louisiana

My Aunt Jeanette Byer has always been a sweet person, who was easy to get along with, and yet she was also a hard working, and really tough lady when she needed to be. For most of the years of my memory, she and my Uncle Larry lived on a piece of land east of Casper where they raised their two children, Larry and Tina. They really loved their place out in the country, but as life sometimes shows us, change happens. The job at the Texaco Refinery in Casper, Wyoming was closing, and Uncle Larry was offered a transfer to Louisiana. So they packed up their home and moved to the New Orleans area. They split up their property between their two kids, as settled down in their new home, and Uncle Larry to his new job. There were also trips here and there, seeing all the sights in their new home. Louisiana is, of course, a beautiful state.

Louisiana was a big change for to small city people from the much colder state of Wyoming. One big change is the difference in the level of humidity, which is quite high in Louisiana. I’m sure it was a bit of a transition for them. I know that when my parents visited them there, my mom, Collene Spencer noticed a feeling of difficulty breathing. It wasn’t serious, just that the added humidity made the air feel heavy, and difficult to breathe in. Aunt Jeanette told her that is was something you get used to, and I’m sure it is, and the time spent there for a visit would not give you enough time to do so. Aunt Jeanette also told her that the humidity made you feel wet right after you dried off after showering. While the warmer weather would be nice, I don’t know if the humidity would be a good trade off to get it.

I think that Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry felt the same way, because when he retired, they headed back to good ole’ Wyoming. Of course, their children and grandchildren are still in the Casper, Wyoming area, so that gave an incentive to move back. We, the family, were all glad they were back too. Louisiana is really far from Wyoming, and we missed them. They moved their things back to Casper over two summers, and on the second trip, they stayed. Uncle Larry passed away, on December 22, 2011, but we still have Aunt Jeanette with us. She is in good health and doing well.  I even came across her high school graduation picture as I was contemplating my story. Wasn’t she beautiful!! Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 84th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My Uncle Larry was born during the years of the Great Depression, in an era of big families. He was the 4th child and first son of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer. While times were tough, the one thing that George and Hattie had plenty of was love. The family was rich in that. My mother, Collene Spencer, followed Uncle Larry in quick succession, arriving when he was just 20 months old. Following Mom, Uncle Wayne arrived two years later. Their childhood would be spent as close friends and allies, along with the associated sibling arguments too, I’m sure. While I’m not sure how the boys felt about Mom tagging along in things, they didn’t really complain too much, and defended their sister when needed. For her part, Mom considered these brothers, the only ones she had, to be…maybe her charges too somehow. She might very well be prone to protecting them, whether they needed it or not, even against their mother…to her detriment sometimes, because it earned her the same punishment that Grandma Byer was dishing out to her sons. Still, my mom looked up to and loved her brothers. I suppose that to a degree, being the girl between the brothers made her a bit of a tomboy, but it also shaped her into the wonderful woman who became my mom.

Uncle Larry was a determined man, who wanted something better for his family. I believe that land ownership was a part of that desire. I remember wondering as a kid, why he and my Aunt Jeanette chose to live in the country. The rest of the family at that time, were city dwellers (though Casper wasn’t a large city) and it always seemed strange to me that they lived in the country. Lots of land, however, gave them the ability to have a big place to entertain, and outbuildings to pursue any other activities they might be interested in, such as ceramics. They proudly hosted ceramics sessions with any of the family who wanted to join in. Grandma and Grandpa Byer were some of those who loved going out to get their “Crafty Side” on.

All of my grandparents kids lived most of their lives in Wyoming, most of them in Casper, so when Uncle Larry took a transfer to Louisiana with Texaco, I remember being quite shocked. I’m not sure why I should have been, because my own mother had lived for 5 years in Superior, Wisconsin, where my older sister, Cheryl and I were both born. Still, at the time, I felt kind of shocked. The refinery where Uncle Larry worked, here in Casper, closed, and he wasn’t old enough to retire, so he could take the transfer or take a layoff. The choice was simple really. They mover to Louisiana and lived their until his retirement before returning to live the rest of his life in Casper, where both of their children, Larry and Tina both live too. I remember being quite happy when they moved back here. I felt like having the family back together again. My husband, Bob and I loved running into them on occasion, often at a home improvement store, where we were both looking for some new item we needed for our houses. When he passed away, I felt very sad that those impromptu meeting would now be over. Uncle Larry passed away on December 22, 2011, and I still miss him very much. Today would nave been Uncle Larry’s 86th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.

