Dad in uniformWhile my dad was in England fighting in World War II, his brother and sisters were working in the shipyards helping with the war effort there. On their days off, the workers at the shipyards liked to go and picnic in the area parks or a friends cabin. There was usually a group of young men and women that would go on these picnics, and Aunt Ruth and Uncle Bill were among them. In an effort to make my dad feel like he was a part of things back home, they would send him pictures of the things that were going on with them back home. Dad enjoyed the pictures from home immensely, but that didn’t stop him from being the typical big brother.

While Dad was in England, letters from home were like a lifeline. Those men were lonely and homesick. They depended on those letters from family and friends to help them get img234through that time of uncertainty and the ugliness of war. I have been reading his letters home for some time now, and while some of the letters reveal the loneliness that can only be seen if you read between the lines, others are more about having a little fun teasing his siblings, and especially his little sister, Ruth. Of course, you’ll have to admit, that she really walked right into it, but like any 18 year old girl, she probably didn’t realize what would come back to her.

Aunt Ruth wrote a letter to my dad, her brother, Allen, told him a little bit about this boy named Selmer that she obviously liked, and included a picture of Selmer kissing her. Well, my dad couldn’t let that one slide. This was his little sister, and she was growing up too fast for his liking. And who was this guy kissing her anyway? Dad remarked on how unusual the guy’s name was, and teased his sister about whether the guy was kissing her or looking at her locket, pretty much settling on the former thought. He teased her about the fact that she had apparently been telling him that she didn’t have any boyfriends, but clearly she did. And then, out came the big brother in my dad, when he told his little sister that this guy had “all the earmarks of a wolf” as far as he could see.
Aunt Ruth kissing Selmer Drolsom
Now, all the rest of the teasing aside, I had to laugh at that part of the letter. A wolf!! I know that many people wouldn’t really understand the significance of that remark, but we…in this family…totally get it. It was almost as if my dad was predicting the future. Did Aunt Ruth marry Selmer? No, she didn’t! The prediction that my dad spoke, without realizing it, had more to do with the word than the man. You see, when my Aunt Ruth did get married, it was to a man named Lester (Jim) Wolfe!! So, while Selmer didn’t turn out to be the wolf my dad predicted, I guess my Uncle Jim Wolfe did, and that wolf literally swept my Aunt Ruth off her feet.

Aunts and UncleEvery year, my mom’s family gets together to have our annual picnic. Sunday marked the last day of summer vacation for the kids, as well as the annual picnic. It became a type of last blast for everyone. It’s always so much fun to see how much all the kids have changed, and to hear all about their lives. I’m amazed that we all live in the same town, but most of us see each other only on Facebook. Of course, I’m thankful for that, because so many of the younger generation would not even know me if it weren’t for Facebook. We have an amazing group of young people in our family, and I really like hearing about their lives. So many of these kids seem like they should still be babies to Autumn, Aunt Sandy, and Johnme, but they are in high school…and beyond. With such busy lives, you have to communicate where and how you can. I feel like my life has been very much enriched by the relationships I have developed with the wonderful young people in our family.

Our family picnics started when grandma and grandpa wanted the kids to keep in touch…a wise idea. Back then, of course, computers, smart phones, and Facebook weren’t readily available. If we had been trying to keep up with each other back then, well…we wouldn’t have done a very good job of it. The family picnic, and the family Christmas party were originally designed to keep the sisters and brothers in touch, and they have done that quite well. It also gives the younger generations, Uncle Wayne and Elmermine included the chance to see how the aunts and uncles are doing. Often we don’t hear very much about them, unless they are sick, or their family is on Facebook, and sometimes not even then, so it’s good to be able to get together for some great conversation and a few good laughs. I sometimes wonder if my aunts and uncles…and my entire family for that matter…really know how very important they are to me, because if they don’t, I want them to know that they are very important to me. We are a family that is blessed to live so close to one another, and yet, we often don’t see each other much. These annual get togethers are a vital part of our continuing close relationships, and I for one, enjoy them very much. I’ll see you all at the Christmas Party.

Office Picnic 2013Going for a snackYesterday was our office picnic, which was held at my boss…he hates that word…and his wife, Julie’s cabin on the mountain. We always have such a wonderful time up there. It’s so quiet and peaceful…and yet filled with a flurry of activity. Of course, most of that flurry of activity is not of the human kind. The wildlife around their cabin is constantly busy…especially the hummingbirds. In the past I have tried to capture these amazing birds with my iPhone’s camera, and while it took good pictures of them, I could never really capture them in the way that I wanted to…until yesterday.

