memories

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There are men of war, and then there are men of war. United States General George S Patton was the latter…meaning that he almost lived for war. Patton was a man who came from a long line of military people, and while he wasn’t always a tactful man, he was a great warrior…a fact that he proved over and over again. Many people didn’t like him much, but they couldn’t deny his capabilities. Patton was a great leader, but he wasn’t really a people person, and that got him in some trouble.

George Smith Patton Jr, who was born to George Smith Patton Sr and his wife, Ruth Wilson, the daughter of Benjamin Davis Wilson on November 11, 1885, in San Gabriel, California. Maybe because of his family history, or maybe it was just him, but Patton never seriously considered a career other than the military. At the age of seventeen he tried for an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. He also applied to several universities with Reserve Officer’s Training Corps programs, and was accepted to Princeton College, but eventually decided on Virginia Military Institute (VMI), which his father and grandfather had attended. Later, after studying at West Point, he served as a tank officer in World War I. Patton loved the tank, and his time as a tank officer, as well as his military strategy studies led him to become an advocate of the crucial importance of the tank in future warfare. When the United States entered World War II, Patton became the logical choice for the command of an important US tank division, and his division played a key role in the Allied invasion of French North Africa in 1942. Then, in 1943, in the Allied assault on Sicily, Patton and the US 7th Army in its assault on Sicily and won fame for out-commanding Montgomery during their pincer movement against Messina. Patton loved competition, and this was his chance to shine. On August 17, 1943, Patton and his 7th Army arrived in Messina several hours before British Field Marshal Bernard L Montgomery and his 8th Army, winning the unofficial “Race to Messina” and completing the Allied conquest of Sicily.

Although Patton was one of the most capable American commanders in World War II, he was also one of the most controversial. Patton was a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” kind of guy, and therefore had no personal understanding of fear or fatigue. PTSD, battle fatigue, or shell shock were conditions he could not accept in anyone. In fact, they infuriated him so much that he actually slapped two soldiers who were suffering with the conditions. During the Sicilian campaign, Patton generated considerable controversy when he accused a hospitalized US soldier suffering from battle fatigue of cowardice and then personally struck him across the face. The famously profane general was forced to issue a public apology and was reprimanded by General Dwight Eisenhower. They would have liked to “walk away” from Patton, but when it came time for the invasion of Western Europe, Eisenhower couldn’t find a general as formidable as Patton, so, once again Patton was granted an important military post. In 1944, Patton commanded the US 3rd Army in the invasion of France. Then, in December of that year Patton’s great expertise in military movement and tank warfare helped to crush the German counteroffensive in the Ardennes.

During one of his many successful campaigns, General Patton was said to have declared, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Patton died in a hospital in Germany on December 21, 1945, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident near Mannheim. He was just 60 years old.

I never met my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer, because he passed away on October 16, 1951, and I was born in 1956. Grandpa worked for the Great Northern Railway as a carpenter. You might wonder what a carpenter would do on the railroad, but if you think about it, the seats on those trains were wooden, and as such, they could break or age, and would need repairs or replacement. That is just one part of the trains and stations that is made of wood. Grandpa’s train carpentry comes to my mind every time I ride the 1880 train in the Black Hills. The work done to restore those old cars, which would have been in my grandfather’s era, makes me think of the kind of work he must have done. The work in those train cars is beautiful. It’s not all fancy, but it’s very nice work. I don’t suppose all the work he did would have been in train cars from the Gilded Age, but I’m sure it was nice for the time.

Grandpa also made furniture, and in fact was really pretty good at it. I wish I could have seen some of the things he made. As a carpenter for the railroad, you know he had a talent for woodworking. I’m sure that in his day, many people made their own furniture, and the best ones developed a real talent for it. There are a number of people in our family who have inherited that talent, and with the proper tools and great imaginations, they have gone further than what Grandpa did. I’m sure grandpa would have been shocked at all the things that can be done with wood these days, but I would love to have something he made, nevertheless.

