Tag Archives: autobiography

Chapter 1987, age 44-45, Part 3 of 3

Jane begins reading to herself
Once Jane began to read, her ability expanded rapidly. Between Donna and myself, reading to Jane at least fifteen minutes each daily, plus Jane having learned the alphabet months earlier, gave her the ability and confidence to become ‘reading ready.’ Combining Jane’s interest in books, vocabulary and desire to do things right, Jane discovered that she could read some of her books and enjoy the story alone, or as she would proudly and matter of factly state, ‘I can read all-by-myself.

In early October, of her own volition, Jane began spending about an hour a day, sitting on the couch and reading to herself. Occasionally, she would hop down and bring her book to me and ask for the pronunciation and meaning of certain words, when satisfied, she’d return to the couch and continue reading. For about the last year, at nap time, Jane took one to three books with her to bed, to look at and attempt to read, while falling asleep.

Books that Jane and I read together during the first two weeks of October:

Best Halloween Book The Foot Book The Bears Bicycle
Jane Addams Germs Make Me Sick Life Cycle of the Butterfly
Jim Bridger Henry and The Mudge
The Several Tricks of Edgar Dolphin This Is The House Where Jack Lives

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As Fall progressed and Jane’s vocabulary expanded, she began reading more library books and relying less on her ‘beginner’s books’. Seeing a three year old read as well as she did, began to cause Donna and me concern for her future educational needs. I began to mull the question, ‘What will Jane do in another three years, when she’s in First Grade, and the other kids are just learning to read and write?’

A ‘Black Monday’ for world markets
Through out the year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA), an indicator of stock market performance, continued to rise, climbing from under 2000 to 2722 with only modest reversals. By Fall, trouble was brewing in the Persian Gulf between Western nations, particularly the United States, and Iran who was beginning to lay mines in the Gulf, attack Western naval vessels, and giant, international petroleum super tankers navigating that waterway.

14 October, Wednesday: The DJIA experienced a mild 3.8% decline, a few analysts said the drop was the beginning of a long expected market correction.

15 October, Thursday: Before America awoke, an oil tanker was attacked in the Persian Gulf., during US business hours the DJIA quietly, but steadily declined 2.3%.

16 October, Friday: Overnight, a second oil tanker, the Sea Isle City, was attacked  by an Iranian Silkworm missile and damaged as it sat  in a Kuwaiti port. Since the Sea Isle City was flying an American flag, the attack was considered an attack on the United States. The DJIA declined another 4.6% and  analysts began calling the recent drop, ‘the October Massacre.’ Stock shares in the other world market had been declining for the last few sessions, showing continued and escalating weakness and perhaps fear.

19 October, ‘Black Monday’: US Naval warships began firing on a pair of Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. By noon the DJIA had declined 8.4% with heavy volume. Market activity grew so hectic on Wall Street that the ticker tape was running two hours behind. Later in the day, the San Francisco market closed several hours early, swamped by a backlog of paperwork.
By Monday’s market closing, the DJIA had craterd, losing a record 508 points in a horrendous 22.6% one day decline, and having a record 604 million shares traded. Stock shares lost about $500,000,000,000.00 ($500 billion) value in one day. News commentators and market analysts gasped at the unprecenteted decline pointing out that, ‘Black Tuesday’, which heralded ‘The Crash of ’29’ and preceded the Great Depression of the 1930s, had only been a 12% decline.

..
Overnight, the other major world stock markets followed the American stocks, losing between 9% and 25% of their share values. After cratering the day before, the DJIA skyrockets 107 points, the largest one day advance in history. President Ronald Reagan came on National TV this evening to calm the public saying that he’d been in touch with US economic consultants. The US and world economic leaders would be working together to stabilize markets and keep their economies in line. Meanwhile, the Congress would look at ways to reduce the US budget deficit and would reduce the interest rates to help stimulate the economy. Mr. Reagan ended his speech saying, ‘There’s no need for concern.’ Although our family was not threatened directly and we lost no money in the stock market, the realization that history was being made in the market and the uncertainty of the conflict in the Persian Gulf  kept our eyes open and ears tuned to the daily news media.

26 October, Monday: World markets continued a week of wild gyrations: Tokyo’s Nikkei dropped 5%, Hong Kong which had been closed for a week, cratered a whopping 33% overnight, Sidney was down 7%.

From the noon TV News, we learned that a disgruntled stock investor had walked into his Merrill Lynch broker’s office in Miami, Florida, pulled a gun from his briefcase, killed his broker, wounded the office manager then killed himself. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down another 8% that day.

Doomsday observations
As the years passed, I became rather cynical regarding the importance of the ‘daily news’. For all the interest politicians and Big Business gave the stock market, for all the periodic price instabilities, warnings of doom, saber rattling and threats of war, and the ever present promises of prosperity, Donna and I came to see much of the news as a string of bias half truths and sensationalism that continually grew worse as the years passed.

Every year there were several particularly large, gut wrenching stories reported with grave solemness and nervous earnsty by the media; some stories continued over a several year period becoming irritating, oppressive or boring, ie.:
•  The stock market suffered a major decline in 1974. We had ‘The Arab Oil Embargo’. President Richard Nixon resigned his office.
•  In 1979-80 we had high inflation, commodity prices skyrocketed. Iran was roiled by revolution and took our Embassy personnel hostage, the situation bordered on war. It seemed that unions everywhere were striking for higher wages.
•  By 1983 or so, the Social Security fund was going broke and needed more funds. We’d just had a 22.6%, one day stock market decline.

The cries of doom came from a different direction each time, each having a  theorized disastrous endpoint, if the given scenario actually played out to its ‘logical’, extrapolated conclusion. However, in the end, each scenario along with the cries of doom just faded away. No great leaders emerged, we voters didn’t make a difference at the polls, no brilliant and-or decisive plans were executed to bring about a wonderous ‘fix’, the final solution to all our problems seemed couched in money. Every horrific national problem the news media reported was always solved in one or more of the following manners:
•  We workers lost about $10 a week in wages, through wage freezes, wage reductions or reduced benefits.
•  Some combination of Federal, Social Security, State and Local taxes, medical insurance, medical co-pay were increased.
•  Commodity prices became outrageous, i.e. groceries, gasoline, anti freeze, retail product price increases, auto insurance, movie tickets with popcorn & soda pop…

The cries of doom were all alarmist and sensationalism.
The important point to remember is that, ‘A successful parasite never kills its host’.
What this means is, that generally, you have little to fear from reports of impending doom unless;
1) we actually have an international war with missiles in the air, (nuclear or solar EMP or a nuclear tipped MIRV attack)
2) there is deadly pandemic with millions dying, schools closed nationally…,
3) major volcanic eruption(s) accompanied by obviously dimmed sunlight and cold summer temperatures,
4) or a for real oil embargo-energy flow stoppage, or
5) hyperinflation (under a P.C. name, but won’t be called ‘hyperinflation’),
All the political and business elite want is a little more money, which you’ll gladly part with if the news media have scared you enough.

Halloween
As Halloween approached, Donna bought several yards of black material and sewed a very nice witches costume for Jane. She also made a tall, pointy black hat with a wide flat brim. Donna did an exceptional job, she was quite skilled with her sewing machine. When the project was finished, Jane had a Halloween costume that lasted until she outgrew it, eight years later.

On Halloween eve, we ate an early supper, then Jane hurriedly put on her Halloween clown costume. Using actors cosmetics, Donna made up Jane’s face with a big red nose and a huge, ear to ear smile. We left home at 6:00PM, just after it became dark, and drove to a subdivision in Foley to Trick or Treat. We were glad for Jane’s sake, as well as our own, that the outdoor temperature was quite mild and that several inches of snow we received a week earlier had melted.

As we worked, our way through the subdivision, Donna and I took turns walking with Jane while she made her way from house to house. After awhile Jane wanted to Trick or Treat by herself so we simply followed along in the car.

We had a great time.
Imagine if you will, a (almost) four year old pint sized, little witch. She’d run up to a door, ring the door bell and look up, waiting. When someone answered the door, Jane would step back and exclaim, ‘Trick or Treat!’. After being given a small candy treat, Jane would look up and say, ‘Thank you! Happy Halloween!’  Often these words of appreciation and the unexpected salutation caught the adult off guard. When this occurred, they always turned back to look at the diminutive witch and warmly replied words to the effect, ‘You’re quite welcomed.’

A lot of children were roaming the streets: There were ghosts and goblins, baseball players, hobo’s, various monsters, children dressed like adults, children with no costume, various monsters, etc. all streamed  up and down through the neighborhoods, running between homes, walking, scurrying diagonally across the road. That year, more so than in an year in the past, I saw a lot of children carrying flashlights or other battery operated glowing objects for safety from auto traffic.

The older kids seemed to run in packs of about four to six. The smaller children darted between houses either by themselves, with another small child,  or more likely with a parent lagging a little behind. Here and there, groups were seen stopping briefly to chat, then they were off, going in their different directions. It made me feel good and warm to see all the little and not so little folk hurrying about busy, all under the exciting spell of Halloween.

We drove quietly down the street following Jane, with only our car’s parking lights on, all the while alert not to hit any of the other children who were racing about hither, thither and yon.

At several houses there were adult costume parties in progress. Some homes had as many as a half dozen pumpkins on their front porch, all had hideous, carved faces. One home owner had placed a loudspeaker in a screened living room window and was playing eerie sounds that could be heard down the block. At about a quarter of the homes, either no one was home or the front porch light was left off, indicating the family didn’t want to be disturbed.

Around 7:30PM, activity along the streets began to wane. When Jane returned to the warmth of the car, we started for home hoping to hear all of her Trick or Treat stories. Alas, Jane had a busy day and a thorough work out  from running house to house, while the cold evening temperatures made her tired. No sooner was she comfortable in the car when she promptly fell asleep.

Our meals, November 1987

Date

Breakfast

Lunch

Supper

Nov 1 Sun. 2-1/2 biscuits, Spam, eggs,   TJ, coffee 1 biscuit with peanut   butter, Canned vegetable-beef soup, water, fudge cycle bar steak, lettuce wedge salad, baked squash, mixed vegetables, bread, red wine.
Nov. 2 Mon. Wheat Chex cereal, milk, TJ 2 biscuits, Navy bean soup,   water meat loaf, carrots,   potatoes, dinner rolls, white wine
Nov. 3 Tue. Cornflakes cereal, 1/2  banana, milk, TJ, coffee Canned Tomato soup, crackers with PB, water. Pizza, beer.
Nov. 4 Wed. Cheerios, milk, OJ, coffee Canned Chicken noodle soup,   1 slice WW bread with PB, Vanilla pudding, popsicle. Submarine sandwich, beer.
Nov. 5 Thu. Wheat Chex cereal, milk,   coffee. Hamburger, French fried potatoes, Diet Pepsi Meatballs and spaghetti, bread, red wine.
Nov. 6 Fri. Apple Raisin Crisp cereal, milk, OJ, coffee. Canned Chicken noodle soup,  soda crackers with sliced cheddar cheese, water. ‘Mom’s’ enchiladas, 1 taco, beer.
Nov. 7 Sat. Cheerios, milk, 1 donut, OJ, coffee Vegetable soup, 1 slice WW bread with PB, water. Steak, tossed salad,   artichoke with melted margarine, bread, red wine.
Nov. 8 Sun. Just Right cereal, milk, OJ, coffee Canned Chicken noodle soup, soda crackers with PB, water, ice cream bar. Shish-ka-bob (onion,   sausage, beef, lemon, orange, bell pepper, tomato, pineapple)
Nov. 9 Mon. 1 egg, Spam, 1 English muffin, with PB, OJ, coffee Canned Chicken noodle soup,   soda crackers with PB, water, ice cream bar. Lasagna, bread, red wine.
Nov. 10 Tue. Just Right cereal, milk, OJ, coffee. Vegetable soup, WW bread, water. At MexicanVillage  restaurant for supper.
Nov. 11 Wed. Corn flakes cereal, milk, 1/2 banana, TJ, coffee. Lima bean soup, WW bread, water Pork chop, mashed potatoes  & gravy, roll, spinach, white wine.
Nov. 12 Thu. Just Right cereal, milk, TJ, coffee. Canned Chicken noodle soup, WW bread. chopped steak, peas, mixed   vegetables, tossed salad, bread, white wine.
Nov. 13 Fri. Corn Chex cereal, milk, TJ,   coffee Hamburger, French fried   potatoes, Diet Pepsi Ham slice, butter beans,   corn bread, peas, white wine.
Nov. 14 Sat. 2 soft boiled eggs, ham slice, toast with jam, TJ, coffee Canned Tomato soup, saltine   crackers with PB, water. Chicken, baked squash,   rice, dinner roll, white wine.
Nov. 15 Sun. Corn Chex cereal, milk. Canned Chicken noodle soup,   soda crackers with PB, water, ice cream bar. 2 tostadas, 1- 12oz bottle   beer.
Nov.  16 Mon. Just Right cereal, milk, grapefruit juice, coffee, 2 donuts. Canned Vegetable beef soup,   soda crackers with PB, water, fudgesicle. Chicken pot pie, white   wine.
Nov. 17 Tue. Egg omelet with ham, English muffin, grapefruit juice, coffee. Vegetable soup, WW bread with PB, water, ice-cream bar. Pizza, beer.
Nov. 18 Wed. Corn Chex cereal, milk, grapefruit juice, coffee. Lima bean soup, 1 slice WW bread with PB, water. Chopped steak, mashed   potatoes with gravy, mixed vegetables, dinner rolls, white wine.
Nov. 19 Thu. 1 fried egg, hash, English muffin, grapefruit juice, coffee. Vegetable soup, 1 slice WW   bread with PB, vanilla pudding popsicle. Lasagna, French bread, red wine.
Nov. 20 Fri. Cheerios cereal, milk, grapefruit juice, coffee. Canned Chicken noodle soup,   1 slice WW bread with PB, water, vanilla popsicle. 1/3 pork chop, spinach,   mixed vegetables, dinner rolls, white wine, ice cream cone.
Nov. 21 Sat. 1 egg, sausage, biscuits with honey, V-8 juice, coffee. Canned Minestrone soup, biscuits with PB, water, chocolate bar. Hamburger patties, potatoes with gravy, mixed vegetables, rolls, white wine.
Nov. 22 Sun. At restaurant for   breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 slices toast with jelly, ham slice, coffee. 1 apple. Meat balls and spaghetti,   French bread, red wine.
Nov. 23 Mon. Cheerios cereal, milk, V-8   juice. Canned chicken noodle soup,   crackers with PB, water. Hamburger patties, spinach, corn rolls, white wine.
Nov. 24 Tue. 2 soft boiled eggs, ham slice, 2 slices toast with honey, V-8 juice, coffee. Vegetable soup, 1 slice WW   bread with PB, water, fruit ice-cream bar. Tuna fish casserole, stewed tomatoes, rolls, white wine.
Nov. 25 Wed. Mueslix cereal, milk, V-8  juice, coffee Split pea soup, 1 slice WW   bread with PB, water. Sherry, cube steak, fried  rice, dinner rolls, green beans, white wine.
Nov. 26 Thu. Mueslix cereal, milk, OJ, coffee. Split pea soup, 1 slice WW  bread with PB, water. Hamburger, potato chips with French Onion dip, beer.
Nov. 27 Fri. Mueslix cereal, milk, OJ,   coffee. Canned Chicken noodle soup,   1 slice bread with PB, water, ice-cream bar. Meat balls & spaghetti,   French bread, red wine, bowl vanilla ice-cream.
Nov. 28 Sat. Soft boiled eggs, sausage, toast, OJ, coffee.(Thanksgiving Day) Canned tomato soup, Ritz crackers with PB, water, ice-cream bar. Turkey, dressing & gravy, rolls, fruit salad, yams, cranberry sauce, white wine
Nov. 29 Sun. Egg omelet, 2 donuts, OJ, coffee. 1 hot dog & bun,   birthday cake. Large tossed salad, ice   tea.
Nov. 30 Mon. 1 scrambled egg, Spam, 3 donuts, OJ, coffee. Split pea soup, 1 slice bread with PB, water. Turkeyleftovers, yams, rolls, mixed vegetables, cranberry sauce, white wine.

TJ- tomato juice. OJ- orange juice. PB- peanut butter. WW bread- whole wheat bread, no butter or margarine.
Coffee- instant, decaffeinated taken without sugar. Milk- skimmed. Canned soups are Campbell’s variety. Donna previously homemade the other soups, ie., split pea, vegetable, lima bean & navy bean which were frozen and later defrosted for lunch.

Jane’s social and cognitive skills develop
Watching Jane grow and develop has been a real treat. She was a fast learner and always eager to move to the next step in our studies. From the earliest times, just after she learned to walk, she explored and experimented using everything. She first learned to socialize with adults, then how to interact with other children in Campfire Sparks and at Dance School. At three and a half years of age, she followed directions and played her English Recorder with a proficiency comparable to a five or six year old. She was also beginning to learn to ‘read’ and understand our mannerisms, attitudes, voice inflections, and decipher those secret words and phrases (double meanings) which didn’t necessarily match the words we were saying.

