Friday, June 30, 2006

The Hayfield

Making hay in the Nebraska Sandhills, 1960s

Ranchhand resting on haystackRanchhand resting on haystack. March, 1940, Dangberg Ranch, Douglas County, Nevada. Rothstein, Arthur, 1915- photographer. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF34-029989-D DLC.

I followed a link to the blog of Montana's Prairie Mary and read an interesting post titled "The Scent of Hay". I wrote a long comment there about hay stackers and hay stacks which started to look a blog entry, so I decided to stop writing there and continue my remarks here.

Here's what I wrote on her blog:

There are many references in the pioneer literature to the sweet fresh scent of a freshly-stuffed hay mattress.

I wondered, Mary, if the "beaver slides" you mention are the same as the "slide stacker" where a load of hay is pulled by cables and pulleys to the top of a triangular frame and dumped? The "buck" on which the hay rides is lying flat against the stacker's frame in the photo at this link.

When I was a child in Nebraska, we stacked hay with a similar contraption. In the old days, the load was pulled to the top by horses and they were called "the stacker team". In my day, a tractor was used to pull the load up, but the person who drove it was still said to drive "stacker team".

After the haystacks were made, the next big job was to get them off the meadow. They were drug to a stackyard, usually at the corner of the meadow, to await the day that they were fed to cattle. A well-made haystack withstood moving, but a poorly constructed one would fall apart.

Eventually, haymaking went to mostly square bales, and now I see a lot of big round bales when I visit the area.

I did a little research after writing the remarks above and answered my own question. Yes, "beaver slides" and "slide stackers" are the same piece of hayfield equipment. And yes, this is the same type of haystacker that we used when I was a child in the Nebraska Sandhills.

The first step in making a haystack was mowing the grass. When the grass was dried by the sun ("cured"), it was gathered into long windrows by a dump rake.

Then the sweep ran down each windrow and gathered the hay in a big bunch. The sweep was a tractor with its steering, transmission, and seat switched around so the big wheels were in front. It had a large "buck" mounted on the front (formerly the back) of the tractor. The buck was a rack of long wooden prongs ("teeth") that slid under the windrow to gather the hay into a big pile in front of the tractor.

The sweep pushed the load of hay to the stacker and onto the stacker buck. The stacker buck was much like the sweep buck -- a rack of long wooden teeth. With an arrangement of pulleys, the loaded stacker buck was then pulled to the top of a triangular frame and the hay was dumped into the stacker cage.

In the cage, the hay was leveled and packed by a man with a pitchfork. It was very important to get the hay firmly and evenly packed so that the stack would remain standing when the stacker cage was removed. It was also important to create a rounded top on the haystack so it would shed water.

In the hayfield, my father always ran the sweep because it was the command position. From there, he controlled the tempo of the work. The rake was kept busy providing him with windrows to sweep up, and the stacker was kept busy by the loads of hay he brought to it.

The long wooden teeth on the sweep were polished by the hay to an ultra-smooth, shiny finish that was pleasant for a child to stroke. Sometimes a tooth jammed into the ground and broke, and haymaking came to a halt until the tooth was replaced. New teeth were pre-shaped into a point at the factory, but they felt rough and splintery compared to those that had been in use for a while.

The most dangerous job in the hayfield was making the haystack. When the big heavy load of hay whizzed up the slide and shot into the cage, a careless hayhand could be buried or knocked off the stack if he wasn't safely out of the way. It was also a very hot, dirty job that required stamina and strength.

My own grandfather, Ralph Hill, broke his back somehow in a haystacker accident. I am not sure if he fell from the top of the stack, or if he was knocked off it by a load of hay. Perhaps someone in my family will tell me exactly how the accident happened. I believe he had climbed up there to help the hired man. At any rate, he was left partially paralyzed from the accident, a man in his 30's with a ranch to run and a family to provide for. Much responsibility fell on my father, the oldest son, from that day on.

I am sure that my grandfather's accident as well as efficiency in the hayfield played a part in my father developing a hayfield innovation that eliminated both the man in the stacker cage and the man at the stacker team. My dad welded a large tower onto an old truck chasis. The tower was positioned by the stacker cage, and a man on the tower brought the load of hay up the stacker slide and dumped it in the cage by remote controls and then used a hydraulic arm and hand to pack the hay into the haystack.

My father once commented that when he was a boy, it took a team of six or eight horses to pull a load of hay up the stacker, and there they stood all day, all that horseflesh for that one job. How glad they were, he said, to put a tractor to the stacker team position. Later, his invention reduced the stacking job to just one person.

Mowing was my job in the hayfield. I inherited this job from my mother. When we were little girls, she helped with the mowing. When I got old enough to drive a tractor, I helped with the mowing which kept me out of trouble and allowed my mother to do other things such as cook for the hay crew, ride the pastures to check on the cattle, and run to town for machinery parts.

When I first started mowing, I drove a little Allis Chalmers CA with a mowing machine that had a six or seven foot bar. I honestly think it was just a six foot bar.

I was the secondary mowing person. Don Saar, our hired man, was the primary mowing person and he had a double bar mower that cut a swath of 15 feet or more. My little mowing rig was fairly reliable about breaking down every afternoon at 4 p.m., so I usually got to go home early from the hayfield.

The next year, my dad bought a new 9-foot mower for me, and it didn't break down so I had to stay in the hayfield all day after that. A few years later, he bought a New Holland windrower, a big self-propelled machine that cut the hay, crimped it to accelerate the curing, and kicked it out into a windrow. When we got that machine, I became the only person mowing and I learned a lot about responsibility.

Mowing was a solitary job, and I had a lot of time to meditate while steering the machine down the edge of the uncut grass. Still, I had to pay enough attention to avoid leaving streaks of uncut hay from careless steering or from failing to notice that a clog of grass had developed on the mower bar. My dad hated streaks.

Making hay is the most important thing a rancher does every summer, because it's the winter food for the cattle. We had fine "sub-irrigated" hay meadows along the Skull and Bloody Creeks in Duff Valley, and I don't think our hay crop was ever poor enough that we had to buy hay. The hay meadows around Newport, Nebraska (in the same county that I grew up) are some of the finest in the world.

Truly, the bounty of the prairie is its grass.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Whale Parasites

More About Birds and Animals...

Isaac shared the following with me from Ripley's Believe It or Not: *

Top Five Whale Parasites...

1. Tapeworms 98 feet (30 meters) long in a sperm whale
2. Lungworms the size of a banana
3. Lip lice thumbsized, not real lice (insect) but crab relatives
4. Sinus flukes leech-shaped hand-sized animals in the sinus airways, occasionally burrow into the brain
5. Barnacles up to fist sized, mainly on the head

* Jenni Rainford, Clive Carpenter, Ripley Entertainment, Inc.. Ripley's Believe It or Not ( Orlando, Fla. : Ripley Publishing, 2004), 76.

