My great grandniece, Izabella “Belle” Harman is such a sweet girl. Her grandma, Chantel Balcerzak calls her “pure sunshine” and while that might be biased, it definitely doesn’t make her wrong. Belle’s aunt, Siara Kirk says that she is the most kindhearted little girl ever. Her grandma originally gave her the nickname Tinkerbelle, but that later morphed to Tink, which also suits this little sweetie.

She is a helper to anyone who needs it. She is always wanting to help Siara when she’s with her or her grandma when she is with her. Belle is as sweet as she can be, but she is fierce in her loyalties she will defend her people with a sweet sassiness that is all her own. If you are good to her people, she will be good to you, but if you cross her people, you might want to watch out for this little “she bear!!” Belle’s dad, Jake Harman loves to pick on people and might even be famous for it. That is fine with Belle, but if she thinks he is getting out of hand with her grandma or Aunt Siara, “Tink” never fails to stick up for Grandma or Siara…even against her daddy. Siara tells me that “She is always on my side when Jake is being his bratty self, because we’re best friends.” Her teachers say that “she is so kind to everyone at school. A friend to everyone.” She really is such a light and joy in this world. She has also been asking Chantel to take her to church, because she loves church and God and at that age, I think that’s very special. Chantel tells me that “she is truly the head and not the tail!” She is a leader in every way. She is so generous and thinks of everyone, but herself. This year, she has wanted to get everyone gifts for Christmas…from her own money and heart.

Belle is an active, busy girl. She doesn’t want to sit in front of a video games. She wants to go outside or make up her own games to play. Her imagination is amazing. She takes after the women in her life…her mom, Melanie Harman; Grandma, Chantel; and Aunt Siara…girly girls all. She is beautiful, inside and out. She has the sweetest spirit. Oh…and, she is a lip gloss thief…but, who can blame her. A girly girls can’t be without her lip gloss…lets be real here. While she is a girly girl, Belle loves her daddy, and helps him with anything and follows him wherever he goes. Maybe there is a little bit of the tomboy in her after all. Today is Belle’s 8th birthday. Happy birthday Belle!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I can imagine a number of nicknames a stagecoach driver might want to have, one that no one would want to have. George Green was one of the most popular stagecoach drivers in the Sierra Mountain Range, driving for the Pioneer Stage Company between Placerville, California and Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. George had the nickname “Baldy” because of the sparse amount of hair he had on the top of his head. It was not the nickname “Baldy” that George would learn to hate, however. George was known for his good looks, standing about six feet tall with a large full mustache, but it was not his good looks or large mustache that earned him the nickname he hated either.

During his days as a stagecoach driver, Green drove many famous people including Ben Holladay, Horace Greeley, and Vice-President Schuyler Colfax. Nevertheless, Green was apparently not a very scary driver. On May 22, 1865, near Silver City, Nevada, three men robbed his stage of $10,000 in gold and greenbacks. I guess word must have gotten around, because more robberies followed that first one, and not only would the robbers not leave him alone, but the robberies were big news and the stories sold lots of newspapers. The Territorial Enterprise commented that Green had narrowly escaped scalping, and someone placed a sign near the robbery location saying, “Wells-Fargo Distributing Office, Baldy Green, Mgr.”

Green just couldn’t catch a break. Two years later his stage was robbed twice on successive days, and following another robbery on June 10, 1868, Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise stated: “Baldy Green is exceedingly unlucky, as the road agents appear to have singled him out as their special man to halt and plunder, and they always come at him with shotguns.” Two more robberies occurred the same month, and you might say that the writing was on the wall. No one came right out an accused Green of being involved, but it had come to the point that they couldn’t take the risk of keeping him on anymore. Green was fired. Whether he was guilty or not, he was the driver most likely to be robbed. While he was never given that nickname, it is rather a fitting one.

Green didn’t let that stop him, however. He then went to hauling freight in Pioche, Nevada. I guess either he figured out how to stop the robberies, or freight haulers were less likely to be robbed. Either way, he managed to have more success in that trade that the stagecoach career. Later on, he even served as Justice of the Peace in Humboldt County, Nevada.