While we were waiting for the food to be ready, we watched the hummingbirds snacking on their food…a sugar water mix…yum!! Not quite what I would have wanted to dinner, but I guess to each his own. Hummingbirds are such fun to watch…especially when there are so many of them. On the mountain, people who have feeders and who slow down long enough, will be treated to dozens of hummingbirds diving toward them, to get the feeders. The birds, of all kinds, are always in a flurry of activity. They never slow down. We watched Hummingbirds, Mountain Chickadees, Woodpeckers, and even a Cassin’s Finch…maybe not rare, but one I hadn’t seen before. My camera was snapping constantly. I especially loved the shots of the hummingbirds fighting over the feeders, like there wasn’t enough feeders to go around.

The squirrels were a little more shy than some of the other animals, as were the deer, but I managed to get pictures of both, even if they were a little leery of me, and my motives for being in their space. The deer watched apprehensively, mostly, but the squirrels were very vocal about their disapproval of my presence…not that their chatter changed the situation, because my time in nature is far more limited that theirs, so they will just have to put up with me for a little while.

Of course, taking pictures of the wildlife was not the whole picnic, and we enjoyed Friendly NeighborsFood Fightsuch a wonderful time with friends and family, along with great food. Our time at Jim and Julie’s cabin is always a great fun, and it reminds us just how blessed we are to have them in our lives. I cannot think of better people to know and work for. God really does put people in our lives to make them rich and greatly blessed, and I thank him every day for those he has put into my life. Amazing family and friends…it doesn’t get better than that.

My cousin sent me some pictures a couple of days ago and boy, did they bring back some memories. One in particular struck me, mostly because of the difference in the times…and the things you can and can’t do today. My dad’s brother, Bill and his family used to come for visits, and we would go there for visits when we were little kids. One of our favorite things to do was to picnic on Casper Mountain. It is a beautiful place and it’s nearby. We have always loved going on the mountain. The summer air is cooler there, and fresh with the smells of pine. The birds are singing and the breeze whispers through the tree tops. I could stay up there for a long time.

Back then, Dad had an old green pickup truck, and whenever we all went somewhere in the truck, all of us kids got to ride in the back of the truck. Now, I know that people don’t usually ride in the back of a truck any more, and maybe it isn’t the safest idea, but back then it was the normal way to go. On any given day, you might see a dozen or more people driving around with the kids in the back of the truck, and I don’t remember ever hearing about anyone getting hurt or killed, although I’m sure it happened. Nevertheless, when we were going to go up on the mountain, they loaded all of us kids up in the back of the truck and the adults in front. And away we went.

We had a great time riding back there, with the wind in our hair…and none of us cared if our hair was a wreck after that ride either. Dad would drive up the mountain, and then stop at Lookout Point so we could see how beautiful the city was from up there. The night views were the best of course, because the city lights always looked like a jewelry box. The picnic and the city views were great, but I will always remember the wonderful rides in the back of Dad’s truck, probably because we got to do more of those. Of course, looking back, and knowing the safety risks today, I wouldn’t let my kids or grandkids ride there, but we didn’t know that then, and I guess God just watched out for us, because we obviously lived through it. Kind of like not having seat belts in the car, and rolling onto the floor at a sudden stop. We didn’t think of it being unsafe…just funny. I guess it was just the times we lived in.

My Aunt Evelyn was a very social girl. She always had a great group of friends, and they had a club. There were 8 girls and 8 guys, and their parents used to take turns holding parties for the group. They were then envy of all the siblings, who secretly wished they were big enough to be a part of that group. When it was my grandmother’s turn to have the party, they all went to the North Casper Clubhouse, and had a Taffy Pulling Party.  There was a few parents there, but mostly it was the 8 girls and 8 boys at this party, and none of the younger kids were allowed to go, Although they did get a little bit of the taffy…when all the party goers were done, of course. The party was a huge success, and grandma was so proud of how it turned out. I’m quite certain that the younger kids wished they could have had friends like that when they were older, but the club and the group of friends my Aunt Evelyn had were a pretty unique group.

Aunt Evelyn had a special friend named Mabel. Her mother had passed away, and my grandmother welcomed her into the family as much as she wanted to be there. It was a kindness shown by my grandmother and my aunt to a girl who needed the company of women and especially a mother figure in her life. Aunt Evelyn was willing to share her mother with her dear friend. Mabel went on picnics and other family outings too. One day they all went out to Uncle Cliff’s place and the kids found a buggy. They had no horse, but the buggy looked like lots of fun too. There were about 15 kids there, and some rode while some pushed the buggy down a hill. It was great fun until one time they got all tangled up in the wheels and went over in a heap. Clothes were torn, skin was scratched, but nothing was broken. Aunt Evelyn’s and Mabel’s skirts were even torn, and they had to wear an apron backwards to cover up the back of their dresses. Grandpa asked them why they didn’t put the break on, but they said they didn’t know it had a break. that brought much laughter, and my mom says that story still lives on today.

