Bob’s family lived out in the country when I first met and later married him. They wanted to be able to raise farm animals, if they wanted to, and they later did do, as did we, but they also liked having a vegetable garden, and canning the vegetables they grew. It was a good sized vegetable garden, and Grandpa Knox took it upon himself to be the caretaker of that garden. Every day of the growing season would find him out there tending to that garden. And as a family, we all reaped the benefits of his labor, so we were glad he did it.

Grandpa was a rancher from way back, and so raising his own food was…just normal for him. When I met Bob, his grandparents were living on the same land has his parents…just across the yard in fact. That was not something I was used to, but it was a very efficient plan, and allowed Bob’s parents to take care of his mother’s aging parents as well. Everyone worked together to meet the needs of the family as a whole. With so many kids moving far away from their parents, to see this family pulling together for the greater good, was very cool.

When it was time to harvest the vegetables, we all went out and helped, and then began the women’s work. We prepared and canned the vegetables for later use. All of this was new to me, because having grown up in town, we didn’t normally can our fruits and vegetables, although I had made jelly before. Still, I felt a little…no, a lot…out of my element, but I quickly got the hang of it and later canned my own vegetables too.

Grandpa was a man of very few words, and one who always seemed most at home when he was out in the garden or doing other outdoor tasks. He may not have talked much, but he sure knew what he was doing when it came to gardening…a feat that anyone who knows me well, knows is not something I would put on my resume…much less write home about. To put it mildly, I have a brown thumb…except when it comes to roses, which I have no problem with. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. That said, when Grandpa’s gardening years were past. I found myself very much missing all the wonderful vegetables we got out of Grandpa’s garden.

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s Disease, and as you know, the cherished memories new, and later on even the old ones, begin to slip. Soon they will be lost forever. One of the best things the family can do for her is to help her to remember things. Old memories, and important data, as well as who these people in her house are. We try to keep her current on those things, in the hope that her quality of life can remain good for just a little bit longer.

Recently, after several bad bouts with pneumonia, several stays in the hospital, and finally a little more than two weeks in a nursing home getting rehab because her muscles were very weak, we have had a little more trouble triggering her memory. Her environment was not her normal, and my father-in-law was not right beside her to help keep that process going, so her cherished memories have slipped more. She was having trouble remembering her dad’s first name…something she normally gets right away. And when asked about her favorite horse, she couldn’t remember Molly’s name.

My daughter, Corrie had taken my father-in-law, her grandpa up to see her grandma, and ended up hearing information she hadn’t heard before. Today at lunch, she mentioned that she didn’t know that her grandmother had owned a horse…much less that she loved to ride, and spent as much time on her horse, Molly as she possibly could. I suppose Corrie wouldn’t have heard much about Molly, because my mother-in-law owned Molly when she was a teenager. Still, I guess we all just thought her grandchildren knew about the years when their grandparents spent much time living and working on ranches in Montana. We were wrong.

When you live on a ranch, it is quite common for the kids to ride horses to visit friends. Who needed a car when you had a horse, and you didn’t have to be 16 years old with a driver’s license to “drive” one either. So, that is what kids who lived on ranches did, and still do today, and my mother-in-law was a very good horse woman. She loved horses, and most especially Molly, her very favorite horse.

Sadly, as her Alzheimer’s Disease progresses, she is losing many of her memories. Mostly the newer ones, it’s true, but we also see that she forgets people she doesn’t see very much, and also forgets about things that she hasn’t seen or done in a long time. We try to remind her about her life by doing regular memory work, and much of the time she remembers Molly’s name at least, although I don’t know if she would know what Molly looked like. It’s that way with people too. She doesn’t remember the new people who come into her life, but figures it out when we remind her who they are, and she remembers the names of people from her past for the most part, but probably wouldn’t recognize them if she saw them. All we can do is keep reminding her on a daily basis, of who she was and hope that it will allow her to have one more day of remembering things like…Molly.

Years ago, most people sewed their own clothes, if they knew how. Store bought clothes were not a common item. Times were just different then. My mother-in-law grew up in those days. Most women didn’t have a job outside the home either. They took care of the home and children. Still, there were ways that the women could help with finances through the generations.

