rain

Every year, around the time of my husband, Bob Schulenberg’s birthday and also around the 4th of July, Bob and I take our annual hiking trip to the Black Hills. We aren’t always there on Bob’s birthday, which is six days after the 4th of July, and so doesn’t always fall conveniently in the same week. Nevertheless, we celebrate his birthday too, with time together as a couple, doing one of the activities we both have loved to do for years…hiking. It hasn’t always been easy for either of us to hike some of the more difficult trails, and one year, Bob’s back was so out of place, that even the easiest of trails was more than he could handle. That was a rough year. We went to the Black Hills and spent a lot of time in a motel room.

This year was one of the good years…at least in how Bob felt. We weren’t hiking any of the real difficult trails, especially our favorite…Harney Peak (now Black Elk Peak), but we hiked every day, even though it was cold this year and rained almost every day. This has just been a strange summer, and one I haven’t exactly enjoyed to this point, but since the temperatures are moving up, so are the prospects of summertime fun. Now, getting Bob to take time off to from the work he does from home…that’s not so easy.

Bob is a mechanic, and when he retired, he really didn’t intend to “retire” exactly. He just didn’t want to go to work and be on someone else’s schedule. He loves being a mechanic, but he wants to work on the jobs he wants to, on his schedule, and from his own garage. He likes the idea of just going out there whenever he wants to, and taking a break whenever he wants to. Don’t get me wrong, Bob will take most jobs, provided he has the time and ability to do the job. Also, he will pretty much work a job until it is done, unless it is one that is obviously going to take several days. Still, he just likes being in control of his days, weeks, and life in general. And he is so much happier these days. He feels better, even though some days his back hurts from being bent over a car. And he is able to take some time and just go for an evening walk with me…which I like very much. The life of a semi-retired, self-employed mechanic suits him to a “t” so I’m happy. Today is Bob’s 69th birthday. Wow!! It doesn’t seem he is 69 at all. Happy birthday Bob!! Have a great day!! We all love you very much…but especially me!!!

Normally, on this first day of Summer, I would be thinking about the days coming up, the precious few days when I finally get to feel the warmth that doesn’t come from being wrapped in a blanket or wearing a coat. Yes, Summer can be sweltering, and I can find myself wishing for a little cooler temperature, but I don’t want it to be much cooler. I am a summer person. I like heat. I like wearing shorts and sandals, rather than sweaters and coats.

This year is a rather odd year…not that we haven’t had years of unusual weather…and no, I don’t buy into the whole global warming, climate change, or whatever they are calling it these days. Weather had natural patterns that have existed since time began, and this is nothing new. Nevertheless, when we have one of those years of an unusually cold Spring, and unusually harsh Winter, and somehow a fairly normal Fall, I find myself waiting for normalcy, impatiently!!

This has been one of those years, and I’m ready for the end of Spring. Our Winter was harsh, with lots of snow and this Spring has been full of thunderstorms and pouring rain…to the point of flash flooding and lots of warnings for lightning, hail, tornadoes, and floods. Those things aren’t all that unusual, with the possible exception of the floods, but the thing I really noticed was the cold temperatures. Normally as we approach the end of June, I am wearing shorts and t-shirts when I go out for my early morning walk. This year, however, I have been wearing pants and a jacket to keep me warm. Of course, by the time I am almost finished, I’m warm enough to go without a jacket…except for the clouds. Clouds just keep things cooler.

As I was walking these past few mornings, I thought about just how much cooler it had been this Spring, and I hoped that as the Summer arrived, it would finally begin to warm up. I also thought about another Summer about 20 years ago or so. The Spring had been cold that year too, and Summer hadn’t improved much. In fact, it was the coldest Summer I had ever remembered. Infact, it was as if Summer never arrived that year. That makes for the feeling of a long cold Winter, even though there were some warm days. The good thing about the colder rainy weather, however, was that the grass, and several other things grew better that they had in years. I guess that’s a plus, but if you don’t mind, I’ll take the warmer weather, with the leaves on the trees and the deer by the trail. Those things make my whole day.