I say YUCK.

You know what? If it turns out that I'm invited to come back to earth as a whale, I may just say "No."

Dill Flower

More About Trees and Plants...


This is the flower of the culinary herb, dill (or dillweed, as it's also called). Some dill pickle recipes call for a small dill flower to be canned in the jar with the pickles. This one would be too large.

Late in the summer when the heads are seedy, I always see goldfinches feeding on them.

I planted dill about a dozen years ago, and since then it has reseeded itself. I haven't made any dill pickles for a few years, but I still enjoy the dill plants. They grow where I can brush against them coming and going from the garden. Their fragrance reminds me of my Grandma Barb's garden.

Dill surely must be the easiest of all herbs to grow. Toss the seeds on bare ground and they will grow. Actually, that's what happens every year in my garden. The seeds fall to the ground, lie there through the winter, and sprout in the spring.

My dill plants often grow 4 to 5 feet tall and they're top-heavy, so they blow over easily in strong winds. (There may be dwarf varieties that don't have this problem.) A clump of dill can be supported with a few tomato cages, or just put 3 stakes in the ground around the clump and run some twine around the stakes.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Another Tobacco Barn

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...


A tobacco barn along the Shaw Ovil Road in Christian County, Kentucky.

Burger King Poster

And What I Think About It...

This new Burger King poster gets an "A" from me for style and wittiness. But they'd better be careful about mentioning unions around all those minimum-wage employees!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Hot Dog Memories

Grunkemeyer weiners of Burwell, NE, remembered

This afternoon at Vacation Bible School, while I was waiting for my time to help with music, I discussed the Friday night picnic with Pastor. "I suppose we could boil the weiners," he said.

What a rush of memory those words brought to my mind. I was transported across time and space to the early 1960's. The setting was the Rose Community Hall, thirty-two Sandhill miles south of Bassett, Nebraska.

The 4-H meeting was over and I was a ten-year-old, standing in line for refreshments. The kitchen's air was heavy with steam and the smell of boiled weiners and hot chocolate. Hot dogs and hot chocolate were standard fare for Rose Scouts 4-H Club meetings.

Then I thought about "Burwell weenies", as my family called them. In Burwell, Nebraska, a small town about 45 miles southeast of Rose, there was a wonderful little store on the town square called Grunkemeyer's Meat Market.

At Grunkemeyers, they made weiners the old fashioned way -- with a sausage stuffer. They used natural casings, and the weiners were made in a long string with each weiner tied off by a bit of strong cotton thread.

Grunkemeyer's weiners were absolutely the best I've ever eaten. I still remember how the skin popped when bitten. My dad loved them and we rarely went to Burwell without coming home with a couple pounds of them.

I'm grateful for the memories Pastor's words stirred.

And in case you were wondering, we decided to cook the weiners for the VBS picnic under the broiler in the oven.

- - - - -

I'm not 100% sure about the spelling of Grunkemeyer, but I think it was spelled with an "eyer" at the end. I read on a Grunkemier genealogy bulletin board that different members of the family have spelled it various ways over the years. One member gave the following history of the surname:
I am part of the West Coast Grunkemeier's. Family name originates from Westerkappeln, and Osnabruck area in Westphalia region of northern Germany. The name, roughly translated, means watcher by the side of a field. It is an old farming name. My lineage is from Hermann Henrich Grunkemeier, who settled in Burwell, NE, 1870's...

In a 1906 history of the Loup River, I read about Fred J. Grunkemeyer organizing relief efforts after a tornado in Burwell.

Drought Across the Plains and Beyond

The Rural Life...

I hate to hear that it's terribly dry in the Nebraska Sandhills, my childhood home. A friend writes to me that the hills are burnt up -- that is, the grass has shriveled and dried to a crispy crunch.

It's extremely dry in southwest Kansas where my brother and sister-in-law live and ranch. The wheat crop in Kansas is severely damaged this year, I've read. There won't be much of a hay crop either.

In Montana where Sarpy Sam ranches, his hay crop is running 1/3 less than normal due to the drought.

Texas and Oklahoma are suffering from a long drought and the drought extends across much of the Great Plains, the Great Basin, and the Southwest, creating fire hazards, creating adverse conditions for both wildlife and domesticated animals, and bringing economic stress to farmers and ranchers.

Even some of the Gulf Coast states like Georgia and Mississippi are dry. Louisiana is in a drought, as hard as that may be to believe.

AgWeb comments that, "Pastures and summer crops remain under varying degrees of drought stress from Texas to the Dakotas, despite last week’s scattered but highly beneficial showers."

A map of drought-stricken areas is provided at the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Let's join in earnest prayer for rain for these drought-stricken areas -- and for a moderation in the rainfall in New England where the floods are!

Kentucky has been fortunate compared to many states. Locally, the water table is low, but we've received enough rain that crops are looking good so far. (Photo of my neighbor's cornfield here.)

O GOD, most Merciful Father, in this our necessity, we beseech Thee to open the windows of heaven, and to send a fruitful rain upon us, to revive the earth, and to refresh the fruits thereof, that we may praise and glorify Thy Name for this Thy mercy; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
Prayer Source: Collects and Prayers of the Lutheran Church

O GOD, in Whom we live and move, and have our being, grant us rain, in due abundance, that, being sufficiently helped with temporal, we may the more confidently seek after eternal gifts. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayer Source: National Catholic Rural Life Conference

Google search: A prayer for rain

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Book Crossing

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Patti LaBelle Book

I was walking from my car to the front door of Walgreen Drugs a couple of weeks ago when I saw the above book lying on the bench. When I looked inside the front cover, I found a label directing the finder to When I entered the book's ID number, I found that a lady in Hopkinsville had bought it at a garage sale and "released" it as part of the "Arthritis Walk - You Can Make a Difference Challenge." I added a few lines to the book's history about where I found it and what I plan to do with it.

It's an interesting idea. I could probably round up a few books around here to "release".

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Morning Hollyhocks

The Rural Life...

There's a reason why I'm out and about so early this morning. About 5 a.m., I got up to get a drink. As I reached for the kitchen light, my foot brushed against something fuzzy. Skittles caught a mouse overnight, and not being hungry, she left him for me to admire. I just didn't feel like going back to bed after that.

Isaac told me a few days ago that he thought he might have seen a mouse. We debated on setting a trap or putting out poison, but we were afraid Skittles would come to some harm with them as she's always snooping around. Besides she is such a huntress that we decided we'd wait and see if she could catch it. Well, she did. And I hope that's the only one. I hope there's not a whole nest of them!

I Love A Piano!

My Various Hobbies...

PianoI know y'all have been pining to know exactly what I mean in my profile when I state that I like "any piano boogie-woogie."

Here's a great example of a piano boogie-woogie. (If the ending is unsettling, remember that it's been sequenced that way so it can be repeated seamlessly as background music.) And I could listen to the background boogie on this all-piano midi site all day long.

