large cross. It was the cross that caught my eye, but the story of the place that held my interest. In English the place is called the Eagle’s Nest, but in German it is the Kehlsteinhaus and it is a building and cross erected by the Third Reich atop the summit of the Kehlstein, a rocky outcrop that rises above Obersalzberg near the town of Berchtesgaden. This was not a church or a fancy mountain-top resort or restaurant…at least not then. It was used exclusively by members of the Nazi Party for government and social meetings, and was visited on 14 documented instances by Adolf Hitler, who disliked the location due to his fear of heights, the risk of bad weather, and the thin mountain air. Today, the building is owned by a charitable trust and is open seasonally to the public as a restaurant, beer garden, and tourist site. I’m sure Hitler would be furious about that.

The Kehlsteinhaus is located on a ridge atop the Kehlstein, a 6,017 feet subpeak of the Hoher Göll that rises above the town of Berchtesgaden. It construction was commissioned by Martin Bormann in the summer of 1937, and paid for by the Nazi Party. It took 13 months to complete, and whether is was the speed of its construction, or simply poor safety standards, twelve workers died during its construction. The road to Kehlsteinhaus is 13 feet wide and climbs 2,600 feet over 4 miles. To get to Kehlsteinhaus, the road goes through five tunnels and one hairpin turn. The road cost RM 30 million to build (about €150 million inflation-adjusted for 2007), which equals about 180,450,000 US dollars. Hitler’s birthday in April 1939 was considered a deadline for the project’s completion, so work continued throughout the winter of 1938, even at night with the worksite lit by searchlights. That explains the twelve deaths, I suppose.

Once you arrive, there is a large car park. From there, a 407 feet entry tunnel leads to an ornate elevator that ascends the final 407 feet to the building. Even the tunnel was elaborate. It was lined with marble and was originally heated, with warm air from an adjoining service tunnel. Most people walked into the elevator, but visiting high-officials were commonly driven through the tunnel to the elevator. Since the tunnel was to narrow to turn around, the driver then had to reverse the car for the entire length of the tunnel. The elevator was elaborate too, of course. The inside was surfaced with polished brass, Venetian mirrors, and green leather. The building’s main reception room is dominated by a fireplace of red Italian marble presented by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which was damaged by Allied soldiers chipping off pieces to take home as souvenirs. Hitler had the best of everything in the building. Unusual for 1937, the building had a completely electric appliance kitchen, but it was never used to cook meals…instead meals were prepared in town and taken to the kitchen on the mountain top to be reheated. Another extravagancy was the heated floors, with heating required for at least two days before visitors arrived. A MAN submarine diesel engine and an electrical generator were installed in an underground chamber close to the main entrance, to provide back-up power. Much of the furniture was designed by Paul László.

Hitler first visited on September 16, 1938, and returned to inaugurate it on April 20, 1939, his 50th birthday…though supposedly, it was not intended as a birthday gift. There are two ways to approach and enter the building…the road and the Kehlsteinhaus elevator. Hitler did not trust the elevator, continually expressed his reservations of its safety, and disliked using it. His biggest fear was that the elevator’s winch mechanism on the roof would attract a lightning strike. Bormann took great pains to never mention the two serious lightning strikes that occurred during construction. For a man who was supposedly such a “brave leader,” Hitler sure was afraid of a lot of things. The Kehlsteinhaus lies several miles directly above the Berghof, Hitler’s summer home. In a rare diplomatic engagement, Hitler received departing French ambassador André François-Poncet on October 18, 1938, there. It was he who actually came up with the name “Eagle’s Nest” for the building while later describing the visit. Since then, the name has remained. A wedding reception for Eva Braun’s sister Gretl was held there following her marriage to Hermann Fegelein on June 3, 1944. While Hitler more often than not left the entertaining duties to others, he believed the house presented an excellent opportunity to entertain important and impressionable guests. Often referred to as the “D-Haus,” short for “Diplomatic Reception House,” the Kehlsteinhaus is often combined with the teahouse on Mooslahnerkopf Hill near the Berghof, which Hitler walked to daily after lunch. Later, after the war, the teahouse was demolished by the Bavarian government, due to its connection to Hitler.

