friends

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My husband, Bob and I love the Black Hills. We go over every year for the Independence Day celebration, which also happens to be right around Bob’s birthday. It is a kind of double celebration for us. Bob and I love to hike, and we have a number of favorite trails in the Black Hills. Some trails we take every year, some only in years that we are in tip top condition, and we try to find a new trail once in a while. There is so much of the Black Hills that most people never see. The back country of the Black Hills, deep in the forest, is just stunning. These Independence Day trips are such a sweet retreat for Bob and me. We especially love the ride on the 1880 Train, as the grand finale. That ride is so relaxing, and it really never gets old.

Bob is such a hard worker. Even in Retirement, he spends a lot of time working on cars for people. There are people who totally depend of his knowledge and ability to keep their vehicles running, and I don’t know what he would do with himself if he didn’t work on the vehicles of all his friends and family members. Since his retirement, he has kept busy and has thoroughly enjoyed the work he does…plus the fact that he is his own boss. All the years he spent working for the City of Casper were great, but there is nothing quite like being your own boss. You work at your own pace and take only the jobs you want to take, and since Bob is such a social person, there is the added benefit of meeting people and making friends.

Bob is such a kind and thoughtful person, who always has something nice to say about everyone. Its a wonderful trait to be able to find the good in people, and that is just what Bob does. I don’t think he has ever met someone he didn’t like. That is something I love about Bob…his easy manner with people. It makes people comfortable with him. From adults to little kids. Everybody likes Bob. His nieces and nephews are all very fond of him, and love to spend time with him. They love to tease him and make him laugh, and he feels the same about them. Little kids are the best ones to watch. They can usually tell if a person is someone they would like, and Bob always falls into the “we like you” category. I have to agree with them. I like him too. He’s a pretty great guy. I liked him from the moment I met him…and I still do. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Bob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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.

By the time Spring arrives, people are naturally over the cold and sometimes depressing Winter months. When April 1st arrives, hopefully bringing with it, sunshine and warmer temperatures, pranks seem to just pop into our heads. We need a laugh, and the good-natured pranking of our friends is a great way to get that laugh. People have pranked their friends and family in many ways. The ways are really as diverse as the prankster. My sisters and I, when we were little, did all the kid pranks, like “there’s a spider in your hair” or exchanging the salt for the sugar. Other people go all out, like telling someone their car was stolen or placing a rubber snake in their bed. I suppose some pranks can be a little over the top, and can even backfire on the prankster, but most are done good naturedly, and are taken as such. Of course, the best part for the prankster is yelling, “April Fool” to their victim.

As traditions go, some stand out more than others. In the United Kingdom, it is tradition that all pranks stopped at noon. This continues to be the custom, with the pranking ceasing at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks. So, a person who didn’t watch the time, an playing a prank after midday is considered the “April fool” themselves. In Ireland, it is more of a “fools errand.” The prankster entrusts the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter, when opened contained the words “send the fool further” and then the victim knew he had been had. I can’t say that would be a traditional joke, because the word would get around pretty quickly, and then it wouldn’t work.

April Fools’ Day isn’t just for individuals either. On April Fools’ Day, elaborate pranks have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and websites, and have been performed by large corporations. One of the more famous pranks was in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day. A good prankster could come up with similar pranks for the media to use, and now with the Internet and readily available global news services, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass more people than ever before. It’s the one day that “fake news” can be fake and it’s ok. Happy April Fools’ Day to all the pranksters out there. Have fun, and watch the time so you don’t wind up being the “fool” indeed.

My nephew, Chris Iverson is an avid outdoorsman. He loves camping, fishing, and guns. That is pretty typical of people who live in Wyoming. If Chris and my niece, Cassie could live totally off the grid, I think they would, and if the someday move off the grid, I won’t be one bit surprised. Sometimes, living in town just gets to bee too much for them, and they will load up their camper trailer, and head for the mountains. It is wonderful for their kids, Lucas and Zoey too. They love being in the mountains, especially with family and friends.

