My husband, Bob Schulenberg’s uncle, Bernard Eugene “Butch” Hein was a well-known rancher is Forsyth, Montana. He was born June 28, 1945, in Miles City, Montana, to Walt and Vina Hein of Forsyth, Montana. Butch was the youngest of his mother’s five children (two of them, Marion and Walt Schulenberg) from a previous marriage. He also had a sister, Esther Hein and a brother, Eddie Hein. The family lived on a ranch outside of Forsyth. It was there that Butch first learned about ranching and knew that this would be his life’s work. While Butch would spend his childhood years helping on the ranch, there would be other life events that would have to take place before he finally settled into ranching. Butch graduated from Forsyth high school in 1964. The Vietnam war was in full swing, and Butch was drafted to the Navy in 1966. In all the years I have known Butch, he, like most other veterans never talked about his time during that war. I don’t know where he spent his service years, but I know that he was one of the men blessed to have made it home.
After returning home for his time in the service, Butch married Bonnie Wertz on April 13, 1968. Bonnie was the love of his life, and they began to build a life together. Their son, Scott Michael was born on November 5, 1969, and they were happy with their little family. Unfortunately, while they were preparing to expand their family, Bonnie was diagnosed with cancer. She delayed treatment in order to give their daughter a chance at life. Crista Dawn was born on October 26, 1973, but passed away on November 2, 1973. Bonnie continued to weaken and passed away on April 27, 1974. Butch was devastated. He felt like his life was over, but he had a son who needed him, so Butch pulled himself together, and raised his son as a single dad. Scott was his greatest achievement, and they were not only father and son, but later business partners and best friends. That friendship continued right up to Butch’s passing.
On October 13, 2023, a 78-year-old Butch, who was still very vibrant and full of life, got in his car and entered the interstate at his life-long hometown, Forsyth, Montana. Much of the rest is unknown at this time, but in the end, Butch was hit broadside by a semi-truck, and killed instantly. For his family, and all who knew him, this was a devastating loss. Butch was a friend to many, and certainly most of the town of Forsyth. He was also Grandpa to Scott’s three children with his wife Terri (née Wiederrick) Hein…Laura (Sean) Dailey, Carson Hein, and Lindsey Hein. Butch was so proud of his family, and one of the recent highlights of his life was being able to attend his granddaughter, Laura’s wedding on September 30, 2023. His grandchildren were his pride and joy. Laura is a junior high school teacher in Chester, Montana; Carson works at the ranch with his dad and grandpa; and Lindsey is in college at Montana State University, having received a basketball scholarship. Butch was an amazing dad to Scott, and a blessing to Terri and the kids as well. His life’s work might have been ranching, but his family was his legacy. He will be forever loved and missed very much.
My aunt, Evelyn Hushman was the eldest of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer’s nine children. Big families have a different dynamic than small families. My own daughter, Corrie Petersen was too close in age to her younger sister, Amy Royce to be of help in raising her sister. That was just not how our family worked, but my grandparents’ family, and even my own parents’ family, were big enough for the children to have a hand in raising the younger children. Some people consider that a privilege, and others consider it a burden. There is no right or wrong way to feel about it. It just is the way it is. I don’t know how any of my siblings felt about things or even how my aunts and uncles felt about it, but I think that my parents and grandparents always felt thankful for the help the older children gave, because families of any size can be exhausting.
For many years, my Aunt Evelyn, her husband, my Uncle George Hushman, and my parents, Al and Collene Spencer, bowled on a bowling league. Then as their children grew up, we all bowled too. That is a legacy we likely owe to our parents. I’m not sure any of the others still bowl today, but I do, as does my husband, Bob Schulenberg. We have bowled now for 44 years. When I think about that, it is a legacy. I’m not a professional bowler or anything…far from it, but I can hold my own on among the amateurs, and for me, that all went back to the league my parents and Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George bowled on.
