From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Peterbang Kids

Troublemakers in the family


Isaac and I were talking about the Peterbang Kids on the way home from town tonight. I don't know where my mother got their name. I don't know if it was a product of her imagination, or if it was something she remembered from her own childhood.

When I first learned about the Peterbang Kids, we lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska. We had a blowout that we used as a landfill (as folks did in those days), and Mama said that the Peterbang Kids lived there.

The Peterbang Kids matched us exactly. They even had our names (except that their last name was Peterbang), and they looked exactly like us. The one big difference was that they were ornery and naughty, whereas we were sweet and nice. The Peterbangs loved to sneak into our house and do forbidden things and let us suffer the consequences!

When I was six, we moved to a ranch in southern Rock County, Nebraska. The Peterbang Kids slipped onto the very last truckload of stuff that was being moved (according to Mama). And of course, they moved right into the junkpile in the blowout at the new place.

Even though I knew the Peterbangs were imaginary, it wasn't too hard to imagine them living there in the blowout. Many interesting things had been thrown into the junkpile over the years -- old cookstoves and broken chairs, rusted out pans and leaky chamber pots, bottles of all sorts, broken dishes, old magazines, snarls of wire, odd bits of machinery and every other thing you could imagine. There was plenty of everything that a Peterbang might need.

It was handy that they did make the move with us because when we did something naughty-but-not-too-serious, Mama might laugh and say that she guessed the Peterbangs had been in the house again.

The years went by and I became a teenager and then a grown-up and finally, I almost forgot the Peterbangs. But when I had children, one of the Peterbangs found me again. It was the Peterbang girl who is just like me. She was grown-up now, with a little girl and boy who looked exactly like my little girl and boy. Her children even had the very same names as my children (except that their last name was Peterbang, of course.)

A little girl and boy who looked exactly like my little girl and boy

The Peterbangs first found us in Berlin, and then they slipped onto the plane when we came to Kentucky. They settled in the gully in Clarence's pasture where people had thrown a lot of old junk over the years. And they have sure caused a lot of mischief around here. Just ask my kids!

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.