The Allies tried to bomb the Kehlsteinhaus in the April 25, 1945 Bombing of Obersalzberg, but the little house did not make an easy target for the force of 359 Avro Lancasters and 16 de Havilland Mosquitoes, which were sent to bomb Kehlsteinhaus, but instead, severely damaged the Berghof area. Undamaged in the April 25 bombing raid, the Kehlsteinhaus was subsequently used by the Allies as a military command post until 1960, when it was handed back to the State of Bavaria. The road to the Kehlsteinhaus has been closed to private vehicles since 1952 because it is too dangerous, but the house can be reached on foot (in two hours) from Obersalzberg, or by bus from the Documentation Center there. The Documentation Centre currently directs visitors to the coach station where tickets are purchased. The buses have special modifications to take on a slight angle, as the steep road leading to the peak is too steep for regular vehicles. The Kehlsteinhaus itself does not mention much about its past, except in the photos displayed and described along the wall of the sun terrace that documents its pre-construction condition until now. The lower rooms of the structure are not part of the restaurant but can be visited with a guide. They offer views of the building’s past through plate-glass windows, including graffiti left by Allied troops that is still visible in the surrounding woodwork. The red Italian marble fireplace remains damaged by Allied souvenir hunters, though this was later halted by signage posted that the building was US government property, and damage to it was cause for disciplinary action. Hitler’s small study is now a storeroom for the cafeteria. Thanks to the Ramsey family for taking us along.

My grandfather, George Byer was the only grandfather I ever knew. My dad’s dad had passed away before my parents were married, and all of my great grandfathers passed away long before I was born. It was not something I ever felt cheated about then, it was just the way it was. Of course, now I wish I had been able to know the other grandfathers, as well as some of the grandmothers. I did get to know my grandpa’s mother, but I don’t recall my grandma’s mother, because I was only three when she passed away. Grandpa was such a gentle man and I loved him very much. We all did.

I remember one afternoon when Grandpa stopped by our house. My mom was on the phone, so she told her dad to just come on in. She went on with her conversation, and Grandpa stood there. When she realized that he hadn’t come in, She again motioned him to come on in. Again she went back to her conversation, and again, Grandpa stood there. Finally my mom realized that something was wrong. It was then that she saw our German Shepherd dog, King was standing at the door. He wasn’t exactly growling or anything, but Grandpa knew that he had better not come inside, because King was guarding the door. Mom said, “King!! You let him in!!” King looked at Mom sheepishly, and literally smiled. Mom said it was the first time she had ever seen a dog smile. King turned and stepped away, allowing my Grandpa to come inside. I really miss that dog!! And I really miss my grandpa. I’m sure that Grandpa got a kick out of the whole thing…later, but at the time, he knew better than to test the dog. The funny thing is that King really wouldn’t have hurt him. King really did have a sense of humor. Some dogs do, you know.

If you ask me, I had the very best grandpa in the world. He was the best and sweetest grandpa ever. All of his grandchildren loved him, and his kids always felt like they were given the very best life ever. Grandpa may not have been rich, but he was rich in love for his family. He would have give everything he owned to make sure that they were ok. Together with our grandma, Hattie Byer they showed their generosity to anyone who needed it. No matter what Grandma was cooking, and how many extra people showed up, it seemed like there was always enough to feed everyone. They really were both amazing people. Today is the 128th anniversary of Grandpa’s birth. That was a wonderful day for our family, even if no one knew it then. Happy birthday in Heaven Grandpa Byer. We love and miss you very much.

As a young man, my grand-nephew, James Renville wanted nothing more than to leave Wyoming and travel abroad. He thought he might want to live abroad too, or at least somewhere bigger than Wyoming. Covid-19 changed that in a big way, and lately, Wyoming isn’t looking so bad to him. In fact, he has developed an appreciation for his hometown and home state. With all the craziness and chaos going on everywhere else, James said that he realized how blessed he is to live in Wyoming where Covid didn’t touch him or leave him unemployed. In fact, the last year has been a year of change, soul searching, revelation, and really just finding out who James is and what he wants out of life. Everyone needs to have a time like that, and this year was just that for James…a year of growth and personal development. James also spent a lot of time with his dad, Jim Renville. They took the time to become best friends.

James isn’t a typical man in his twenties. He is more reserved, and a lot less the “wild and crazy” type of person that many people his age are. It’s not that James just wants to sit around doing nothing, and there is a bit of the “wild and crazy” in him too. That part of James comes out in his love of aggressive inline skating as he calls it. I call it scary!! Anyway, James is really good at rollerblading…is that the same as inline skating? I think so. Yes, I’m told it is. He also enjoys running/jogging and playing pool. This last year has inspired James to some new beginnings too. James has decided to take up skiing and hiking. I wouldn’t ski, but hiking is my cup of tea, for sure.