In reality, my parents and my aunt and uncle did many things together. They were really best friends. They double dated many times, including the date that almost cost them their lives. They were coming home from a date and my dad was driving. They were taking Aunt Evelyn and Uncle George home, when they were struck by a train. They would have all died at the unlit, uncontrolled, crossing being hit by a train with no lights on, if my Uncle George hadn’t caught sight of a reflection, and yelled to my dad, “Train!!” Dad reacted by turning with the train, thereby saving the lives of all four of them. They weren’t even injured. So, I guess we their children, owe our lives to them, in more ways than one. Today would have been Aunt Evelyn’s 94th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Aunt Evelyn. We love and miss you very much.
It makes me sad to think that my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg has been in Heaven now for over 5 years….not sad for him, but for me. He was such a sweet man, and having him for a father-in-law was always a blessing. When I first met my father-in-law, I liked his sense of humor, his willingness to help others, and his love of family. Early on, I probably would have said that my husband was very different that his dad, but as time went on, I realized that he really wasn’t. I discovered that the traits that I love about my husband came to him from his parents, and especially his dad. I think that is more common than we know, and the older each of us gets, the more we notice the traits of our parents. It is very much their legacy, living in their children.
I began taking care of my in-laws in 2007, and my father-in-law was somewhat surprised that I would devote so much time to them, but in reality, they were like second parents to me, and they had given me so much…not just in things, but in the gift of their wonderful son to be my life partner. They showed him how to be the amazing man I married, so how could I possibly not show them how great I knew they were. Life is a cycle. We raise our children with the hope that they will find someone to share their life with, and who will share their family too. My father-in-law was a great dad to his kids, in-laws, and grandkids. I feel very blessed to have known him.
Dad was a great teacher. He taught both of his boys to work on cars, build things, and to be responsible hard working men. His boys, and his girls too, have all become responsible, successful people, who all helped to take care of their parents as the end approached. It was their way of giving back to the wonderful people who raised them. It is sad to know that they have passed on now, and we do miss them very much, but we also know that they are not hurting or suffering in any way now, and that makes the pain of loss easier to bear. Today would have been my father-in-law’s 89th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Dad. Thank you for the gift of your son, Bob, who is the love of my life. You raised him well. We love and miss you very much, and look forward to seeing you again in Heaven.
As the three year mark since my mom, Collene Spencer went to Heaven arrives, I realize more and more how many time I have wanted to go to her and ask a question, get her advise, or just hear what she thought of my most recent story. Mom was, after all, my biggest fan. It didn’t matter what I wrote about, she liked it. And so often, she was part of it. She answered my many questions about the family, told me the inspirational things that happened, or the funny things her siblings would dream up. Hearing her talk about it all made me feel like I was there watching her and her siblings growing up. I could feel the coziness of my grandparents house, and hear the laughter of the kids in the kitchen as they did the dishes or helped with cooking the evening meal. Mom created that exclusive viewing for me, and I have felt very privileged to have been able to take that little tour into her history with her. Now that she is in Heaven, I find myself with more questions to ask her, and I really wish that Heaven had a telephone, so I could hear her voice and ask her the things that I want to know, because in Heaven, our minds have perfect recall, so the stories would be even more rich with detail.