I also enjoy ragtime piano and bluesy piano and gospel piano -- really, any piano music with swing, rhythm, and feeling to it.

Why do my thoughts wander to the Blackwood Brothers? Because, dear hearts, many of the piano accompaniments on the old Blackwood Brothers albums were played as if a boogie-woogie could break out at any moment. I enjoy the sound of the piano as much as the harmonies of the Brothers.

I suppose the great pianist, Wally Varner, who played with the Blackwood Brothers in the 1950's and 60's came out of the same sorts of Southern influences that produced the piano-playing cousins: Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley, and Jimmy Swaggart. (Jimmy Swaggart fell into disgrace as a TV evangelist, but he could play the piano -- no one can deny that!)

The 50's and early 60's were great years for the Blackwood Brothers with Wally Varner at the keyboard and J.D. Sumner singing bass. If you ever get a chance, listen to the stereophonic sound of their early 60's recordings with headphones so you can experience J.D. singing deep, deep bass into your ear. He usually seemed to be on a separate channel from the other quartet members.

I'm wandering from the topic, so it must be time to quit.

Piano keyboard

Related posts:
Piano Tuning -- My piano.
Playing the Piano -- Why I admire people who can play the piano.

Related websites:
I Love A Piano
The Piano Bar
Piano Roll Midi's
Elvis and the Blackwood Brothers -- Only vaguely related, but an interesting short read if you're not already aware of the relationship.

And of course you already know that J.D. Sumner and the Stamps were back-up singers for Elvis during the 1970's and that James Blackwood and J.D. Sumners sang at Elvis's funeral (as did Jake Hess also.)

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Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Composter, But Not an Organic Gardener

The Rural Life... More About Trees and Plants...

Last fall, I raked some of the fallen leaves in our yard onto a big sheet of plastic and drug them to the garden. There, I dumped them into a cage made from welded-wire fencing and steel fence posts. On top of each load of leaves, I sprinkled a small coffee-can of high-nitrogen granular fertilizer to help accelerate the breakdown of the leaves into compost.

I used fertilizer because I didn't feel like hauling a load of manure. Leaves composted with manure make a great compost. The manure provides nitrogen to accelerate the breakdown of the carbon compounds in the leaves, as well as microorganisms to set the process in motion. (Don't be surprised if some seeds in the manure survive and sprout in the garden.)

When winter set in, I had a daily tray of ashes from the wood stove, so I started dumping them on the leaf pile too. I tried to be careful to let the ashes cool for at least 24 hours, but I did accidentally throw out some live coals one day. Before long, a little column of smoke was rising from the leaves, so I had to get out the hose and water it down. Lesson: be careful with ashes!

I should have tossed the leaves around during the winter to aerate them, but I didn't. By spring, a big pile of ashes had built up, and the ash and leaf combination was a heavy, hard-to-shovel mass. My shoulder was giving me problems at the time, so I had to get Isaac to mix them up. We tossed in some more fertilizer and soaked the pile thoroughly with the garden hose a few times.

I don't know if it was a good idea or not to put the ashes in the compost. Wood ashes contain acid-neutralizing chemicals just as lime does. However, those chemicals leach out rapidly when the ashes are wet, so I don't know how much nutrient the compost has retained from the ashes.

In addition, I recently read that ashes can raise the pH of the compost pile so much that it inhibits the microorganisms that cause decomposition. Maybe that's why the leaves didn't break down much through a long wet winter, despite being laced with granular fertilizer.

The leaves have been composting in their cage for about eight months now. I planted my tomatoes and peppers around the outside edge of the cage, and they are flourishing. I've been using some of the leaf compost as a mulch in the garden, over sheets of newspaper. It keeps the weeds down very well, and of course the leaves don't have any seeds in them to sprout.

GardeningUnfortunately, our yard has a lot of Bermuda grass in it. It's an African grass that spreads aggressively by seed, by casting out long runners, and by sending up sprouts from a tangled mass of wiry roots. It can be eradicated organically by digging out the roots, but every scrap of root must be removed or it will grow back.

After years of trying to keep it out of the garden by hand, I have finally started using a herbicide around the perimeters. Then I dig out by hand any that dares to grow within my declared BFZ (Bermuda-free Zone).

I'm going to spray around the outside edges of the garden this week with an all-season herbicide. I'll do it on a day when the air is still, and I'll use a large piece of cardboard to help keep the spray from drifting into the garden. I plant flowers around the garden edge, so the vegetables have a little buffer zone between them and the herbicide.

Bermuda grass takes much of the joy out of having beds of perennial flowers and plants. I desperately need to get the Bermuda out of my iris beds, for example. I'm going to clip the grass as close to the ground as possible with grass shears, and then spray with Grass-B-Gone, which is an Ortho herbicide that kills grass only.

I used to be a dedicated organic gardener, but Bermuda grass has changed my attitude. I still try to stay mostly organic within the garden, but around the edges and in the flower beds, I don't mind using some chemicals. If the end of this post has started to sound a little like an Ortho commercial, it's because I've learned that their products work!

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These Boots were Made for Steak Sauce

Not Easily Classified...

I was bedeviled by a small but nagging headache this morning at church. When we got home, I took a couple of extra-strength Tylenol and lay down on the sofa to watch Fox News. There's a standing joke about Mom watching "Fox-Snooze", and I did sleep for several hours.

BootI think I had many dreams, but I remember only a single scene. I was wearing knee-high leather boots and I was spreading steak sauce on them as I sat on a park bench in the cemetery. I assume that had something to do with the headache or perhaps Fox News.

Twenty-five years ago, I did own the boots in my dream. They were Frey boots, and I bought them at a railroad salvage store in Warrensburg, MO, for a fraction of what they were supposed to cost. I enjoyed those boots for several years until I became pregnant with Keely and my feet grew a full size. The boots were too tight after that and I gave up wearing them, but Keely was worth it.

I stuffed the boots with newspapers and kept them in the back of the closet for years until finally they fit Keely. They weren't considered stylish at middle school so Keely rarely wore them and soon she outgrew them too. I finally donated them to the church garage sale. I hope someone is still getting some use from them -- and I hope no one is spreading steak sauce or any other condiments on them!

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Flea Market Sights and Sounds

Rock & roll to shop by

PigsI saw these pigs this afternoon at the Merchants Mall, and I immediately thought about The Pondering Pig. Then I thought how odd that thought was. To explain it to most of my fellow shoppers would have required a lot of talking.

The flea market was playing some good old rock & roll on the loudspeaker today. After a dozen peppy toe-tappers like "Chantilly Lace" and "Johnny Be Good", they played "Good Night, Sweetheart"

Goodnight, sweetheart, well, it's time to go,
Goodnight, sweetheart, well, it's time to go,
I hate to leave you, but I really must say,
So goodnight, sweetheart, goodnight...