Grandpa’s work on the Great Northern Railway afforded his kids, as dependents, a free pass to ride the trains whenever they wanted to. They just had to show the pass and they could go between their farm in Holyoke, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. They loved it, and my dad, Allen Spencer, loved trains until the day he went home to Heaven, and beyond. Of course, having a pass didn’t stop my dad and my Uncle Bill Spencer from hopping the train…a big no-no, but to them, a lot of fun. I sometimes wonder why they didn’t take away their passes, but I guess they figured that “boys will be boys” and after all they had a pass. They loved having their dad work for the railroad, because they loved the trains. Today is the 143rd anniversary of Grandpa Spencer’s birth. Happy birthday in Heaven, Granda Spencer. We love and miss you very much.

My grandniece, Jala Satterwhite is having a great year. It is a year of firsts in many ways. A couple of weeks ago, she flew to Atlanta, Georgia…ALONE!! That in itself had her mom, Susan Griffith, in cringe mode. It was her first time, and that is a really big deal. The trip took Jala from Billings to Denver, and then to Atlanta. The Atlanta airport is one of the largest in the country, and Susan was really a nervous wreck. Jala met her boyfriend, Daylon Clarkson, in Atlanta, and then they spent a couple weeks at his aunt’s lake house in North Carolina. They had a wonderful time. Jala really hasn’t had a chance to travel so far from home alone, and she really enjoyed herself. She got to see lightning bugs and hear some frogs that sound like they must be huge in the evenings. The hummingbirds are huge there, and they look like a small airplane. The kids spent quite a bit of time on a boat there to. You just wouldn’t be at a lake house and not be on the water.

When the time came, way too soon, to head for home, they drove Daylon’s truck back just about a week ago with another one of their friends. They decided to drive straight through, taking turns driving and not stopping at all. Susan was really worried about that part, but these kids are adults now too, so they know the risks. One thing I’ve learned, after taking my own all-night drive with my granddaughter driving the whole way, is that these kids are night owls, and they can somehow get away with that. Nevertheless, I know how Susan feels too. It’s really hard to let your kids “spread their wings” but you have to do it. I think they left last Monday morning and rolled into town Tuesday evening around 7:00pm. it had to have been a really long two days. Pretty crazy kids! At least they made a few “sightseeing” stops on the way back. It gave them a chance to stretch their legs too. I’m sure that made the long drive easier and a lot more pleasant.

Jala is still deciding if she wants to go to college or just learn as she works. Right now, she is working at a dog boarding kennel. She loves working with dogs and is pretty good at it. She seems to have a way with animals of all kinds, although she hasn’t had a lot of time for her beloved horses this year. It’s difficult to fit in lots of time to ride and work full time too, but priorities have to change as life changes, and for Jala, it has been a year full of changes. At this point anyway, it looks like she will continue to live in Powell, which makes her mom very happy. Sometimes a trip away from home serves to make you realize just how much you love your home. Today is Jala’s 20th birthday. Happy birthday Jala!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Jaxon Killinger is such a sweet boy. Even though he is turning seven today, he is really good friends with his cousin, Elliott Stevens, who is just four now. The age difference doesn’t matter, because he chooses to be good friends with her, and they just seem to click somehow. Elliott absolutely loves him!! Elliott just got a baby sister, so much if the family was visiting Sheridan to see the new baby. Whenever Jaxon or his sister, Brooklyn stepped away from Elliott more than a few steps away, she would get upset. As far as she is concerned, they are “her” friends, and nobody else’s!! It’s easy to understand why that is, because Jaxon has the ability to make Elliott laugh and laugh. He is funny, and he really enjoys being goofy for her.

For a while, Jaxon wasn’t too sure of how he felt about the water, but now he is really emerging for that feeling of being a bit scared of it, and he has learned how to get around really well in the water. So much so, in fact, that he really loves the water now. He loves to go to the pool and lake. He is not afraid to go down any of the slides and even likes to do belly flops!! Now, that is a kid who must love the water. I know I don’ really like belly flops!! Before long, Jaxon will be like Kevin on “Home Alone,” practicing his cannonballs in the pool. Everyone should prepare to be splashed. Jaxon is having a great time enjoying all the summertime fun things.