Rain…it waters the earth, and as we all know, without it, we could not survive. Nevertheless, as vital as water is to life on this planet, too much of it can be deadly. People can drink too much water, we can over-water our plants, and too much rain can bring flooding. Such was the case on July 13, 1951. Above-average rainfall began in June and continued through July 13th, dumping well over 25 inches on some areas in eastern Kansas. From July 9th to 13th, nearly 6 inches of rain fell. The Kansas, Neosho, and Verdigris rivers began taking on more water than their normal carrying capacity a couple of days into the storm, but as the rain persisted, flooding began all over the region.

The major towns of Manhattan, Topeka and Lawrence took the biggest hit. As is the case in any area where absorption is hampered by cement and asphalt, the rain could not soak in, and the ground was are already saturated anyway. The rain had nowhere to go, and the area was in trouble. Prior to the July 13 river crest, previous highs were dwarfed by four to nine feet. Two million acres of farmland were lost to the flood, which would trigger a crisis of its own, by a shortage of food. The flooding also caused fires and explosions in refinery oil tanks on the banks of the Kansas River. Passenger trains traveling through the area were stuck for nearly four days. In all, $760 million in damages were caused by the flood, and 500,000 people were left homeless, while 24 people died in the disaster. It was the greatest destruction from flooding in the Midwestern United States up to that time.

A often happen, tragedy brings change. Following the great 1951 flood, a series of reservoirs and levees were constructed all over the area. In 1993, these were credited with minimizing the damage from another record flood. Water is an element that is necessary for life, but lest we forget, water in an overabundance can kill and destroy. People need to pay attention to evacuation warnings, and get out of an area where a flood is eminent. You may lose some things, but if you leave the area, you will most likely to walk away unscathed, and as we know, things can be predicted, and those who head out of unsafe areas will most likely live to tell the tale.

My sister, Cheryl Masterson is the oldest of our parents’ five daughters, and because of that, the one who inherited the most responsibility early on. When I was born, almost two years later, she became a big sister, and from every picture I have seen of us together, she was very pleased to be a big sister. She was very helpful and loving, showing me the things in life that she had discovered. Those were sweet days. She was always the same, as I recall, when a new sister came along. Being the oldest, and often the one most capable of holding babies, she got the first shot at the honor of holding her newest sister…and again the honor of showing each new sister the ropes of life. She was also the mother’s helper and later the first sister to babysit the rest of us.

As the years went by. it was time for Cheryl to start school, and by then, there were two more sisters in the mix. It was going to be difficult for our mom, Collene Spencer to walk Cheryl the five blocks to school, so Chery was going to walk with other kids, and of course, Mom was apprehensive. Nevertheless, those were different times, and kids walked to school. Mom had to figure out a way to let Cheryl go, and the only way that worked for her was to turn her precious daughter over to God. Cheryl left for school that first morning with the words we would all come to know well, “Jesus will take care of you” in her ears. Our dad, Allen Spencer, also adopted those words in full agreement with Mom’s confession over us. Those words have carried all of us through our lives, and they’ve been passed down to our own kids and grandkids. It was another of the many firsts that started with Cheryl, as the oldest sister.

Now that our parents have gone to Heaven, Cheryl has become the family matriarch. We aren’t required to answer to her, of course, but we all feel a sense of family and Cheryl is in a big way, the main part of keeping things that way. We all let each other know of travel plans…departures and arrivals…and of course, tell each other “Jesus will take care of you” just like Mom did on Cheryl’s very first day of school. It keeps our parents in our lives, and Cheryl is a reminder of where it all started. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day, and enjoy the rain that God has provided for you, since you love that kind of weather!! We love you!!

When we think of rain showers, most of us think of a pleasant spring or summer afternoon when the day is hot, and the rain cools things down, and everything smells so good, but on a beautiful April day in 1897 in Jefferson County, Wisconsin, and particularly in the town of Palmyra, the shower they received was not so pleasant. That morning, after a shower overnight, residents woke up expecting to see puddles of rainwater here and there, but instead the sight they saw was appalling. It was like nothing they had ever seen before.

On the ground, the cars, and every other surface in the area were thousands of worms…and they weren’t worms anyone knew about. They were a strange species that was unknown to the area. There was no place that the people could walk without stepping on the disgusting worms. People even had them in barrels that were designed to catch rainwater for drinking, so the drinking water was compromised too. Finally an expert fisherman and gardener, named Captain McDonald, told the people that they were Gilt-Edge Worms. He said that he could tell by their yellow and gold spots and rings. He said that he had used these particular worms for bait while fishing in Ireland.