Several people around me began to sing along. A lady pushing her cart down the aisle gave me a random happy smile.

Real Player

And What I Think About It...

I think we've had RealPlayer in its various free versions on our computers for about ten years now. It's been a faithful friend until now.

When we got our current computer, I wanted to learn how to record our LP albums and put the music on CD's. In the learning process, I upgraded to the purchased version of RealPlayer because it allowed you to input LP's and cassette tapes and then record them out to CD's.

I eventually learned that Audacity, a free open-source program, did a much better job for me than RealPlayer. For example, with Audacity I could edit out many of the inevitable pops and crackles from our old vinyl.

Since then, RealPlayer has turned into less of a friend. Everytime I run AdAware to clean up the computer, it always finds a tracking cookie from RealMedia. Furthermore, I've had several annonying little pop-up windows out of the blue from RealMedia. Isaac said they pop-up due to shutting down RealPlayer. I'm not sure what he was doing, but I am sure that pop-ups are annoying and unwelcome and the only place I'm getting them from is RealMedia.

I wouldn't be too surprised if the free version produced tracking cookies and pop-ups, but I'm disgusted that a purchased version of the player behaves this way. I paid money for the darned thing so I hate to uninstall it -- but I'm thinking about it.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

My Son's Friend

All In The Family...

Jay is back in town for a month, and he is visiting at our house for a couple of days.

Isaac has known Jay since they were in first grade together. They went through five years of elementary school and two years of middle school, side by side, best friend, close as brothers.

Then Jay's parents divorced. Jay and his brother went with their dad to the West Coast to live, and the path the two boys had been walking together ended abruptly.

Every summer since they moved away, Jay and his brother have come back for a month to stay with their mom. The first time Jay came back, Isaac was worried that they wouldn't know what to say to each other. He didn't have to worry -- it wasn't a problem.

They'll both be high school seniors next year, and after high school everything will change again. I hope that as adults they'll continue their friendship. In life, you need some people whom you can ask, "Remember when--?" and they remember.

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Dellfeld and Nünschweiler

All In The Family...

For my family members who read the blog, here is an interesting thing I came across:

Heraldry (coat of arms) for Dellfeld. In the comment it says that the white rose of Martin Luther symbolizes the "importance of Lutheran colonists for the development of the village." George and Elisabeth were Lutherans until they became Methodists after they settled at Gordon, Nebraska.

Heraldry (coat of arms) for Nünschweiler.

Mama said her grandmother told her that in the village (I am not sure which of the villages she meant) the Catholics and Lutherans shared the same church building.

Related post:

My German Ancestors: George and Elisabeth Sees

Thursday, June 22, 2006

First Days of Summer

Summer whitesSummer whitesWinding roadLong and winding road...

Shelf fungiShelf fungiPetuniasBright midday sun

Across the ravineLooking across 
the ravine
CornfieldOur neighbor's corn crop 
is looking good.

New Ebenezer ChurchNew Ebenezer ChurchTobacco barn and flowersCorner of a tobacco barn

Milkweed blossomsMilkweed blossoms, 
lovely fragrance
Hayes RoadHayes Road through
Honey Grove Hollow

My German Ancestors, George and Elisabeth Sees

My mother's grandparents

George SeesGeorge C. Sees, born July 24, 1865
Parents: John and Susan Süß
Elisabeth Keller SeesElisabeth Keller Sees, born December 7, 1866
Parents: Andrew and Elisabeth Keller

For a couple of weeks, the Pondering Pig has been writing about Willa Cather. Cather's O Pioneers and My Antonia describe Nebraska during the days when my four sets of great-grandparents were establishing themselves there. And recently, I've been discussing the Gordon (Nebraska) area with Runaway Imagination. His father's people were from Western Nebraska.

I've been meditating on these things, and as I was putting away some photographs yesterday, my hands fell upon the photos of the little German villages my great-grandparents came from. From thence, the following...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

We spent a few days visiting Dellfeld and Nünschweiler, Germany in November of 1990. The two little villages are located across a field and over a hill from each other in Rheinland-Pfalz near Pirmassens and Zweibrucken. Great-grandma Sees was born in Dellfeld and Great-grandpa Sees was born in Nünschweiler.

We were living in Berlin with my husband's job, and we rented a car and drove out into west Germany, almost to France. Keely was five years old, so she has some memories of the trip, and Isaac was about 16 months.

I labeled the photos I took there and wrote six pages about the trip. When I looked at the notes and photos again yesterday, I was surprised how much I had forgotten about our visit there. Those memories would be gone forever if I hadn't written them down. At the time I did all that documentation to share the experience with my mother. Now I find I was writing for myself as well!

Here are a few images from Dellfeld where Elisabeth Keller was born.

View from a Dellfeld streetDellfeld street and countryside Dellfeld from the cemeteryDellfeld as seen from the cemetery
Dellfeld cemeteryIn the Dellfeld cemetery
Our dead in God, 1856 (poor translation)
Dellfeld train crossingOutskirts of Dellfeld

And here are some photos from Nünschweiler, the childhood home of George Süß. The name was also spelled "Süss". George americanized it to "Sees" because, he said, no one knew how to pronounce or write his German name.

Farm wagonNünschweiler is still a farming village. Sheep in NünschweilerSeen from the back of the cemetery

Barn in NünschweilerA barn in Nünschweiler Hillside gardensHillside gardens

Old church in Nünschweiler
I don't know if this old church in Nünschweiler is the one that forever influenced my great-grandmother's opinion of Catholics, but I think it would have been around during her time!

As a young girl, Elisabeth was a maid in a house near (or next to) the convent. She learned that children lived in the convent, and she believed their parents to be priests and nuns. Whether or not this was the case, the purity of the Catholic Church was forever tainted in her eyes.

George and Elisabeth were Lutherans and they converted to Methodism in Gordon, perhaps in one of the tent revival meetings of that day.

George came to America first and worked for a few years building railroads in the American west. My mother always said that he was about to be conscripted into the German army when he made a break for America. Cousin Alta (like my mother, a Sees grandchild) says that George stowed away on a ship, but didn't bring enough food to make it across the ocean. He got so hungry he had to come out, and the captain allowed him to work in return for his board and keep for the rest of the voyage.

After a few years in America, George decided he needed a wife, so he chose a German girl from a village (Dellfeld) just over the hill from the village where he grew up (Nünschweiler). I don't know whether they were acquainted with each other already or if someone made the arrangements. I am also not sure whether Elisabeth traveled to America alone, or if George went to Germany to get her.

America surely held more promise for Elisabeth than Germany did. After her father died suddenly at a young age (from a burst appendix), her mother married a man who was apparently a monster. He raped Elisabeth's twin sister and she died from her injuries, as I understand it. (This was discussed at a Sees cousins' reunion that I attended in about 2000.) I don't know what age the girls were when this happened.

