My nephew, Garrett Stevens has had a great year. It has been a year of great change for him and his wife, Kayla, who welcomed their first child on August 3, 2018. Their daughter, Elliott has been the answer to prayer for both of them. For as long as I can remember, Garrett has loved kids, and Kayla has too. Now that he has a child of his own, Garrett is on cloud nine. He is a great dad, and a great husband.
This summer has been a busy one for Garrett and Kayla. Kayla was a bridesmaid in a wedding earlier that took the family to Huntington Beach, California. They had a great time enjoying the sun and sand. They went sight seeing, and just had a great vacation. This past weekend, Kayla had to go out of town for the weekend, and so Garrett found himself being Mister Mom. I think he would have had no problem taking care of Elliott alone, but he wanted to give his mom a chance to join in, and since it was Elliott’s first time away from her mommy, Garrett might have been just a little bit nervous. Having his mom there would help, in the event that Elliott was fussy. He needn’t have worried. It all went very well, and Garrett and his mom had a good visit too. It was a sweet gift he could give to his mom, my sister, Alena Stevens.
Garrett has been working hard, and making great strides in his career too. Garrett took after his grandpa, my dad, Allen Spencer, when he decided to become a welder. Garrett went to college for his chosen field, and he is very good at it. Garrett works at EMIT Technologies, Inc in Sheridan. Kayla told me that Garrett made her very proud yesterday, when he won an award for his work. She told me that Garrett’s boss, Will said that he has never seen a new hire come in and hit the ground running as hard as Garrett has and he was impressed with how Garrett is making changes to products to make them better!! Compliments from bosses just don’t get better than that. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you and we’re very proud of you!!
My niece, Kayla Stevens is first and foremost a wife to my nephew, Garrett, and a mom to their daughter, 10 month old Elliott Michelle. Being a mom is a dream come true for Kayla, and she is having the time of her life. She and Elliott are very close, and now that the weather is nicer, they have been going on walks every evening after Kayla gets off work. It’s their mother daughter time. Kayla is a great mom, and Elliott is a happy, healthy baby girl, who is full of smiles.
Kayla has been busy this summer being a bridesmaid for her friend Hannah’s wedding in Huntington Beach, California. The whole family went and had a great time. It was Elliott’s first vacation, and they made some great memories there. Kayla will be a bridesmaid in two more weddings this summer, so the summer is shaping up to be quite busy. Weddings are always fun, and for Kayla to be able to help celebrate with her friends is awesome.
A couple of weeks ago, Kayla started a new job at the VA Hospital in Sheridan, Wyoming on their suicide prevention task force. She has worked hard both studying to become a social worker and in her prior job, but I think that this is going to be the culmination of the vision she had for her career. So far she likes her new job. I think is takes a special kind of person to deal with the stresses and problems of other people, but Kayla has a heart for that, and I know that she is a blessing both to her coworkers and her patients.
Kayla’s family all live in Sheridan, and she still has all four of her grandparents, so her little family has been spending lots of time with all of them. They have started a tradition of getting together for lunch after church on Sundays with a lot of the family joining in. They also go to Kayla’s parents, Lynette and Wes Smiley’s house in the country for dinner on the weekends. Elliott loves to look at the cows and horses. Also, now that the weather is nice, they have been able to come to Casper to visit Garrett’s family, my sister, Alena and her husband Mike, as well as his sisters Michelle and Lacey. Alena and Mike have also had more opportunities to go to Sheridan to visit. Its a busy life in so many ways, but Kayla and Garrett feel very blessed with their little family, and their extended families. Today is Kayla’s birthday. Happy birthday Kayla!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
About 47 years ago, while on a family vacation to California, my brother-in-law, Ron Schulenberg decided that he wanted to stay in California, and when asked what they should do about his older brother, Bob, Ron said,”just send for him in the mail.” Unfortunately, Ron was a little late in history for his cool little idea. You see, while the mailing of children was a practice between 1913 and 1920, Ron was living in the year 1971. Nevertheless, while Ron’s idea was workable, he cannot be credited with the original idea.