There are certain people who fit in your family from the moment they join it. My niece, Dustie Masterson, who married my nephew Rob Masterson on January 18, 2003 is one of those people. Rob and Dustie met when he was in the Army, and was in Louisiana. It didn’t take them very long to realize that they were in love and that they were perfect for each other. When they returned to Casper, Wyoming where Rob’s family all live, the family liked Dustie immediately. She was sweet, helpful, kind, and most of all, she was very much in love with and loyal to Rob. That goes a long way toward endearing a person to their spouse’s family.

Dustie and Rob’s favorite place to be was always together. It didn’t really matter where. That is such an interesting thought now, years later, when the two of them work together in different areas of the local Sam’s Club. Not everyone has the ability or the opportunity to work at the same place as their spouse, but Dustie and Rob even got hired at the same time. Now, they get to work together sometimes, and on opposite shifts at other times, but either way, they work at the same place, and are part of the same team. They are both supervisors in their areas now, and the people they work with count on them to keep things running smoothly.

Dustie and Rob have three children together, Raelynn, Matthew, and Audrianna, as well as Rob’s daughter from his first marriage, Christina. Their lives are so full of joy and happiness. They love their family, and their extended family. They are always willing to help others. Dustie stepped in during the years that we took care of our parents, and even though they were her grandparents by marriage, she loved them like they were her own. She ran errands for us, helped out with meals and care, and visited, which we all know is vital when it comes to helping people feel good about life. Dustie is such a pleasant person too. She is light-hearted and fun, and she doesn’t mind being a little bit silly sometimes. So, seriously, what’s better than that…let’s face it, nothing. That’s what I really like about Dustie. Her little bit sweet, little bit silly personality. Today is Dustie’s birthday. Happy birthday Dustie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As a kid, I remember that whenever we were sitting at an intersection that was very busy, causing us to have to wait seemingly forever to be able to get across the intersection, one of my parents would say something like, “Wow!! Who opened the floodgates?” Of course, I didn’t know what a floodgate was then, and I just thought they were referring to a flood of vehicles, which they were, and they probably didn’t think about what a real floodgate was either. It was just a funny saying to us, but in reality, a floodgate is a very important flood preventative tool. I guess that our version of floodgates meant the same thing, except in vehicles and not in water.

On May 15, 2011, the United States Army Corps of Engineers opened the floodgates in the state of Louisiana along the Mississippi river. This was an effort to save larger cities located along the Mississippi, like Baton Rouge and New Orleans, from flooding. The Mississippi was already heading for critical stages, and it was only expected to get worse. The flooding was expected to cover up to three thousand square miles, and it had the potential to affect up to 25,000 people. This was the first time in forty years that the river levels have forced the opening of the floodgates. I don’t know how often floodgates are utilized in other areas to prevent flooding, but when people live in flood prone areas, they have to use whatever mean necessary to protect themselves and their property from damage and death.

The Mississippi River floods in April and May 2011 were among the largest and most damaging recorded along that river in the past century. The flood was comparable in extent to the major floods of 1927 and 1993. From April 14–16, the storm system that was responsible for one of the largest tornado outbreaks in US history also produced large amounts of rainfall across the southern and midwestern United States. Then two more storm systems, each with heavy rain and tornadoes, hit in the third week of April. In the fourth week of April, from April 25–28, another and even more extensive and deadly storm system passed through the Mississippi Valley dumping more rainfall resulting in deadly flash floods. The unprecedented extensive rainfall from these four storms, combined with springtime snow melt from the Upper Midwest, created the perfect conditions for a 500-year flood along the Mississippi.

The purpose of opening the floodgates was to take some of the pressure off of the levees, in the hope of preventing the breech of the levees. Most of the time, it works pretty well, like when the city of Casper, Wyoming, where I live opens up the gates at the area lakes and while the river runs high for a time, there are very few places where it spills over the bank. Unfortunately, the Mississippi river still spilled over its banks, and broke levees. I don’t think anyone could have really prevented the monster floods that hit the area in 2011, or even in 1927 or 1933, but they couldn’t focus on that right then, because they had to do whatever they could to prevent. In the end, the flood came and the damage was done.