Then Elisabeth's mother died as well. Cousin Alta thinks that she also suffered a burst appendix. At any rate, when Elisabeth decided to go to America and marry George, she was on her own without mother or father, and she was working as a servant in the house I mentioned above.

George and Elisabeth were married in 1889, in Grand Island, Nebraska. During their first year of marriage, they lived with and worked for a cousin of George's near Grand Island. Thereafter, they lived in New Mexico for a while. They also lived near St. Paul, Nebraska, where an infant daughter (Caroline) was buried, before finally homesteading at Gordon with their five children.

My mother said her father, Harry Sees, told a story about the arrival of the Sees family in Gordon. As the train pulled in, her father observed some Indians chasing down a stray dog. When they caught it, they butchered it and cooked it over a fire.

I am not sure where George and Elisabeth homesteaded, but it was near Gordon, Nebraska. The land is now owned by descendants of the oldest daughter, Elva Sees Hix.

George knew some English already when he came to America, and he improved it while working on the railroads. (Alta thinks that George's mother may have been English in nationality. I don't know anything to either prove or disprove this. My mother's family tree papers show that George's mother was Susanna Steffan, but no other information is given -- not even a date of birth or death.)

Elisabeth spoke only German when she came to America, and she didn't learn English until her children went to school. Then she made them teach her each night what they had learned at school that day.

My mother told a story about World War I when anti-German sentiment was running high. A group of unfriendly people gathered outside the George Sees farmhouse one night. (I don't know how many people were in the crowd, but I'll bet most of them had been drinking.) My great-grandfather took his citizenship papers in hand and shook them at the people who dared to threaten his family and farm. This is the part of the story that I remember best, but my brother says that George also let the crowd in his yard know that he and his three strong sons (including my Grandpa Harry) would return in kind any damage that they suffered. The thugs left, and that was the end of it.

Another story my mother told was about George's bother Jakob. He came to visit from Germany but he didn't like it in America so he went back home. Elisabeth told my mother that Jakob set his boots outside his bedroom door, expecting her to clean them, but she ignored them. Elisabeth said Jakob seemed to think he was still in Germany, but she was an American woman!

Elisabeth's influence on my mother was significant because Mama's mother, Violet Eaton Sees, had passed away when Mama was eight years old. When my mother went to high school, she lived in town with George and Elisabeth, who were getting older and needed some help. Mama talked about doing many chores for them, particularly taking care of the chickens and cleaning the henhouse. During the four school years she lived with them, she was tutored in the family stories by her grandparents.

When I learned some German, I recognized the German influence in my mother's speech. I think she picked up the German words and idioms from her grandparents as well as her father.

As World War II approached and Nazi Germany began to flex its muscle, George and Elisabeth blamed  power-hungry political and military leaders. They shook their heads and said, "It isn't the people, it isn't the people!"  They did not live long enough to know the extremes to which the Nazis would go.  George passed away on July 27, 1940, and Elisabeth passed away on August 26, 1940.

George and Elisabeth Sees are buried in the Gordon cemetery, on the south side. I don't know what George died from, but my mother thought Elisabeth may have had undiagnosed leukemia.  (Leukemia is the curse of the Sees family).

The last communication that my mother remembered with the German branch of the Süß or Süss family was after World War II. They wrote asking the Sees family at Gordon to send soap and other items that were unavailable in Germany. The items were sent, and that seems to have been the last communication.

I don't believe Great-grandma Elisabeth had much (if any) contact with her family after she left Germany. My mother never mentioned anything about the Kellers.

I was not able to meet any relatives when we visited the ancestral villages, but I did find some tombstones in the Nünschweiler cemeteries bearing the names Süß and Süss. There were several Jakobs. We were told of a Dr. Lora Süss from Dellfeld, but she seemed to be out of town and we were not able to return due to the limits of our schedule.

Later, my mother was contacted by descendants of a cousin of George Sees who had also visited Dellfeld and Nünschweiler doing family research. (This explains why the German lady at the Dellfeld post office told me that I was the second American who had come asking about the Süss family.) I believe the cousin's last name was Stenger, Stanger, or something along that line. (Please correct me, if you know.) Mama wrote down some family tree information and passed it on to them.

And there you have it, kids. I wrote it down for you. It's up to you to save it and pass it on. Just remember that my great-grandparents are your great-great grandparents.

George and Elisabeth Sees, probably during the 1930's.

Related post: Dellfeld and Nünschweiler

Updated 8/27/2010
Please let me know if additions or corrections should be made!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Clover "Honey"

The Rural Life... More About Trees and Plants...

Red clover

This is a great "simple syrup" for pancakes, waffles or biscuits. It's fun to make a batch and enjoy the clover flavor. I know this isn't my recipe blog, but it's such an interesting recipe, I thought some might enjoy reading it.

100 red and/or white clover blossoms
5 lbs. granulated sugar
1 1/2 pints water
1 teaspoon powdered alum

Collect the clover blossoms from an area where you are sure they have not been sprayed with chemicals. (Alfalfa blossoms may be added as well.) Remove the green leaflets and stems from the blossoms and rinse them thoroughly in cold water.

Prepare the canning jars and lids.

Stir the sugar and water together in a large saucepan and heat to boiling, stirring frequently. When the sugar mixture comes to a full boil, cook it until the syrup becomes clear. Add the alum and boil 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Add the clover blossoms to the hot syrup, stirring very gently to settle them into the mixture. Cover the syrup and allow the blossoms to steep for 10 min. Strain the syrup through a sieve to remove the blossoms.

Reheat the syrup to a full boil. Fill sterilized jars leaving 1/2" headroom; process in a boiling water bath for 5 min.

VARIATION: For a smaller batch, use 20-25 clover blossoms, 1 lb. sugar, 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. water, and 1/4 tsp. alum. Fill sterilized jars. Process in boiling water bath, or seal and store in the refrigerator to be used within a couple weeks.

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Voices of the Sandhills

Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

Updated 6-22-06

Voices of the Sandhills

Several people who read this blog are interested in the Nebraska Sandhills, so I thought I'd mention an interesting little newspaper, Voices of the Sandhills, that is published in Tryon, Nebraska.

This little newspaper is found in Nebraska restaurants and hotels, free for the taking. I've read and enjoyed it while touring through northern Nebraska, and my girlfriend has sent me more issues from time to time.

It features "Western History and Early Day Pictures". Here are some article topics from a few issues:

  • 1000 Mile Horse Race From Chadron, Nebraska to Chicago, Illinois
  • Naming the Town of Hyannis
  • History of the Arikaras
  • Common Sandhill Bachelor's Headquarters Described
  • Some Early Day Food Preparations Explained
  • Once Again The Horse Is An Unsung Hero
  • General Drum Feels The Sorrow of Chief Spotted Tail
  • Most of John Nelson's Problems Caused by His Many Wives

I believe it is published quarterly. I called to inquire, and a pleasant lady whose voice sounds like my Aunt Becky told me that the current subscription rate (as of June, 2006) is $9.50 per year. The newspaper itself is free and the fee covers the costs of postage and handling.