James has still done some traveling this past year, because there is a certain girl who has captured his heart, and the hearts of the whole family…Manuela Ortiz, who has been working in New Jersey. James and Manuela have been dating about two years, and while visiting her in New Jersey, James took her to Philadelphia where he popped the question, and she said “Yes,” so in October, they got engaged.

James’ mom, who is my niece, Toni Chase tells me that Manuela is a gift from God, and the icing on the cake of the last year. She is the a big part of the new beginning, but before James could see the gift that Manuela is, he has to seek his own happiness. You can only share your happiness when you are truly happy. This past year many people felt depressed, but James wouldn’t let that get to him. He shunned the depression that many people fought. As James made his journey to happiness, he discovered that while he was truly happy now, he didn’t want to continue the journey without Manuela by his side. They really do compliment each other and are very supportive of one another. James knew that Manuela was the one he wanted to walk the road ahead with him. James was always a quiet man, but really he is selective about who he lets into his life, and that is a good thing. Once he knows a person, he isn’t quiet at all, but has good things to say, and much to contribute. Like many people, me included, James is not outgoing, but when he spots his people he knows them and he’s very down to earth. He is a great blessing to all who have the privilege of calling him their friend. Today is James’ birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My little great grand-nephew, Max Herr is turning one year old today, and he has has a very busy year. Of course, he has done many of the normal baby things like rolling over, sitting up, and clapping his hands. He also says DaDa, has teeth, loves his bath, snuggling with his mommy, Katy Balcerzak, and hanging with his daddy, Dylan Herr. Max has a great smile that lights up his whole face, and his laugh is infectious. He delights in everything new to him…which is everything, so he is always very excited about things he sees and does.

Max has had a number of wonderful adventures in his first year of life. His family took a trip to Red Wing, Minnesota; Casper, Wyoming; sunny Florida; the Ice Castles in Dillon, Colorado; the Botanic Gardens in Denver; and they they moved from Brighton, Colorado to Casper, Wyoming. Max had a great time celebrating all the holidays for the very first time. All in all, Max is finding out just how great this celebration called life is.

For Katy and Dylan, things have changed dramatically. They now have a new boss, because when it comes to Max…well, he is the boss, and he is getting very vocal about letting them know that fact. That’s what happened when Max found his words. Dada and Mama brought his parents running, even if it was just to see what he was saying now, or what he would say next. Then as Max found out that just saying those words brought the chosen parent to him, he started saying it more and more. Of course, sometimes, the parent he wanted wasn’t in close proximity, or as in his daddy’s case, was at work, so the parent didn’t show up immediately, so Max has to say it over and over. Sadly, even the boss doesn’t get everything he wants, all the time. The good thing is that for the most part, Max is a pleasant “boss” to work for. Every time his parents respond to his calls, he presents them not with a grouchy face “barking” orders, but a smiley face, that melts their hearts. No wonder he gets to be the boss. I think that if your boss has a face like this little guy, you would be putty in his hands too. Today is Max’s 1st birthday. Happy birthday Max!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Garrett’s life over the past few years has become more wonderful than he could ever have imagined. In 2016, he married the love of his life, Kayla and they were blessed with a beautiful little daughter named Elliott in 2018. Garrett has always loved children, and now with one of his own, he is so happy. Garrett and Elliott love to do things together, like mowing the lawn, hanging out by the pool, and going down the slide in the bouncy castle pool they rented for her birthday party.

This year, the most exciting thing that happened is that Garrett and Kayla took a trip to Cancun, Mexico to celebrate their birthdays, both of which are in June. They had a wonderful trip. They went golfing and rented a speed boat which Garrett thought was the greatest thing!! They relaxed and enjoyed the sun and the warm waters of the Caribbean, and the many activities at the resort. One of the coolest things was when they found an elk picture at the resort. I don’t know of any elk in Mexico, but I suppose I could be wrong. As a hunter, Garrett found the elk picture a very cool thing. On this trip, they left Elliott first with her grandma, Alena Stevens and then the second half of the trip, her grandma Lynette Smiley took over. Elliott had a wonderful time too. Grandma time is always fun for kids…and it was a great way for Garrett and Kayla to celebrate their birthdays too.