When the Post Office’s Parcel Post service officially began on January 1, 1913, the new service suddenly allowed millions of Americans access to all kinds of goods and services. That was a great thing, but as is often the case, it almost immediately had some unintended consequences. Believe it or not, some parents decided to send their children through the mail. Just a few weeks after Parcel Post began, an Ohio couple named Jesse and Mathilda Beagle “mailed” their 8-month-old son James to his grandmother, who lived just a few miles away in Batavia. It seems that Baby James was just under the 11-pound weight limit for packages sent via Parcel Post, and his “delivery” cost his parents only 15 cents in postage. Of course, being the “responsible parents” they were, they did insure him for $50. As you can imagine, this “delivery” made the newspapers very quickly. While you might have thought about the outrage that would have come from such an action these days, it did not. In fact, for the next several years, similar stories would occasionally surface as other parents followed suit. One famous case, on February 19, 1914, was that of a four year old girl named Charlotte May Pierstorff was “mailed” via train from her home in Grangeville, Idaho to her grandparents’ house about 73 miles away. Nancy Pope, who wrote for the National Postal Museum wrote the story, which became so legendary, that it was even made into a children’s book, Mailing May. Luckily, little May wasn’t unceremoniously shoved into a canvas sack along with the other packages. As it turns out, she was accompanied on her trip by her mother’s cousin, who worked as a clerk for the railway mail service, according to United States Postal Service historian Jenny Lynch. It’s likely that his influence (and his willingness to chaperone his young cousin) is what convinced local officials to send the little girl along with the mail.
In the next few years, stories about children being mailed through rural routes would crop up from time to time as people pushed the limits of what could be sent through Parcel Post. The reason being that postage was cheaper than a train ticket. One of the most overlooked, yet most significant innovations of the early 20th century might be the Post Office’s decision to start shipping large parcels and packages through the mail. While private delivery companies flourished during the 19th century, the Parcel Post dramatically expanded the reach of mail-order companies to America’s many rural communities, as well as the demand for their products. Over the years, these stories continued to surface from time to time as parents occasionally managed to slip their children through the mail thanks to rural workers willing to let it slide. Finally, on June 14, 1913, several newspapers including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times all ran stories stating the the postmaster had officially decreed that children could no longer be sent through the mail. But while this announcement seems to have stemmed the trickle of tots traveling via post, Lynch says the story wasn’t entirely accurate. Soon, it became obvious that this bizarre practice had to be stopped, and on June 13, 1920, notice was given that the Post Office would no longer let children be sent through the mail. While child mailing stopped, there was a time when “Mail carriers were trusted servants, and that goes to prove it. There are stories of rural carriers delivering babies and taking care of the sick. Even now, they’ll save lives because they’re sometimes the only persons that visit a remote household every day.” Still, I don’t think I would mail my child somewhere. Thankfully, there are more travel options for children these days than pinning some postage to their shirts and sending them off with the mailman.
My older sister is without doubt, one of the nicest people I know. She is always careful of peoples feelings, and is generous to a fault. If she can help someone, she will help them. Cheryl is just a very caring person. She gave up much of her time to take care of our parents when they were ill, and often takes her youngest granddaughter, Aleesia for the evening, so that her parents can go to the summertime activities in downtown Casper with their sons. I’m sure that one day Aleesia will choose to go with them, but he loves her grandma very much and loves spending time with her.
Cheryl is a legal secretary for Williams, Porter, Day and Neville legal firm, and works for one of the busiest attorneys there, often working late hours to get everything done that needs to be done that day. She is very good at her job, and the attorney she works for has said that he would be lost without her, and really wishes she could see her way clear to refusing such things as vacation, because it is a real hardship for him when she is gone. Nevertheless, he has to persevere, because everyone needs a vacation.
Cheryl is a big fan of old movies or chic flicks, and so every Thursday night, she and I go to dinner with her daughter, Liz, and then we go back to her house and watch a movie. She and I don’t always agree on what makes a good movie, but usually we do. She has pretty good taste in movies…once you get away from things like “The Sound of Music” anyway. I know she would roll her eyes at me on that one, but there are just some shows that I can’t get into. Nevertheless, she got me going on the “Love Comes Softly” series, and “Sarah, Plain and Tall,” both of which I really enjoy. That sister time is really important to both of us, as we are very close, and we like to keep it that way. We have been good friends (and sisters) all our lives, and we don’t see any reason to change that now. Today is Cheryl’s birthday. Happy birthday Cheryl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
In years gone by, US Route 66 was also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, or the Mother Road. It was one of the original highways within the US Highway System. US Highway 66 was established on November 11, 1926, with road signs erected the following year. The highway became one of the most famous roads in the United States, and originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona before ending at Santa Monica, California, covering a total of 2,448 miles. It was highlighted by both the hit song “(Get Your Kicks) on Route 66” and the Route 66 television show in the 1960s, and later, “Wild Hogs.” After 59 years, on June 27, 1985, when the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials decertified the road and removed all its highway signs, and the famous Route 66 entered the realm of history.