Well, that was one thing, but Wisconsin is nowhere near Ireland, so how did they get there? Well, the people started to speculate that somehow the worms must have drifted across the ocean in a cloud, but when you think about it, that is an odd thought. Nevertheless, after having watched a story on The Weather Channel about a town that had fish fall out of the sky one time, and that they thought it might have been from a water spout that had scooped them up from a nearby water source, I suspect that something similar might have happened, although I don’t know if the same thing could have happened with a tornado over land, because I doubt if the Gilt-Edge Worm is a water dwelling creature. I don’t suppose they will ever know exactly how the incredible worm shower happened for sure, but while it was a disgusting situation at the time, the townspeople soon decided that they might as well make the best of it, and go fishing!!

The captain told them that Trout found the worms particularly tasty, and hard to resist, especially in the muddy waters after a rainfall, so in very short order, the townspeople decided that it must have been Providence (another word for a gift from God) that brought the worms to their area so miraculously overnight, when trout fishing in the nearby lakes and streams was a universal pastime. So, after finding out about the worms value, I’m sure the people were a little more careful about where they were stepping, so they didn’t kill the worms that might help them catch more trout.

Yesterday, in between bouts of sprinkling rain, my grand-niece, Siara Harman became Siara Olsen, when she said “I do” to the love of her life, Nick Olsen. The wedding was held at City Park in Casper, Wyoming, under mostly cloudy skies, with sprinkling rain before it and heavier rain after. Nevertheless, the actual wedding took place under sunny skies, and the ceremony was the beautiful Cinderella wedding that Siara had always wanted. Siara wore a stunning light pink fitted dress, with a lovely full skirt from the knees down, that swept into a train that glided along behind her. She was given in marriage by her step-dad, Dave Balcerzak, who she considers her dad. It was a precious moment for them. Her bride’s maids wore beautiful gold sequined dresses, and the groomsmen wore white tuxedos with pale gold vest and tie. The effect was classic Cinderella, and Siara was a beautiful princess. The wedding was put together by Siara’s mom, Chantel Balcerzak, who runs a wedding planner business. Chantel did an amazing job with the wedding, and everything went off without a hitch, It couldn’t have been more beautiful.

When Siara met Nick, she knew almost immediately that he was the one. They dated for a while, but they both knew that this was a forever kind of love. They both knew that they would be married…and yesterday was that special day. Yesterday, their friends and family gathered together to witness the beautiful exchange of vows for this beautiful couple. The gathering of their friends and family made this perfect day complete. We are all so happy for Siara and Nick. I know that the future is going to be very bright for them. They have a great relationship, and they are very much in love with each other. I’m sure there will be children in the future, and we will be very excited for that time, but that is another story for another time.

After a beautiful reception, complete with an amazing wedding cake, and a groom’s cake shaped like a taco, in honor of Siara and Nick’s love of Taco Bell, the couple danced the night away with their family friends, and of course with each other. I’m sure that like most couples, they didn’t want the night to end. The festivities continued until about 11:00pm, and them the couple went to their hotel room, where they had the honeymoon suite. So,today marks their first full day of their lives as husband and wife, and we couldn’t possibly be happier. Congratulations on your wedding and on your future together Siara and Nick!! We love you, and pray God’s greatest blessings over you both.

As the world watches, with sadness, the news of the flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey, I am reminded of another Texas flood that severely damaged a Texas city. This flood wasn’t from a hurricane exactly, but rather like Harvey, the flooding occurred because of too much rain for the ground to handle. Early that September, the remnants of a Category 1 hurricane brought heavy rains to areas of Mexico, as well as the state of Texas, particularly in the San Antonio area. On September 4, a tropical cyclone had developed in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico near the Bay of Campeche. It moved slowly in a general westward direction. Then, the storm reached hurricane intensity on September 7 prior to making landfall south of Tampico, Mexico the following day. The storm weakened over land, and lost cyclonic characteristics later that day, but a nearby high-pressure area forced the remnants of the system northward into Texas. So it was that was on September 7, 1921 in San Antonio, Texas, after some of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in Texas…at least up to that time…dumped an astounding 23.11 inches of rain in the San Antonio area in less than a day.