One day in early November, just before lunch, Jane and I had just returned from the mailbox, when, out of the clear blue sky,  I asked her, ‘What do you think we should do about lunch?’ Jane replied, ‘I want hamburgers, French fries, soda pop and ketchup.’ I already had a pan of soup warming on the stove, but after a dismal morning, I was caught up by Jane’s enthusiasm.
Carrying the conversation further, I asked, ‘How do we do that?’  Jane quickly answered, ‘Get your keys an put them in the car (she pretended to put them in the ignition) and go to town.’
Playing dumb and evasive, I asked, ‘How would we get ready to do something like that?’  Jane, apparently sensing my vacillation, ran to me, reached up and unbuttoned the bottom button on my work shirt while exclaiming, ‘Like this! You just change your shirt and clothes and go!’
Then, pretending to have turned sour on the idea, I asked in a deep, negative voice, ‘Do you really think we should?’ Jane apparently understanding my trickiness, began to happily chant, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ Still feigning sourness, I replied, ‘Wellll…..OK!’ Upon hearing this, Jane began hopping around the front room like a two legged rabbit, while shouting, ‘Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!’
Before long, we were on our way to a fast food restaurant in St. Cloud.  :-)

Music [album: Battlestar Galactica, Season 3: A Distant Sadness]

Victorian Stereograph, from dream to reality
Sunday, November 9, I had a dream and in the dream I looked across time. By some unfathomable process of transport, I was in the past as an observer, but not as a ‘time traveler’. I was not an external observer viewing scenes from the outside, instead I was an external observer viewing scenes from within the past environment. I wondered at the paradox. Immediately the deep time environment dissolved into a blur, then images reformed and I understood that a different reality now existed. As I looked, I saw an old stereo picture viewer being lifted away from my face. I was at first surprised, then comfortable with the thought that I’d just been viewing ‘turn of the century’ stereopictures. The thought remained with me and I was quite amazed at the reality of the experience gained from looking at those old cards.

Shortly thereafter, I became conscious of being awake, of being in a drowsy state and of being warm, comfortable and cozily snuggled in my bed. It was a pleasure to lie there and recall my dream. Then I remembered an event from my youth, when I’d discovered an odd looking contraption made of wire and wood, in a glass enclosed bookcase at my grandparent’s Coloma farm. Grandma Elsie (Grubb) Pierce showed me how to work the device, where after, I sat in wonder looking at pictures of 19th century vanished scenes.

Later, on the same morning as my dream, I was just about to walk out the door of an antique shop where I’d purchased a tarnished, ca. 1898, silver plated butter dish, when I recalled my dream. The memory made me stop in my tracks; releasing the door handle, I turned and walked back to the sales counter and asked the owner, ‘Do you have any of those old stereo viewers or the pictures that go with them?’ The old woman took me across her shop to a roll up desk which she opened. Inside, the desk was a hand held stereoscope made of Birdseye maple. I examined the viewer and found it in excellent condition. The old woman also pulled out about a hundred stereoviews from pigeon holes in the desk. I was like a child in a toy store; I wanted that neat old stereoscope and some of her better quality stereoviews.

That night on her way home from work, Donna stopped at the St. Cloud Public Library and brought home several books about antiques which had at least one article about Nineteenth Century stereoscopy. Later, at home, we looked through the books and talked about buying the stereoscope that I’d seen.

The next afternoon, Jane and I met Donna in town to look at the instrument together. We bought the stereoviewer and so began my hobby of collecting stereographs.

During the next eight years, I bought second stereoscope, an aluminum one as seen below, and one thousand fifty stereoviews. I probably built up one of the largest, if not the largest stereoview collection in central Minnesota. Many of the images from the Nineteenth Century are amazing and far from the social mores of our time.

I have pictures of ‘Blacks’ picking cotton and hunting for lice on each other’s head; images of American Indians with weapons and dressed in the costume of their time; of western cowboys, of large game hunting in Africa, practically naked, black African natives carrying elephant tusk ivory, village huts and natives in the jungles of Africa; of cannibals with human prey in New Guinea; US Presidents; Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park’s when they really were wild; scenes from the construction of the Panama Canal; of the Rough Riders in Cuba; very early urban electrification; volcanic eruptions and earthquake fissures; peasant women grinding wheat and corn in stone mortars; Bedouin tent interiors; tours of the Holy Land; Australian aborigines; wood mast sailing ships and vanished scenes from all around the world, ‘1st generation’ airplanes.

Stereoviews are truly amazing, showing realistic, depth of field views, of many traditional cultures, whom only a decade or two later were becoming extinct. And now, only one hundred years after the photographs were taken, the world has evolved a ‘look’ that is very, very different. In this short period of one century, Mankind, our machines, and a machine made affluent culture have become virtually omnipresent across the face of the Earth.

Preschool testing begins the Dial R test
On Tuesday, November 10, we took Jane to Jefferson Grade School in St. Cloud, where she had an appointment to have her mental abilities evaluated. She was given a Dial R test which covered such topics as identifying body parts, naming letters, naming verbs and nouns, articulating, counting, sentence length, building figures with blocks, skipping, etc. The nurse whom administered the test told us that with her forty seven months of chronological age, Jane tested equivalent to a person with a mental age sixty four months, so she had an IQ of about 136. She continued, saying that with her mental age, Jane would be in the top five percent of her class.

 Jane and I have a car-deer collision
During late morning on Friday, November 13, Jane and I again visited the antique shop where I bought several of my first stereographs. We met Donna in St. Cloudfor lunch. After our meal, Donna returned to work while Jane and I left town for the trip home.

As we drove out County Road #3 into the countryside, Jane began climbing around in the car and becoming a pre-nap time pest. When we stopped at the Popple Creek crossroads ‘Stop sign’, I told her to put on her safety belt- in hopes of restraining and quieting her down.  A couple minutes later, we were about one and a half miles north of Popple Creek, when suddenly I saw large buck ahead, an instant estimation of our trajectories spelled danger. Suddenly, I began to see events pass in slow motion. The deer was running up the ditch on the right side of the road, coming in our direction. The distance between us was melting away fast. As a reflex action, I began to swerve the car to the left in order to allow a larger corridor for us to pass, just in case he bolted onto the road. In those two or three seconds, as I watched, the deer bounded up the roadside, out of the ditch, then onto the road. My right foot went down on the brake pedal. Although I’d been only driving about forty five mph, the car tires began to loudly screech on the blacktop. The car seemed to hop and grind, while slowly drifting sideways in its deceleration.

Something beside me in the car slumped and flew forward hitting the dashboard. I hoped Jane was going to be all right, but there was no time to look or think, all I could do was maintain control of the car. The approximately one hundred feet separating the deer from the car was vanishing. In the blink of an eye we collided, his brown body rose slightly in the air and came down with a ‘WHUMP!’ on the car hood about five feet in front of my face. I wondered if he’d come through the windshield. He slid up the hood toward me, then only eighteen inches in front of my face, began to defy gravity by sliding up the windshield toward the roof. Meanwhile, the car continued to shudder and the brakes scream. I held myself upright and away from the steering wheel, unable to see out the window. In another moment the car came screeching to a halt, and sat cantilevered at an angle in the center of the road. The deer slid back down the windshield and off the front of the car, all the while twisting and kicking. He landed on his feet and without a moment’s hesitation, bounded off, looking none the worse for the accident!

With teeth clenched, I looked to my right at Jane. She was scrunched down in her seat looking at me in wide eyed surprise, her books were scattered on the floor under the dashboard. I asked if she was hurt and was glad to hear that she was not. I realized immediately how fortunate it was that she’d just fastened her safety belt. Quickly looking back to the west (left), it was good to see the deer running and bounding away, along a weedy fence line, apparently unhurt.

I drove the car out of the center of the road and parked along the shoulder to assess damages. I told Jane what had happened and how lucky she was to have been in the safety belt. She was sitting up now, looking out the window, trying to catch a glimpse of the deer. She said, ‘I saw some brown on the window.’ We talked for a couple of minutes, while I regained my senses and made sure Jane was both physically and emotionally all right.

The car had taken a little damage. There was a one inch deep by eight inch in diameter dent in the front right fender panel; a couple smaller dents in the hood; a hook shaped scratch  where the deer stomped his foot trying to gain his footing while he slid up on the hood; also a star shaped crack in the windshield from his antler.

When we arrived home, I telephoned Donna to tell her of our accident, then phoned our insurance company. The claims officer informed me that they receive an average of one car-deer damage report per day in Minnesota–and our insurance company is one of many operating in the state!

Tragedy at Fort Seybert, initial research
About three months earlier, in August, I initially stumbled onto the tragic story of an immigrant ancestor family that gripped my imagination.

The odyssey of discovery began when we requested some genealogical records from the Xenia, Ohio, Historical Society. Our contact, Mrs. Kathleen Taylor, dutifully searched her records for the information we requested and went a step beyond by photocopying and send eighteen pages of information from the family genealogical book, Betebenner-Horney and Related Families by Mrs. Evelyn H. Vohland.

Mrs. Taylor’s package arrived on Wednesday, August 6. I began to read over the information as soon as I returned from the mail box. I was particularly interested in developing a better understanding of the Jeffery Horney and wife Catherine Janes-Horney genealogy as these were shadowy names at the periphery of my research. This new material from Xenia, Ohio brought some vital dates and extended the Jane’s and Seybert family pedigrees back a couple more generations.

What particularly caught my attention was the mention of,
“William Janes(IV)…..m. Margaret Seybert, dau. of Jacob and Mrs. Seybert b. ca. 1745. The story of the massacre of the Seyberts by Indians is written on pages 43 through 51 of the History of Pendleton Co.W. Vaby Morton…”

I asked Donna stop at the St. Cloud Public Library the next day, and pick up several books on the history of West   Virginia and on the French and Indian Wars.
That evening, I scoured through the library books that Donna brought home, and learned that during the French and Indian Wars, several small forts were built on the South Branch of the Potomac River, in a region that is now Pendleton County, West Virginia. In the mid 1700s that area was known as Highland County, Virginia.

What I found was, ‘In the Spring of 1758 a large Indian war party took Fort Upper Tract and killed all its inhabitants and defenders, they next attacked Fort Seybert and either killed or captured its inhabitants.’

Friday, Donna telephoned the Pendleton County Public Library in West Virginia, and spoke to the librarian, Mr. Richard Harding, whom it turned out was also Vice President of the Pendleton County Historical Society. Mr. Harding shared some information about the old Fort, but recommended we read History of Pendleton County and History of Highland County. That afternoon Donna telephoned the St. Cloud Public Library and ordered these books from West Virginia, through the interstate library book loan system.

The books we requested arrived on August 27.
Several books that I  referenced in researching the massacre at Fort Seybert:
•  Betebenner — Horney And Allied Families © 1981  by Evelyn Halkyard Vohland publ. by Clipper Publishers, Shelton, NE. – A family genealogy with photographs and occasional stories. 297 pages.
•  A   History of Pendleton County, West Virginia  © 1910 by   Oren F. Morton, republished  in 1980 by   Regional Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD.
•  Pennsylvania  German Immigrants 1709 — 1786 © 1980, edited by Don Yoder, publ. by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore   MD, 394 pages.
•  The Seiberts of Saarland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, 1982 ed. by Raymond Martin Ball, WA – A family   genealogy

Over the next few days, I spent approximately twenty one hours, extracting information from A History of Pendleton County, West Virginia.  My interest was two-fold, to learn about the massacre at Fort Seybert and get a understanding of how it was to live on the west Virginia frontier during the mid 1700s.

As the research progressed the story became chillingly: On 28 April 1758, my 6G- grandfather Jacob, his wife and others were tomahawked and scalped after surrendering the ill defended Fort to a large Shawnee war party.

We then telephoned the University of West Virginia and requested a photocopy of the Fort Seybert Geological Survey Map #77-1. The topographical map, which included the site of old Fort Seybert, would show us the spatial relationship between the nearby mountains, river, present roads and houses across that area. We also telephoned Evelyn Vohland[1] in Nebraska and ordered her last copy of the family genealogy, Betebenner — Horney And Allied Families for $26.00.

On December 4, I began entering my research of the massacre into my Journal #14, starting on page 2699  titled, Emigrating To The English — American Colonies and Making A Home In The New World: The Jacob Seybert Family Story. It took in excess of thirty two hours to write up the twenty six page story, including maps and drawings.

When the journal entry was finished, I sat back and looked through the pages.

These ancestors, who’d once been an obscure branch of the family tree, came alive in my mind. From descriptions of the environment and living conditions, the  danger of Indian attack, the hardship of life on the frontier, I could imagine their lifestyle. The dates and spacing of births in the family, the children’s names, knowing that the grandparents and extended family lived nearby; knowing the events that occurred at Fort Seybert on that fateful morning, all gave me an unparalleled insight into not only my own ancestors, but into life in Colonial America during the time of the french and Indian Wars. I was amply rewarded with a growth in empathy, for the several dozen hours spent unraveling the mystery.

The results of my research were written up and copies were sent to my genealogical research associates: my father, Uncle Bill, and cousin Doris Grubb-Hughes. The story is also found as a two-part post in the 4dtraveler WordPress bog:
•  My family in history/_2. Settlers & Migrants/The Jacob Seybert family: Coming to America
•  My family in history/_2. Settlers & Migrants/The Jacob Seybert family: Fort Seybert

Christmas Day 1987, Friday: The family gift exchange list

Gift giver   Recipient Gift
Donna & Larry to Jane Three shirts, two pair pants, sweater
Donna to Larry Fleece lined slippers, 5 pair under wear, 1 pair work gloves, tri-fold wallet.
Larry to Donna Cold weather boots, 4 pair socks
Jane to Donna 1 pair socks (Proudly bought with her own allowance.)
to Larry An 8 inch clear plastic ruler. (Bought with her own allowance.)
Uncle Bill &   Aunt Elizabeth to Jane A Pajama puppet, small set of Lego building blocks, Bedtime Story Book.
to Donna/ Larry Four cans of honey roasted peanuts.
Don to Jane $20 cash
to Donna/ Larry $20 each, also a large  box containing oranges, grapefruit, fruit cake and chocolate kisses.
Robert & Hazel   Pierce to Jane doll
to Donna/ Larry Heritage book
Donna’s Aunt Doris to Jane Play tray
Glen & ( my sister)   Linda to Donna/ Larry/ Jane National Geographic subscription.
Kedina (Donna’s 1/2   sister) x=discarded to Jane Sweatshirt, several books, bear doll on roller skates(x), slippers made in the image of a Negro baby (x)
x=discarded. to Donna Sweatshirt(x), used  sweater jacket(x), beauty pack of cosmetics(x), 3 cans of candy(x), 2 cans of butter cookies(x) past expiration date.
x =  discarded to Larry Traveling bag (x), designer telephone free from Time-Life books (x).

.
Dog troubles in paradise
When Pepin was a gangly puppy, Griz occasionally would occasionally beat him up, repeatedly knocked him down and always put the youngster in his place– as  ‘#2 male dog. Griz always insisted on being first to choose  which of our three dog dishes he wanted to eat from. He also pushed his way past the others to be the first to greet and be greeted when we his human family members came outside.
Every year, when Jessie dog went into heat, I dutifully chained her, Griz and eventually Pepin, to their respective houses to kept them apart for about three weeks.
By early December, Pepin had grown and matured to a point where he was in competition with his aging father, Griz, for both Jessie’s attention and particularly, to become ‘yard boss’.

These few year were a sad time for me, because I hated to see the dogs fight with increasing frequency, when I came outside and called them together, for either a walk or to do some chore.

Griz was already about 10 years old and weighed 1/2 as much as his pup-son Pepin, who was just reaching  young adulthood. However, not one to give up, Griz would keep pushing Pepin; Pepin would turn on Griz and a ferocious dog fight would ensue.

One evening, I let Griz in the house for a few minutes and noticed some blood on his neck. When I raised his head to look I found a two inch long by one inch wide rip in the loose skin at the back of his lower jaw. I called the veterinarian, who said if he wasn’t bleeding to treat him with disinfectant and bring him to the office in the morning.

I chained Pepin to a dog house to keep the dogs apart. Griz went about his business stopping ever once in a while just out of Pepin’s reach to give him a spiteful stare. About a week and a half after chaining Pepin, Griz tried to dominate his son. A fight resulted and Griz’s neck wound was reopened. Griz continued to pester Pepin who remained chained. The state of affairs was ridiculous, the two male dogs would fight one another at the slightest provocation. In a fit of desperation, I decided to unchain Pepin and let them fight until a new, pecking order, was established.

The two dogs had a ‘knock down drag out fight’ at 11:30AM and another at 2:30PM.
During the second fight, Pepin immediately knocked Griz down and jumped on him. Griz laid curled up on his back yelping and whining while Pepin held him down, and chewed on him. After the fight, Griz spent much of the afternoon limping around the yard, his fur looked dirty, unkempt and matted.

Despite losing both fights, Griz wouldn’t give up, he kept picking at Pepin.

At 5:05 PM that same afternoon there was a third fight. Pepin knocked Griz down and while growling and snarling in a terrifying manner, bit into his fur and shook him silly. Griz wiggled, kicked and cried piteously as he was bitten, stepped on and beaten. When the fight was over, my heart sank at seeing my old buddy Griz so defeated. He looked so forlorn. His beautiful fur coat was disheveled and covered with wet and frozen saliva, there was dried blood smeared all around his neck, he was wide eyed, nervous and visibly shaken. I wished he would surrender and allow peace to return to the yard.

During the night, Pepin drove Griz out of the yard, causing him to miss his breakfast. When I walked down to the mailbox at just before noon the next day, I found Griz had made a nest in the snow amongst some saplings, down a slope, just inside our font gate, next to the County Road.
Griz walked back up the driveway with me, but as soon as we entered the yard, Pepin jumped on him. I grabbed a stick and beat Pepin good while he in turn beat up on Griz. When the fight broke up, I chained Pepin up for a couple days to let tempers cool.

We began giving Griz antibiotics as his neck injury had become infected. Griz stayed in his dog house all the next day. He was terrified of any injury, even yelping and running from his mate, Jessie, whom he previously had never given a second thought to.

That was the turning point in Griz and Pepin’s relationship, Pepin had established himself as ‘yard boss’. From that point on, we simply had two boss dogs in the yard. The smaller brown, gentlemanly one, Griz, remained my favorite. He learned to stay away from or at least not pick at Pepin. They still had an occasional fight, but as time passed and Griz grew older, he simply offered less resistance, thus avoiding serious damage.

Griz learned to spend a more time by himself, as he went about his customary daily errands in the yard and woods. Although he was defeated by Pepin, who was physically a much larger and younger dog, Griz was a cleaver and ferocious hunter, who frequently brought home small game (rabbits, woodchucks, muskrat, rats) and the neighbors pets, to eat or give to Jessie. Although Pepin was a big, powerful and fearless, he was neither fast, stealthy or smart enough to catch small game.