The idea of building a highway along this route was first mentioned in Oklahoma in the mid-1920s. It was a way to link Oklahoma to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. Highway Commissioner Cyrus Avery said that it would also be a way of diverting traffic from Kansas City, Missouri and Denver. In 1926, the highway earned its official designation as Route 66. The diagonal course of Route 66 linked hundreds of mostly rural communities to the cities along its route. This was to allow farmers to have an easy transport route for grain and other types of produce for distribution to the cities. In the 1930s, the long-distance trucking industry used it as a way of competing with the railroad for dominance in the shipping market.
During the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, Route 66 was the scene of a mass westward migration, when more than 200,000 people traveled east from poverty-stricken, drought-ridden areas of California. John Steinbeck immortalized the highway in his classic 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” Beginning in the 1950s, the building of a massive system of interstate highways made older roads increasingly obsolete, and by 1970, modern four lane highways had bypassed nearly all sections of Route 66. In October 1984, Interstate 40 bypassed the last original stretch of Route 66 at Williams, Arizona. According to the National Historic Route 66 Federation, drivers can still use 85 percent of the road, and Route 66 has become a destination for tourists from all over the world. After watching Wild Hogs, Bob and I became two of the many tourists who did drive a little bit of it when we drove to Madrid, New Mexico as part of our vacation, doing all the touristy things.
I read in the paper on Monday about the 57th anniversary of the August 17, 1959 Hebgen Earthquake that created Earthquake Lake in Montana, just west of Yellowstone National Park. The 7.5 magnitude earthquake was the second strongest quake in the lower 48 states in the 20th century, according to the United States Forest Service, killing 28 people, including five people in one Idaho Falls family who were entombed in the ensuing landslide, and are still there to this day. I was only three years old when that quake occurred, so I wouldn’t remember it, nor am I aware that it was felt in Casper, Wyoming, where we live, although it might have been felt there too. Still, I doubt I would have remembered it.
What I do remember, is the trip our family took when I was a child, that included Earthquake Lake. I don’t recall whether I was told about the 28 people who died there, or the ones they never found, but I rather doubt it, because things like that tend to be something that sticks with me…even really bothering me when I was younger, because I almost felt like I was a trespasser on their graves. These days, I realize that being near someone’s grave, whether in a cemetery or a natural grave such as Earthquake Lake became, is still nothing more than a final resting place. What impresses me more now is the sadness of the loss. That family was on vacation, and suddenly their lives were gone…over in an instant. Along with the loss of life, there was the damage to roads, making it even harder to bring help in to the people who were trapped, although I’m not sure it would have made much difference.
I remember feeling the enormity of the catastrophic event that took place that day a number of years earlier. I was impressed by the ability of an earthquake to change the face of the landscape around it. What had been the Madison River, was blocked by a massive landslide creating Earthquake Lake. The deaths were random. A couple, Edgar and Ethel Stryker were killed by a boulder that crushed them, while their three young sons, sleeping in a nearby tent, were unhurt. Irene Bennett and her son Phil were saved, but her husband Purley and their three other children were killed. Myrtle Painter died of her injuries, while her 16 year old daughter Carole survived. That was the story of the event, this one died, and that one lived. I think that while I probably didn’t know about all those deaths, that I still felt the sadness of that place, because it is a place I have never forgotten. An earthquake that happens in a rural area seems to make us think that it was simple a change of the landscape, but that is rarely the case. It seems that there are almost always a few people in the area, and that means a loss of life. A very sad event indeed.
Lots of people do it, but some people don’t. What…you might ask. The answer is to photograph the family whenever they cross the border into a new state, country, or sometimes even county. When my sisters and I were kids, our parents took us on vacation every year. We were quite blessed in that way, and have been to almost all the states, as well as Canada and Mexico, with some of us traveling even further away than that. All through those years, one of the big memories is the Border Crossings. I’m sure many people might think that sounds silly, but it was proof that was had been in that place. Anyone can say they have been to many places around the world, but if you have no pictures to prove it, how do people know that you aren’t just a braggart.