In some areas of Texas, the rainfall was even worse, but those areas somehow didn’t have the same potential for devastating floods. The precipitation peaked over Central Texas, where the highest rainfall amount measured was 40 inches near Thrall, Texas. This was the fourth highest tropical cyclone-related rainfall total in Texas since record keeping began. Similarly, an observation of 36.40 inches elsewhere in Williamson County, Texas ranked as the sixth-highest tropical cyclone-related rainfall total for the state. The high precipitation totals set nationwide records which would stand for several years. Like Hurricane Harvey, that storm stalled and the rain just kept coming.

The immense amount of rain quickly overwhelmed the San Antonio River that winds through southwest Texas. The area is usually pretty dry, but on that September day, the storm that stalled over Taylor, Texas was a recipe for disaster. It was the heaviest single day of rainfall in the state to that time. Taylor is located 30 miles upstream from San Antonio, so when the flash flood came barreling down, it took aim on San Antonio with a vengeance. Most of the 51 flood victims were trapped in their cars by the surprise flood and drowned. Much like Houston, five to ten feet of water submerged the city’s streets, delaying an evacuation. The city was under water for nearly a week following the flood. The flood damage amounted to at least $5 million in damages in the small city that was San Antonio, at that time. In the aftermath, San Antonio embarked on a 10 year overhaul of its levee system, not knowing for sure that it would really help, but I guess they did what they knew to do.

When my husband’s aunt, Helen Knox passed away on January 11, 2017 at the good old age of 99 years, her passing left her soul mate, Uncle Frank Knox to carry on alone…at least in that the love of his life was not longer with him. Of course, his sons are still here, and his grandchildren, one of whom I have had the great privilege of getting to know over Facebook since her grandmother’s passing. Yesterday morning, it was Frank’s granddaughter, Kate West who passed along the sad news that Uncle Frank had gone to Heaven to join his sweet wife, Helen. My thoughts immediately went back to the times that Frank and Helen came for visits, and what wonderful and interesting people they were. I wanted to write a tribute to Frank about the times I remembered, but then I read about Kate’s memories, and…well, I hope she won’t mind if I take a chapter from her Lifebook for this story. Her memories are so sweet and so thoughtful, that it became very clear to me and to anyone who read her words, that her grandfather was very, very special to her. Nothing I could have said could even begin to compare to the words of his Kate…or to those of her dad, Greg Knox, who told me that the date of Frank’s passing was the same date he and Helen married, just 71 years later. That is a very special day to Frank and Helen.

While Kate is very sad that her grandfather is gone, she is glad that he is with her grandmother again. They had lived long and happy lives, with 71 of those years lived as husband and wife. When her grandmother passed away, Kate found herself distressed because her grandfather was now without his other half. For Kate, the connection she and her grandpa had was the closest relationship she had with any of her grandparents. Part of the reason is that Frank and Helen lived with Kate’s family for 4 years, from the time Kate was 8 until she was 12. Helen was a little more quiet than her husband was. Frank was always very outgoing, and that made him easy to get to know. The relationship Kate had with her grandfather reminds me of the relationship I had with my Uncle Bill Spencer. Kate’s grandpa, or maybe her dad, taught her the game of cribbage, like my uncle did with me. After that playing cribbage became a ritual. The family used to go camping, and it always seemed to rain, at least one day of the trip. That was all it took for Kate and Frank to get out the cribbage board and pass the time in the friendly rivalry that cribbage always is. Those are the memories that will last Kate for the rest of her life…the memories that will keep her grandfather in her thoughts. She won’t pass a cribbage board without thinking of their games, or hear the rain without thinking of her grandfather. He will always live in her heart, as he will in the hearts of all of those who loved him.

Having moved to Spokane, Kate didn’t get to see her grandfather as often during those last years, and while she feels the regrets that come from a busy life and the difficulty distance brings to staying in touch, I can tell her that for her grandfather, the memories of the fun times with his cribbage partner kept a smile on his face, and she lit up his day with the love that showed on her face for her grandfather. While we may not realize what a huge impact we have of the life of another, they know it. Those around us who care about us, are the bright lights in our lives. That’s what Kate was to her grandfather. Uncle Frank will be greatly missed by all of us, who loved him. We look forward to seeing you again in Heaven, Uncle Frank.