Most gunfighters in the Old West, either used their own names, or came up with a tough sounding gunfighter name, but somehow, John Calhoun Pinckney Higgins ended up with the rather feminine sounding name of “Pink.” Of course, it came from his second middle name, and may have even started as a childhood nickname. Nevertheless, John Calhoun Pinckney Higgins went by the gunfighter’s name of “Pink.”

Higgins was a Texas gunfighter who was involved in the Horrell-Higgins Feud. The Horrell and Higgins families were friends and neighbors until the 1870s. The ranchers had settled in Lampasas County before the Civil War era. The five Horrell brothers…Mart, Tom, Merritt, Ben, and Sam first got into trouble with the State Police in 1873, when Captain Thomas Williams and seven men went to Lampasas to put a stop to the general lawlessness that was prevalent there. Williams fought with the Horrell boys and their brother-in-law, Bill Bowen, in Jerry Scott’s saloon. Mart Horrell who was badly wounded, was confined in the Georgetown jail, but as soon as he was well enough his brothers helped him to break out.

The relationship between the Horrells and Higgins blew up when, at the same time, because Pink’s son-in-law was also killed in the shootout. Soon, a vicious feud between the two families erupted, referred to as the Horrell-Higgins Feud. Over a several-year period, several shooting scrapes occurred, finally culminating in a shoot-out in the Lampasas town square on June 14, 1877, in which several men were killed. A few more skirmishes occurred before the feud was said and done.

Around 1900, Higgins moved his ranch to the south of Spur, Texas. He continued his gunfighting ways and was said to have killed between 14-18 men during his lifetime. He died at his ranch of a heart attack on December 18, 1914.

Everyone has heard the term, Uncle Sam used when referring to the United States government, but while the government and the people of the United States have “adopted” that term to mean the United States government, it was really never intended to be so. If you ask most people, the average older American would most likely point to the early 20th century and Sam’s frequent appearance on army recruitment posters. Nevertheless, the figure of Uncle Sam actually dates back much further than that. The actual figure of Uncle Sam, dates from the War of 1812. At that point, most American icons had been geographically specific, centering most often on the New England area. However, the War of 1812 sparked a renewed interest in national identity which had faded since the American Revolution.

The term Uncle Sam was actually the nickname of a man named Samuel Wilson, who was a meat packer from Troy, New York. Sam supplied rations for the soldiers during the War of 1812. He had served in the American Revolution at the age of 15, and while he was born in Massachusetts, he relocated to the town of Troy, New York after the war. In Troy, Samuel and his brother, Ebenezer began the firm of E and S Wilson, a meat packing facility. Samuel was a man of great fairness, reliability, and honesty, who was devoted to his country. All of the local residents really liked Samuel, and they began calling him Uncle Sam.

During the War of 1812, the demand for meat supply for the troops was badly needed. Because he had been a soldier, Samuel had a soft spot in his heart for the soldiers. Secretary of War, William Eustis, made a contract with Elbert Anderson Jr of New York City to supply and issue all rations necessary for the United States forces in New York and New Jersey for one year. Anderson ran an advertisement on October 6, 1813 looking to fill the contract. The Wilson brothers bid for the contract and won. The contract was to fill 2,000 barrels of pork and 3,000 barrels of beef for one year. Their location on the Hudson River, made it ideal to receive the animals and to ship the product. As a security measure, the contractors were required to stamp their name and where the rations came from onto the food they were sending. Wilson’s packages bore the label “E.A. – US,” which stood for Elbert Anderson, the contractor, and the United States. When an individual in the meat packing facility asked what it stood for, a coworker joked and said it referred to Sam Wilson, Uncle Sam. A number of the soldiers were originally from Troy, and familiar with Samuel. When they saw the designation on the barrels, they, being acquainted with Sam Wilson and his nickname Uncle Sam, as well as the knowledge that Wilson was feeding the army, led them to the same conclusion. The local newspaper soon picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.