For me it is about owning that place, I suppose. It’s not that I purchased land in every place I’ve been, but rather that each place that have put my feet on the ground in has been permanently fixed in my memory files. I have those pictures and many others in my memory to remind me of the great trip we took to this or that place. I carry those pictures in my memory files, just like my Kindle carries the assorted books I have purchased in its memory files. The items stored there can be accessed at a moment’s notice. I can see the area, remember the sights we saw, remember who we were with, and the wonderful time we had there. Those memories are mine forever.
There are many kinds of border crossings, both good and bad, but the ones I choose to carry with me are the crossings from state to state as we wandered across this great nation. If you haven’t traveled much you just can’t understand how amazing this country is. There is beauty from coast to coast. So many people think that only their dream location has beauty, but that is so untrue. Every place on this Earth has some form of beauty. We must simply look for it. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to see so many places, and discover the beauty in each one. Our parents wanted that for their girls. They were those people who would drive miles out of their way to see this or that historical site, and because of their willingness, and the fact that they considered each place important, my sisters and I can say that we have seen things like the Oregon Trail, old West Jailhouses, wagon ruts in rocks made by years of wheels going across them chipping away grain after grain of the rock, and canyons carved in rocks by rivers that have wandered through there for centuries. We have seen a crater formed by a meteor, a lake formed by an earthquake, and mountains formed by volcanoes. We have seen the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Great Lakes, and the Great Salt Lake. We have seen the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Center. We have seen the faces of the Presidents on Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument, ridden the 1880 Train, and some of us have hiked much of the Black Hills, including Harney Peak. We have seen the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Warf, and Alcatraz, as well as The Space Needle, many lighthouses, and countless beaches. So many places fill my memory files, and they all started with the first border crossing, as we left home on one of our wonderful family vacations.
The moonless night was dark, quiet, and peaceful. The children were tucked in their beds in the trailer, while their parents, my sister, Alena Stevens and her husband, Mike sat outside by the campfire. It had been a beautiful day on vacation. They love camping, and this was the perfect ending to a perfect day. After sitting by the campfire for a while, they decided that it was time to go to bed. They tip toed into the trailer, where the candle in the sink that Alena had left burning for a night light for the kids had burned itself out, leaving the trailer very dark. They climbed into bed, and started to drift off to sleep. Suddenly the quiet was shattered as their ten year old son, Garrett sat up and yelled, “I’m blind!!” To which my sister said, “No you’re not. It’s just dark. Go back to sleep.” I’m sure it was all she could do to hold back the giggles that were bubbling up inside her. I know it would be hard for me.
This was not the first time Garrett would do some goofy thing, nor would it be the last. When Garrett was about three or four, he decided that he wanted to ride a big boy bicycle, so his parents got him a two wheeler and put training wheels on it. Garrett was floating on air. He loved riding around on the bike. That didn’t mean, however, that he was in any hurry to get rid of the training wheels, because he wasn’t. Garrett rode around on that bike with training wheels for quite a while…so long, in fact that eventually, one of the training wheels fell off. Even then, Garrett didn’t feel the need to take off the other training wheel. No, he rode around on three wheels until the other training wheel broke off, probably during a leaning turn that only a kid who doesn’t need training wheels can make. And so it was that Garrett learned that he didn’t need training wheels, and probably hadn’t for some time.
Not all of Garrett’s antics were on his own, of course. His sisters, Michelle and Lacey got in on some of them too. I’m sure you think you know what to do with a sleeping bag, but you would be wrong. A sleeping bag isn’t just for sleeping. No, it makes a perfect sled too. The three kids used to get on the sleeping bags and slide down the stairs in the classic style of the Home Alone movies. The biggest problem was that unlike the Home Alone movie, where McCauley Calkin used the sled and went right out the front door, their stairs ended with a wall a very short distance away. Nevertheless, the fun continued until one of the kids hit the wall a little too hard and ended up crying. Then Alena had to make them stop.