Elliott got a “Frozen” car for her birthday, and Jaxon loves riding around with her in it. Of course, he would rather drive…what boy wouldn’t, and he is pretty good at driving it too. Elliott is good about sharing, so it’s a win-win for both of them. I am really quite amazed at how well some of these little kids do with driving at such a young age. They aren’t in traffic or anything, unless they manage to escape from their parents, but most of them don’t run into too many things.

Jaxon is still very close with his big “sissy,” Brooklyn too, and doesn’t like to get too far from her. He definitely looks to her for guidance and protection, after all at 9 years old, she has been around a lot longer than he has, and she knows the ropes. Today is Jaxon’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday Jaxon!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My grandnephew, Matt Masterson is very quickly becoming a man. Recently, Matt has been looking for a job. Matt likes to be a help to his family, and since he is the only one of the kids that drive, he is really good about taking his sisters, Raelynn and Taylor wherever they need to go. He offers to take them to get food, drinks, or anything else they want to do. He really enjoys having them in the car with him, unless he has a lot on his mind.

Unfortunately, with driving comes the possibility of accidents, and while Matt has not had an accident that was his fault, he has been in two accidents, and on the last one, Raelynn was with him. Matt is so supportive of his sisters. After calling his parents and the cops, Matt came back to make sure Raelynn had her water and helped her through the panic attack she was having. No one was hurt in the accident, but Raelynn was still scared. Matt just took control. He had her sit down, and talked her through it, making sure that she stayed focused of the positive side of things. Matt is such a great brother to his sisters. They depend on him for many things, and Raelynn says that she can tell that he is going to be an “awesome dad one day too, when he decides he wants kids.”

For now, that is down the road a little bit, since Matt is only 17 years old. For now, Matt has been looking for a job! He really wants to be able to help out. Not many 17-year-old kids are interested in being a contributor to the family finances, so that is cool. Even things like buying his own clothes and other supplies can be helpful. Clothes are expensive. Matt is looking forward in life, planning his future. He may not know exactly where he is going right now, but he focused on making good decisions and staying on the right track. Even though it’s summer, Matt’s been sleeping in less and making an effort to be nice to people and get out and do things more! That’s a big job in this Post-Covid-Lockdown world. Today is Matt’s 17th birthday. Happy birthday Matt!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My great grandniece, Alice Green is growing up “so darned fast” as her mom tells me. Her parents, Melanie and Jake Harman really wish she would just slow down. Today, Alice is turning 10 and that just seems so impossible!! This coming school year will be her last year of elementary school. That seems impossible to me. I mean, she is only in 5th grade, but these days 6th grade is middle school, so there you go. Alice is a good student and works hard at her studies. I know that middle school is going to be a wonderful new experience for her, and I am so excited for the future changes that will bring, but for now, I know she will enjoy being one of the big kids on campus, and that will be fun for her too. It’s very strange that the older your kids get, the faster the years go by. The old song, “Don’t Blink” comes to my mind, with its big hint of sadness. Parents have to stay focused on every milestone, every event, and every little moment, because they will be gone before we know it, and the kids will be all grown up.

Alice is still a great big sister and growing into a beautiful young lady. Still, while her love for her family remains the same, many of her opinions and attitudes are changing. She is, after all, a teenager in a 10-year-old’s body!! Like the “terrible twos,” the teenage years creep up on you when you aren’t looking, and they often begin around ten or so. It’s not that Alice is sassy or anything, just getting so mature. She is a very sweet natured girl, and I really love how she interacts with her family, and especially her siblings. Isabella and Jaxx look up to their big sister, and she is always very good to them. It is a great blessing to their parents, and I love to see it too.

Alice and her stepdad, Jake have a unique relationship. It is really very little like a stepdad/stepdaughter relationship, and very much like a goofy kind of daddy/daughter relationship. They love to play random acts of rudeness on each other, both knowing that it’s a joke and all in good fun. Her mom thinks that’s what keeps the relationship so close. Alice is also very close with her mom too and very much Melanie’s mini-me…in looks and in personality. She is also a big help to Melanie with the younger children. Today is Alice’s 10th birthday. Happy birthday Alice!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Dave Balcerzak has had a busy, but somewhat trying year. It seems like it’s been one project after another and trying to stay ahead of it can be stressful. Last summer his car became the project, and then came his truck, and some more needed repairs. While Dave didn’t do the work alone and didn’t do any of the work on the truck, there is always cost involved, not to mention the stress that vehicle maintenance can bring.