This is, of course, an endearing local story, and therefore, leaves some doubt as to whether it is the actual source of the term. Uncle Sam is mentioned previous to the War of 1812 in the popular song “Yankee Doodle,” which appeared in 1775. Nevertheless, the song doesn’t make it clear whether this reference is to Uncle Sam as a metaphor for the United States, or to an actual person named Sam. Another early reference to the term appeared in 1819, predating Wilson’s contract with the government. The connection between this local saying and the national legend is not easily traced. As early as 1830, there were inquiries into the origin of the term Uncle Sam. The connection between the popular cartoon figure and Samuel Wilson was reported in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1830. Whatever the source, Uncle Sam immediately became popular as a symbol of an ever-changing nation. His “likeness” appeared in drawings in various forms including resemblances to Brother Jonathan, a national personification and emblem of New England, and Abraham Lincoln, and others. In the late 1860s and 1870s, a political cartoonist named Thomas Nast began popularizing the image of Uncle Sam…building on the warm fuzzy feel of a beloved uncle. Nast continued to evolve the image, eventually giving Sam the white beard and stars-and-stripes suit that are associated with the character today.

However, it was a military recruiting poster, created in about 1917, that set the image of Uncle Sam was firmly set into American consciousness. The famous “I Want You” recruiting poster was created by James Montgomery Flagg and four million posters were printed between 1917 and 1918. The image was a really powerful one: Uncle Sam’s striking features, expressive eyebrows, pointed finger, and direct address to the viewer made this drawing into an American icon. Throughout the years, Uncle Sam has appeared in advertising and on products ranging from cereal to coffee to car insurance. His likeness also continued to appear on military recruiting posters and in numerous political cartoons in newspapers. Finally, in September of 1961, the U.S. Congress recognized Samuel Wilson as “the progenitor of America’s national symbol of Uncle Sam.” Samuel Wilson died at age 88 in 1854, and was buried next to his wife Betsey Mann in the Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York. The town proudly calls itself “The Home of Uncle Sam.”

Yesterday, August 3, 2018, at precisely 7:45am, Miss Elliott Michelle Stevens made her grand entrance into the world. Elliott, who will likely be nicknamed El or Elli, is the daughter and first child of my nephew, Garrett Stevens and his lovely wife, Kayla Smiley Stevens. Elliott is the first grandchild on both sides of their families, and so will be “spoiled” by grandmothers, Alena Stevens and Lynnette Smiley, as well as grandfathers, Mike Stevens and Wes Smiley. She also has three aunts, Michelle Stevens, Lacey Stevens, and Lexi Smiley, who all became aunts the moment Elliot arrived. Elliot has changed a lot of lives, and all she did was to be born. It was a big job, but Elliott was up to the task.

Elliott is a pretty little girl, who likes to suck her thumb a little. Time will tell if that becomes a habit. She is a good baby, who doesn’t seem to cry much. She will find her voice, I’m sure, but for now, she is just relaxing and enjoying her new world and all the loving grandparents and great grandmother she has found there. Little does she know that there are many other family members who are waiting excitedly to meet her too. She has been born into a much larger family than she could possibly imagine, but those meetings will come in time. For now, she is just enjoying a few family members, and especially her parents, who are still marveling at the little blessing they have been given. And while Kayla and Garrett have become something their siblings are not…parents, their siblings have also become something they are not…aunts.

Time will tell who little Elliott will look like, and we all see similarities between her and her family members, but she will change quite a lot over the next few months and more similarities will begin to show. We will see an expression here, a facial shape there, and hair color will also begin to tell the tale. As she finds her voice, we might discover that she laughs like one person, or her voice sounds like another…it might even be an aunt or grandmother…or even a great aunt or uncle. Babies are amazing that way. They are created by God from the traits He ordains in their family DNA to be the perfect little person, unique and yet similar. I can’t wait to see who little Elliott Michelle will resemble as she grows. No matter who it is, she will be beautiful, just as she is right now, because she comes from two beautiful parents. Welcome to the world, Elliott Michelle, and to our family. We love you so much already!!