My uncle, Larry Byer was my mom, Collene Spencer’s older brother, and along with their younger brother, Wayne Byer, her best friends from her early childhood. They were the closest in age to her, and quickly became her usual playmates. Sometimes they got in trouble with their mom together, and other times her brothers were just sweet brothers who wanted to put a smile on their sister’s face. Mom always felt very blessed to be the sister in the middle of the brothers.

Uncle Larry was also a great blessing to his mom, Hattie Byer. When he had to move to Louisiana for work, he and Aunt Jeanette brought his mom down for a visit, and showed her a wonderful time. It’s unlikely that Grandma would have traveled to Louisiana if he had not lived there, so the trip was a bit of a bonus for her. Uncle Larry was not born on Mother’s Day, but his birthday has fallen on Mother’s Day many times since then, and I’m sure that it always felt like a bit of an extra blessing for Grandma on the years that it did.

Uncle Larry always had a great sense of humor, and a sweet nature. I always loved his laugh and he could sure tell a good joke. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette had a place out in the country. They built houses for their kids out there too, and when they moved to Louisiana, the kids stayed on the land. I always expected that they would move back on the land when he retired, but they didn’t do that. They bought a little house in Glenrock, and it was there they he lived out his days, and there that Aunt Jeanette is still living now. Uncle Larry has been in Heaven now for about seven and a half years now, and we all miss him very much. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Larry. We love you.

My uncle, Larry Byer was the older of the three middle children of my grandparents, George and Hattie Byer, and a part of the three musketeers that included my mom, Collene Spencer and their brother, Wayne Byer. Uncle Larry was the older of the only two boys in the family, and with my mom in the middle, the three of them were into mischief a lot. While they were in trouble a lot, they were also best friends and allies. If one was in trouble the others tried to help…unless their mom was going to spank them, because they learned early on that you just didn’t mess with their mom.

Uncle Larry worked at the Texaco refinery for many years, and when they closed down, he was not at retirement age yet, so he took a transfer to New Orleans, Louisiana. He and Aunt Jeanette were gone for a number of years, and the whole family missed them, but several family members took the opportunity to visit them and had a great time in New Orleans. Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette treated each of their guests to the best the city had to offer. My parents took the opportunity to visit, and had a great time…once they got used to the heat. While they enjoyed every visit, I’m sure their favorite visitor, other than their children and grandchildren, was his mother. Grandma Byer went to visit, and they gave her the royal tour. The pictures of their visit were memories that Grandma would never forget. When the family went through Grandma’s things, they found he pictures of her visit among her things. They pictures were great, and you could tell that they both fully enjoyed the visit. It was one neither of them would ever forget.

Uncle Larry and Aunt Jeanette were still living in Louisiana when Grandma became ill, but she wanted to say goodbye to all of her children before she went home. She waited until Uncle Larry got home before she passed away. I know that Uncle Larry was always thankful that he made it home…and so was Grandma. Now both of them are together in Heaven, and I know that they are having a great time. Today is Uncle Larry’s birthday. He would have been 84 years old. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Larry. We love and miss you very much.

Uncle Larry and Aunt JeanetteMy Aunt Jeanette Byer was friends with my mom and her sisters and brothers for a long time before she and my Uncle Larry Byer fell in love. In those days, I thing is was much more common for spouses to know each other for much of their lives. In many ways, I think that is very cool. Growing up friends first can make for a long lasting marriage. I think that is exactly what my aunt and uncle were…friends. They liked being together, sharing the hopes and dreams they had for their lives, and going places together. For many years they live on a piece of land east of Casper, and Uncle Larry worked at the Texaco Refinery. They raised their two children there…my cousins, Larry and Tina. Then, everything changed.

CCI06282012_00027_editedbTheir kids were grown and married, of course, but when it came down to a transfer to Louisiana, or being laid off, Uncle Larry had to take the transfer. He was too close to retirement age to lose it all. So for the next few years, they lived in Louisiana. It was quite a change of climate for them. Having lived in Wyoming for all of their lives, the high humidity of Louisiana was a shock to their systems. In fact, Aunt Jeanette once told my mom that while it seemed hard to breathe, it was something you got used to after a time. I suppose that is true, but getting used to it didn’t stop them from wanting to come back to Wyoming as soon as Uncle Larry retired.