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1987
•  Local Evening   News
•  National   Evening News
•  Occasional ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies
•  Star Trek: The Next Generation

Movies
Movies that Donna, Jane and I attended during the year:
Batteries Not Included with Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy
Beverly Hills Cop II  with Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, Ronny Cox
Dragnet  with Dan Aykroyd, Tom Hanks, Christopher Plummer, Harry Morgan
Harry and the Hendersons with John Lithgow, Melinda Dillon, Margaret Langrick
Ishtar with Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Charles Grodin
Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Gary Busey
Predator withArnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo
Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise with Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong
The Running Man withArnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto
The Witches of Eastwick with Jack Nicholson,Cher, Susan Saradon, Michael Pfeiffer
Wall Street with Michael Douglas, Charlie Sheen, Chuck Pfeiffer


 

[1] Evelyn Vohland and I are related on two lines, having common ancestors through our 3G- grandparents James Anderson and  Jeffrey Horney.

End of Chapter 1987, age 44-45.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1987, age 44-45, Part 2 of 3

Glen Kenyon Pierce, remembered on 4 June 1987
At left, a circa 1940 photograph of my grandfather, Glen Kenyon Pierce, about 50 years old, born one hundred years ago, on 4 June 1887, in rural Jacksonville, Chickasaw County, Iowa.

Jane learns to play the English Recorder
During early to mid February, Donna and I had on several occasions discussed buying Jane an English recorder and teaching her to play the musical scale. On Donna’s way home from work on February 20, she stopped at Four Winds Music Store and bought Jane an English recorder for $7.50 and a beginner’s music book.
Jane showed considerable enthusiasm at learning to play her recorder so we coached her a little every day. A month later, Jane had progressed far enough with her music and was still showing an interest in playing, so we set her up with music lessons. Her first private lesson was on Saturday, March 14, with Sharon. Sharon, a Elementary School music teacher in her 40s, gave Jane lessons in her home. Sharon explained early training procedures, so we could continue practicing effectively at home. Then for twenty minutes, Sharon and Jane practiced rhythmically tapping their hands, the proper method to hold the recorder, how to hold her fingers to form a ‘b’ note then rhythmically ‘tooting’ the ‘b’ note. When Jane learned a series of prescribed lessons, she was to be brought back for her next instruction.

Jane returned to Sharon for lessons in April, May and June, each time having shown great improvement over her previous visit. Meanwhile, Donna spent about 15 minutes a day with Jane assisting as she practiced fingering notes and playing her beginner’s scales. By mid June, Jane was playing songs like Hot Cross Buns, and Mary Had A  Little Lamb, which was exceptional for a three year seven month old preschooler!  8-)

Donna’s job at True Value Hardware
About one and a half years passed since Donna was hired as a bookkeeper at True Value Hardware store. Although she attended college and became a teacher with a California Secondary School Teaching License, she had never found a teaching position in Education. For the last fifteen years she worked in the bookkeeping and accounting departments of several different companies.

True Value Hardware is rather large for a hardware store, with 8500 square feet retail floor space, six full time and four part time employees. The store has a full line of hardware, plumbing, electrical, paint, pant sundries, hand tools, as well as an adequate line of house wares, small appliances and seasonal lawn and garden merchandise.

When Donna was hired, True Value was doing its bookkeeping in handwritten ledger books. Soon, Wayne, the owner, realized how much computer experience Donna had, so he bought a 286 IBM desk top computer, printer, etc., to convert the bookkeeping from handwritten to computerized records. Donna ‘brought the office into the Twentieth Century,’ buying, installing, and configuring the Peachtree Accounting software program to operate with their bookkeeping system and entering the data files to bring the records up to date.

The company needed to hire a part time girl for several months to help keypunch the account data in at night. Donna told our neighbor, Arlene, that the job was opened. After her  interview, Arlene was given the job and Donna trained her in what she was to do.

[At right, a 1987 photograph of Donna standing beside the driveway in our homesite.]

Since Donna spends most of her time working alone in the office, she has the benefit of pretty much setting her own hours. She was given a store key and can start work before the store opens, as is required when doing the monthly book closings. She takes the daily receipts to the bank and during slow periods helps work on merchandise displays. At times, she is called to the sales floor to either wait on customers or handle the cash register

Donna began her employment at True Value at a wage of $5.50 per hour, after thirty days training, her pay was increased 50¢ to $6.00 per hour. Now, after two ‘cost of living’ increases she is earning $6.55 per hour. For comparison, the sales floor personnel earn wages ranging from $4.00 to $5.95 per hour, however, Donna is still earning about $2.00 per hour less than she did working at Landy Packing Company. Although she earns less on a hourly basis, she does get a lot of overtime which goes a long way to making up for the pay differential. Besides working a half day every other Sunday, Donna  usually put in about two hours overtime (at one and half times regular pay) each week.

Installing a split rail yard fence
Beginning in early June, and finishing around the end of the month, we spend our weekends and some evenings installing a commercially made, two rail split-rail fence. The fence was set along the two hundred feet of driveway bordering the upper yard from the yard gate, around a semi circle to the garage.  It had been a few years since we’d installed the perimeter fence posts around the yard, so our renewed post hole digging sessions brought back old memories and sore muscles. Compounding the problem, we had a swarm of pesky Summer  gnats that flew into our eyes, ears and mouths with regularity.

When installed, the fence looked very nice and we realized we should have put it in earlier.  The rustic split rail style fits right in with our wooded surroundings, making the yard  look all that much more peaceful, serene and at one with nature, like the home of a National Park Forest Ranger.

[Photograph above, a 1987 summer morning at Nightstar*. Our upper front yard bordered by the newly installed split rail fence. We installed the fence by digging in a post or two each morning before work and maybe 3-4 per weekend day for about two weeks.
As of 1987, its been about 14 years since we decided to move out of California, 10 years since we bought the 39 acre property and 8 years since we became residents.]

At 3 years old, Jane begins reading
All the work Donna, Jane and I have been doing to teach Jane her alphabet and simple words has begun to pay off. On the morning of June 18, when Jane and I sat down to read from her book, Tom The TV Cat, Jane announced,
‘I can read the book to you, an’ mommy didn’t tell me how.’
Somewhat taken back, and surprised by Jane’s statement, I replied,
‘Ohh? You can? Well, what are you going to read to me?’

Jane placed her finger beneath a line in the open book and read, ‘He did mouse work.’ My head jerked sideways toward Jane, with full realization that this was the first time she had ever initiated reading aloud. Jane began reading sentences at three years seven months of age, approximately six months after learning the alphabet!  :-)

As the months passed, Jane and I read more children’s books together than it would be practical to list here. Some of the titles, however, included: Other People-Other Homes, Safety First-Home, Safety First-Fire, Continents, Oceans, Volcanoes, Deserts, Pioneers, West Indies, Japan, Ireland, I Like Kindergarten, Beavers

Music [midi: Labyrinth Melody]

A dream about gathering family signatures
During late June, I began collecting autographs of family members[1].
In order to extract ancestral signatures, our original documents were photocopied. Liquid paper was then used to blot out all other words near the ancestors name, in this way we ended up with a ‘clean’ signature. The signature was then cut out and pasted to a sheet of white paper and photocopied onto a piece of fine quality linen paper. This copy was cut out and placed inside a Show Guard postage stamp mount for storage.

Several days after this process was begun, I awoke during the middle of the night with an upset stomach and had a difficult time returning to sleep. I laid quietly in bed, neither awake or asleep, but in some drowsy middle ground where the mind drifts between dreams and imagination.

All of a sudden, my mind’s eye was, as it were, looking into a pool of unstill water; as the water became quiet, an image formed. The image was of my maternal grandparents, Pearl Elmer Shafer and wife, Alma Delight Kellogg, as they stood in a room signing my mother and father’s marriage license. I watched them through the pool- like, watery image, from a position above and behind them, near the ceiling.

In those brief moments that I was there observing, I overheard several quiet words spoken by the preacher, saying, ‘Here’s the pen. Sign here.’ (while pointing). My grandparents appeared solemn, their minds trying to focus on the official act of signing the license. They were totally absorbed in the emotions of the marriage of their daughter, Hazel. There was tenseness in the room, also a sense of duty, happiness and sadness.

Having signed the license, they turned their attention elsewhere. In an instant the document swirled into the watery pool toward me. In another instant, I had separated their names from the other extraneous print on the marriage license. I turned my gaze and looked  back into the pool. No more than a few seconds had elapsed for my grandparents, they were just beginning to turn away from the desk where the license laid. On the surface of the document, the ink signatures were just beginning to dry.

I looked at my grandparents through the pool, they were only a few feet distance, but walking away from the center of the room toward the door. They were totally oblivious of the potential that their act created, of my presence and concern with their signature on that piece of paper. Yet, how could they know? I was a person, whom in their time didn’t exist. I was reaching from the future, reaching back for their signatures.

The marriage license was simply a document, a contract joining two persons, complete with names, intentions, date, and the signatures of the officials and witnesses. It was a piece of paper that documented an event in space-time, but there was more, much more. In the act of signing their names they had left a personal, physical record of their individuality and the operation of their minds and, they had created a linking event in a different space- time.

I mused over the fact that photocopiers hadn’t yet been invented in 1941 when my parents were married. Then comically, I recalled that parts of rural America weren’t even electrified at that time. I grinned to myself, smug and knowing. I marveled that a ‘future person’ could seemingly reach back in time and separate the mark, movement and psychological trace of a person from an event in the distant past where the background was becoming increasingly noisy. I wondered what future technology might allow us to do and how easy it would be for people in my future to look back and extract our spoor and trace.

Startled by that realization, I opened my eyes and starred into the darkness of the bedroom, and knew you were near.
[Above, a photocopy of some of my family signatures, dating from the 1620 Mayflower Pilgrims to roughly the mid 1800s.]

They lie about us, quiet and potential
It is practically a universal human trait to remain unaware and oblivious of those human forms on which light does not yet shine, the unborn, or upon those whom lived before.
Yet, the creatures that will track us, lie amongst the soil of the garden and field, they lie quietly amongst the leaves in the trees of the forest and in the air above the sea. They are about us, without the code of our form, having not yet been called forth to rise again from the chemical environment.  They lie inert and potential as we walk, talk, write, laugh and live. Given our chromosomal code, the soil, water and air combine into life, that will, in the fullness of time, seek out the chain of life which brought forth its body from the dust.

They will know that their ancestors have created locally increased order in the energy flow. The order they left has become covered with layers of events, like the layers of an onion, enfolded, shell-like, evolving and expanding away from the core events of a specific time, moving toward increasing general disorder.
Our ancestors, the people before, are currently going about their lives in their own space-time, naive and innocent of how you and I are becoming more and more capable of stirring the technological cauldron, peeling away the layers of that metaphorical onion and calling forth their trace from our own space-time addresses.
The ocean-like currents of space-time carry flotsam and jetsam from the distant shores of history to our present. Some of the material goods, capacity for love and ideas that we throw into this ocean, from our own life experience, wash up on the shores of the future.
Family genealogists, County Historical Societies, Museum curators and archeologists are not unlike astronomers, the former looking across the spance of 4-dimensional space time to make sence of human life in the time flow, the latter looking into the depths of 3-dimensional space to make sense of aggregates with in the volume.

Grandma and Grandpa Pierce are dead, huh?’
On Friday, July 17, while Jane and I were chatting during lunch, when the subject of my parents came up. Quizzically, Jane asked, ‘Grandma and Grandpa Pierce are dead, huh?’ Stunned by her statement, I promptly advised her that they were alive and well, reminding her that she wrote them a letter. She remembered writing the letter, but then averted her eyes, looking away as if searching for more memories or a positive outcome from them. I changed the subject of our conversation, not wanting to tell her that she wrote them six months earlier and they still hadn’t answered her letter. I supposed they were angry with me over some infraction of etiquette or minor instance of moral impurity.

Drought
During early April, extremely dry weather caused me to occasionally set the lawn sprinkler up and water into the woods along our yard’s west side. The same unusually dry conditions brought official recognition that Minnesota and the upper central Midwest were experiencing the worst fire threat in ten years.
By late June 24, the St. Cloud Times was reporting:

Drought, Heat Threaten Corn Crop.
Many Central Minnesota farmers are watching their crops wither and wilt under unusually hot, rainless skies. Conditions are so bad in many rural areas in Central Minnesota that some Extension Directors and Crop Specialists are comparing this year to the dust bowl days of the 1930s… Many farmers will not be able to salvage another cutting of alfalfa…others have already began to cut and bale their oats because the crop would not produce enough grain to harvest later this summer…the next two weeks will be crucial as corn crops reach the tassling stage that gives way to pollination…”

Meanwhile, even our lawn, which I had begun to water was not growing at its normal proliferate rate. Although I enjoyed the easier and quicker mowing sessions, I didn’t like to see the lawn drying and yellowing so early in the season.
By the end of June, residents of Waite Park, a suburb of St. Cloud, were under a ‘watering ban’ and being threatened with City government ‘warnings’ that could lead to a charge of ‘petty misdemeanor’ if they were caught operating lawn or garden sprinklers!

Donna and I had noted that our dry Spring and early Summer had been almost mosquito-bite free. The super dry weather had eliminated the mosquitoes breeding and hatching habitat in our lowland and fen bog and so provided us with a pleasant, mosquito free season. We certainly enjoyed going outside to work about the yard and garden and not having to continuously swat at mosquitoes.

Gathering genealogical documents
June and July were busy months, as I continued work on family, genealogical research projects.  Among the items I sent for and received were:
1) Photocopies of the Revolutionary War records of 4G-grandfather (Lieutenant, then Captain) John Anderson, from the National Archives.
2) An inventory of personal property of 3G-grandfather, James Anderson, at the time of his death and a 1855 map of the farm and surrounding area[2] where, James, and his father, John,  lived; received from the Greene County Library Historical Reading Room, Ohio.
3) The thirteen page photocopy of 2G-grandfather, Civil War veteran, (Pvt.) Harmon Anderson’s Last Will, also copies of the official death certificates for Harmon and wife, Margaret (Horney) Anderson from the Greene County Courthouse, Jefferson, Iowa.
4) Last Will of 4G grandfather’s John Anderson and Revolutionary War soldier (Pvt.) William Horney, from the Greene County Library Historical Reading Room, Ohio. John Anderson and William Horney were amongst my paternal 4G-grandparents.

General activities in genealogical research
During the previous year, Donna and I read had each several books on genealogical research.
For a couple years prior to Eulah’s death, Donna, her mother and half sister Katherine, exchanged genealogical information related to the Dorr-Roberts side of their family. Later, Don sent Donna a photocopied genealogical tree and booklet that members of his side of the family had worked on years earlier
After Eulah’s death, Donna began correspondence with several other relatives and continued accumulating genealogical data and stories on both her father’s and mother’s (the Dorr-Roberts) sides of her family. Every couple weeks, she received a page or two of information from one source or another.
Meanwhile, I was trying to organize the rapiodly growing volume of genealogical data in a way that would allow:
•  a global storage method of the information,
• simplify information transfer to the reader,
• show images of the original documents,
• show relationships between obscure family members and family lines.

My 45th birthday: a personal inventory [3]
Birthdays are good ‘life referencing days’, times to reflect and take a personal inventory.
To wit: I was born on July 25th, 1942 and am glad, if not a little surprised to have lived as long as I have.
Other than for my eyesight, which is beginning to deteriorate, and an occasional ache or stiffness first thing in the morning, I feel fine. I have been fortunate all these years to have had good health, most of my illnesses have been either colds or the flu.

Looking in the mirror, I appear to be in my late thirties, with clear blue eyes and a face without wrinkles. My brown hair has neither begun to thin or recede. About five years ago, I found two gray hairs sprouting just to the front of my right ear, they are still the only gray hairs I have.

My body is in good tone from the work I do about the yard, splitting wood in the spring and fall, mowing grass all summer and raking leaves in the fall. I currently weigh one hundred seventy nine pounds and am a few pounds overweight, the excess has settled around my waist giving me a small paunch.

I have a loving wife and daughter, both of whom I love very much We live together in a place of quiet, natural beauty, accompanied by a family of dogs, several ducks and geese, a large variety of birds and other chattering, skulking and silent creatures of the forest and swamp. Here we enjoy the seasons and the days of our lives, removed from the noise, eyesores and other disturbances of a hurried, hungry world.

I enjoy doing outdoor projects, reading, and the type of work that goes into my journals. My interests are many and varied, they grow and change with my social, economic, genealogical, science, and space-time interests.

A family birthday party
After lunch, I washed up, shaved and changed clothes. At 1:30 PM we three gathered around the kitchen table.
Donna placed a store bought, Angel Food cake, with chocolate frosting in the center of the table, then brought out a gift wrapped box and set it on the table in front of me.
Then, with Donna sitting across the table and Jane to my left, the girls happily sang the ‘Happy Birthday’ song to me. Looking about and smiling myself, I saw the family’s sparkling eyes and their beaming happy smiles. After reading my birthday card, signed by both Donna and Jane, I opened the mysterious and rather heavy gift.

Lo! Upon peeling away its gaily colored wrapping, I found several items packaged together:
1) A letter box file for the long term storage of the personal mail I receive;
2) A calligraphy set; and
3) The out of print book, Bid Time Return,[4] a romantic time travel adventure. The  movie, Somewhere In Time, which was partially responsible for my starting to keep journals, was based on the characters and plot of the book, Bid Time Return.

That evening we had a delicious supper of shish-ka-bob (meat and vegetables on a skewer, grilled), followed by a thin slice of cake and scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
I put in a birthday request for a full body massage at bed time…
And, yes, the cherry went to the birthday boy!  ;-)

 The Archive project begins
Ever since 1980, when my father and Uncle Bill got me interested in family genealogy, documents and research papers have been accumulating[5]. We always worked on different ancestral family members, not because of a desire for efficiency, but because there were so many available lines of interest we simply never duplicated each other’s work.
Every month or two, when a little more information had been tracked down, the documents or worksheet would be photocopied and sent to our other two researchers. In this way, there was a fairly steady stream of genealogical information coming and going, all of which needed processing.