Chantel todayChantel (3)Time changes everything. Forty five years ago today, my sister, Cheryl Masterson became a mother, making my parents, Allen and Collene Spencer grandparents, and my sisters and me, aunts. It was such an exciting event for all of us, and it changed our lives forever. Never again would Cheryl be just a woman, she would be a mother from that day forward, as our parents would always be grandparents, and my sisters and I would always be aunts. At that time, the thought of that little baby growing up never crossed our minds, but my niece, Chantel Masterson Balcerzak had other ideas in mind…but then don’t all children. If they would just listen to us…they would stay babies forever

Not only was Chantel the first of the grandchildren for my parents, but she was quite little…not premature, just little. As with all grandparents, it seems like the cute little nicknames come out of the woodwork. Our family was no exception. What started out as little teeny baby, soon became Teensy, Little Teense, Chantsy, Chant, and even Chan. It’s a good thing that somebody, somewhere called her by her name, because otherwise, she might have thought her name was Teensy. And believe me when I say that Chantel grew into her nickname…or in her case, didn’t grow so she could fit her nickname. Chantel as an adult is all of four feet ten inches short. So, I can’t say that she grew up exactly, she simply became an adult, and I don’t think we were expecting that to happen so quickly. Nevertheless, before we knew it, Chantel was grown up, and my sister, Cheryl became a grandmother, our parents became great grandparents, and my sisters and I became great aunts. It seemed impossible that it could have happened so soon.

As we all know, time changes everything, and now, my niece Chantel has become a grandmother to Izabella Harman, Cheryl is the great grandmother, and my sisters and I are 2nd great aunts. Where have the years gone? And they aren’t slowing down either. Little Izabella is already more than 3 months old. Of course, she isn’t always called Izabella, because her grandma, Chantel likes to call her Belle or Bella. And she sings all the Chantel and IzabellaSiara & Chantel Christmas 2012cute little songs to her…adding her name to it. Chantel loves being Belle’s grandma, and Belle loves her too. Of course, Chantel’s own nicknames haven’t gone away. Sometimes, I can still hear my dad calling her Teensy. Now that I think about it, I’m sure that he would calling her Grandma Teensy instead, because after all, time has changed that too, and now she can’t simply be Teensy…not when she is grandma to Belle. My dad would have loved that and he would have loved calling her Grandma Teensy too. Today is Chantel’s birthday. Happy birthday Chantel!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

IMG_1873I can’t think of my niece Jessi Hadlock Sawdon without thinking about the how sweet she is. There is, however, a mix of personality traits that are simply Jessi in every way. While being sweet and thoughtful is truly her nature, Jessi can also be very funny and a good natured teaser too. I suppose that was a matter of survival in her family. They all love to tease each other, and no one is exempt. I suppose that there are families who would find it odd to tease your siblings…or at least not very nice, but then they just don’t understand Jessi and her family. I think if they weren’t teasing each other, we would wonder what they were mad about.

It has been a long time since Jessi’s sisters have called her Jessi, because she has been nicknamed Jeffrey…don’t ask me why, because I couldn’t tell you, and it’s not the only nickname either. Maybe the girls will enlighten us on this, and the other nicknames in the family. For instance, my niece, Lindsay is called Lancil, and in answer to Kellie calling her Jeffrey, Jessi called 1441388_10151860429264001_1752903621_nKellie, Baby Pie. And these are just a couple of the names that have been used. I know, you all thought that name calling wasn’t nice, but these girls happen to disagree. Maybe the names they use don’t seem like they are cutesy pie names, but they are used in the most loving way there is, and those girls all know that. When people see their form of teasing on Facebook, you just have to wonder if they think these girls must be really mad at each other, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Theirs is a close loving family, and the girls, along with their brother Ryan and his wife Chelsea, Jessi’s husband Jason, and Lindsay’s husband, Shannon, are the best of friends. It doesn’t matter how far apart they are, they are always best friends, and their teasing just keeps everything light hearted and fun.

Jessi is a very capable legal secretary, and has been working in law offices since her high school days. She is an amazing organizer, and that makes her one of the most called upon people to help with things like deep cleaning for grandparents, and setting up the Christmas tree along with her cousin, Liz Masterson, which they IMG_1869did this year, even though their grandparents, my parents, Al and Collene Spencer will be spending this Christmas in Heaven. Helping out this year was for her Aunt Cheryl Masterson, who has always been close to Jessi, and in fact, was instrumental in helping Jessi get her start in law. Jessi’s organizational skills also came in handy when she worked with the Young Professionals, as well as in her heading up of the youth group at our church.