Aunt Evelyn was always a very regal looking woman. She carried herself with grace and beauty. She was a friend to many, and a role model to most people. Today, Aunt Evelyn turns 84 years old. She is still a beautiful and well respected lady. She is still married to the love of her life, and together they have raised 5 children, and have been blessed with many grandchildren and great grandchildren. Happy birthday Aunt Evelyn!! We love you!!

We have watched with great sadness as our beloved mountain burns. The burned area has grown to 18,000 acres and 37 lost structures. The fire crews have done an awesome job of fighting this fire. The winds in our area and the lack of rain could have made this fire a much more catastrophic event than it has been, in that at one point they thought the winds could possibly shift and the fire come back down the face of the mountain heading West. Prior to that point of concern, it had been mostly on top and headed East. Many people do not fully understand the gravity of 18,000 burned acres. Until you see all those dead trees standing where lush green trees used to be, you just can’t fully picture it. Looking through the burned areas that suddenly have far too much light for a forest, I get an extreme sense of sadness…even a sense of dread…because it will take so long to regrow that forest, and there is no quick and easy solution that could change that fact.

I was looking through some old pictures and came across one of Bob’s family having a picnic up on Casper Mountain in May of 1960. The picnic table was made of wood, of course, and I don’t think any of them are now. Even though the picture is in black and white, you can see the green trees in the background, and you know that everyone was having a wonderful time, as is normal on Casper Mountain. I don’t know of one person who has ever lived in Casper, who did not love the mountain. Whether you preferred to go to the lake or the mountain, you loved the beautiful backdrop it created. And truly, I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love going up there…even just for a picnic. The peacefulness and quiet are so relaxing and the birds, especially the hummingbirds that most people are thrilled to watch, always put me at ease. I feel especially sad for all the animals and birds whose homes and food have been lost to them. Yes they can migrate into other areas, but the food source will take a definite hit.

I remember throughout the years of my childhood, when our family would go up on the mountain, even if just for the day, and just hang out enjoying the beauty of it, the quiet, and the birds. Then in the evening, we would sit around the campfire roasting marshmellows and dodging the smoke that always seemed to be coming right into your eyes. We almost made it a game…laughing at the person who was getting bombarged with the smoke at any given moment. That always seemed so funny to us, but in the face of the current fire, it takes on a different meaning. The amount of smoke and ash that has been rolling off of our mountain is simply dangerous to be breathing. When I think about the firefighters who have worked tirelessly to try our beloved mountain, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. Our mountain will never be quite the same, but it will come back eventually to some degree. Insurance policies will help pay for repairs and rebuilding of structures, but, our minds will probably never forget those horrible pictures of the fire on the mountain.

Last Sunday was my mom’s family’s annual picnic. We have been having these picnics, as well as the annual Christmas party, every year for decades now. We do this as a way to re-connect with family that we don’t get to see very often. It was my grandparents’ wish that we not drift apart when they were gone, and we have worked to do this for them, as well as for all of us. These days it is so easy to lose touch with family, and more and more I find that I don’t want that to be our family’s future. So many people know their aunts, uncles, and cousins, but when it comes to their cousins children and their children, well they hardly know them. I have had the distinct pleasure of getting to know those young people in our family through Facebook friendships, and I want all of you to know that is has been a wonderful experience to get to know each of you. We have a wonderful family, with so many varied ideas and talents, and to miss out on all that…well, it would be a great loss.

I think this year’s attendance was a little better than last year’s, and I think that is due to Facebook. It was a great way to announce the plan to all the family, and get everyone talking about it excitedly. It was fun to see how much the little ones had grown and to see everyone just enjoying the day, which ended up being a little cooler than the heat wave we had been having.

My cousin, Michael had said that we needed to get together for something besides a funeral, since we had 2 within the last year. I agree, and I wish he had been able to be there. Sadly a couple of the regular attendees, Uncle Larry and Uncle Jack left us this year, and their presence was very much missed at this year’s picnic, but I was glad to see Aunt Jeanette and Aunt Bonnie there, and doing ok. As more and more of my aunts and uncles leave us, we will look back on these gatherings with the fondest of memories.

The annual picnic was a wonderful success, as it always is, and I always find myself sorry when it is over. This year, however, I think it will be better, because I am in closer touch with so many of my cousins and their families. I look forward to getting to know each of you better, and hearing about all your little family stories. And who knows, you might find yourself in one of my stories, because…when it comes to my stories, no one is exempt where a story exists.