I kept the data from our research on standard and recognized genealogical research forms: Family Group Records sheets, Pedigree Charts and Life Outlines. I had even sent several page, Personal Characteristics Profiles, out for aging relatives to answer regarding our shared ancestor, their parents or grandparents. All my papers were separated by individual or family groupings. At first, some of the information was entered in my Journals[6].

As the years passed, the sheer volume of paperwork and data grew to such a point that it became necessary to put considerable time effort into organizing it.

Organizing the work was more than just separating the information by individual, family or location. Each piece of information, each document had to have a source and be given the best possible presentation of its information. The problem was that the photocopied documents I had, were received in many different sizes, while the network of the family relationships and their movements were spread across space-time in apparent profuse confusion.

Since Donna had access to a quality photocopy machine at True Value Hardware, we bought a ream of archival grade linen paper for photocopy document storage. On Tuesday, July 28, I began a long process of cutting out the pertinent areas of information, from old US Census records, and taping them to white typing paper for photocopy transfer onto the archival grade, linen paper. All of the marriage, birth and death records, wills, property’s, newspaper articles were also photocopied onto linen paper.

When a research paper was written about some facet of an ancestor’s life, or an old map was copied to show a family’s route of travel, when current photographs and perigee charts were drawn, all were organized and photocopied in the best format possible for maximizing the information content and long term storage.

Beginning three days after my birthday and continuing for several years, I worked my way through nearly a full drawer of ‘raw’ paperwork  in the file cabinet, cleaning out the accumulation of my many genealogical file folders and condensing the paperwork into informational bundles. The finished pages were organized in rough chronological sequence by family and stored in about a half dozen black, spring back notebooks. These notebooks became known as ‘The Archives’.

After several months work, preparing nearly the first one hundred pages for long term storage in the Archives, we came to recognize several facts about the effort:
1) The labor involved in setting up the layout for each page: taping photographs, making boarders where necessary, and experimenting took no less than five minutes, while some took twenty minutes.
2) For every document put into the Archive, there were four to six pieces of waste paper generated, besides the ‘original’ copies we received in the mail or copied from other sources. The waste came from testing the brightness, blowing up or shrinking documents on the photocopy machine.
3) There was an unknown and uncalculated amount of work and expense involved, developing the data, i.e., researching sources, long distance telephone calls, mail, genealogy research fees, official record coping fees, etc. that went into the Archives.

Music [midi: Star Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, 04 Violin L’Estate, Op8-2]

Early morning’s sights and sounds
On the morning of August 14, at 6:45 AM, about five minutes after Donna left for work, I stepped outside the front door to sit on the front steps, look about and listen to the peaceful sounds of the morning.

A shroud of fog laid across the land, limiting visibility to about four hundred feet. Even at the relatively near distance of two hundred feet, colors dissolved into gray, while forms back in the woods faded in the early morning’s filtered light. Down by the pond, in our lower yard, the ducks and geese were standing in the grass, surrounded by fog. Several appeared to be asleep, others were preening their feathers.

A gentle breeze began to rustle amongst the upper most tree branches at the edge of the nearby woods and I noticed for the first time, that the Maple trees leaves were beginning to turn lime green. One slight gust shook a half dozen Maple leaves off a tree. I watched as they silently sliced back and forth through the air, dropping to join others on the ground, announcing the approach of Fall.

I sat very still, listening.

From somewhere back in the woods came the occasional chirp of an unseen bird, then the ‘cohoo…cohoo’ of a Mourning dove. Only once was the natural silence broken by a car passing by on the county road. The sibilant hum of its tires on the tar surface came out of the distance, drew nearer, then rapidly disappear into the background. Behind me, I could hear Jane scuffing about in the coat closet, which was located right inside the mobile home’s front door.

Although I didn’t feel it when I first sat down, there was a slight chill in the air.
My arms began to chill and I seemed to remember the temperature had been 60ºF, when I took my morning temperature readings only an hour earlier.

After reminiscing for a moment or two, I took several deep, invigorating breaths and noted a somewhat familiar faint, earthy-sweet scent. At first, the odor seemed to carry the fragrance of the woods after a summer’s rain, but there was also the pleasant smell of fresh mown grass, perhaps it came from my having mowed the front lawn the previous day.

An itch on the back of my right hand and the tell tale, high pitched whine of a mosquito in my right ear, made me involuntarily swat at the offending insect.

A moment later, Jane came out the front door to join me. Playfully, she crawled head first down the four front steps, brushing past my left knee and foot as she clambered by. Reaching the ground, she jumped to her feet and ran over to her little red wagon, turned and exclaimed, ‘I fed ducks, Daddy!’ We chatted for a few moments, whereupon, I stood, stretched and walked back into the warmth of the house. Jane skipped down our stepping stone walkway singing to herself… and another beautiful summer’s morning had began.

Donna and Jane visit her father’s family in Indiana
In early August, Donna’s father, Don drove from his home in California, to visit with relatives in Freelandville, Indiana. He had intentions of bringing his elderly father, Paul, up to visit with us, but Paul was feeling poorly and wasn’t up to traveling. Since Paul couldn’t come up here, Don asked if we could fly down to visit with them in Freelandville, he offered to pay the air fare. I wasn’t interested in going, but thought it would be a good opportunity for Donna and Jane to visit with her side side of the family.

Donna made plans at True Value Hardware, to take a few days off. Don sent the girls their airplane tickets and $200 dollars for any extra expenses they might incur.

At 4:40 AM on Saturday, August 22, we said our ‘Good byes’ in front of the garage, then Donna and Jane drove off down the driveway thus beginning their trip.

About three hours after leaving home, their flight, aboard a TWA passenger jet left Minneapolis International Airport enroute to St. Louis.  This was Jane’s first time off the ground in an airplane. Donna later reported that Jane was wide eyed with wonder at the sight of all the familiar types of things she knew, as seen from above.
Don picked the girls up in St. Louis at 9:00 AM and drove them back to his father’s farm near Freelandville. Don had his recreational vehicle set up on his father’s farm and was living in it while visiting.

[1987 photograph: Twin Cities International Airport, Jane looks out the terminal window as a 747 passenger jet is loading for flight.]

Meanwhile at home, I continued with my chores and pursuing my interests as normal, but felt an emptiness, like a great vacancy and disturbing quietness had descended through the house and across the yard.

One day while visiting in Indiana,  Donna and Jane attended a dinner party of about fifty relatives. Don had rented a hall and brought ham for all, the other families brought pot luck dishes, vegetables, etc. The day was spent with every one looking at photograph albums, talking, telling family stories, etc.  Jane played with her many cousins.

A poem I wrote on August 25th:
‘In the Summertime, the faces of their children grew up from the soil,
Their smiles echoed the faces of the ripened crops come before.
Creating small pockets of heightened order from captured energy and entrophied matter,
these they  handed out with broken limbs, past Winterfall.
And, in the Spring…
Their faces were of children grown from the soil whence they came,
Their smiles mirroring faces of children gone before.
Their many are one, their one are many.’
It goes on until the end.

Don visits in his Recreational Vehicle
About two weeks after Donna and Jane returned from their visit with family in Freelandville, Indiana, Don drove up to Minnesota to spend the period of September 10 – September 28  visiting with us.

Six days after arriving, Don suggested we all go camping or on a few day mini-vacation. I telephoned Donna at True Value Hardware and told her vacation plans were in the offing and that she should start making plans at work to get a few days off. Don and I spent about four hours that afternoon planning a nine hundred twenty nine mile trip.
[Photo at right: This image from the Internet shows the same Dodge Sportsman model Don had, but different exterior paint colors.]

Description of the RV
Earlier in the year, Don bought a used 1972 Dodge Sportsman motor home for $6,000. He put another $1500. into the RV, buying and installing a small color television, a microwave oven,  air-conditioner and having some work done on the vehicle’s drive shaft and steering. When the outfitting was done, Don quite literally had a home on wheels.

The RV measured twenty four feet long, with an eighteen foot long by eight foot wide living quarters. The exterior of the cab and the body of the aluminum RV were painted white, while a ten inch or so, green stripe ran the length of the vehicle, just below its windows.
The RV had a 2500 watt generator for emergency or ‘off road’ electrical power, but was also wired to run from AC power.

Inside the cab were two, posh swivel chairs, one for the driver the other for a  passenger.

Passanger’s side of the RV interior:
Immediately behind the cab partition, on the vehicle’s right side was a dinette table with a long ‘L’ shaped seat extending along two sides. Continuing along same side wall while going back, there was the refrigerator with over head cabinets. Next came the microwave oven sitting on a shelf top with cabinets overhead and drawers below. Just beyond the microwave oven was the rear, side entry door.  At the back of the RV next to the door was a large closet for hanging clothes. Sharing the back wall, but enclosed in a small room, was the Spartan bathroom with its toilet, sink and shower.
[The Internet images at left are from the same Dodge Sportsman model RV as Don had, except in a slightly different floor plan. The idea here is to show how we traveled and the amenities at our disposal while ‘on the road’.

Continuing around the wall from the back of the living quarters on the driver’s side: Next to the wall partition that enclosed the bathroom, one first encountered the four burner cooking stove, then a counter top working space, followed by a double sink. Located above the stove, counter and sink were cabinets for foods and utensils, while below were drawers.

Between the sink and the driver’s seat was a long bench. This bench was situated right across the central aisle from the dinette table. Above the bench was a shelf on which Don had bolted the television. The RV living quarters extended  out over the cab roof about four feet, providing a ‘bed, over-cab’ sleeping area.

There was a screened window on either side of the living quarters, which allowed passengers at the dinette, or the opposite bench, a good view of the passing terrain. The interior walls were covered with wood grain paneling, while the living quarter floors had sculptured, wall to wall carpeting of cinnamon and white fabric. The bench seats had five inch thick upholstered foam rubber cushions and bolsters. At night the seats and dinette folded down to form sleeping arrangements for six persons.

Some of the RV’s other appliances and amenities included: Aa new 12 inch color TV, 12 linear feet of overhead cabinets, privacy drapes, microwave oven, 13 lower drawers and cabinets, hot and cold running water, air conditioning and heating, a large closet   for hanging clothes, a small but complete bathroom, a 7 cubic foot gas or electric (selectable) refrigerator with freezer compartment, four burner cooking stove with oven (propane),  both a fresh water and black water holding tank.

Iowa Revisited [7]
The circular trip would take us through Iowa to visit the Nineteenth and Twentieth century homes and graves of several of my great grandparents and 2-Great grandparents. During the next forty eight hours there was a flurry of activity around the house as we not only prepared for the logistics of the trip, but put together various documents so we’d know exactly where we were going and to look for when we got there. Several long distance telephone calls were made to genealogists in Iowa, who would be looking for ancestral home locations and Nineteenth century maps, all of which we’d pick up in a couple days, as we drove through Iowa.

During mid afternoon on Friday, 18 September, at the end of her work shift, we picked Donna up at True Value Hardware. As soon as she was in the RV, we pulled out of the parking lot, drove through St.   Cloud and turned south toward Iowa.  We spent the night in a KOA Campground near the Minnesota-Iowa boarder.

Visiting the Francis A. Pierce grave
During the morning of Saturday, September 19, as we drove into Iowa, the recreational vehicle was filled with the sound of talking, the squeaks and creaks of the vehicles body, the muted roar of the tires on the road. Within me was a private, hushed silence, for we were soon to arrive at the previous home and graves of my Pierce Great grandparents, near Lawler, Chickasaw County, Iowa.

Coming over the crest of a hill, we saw the small town of Lawler, spread out in a shallow valley. My Great grandparents, Francis Albert Pierce and Lydia Amanda Sabin were buried only a mile and a half northwest of Lawler.

We drove up Benz Street to the North Lawler Cemetery and located Francis and Amanda’s grave site more or less in the center of the cemetery. The cemetery was bordered on two side by corn fields and had a patch of wood on the back side. Later in the day, we found that until 1985, the North Lawler Cemetery and two other old cemeteries had been allowed to grow wild, without any lawn care or other maintenance. That explained why the grass in the cemetery looked like a mix of herbaceous broadleaf’s and grass–until recently, weeds and saplings had grown wild obscuring the markers.

[Site of Jacksonville, Chickasaw Co., IA. Located about 1-1/4 mi north of the 19th Century, Francis A. Pierce farm. The school Glen K. Pierce attended as a child, is seen as the white structure at far left.]

Francis A. Pierce, had one of the most prominent markers of the approximately one hundred grave stones in the cemetery. The six foot high, gray granite family monument had a top that was carved to resembled four gabled roof. Lydia’s obituary said she was buried in the family plot with her first husband, Francis and indeed we found their two smaller head stones. I was sad to see that Lydia’s name was never inscribed on the larger, family monument, never-the-less, many years before her own death she’d had inscribed on her husband’s marker,

‘GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN’.

I would like to have had the time to spread a blanket on the grass in front of the Pierce family grave marker and sat for awhile. I would like to have had some quiet time alone to reach within myself and segregate my principle parts, to commune with that 12% of me that was still Francis and Amanda.

Driving back to Lawler, we asked a gas station attendant for directions to ‘old Jacksonville’ and found that another three miles north, past North Cemetery on Benz Street, then about a half mile to the west, was a place now called, ‘Five Corners.’ As the attendant explained, ‘There used to be a small town there, but now it’s just a junction where there are five gravel roads going off this way and that through the corn fields. There is some kind of a small museum and park at the crossroads. People go there for picnics, but I think it’s closed now.’

My grandfather, Glen Pierce, attended elementary school in a small school house atJacksonville.

Old Jacksonville
We drove out into the country side following the instructions given by the gas station attendant and our Iowa state map. Turning west off Benz Street, at the roads ‘T’, we followed a narrow gravel road a little less than a half mile to the top of a low hill where we came to ‘Five Corners’.

While Don parked the RV, the rest of us climbed out to stretch our legs and survey the surroundings. Between the road segments that ran NW and SW from the junction, there was a several acre triangle of land dedicated as the ‘Adolph MunsonPark’. A large sign with yellow lettering on a brown background stood facing the five cornered intersection stating, ‘Jacksonville, Iowa 1854 – 1888’

The park was bordered by a weathered, old (modern vintage) gray split rail fence. In the park stood several original buildings fromJacksonvilleand vicinity. We walked around the old buildings looking in through their windows: There was a small, turn-of-the-century general store which had become a museum filled with antiques. The log cabin was brought in from elsewhere in the county and professionally reassembled in its new home. Lastly, was the nicely whitewashed, one room school house. The school building had originally set a few hundred yards away, along the gravel road we’d just come down, but was moved into the park and set on the still intact foundation that once housed The Jacksonville Republican newspaper.
.

Photos above. (L)  Interior of Jacksonville school, facing front. Photograph by Robert F. Pierce taken in 1989. (R) Interior of Jacksonville school, facing rear. My mother, Hazel M. Pierce looks about. Grandfather Glen received his lower education in this room.]

I walked out into the center of the gravel intersection and oriented my 1894 Chickasaw County map. Facing due south, I looked down a gentle, long hill which rose slightly about a mile away.  Fields of tall Iowa corn grew on either side of the road for as far as the eye could see. The southern horizon was a long low ridge about two and a half miles away. Between the hill, upon which I now stood, and that ridge, lay the land on which the Pierce family lived for some thirty years during the late 19th century. Their lives, toil and emotions all played out on the land located between these two low hills.

I gulped nervously and shifted my weight while peering down the road, lost in thought, searching for the images of another time. In my mind’s eye welled up the image of a buck board with the Pierce family coming to town; then of my young, grandfather, walking and skipping homeward from elementary school, turning his head briefly to watch a grasshopper fly up. I wondered how many countless times the family members had been in town, then starting for home, passed through that very spot where I stood and saw the same land configurations and I saw.

Returning to the RV, we drove about one and a half miles south on the gravel road where we came to the northeast boarder of the 19th Century, Francis A. Pierce farm. The farm sat on the backbone of a long low hill; the land was beautiful and rich in agricultural resources. The current owners had the fields primarily planted to corn, while some acreage was in hay and some lay fallow. The farmstead buildings were near the lowest point of the property, at the northeast corner.
Extending along the road for a couple hundred feet and acting as shade and a wind break were a line of tall evergreens. Perpendicular to the road, and extending about six hundred feet was a line of old hardwood trees that protected the farmstead buildings from north and easterly winds.

[Francis A. &  Lydia (Sabin) Pierce farm. West (left) to Northwest panorama of the property owned by Francis Albert Pierce and     family from  the late 1800s. Jacksonville (Five Corners) is up the road to the right, about 1-1/2 miles.]

Stories from the Francis A. Pierce farm
I recalled reading in Francis’s obituary, that he and wife, Lydia Amanda Sabin, had carved their farm out of native prairie. Great-grandfather, Francis, and his family were the first civilized people, the first Europeans, perhaps the first humans ever to cultivate the one hundred sixty acres we were about to see.  The Francis A. Pierce family consisted of Francis and Amanda, their eldest son Francis Jr. (Frank), twin girls, Myrtle and Gertrude (Gertie) and the youngest son, my grandfather, Glen Kenyon. When Francis Sr. died in his fifties, Amanda remained on the farm raising the children. When the youngsters were grown, she sold the farm, moved locally and subsequently remarried.

Don stopped the RV at the old Pierce farmstead driveway. Donna and I climbed down and walked about seventy five feet up the driveway toward a figure who was bent over, working in the engine of a recent model car.

An older, middle aged man in his late fifties straightened up and watched us approach while frowning suspiciously. I introduced Donna and myself and told the weather beaten gentleman that I was descended from an earlier owner of the property and that if he had a few minutes to share we would like to ask some questions about the old homestead. After chatting for a few minutes, the farmer began to relax where upon he introduced himself as Harold, grandson of the man who had, in the time of Francis A. Pierce, owned an adjoining property immediately the north  of the Pierce farm[8].