When Chris and Cassie had Lucas, there were some challenges. Lucas was born with Down Syndrome, and many parents would have considered other possible avenues of dealing with a known birth defect, but for Chris and Cassie, that was not an option. Lucas with their precious baby, and he was who he was. They loved him and cherished him, and he has grown into a wonderful little boy. Chris and Cassie, are great parents, and they have trained both of their children to be wonderful, caring children who love and respect their siblings

Chris loves his family with all his heart, and always tries to do whatever he can to life better for them. He has the ability to fix his cars, so that saves him money, that can be better used in support of his family. Life isn’t always easy for the Iverson family. Medical bills have plagued them from time to time, but they have continued to persevere, and I know they will do so in the future. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Jason Sawdon, who is married to my niece, Jessi. They are perfect for each other. They are both very social, outgoing people, who are also all about family. Jason and Jessi have a wonderful little girl named Adelaide Ione…named after two grandmothers. Jason was born in in Michigan, where his family still lives. For some reason, he found himself in Wyoming, where he met his future wife…my niece, Jessi. It was a match made in Heaven, and we all find ourselves so impressed with the obvious love and caring he has for Jessi. He encourages her and lifts her up, always making her feel special. It is something we have all witnessed, and something we all love that about him.

Jason is a handyman…in his spare time. He can fix almost anything! My niece, Kellie Hadlock tells me that he fixes most of the stuff in her house, along with her brother, Ryan Hadlock and her dad, Chris Hadlock. Kellie says, “He is always willing to help family and his friends. ALWAYS!” What better tribute to someone’s character than that. People who are there for one another are the best kind of people…and Jason is the best kind of people, for sure. Kellie is quite close to Jason and Jessi, and to their daughter, Adelaide. To her Jason is her big brother and he has been from the start! She says that they also feed her all the time, hahahahaha!! I don’t think that’s the only reason she loves them, however.

Maybe it’s the cop in Jason, or maybe it’s just they way he is, but he has been protective of all of us from the beginning! Kellie says that of her family, but we have all felt that about Jason. I remember a time when my son-in-law, Kevin Petersen’s dad, Dean had a accident in which his travel trailer was blown all over the ditch, and when my daughter, Kevin and my daughter, Corrie arrived at the scene, they didn’t know what to expect. It looked so bad, but Jason, a Wyoming Highway Patrolman, when he saw them, immediately went to them and reassured them that Dean was ok. There is nothing like having a first responder put their arm around you and let you know you are not alone, and everything will be ok…nothing like it at all. Your emotions are so raw and messed up in times like that, and you need someone to comfort you. Jason is great at his job and takes pride in doing everything right and with integrity, and that is the kind of patrolman we need in this world. Today is Jason’s birthday. Happy birthday Jason!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As children, most of us have been on the receiving end of a form of “torture” that really isn’t exactly torture for most of us, but rather just good clean fun…provided that the torturer knows when to stop. My sisters and I were among the experts of our era…at least four of us were. The fifth sister, the middle one, Caryl Reed, was an “accomplished” victim…not because she chose to be the victim, but rather that she was the one we most loved to tickle. She was just such a great victim!! We would tickle her until she could hardly breathe, and then we would show some “mercy” and let her “live to be victimized another day.”

I always thought my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Alena Stevens, Allyn Hadlock, and I were very clever at coming up with something totally new…the Tickle Torture, but it turns out that Tickle Torture is an ancient form of actual torture. Who knew? Certainly not my sisters or me. Our form of torture, barely resembles the ancient form, or the form that still exists to this day among military circles. As it turns out, the tickle torture began in 260 BC, as far as anyone can tell, when the Han Dynasty appears to have implemented the technique as a reliable punishment that didn’t leave marks. It was used by both the Ancient Romans and the Chinese. I have heard of some of the brutal forms of torture that the Romans used, and I suppose at first this seemed like one of the most humane forms of torture in their entourage. It seems that they would apply salt on the soles of feet and then have a goat lick it off. If you have ever had an animal lick your hand, you know that they usually have a rough tongue. At first, the torture must have been crazy in an extremely ticklish sort of way, and very likely the victim laughed until they could hardly breathe. As the torture continued, the rough tongue of the goat began to actually cause extreme pain…sometimes even lacerating the skin of the feet. The Chinese used this torture on the nobility because there was little evidence left behind and recovery was quick.

People have mixed feelings on tickling. Some like it, but some don’t. I have always been of the mind that if someone really hates it, it should not be done. Of course, the victims in those days had no choice, and I doubt if anyone really liked that kind of tickle torture. I guess that if a person really hates the tickle torture, they might be able to understand how some groups in history have come up with ways to turn it into an actual form of torture. In the actual torture, people might pass out, vomit, and some even died…at least it went that far in the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. I suppose that for anyone who lived through any of that or knew someone who did, the tickle torture would not be funny at all. Still, tickle torture was not as bad as some of the other forms of torture used in ancient times, nor was it often as deadly as those other forms.