I have been talking about subscribing for quite a while. I made out the check this morning and put in a stamped envelope. Now all I have to do is get it to the mailbox!

The mailing address is:

HC6 Box 108
Tryon, NE 69157

Telephone: 308-587-2333

Near Arthur, NebraskaNear Arthur, Nebraska
About 40 miles west of Tryon

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Rated by Isaac: *

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Waterline Digger

The Rural Life...

Oh happy day! The plumbers are installing the waterline today. They've already dug 2/3 of the way across the pasture, so they must not yet have run into rock. I am thankful. Perhaps we'll have running water again by the end of the week! I am pinning my hopes on "Water by Saturday" and perhaps I'll be pleasantly surprised.


Water is flowing through our faucets again. I can't believe they dug it in and hooked it up so quickly. The ditch can't be closed until the plumbing inspector comes, but we have running water again. I am so thankful. And now, to start on the laundry...

Waterline being dug

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Monday, June 19, 2006

Snake Stories

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Since seeing the snake in the hollow branch this morning, I've been thinking about snakes ever since.

I've had several interesting snake experiences here. I've told the story of one of them already today (in a comment at the above link), and here are a few more.

About ten years ago, we planted a long row of shrubs to grow into a hedge along our property line. I was trying to keep the grass down in the hedgerow because the shrubs were so small. I had mowed around the little shrubs as much as I could, and I was clipping along with a pair of grass shears when I suddenly realized that I could see a portion of a large snake just a few inches from my hand.

After a moment of horror, I realized that he was obviously kin to a blacksnake and thus harmless. I went to get my garden hoe so I could pull him out and see just how big he was, but when I came back he was gone.

I had several close encounters with him in my garden. One time I was picking beans and there he was, gliding along under the bean plants. I kept telling my husband and kids about him, but no one else ever saw him. Dennis started calling him "Fred".

One day, I found a six foot snake skin at the edge of the garden and finally I had proof that Fred's length was not just my imagination. A few days later, Dennis came in the house and said he had decided to postpone mowing one part of the lawn. He had been mowing around and around in an ever-smaller circle, and when there was only a little round patch of grass left... there was Fred in it!

One time Keely was collecting insects for a middle school science class. The deadline was near and she didn't have enough insects yet, so Isaac and I were helping her. It is surprisingly difficult to catch some types of bugs. It's also surprising how few different species of bugs you can find when you're looking for them.

We finally developed an odd technique that worked fairly well. When we saw a desirable bug, I slapped down the mesh kitchen strainer over him. Isaac scooped him up a big spoon as he tried to escape around the edges, and Keely operated the jar.

I said to the kids, "Let's roll over this rock and see if there's any bugs under it." We all knelt on the grass around the rock and assumed our positions -- strainer, spoon, and jar ready. I rolled the rock over and we all screamed in unison. There was a snake, of course.

It's a good idea in Kentucky to wear leather gloves when picking up rocks, branches, bales of straw, boards, and anything else that a snake might be under. That's a rule we were breaking when we were bug collecting. Fortunately, it was just a little non-poisonous snake.

When I meet small snakes in my garden, I try to relocate them. I know they're in the garden to eat bugs, but I just don't like snakey surprises. I get a 7.5 gallon bucket (deep!) and my shovel. Usually by the time I get back with these tools, the snake is gone, but if it is still there, I lift it as gently as I can with the shovel, place it in the bucket, and then release it in the woods along our lane.

We have never seen a poisonous snake on our place, but there are both copperheads and timber rattlers in this part of the county. A trash fire got out of hand and burned a few acres about 1/2 mile from here several years ago, and a big copperhead was killed somehow as a result of it. I don't remember whether it was hurt by the fire or it was killed by the firefighters. I do remember that they hung it on the barbed wire fence for everyone to see its size.

I wrote the following in 1997 for a now-defunct internet bulletin board that I enjoyed for several years:

I thought this might be interesting to some. It certainly gave me a strange chill to hear about it. A farmer neighbor who came in the place where I work told me this today.

This afternoon, the farmer was tending to his "dark barns"--which are the barns in which dark tobacco is hung and cured. A fire is kept smouldering on the dirt floor of a dark barn to fill it with smoke.

Tobacco farmers get slabs and sawdust from sawmills to burn in their dark barns. Slabs are the portion of a log cut off to square it up enough that boards can be cut, so they are rounded with bark on one side and flat with wood on the other side. Slabs don't stack well, so they are sold by the bundle. Farmers haul them all year around from the sawmills because they're hard to find during tobacco season.

This afternoon, this farmer opened up a bundle of slabs that had been brought early this spring to an isolated barn in a backwoods "holler" a couple miles off the highway. To his horror, when he cut the bands on the bundle and it fell open, he saw that it was squirming with copperheads. He killed 23 copperheads out of that bundle of slabs--two adult snakes that may have been two to three feet long judging from the length he indicated with his hands as he was telling the story--and 21 little ones.

I realize that snakes have their own important place in the ecosystem, but I don't blame that farmer for killing them. He didn't want 23 copperheads looking for a new home around his tobacco barn.

He told me that he has found copperheads before in bundles of slabs, but usually just one or two. This is the most he's ever found or heard of anyone finding.

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Snake in a Hollow Branch

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Birds and Animals...

A very large branch broke from one of the old maple trees in our yard during the storm on Saturday night. We didn't know it until Sunday. Today, a neighbor came over to help saw it up. He was packing up his saw and getting ready to leave when he noticed this snake curled up in a hollow section of log.

I don't think it's a timber rattler. I think it might be a rat snake.

Snake from front
Snake from front
Snake from back
Snake from back

Sections of tree branch

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Field of Straw Bales

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

Straw in the fieldStraw bales

These straw bales got a lot of rain on them this weekend. Each one will weigh a ton if the farmer tries to pick them up tomorrow. Well, maybe not a ton, but they'll be heavy with water.

For those who are not familiar with the process here, this is a wheatfield that has been harvested. First, the heads of the wheat plants were cut off and the grain was sifted out with a big machine called a combine. After the seeds were collected, then the stems of the wheat are cut and baled as straw to be used for animal bedding, mulch, and so on.

That's one reason why straw is a great mulch for the garden. Nearly all seeds have been removed from it! It's essentially sterile, and it biodegrades.

This field will probably be planted to soybeans in the next week or so. It will be planted "no-till"-- that is, it will be planted without plowing up the ground. The seeds will simply be inserted into the ground through the wheat stubble.

Field of Tobacco Plants

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South...

Field of tobacco

The farmers are finished now with tobacco planting. The seeds are started in greenhouses early in the spring and the little plants grow there until the weather is warm. Each plant is then set by hand in the field.