In addition to the vehicle work, Dave and his wife, my niece, Chantel Balcerzak, have been doing some projects around the house. They did some beautiful work in their kitchen and family room, and then did some beautiful work in their back yard, which was finished just in time for their daughter and son-in-law, Siara and Chris Kirk’s wedding on July 23rd. While the whole thing turned out amazing, but they felt rushed to get it done in time for the ceremony. While, these kinds of projects can be stressful, and at times irritating and even a cause for arguments, they are done now and done exactly to their dream specifications. Chantel says they feel very blessed by the finished results and in awe because neither of them seem to know how they actually managed to get it done. I haven’t seen the back yard “in person.” I’ve seen pictures, and I think their “dream specifications” are amazing. Chris and Siara’s wedding was beautiful and an enjoyable occasion for everyone who was there.

Dave is the kind of husband and dad, who loves his blended family deeply, and he has chosen to be a great dad to all of them…Keifer (Katie) Balcerzak, Katy (Dylan) Herr, Jake (Melanie) Harman, and Siara (Chris) Kirk…as well as grandchildren, Alice Green, Izabella Harman, Jaxx Harman, Reece Balcerzak, Aysa Balcerzak, Max Herr, and Alec Olsen (now in Heaven, and greatly missed). Dave is so dedicated to his family, and for Chantel’s kids, he is definitely the dad that “he didn’t have to be” but chose to be. Dave is a cheerful kind of man and loves to laugh. He tends to make everything fun when he is around. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. In fact, he’s a big teddy bear…just ask those grandbabies.

Dave works on computers by trade, and he is my go-to guy whenever my computer is having an issue. It’s nice to have someone in the family that has that skill. It saves us a lot of money, and I’d much rather pay family to work on my stuff than to pay anyone else. Of course, the guy has to be good at what he does, which Dave is. It’s always nice to have a family network of people who can help people. Being a blessing to one another is a great way to be that blessing, and Dave is just that. Today is Dave’s birthday. Happy birthday Dave!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My nephew, Joel (JD) Parmely, is a college educated mechanic, who really knows his stuff. He comes from a long line of mechanics, of which my husband, Bob Schulenberg is one, both of JD’s brothers, Barry Schulenberg and Eric Parmely are two more, and Bob’s brother, Ron Schulenberg rounds out the group. These guys have a family network of consultants who can help with any project they are working on and believe me they are all always working on something. It’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, and maybe get a little help for a tough job. JD has become a go-to consultant for Bob, and also an extra set of hands when a job demands that, and of course, if JD needs a hand, Bob is always willing to return the favor.

JD loves kids, especially his nieces, Reagan, Hattie, and Maeve Parmely and his nephew, Bowen Parmely. He may not get to see them all the time, but when he does, the kids know that it’s fun time. In reality, JD is as much a kid as his nieces and nephews. He loves to play and tease them, and they love it too. Whatever they are into at the moment, JD is up for. He always has enough energy to roughhouse with them and he will, of course, help with any mechanical things that Bowen might be wanting to try. He will swing the kids around, or push them in the swings, or just go for a walk with them. JD loved being an uncle, and the kids love that he does.

JD is a car fanatic. He has around twelve or more, all licensed, insured, and driven often. He has a beautiful blue classic pickup, lots of cars and trucks, and even a flatbed trailer that has come in handy for Bob and me on occasion…like the other day, when our car broke down two hours away from home, and JD willingly took a road-trip to pick up our car and bring it to town. JD has a truck with a wench attached to it, so he can tow and lift things onto his trailer. That’s just another way that the family network has come in handy. JD is such a helpful person, and he has come to our rescue several times, and to Bob’s rescue on a job more times than I can possibly count. He even helped Bob when he was just a little guy of just two years. Now that one was just cute. JD always did love to be a helper. Today is JD’s birthday. Happy birthday JD!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Most of us think of everything changing instantly when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and officially it did, but there was more to it than that. After years of oppression under the rulership of the British, the citizens of the 13 colonies had had enough. They formed the Continental Congress. The term “Continental Congress” most specifically refers to the First and Second Congresses of 1774–1781 and, at the time, was also used to refer to the Congress of the Confederation of 1781–1789, which operated as the first national government of the United States until being replaced under the Constitution of the United States. The 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress represented the 13 colonies, 12 of which voted to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776…our accepted day of Independence. The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence actually occurred on August 2, 1776, at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, which later to become known as Independence Hall. I suppose that a purist might insist that August 2nd should be our Independence Day, but the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress felt like once it was agreed upon, it was done. The signing was merely a technicality.