Of course, the telephone call would not be just to ask her the many questions I still have, but also to hear her voice again, and my dad’s voice too. It has been so very long since I have heard their sweet voices, and I think they are among the things I miss the most. Of course, their faces, and really their person, but their voices are the essence of who they were. Thankfully, God has given me a clear memory, and in my memory files, their voices are stored. I can hear Mom’s laugh, along with her way of being just a little bit goofy, and Dad’s teasing, which had a way of driving Mom crazy…and of course, their life lessons…which is probably a nice way of talking about the many times they had to discipline me. Sometimes, I think I might have been their biggest challenge, and I believe my sisters would agree. They have often wondered how I made it to adulthood. All those things went into the life our parents created for us, and I wish every day that we could have them back. I wouldn’t want to go back in time exactly, but rather I wish that they could have continued on into what for them would have been the future. I would love for them to meet the new little family additions they have now. We have added lots of babies, and there are more of them on the way. They have four great great grandchildren now, and one more on the way. They loved those babies, and I wish they could have seen these great great grandbabies. Their legacy continues. If Heaven had a telephone, we could call and let them talk to these precious great grandbabies and great great grandbabies. Oh, how I wish we could call them. There is so much I would like to tell them. If only Heaven had a telephone. While I miss you so much on this day, in particular, Mom, I know that you and Dad are having the most amazing time in Heaven, and you can’t wait for all of us to get there…where we will realize why Heaven doesn’t have a telephone. When we are all there, we will never need telephones again. What an awesome day that will be. We love and miss you Mom…and Dad too. See you both someday soon…and we can hardly wait.
Growing up, my sisters and I watched lots of westerns. It wasn’t so strange really, because westerns were the in thing back then. Everyone loved watching them. One show I remember watching was The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It all seemed like it took place so long ago, and to many people I guess it was. Still, when you think of the fact that Wyatt Earp, a frontiersman, marshal and gambler, who got into a feud in Tombstone, Arizona, that led to the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral passed away quietly in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929, it doesn’t seem so long ago anymore. I guess that in Wyatt Earp’s case, old gunfighters never die, they just lose their fight. Wyatt Earp was born on March 19, 1848, and that seems long ago. The gunfight took place on October 26, 1881…and Wyatt Earp survived. He had led such a wild life, that the thought of him ending up dying quietly in Los Angeles seemed…well, just too tame, and just too much a part of modern times to be right. Nevertheless, it was right. He did live in modern times, and in fact was a friend of John Wayne’s.
I’m not sure why that whole scenario struck me as odd. Wyatt Earp was 80 years old at the time of his passing…not an overly excessive amount of years…average, in fact. Since he was born in 1848, his passing in 1929 would be right. I guess that the thing that seemed strange to me was the fact that when Wyatt Earp passed away, my own dad was five years old. Yes, he was an old man, and my dad a young boy, but for those five years, their life spans occupied the same space in history. And yet, my dad’s life had no connection to the time of Wyatt Earp, or to the man that he was.
Wyatt Earp was a boy in search of adventure, and ran away from home twice after the Civil War broke out when he was 13. He went to join up with his two older brothers, Virgil and James. Each time he ran away, he was caught before he could reach the battlefield, and he was sent back home. Finally, at the age of 17, he left for good. His family had moved from the Illinois farm to California, but Wyatt wanted adventure, so he headed out to seek his own idea of life. He worked many different jobs, most notably as a lawman, and of course, a gambler. Life was not kind to Wyatt Earp. At a point when he was finally ready to settle down with the woman he loved, he married Urilla Sutherland, the daughter of the local hotel owner. The couple married about 1870, built a house in town, and were excitedly awaiting the birth of their first child. Then, life hit him with it’s most cruel blow. Within a year of their marriage Urilla contracted Typhus and died, along with their unborn child. Wyatt went off the deep end and became wild again. Eventually, he would be suspected of killing one of the suspects in his brother, Morgan’s death.
Unfortunately…or maybe fortunately, the west began to settle down. Wyatt was getting older. He settled in Los Angeles and hoped to have the Old West and his own legacy portrayed in film, but Hollywood wasn’t interested until after his death. I suppose it was then that Westerns moved into the forefront of television and movies. Westerns would then have a long run of popularity in the homes of many people…ours included.