The field will be tended by hand, much like a vegetable garden, until harvest. Many farmers plant a few short rows of tomatoes or sweet corn at the edge of the field since they will be in the field every day, hoe in hand.

At harvest time, the tobacco will be cut by hand and hung in barns (like the one in the background) to cure. Depending on the variety of tobacco, curing may involve "firing" the tobacco so that it's leaves are flavored by smoke. When cured, the leaves will be stripped from the stalks by hand and packed into a small bale.

These appear to be dark tobacco plants, and they will probably be fired. They might eventually end up at the Copenhagen and Skoal factory in Hopkinsville, or they might go into pipe tobacco or cigars.

When I first came here, I had real doubts about whether anyone should grow tobacco because its products are so addictive and harmful. However, after watching my farmer neighbors work terribly hard in their tobacco fields throughout the hot, humid Kentucky summers, I respect the skill and hard labor they put into a crop of tobacco.

Tobacco has been grown here for a long, long time, and many of these farmers have been growing it all their lives. The whole history of Christian County, Kentucky, is centered around the growing of tobacco. The local farm economy relies less on tobacco nowadays than in times past, but I think some tobacco will always be grown here.

Related posts:
Old Tobacco Barn
Tobacco In Hopkinsville and Christian County
Tobacco Barn

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Running Water

The Rural Life...

I have a new appreciation for running water -- that is, water that flows through faucets and other plumbing fixtures.

Throwing money down the well I wrote a post several weeks ago about problems with our water pump. I won't go into excruciating details but something is still wrong with the pump, the pump motor, the electricity, or the pipe that goes down into the well.

The pump man who has kept our water running for 15 years has just had knee surgery and is not able to work. In his absence, we've invested about $450 and too much time and frustration in repairmen who don't know much about pumps and wells! We've finally decided to solve the problem permanently by having county water piped in.

Bringing in county water has been a rather tedious and slow process involving easements and plumbing permits and delays in getting the meter set but on Tuesday, the plumbers are supposed to start cutting the ditch and laying the quarter-mile of pipe.

When all the pipe is connected, a plumbing inspector has to check everything and perform a pressure test to make sure nothing is leaking. Then the ditch can be closed and we'll have running water again. I hope this miraculous feat will be accomplished by the end of this week!

One good thing is that another of our neighbors decided to go halves with the cost of the ditch and have water piped to the edge of his property as well. We each have to buy our own pipe, though. The final cost will probably be around $1500 for the waterline (around $2000 when the cost of the meter and easement is included.)

County water will be a big improvement. We'll have a monthly water bill for the first time in 15 years, but we shouldn't have any more unusual water-repair bills for many years. We'll still have water if the electricity goes out in winter storms. The purity of the water will be monitored and no doubt, it will be safer than our well water. Furthermore, having county water will increase the property's value.

We probably should have done this years ago, but our pump man was always able to keep our well going for us. The well will still be inside its little house in case we ever need it. It's good to know that if we must, we can take the grating off it, drop a bucket on a rope and get water. We don't intend to ever close it off.

We've been hauling water from a neighbor's garden hose to wash dishes, flush the toilets, bathe, and so on for about two weeks now. We've been washing our clothes at the laundramat (and that's just as much fun as it ever was, ha!)

I don't want to complain too much because everytime we've gone for water in our truck, I've thought about the people in this world who haul their water for miles with a yoke over their shoulders.

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Saturday, June 17, 2006

After The Rain

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

After the rainGray sky after the rain

About 4:30 this afternoon, a thunderstorm swept in from the southeast. The wind came first with a terrible blast, followed by sheets of rain, lightning strikes, and booming thunder.

We saw a lot of damage in the wheat fields when we went to Hopkinsville this evening. The strong winds laid big patches of ripe wheat flat on the ground. Some of it will spring back up when it dries, but I don't think all of it will.

On the bright side, we really needed the rain. It was starting to get dry and dusty here, and June is too early for that. July, August, and September are usually our dry months of the year. This rain will probably be enough for the corn crop to finish growing. The corn was already looking very good, and this rain and the natural nitrogen in it will give it another growth surge just as it begins forming its ears.

A few bolts of lightning came down (or sprang up, scientists would say) very close to the house and we apparently had some damage somewhere in the connection of the external modem to the phone line. To connect to the internet, I had to disconnect the external modem and use the modem inside the computer. I will conduct scientific experiments tomorrow to see exactly where the problem is. It might be the line that goes to the external modem, not the modem itself.

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Historic Hopkinsville

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... History and Old Stuff...

Law office

This old building on Main Street in Hopkinsville has seen some restoration and repair by local lawyer, Lester Guier, whose offices are in it. If only the building below had been so fortunate. It's a three-story building, with stained glass in one of its most ornate windows. It sits just two doors down from the Guier building and it's another of the 120-year-old buildings on historic Main Street. Unfortunately, this building's facade is badly deteriorated and only getting worse. Notice how the bricks are falling away at upper right, allowing rain to seep into the walls of the building. I'm afraid it's gotten so bad that it won't ever be restored now.

Top of old building

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Cattle Drive Chow

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

I recently read a little item about "Cattle-drive Chow"on the Denver Post website, and I immediately thought about my mother's wooden picnic box and the cattle drive chow she served from the tailgate of our pickup truck.

In late May each year, after the last snowstorm had done its worst and the grass had started to grow again, it was time to move the cattle to summer pasture south of the Calamus River in Loup County. This was an all-day cattle drive, and we usually had several such drives in the spring and again in the fall when the cattle came home.

From our ranch (The Diamond Lazy H), we drove the cattle south through several of the neighbor's pastures, and then followed small roads that led cross-country to the bridge over the Calamus near the south headquarters of the Shovel Dot Ranch. In all, it was about 15 miles.

Early in the morning, the men started off with a herd of cattle. Usually we had three riders. My dad had a palomino horse named Tex. My brother and the hired man rode Spade and Keeno, the tall sorrels.

I remember riding along once on Beauty, the little Shetland mare. I had to fight her all day to keep her from running wildly into the herd of cattle to spook them. If you've ever ridden a headstrong, incorrigible little Shetland, you can imagine what a brat she was; otherwise, it's probably beyond your comprehension.

Anyway, my usual part in a cattle drive was helping my mother get lunch there. (I never said I was a cowgirl. I just said that I grew up on a cattle ranch!)

The cattle went willingly once they got the idea that they were moving to fresh pasture. They followed each other peacefully southward down the sandy little two-track roads. A rider went in front to keep the cattle headed in the right direction at the few crossroads, but mostly it was just a day of keeping the cattle moving steadily. An uneventful cattle drive was a good cattle drive.

Meanwhile, my mother was having a crazy morning. She got up early and gave everyone a good breakfast. Then she went to the pasture to help the men round up the cattle and start off.