Those days of being a silly little boy are long gone now, but Garrett is still a joker in any way he can think up. I guess some things will never change…or will they. These days Garrett is busy making plans of a different kind. He is ready to take the next big step in his life, as he and his fiancée, Kayla Smiley plan their wedding to take place some time next summer. Their marriage, however, will probably not change Garrett’s funny side. While Garrett is the kind of man who is always ready to help whenever he is needed, he also still loves to pull pranks and other jokes on people whenever he can. I’m quite sure that they will never have a dull moment in their lives together. Today is Garrett’s birthday. Happy birthday Garrett!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As we were going through our parents things after the passing of our mother, we came across several very old maps of different states, and also one that I received of London during World War II. It occurred to me that my sisters and I are a real novelty these days, in that we know how to read a map, and plan out a route to travel to anywhere we would like to go. I’m sure there are other people out there who can read maps too, but in this day and age of the GPS, many people can’t either. I’m all for technology, and I have a GPS myself, but I can also read a map, and that is because of my dad, and his determination to teach us that art.
Every year our family would take a vacation. Sometimes we didn’t travel very far, like the year we took a Wyoming tour, in several separate legs over the course of two weeks. Other times, we traveled quite a ways, like the years we went to visit our sister, Cheryl Masterson, while she was living in upstate New York. As students go, we were a novelty too, because every year when the teacher asked the inevitable question about what we did over the summer, we always had a story to tell. At the time, we didn’t realize just how blessed…and how traveled we were, compared to other students in class. I always thought that everyone took a vacation, but that isn’t so. Many kids got to go visit a grandparent or some other relative, but going to the same place every summer isn’t really a vacation.
Our parents were so excited about our vacations every year, and we would often sit down and Dad would show us the route we were going to take on our trip. It was during these vacation planning sessions, that we learned to read a map, and that we learned to enjoy reading a map. The map was never confusing or complicated to us, because Dad showed us how to read it. We knew the difference between an interstate and a state highway. We knew how to pick out the larger cities, as opposed to the small towns. We knew what states and what towns we would be traveling through, and we knew how to find the sights that were located in the area that might be of interest. We knew how to find campgrounds in the area, and how to figure out how far we could easily travel in a days time. All these things are on a map, if you know where to look for them, and thanks to our dad, we did.
I suppose that many people wouldn’t think of a map as a treasure, but for my sisters and me, they really were. We all had to have some of them, and every time we look at them, they will serve as a reminder of those planning sessions, and of all those amazing vacations we took as kids, with our parents. I have no problem with the convenience of a GPS, and in the big cities my husband Bob and I travel to, they are a great help, but if my GPS ever failed, I could still get us there with a map. It is a legacy that our dad left for his daughters. It does make us a novelty, but it is something we are all proud to be able to do, and thankful that we had the parents we had. Their interest in travel, and Dad’s teachings on maps clearly enriched our lives.
Turning 21 is a big day in the life of a kid. I use the word kid lightly, because they really haven’t been kids for quite some time. Nevertheless, to me they are still kids, except that they can now legally drink, and their parents truly hope that they will be careful and have a designated driver or take a cab home. Well, today is that special day for my cousin, Cody, but that isn’t what Cody is really all about.
I first met Cody when his Uncle Bill and Aunt Maureen brought him along on their family vacation in 2007 to visit our family, and leave my Uncle Bill, Cody’s grandpa with us for a week while they went to Yellowstone National Park to show their daughter Kristin and Cody all the sights there. Cody was a bit shy at first, but that really isn’t his true nature, and by the end of our time with them, we were enjoying good conversations with him. Since that time, I have watched Cody grow up on Facebook, and I’m very proud of the wonderful young man he has become.
It’s not easy for a young man to grow up without his dad, and since my cousin Jimmy died of Mesothelioma on February 1, 2006, that is what Cody has had to do. His mom, Tami has been a wonderful influence on him and did an amazing job of raising him, but a boy still misses his dad, when he doesn’t have him in his life…and Cody and his dad were very close.
Since finishing school, Cody has embarked on a new career with the developmentally disabled. It takes a very special person to work with the developmentally disabled, but the rewards are so amazingly great that every moment is priceless. I know this because of my own developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Marlyce, who passed away far too soon in 1989. The developmentally disabled, love those people who love them, and they love them dearly. Nevertheless, they do have special needs and need special handling, and being the sister-in-law to Marlyce, was very different that working in a group home with a group of developmentally disabled people. That is a big job and one that makes me very proud of Cody for his undertaking of it. More importantly Cody, I know that your dad would be very proud of the man you have become. Today is Cody’s 21st birthday. Happy birthday Cody!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you!!