The white haired, ruddy-red faced Irishman said that, the Pierce house was torn down and the current house constructed on the same site in 1924.

Harold invited us into his house where he motioned for us to sit at the kitchen table. His wife joined us and we all began chatting. During the conversation, Harold left the room for a few moments and returned with two books, a brittle scrap book and an old photograph album. When he sat the old books on the table, a silverfish darted out from the binding of the scrapbook, turned and scurried back inside for safety.

While opening the scrap book, Harold told us that ‘It was left to me by my old maid aunt who died at the age of 95, a few year ago.’

For a moment I lost track of the conversation, thinking,

‘If Harold’s aunt was 95 years old a few years ago, that means she was born perhaps 98 years ago. My grandfather, Glen K. Pierce, was born 100 years ago last June 4 (1887). So, Glen and Harold’s ‘old maid aunt’ had been only a year or two apart in age, they lived on adjoining farms, they certainly  knew one another, undoubtedly walked to school together and played together as children!’

Harold’s aunt had collected newspaper articles relating to the birth, marriage and death of many persons whom she knew from the early day in old Jacksonville. While browsing through the scrapbook, I found the Death Notice for my grandfather, Glen, dated 1958, and one for his sister Gertrude Pierce-Uglum.

Meanwhile, Harold was thumbing through the old photograph album. When he found what he was looking for, he handed me the album stating, ‘Here’s a picture of the Pierce house.’ I gulped in guarded excitement as I drew the picture’s image into memory. The photograph had been taken from atop the farm yard’s old wooden windmill, which previously stood two hundred feet southwest of the house, in the exact same location as Harold’s current windmill (built in the 1930s).

The Pierce two story, white, wood frame farmhouse had no basement, but was built on a field stone foundation. When the house was torn down in 1924, a small addition on the end of the house was salvaged and moved one hundred fifty feet west into the barnyard where it was used as a chicken coop for over half a century, before being burned in circa 1984.

During our conversations, Harold suddenly threw back his head in laughter as he recalled a story, a story told him many years ago by his now deceased aunt. Harold said (paraphrased), ‘When she was a little girl, she was over at the Pierce’s when one of the boys, (pause) Glen, climbed the wooden windmill. Then, holding onto the wooden blades, he began to rotate with the propeller. Round and round he went, upside down one minute and right side up the next.’

 

[Heirloom  photograph: Francis A. and Lydia (Sabin) Pierce home, ca 1923. Photo taken from the windmill tower shortly before the old house was demolished by the farms new  owners.]

Glen’s childhood deed was daring, funny and memorable. I was amazed that the story remained in memory for these last ninety years. At the same time, realizing that when I subsequently retold the story to my daughter, Jane, it would be an image evoking memory sake of her great-grandfather, Glen Pierce, for still a longer period of time.

Seeing our excitement, Harold left the kitchen again and returned with the farms old Title of Abstract. I was becoming overwhelmed by the amount and the rate at which information was being presented. I asked Harold if he’d so kind as to make photocopies of some of the papers he had shown us and if I could borrow the photo of the Pierce house.

[ca 1899 Heirloom photograph: Francis Jr. and my paternal grandfather, Glen K Pierce (standing) by ‘the Silver Maple’. (?)]

I gasped in shocked surprise when Harold  reached forward and simply removed the photograph from the album and handed it to me while agreeing to make photocopies of the other items I’d asked for.

When we about to leave, we’d all stepped outside when Harold told a touching story which gave an insight into the character of Great grandmother Lydia Amanda Sabin. Harold said, (paraphrased), ‘For years after my family bought the farm, Mrs. Pierce  would  stop by on occasion and ask to look at a Silver Maple that she and her husband planted when they first bought the land. The tree was on the north side of the house (gesturing over his shoulder).

I lapsed into thought for a moment, wondering if the Silver Maple was the same tree we have a in a heirloom family photograph. In the picture, son Francis Jr. (Frank) is seen seated in a chair and young Glen is standing, both are leaning against an approximately fifteen to twenty year old tree whose bark appears to be Maple. Harold continued, ‘The large, sprawling tree was damaged by severe winds during the 1970s and had to be cut down.’ As we walked back out along the driveway, I glanced back into the yard and could see all that remained of the tree was a slight, grass filled depression in the yard where the stump was removed.

That evening around 6:30 PM, we stopped at a Pizza Hut in Waverly, Iowa for a pizza and beer. As we hurried across the parking lot, a squall line passed over us and a downpour followed.

Whereas, downtown Waverly appeared deserted, Pizza Hut  was packed with college age students and young families. It had been overcast, humid and warm all day so we were all feeling a little uncomfortable and dehydrated. The smell of baking pizza crust, cheese, baking vegetables and tomato sauce set our appetites on fire. We ordered a large Super Supreme pizza with a thin crust and glasses of cold beer.

Around 9:30 PM, we pulled into a KOA Campground at Story City, a few miles north of Ames,Iowa to spend the night. Don paid the $12.50 fee for a parking space, with water, sewage and electric utilities hook ups. We were so exhausted after a full day of driving and sightseeing, that everyone was in bed by 10:00 PM and asleep shortly thereafter.

Early morning thoughts: genes, Lydia
I awoke at4:00 AM, got up for a bathroom run, then returned to my bed above the RV cab. Dim illumination from a park security lamp entered through the curtains, allowing me to make out shapes in the darkness.

Don, ‘Grandpa,’ was asleep in his sleeping bag on the cushions of the pulled out kitchenette table’s seat bench. Donna was asleep in her goose down bag on a fold down berth several feet above the table. Jane was snuggled in her goose down bag on the pull out bench seat between the sink and the driver’s seat. Other than for an occasional snore, the motor home was immersed in silence.

Instead of returning to sleep, I laid drowsily in my sleeping bag, thinking about Great-grandfather Francis, grandfather Glen, my father, Robert, and myself.
I was attempting to recognize the genetic predisposition’s, abilities and sense of order we shared. I wondered about the natural abilities that Francis used in building his house and farm. I sought the quiet strength and sense of order that led Glen into the profession of engineering and finally to his retirement fruit farm near Coloma, Michigan.

In my mind’s eye there formed small iconic images of Francis, Glen, Robert and myself. We were aligned vertically  in chronological order. I could see that there were related predisposition’s up and down the generations. To this group, were then added images of the descendants of Glen Pierce, all of whom I personally knew. The family was seen floating in pyramidal shaped family tree with Francis and Amanda at the top and our most recent generation along the base of the pyramid.

Suddenly, in my semi awake state, several of the images became animated, each displaying a similar predisposition or inherited trait. Then, one after another, shared characteristics were seen cascading down the generations like illuminated pin balls that spreading out through the widening family structure. However, as each characteristic coursed through the family, not every person was animated (or illuminated) by that particular trait. While several generations shared a trait, that trait became masked or muted for a generation, only to arise as a full blown characteristic in a later generation. The spotty way in which the characteristics were passed from one to another person, brought to mind the idea of probability cloud. Traits showed up at seemingly random locations within the related group but with greater density than they would be found in a not immediately related group.

I knew there was a large ‘genetic current’ feeding into the images from the husbands and wives who had married into this family line across the generations.

The animated images faded from my mind, only to be replaced by the realization that when we think of our ancestors as separate, non connected, individuals, we are inexplicably, but falsely, isolating one another in space-time. In reality we are not only connected, we are literally and paradoxically, one another by degree, we are very close reproduction-manifestations of an essentially immortal gene code.

A family is the leading edge of the gene mix. A family exists in a space-time location where clusters of shared genetic predisposition’s exist in their highest probability. Our genes sprout a new ‘carrier-breeder’ from materials they find in the natural  environment. We as individuals call the mobile carrier, ‘my body’. So, this body and it’s physical and socio-intellectual cerebral function becomes the individual manifestation of our genetic humanity. Those individual manifestations called, Francis, Glen, Robert, Larry and Jane all carry very, very similar recombinant characteristics– it was these blocks of similarity that I sought.

As time passed, and in the quiet, darkness of the RV, I continued thinking about the previous day’s events:
Before this trip, all that I knew about my Great grandmother Lydia Amanda Sabin-Pierce, was taken from a single photograph I had of her; the photograph showed a friendly and pleasant  looking, older, matronly woman.
When Harold _ told us that over the years, Mrs. Pierce had periodically returned to the farm to see and stand by the Silver Maple tree that she and her deceased husband, Francis planted, I knew her. I immediately understood Lydia as a loving, devoted mother, helpmate and wife. I saw a person who carried the memory of personal commitment and her first marriage to the end of her own life.

Lydia never knew, how could she, that her innocuous, private and personal pilgrimages back to the farm would be recalled a century later. The memory of her unyielding devotion and the words, ‘GONE  BUT  NOT  FORGOTTEN’ engraved on her husband’s monument, have continued to exist in that area and now with special meaning in the memories of her family. In a moment of introspection, I wondered if my idea for this sentimental trip to Iowa, derived from the same predisposition that led Lydia back to the farm and ‘their Silver Maple’, a multi generational sense of romanticism.

The Grubb home in Grand Junction
Sunday, September 20, was another busy day that started for our traveling group at6:00 AM and lasted until late that night.
During mid morning we drove into Grand Junction, Iowa.
Grand Junction was the town where my Great grandparents, George and Anna (Annie) Flora (Anderson) Grubb  lived for many years into the early decades of the 20th Century. It was here that they raised their family including my youthful grandmother, Elsie Grubb.

Elsie Grubb grew up, met Glen Kenyon Pierce while they both were attending the University of Iowa and were later married. Glen was the lad who rode the windmill propellers on his parent’s farm, the farm we visited the previous day.

The neighborhood surrounding central Grand Junction, was made up of old two story, white wood frame houses, all set back from the road on large lots. The wide streets were lined with tall, stately hardwood trees, whose branches extended out above the road to create an arching canopy.

Grand Junction had once been a bustling Midwestern town. It blossomed with the growth of agricultural production in Iowa and expansion of railroad service into the American west.

The town’s two to three block long business district consisted of a wide street with turn of the century brick buildings. Each building had its own character, all of which denoted past affluence. There were carved stone scrolls and brick designs at the top of the buildings and below the roofs. There were brick arches above windows and doorways, there were patterns created from differently shaded inlaid brick, but this was all from Grand Junctions heyday, in the latter half of the 19th Century.

The two story, brick City Hall, once the pride of Grand Junction, stood in the edge of the business district, it’s windows boarded up, it’s belfry dismantled, the bell removed.

The sidewalks through town had become grossly unleveled. Long fissures in the concrete were seen running this way and that, while weeds and grass grew wild from the cracks. Along the sidewalk, tall weeds had taken hold and grew from the tiny space between the sidewalk and the building fronts.

Several of the downtown business’s windows were boarded up, while other buildings were simply deserted and vacant. Walking along the main street through town, I saw checkered paint, fading colors, bare wood, faded and unused window shades still drawn in upper story windows, unclean gutters, weeds, and mostly empty buildings. The town was not dirty, run down or dilapidated like a city ghetto, but was honorably deteriorating with age, like an old pair of comfortable slippers that have been in service past their usefulness.

Returning to the RV, we checked an early Twentieth Century, Grand Junction street map to locate the house lot where George and  Anna lived.

A few moments later, when we turned onto Railroad Avenue, I stepped down from the motor home and walked alone. It was a mere half block walk along the sidewalk on the north side of the street before I came to a vacant lot that was filled with low weeds. Although the lot on which the Grubb house stood measured about one hundred fifty feet wide by two hundred feet deep, the family owned several consecutive lots along the street and thereby owned nearly one side of the entire block. At the back of the property and extending out perhaps a quarter mile was a cornfield.

Approaching the home site, I could feel my heart beating with anticipation. For so many decades George and Anna’s two story house had stood in the lot, but by the time I had come to visit, where the house had stood, there now existed only a large irregular square of dark soil. It was unsettling to see how all the attention, love and labor that went into making this location a prosperous home was now erased from the environment.

[Journal drawing looking along Railroad Ave. The sidewalk to the old Grubb house cane be seen where there is a long whish of brown leading to the right, from the sidewalk. The location where the front of the house stood can been seen in the rectangular geometry of brown discoloration of the soil-cut weeds.]

Standing on the public sidewalk in front of where the house had been, I looked about. Before me was the dark soil and a slight depression where a concrete sidewalk once led to the George and Annie’s front porch. Great grandmother had spent many hours of her life tending flowers along the sidewalk, immediately in front of the spot where I now stood.

I recalled something my elderly cousin, Doris Grubb-Hughes, wrote about her memories of Anna:

[Carrying forward from the previous drawing. We’ve walked down the overgrown sidewalk and stopped, turned to the right and are looking up the sidewalk, and back in time 70 years to see the family posing for their picture on the homes front steps.
Photograph above, the George E. and Anna Flora Grubb family, ca 1917. Part of extended Grubb family sitting on front steps the Grand Junction home discussed in this text.
L>R top rear: Edward Grubb (son), Elsie Grubb-Pierce (daughter), George E. Grubb Sr. (father)
L>R  middle row: Marie Heggi-Grubb (their daughter-in-law) with daughter Margaret, Anna Flora Anderson-Grubb (mother) with baby grandson (my Uncle Bill) William Pierce on lap, Glen K.  Pierce (their son-in-law, my grandfather).
Front:  Dorothy Grubb (granddaughter, who later in life was my 5th grade math teacher)]

’…Annie rose very early on summer mornings, donned stockings on arms to protect skin, and worked outside in her flowers. Along the sidewalk leading to the main walk were California poppies…always beside the steps leading to the porch were pansies…they were surely hard on neighborhood kids that might skate by on their roller skates (and damage the flowers)’

Beside me and continuing down the block in either direction was the public sidewalk overgrown with weeds and buckled after generations without repair.

I began browsing around on the property and found a narrow concrete sidewalk that was covered by three fourths inch of soil, weed detritus and grass. This length of sidewalk once led to the Grubb’s ‘back (side) porch’. Cousin Doris wrote of that porch, as she recalled 50 year old images from her younger years, ‘…I mostly remember Grandpa at home, working outside, mixing up stuff on the enclosed back porch and carrying pails of it, slightly stooped…’

My Great grandfather, George Grubb died in 1938, four years before my birth, yet between cousin Doris’ memories and my standing on that practically buried walkway, the previous half century practically collapsed in my mind’s eye.

In a flash of imagination, I saw my great grandfather, a tall, thin, balding man, who had years earlier retired from the rail road and grown old. He was backing out the porch door carrying a bucket in each hand. The porch door swung shut with a thin sounding ‘slam’ and George came down the steps, turned and walked up the  sidewalk toward and right through me…over fifty years earlier.

Grandmother, Elsie Grubb-Pierce, once told me of an event that occurred here: When referring to her father, George Grubb, Elsie said, (paraphrased), ‘He had a terrible temper. Once when he was going to spank me, I climbed out the bedroom window onto the porch roof, scooted down a trellis next to the porch support and ran over to a neighbor’s until he cooled down.’

The Grubb’s house had burned, its basement was back filled with soil. The fruit trees and flower beds the family grew and tended, the house where Grandmother Elsie Grubb-Pierce was raised were all gone now.

Donna and I walked to a nearby house to speak with several adults who’d stepped out on their side lawn. We introduced ourselves and told of my relationship with the George and Anna Grubb who had lived in the currently vacant lot next door. An elderly  gentleman in the group appraised Donna and myself before speaking. Then we learned, the people we were talking to, were members of the Hillman family who had been one of the town founders a hundred fifty years ago. Over the generations, the Hillman’s were involved in a variety of local business’.

Doing most of the talking, was the animated, ninety two year old, Mr. Hillman, who alternately leaned on his cane and waved it in the air as he spoke of the Grubb family and their house, saying,

‘I recall an instance in 1918 when one of the children died during the Flu epidemic, that the Misses, Mrs. Grubb, came over to the house to help out during the families bereathment.’

He continued,
‘In its day the Grubb’s had one of the show place houses in Grand Junction. They had lots of trees and shrubs on the property…After she died, the house was rented out. Then it went downhill. Neither the landlord or the renters did anything to keep the place up. Finally the roof got bad and water started to get in, so no one lived in the house…’

We were told that the house burned down in 1984 or ’85 and the basement was back filled a year later. Indeed, all that remained of this place were the notations on an old map, some family photographs, the memories and stories passed down by the older members of our family.

After thanking the Hillman’s for the time and information they gave us, we walked back to the RV and left Grand Junction looking for the town cemetery.

Grand Junction Cemetery
Two miles west of town, on Highway E53, we found the Grand Junction Cemetery. The people who made Grand Junction a modern and up to date town during the late 19th and early 20th century were all there, their resting place as fine and modestly grand as the town they built had its self once been.

The graves of George and Anna Flora Anderson- Grubb were located on the east side of the cemetery, next to a large cornfield. Their family marker was a reddish-purple granite stone standing about two and a half feet high with an overall width of about four feet.

When Jane began climbing on George and Anna’s headstone stone, I called her down and began to explain what the marker stood for and our need to respect  their resting place. While talking, I suddenly realized that if George and Anna knew their 2G-grand daughter, Jane, was climbing on their marker, they would probably have told me to let her play. The twenty five percent of me that is George and Anna, told their twelve and a half percent composite, which has become Jane, ‘Go ahead and play, but don’t get hurt.’.

Sunday, September 20th was turning out to be one of those Fall days where if you wore a sweater it was too warm and if you didn’t, it was too cold.  By noon, the sun was just beginning to show itself  and small patches of sky could be seen amongst the fast moving cumulus clouds.

Margaret Grubb-Frantz
After lunch, we visited briefly with my elderly, seventy seven year old cousin Margaret Grubb-Frantz and her husband Leon Frantz. Margaret was the granddaughter of George and Anna Grubb, her sister Dorothy Grubb-Mount was my Fifth Grade mathematics teacher at Amphitheater School in Tucson, Arizona. (see youthful Margaret, leaning next to her mother, in the Grubb family photograph above).