Some girls are tomboys, some girls are drama queens, and some are simply princesses. Raelynn definitely falls into the princess category. Raelynn is a petite little girl, who loves to dress up in the prettiest outfit she can find. And it doesn’t matter to her if she is going for a ride on a four wheeler, a picnic on the mountain, or to church…her choice of clothing might very well be the same, because the prettier and more girly the outfit, the more this little princess likes it.

As for cousins her age…Raelynn is pretty much surrounded by boys, except for her little sister, who has been a bit of a tomboy, but who seems to be changing that a little. Being surrounded by boys puts a girly girl in an odd position. She can’t quite figure out some of the humor that boys possess, in fact, a lot of it can make her quite annoyed. And for Raelynn, this is especially tough, because the three boy cousins that are near her age, and her own brother, are…well, all boy, and they don’t care if their play offends her in any way. They are simply having a good time, and she will just have to deal with that. Nevertheless, those same boys think a lot of their girly girl cousin and sister.

Like most little girls, Raelynn is a Daddy’s girl. Most of the pictures where she and her dad are both in the shot, you will find that she is right beside her daddy. Being a Daddy’s Girl is not such an unusual thing. I find that there are many of us. I was a Daddy’s Girl myself, and so I can relate to just how Raelynn feels about her daddy. Dads just seem to understand those girly girls. Maybe it is because dads are simply taken with their little princesses. From the moment they see that sweet little face, they know that the rest of their lives will be spent wrapped around her little finger. She is their girl, and they think that is just fine. Today is Raelynn’s birthday!! Happy birthday Raelynn!! We love you!!

When my girls were little, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law lived in Thermopolis. Their daughters, Machelle and Susan, and our daughters, Corrie and Amy, were friends, as well as cousins. It became a summer tradition to let the girls spend a couple of weeks together. Often we would make it a family day when we took our girls to Thermopolis for their cousin time trip. My mother and father-in-law often went along, so they could see their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters. We would make it a family day, with a picnic in the park at Thermopolis, before we would head back home.

It was always odd to get back home to a house void of children, and know that they would be gone at least a week. Sure, we didn’t need a babysitter if we wanted to go out, but I still missed my girls. I suppose that was normal for a mom. Meanwhile my girls were having a great time.

I’m quite sure there were fights, because…well, that’s what kids do, but when you put 4 girls together, there is a lot of imagination and fun going on too. And of course, when you are in Thermopolis, there is also swimming going on, and what kid doesn’t like that idea. My sister-in-law and brother-in-law had passes to swim as often as their family wanted, so it was a good deal for them and the kids. That was one of the highlights of the time spent there for my girls. Swimming in the warm water of Thermopolis ia a treat for anyone.

The rest of the cousin time was spent with dolls and tea parties, and all the other fun things girls can think of to do, but it wasn’t so much what they were doing that mattered. It was that they were spending time together, staying connected with each other. It was something that was hard as they grew older, but I think that the time spent together when they were little, built a foundation that they have kept strong to this day. They have turned into wonderful women, all of whom I am very proud, and I’m very thankful that we gave them that cousin time when they were little.

In a world that gets busier by the moment, it is hard to keep up with your close friends, much less your aunts, uncles, and cousins, who you don’t hang out with on a regular basis. So, every year my mom’s family has a family picnic in the summer. That and the annual family Christmas party provide a chance to reconnect with an ever growing family. Since her family is quite large and most of us still live in the Casper, Wyoming area, the turn out is usually pretty large. There were a lot of people who were not there this year, but it could easily pass for a small company picnic without stretching the imagination too far.

My mom and her siblings are getting older now, and some of them have trouble getting around. They don’t get together as often as they would like, because it is harder for them. So, the annual family picnic is a nice way for them to spend some time together, and for their kids, grandkids, and great grandkids to enjoy the time as well. They sit around and talk about the old days…about those who have gone home before us and about their memories of them. And get to know the new babies who have joined our family.

This year, thanks to Facebook, where I have connected with a number of my cousins grown and teenaged kids, I knew more of the kids better than ever before. They are a great bunch of kids, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. It is a rare thing, I think, to know the children and grandchildren of your cousins pretty well, especially in a family that numbers over 300, but I can say that I do. And I feel very blessed to know them.

I have been to many of these family picnics. And many are spent asking who this or that new person is, but this time I knew…I knew them, and their kids. I suppose that many people would think this an odd statement, because we all live in the same town, but when you really think about it, do you know your cousins kids and grandkids well? If you are like most families, probably not.

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