Garrett usually has weekends off, unless they are really busy at EMIT Technologies, where he has worked since shortly after moving to Sheridan. He wants to play lots of golf and do lots of camping this summer. Garrett loves fishing too, so I’m sure some of their camping will be near rivers or lakes so fishing can be part of the fun. I’m quite sure that before Elliott will become a great fisherwoman…following in her daddy’s footsteps. Elliott likes doing most things in her daddy’s footsteps, even though she is no tomboy. She is a princess, but her daddy’s stuff tops all duties of a princess.

Yes, Garrett’s life took a dramatically wonderful turn back in 2016, because when he married Kayla, his future began. A future that has continued get brighter and brighter. I know that because their love for one another is very strong, they will continue to have wonderful things happen to them, and their life will become more and more wonderful every day. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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!!

My aunt, Virginia Beadle spent time out in nature with her family as a child when her dad, my grandpa, George Byer took the family out rock hunting, so she knew about snakes. In the years before her passing on November 29, 2019, at 89 years of age, Aunt Virginia lived with her son Steve Beadle and his wife, Wanda, and later with her son Bill Beadle and his wife, Janie. While she was living with Wanda and Steve, Aunt Virginia stepped out the front door of the house, and immediately back in. She told the boys that there was a rattle snake by the front door, and she said it was huge!! The boys thought she was a typical girl, afraid of any old snake. They said it was probably a garter snake. Well, it wasn’t a garter snake, and Aunt Virginia wasn’t a typical girl who was afraid of a snake. After Steve had killed the rattle snake and cut off his head and rattle, he measured the snake. Steve is 5’8″, and just holding the snake up, it hit the ground when Steve held it just under his chin. That is a big snake. I’m sure the boys believed that she knew a rattle snake when she saw one after that.

Steve was reminded of a story his mom (my Aunt Virginia) told him. She was about 4 or 5 years old, and the family was living in a sod house. Aunt Virginia was outside playing and she saw a string of beads on the ground. She picked them up and went inside to has her dad, my grandpa, George Byer, if she could keep the beads. Her dad was shaving, and when asked, he told her yes, then thought maybe he should see what she was wanting to keep. When he looked down, he saw that she was holding a blue racer snake by the tail…and it was trying to bite her. He quickly grabbed it and stomped on its head. Aunt Virginia is pretty sure that is where her fear of snakes came from. Steve also said, “If Mom says it’s a big dang snake, it’s a BIG dang snake!!”

A few years ago, Wanda and Steve decided to lift Aunt Virginia’s spirits following her husband, my Uncle Bill’s passing. Aunt Virginia had told Wanda, during one of their many conversations, that she had always dreamed of a bedroom that was red and gray. She had wanted that bedroom all of her adult life. Without telling Aunt Virginia what they were doing, Wanda and Steve gave Aunt Virginia that bedroom that she had always dreamed of. She told them it was “too beautiful to sleep in” when she saw it. She never thought her dream would come true, but that day, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, Aunt Virginia saw the beautiful bedroom her kids had given her. That bedroom was their gift to her, but it was more than that…it was their love for her, and she knew that. She knew they loved her before that, of course, but to take a lifelong dream and make it a reality…well, she felt like a princess. And then there were the PJs. Aunt Virginia and Wanda loved their PJs, and I think that’s very cool.

Aunt Virginia had three little fur babies that she loved very much. Her idea of a wonderful way to spend time was to sit out on the deck, that had been beautifully furnished with new deck chairs with lots of padding and ottomans, as a gift for her birthday one year. Aunt Virginia loved sitting on the deck with the puppies, Molly, Whiskey, and Rosie…babies that she claimed for her very own. She sat on “her” deck with “her” puppies every chance she got. She would also sit under the covered pergola and do her puzzles. Wanda swore me to secrecy here, so don’t tell, but she did more sleeping than puzzling. Aunt Virginia went to heaven on November 29, 2019, and this past April, her little puppy, Rosie went to join her there. Rosie was the puppy that always greeted Aunt Virginia in the hallway, every morning when she got up, and now Aunt Virginia got to greet Rosie when she went home too. Rosie was the one that greeted her in the hallway every single day when she got up. Rosie adored Aunt Virginia, and now they are together forever, and since Rosie’s birthday was yesterday and Aunt Virginia’s 91st birthday is today, they can celebrate together in beautiful Heaven style. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Virginia. We love and miss you very much.

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