The Frantz’s were obviously literate people. Decades earlier, Leon had been a successful hog auctioneer and gentleman farmer, as well as Mayor of Grand Junction for ten years. The Frantz’s sold their rural properties a couple decades earlier and were living in a modern, split level house in Grand Junction. There were books in evidence about the living room, including several thick religious books on an end table.

I noted that Margaret and Leon, as well as the Hillman family were all dressed in their Sunday clothes. The women were in nice, understated dresses; while the men wore white shirts, neck ties and quality vintage suits. They were all dressed from having attended church, an activity that is often second nature in small town America. Each was carrying on a custom they had learned as children, in the early decades of this 20th Century. These people had been, as children, the friends and relatives of George Grubb and Anna Flora Anderson-Grubb.

As we talked, Margaret said of Anna Grubb (her grandma),
‘She liked to have her way a lot. She was particular and tended to detail. Once they (George and Anna) had an argument and she went to bed for two weeks to teach him a lesson…’ 

A while later, referring to George Grubb, Margaret said fondly,
‘He was kind of gruff and liked to tease the grandkids.’

Margaret went into a back room and returned to loan me a 1914-15 photograph of George and Anna, as well as her childhood family sitting on the front steps of the Grubb house in Grand Junction (seen above).

Shortly thereafter, as we prepared to leave the Frantz home, Margaret and I hugged, looked into each other’s eyes and said our good-byes. That was the first and only time Margaret and I ever met, yet, it filled the two of us with a moment of sentiment. When we wished each other well, I had a lump in my throat and saw small tears in the corner of her eyes.
A few years later I received a letter from my Dad, informing me that Margaret had  passed away; Leon followed Margaret a few months later…and another generation was gone

Jefferson Cemetery
The next leg of our journey took us to nearby Jefferson, Iowa where we spoke for a half an hour with genealogy researcher, Shirley Ross.
Just before leaving Minnesota, we telephoned Mrs. Ross, whom was a long time member of the Greene County Historical Society, and asked her to find some information that we’d pick up a few days later as we toured Iowa. We were looking for the location of a farm owned by Harmon and Margaret Anderson, (my 2 great grandparents) the parents of Anna Flora Anderson-Grubb, whose now vacant homesite we’d just visited in Grand Junction.

Mrs. Ross exceeded our expectations by locating not only the Harmon Anderson farm, but other properties that he owned later, in Scranton; she found Harmon’s Estate Probate papers as well as other information relating to the Harmon Anderson family.

Our next stop in Jefferson was at the Jefferson Cemetery. About seventy five feet inside from the main gate, the cemetery drive came to a ‘T’ at the base of a statue. The approximately life size statue of a Civil War soldier stood atop an eight foot high concrete pedestal. I thought the statue fitting, particularly in the graveyard; for Harmon Anderson was a Civil War veteran and had been a Prisoner of War at Georgia’s infamous Andersonville stockade.
[Photo at right. Me, standing near Harmon Anderson’s family monument in Jefferson cemetery.]

On the northwest side of the cemetery, we found the monument and family burial plot of my paternal 2G-grandparents Harmon  and Margaret (Horney) Anderson, parents of Anna Flora (Anderson) Grubb. The Anderson’s eight foot tall gray granite marker was one of the tallest and most ornate monuments in its vicinity.

We cleaned, then chalked the monument in order to make the engraved inscriptions stand out more clearly, then as we had done with the other family grave markers encountered on the trip, photographed the monument for our family archives.

Harmon Anderson’s Iowa farm
Late that afternoon, we found the farm property Harmon, Margaret and family had bought for $480 on 10 July 1868. The one hundred sixty acre tract was located about five miles south southwest of Jefferson, on the south side of Iowa Highway E53.

When the Harmon Anderson family moved to Iowa from Spring Valley, Ohio and bought the property, my great grandmother Anna Flora was only seven years old!

At the old farm site, we stopped the RV to look across the fields of ripened corn. And in doing so, saw the same geographical and sky conformations my ancestors saw ever day for the eleven years they lived on the property. In the late 1860s, that area had been prairie, dotted by small agricultural fields. As the decades passed and technology improved the fields became larger and larger, to a point where as far as you could see there were now crops. The land was prosperous and had proven fruitful for those who settled here permanently.

We stopped at the modern farmhouse that sat on the property.
Next to the driveway was a sign stating that the farm was listed in the Iowa State Registry as a ‘Century Farm’, meaning it had been in the same family for at least one hundred years. An old, gray haired gentleman, in his sixties, working about the yard stopped to watch us, so we climbed down from the RV, walked up the driveway and introduced our selves.

I was pleasantly surprised that this man was Mr. Graven, grandson of Clark Graven who brought the farm from Harmon and Margaret in 1879! Mr. Graven told us that his father had told him that (paraphrased),
‘The previous owners, the Anderson’s, had a T shaped log cabin on the same site as their house[9]. My grandfather, Clark, lived in the Anderson cabin after purchasing the land.’  The Graven’s present house, built in 1951 was the second house their family had built on the same exact location.

The farmhouse and out buildings, sat on a slight rise along the slope of a long gentle hill, situated about one hundred fifty feet from the passing highway. From their cabin’s location, the Anderson family could look out over their prairie land and see from the southeast around to the southwest.

Mr. Graven said he was harvesting one hundred eighty bushels of corn and forty bushels of soybeans per acre from the land and that it was recently appraised at $800 and $1000 per acre at a time when agricultural land prices were depressed.

[Heirloom family photograph: Inside Harmon and Margaret (Horney) Anderson cabin home, rural Jefferson, IA, ca. 15 January 1875: Son, Willie, lies in state, his sisters and brother look on (L>R): Elizabeth, ♥ Anna Flora, James.]

We chatted with Mr. Graven for about twenty minutes then returned to the RV and turned back out onto the highway.

A quarter of a mile west of the farmhouse, we came to an intersection between Highway E57 and County Road 18. In the southwest corner, now a cornfield, there once stood a frontier school house. Anna, her brothers, sisters and neighboring children walked there for their schooling between 1868 and 1879.

Mr. Graven had just told us, ‘The school house is long gone, but the water well is reputed to still exist.’ Indeed, all traces of the school, save the remnants of a hand water pump, had been plowed into the field.
The images of children of hurrying to and from school along the rutted wagon trails, of great grandmother Anna Flora Anderson walking to and from school with her siblings, the sounds of children calling to one another, all lay hidden amongst the tall, golden, silent stalks of corn.

Visiting Scranton, Iowa
Very late in the afternoon, we arrived in Scranton, a nearby town, where Harmon and the family moved several years prior Harmon’s death. Scranton was only about two thirds the size of Grand Junction, having a business district only two blocks long and composted of about 8 to 10 brick buildings on either side of a wide street. It’s buildings, unlike Grand Junction, were mostly only one story tall and lacked the stylized flourishes evident of a town that has seen solid growth and a period of affluence.
Scranton was a sleepy town. Other than for a single, old man sitting on a sidewalk bench two blocks away, the village seemed deserted.
A block from the center of town, and in the same block as once stood Scranton’s City Hall, Harmon owned six of the eight city lots. All but one of the lots contained old and well kept, white, two story wood frame houses each surrounded by large, stately deciduous trees.

Harmon, like so many others of that area and of the late 1870s was heavily involved in land speculation. Our genealogical assistant, Mrs. Ross had told us, ‘ Generally, the people who arrived in a developing settlement bought up the land, speculating the area would continue to draw people and grow, hoping to make a relatively fast and handsome profit.’ I caught the term ‘speculating’ and realized immediately that Harmon and I shared at least this one common trait, he with land, myself with precious metals bullion and stocks.

Following the 1896 Plat Map eight blocks west of town, we found a six acre tract that Harmon owned and which Mrs. Ross thought was where the Anderson family lived after they sold the farm to Clark Graven and moved into town. There was no longer a house on the property, the land had become home to the not very large or prosperous looking, Scranton Manufacturing Company.

We drove back into Scranton and turned onto the main street on our way out of town. A few blocks north from the center of town, we found ourselves suddenly in the country, surrounded by Iowa’s ever present cornfields. We drove on, quietly talking amongst ourselves, everyone was tired and beginning to hunger after a full day of sightseeing.

Near the western horizon, the sky was filled with dark clouds whose upper most surfaces were illuminated with a soft white glow by the setting sun. Looking out across the fields toward the south, I noted that every few miles there were tall grain elevators located along the rail road tracks. We were  in the midst of the U.S. corn belt, a place of truly mighty food production.

It was dark when we reached Carroll, Iowa. We considered ourselves fortunate to find a Bonanza Steak restaurant, now quite hungry we stopped to eat. We all ordered the same meal, consisting of: soup, a plate pf goods from the salad bar, a baked potato with sour cream, grilled French bread, a sirloin tip steak, ice tea and a bowl of vanilla ice-cream for dessert.

Don’s hilarious story
After supper we resumed our drive, this time proceeding north, while looking for a campground in which to spend the night. Everyone was full, contented and beginning to relax, when suddenly, Don announced that he had a story to tell. It was about an event that had just occurred in the bathroom at the Bonanza restaurant.
Don continued, as we all sat listening to the story unfold:
‘I was sitting on the commode having a major poop when I passed a fart of such horrid smell that it ranked as one of the worst I ever let. Just then, two fellas came into the bathroom to use the urinal. One guy said to the other, ‘Boy the ventilation is poor in here!’ The second man, sounding about seventy years old, steps up to the urinal and said, ‘That’s the trouble with these places, the ventilation fans don’t work too good.’ The first man wouldn’t wait for his friend, saying, ‘I’ll wait for you outside!’ Meanwhile, the old man at the urinal began squeezing off farts while he tried to pee.
I sat on the toilet, one of those tall uncomfortable, paraplegic toilets, contemplating my own poop and listening to the old man fart, but laughing to myself, knowing there wasn’t a fart in the world thick enough to cover my odor. I laughed so hard after they left I could hardly wipe my butt.’

On we drove through the darkness, with Don recounting portions of his story. Donna, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, was doubled over, clutching her stomach while screaming with laughter. My sides ached and tears rolling down my cheeks as I gasped for breath between fits of laughing. Don’s revenge on people who fart in public bathrooms was one of the funniest stories we’d heard in a long time!
At 8:50 PM, we found a place to set up the RV in Black Hawk State Park, by 9:30 PM we were all in bed.

The trip home
Monday, September 21 found us on the final return leg of our mini vacation.
Over the next two days we stopped and toured several parks in Minnesota including, Blue Mounds SP, Split Rock SP, Upper Sioux Agency SP and Pipestone National Park.

Blue Mounds State Park was created around a prairie hill that gently rose from the surrounding plains, only to terminate on its southern slope in the sheer drop on ninety foot  cliff. In by-gone times, the Indians chased buffalo up the incline, over the innocent looking hill crest to the ‘buffalo jump’. We took the one and a half mile nature trail from the Interpretive Center to the ‘buffalo jump’, walking through some of the only remaining native prairie in Minnesota.

We stopped early that afternoon, to set up the motor home at a KOA campground near Pipestone National Park. We’d been driving hard and doing a lot of sightseeing during the last few days so it was nice to take a break, stretch our legs and lounge around for a while. By late afternoon, the sky became over cast and a chill set ins. While Donna prepared supper, I sat at the kitchenette chatting with her, writing a post card to friends and watching the Evening TV News. Meanwhile, Don and Jane, wearing their jackets, took a walk about the campgrounds. The Grandpa-Granddaughter pair visited an elaborate children’s playground which included, swings, see-saw, merry-go-round, a slide, tether ball and a hobby horses mounted on heavy duty springs.
Until nightfall, when another motor home pulled in, we’ were the only ones in the campground.
After supper everyonel remained seated about the kitchenette table watching television and chatting, before retiring at 8:30 PM.

A leisurely morning
I awoke at 4:10 AM Tuesday, September 22, but remained in bed until 5:20 AM before quietly getting up.
While my traveling companions slept, I dressed and stepped outside into the predawn chill and walked to the KOA park’s modern bathroom to wash and shave. Returning to the RV a short while later and finding everyone still asleep, I put on a heavy jacket and took a walk about the campgrounds. It was pleasant to be alone, to look up at the twinkling stars and walk in that strange place. The chilly temperatures felt invigorating; I pressed my hands deeper into my jacket pockets to keep them warm.

Around 6:20 AM the rest of our group crawled out of their sleeping bags and came out, one and hurried off to the bathroom. After that, it wasn’t long before we were all sitting around the table enjoying our morning cups of coffee and a milk and cereal breakfast.

Most of the morning was spent seeing the Pipestone National Monument museum and hiking the park’s long, winding nature trail. During the previous centuries, Indians came from as far as 1000 miles, to mine the pipestone mineral from the rock quarry for their ceremonial pipes. Over time, the crude mining operations resulted in several dozen small mines each six to ten feet deep and ten to fifteen feet wide. At the bottom of each of these miniature ‘open pit mines’, there was about a two foot wide irregular working space. Rock refuse piles built up around each pit created an unstable and hazardous talus pile.
I felt  a chunk of pipestone an thought it was fairly soft, having a hardness perhaps only about two or three times that of chalk and a feel described as slick or wet. The mineral ranged in color from rose pink to brick red.

Thoughts while returning home
We followed Highway #23 diagonally northeast, up across the state, from the southwestern corner of Minnesota, all the way to Foley. This was a quiet time. Donna was beginning to complain of a sore throat and felt like she was becoming ill. Don, Jane and I were all tired. During the previous four and a half days we drove nearly 1048 miles and stopped numerous times to visit my family’s ancestral prairie homesteads, the towns they lived in, we talked history with people, browsed through graveyards, saw the local sights, hiked, and visit museums.
I found that in our time in this world, we do leave traces that persist into deep time. The recognition of these traces are only realized when the proper key is inserted, when the proper questions are asked. When eyes that care look, old sights will be seen, lives sensed

When we reached Spicer, Minnesota, everyone was feeling the need for an energy lift, so we stopped at a Dairy Queen for an ice cream. Upon biting into our cones, Don, Donna and I all commented at once that the ice cream didn’t taste the way it use to. It was our guess that Dairy Queen had altered its ice cream formula, and not for the better. Thinking about declining ‘quality standards’ reminded me of a joke:
“A man walks up to the ticket counter at the Airport and inquires about prices. The ticket agent answers, ‘Yes, we have cheap rates and fast, efficient service. Which would you like?”

During the previous four days, while on the prairie in Iowa, we had seen very little wooded terrain, but as we approached St. Cloud, in central Minnesota, the area of forest coverage  increased rapidly. Also, Iowa’s agricultural fields  seemed to range in size between eighty and one hundred sixty acres, the largest field planted to one crop around St. Cloud is about forty acres.

Thinking about this, I realized that Iowa was settled by European culture a half century earlier than Minnesota. Iowa experienced a major influx of population between about 1840 and 1865. Minnesota followed with peaks in population growth occurring in the 1880s and 1890s. This is evident in the neighborhood of our rural home. The oldest farmhouses in Benton County date from the late 1880s to the early 1900s, these are ‘first generation’ houses. The oldest houses we saw in Iowa were second and third generation buildings.

Don, alone and not feeling well
We had a great time traveling with Don, but he’d changed since Eulah’s death. Don  seemed to have become more contrary and reclusive, noticeably so since his visit with us nine months earlier for Christmas.  Since his arrival, Don would get up after Donna went to work, come in from the RV for a shower, then spend the rest of the morning back in his RV having breakfast and watching TV. Of course, Jane kept him company. Grandfather and Granddaughter were frequently seen walking slowly along the driveway and about the yard.

Every day, Don spent maybe an hour or two working on this or that mechanical part of his old motor home. Some of the work probably needed doing, but I think he was also just trying to keep busy working on mechanical things, something he loved to do.  Don was not a happy man living alone. On top of his loneliness he was developing health problems: he’d begun complaining of an upper stomach pain or burning sensation, which he attributed to a haitial hernia or an ulcer.

Bright and early on the morning of September 28, after a nice eighteen day visit, we said our ‘Good Byes’ to Don, and he left, enroute back to his home in Anderson, California.

After our company left and life returned to normal around the house, I began writing up my notes from our trip to Iowa. It took seven hours per day for fifteen consecutive non weekend days, or one hundred plus hours work, to enter the story and associated colored pencil drawings into my journal.

[Above, photocopy of 1987 drawing from the front page of Journal 14: Trace of the Temporal Visitor]

This post is continued in Chapter 1987, age 44-45, Part 3 of 3.


[1] See ‘signatures lists’ below.
[2] Located in Spring Valley, OH
[3]  See Journal 13-2, Volume 2, Daily Diary, page 2403, ‘ 25 July Saturday’
[4]  Richard Matheson,  Bid Time Return,  (New York: The Viking Press, 1975)
[5] We traded information for about ten or eleven years, up until about 1990 or 1991.
[6]  See Journal 2, The Realm, page 221, ‘You and Your Family’, also the entirety of Journal 6, The Travelers Guide.
[7]  See Journal 14, Trace of the Temporal Visitor, page 2609, ‘Iowa Revisited’
[8]  When her husband, Francis died, Lydia finished raising her children on the farm. When they were grown she sold the farm to the neighboring, Galligan family.
[9] Since the Graven house and Anderson cabin are located in exact same spot, we stood chatting with Mr. Graven, in a spatial location, diagonally about 40 feet to the  left, beyond the door seen here …the Andersons were home and we were at their door step…112 years, 8 months and 5 days apart.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

Chapter 1987, age 44-45, Part 1 of 3

Themes and Events:
Early in the year the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) topped 2000 points, 14 years after reaching 1000 points. On August 13, the 5th anniversary of the bull market, the DJIA closed at 2691. By August 25, it reached 2,722, up 800 points during the year. Two months later, October 19 came to be known and remembered as, ‘Black Monday!’
*  Ceramic superconductivity is discovered. Only 2% of the U.S. population now lives on farms.
* There is a widespread feeling that the ‘cold war’ between the U.S.A. and Soviet Union is coming to an end as relations continue to improve. During mid year, Soviet leader Gorbachev agreed to an U.S. proposal to ban short- and medium-range nuclear weapons in Europe.
*  Tax freedom day falls on 4 May this year, up from 1 May in 1980.
*  There are currently 83 million houses and 5 million mobile homes in the United States.
*  A U.S. insurance company calculated the value of a human life at $650,000… On the other hand, a ‘hit man’ can be hired in New York’s Bronx to commit murder for $400.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  The one who dies with the most toys wins.
*  No radio — already stolen.
* A woman’s place is in the mall.
* My lawyer can beat up your lawyer.