Back in the old west many women raised chickens, and gathered and sold the eggs. Often this was to pay for things that were needed at the store. Of course, my mother-in-law didn’t live in the old west. She was raised on a sheep ranch, and having married my father-in-law, who worked on a cattle ranch, there wasn’t much chance of being able to raise chickens or gather eggs, but my mother-in-law wanted to help out, and one thing she could do was sew.

She had known the Cross family, which is the ranch my father-in-law was working on, for some time. They hired her to make ten matching western shirts for the men in the family. The shirts were to be for the dad and nine sons. As you can see, the shirts turned out quite nicely, and that was the beginning of a long career of sewing shirts and other items of clothing, as well as knitting and crocheting items for many families in both Montana and Wyoming. During those early years, she would make over 100 shirts for her many clients.

The items of clothing my mother-in-law sewed were of a quality that could easily rival anything you could buy in a store. She even sewed clothes for my Aunt Bonnie’s future husband’s mom…before they ever met, and of course, many years before I met Bob. Many people reaped the benefits of my mother-in-law’s capabilities over the years. She made her daughter, Debbie’s wedding dress, as well as the Maid of Honor dress that I wore in the wedding. She crocheted dishcloths and afghans. She made afghans for each of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She knitted sweaters, hats, and sweater jackets that could keep out the cold better than many coats.

Those days are long gone now, as Alzheimer’s Disease has taken away the ability to do those things. She still talks of doing those things now and then, mostly because she thinks she still does them, but that is just the thoughts of a mind that doesn’t realize that it no longer remembers how to sew, knit, or crochet anymore. Still, many people remember those days when she was truly a great seamstress.

How well I remember the visits to Bob’s grandparents house in Forsyth, Montana. We used to go there every year for a visit. A lot of the visit revolved around the kitchen, where Grandma always seemed to be busily cooking up something. From that first cup of coffee in the morning with real cream from the cows they milked, and fresh eggs that she went out and gathered herself, toast and real butter, to the jellies and pies and cakes she made, everything just tasted different there…special. I suppose it was because of the fact that it was all farm fresh, and not store bought, but I think it was the love that it was made with too.

We loved going out to that old house, even though it was a bit of a drive to be sure. They owned a lot of land…I’m not just sure how much, but it was a big ranch, so the drive out to the house took some time. You could see the highway from their front yard, but it was a long way off. Mostly they owned everything as far as the eye could see. I remember sleeping in the bedrooms upstairs where they raised their children, Bob’s aunts and uncles. The rooms still looked like they did when the kids were living there, complete with the pictures they had on their dressers. It was like stepping back into time, for a little while.

But the best times were spent in the kitchen. We would play cards, for as long as Grandpa (Walt, who was Bob’s step grandpa, but never felt like it to us) could keep the game going, or Grandma would call it a day. Grandpa could play cards all day if she would let him, but she has other things she needed to do. She was always busy in that kitchen. I often wondered if she was so busy because we were there, or if that was always how she was. Of course, when we were there, my girls and I would help out, which they really enjoyed. Funny how your kids enjoy helping out at someone else’s house, but will do anything to get out of work at your own house. She just made it feel like fun, I guess. The girls always felt special at Grandma’s table too, because she had these old pans, that looked like a camping skillet, that the kids got to eat out of. I suppose most people would laugh at that, but there isn’t a one of the grandchildren that didn’t get to use them, nor one that doesn’t love those old pans.

I have been thinking a lot about that old house, and the treasured memories I have from there, and wishing that those days weren’t in the past now. Grandma and Grandpa have gone home to be with the Lord, and while I miss them a lot, they will always live on in my memories…especially the ones in Grandma’s kitchen.

When Bob was young, he used to love to go to Montana to visit his grandmother. He would go almost every summer. He would help out on the ranch, milking cows, collecting eggs, feeding the stock, and anything else they were doing on the ranch. It was a young boy’s dream summer. Bob loved spending time with his grandma.

To a boy, getting to go spend part of his summer with his grandma was like winning the lottery. Grandmas are notorious for spoiling their grandchildren, even when they have them do chores. It just doesn’t seem like the same thing when it is for your grandma. Grandmas have a way of making chores fun, or maybe it’s just that when the chores are for your parents, it seems boring. Probably mostly because it is for your parents, right.