Every year, my mom’s family gets together to celebrate Christmas as a family. Of course, it isn’t on Christmas, but rather a couple of weeks ahead of Christmas. They get together to stay close to each other and to honor their parents’ wishes that they not drift apart. My mom, Collene Byer Spencer, like her sisters looked forward to that party every year. She planned the little gift that she would make for each of her sisters. She worked on them with great care, planning every detail, so they were just perfect for each of her siblings. There was always that special moment when the siblings would gather at one of the tables and exchange those precious little gifts that showed how much they loved each other. It was always such a sweet thing to watch. It was never about the gift they received, but about the love they all had for each other. I felt a sting of sadness, because Mom and Aunt Evelyn weren’t there at that precious moment of sisterly love. Nevertheless, I was happy for Aunt Virginia Beadle, Aunt Bonnie McDaniels, Aunt Dixie Richards, and Aunt Sandy Pattan, because they still had that precious time together.
As the years have passed, fewer and fewer of the siblings remain, and this year, we lost two more of the sisters, my mom and my aunt, Evelyn Byer Hushman. Everyone felt the sting of those new absences, and my aunts tried to console us and we them too, but it really didn’t do much good. We simply cried together, because we missed them so much. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our own grief, we can forget that there are others who loved our loved one too. I somehow hadn’t grasped that thought before, but while talking to my aunts, I realized that they are grieving as much as we are. These were their sisters, who they had known all of their lives, and they missed them too…very much.
This Byer Family Christmas Party was different in several ways, but it was also the same in many ways too. The same people that usually come, were mostly there this time too. These are the family members who have embraced Grandma and Grandpa’s dream of a continuing close family. These are the ones who have strived to keep the future generations of the family close too. We have a wonderful heritage in our family. Our grandparents left us a legacy of love. Those connections warm our hearts with every party or picnic. We are all busy, and seeing each other every day…other than on Facebook…is very hard to do, but these precious family gatherings will always keep the legacy of our grandparents alive.
As I walked around the room, talking to the different family members and taking too many pictures to possible show here, I could hear the echoes of those aunts and uncles who are in Heaven this year…Aunt Evelyn Hushman, Uncle Elmer and Aunt Deloris Johnson, Uncle Larry Byer, my mom and dad, Collene and Allen Spencer, and Uncle Jack McDaniels…and of course of Grandma and Grandpa Byer. It was as if they were there in spirit, celebrating the family with us. I could hear some of the things each one had said over the years. I was thankful that many of their family members were there at the party, because even though they are in Heaven now, we are all still part of this wonderful family, and we belong together celebrating this family and the legacy our precious grandparents left behind.
My mom grew with stories about the Indians her grandfather had known in his lifetime. Of course, my Great grandpa Byer passed away before my mom was even born, but his legacy lived on long afterward. He had been a friend to the Indians, and had been invited to take part in their Pow Wows. I don’t really know how much this impressed my mom, but I know that she often talked about the stories she had heard so many times in her youth. I remember, Mom’s stories well…probably because she used to use examples of Indian things when she spoke to us in everyday life.
As with most kids, we figured shoes were optional in the summertime, and in reality, they were in the way. As a result of this belief, our feet spent the better part of the summer looking as black as the ace of spades. My mom liked to joke with us about our feet. She would say such things as, “Look at those feet! The are completely black! Are you part of the Blackfoot Tribe!” I didn’t know much about the history of the Blackfoot Indians, but apparently they got their name because of their moccasins, which were often black from walking through the ashes of the prairie fires. Many of the Indian tribes would set the prairie on fire as a way of…well, mowing the lawn. Tall grass provides a hiding place for enemies, be they animal or human. So, burning them made riding and walking easier, and gave the protection of the open areas with no place to hide from the tribe’s people. It was the best protection they could have.
I always used to wonder why she would say that we were from the Blackfoot Tribe, and then I checked into it. No, we weren’t wandering around the prairie, walking through the ashes left from mowing the lawn, but we did wear moccasins for a time, when they were in style. The reality, however, was that she was reminded of the Blackfoot Tribe, by her own little tribe of barefoot girls with feet as black as soot, running around, carefree and happy, in the summer sun. Her own little tribe of Blackfoot Indians.