For the British government, neither of those days was acceptable, nor was the day they found out about the plan of the 13 colonies to gain their independence. In fact, that day…August 10, 1776, was the least acceptable day of all, because the British had no intention of giving the Colonies their independence…not without a fight anyway. When the news reached London, the British saw the conflict, centered in Massachusetts, as a local uprising within the British empire. Some Americans saw it that way too, but the reality is that the Declaration of Independence transformed the 13 British colonies into American states. King George III saw it as a colonial rebellion, but the Americans saw it as a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, when Parliament continued to oppose any reform and remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies. It was a brave move that would cost many of the 56 signers more than they could ever have imagined.

Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, five of the signers were captured by the British and labeled as traitors. They were tortured before they died. Twelve of them had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons, who served in the Revolutionary War. Another two had sons captured, and nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. These men knew the risks they were taking. They knew that signing the Declaration of Independence very likely would cost them their lives. Nevertheless, they also knew that they couldn’t let the tyranny continue any longer. They had come to America to escape the tyrannical British government, and they could not allow the British government to make them slaves again. They signed, knowing they would likely die, but they saw no other way. These men weren’t soldiers…so, who were they. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and plantation owners. All of them were men of means and well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing that the penalty would be death if they were captured. These men had their livelihood threatened and destroyed, their homes confiscated and sold, and some were threatened so badly that they had to constantly move their families from place to place. Still, not one of them saw this as one option of many. When it came to taking their country back, they saw it as the only option.

My grandniece, Katie Balcerzak has been a part of our family, since she married my grandnephew, Keifer Balcerzak in 2015. Together they have two beautiful children, Reece and Aysa Balcerzak. They have been so blessed with two happy, smiling children, who bring more joy to their lives than they could ever have imagined. Reece was born in 2017 and Asa was born in 2021. Now their family is complete. They love doing all the fun activities, like sports and such. Reece is trying different things like t-ball, and while that may not be the sort for her, Katie and Keifer encourage her to give it a shot. They are good parents…always encouraging their kids and each other.

I liked Katie from the first time I met her. We have a few things in common, mostly that we both have sisters, and no brothers. It can make us feel unsure about having boys. While I didn’t have boys, I had three grandsons and only one granddaughter. Katie had a daughter first, and then her son. Either way, for a girl with all sisters, even if she had nephews, having those boys is a bit of a culture shock. Nevertheless, you adapt, and Katie has adapted beautifully. In fact, the love she has for both of her children shows all over her face. It’s just beautiful.

Katie has always been very close to her sisters. The bond they have reminds me of my bond with my sisters. There is something about a family of sisters. Girls think alike. They like the same things, and they like to share their hopes and dreams. The bond between sisters is like a best friend, but much closer. That is the bond Katie has with her sisters, Kellee Schuerman, Martha Simkin, and Bernnie Steadham, have had since they were little girls. Whenever they are together, you can see their love for each other by the smiles on their faces. There is a closeness, comradery, and sisterhood, that is forever. Katie has had the privilege of being a part of a wonderful family, and parents, Vicki Jammerman and Thad Davidson, who taught her and her sisters to be loving, nurturing, and kind people. Their parents taught them good values and it shows in their lives.

When Katie met Keifer, it was love almost immediately. They were young, but they knew that they would become a couple, and grow a family…and that is exactly what they did. They two sweet people were meant to be together. Theirs is a match made in Heaven, and it grows more and more beautiful with each passing day. Today is Katie’s birthday. Happy birthday Katie!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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