These days, Jessi is occupied with going to college, and enjoying married life with Jason and their dog, Daisy. They love to travel, and especially enjoy going to Miami, Florida to visit Lindsay and Shannon, as well as going to Michigan to visit Jason’s family. Yes, life is good for Jessi and Jason, and it will only bet better, because they are perfect for each other…and it doesn’t get any better than that. Today is Jessi’s birthday. Happy birthday Jessi!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Amy nowFor every girl named Amy, there comes a time when their name is butchered in one of the sweetest ways possible. It happens when a small child tries to say their name. I don’t quite understand why such a simple name is so hard for little ones to learn to say correctly. Nevertheless, the name Amy always seems to change to Mamie when said by a little one who is learning to talk. This has been something that my daughter, Amy Royce has had the pleasure of enjoying all her life. I suppose some people wouldn’t think it cute to have their name messed up in such a way, but we have always thought it to be really cute, and quite precious for our Amy to be called Mamie. It was always said by a child who dearly loved Amy, and that made the name quite endearing. And it was always fun to laugh about it, causing it to be a nickname that even the adults used with her sometimes.

Because of how much we loved the nickname, Mamie for our daughter, I found myself smiling when I heard what my cousin Raylynn Williams had named her daughter. The name was actually handed down from her husband’s grandmother, but nevertheless, there was now a Mayme whose name was not being mispronounced by the little children around her. As names go, it is a bit unusual, but then a lot of people prefer the unusual when it comes to naming their children, myself and my daughter Amy included.

I found myself taken back in time just over four years ago, when I heard what my cousin had named her precious little girl. The name would be one that would take me back every time I heard it…or even saw Mayme. How odd it seems, to have two children with names that, in reality, are not the same, but we can feel a sameness nevertheless. It isn’t always sameness that connects us, you see. Sometimes, it can be our differences that make us the same. While Amy and Mayme are totally different names, to hear a small child say them, would sound exactly the same. Who would expect that a shorter name that is totally different, would be pronounced the same when it comes to little kids. Mayme is a sweet little girl, with a beautiful smile, who is a little bit shy around people she doesn’t know well, But once she knows you are ok, based on being cleared by her parents, of course. Her face will light up with her smile. She is the answer to her parents prayers for a daughter, and the apple of their eyes. Her brothers are very protective of their little sister, as brothers tend to be…especially when the sister is the youngest, like Mayme is.
Mamie Williams
I can’t say that Amy and Mayme are alike in very many ways, in all reality, because Amy is a grown woman, and Mayme is a little girl. So much can change as each moves on in their life. Amy has always been a little shy, and I think Mayme is too, but that could change as she grows up…or it could stay the same. We will see. They may end up becoming completely different people, but one thing they will always have in common is their name…in a way anyway. Mayme will always be Mayme, even when her name is said by a little child, and Amy will always be Amy. But, Amy will also always be Mamie too, because there will always be little kids who will love Amy and will learn her name early, even if they do mispronounce it.

Caryn Spencer 15 yrs oldMost of us have gone through a time in our lives when we hated our name. We wonder why our parents would have considered such an awful name for their child. It doesn’t matter what the name is either. It could be the cutest name on earth, and it’s owner would probably at one point or another, hate it. As an early teenager, I thought my name was too strange. I suppose I was at an age where it seemed important to blend in with the crowd, and an unusual name simply didn’t do that for me. I often thought I might like to be named Carrie, and yet, I never took that or any other nickname. I guess deep inside, I didn’t really dislike my name at all, but was rather at a self conscious age, and the name seemed as good a scapegoat as any. These days, I love my name, and I wouldn’t want any other.