Of course, their family was here, so it makes perfect sense to me. Wanting to be around family is one of the Grandma Byer and Aunt Jeanettemost important things their is. It can’t always be that families stay together, but when it is possibly, I think that most parents would do the best they could to get that family back together, and when they can’t, then the visits are the most important thing they can do instead. There were a number of visits both ways, with their kids, and with other family members. My mom, dad, and sisters went down for a visit, and had a great time. I also know that Grandma Byer, went down for a visit, and had a great time too. Still, it wasn’t the same, and as soon as they could, Aunt Jeanette and Uncle Larry headed home to their family, and we are all gad they did Today in Aunt Jeanette’s birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Hurricane Katrina August 28, 2005Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricane KatrinaOn August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came screaming into southeast Louisiana. It quickly set its sights on a large lake that many people in the rest of the United States probably didn’t even know existed, and those who did know, gave little thought to it. Nevertheless, Lake Pontchartrain was about to make national headlines, where it would remain for months to come. Hurricane Katrina and Lake Pontchartrain were about to make history. Together they were set to cause the music in the party town of New Orleans to stop. And it would be a long time before the people of New Orleans would feel much like singing. Nevertheless, the city of New Orleans would return to its former self again.

Bob and I were among those people who had really never heard of Lake Pontchartrain, and like us, if you didn’t know much about Lake Pontchartrain, you didn’t really understand the magnitude of the weakened levees. Hurricane Katrina brought heavy rain to Louisiana. Eight to ten inches fell on the eastern part of the state. In the area around Slidell even more rain fell. The highest rainfall recorded in the state was 15 inches. As a result of the rainfall and storm surge the level of Lake Pontchartrain rose and caused significant flooding along its northeastern shore, affecting communities from Slidell to Mandeville. Several bridges were damaged or destroyed, including the I-10 Twin Span Bridge connecting Slidell to New Orleans. Almost 900,000 people in Louisiana lost power as a result of Hurricane Katrina. In the end, at least 1,245 people died in the hurricane and subsequent floods, making it the deadliest United States hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane.

Bob and I traveled to New Orleans in April of 2012. So many changes took place between August of 2005 and April of 2012. Nevertheless, I wasn’t sure how I felt about driving across that causeway that spanned Lake Pontchartrain. Yes, it had escaped damage in Hurricane Katrina, but it still crossed the widest part of a very large lake, and since I knew that the lake’s surges had the ability to severely damage it and the surrounding area…well, I just didn’t know how I would feel about the 23.83 mile drive across…not until we started across the bridge that is. It was an amazing bridge, and an amazing ride across it. The lake was serene, and I found myself hard pressed to picture the lake surging in the fury of a hurricane. I found it hard to picture the water so wild that it could damage a bridge, but it had happened…not to this bridge, but to others. The causeway bridge had been in use from it’s opening on August 30, 1956. At the time we were there, I had no idea of the length of the history of the Causeway. The idea of a bridge spanning Lake Pontchartrain dates back to the early 19th century and Bernard de Marigny, the founder of Mandeville. He started a ferry service that continued to operate into the mid-1930s.

After the 30s, and prior to the Causeway being built, people who lived in Covington and worked in New Orleans, had a very long commute to work. The bridge, while still 23.83 miles across the lake, took a large portion of that commute away. It was truly a great asset to the cities on both sides of the lake. Since 1969, the Causeway was listed by Guinness World Records as the longest bridge over water in the world. In 2011, when IMG_1817IMG_1818 the allegedly longer Jiaozhou Bay Bridge in China was built, Guinness created two categories for bridges over water…continuous and aggregate lengths over water. Lake Pontchartrain Causeway became the longest bridge over water (continuous), while Jiaozhou Bay Bridge the longest bridge over water (aggregate)…because of its sections that are over land. Even if the bridge does get replaced as the longest bridge, it will nevertheless, remain a very long bridge. And the drive over the bridge was as awe inspiring as it could be.

Uncle Larry and Aunt JeanetteMarrying someone that you grew up with is not something most of us really expect to do, but that is what my Aunt Jeanette did, when she married my mom’s brother, my Uncle Larry. Mom said it was strange to have someone that had been an acquaintance suddenly become her sister-in-law…especially a high school acquaintance, because we just never really think those people will be in our lives much after graduation. Nevertheless, it does and did happen.