January 1, a moment in life
A one day excerpt from my Journal  13: A Daily Diary of 1987, Vol I & II, pages 2145-2572:
“It is just past midmorning on a cold and gray winter’s day. Outdoors, we have light snow flurries, with a temperature of 17°F and a northwest wind of nine miles per hour. I am sitting at the kitchen table, feeling both warm and comfortable while writing in my journal and looking out the kitchen windows. A slight chill moves across the floor and around my ankles, occasionally disturbing my concentration.

My good wife, Donna, has just brought me a warm cup of Darjeeling tea and two generous slices of fruit cake topped with margarine. Stepping back across the kitchen, Donna resumes working at the sink. She has begun to clean and process a thawed thirteen pound turkey, the prime ingredient of our New Year’s supper. Wafting through the air is the delicious scent of turkey giblets, boiling in a sauce pan on the kitchen stove.

Just beyond the kitchen, in the living room is our twenty five inch color television set which is currently showing the ‘Ninety-eighth Tournament of Roses Parade’ in Pasadena, California. Beyond the television, but out of my view, is our cast iron Fischer wood burning fireplace. A log that I added to the fire awhile ago, can be heard sizzling and crackling, giving off its stored energy, helping to warm our home.

Don (Donna’s father), who is visiting for the holidays, is sitting on our floral print couch near the fireplace, sipping tea while watching the parade on television. Our delightful daughter, Jane, is in her bedroom taking a nap. Occasionally, one of us adults will comment on something or other and for a few moments there is quiet conversation.

 There is in the house,  a certain warmth, a sense of togetherness and the cheer associated with the holiday season.

Turning my head to the right and looking out the kitchen’s large bow window, I see our three large dogs: Griz, Jessie and Pepin. Because Jessie is in heat, all the dogs are chained to their respective houses. Grizzy is chained inside the garage, but is standing outside looking around. Each stands silently by his quarters, occasionally shifting their gaze to look at one another or into the woods, listening. It is very quiet outdoors.

Beyond the dog house’s and our eastern yard fence is the Maple and Oak forest. The large leafless trees stand like dark sentinels, patiently waiting Spring. Below these monarchs, are their young saplings, grown in such profusion along our yard fence, that I can see no more than fifty feet into the thicket.

Turning back around to my left rear, I look south out a smaller kitchen window behind me. Two hundred feet away, across the lower yard begins the low land with its six acres of fen bog. Rising from the fen bog, I see, one…two…three…perhaps six muskrat lodges. The lodges are about three foot tall, rounded mounds of vegetation that have been plastered together my their rodent inhabitants. The dark mounds contrast with the yellowish-brown wire grass that surrounds them. There is no movement. All is still across the fen bog, the low land and on our yard, amidst the cold, dim grayness of the day and the lightly falling snow.’

Jane begins dance school
When Don was last visiting with us, he pointed out something about Jane that Donna and I had seen and talked about amongst ourselves, namely: Jane appears to be more advanced mentally than most children her age. This might make it difficult for her at school, learning and playing with less developed kids, always waiting for them to catch up. Yet, if we were to try and start her in school a year early, she would be competing with larger children who were more equally developed mentally for most of her school years. Since the option of starting Jane in school a year early was a real possibility, we decided to put her in a dance school, in order to help develop her motor skills, at the fastest rate possible.

Jane had her first dance lesson on Saturday, January 10, at the St. Cloud School of Dance. The class consisted of twenty two youngsters, ages three to five years, and four instructors. The instructors were women in their twenties, who provided personal help and attention primarily to the youngest and newest students.

We were happy to see the lessons were oriented more toward gymnastics and ballet than other forms of dance. Among the things that Jane learned from her first lessons were: how to do headstands, cart wheels, roll forward, roll backward, bunny hop, wheel barrow with a partner, a simple ballet and tap dance movement.

The rates were $8.00 per month, for four each forty five minute instruction sessions. Donna and I were exuberant about the classes. Jane was simply overwhelmed by the novelty, all the children, instructions and activity and was feeling ill by the time we arrived home. When asked if she’d like to go back to Dance School the next Saturday, she replied with an exuberant and resounding, ‘Yes!

Jane joins the Campfire Girls, Sparks
In order to expose Jane to social and educational growth experiences and partially to make up for the fact that she didn’t have children to play with at our rural property, we enrolled her in the Campfire Girls. The Campfire Girls were a national organization similar to Girl Scouts, that met in St. Cloud twice monthly. Because Jane was only three years two months old and the normal minimum age was five years, we had to get special permission from the Pack Leader for her to join.
We took Jane to her first Sparks meeting on the evening of Thursday, January 22.
I wasn’t particularly thrilled with how the girls group was run by the Pack Leader, Marie, or her assistant, but acquiesced to Donna and we continued taking Jane to the periodic evening meetings.

After several months in Sparks, I noted that Jane was accepted by the other children, though she was a year and a half younger than any of the others. She was also the shortest which occasionally lead to some teasing. On the other hand, Jane joined in activities and played just as enthusiastically and as hard as any of her elders and so earned their respect. Several of the older kids even watched out for her welfare.

As the year passed, we came to recognize that Donna was the only mother who consistently attended the Sparks Meeting, and so in time became ‘helper’ to Marie Benson. Jane was the only child in her group with a complete Sparks uniform.

Some of the projects Jane was introduced to and completed in Sparks were:
a) Make a homemade Valentine card and give it to a patient in the Veteran’s Administration Hospital, (a Sparks troop event);
b) Make a creative Christmas card;
c) Make a paper sack puppet;
d) Draw happy, sad and surprise faces on paper plates;
e) Make up and tell a story to the other Sparks, using the paper sack puppet;
f) Explore the properties of water (object displacement, floating, sinking);
g) Explore the wind (make a pinwheel);
h) Explore vegetables (what parts of the plant grow above and below ground);
i) Animal Safari in the woods (Discover different kinds of ‘animal houses’)…

Books read
During the year, I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
•  Tai Pan © James Clavell – Novel
 The Caveman and the Bomb: Human Nature, Evolution and Nuclear War  © 1985 by David P. Barach – Nuclear weapons are all the more dangerous because they have no psychological reality: Their potential destructive capability cannot be touched, smelled, heard or felt.
 Inside New England © 1982 by Judson D. Hale – The character, customs and people of New England. 257 pages.
 The Mountain of Names © Alex Shounatoff – Genealogical resources of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons).
 The Present of Things Future: Exploration of Time and Human Experience © by Thomas J. Cottle and Stephen L. Klineberg – Temporal orientation and the   socio-cultural perspective. 290 pages.
 The Dynamics of Change © 1967 by Don Fabum – Observing and experiencing social and cultural patterns of change in the environment.
 A History of Historical Writing © 1937 by Harry E. Barnes, © 1963 by Dover Publications.
 Geometry, Relativity and the Fourth Dimension © 1977 by Rudolf Rucker – Create an intuitive picture of curved space-time. 133 pages.
 Quest For The Best © 1979 by Stanley Marcus – The decline of quality service and elegance and the attendant growth of mass culture.
 Other Worlds: Space, Superspace and the Quantum Universe © 1980 by Paul Davies – Time is just another dimension in superspace, while the asymmetry of nature makes time appear to flow. 207 pages.
 Unpuzzeling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy © 1985 by Emily A. Croom – Tools, procedures and resources for genealogical   research. 136 pages.
 A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Causative Formation © 1981 by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake – The inheritance of behavior and form depend on genetics and morphogenetic fields, while learned behavior is to a degree transmitted across time by selective morphic resonance. 229 pages.
 No Surrender © 1974 by Hiroo Onoda -The autobiographical account of a Japanese lieutenant who remained hiding and combat ready, on a Pacific island for some 30 years after the end of WWII, and would only surrender to a former commanding officer. No one had previously told him the war was over!
 The Nature of Time ©1967 by Cornell University – The direction of time is not found in the path of signals, but in the scattering of radiation. Read only last 150 pages.
 Timescale © 1983 by Nigel Calder – The ‘meme’ is an informational parasite (Such as a popular tune, clothing style, idea of   God, etc.) that replicates between human minds in a manner similar to genes replicating in the presence of proper nourishment.
 The Victorian Album © 1973 by Evelyn Berchman – Fiction. A story of the chilling investigation into the lives of a family that lived a hundred years earlier.
 Physics As Metaphor © 1982 by Roger S. Jones – Modern science is like a religion, there are great prophets,   local priests, it’s worshipped by the public, and all important things are described with its metaphysics. 254 pages.
 Taking The Quantum Leap © 1981 by Fred A. Wolf – The more we determine one side of reality, the less the other side is shown to us.  ‘Qwiffs’ aka. quantum wave functions, spread out through the universe faster than light, traveling both forward and backward in time. 262 pages.
 Joseph Nichols And The Nicholites  © 1962 by Kenneth L. Carroll – History of the Quaker-like, Nicholites religious sect in North Carolina, of which several of my ancestors were members. 115 pages.
 Beyond the Mists  © 1975 by Nathanial Benchley – About the life of explorer Lief Erickson. 152 pages.
 The World As It Was: A Photographic Portrait 1865 – 1921  © 1980 and edited by Margarette Loke – A world wide stereophotographic documentary of life in the latter half of the 19th Century. 220 pages.
 The Tao Of Physics © 1975 by Fritjof Capra – Our sensory perceptions function in a zone of middle dimensions. We exist metaphorically on an illuminated hilltop. Moving off the hill and down into the shadows, our senses do not work and we encounter paradox. 332 pages.

Frozen waterlines
When I walked into the kitchen on the morning of January 23, to read my morning temperatures, I found it a terrible -23ºF outdoors. Then, attempting to run water into the kitchen sink to wash dishes, I found both the hot and cold water lines had frozen during the night.  We still had hot and cold water in the bathroom, so I carried pails of hot water into the kitchen sink for the dishes. Needless to say this temporary and infrequent inconvenience was an irritation. I kept the thermostat turned up most of the day, finally thawing the water lines by mid afternoon; having frozen water lines in the home is a scary experience.

Trade: 10 year old PAMELA I for the Encyclopedia Britannica
For years after purchasing the Processor Technology SOL computer, I wrote programs for it and used the machine almost daily. Processor Technology went out of business within a year or two after we bought our SOL model.

During the early 1980s, there was no real market for ‘home computers’, the few models that were available, mostly relied on the owner to write their own programs, or type out the program code from a magazine or book.

Companies such as Tandy and Commodore offered a line of computers ranging from $300 to $700 which displayed only a few lines of text. These machines had to be attached to the household television or had small, dim monitors. The few software programs that were available on diskette for those early home computers, didn’t do much other than very basic word processing and were little more than you could copy from a computer magazine.

I’d run out of programming ideas and was up against the level of my expertise to program anything ‘powerful’. Donna and I were increasingly busy, me with my journals and looking after Jane. Donna was working full time and spending her free time with Jane. Our interest in the computer declined and PAMELA I had eventually ended up sitting unused on a table in the Activity Room.

During late January, we advertising the computer for sale and managed to trade it for an ‘as new’, thirty volume set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, and associated fifteen volume Britannica Junior Encyclopedias. Jane grew up with the encyclopedias handy for homework, while Donna and I used them periodically over the years for our own reference.

My last cigarette
Smoking was a habit I picked up about the time I went in the Army and continued with until early 1987,  only stopping for a month or so during previous years, when I was ill. During that twenty five years period, I predominantly smoked Marlboro and Viceroy cigarettes.

Ever since Jane was born, I’d wanted to quit smoking and had a good reason: I didn’t want to injure her lungs and perhaps hurt her later in life. Yet, I knew from past experience just how difficult it was to quit the habit. Many times I had the thought of ‘having just that one last pack, that one last cigarette’. Finally, I prayed from the deepest place I could find in my spirit for the strength to quit and beat the habit.

It so happened that a couple months earlier, my Uncle Bill developed pneumonia and was hospitalized. His doctors told him that if he wanted to fully recover he was going to have to quit his lifelong habit of smoking. The doctors apparently put a scare into him, because he did quit, immediately. Bill’s tobacco related near death experience and the fact that he quit added further impetus to helping me stop.
On January 28, I quit my ‘pack a day’ (twenty cigarettes) habit of smoking and never touched tobacco products again.

Attending local churches
Over the period of a year or two, Donna, Jane and I attended several Christian churches. Not particularly looking for a church to call home, we began by attending Mass at the large, grand, old Catholic church in Gilman, just four miles from Nightstar*. Although it was our families lot to have been born Protestant, I thoroughly enjoyed the Catholic use of symbols, the  mysterious prayers spoken in Latin, congregational chants, the entertaining organizational procedures, archaic robes and garb of the priests.

Donna’s religious convictions, being about the same as my own, made it fairly unimportant in determining the particular Christian church services we would attend next.
We decided to temper our choice of a church using the criteria of exclusion. We would not attend any church that was primarily evangelistic or which was noted for sending lay ‘missionaries’ out into the community to make ‘on the spot conversions’. Further, the church would have a congregation composed of primarily Western Europeans, preferably, Northern -Western Europeans.

During the early Winter of 1986-1987, while gathering information for my autobiography, I rediscovered that my parents use to worship at an Episcopal Church. That previous affiliation had long since been forgotten, since my father went on to become an Ordained Baptist minister and missionary. After reading portions of the books: The Power of Their Glory and Christian Churches in America, I was surprised to find that our criteria was met by the Episcopal style of faith and worship. I was particularly impressed with the fact that the Episcopalians ranked twenty ninth out of thirty nine organized religions, as being tight with their money when the collection plate was passed. To me, this indicated that the church was not using its clergy to fatten the organizations coffers.

We attended the weekly Sunday morning church service at St. John’s Episcopal Church in St. Cloud weekly during December and January. We were impressed with the casual dress of the congregation. Whereas, people in other churches tend to ‘dress up’ into their ‘Sunday best’ clothes, taking on an air of formality, the Episcopalians wore their everyday ‘town clothes’. Very few people wore suits.  The  number of people wearing ‘layered’ clothing or clothing made from natural fibers was much more common than seen amongst the local population on average. The style of clothes made it apparent that for the most part, these people were quite aware of their common heritage.

We entered the church just before services began and were happy to find afterwards that the Priest nor any other persons hurried to make our acquaintance or shake our hands. Some church congregations have a custom of being overly friendly, a practice we found disagreeable.

Our attitude was that we came to the church for the worship experience and the social ceremony, not to find friends. If friendship should eventually develop, it should do so at a natural pace. After all, we were the strangers and it should be our place to show an interest in the church and its people.

Some thoughts about organized religion
I have often wondered how all our billions of human beings, across the steep of time have reached that same logical conclusion in that the faith they happened to have been born into was the one explaining the supreme truth and therefore the faith worthy of their time, effort, adoration and obedience. Some 20,000 to 10,000 years ago men practiced religious faiths that have all faded into obscurity. Religions that are now so important to the world’s masses will themselves have passed into oblivion or mutated beyond recognition in another few thousand years. Science its self is a religion with scientist filling the role of priests, explaining how the natural world and universe operate. Given a few thousand years when we know better, our descendants will chuckle over our niavety.

There is no right religion. There is no wrong religion. There is only Man’s need for religious belief, as a guide to living in our social-physical world, and something to give meaning when needed, to the unexplained mysteries of life and the after life.

I think each religion is like a powerful, long lived creature, whose individual human members are the component cells of its corporate body. A co-existing group of these creatures are like members of any species, each sharing a similar form which can be seen in their effect on their membership community.
Each religion is also similar to an individual person, bearing the evolutionary traits of its specific tradition, the regional human culture, its economic base,  the membership’s education, time location and geographical location.
Each religion operates in a world with varying degrees of overlapping territories. Although all are somewhat different as individuals, they are also similar, valuing at least one concept that is to them, the Supreme Being or the Way. As local, regional and world cultural values slowly change, these long lived creatures evolve or are replaced by vigorous new forms that can adapt to the new paradigm of life.

Thoughts on death
When each of us in our own time takes our last breath at life’s end, I think what follows will be pleasantly different than religious experts from across time have taught us to believe. The good Hindu may not be reincarnated as an exalted creature, the brave and honorable Shoshone Indian may not ‘walk on the wind’ and the Godly Christian may not go to Heaven.

Personally, I suspect that in the moments following death, as the corporate mind dies and startves for oxygen, or if you will, as our spirit leaves, we will realize that we are dying, but it won’t matter. Only the living seek to avoid death. Persons crossing from life to death find that life does not and did not matter. There is no pain only the pleasant realization that one’s awareness is becoming selfless and seems to be going someplace even more peaceful. Life’s mental imagery plays across our minds eye, in sparks of recognition as nodes close, while a bright white light grows in our diminishing consciousness. When the comforting light has completely filled that final tiny flicker of awareness there are no further sensations and we sleep.

Music [midi: Can You Feel the Love?]

Our Happy Furry Friends: Griz, Jessie & Pepin

[Above, a photocopy of a drawing from my March 1987 Journal entry: Our Happy, Furry Friends, drawn to   proportionate size. Jane 3-1/2 years old, is standing with Griz (9 years old),   Pepin (1 years old) and Jessie (5 years old).]

Griz is always first to greet whom ever has come out of the house. He is always first to greet us when we come home from work or town. When the car door is opened, Griz is standing there tail wagging, ready to touch his nose to our hands and be petted on his head.