Actual Tickle torture is still in use today too, and not just in various households across the world. Special operations forces may actually use it in interrogations, as a method of non-lethal torture to be employed by governments to gain information from a suspect. I don’t know how they would actually get any information for a victim, unless their form of torture took a painful turn, but then I’m not an interrogator, so maybe they know something I don’t. What I do know is that my sisters and I had many happy sessions of applying the tickle torture to our sister, Caryl.

My grand niece, Zoey Iverson is a bubbly, smiley girl who loves life. She loves her family, and especially her older brother, Lucas. During the school closing due to Covid-19, Zoey and her brother have been spending a lot of time together, but that’s ok, because they really are best friends…more so than most siblings, I think. I’m sure that it’s because Zoey has always made sure that her brother is included in things, even if it’s just brother and sister things, like learning to walk and play. Lucas has Down Syndrome, and Zoey has played a big part in making sure that her is learning and excelling in all that he does. Nobody told her that she needed to do that. Zoey just knew.

Zoey loves the outdoors and camping. I think she feels free when she is outside, but especially when she is out in nature…not just in the back yard. This year when the family went camping, Zoey decided to build her own private shelter. I think she is very resourceful…of course, she may have been taught to do this by her parents. Nevertheless, I think it’s a very cool thing to do. A girl always needs a little privacy now and then…right.

Zoey loves all aspects of the outdoors, but playing in the water on a hot day has got to be right up there on her list. She loves playing with the family dog, and entertaining her brother too. With the parents she has, I’m sure that hiking, camping, fishing, and outdoor adventures are just par for the course. Zoey is really a very grounded girl. She may only be 5 years old, but she knows what she likes, and she knows how to do many of the things common to being in the wild, simply because her parents have taught her well. Zoey has been camping and fishing all her life, and she is a natural. Still, the thing that makes me smile the most, is Zoey’s love of life and everyone in it. She has a wonderful personality and attitude about everything…and she has a wonderful smile. All the best qualities in anyone. Today is Zoey’s 5th birthday!! How can she be 5 years old already. It just doesn’t seem possible, but here we are. Happy birthday Zoey!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Imagine, waking up from a feverish delirium, to find yourself staring into the face of a doctor who looked like some type of bird, and a scary one at that. When people are delirious and feverish, they are already not in their right mind, so looking at the man, who looked like a giant hawk, could be…well, frightening. The poor sick patient, might have believed that they had been abducted by aliens.

Medicine has come a long way over the centuries. Long ago, physicians in Europe thought that diseases were caused by “bad air.” Scientists like Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and Joseph Lister hadn’t yet come up with the scientific proof of the germ theory of disease. Sometimes, it just makes you wonder how anyone managed to survive in those days. Still, the doctors did know that somehow they needed to protect themselves, be it from the “bad air” or germs that they didn’t even know existed. I guess they figured that “when in doubt…protect yourself” first. It was good advise then and good advise now. A healthcare worker, be it doctor, nurse, cna, or caregiver, cannot be of any use to their patient, if they get sick too.

So, to safeguard themselves against miasma, which was the name they gave to this “bad air” and since the doctors then didn’t know about the kinds of gear that is available these days, the doctors donned a curious accessory while treating sickly patients…a mask with a long, bird-like beak, which was stuffed with dried flowers, herbs, and spices. The gear was used during the Carnival of Venice, so some people might recognize it as the “plague doctor” costumes, but they probably wouldn’t know that, with the costumes were an exaggeration, this type of gear was really used during plagues in the 17th century.

It is thought that doctors accepted this type of mask, thanks in part to the Black Death, which ravaged the Middle East, Asia, and Europe during the 14th century, but medical historians say it wasn’t invented until three centuries later, when a 16th century French doctor named Charles de Lorme likely designed what could be described as one of history’s earliest hazmat suits during later waves of the plague, and it was very similar to these. I’m sure they did the best they could, but my guess is that is was sorely inadequate. The de Lorme suit consisted of “a full head-to-toe protective garment, modeled after a soldier’s canvas gown which went from the neck to the ankle. The over-clothing garment, as well as leggings, gloves, boots, and a hat, were made of waxed leather. The garment was impregnated with similar fragrant items as the beak mask.”