Over the years, Aunt Jeanette has become such a special part of this family. I love her laugh, and her special way with people. Until more recently though, I didn’t realize that she also shares her birthday with my husband, Bob. As our family grows and grows, that is becoming increasingly more common.

Aunt Jeanette joined our family as it hit a pretty major growth spurt. There were five or six of the kids who were having children at the same time. I was born into that bunch, having three male cousins born in close proximity to my birthday…Elmer was born in March of 1956, I was born in April of 1956, Forrest was born in July of 1956, and Larry was born in February of 1957. I’m not sure how I managed not to be a serious tomboy being surrounded by all of those boys, but somehow I really wasn’t so much.

When the Texaco Refinery closed and Uncle Larry decided to take the transfer to New Orleans, Louisiana, we were all very sad to see them go. It had been a number of years since any of Grandma and Grandpa’s kids had lived outside Wyoming, and it just seem like it was going to Virginia Beadle, Janette Byer, Forrest Beadle, Larry Wayne Byer, Ellen Johnson, Elmer Johnson, Deloris Johnsonbe forever, even though they assured us that it was just until his retirement. I just remember thinking that it was really sad, because they would be gone a long time. I’m many ways it was good for Grandma and for my family, because both went down to Louisiana to visit them, and had a very nice time.

Finally they returned to Wyoming for good, and Bob and I loved running into them every once in a while. It always seemed to be in someplace like Home Depot or Menard’s or something like that, but that’s ok too. When you have a big family, that is sometimes the best way to see each other. Today is Aunt Jeanette’s 78th birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Jeanette!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Casper Fire Department July 4, 1891While I am not a real Casper native, I have lived here since I was 3 years old. In a city that is 125 years old, that means that I have lived here for 44% of the years that Casper has existed. During my years here, I have learned that Casper was named after the fort that had existed here, called Fort Casper. Fort Casper was named after Lieutenant Caspar Collins, who was killed by Indians near the fort in 1865, but the Army misspelled his name. For anyone who has lived here very long…or at least attended public school here, that was common knowledge, as well as a school field trip most of us took. That fact was one of the first things a young student in Casper should know.

When the people of Casper first decided to incorporate, this was a pretty wild town. It was filled with mostly saloons, dancing girls, and prostitutes. That was really quite typical of most early wild west towns. The residents Casper asked the officials of Carbon County, where Casper was located until Natrona County split from Carbon County, if they could incorporate the town of Casper. The request was approved on July 8, 1889…125 years ago today, and Casper was born. Of course, the citizens of Casper knew that things would have to change because there Pioneer Drug Store 1892were things that made a town a proper town, and things that made it a lawless hangout. A proper town needed water, streets, schools, a fire department, a library, and a government to assure its stability. The people of Casper elected George Mitchell as mayor, and Robert White, Peter Demorest, Alexander McKinney and John Adams as councilmen. Before long Casper would be home to three county courthouses. The first one on David Street built in 1895, the second in the middle of North Center at A Street built in 1908, and the present county building on Center between A and B Streets was built in 1940.

In the early years cattle and sheep ranching was the main source of Casper’s wealth, and the most successful ranchers built the fine houses in Casper’s mansion district located south of the downtown area. Soon, however the wealth shifted more to oil, when the Salt Creek Field, 40 miles north of Casper, a rich source of oil, was discovered. Soon refineries went up, and Casper became a boom town. Much has changed over the years, and I’m sure that very little about Casper is like it used to be. I suppose that if the city founders could see it now, they would be amazed…or maybe they could see that potential all along. Casper 1As for me, I can recall many changes too. I remember when Walsh Drive was the edge of town. Kelly Walsh High School was almost on the prairie. I also remember when Kmart was being built…at the current Hobby Lobby location, and when it was built in its current location. I remember when the Texaco Refinery closed, and a lot of its workers, including my Uncle Larry took the transfer that would move him and my Aunt Jeanette to Louisiana for a number of years. Many businesses have come and gone over the years, as have people, but Casper has remained and thrived. Today is Casper’s 125th birthday. Happy birthday Casper!!!

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