When they were on their way, she came back home, got the breakfast dishes off the table and fixed a cattle-drive lunch. Usually, she made beef stew or beef and noodles and homemade rolls. There would be side dishes like jello salad, macaroni and cheese, or green beans, carrot and celery sticks, possibly some canned fruit or canned shoestring potatoes, and cake or cookies for dessert.

Mama had a wooden picnic box that my dad had made. It was about 2 feet long and about 15 inches high and wide, and its lid slid off. We packed all the dishes, glasses, napkins, silverware, a tablecloth, and any canned goods and condiments in it.

Then my mom wrapped all the hot dishes in newspapers and bath towels and packed them into cardboard boxes. Cold dishes were packed the same way. Last, we fixed a big Igloo cooler of ice water. Then we loaded everything in the pickup and off we went with Mama driving and the horse trailer in tow .

When we caught up with the cattle drive, we followed along behind the horses until we came to a place where the road was fenced on both sides. There the cattle were contained, and since they were hungry, they grazed the roadsides while we ate lunch.

Everyone was hungry! My mom spread the tablecloth on the tailgate of the pickup, set out the food, and after blessing, we all enjoyed a hearty hot lunch in the sunshine of a spring day. I remember those meals as always delicious.

After lunch, perishable leftovers were discarded, dirty dishes were scraped to be washed later, and everything was packed back up. We followed the herd for the rest of the afternoon with the pickup and trailer until we finally crossed the river and reached the pasture. Then we loaded the horses into the trailer and the people into the pickup as the sun set.

When we got home, Mama fixed supper for us and dealt with the picnic box and the dirty dishes from lunch. She made us girls help, of course, but I realize now that cattle drives must have been a long hard day for her.

To my mother, it was another day on the ranch, doing the work of the season. She was a full partner in making the ranch successful and her work as a ranch wife was vitally important for my family.

The photo below was taken in August of 1995. Mama is playing ball with the grandkids. She passed away on June 14, 1997, nine years ago yesterday.

Grandma at bat


Photos of a cattle drive near Eli, Nebraska, posted by "Soapweed". Here's another set of photos of cattle going to summer pasture. I visit the Rancher's Net Forums every now and then, just to look at Soapweed's beautiful photos of Sandhill ranch life. They remind me so much of where I grew up that sometimes they make me homesick.

An interesting thing about Soapweed is that he was a neighbor to Lloyd and Eileen Morton of Eli, Nebraska, and rented pasture from them for many years (and now rents from their son, I believe.) Lloyd and Eileen introduced my parents to each other back in 1944 when my mom was a schoolteacher at Eli and my dad was a young cowboy from Moon Lake, south of Johnstown. In May of 1945, they stood up with my parents at their wedding.

Soapweed is about my age, so he wasn't born yet in 1944-45. I know all this from exchanging a few e-mails with him, and I'm mentioning it here for my family members who will be interested.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Trumpet Vine

Life in The Upper South... More About Trees and Plants...

Trumpet vine

Here's a bit of trumpet vine, growing alongside our lane. It seems to be struggling a little, perhaps because of a lack of sunshine or perhaps from competition from the aggressive alien invader, honeysuckle. I think I see some honeysuckle foliage at the bottom of the photo.

Lack of sunshine is usually just a temporary problem for a trumpet vine. In its passion for a place in the sun, it will cover any available supporting structures, whether trees, bushes, a trellis or arbor or even a house.

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended.

Source: Wikipedia's article about trumpet vine

However, in competitions between honeysuckle and trumpet vine, honeysuckle will choke out trumpet vine and take its place. In the time we've lived here, I've seen this happen in my own yard.

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Make Lists and Get Stuff Done

Here's an interesting and potentially useful internet tool/toy -- Ta-da Lists.

Ta-da makes it easy to...
  • Keep track of all the little things you need to get done
  • Make lists for other people (co-workers, friends, family)
  • Share lists with the world ("My favorite movies of 2004")
  • Subscribe to your lists in RSS so you're always on track
Read more: Ta-da Lists

Harry Central

Blogs and Blogging...

One of the curious, creative uses people have invented for the internet is the sharing of fan fiction. Fan fiction is written by people who are fans of various popular books. They invent further adventures for the characters and post them on a specialized bulletin board for other fans to read and enjoy.

Often, the new fiction is posted chapter by chapter as it is written, and readers post comments about it much like a blog. (That's why I decided this post fit better under blogging than any other category.)

Isaac follows some of the authors at FanFiction.Net. This Harry Potter story that Isaac invited me to read a few days ago explains quite well what fan fiction is. It's a cute, amusing story written by a computer programmer whose screen name is Wishweaver. If you have a few minutes, why not take time to enjoy this writer's lively imagination?

"Well, Harry, just one more to go and then we're finished, aren't we?'

Harry Potter glanced up at the blonde-haired woman as she regarded the sixth book in her series, and ran her fingers lightly over the colorful dust cover. This summons didn't seem to be a working one. She was thinking about him, and the excitement generated by the new release, but she wasn't writing.

Harry couldn't claim to be surprised, not after six books now. He knew how she tended to operate. The release of a book always meant a little downtime for everyone. The Woman, he supposed, would go and do things more interesting than writing for hours on end, day after day, and he would go back to his shelf.

This wasn't an unusual circumstance, of course. He was returned to his shelf every time she finished writing for the day. As she began thinking of other things, he would feel the now familiar sensation of a hook being jerked behind his navel. Once dismissed, he would be returned to his shelf, but this time, instead of her fetching him again in the morning, he would remain there until she thought of him again, or was ready to start her next project...

Read the rest of the story: Harry Central.

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17th Birthday

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

17th birthday

Though it seems impossible, Isaac turned 17 years old yesterday. He was born on a Tuesday in West Berlin, West Germany (as it was in 1989) in the U.S. Army Hospital, and he has a German birth certificate as well as an American one. (He does not have dual citizenship, though. I don't think that is offered anymore by the Germans.)

Isaac at about 1 yearI won't bore my readers with the obstetrical details of his birth except to say that his safe arrival was a blessing. He was a beautiful, healthy, hungry baby. At eight months he crawled over to the sofa and stood up, and he was walking by nine months.

I have never seen a child as eager to learn to read as Isaac was. Everyone else in the family could read, and he wanted the independence of being able to read for himself too! He is an avid reader to this day, and he has a vast vocabulary and an internal encyclopedia of random knowledge because of it.

Isaac has grown up with older parents than most of the kids he knows. I was 38 when he was born and Dennis was 39. He'll be a senior this year -- and we'll be seniors, too. (I'll be turning 55 this fall.) This has probably warped him, but only in good ways, of course.

Isaac likes history, follows current events and is looking forward to becoming a voter. He's going to be a good citizen. And I could go on and on about his virtues but I guess I'll stop here and just say that I'm glad he's my son and I'm very proud of him.
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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.