These days, our healthcare workers, who are working with serious diseases, such as Covid-19, wear gear that is much more capable of protecting them. Healthcare workers like my friend, Nurse Practitioner, Angela Booth might look like they are wearing…well, almost bunkers, like a firefighter wears, with the exception of the heavy oxygen, of course. Still, the gear they are wearing is highly sophisticated and is much better able to protect them from the disease, than gear used to be, and anyone who has friends or family in the healthcare industry, can be thankful for that. For patients, it might still be scary to see the doctor or nurse dressed that way.

For a deep thinker, like my grand niece, Anna Masterson, being an introvert is usually par for the course. Introversion can be overcome, but it is not easy, and really takes a concentrated effort. Anna has been working on being more outgoing over the past year. That has not been very easy with Covid-19. She has been faithfully going with her mom, Dustie Masterson, every week to the laundromat. That can be a major accomplishment for an introvert. I know I am much the same. Dustie really appreciates Anna’s help because they get through the work quickly. For Anna the surprise was that she has made a friend there, which was a surprise for Dustie to see, because Anna does not talk to people she doesn’t know. Even more surprising was that it was a boy, an act of bravery on her part. Not surprising that the boy wanted to talk to her, because Anna is a cute girl. Still, she stayed very close to her mom while she talked to him for a while. Nevertheless, pretty soon she was talking to him across the laundromat! Amazingly, it was her mom who had a hard time letting Anna go across the room. It was just such an unusual feeling to have her normally clingy daughter moving so bravely out into the world. Dustie wants Anna to come out of her shell, but watching the process was not easy for a mom who has felt the need to help her shy daughter in the past.

The end of the school year was rough for Anna. Covid-19 really put a damper on those, like Anna, who really love school. She got up on her own every day on time and went to her online classes. She didn’t have to be told, she chose. Still, it’s not the same as going to school, and even for an introvert like Anna, being around people she knew was important, and she missed going. It was very responsible of her to get up on her own, because her parents, Rob and Dustie both work, they are glad she was so good about getting up with an alarm. Anna and her best friend, Julie, both play the violin in orchestra, and that has had to go by the wayside too. I know they both miss it very much. For them, and all the kids I pray Covid-19 ends soon.

Like many people, Anna and her sister, Raelynn are both into Comic-Con, and this year, both girls plan to go, as it will be held outside to allow for good social distancing. The girls are so excited about going. In the meantime, Anna and her siblings, Raelynn and Matt, have been spending a lot of time together, which could have been a problem, but they get along pretty well, so they have tried to keep things light and fun.

Anna surprised her mom in another way this year. Before this year, Anna was not really interested in cooking, but she has decided that she likes to cook and be creative in the kitchen. This has been a wonderful mother/daughter time for both of them, and Dustie has really enjoyed teaching her daughter all about cooking. It has brought them even closer. Today is Anna’s 13th birthday. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

April Fools’ Day has long been a day to play practical jokes on friends and family, and most of us have taken part in the practice each year. The key to April Fools’ Day is when you get to see the look on your “victim’s” face. This year, it seems that a virus had the best joke…for lack of a better phrase for it, because there is nothing funny about COVID19. The virus has wreaked havoc on the world. And now it’s April Fools’ Day, and most of the United States citizens have been told to distance themselves from each other. On April Fool’s Day, that is a cruel joke.

April Fools’ Day pranks don’t really work well by phone, email, or text, although I suppose that, to a degree, Skype or Facetime would allow the prankster to see the face of their victim. Still, part of the fun is more than just their face. A perfect April Fools’ Day joke produces more than just a shocked face, the body language is a part of it too. My family loved April Fools’ Day pranks, and while the jokes varied, going from the typical childlike jokes, like trying to convince our sisters that they had a spider on them, when they were old enough to know that it was an April Fool’s Day joke. If they were feeling generous, they might pretend to be scared, but that reaction was usually reserved for the youngest sister at the time. The rest of us had to step up our game. Somehow, I just can’t imagine any of those jokes working very well by text. I wouldn’t even know how to set it up from that distance.

This year, with “social distancing” as a new part of our reality, the joke appears to be on the pranksters. Oh I might be able to prank my husband…and I probably will, because let’s face it, he’s here, and I am a prankster…and he is pretty much the only “victim” available. Yes, April Fools’ Day pranks will be much different this year, but in light of the fact that we all have cabin-fever, maybe some creative pranking is just the think we all need. So…prank it up all you dedicated April Fools’ Day pranksters. We must never give up without a fight!!

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