Weather has always been a subject of interest to people, even if we still don’t completely have a full grasp of it, not even after all these years and all our technology. The main difference I see now is that we hear about weather all the time. It’s on television, the radio, and even our phones. There are warnings for everything…thunder storms, tornadoes, snow storms, flash floods, and hurricanes. Nevertheless, all the meteorologists can truly do is predict a weather event. It may or may not materialize.

Now, flash back to, oh say 1680 or even to 1521. Other than looking at the sky, how did the people predict the weather? Yes the sky can be a great predictor of coming storms, but unless you knew something about weather patterns, you would be unlikely to have any idea that something like a tornado, flood, or hurricane were coming. Especially in 1680 or 1521. Those dates are rather important in the world of weather. In August of 1521, a meteorological phenomenon occurred in the Basin of Mexico. There were no cameras back them, no cell phones or computers to record the event. The only known description appears in Book XII of the Florentine Codex, which is an account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico written in Nahuatl in the mid-sixteenth century. The account states that just before the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan a heavy storm which included a whirlwind struck the basin. The whirlwind hovered for a while above Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan’s twin city. Then it moved to the lake where it disappeared.

When the experts of today look at the account of the phenomenon in the context of the Nahua culture, and comparing it with European descriptions of tornados and waterspouts, they can determine that the phenomenon was indeed a tornado. Their conclusion is further supported by eighteenth and nineteenth century pictorial and written evidence showing that tornadoes do occur in the territory now occupied by Mexico City. Since the tornado of Tlatelolco predates the Cambridge, Massachusetts, tornado of July 8, 1680, which had been thought to be the first recorded tornado in the Americas, the Tlatelolco tornado actually represents the earliest documented tornado in the Americas. Either way, since people didn’t really have much information to go on back then, I’m sure they first said some version of “What is that?!!?” At least, I know I would have.

For most of her life, my sister-in-law, Brenda Schulenberg struggled with her weight. Even as a child, Brenda was heavy. She will tell you that her weight prevented her from doing many of the things that most children took for granted, such as riding a bicycle. She might have been able to do it to a degree, but not for very long or very far. As she grew into adulthood, her weight became such a problem that she couldn’t even think of riding a bicycle. Then one day, her health failed due to her weight. She knew that she had to make a change. That day was October 18, 2013…just 5½ months after her dad, Walt Schulenberg passed away. Brenda became a health nut. She learned to eat right, and she walked…slowly and with a walker at first, and later on her own. She walked further and further…often reaching 10 miles a day. The weight came off, and she felt much better. Still, one thing eluded her…riding a bicycle. Finally, the day arrived when Brenda found out that she could ride a bicycle…as long as the peddles were off, and she could reach the ground. It’s called strider riding. It is a bicycle, but the rider basically runs the bicycle down the trail, instead of riding it…and Brenda could do that.

After riding strider style for a time, Brenda was finally able to ride a bicycle in the normal way. She put the peddles back on her purple bicycle and off she went. Brenda became just like the postal service…”Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Ok, Brenda didn’t have appointed rounds…exactly, but she had set herself a goal of riding her bicycle every month of the year. Now, that is not an easy task, especially in the state of Wyoming, where winters can be brutal. Nevertheless, just like the postal worker, neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor gloom of the very early morning will keep Brenda from riding her bicycle. She is determined to ride it, and make up for all the years that she couldn’t even ride a bicycle in the summertime, much less in the winter.

She’s a brave woman, especially when she goes out in the middle of a snow story, and pretty much turns into a snow woman. She reminds me of the Campbell’s Soup commercial where the little boy is so covered with snow that only a hot bowl of soup will melt away all the snow. Maybe she’s not that bad, but she’s close. Brenda, we are proud of your determination, but I do have to wonder if the people driving by the snow woman on wheels have to rubs their eyes to make sure they are seeing what their eyes are telling them they are seeing. Today is Brenda’s birthday. Happy birthday Brenda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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