My mom had told me that she was ok with her first name, Collene, even though most people mispronounced it and called her Colleen, which is not her name at all. Collene is pronounced with a short o sound, while Colleen is pronounce with a long o sound. This was not the name she disliked, however. Mom disliked her middle name, which is Ione. I never could understand why that name bothered her at all, because she didn’t have to tell anyone what it was, so what was the problem. Then again, I suppose that if Ione had been my middle name, I might have felt the same way in those awkward teenaged years. Mom eventually got over her dislike of her middle name, I guess, because she doesn’t mention it anymore. Young Collene Ione ByerPeople usually grow up and decide that those little things don’t really make that much difference anyway.

My Great Aunt Mina Schumacher, however hated her name all of her life. She was baptized Minna Albertina Schumacher, and I guess Albertina didn’t bother her, or maybe it was simply that she told no one what her middle name was, if it did. At that time, like often happens today, people added “ie” to the end of a child’s name and so, Minna became Minnie. Most people thought it was a very pretty name for a little girl, but Mina did not agree. Maybe it made her feel like she was always considered a little girl, and she wanted to be grown up. Whatever the reason, she hated it, and when she became an accountant, she decided that the name Minnie had to go. Her solution was to drop the “nie” from her nickname, and go, simply by Min. Her sisters Bertha and Elsa, and most of Mina’s friends decided that name suited her better than any other, and for them, she was Min from that time on. Mina’s husband, John Spare, who was going by his middle name, Clark when they met, liked the name Minnie, and called her that for some time, but gave in to her need for a more grown up name when they married. Later, when John became head of the Engineering Department of the State Highway Department in Bismarck, North Dakota, the need for a more dignified name arose, so Mina dropped one “n” from her baptismal name and became Mina.

According to Mina’s sister, my Great Aunt Bertha, children should simply be called “Hey” until they are old 007b1 Mina Schumacherenough to decide on a name they really like. I suppose that would be a possibility, and I’m sure she was just joking, but it could also be very confusing, since there could be entire classrooms of children going by the same name. Just think how confusing it would be as the teacher called on her students. I suppose one could say that using the last name would solve all that, but then again, since classrooms back then had all the grades in the same class, including brothers and sisters, that would still be problematic. Having three Hey Smiths in the class would be very confusing. I guess that is why it is your parent’s choice as to your name, whether you hate your name or not.

There is an old saying, “as snug as a bug in a rug.” Now I don’t know how long that saying has been around or if my father-in-law’s nickname came from that or not, but when he was a baby, they either switched that saying around, or made up their own, but he was “as cute as a bug.” That saying was used around him so long that somehow the nickname Bug eventually remained, and Bug he has been ever since. It’s funny sometimes, how these nicknames come about, and when you look back on them, you wonder why anyone would think that was cute, but on him it is nevertheless. And it has never changed. For all the years I have known and been in this family, his mom, sisters, and, brothers, called him Bug. When I asked why they called him that, they told me that he was as cute as a bug.

I can’t say that I have ever felt like bugs were cute, except maybe the Ladybug, but apparently either I was missing something, or they were cuter back then, or maybe it was just that boys thought they were cute, or great, or whatever. I suppose that for a boy, Bug would be a pretty good nickname…I mean, how many guys go by snake or something like that, and I have to tell you that I like Bug a whole lot better. Snake reminds me of somebody who might slit your throat in a gang fight, and I have to wonder how comfortable I would have been at 17 years of age, upon meeting my boyfriend’s dad and having him be introduced as Snake. Yikes, I don’t think so, and besides that, my father-in-law is not snake-like at all. He’s far too nice a guy for that. Of course, they didn’t introduce him as Bug either, but eventually the nickname came out.

Even though he has been Bug for as long as I have known him, my father-in-law would undoubtedly pass out if I ever called him that, and I can’t imagine doing it anyway. For one thing, since it was a nickname from his childhood, it seems better suited to childhood, and of course, for his family it was just as normal as calling my grandson Joshua, by his nickname, Josh, but if you didn’t start out using the nickname Bug by knowing him as a child, it might seem a little odd to start using it on him when he is your father-in-law, or at least that’s the way I see it. No, I’ll just have to leave that one for his brothers and sister, who will never get past calling him that anyway. You have to admit though, that he was as cute as a Bug!!

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