Bob never outgrew his love for spending time at his grandma’s ranch. As soon as he was old enough, he started going there on his own. Grandma loved having him visit. He even brought his friend Paul with him the last visit before Bob and I were married. He was so proud of his grandma.

After we were married, we continued the tradition of going to visit Grandma on a regular basis. She was so full of life. I quickly learned that Grandma had a way of making everyone feel special. She was so loving, and so welcoming. We went to visit her every summer. Our girls loved going, and Grandpa added to the draw that the ranch held, with his adventurous ways. We just never got tired of being there. They made it so interesting, and they really didn’t do anything so special. They were just themselves, and it was such a different world from what we were used to that we craved it at least once a year.

Grandma and Grandpa are both gone now and we haven’t seen the old ranch house in a long time, but they live on in my memories, as well as Bob’s. In my mind I can still picture the fun times we had out there. Our girls chasing chickens, and riding the horses. And while I wasn’t there at the time, my mind can dream up a picture of a little 10 year old boy spending the summer with his grandparents pretending to be a cowboy and helping with chores that were somehow fun when you did them for Grandma.

We have all at one time or another in our lives, been interested in horses. It just seems to be in our nature. We might go from a rocking horse, to a stick horse, to one on wheels, and eventually to one that is powered by horses. We even name our cars, school mascots, teams, etc, after horses a lot!! There is no doubt…we love horses.

When I was little I had a favorite rocking horse, that I trained to make ruts in my mother’s hardwood floor. We also had a German Shepherd dog named King, that my sisters and I used for our horse…and he was just gentle and kind enough to allow that.

My girls had a stick pony that my father-in-law made for them, which they loved. He gave them the ponies when they were 2 or 3, and they rode them for hours. Oh, the adventures they had! They headed out west, to play Cowboys and Indians…or just rode out across the plains to see what might lay on the other side of the hill…all this of course, in their imaginations, because they never really left the yard. But, that didn’t seem to matter. In their minds, they were explorers, or cowgirls, or just country girls out on a lark. They were on their ponies…just like at Grandma Hein’s ranch.

We went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein every summer, and my girls just adored them. Going to their ranch was that adventure come true. They explored the barn and found eggs hidden outside the chicken coop, where the hen was hoping to keep them safe for hatching, and avoid having them used for breakfast. They wandered over that next hill to see what might be there, and found an old play house where they would spend countless hours living in the old west.

And…they would get the chance to ride a real horse once in a while. Grandpa Hein would set them up on a huge horse, bareback, because their feet wouldn’t reach the sturrips on a saddle anyway, and he would lead them around the corral, while in their heads, they would build a story of being a real cowgirl in the old west.

Our trips to Grandma and Grandpa Hein’s ranch every summer were a rare treasure that my girls got to have, and one I will always be glad we gave them. Grandma and Grandpa Hein always made them feel so very special, as they did Bob and me. They were Bob’s grandma and step grandpa, but to us that didn’t matter. Grandpa was just Grandpa, and they were wonderful. We love and miss you both!!

When my girls were little, we made sure that they got to know their family in Forsyth, Montana by taking a trip up there every summer. Grandma and Grandpa owned a ranch up there, and we would stay at their house. Their ranch was unique to say the least. Grandpa was a bit of a pack rat, and there was always a variety of interesting things to be found on their place. My girls had a wonderful time exploring.

Going to visits Grandma and Grandpa was always a treat. Coffee with real cream, Strawberry Rhubarb jam on our toast, plenty of milk, fresh from the cows, fresh eggs from the chickens. It was wonderful to be out there, away from the hustle and bustle of home. We could just relax and play cards, which we did for hours on end, because that was what Grandpa most enjoyed doing, and he was ruthless at it, which is why I always wanted to be his partner.

But, the funniest memory I have of those early visits when my girl were young, is their first…and subsequent encounters with the chickens and rooster. I will never forget it and can very clearly see it in my mind. They took one look at those chickens, and started running after them, trying to catch them. Ha Ha Ha Ha, it was hilarious. They ran round and round, and I’m told that normally, the rooster would have gone after them, but he just took it all in stride, and ran. The adults laughed until our sides ached, and tears poured down our faces.

Grandma and Grandpa have been gone for a long time now, but those memories will live in my heart forever. They were the sweetest grandparents a girl could ever marry into.

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