He is by far the smartest of our three dogs, not only does he routinely catch small wildlife, including rabbits, mice, woodchucks and muskrats, but knows sixteen verbal commands. He is the only one whom knows how to find the proper size of stick or stone to play ‘fetch’ with.

Ever since he was a pup and beaten up by neighbor, Bobby’s dog, Nemo, Griz has avoided confrontations with other dogs. Often at night, when I’m up going to the bathroom, I’ll look out the bathroom window and see Griz sniffing about the yard or walking on the driveway, making his rounds. Jessie and Pepin are seldom seen up moving about at night.

Jessie is a verbally communicative and affectionate dog. Unlike Griz and Pepin, Jessie allows Jane to sit on her back, pull her ears and poke her without complaint. When Jane is playing outside, Jessie will follow her around and can always be found sitting or laying beside her. When Donna or I go outside, Jessie will rub against us and often touch her nose against our hands. She is occasionally somewhat bitchy and bossy with Griz, where she may nip at him as if to say, ‘Don’t crowd me!’ Although she is very brave and will lead Pepin to chase a neighbor’s dog, she is not very intelligent. Occasionally, Donna remarks, ‘Jessie is so dumb the wind blows between her ears’.

Pepin, being a little over a year old at this time, weighs seventy-two pounds. The size of his legs and enormous feet indicate he may still be growing.  His body form is neither German Shepherd or Black Lab. He looks somewhat like a St. Bernard with a large St. Bernard shaped head, rather sad looking eyes, slightly droopy jowls, floppy ears, long white fur and large size. Pepin is at times an irritant and bully to his parents, particularly toward Griz.
Being taller and heavier than both his parents, he nips, throws his weight against, crowds in, shoves aside and periodically pesters them until they go to their respective houses. He is a large, fearless dog whom takes his fighting cues from Jessie. If a fight with neighboring farm dogs in threatened, he immediately will come to her side. His large size coupled with Jessie’s  threatening bark have routed neighbor dogs on several occasions. Pepin has not really found his place yet, being eclipsed by his parents and thereby third dog on the totem pole.

It is always a pleasure to go outdoors and find three happy smiling faces eager to go and do whatever you have in mind. It is always a pleasure to stop working on whatever outdoor project and turn to find one, two or all three of my dog friends sitting or lying nearby. They give much more in friendship, enthusiasm, love, companionship and low level communications than their food, water, feeding and periodic medical bills could ever amount to.

Our dog’s personalities
When I sit down to give each dog some personal attention, it’s plain to see through our eye contact and from watching their behavior, that the dogs have their own unique and individual personalities.

Griz will sit quietly and stare back into my eyes for a few moments, before averting his gaze. In those few moments, you can tell that Griz has a serious, no nonsense attitude. He doesn’t like rough house play, he is a gentleman dog, he is somewhat aloof, but also concerned. Griz maintains an air of equality, he doesn’t do irritating things and doesn’t expect to be irritated. Griz is a smart loner.

Jessie will not sit quiet and look into your eyes, she is too frazzled for such seriousness. Although she cannot sit still, personal attention is very important to her. She is concerned that our private times are not disturbed by the rest of her dog family. When we are alone, Jessie will talk to me in a squealy – growly voice saying, ‘RRRrrrow ERrrr ERrr RRRrrriii,’ as I scratch her head and pet her. When she talks to me, I talk  to her in that same squealy growly voice. Although she is generally a quiet, placid and an almost motherly dog around Jane, she tends to be nervous, excited, scatterbrain around me. When trying to pet her, she wiggles, twists, rolls over, talks, and jumps around.

Pepin will sit still for personal attention and will briefly glance into my eyes. He is alert, thinking, skittish, worried and has a slight sneaky streak. If Jessie comes around while I’m petting him, he will try to climb on my lap to keep her from getting his special petting. If Griz comes around, a fight very well might ensue. At a year old, Pepin seems to be rather cunning and has a ‘do it my own way’ attitude, somewhat similar to Griz. On the other hand, like Jessie, his behavior and ability to understand is often ‘dumb’, which might be attributable to his youth and inexperience.

Griz, Jessie and Pepin are our happy, furry friends.

Our dog family, hard at work.
On Sunday, May 17, Donna invited Jane’s Campfire Girl’s Sparks troop and the children’s parents to our place in the country for a Safari and hot dog roast.

The plan was to take the small children on a ‘Safari’ through our lower yard, around the pond, then along the driveway so they could observe bird and squirrel nests, see the ducks and geese, ant mounds, woodpecker holes in dead trees, etc. After their safari everyone would gather in our back yard for a picnic of hot dogs with buns, soda pop and various chips (Frito, potato chips) and roasted marshmallows.

That afternoon, at meal time, while the parents were lounging around and either talking or helping kids with their hot dogs, most of the children were running and playing, or taking turns at our picnic table getting their food. At times, while everyone was wrapped up in socialization and the picnic, I watched our dogs an saw their individual personalities at work.

Griz, the gentleman he was, took all the petting he received from the children as a matter of duty, rigidly and with a stiff upper lip. He didn’t stand in any one place very long, but spread his attention around equally to everyone who had food or was near the table. His calm, patient and observantly staring manner found him overly rewarded with potato chips and chunks of hot dog buns. Griz didn’t play, run or romp, all he wanted was food. He’d stand by watching each person until he was served then he’d moved to the next person.

[Photograph at left: My dog family, L>R: Griz, Jessie and eldest son Pepin. All loved and still missed in 2012. This was a warm summers morning at Nightstar*, the dogs were tied together for their picture,  some curious ducks and geese watching our activities.]

Jessie, on the other hand, was more of a favorite with the kids. She didn’t hang around the table, nor did she need to be fed in order to gain her attention. Jessie romped and ran, tumbled and played just as happy and as wild eyed with excitement as any of the children.

The puppy, Pepin, who weighed more than any one of the little Campfire Girls, was in a titter. He’d never seen so many people at one time. He could see everyone was having fun, running about and falling down, but he didn’t know how to play. He watched his mother, Jessie, bark, play ‘fetch-a-stick’ and tag, but he was just too worried about all those strange people to receive much petting or join in the faraces. Eventually, the activities became too much for him and he decided to try and catch a kid by the ankle! He was scolded and summarily chained up, at his dog house, about seventy feet away, where he watched everything with considerable nervous enthusiasm and continuous barking.

JP reading and writing
By the end of January, at three years and two months of age, Jane could print all the letters of the alphabet in uppercase text.

By March 19, Jane and I were going through about one hundred twenty each, three by five inch homemade flash cards daily. Each card contained simple words (can, do), numbers (5, 6) or simple addition (2+1=3) and subtraction (3-2=1) problems. For a few minutes, every few days, while I worked in my journal, Jane sit across from meat the kitchen table. During these times she printed out the letters of the alphabet several times and wrote several words that she’d learned to spell.

On Sunday, May 10, three and a half months after Jane learned to print the letters of the alphabet, Donna and Jane called me into the Activity Room where I proudly observed Jane read her longest string of card-words to date, stating:

yes I play with the dog in the yard

By the end of October, Jane’s mastery of printing had improved considerably, besides printing the uppercase alphabet, she was printing the lower case letters at approximate Second Grade quality.

Where now garbage scow?
On March 22, a garbage barge carrying 3,200 tons of refuse left Islip, New York on a six month journey in search of a place to unload. The evening TV news media periodically featured the story, showing the huge barge being turned away from port after port in the United States and three foreign countries. The barge eventually returned to Islip, where space was found in the city’s garbage dump. Donna and I just shook our heads being both humored and irritated, that this episode had turned into a major U.S. news story. It had became an environmental statement  about garbage, sewage, overpopulation, our ‘throw away’, disposable, affluent society.

Jane makes Easter & Valentine cards
During February, and again in early April, I assisted Jane in drawing and pasting together Valentine and Easter cards to be sent to several of her relatives. Jane put a lot of work into the projects, which was for her age, a complicated procedure involving cutting out various colored paper, glue, writing, stuffing and putting stamps on the envelopes.
The card recipients included my parents, Donna’s father and Uncle Bill and Aunt Elizabeth. For her efforts she did not receive return correspondence from my parents on either occasion. I was left feeling sad and hurt. Donna merely shook her head at such social offenses and muttered something unintelligible, and undoubtedly appropriate, while continuing with her chores.

A typical spring day in the late 1980s
A chronology of personal and family events  for  Tuesday, April 7:

Morning
5:30-6:30  The   family awoke and got up, dressed and took a walk up County Road #14 to our   south property line. Back at home, Donna changed  into her  True Value Hardware office ‘work clothes.’
6:30-6:50  The  girls sat in the Activity Room practicing with their English recorders. I began washing a load of laundry and set the table for breakfast.
6:50-7:00 Donna sat at the kitchen table reading a portion of my Journal’s Daily Diary. Jane nibbled on her breakfast cereal, while I sat across the table sipping a cup of coffee, watching the news on TV.
7:00-7:10  The   family ate our bowls of cold breakfast cereal and had a glass of orange   juice.
7:10-7:20  Donna and I looked over a Phenological worksheet, entering dates for our ‘first notice’ of events this Spring.
7:25  Donna left for her day’s work at True Value Hardware. Jane put on her coat and boots then followed Donna outside to wave ‘Goodbye’.  I ran water in the kitchen sink in preparation to wash dishes.
7:50  I finished washing the previous night’s supper dishes and our mornings breakfast dishes. ‘During   dishes’, when the laundry finished its final spin cycle, I transferred the damp clothes to the automatic dryer, then began washing a second batch of   laundry.
Jane   came in the house for a minute to inform me that Pepin had knocked over one  of our bicycles.
7:50-8:05  While standing at the kitchen bay window, I finished drinking a cup of coffee, then went to the bathroom.
8:05-8:50  Dumped and burned a load of waste paper.
Brought   a wheel barrow load of sawn firewood out of the woods and split several pieces.
Set one of our sprinklers up along the west yard fence and began watering, in order to wet last season’s leaves and reduce the fire hazard. There have been two fires on this property since we bought the land, we started neither. Our  area now has a burning ban (grass and leaves) in effect due to the extreme dry nature of the Spring vegetation[2].
Jane and I took on a short bicycle ride on the highway. She rode in her plastic child’s seat, behind the bicycle seat.
I checked the oil in the Ford and added some water to the radiator.
8:50-10:25  I began rewriting my Daily Diary notes for April 4-5.
About 9:30 Jane laid down for her nap.
10:25-10-28  Donna telephoned me from True Value, we chatted for a few minutes.
10:28-10:42  I went outdoors and changed the sprinkler’s location. Back inside, I folded the   first batch of clothes and laundry and put them away.
10:42-11:24  Continued rewriting and entering my Daily Diary notes into Journal #13.
11:24-12:00  I changed the sprinkler’s location again.
Rode my bicycle down the driveway and picked up our mail:  1) Benton Coop Telephone bill, 2)   Shopper’s News-a newspaper size advertisement,  3) notice from the Benton County Planning Commission that a neighbor wanted to split his property into smaller   parcels, 4) a letter from Don –  enclosed with $10.00, ‘…so the Easter bunny will bring a little something extra for Jane.’
Microwaved a bowl of homemade split pea soup for my lunch and a peanut butter and honey sandwich for Jane.
Woke  Jane from her nap for lunch.

Afternoon
Noon-12:15  Jane and I ate our lunch at   the kitchen table while chatting and watching the noon TV News.
12:15-1:05  After lunch we went into the living room and began listening to a radio program about gifted and talented children. While listening to the radio, Jane and I  dusted and polished the furniture.
1:05-1:20  Donna telephoned, we had a good long chat. After our conversation, I went back outside and changed the sprinkler’s  location.
1:20-1:30  Folded and put away the second batch of dry laundry.
1:30-2:25 Finished entering Daily Dairy notes for April 4-5 in my Journal (pages 2256-2257) and  drew examples of the planters that were discussed.
2:25-3:10  Jane went outside to play. I fed the dogs and washed the few dishes that had   accumulated during the day
I took a wash cloth bath, washing my hands, face, armpits and crotch, then changed my underwear and put on my evening clothes.
3:10-3:35 Rewrote the Phenology list.
3:35-4:57  I sat on the small beige couch and continued reading The Dynamics of Change.   Jane came in the house, watched TV cartoons for about 20 minutes. After the cartoons and with several crackers in her hand, Jane went back outside to  explore, in her words, ‘Where no child have been before.
4:57  Donna arrived home from work bringing Jane’s new, official Campfire Girls cap. Jane came in from playing outside.
4:59-5:20  Donna and I chatted about the days affairs.
5:20-5:45  While Donna began preparing supper, I read aloud to her a series of interesting concepts I’d just learned from The Dynamics of Change. During this time Jane was in the bathroom taking a wash cloth bath and changing her   clothes.
5:45-6:00  While supper preparations continued, all three of us were in the kitchen all trying  to get a word in edgewise talking to one another. There was a lot of   spontaneous, gay and cheerful chatter.

Evening
6:00-6:28 The   family sat around the kitchen table eating our supper, occasionally talking   to one another and watching a TV program.
6:28-6:34 While   Jane finished her supper, Donna and I cleared the table.
6:34-7:30 The   family sat in the living room watching a previously copied television movie, while each licked away at either a vanilla ice-cream cone or orange popsicle.  Jane put on her pajamas.
7:30 The movie we were watching wasn’t very entertaining so we turned it off. Every one brushed their teeth and we all climbed into the big brass bed.
7:30-8:30 The   family laid in bed talking amongst ourselves for about an hour. As we began drifting off to sleep, Donna put Jane in her own bed.
8:30PM and for the night….Zzz   Zzz

Precious metals investment discussion (edited).

Jane’s tonsils seem swollen a lot
During late April, Jane developed a fever and we noted she had swollen tonsils. At the time we didn’t think much of her swollen tonsils, but over the next couple years it seemed all her colds were accompanied by swollen tonsils. Eventually the condition brought about the memory of my own childhood, and how the family doctor had told my parents that a tonsillectomy would reduce the number and severity of the colds I was catching.

With all the antibiotics available, inoculations, drug store nostrums and talk of prevention, it seemed to me that children were catching more colds and a wider variety of illness than were common during  my childhood in the 1940s. The old scourges of infantile paralysis, whooping cough, rheumatic fever, various types of the ‘pox’ and spinal meningitis have been brought under control in the United States. These old malady’s seem to have been replaced by newer life threatening diseases and dangers, such as strep throat, ear infections that are practically incurable, teenage drug and gang related homicide.

The small utility trailer
Once the Spring weather warmed, our thoughts returned to camping. One weekend, we went price shopping for a small, four foot wide by six foot long utility trailer. After work on May 4, Donna stopped back at one of the stores and purchased the utility trailer hardware kit that we liked best.
The bolt together frame, two wheel axle, electric wiring harness, lights, tongue and wheels were provided as a self assembly kit, produced by the Long Company for $160.00.

The very next day, I assembled the hardware; then designed and built a wooden bed (plywood sheet), side walls and removable tailgate for the trailer (one by four inch tongue and groove planks nailed to two by four inch uprights) and painted the wood (white primer and dark blue latex finish paint) at a cost of an additional $100. By the time the work was done, we had an attractive small utility trailer that became a handy vehicle to have available.

Over the years we’ve used the trailer to carry the families camping gear during vacations, to transport Pierce Antiques and Collectables wares (not discussed yet) to shows about central Minnesota, haul firewood and for a variety of other small projects that required more transport space than was afforded by the auto’s trunk.

Our Ford Grenada gets a rebuilt engine
In early May, after owning the 1977 Ford Grenada for only a little over a year, it began to develop serious mechanical problems. One evening, on Donna’s way home from work, the main engine bearing froze up with a ‘clankety clank’ and the car coasted to a stop on the road shoulder. Donna telephoned home from a nearby pay phone, where upon, Jane and I drove the Toyota into St. Cloud to bring her home. We had a tow truck pull the Ford to a repair shop, where the mechanics found its engine needed replacing and  transmission needed a overhaul. Since everything else on the car seemed to be in good condition except these parts, we had the work done. Although the repairs cost $1313, that was cheap considering the cost of replacing the car with either a new, or another used vehicle.

While the Ford was in the shop for repair we had a light duty pull bar and electrical wiring connected so we could pull the small utility trailer.

Over the nine years that followed these repairs, we put an additional 100,000 miles on the car. The only other problems we had with the eighteen year old Ford were worn brakes, busted radiator hose, tire replacements, muffler worn out, seat disintegrating, leak in the gas tank and a leak in the radiator (which was been temporarily sealed with a chemical additive).

Camping at Sibley State Park [3]
Recalling all the fun we had camping the previous year, and after a long winter, at the earliest opportunity in the Spring, the family was ready for another vacation camping.  We found from the official state park camping brochure that Sibley State Park, located just seventy miles southwest of our home, had an interesting mix of activities and things to see. We’d never camped at that park and were eager to explore it and the nearby historical locations.

[Photograph at left: Taken at home in the driveway, our  Ford Grenada and newly assembled & constructed 4 ft by 6 ft utility trailer;  loaded and about to leave for our camping trip at Sibley State Park.]

Plans were subsequently made to stay at Sibley S.P. from May 21 to 26, 6 days. We phoned the park and made reservations, Donna put in for several days vacation, I cleaned and  packed our equipment.

As it turned out, it rained and drizzled during much of our holiday. This is not said as a complaint, just as a matter of fact. We came to Sibley to enjoy nature, in whatever guise she might reveal herself, we came to see the park, the natural history presentations at the visitors center and to visit the historical locations in the communities outside the park.

I was a lifelong, experienced camper, having encountered inclement conditions many times, so we were prepared for the rain. As part of our gear we carried a large, twelve foot square green plastic canopy that more than covered our picnic table. A second large green plastic tarp covered our tent, giving us that much more protection from any leaks the tent might develop.

The Broberg homesite at Monson Lake [4]
On our second day of vacation, we drove twenty five miles from Sibley S.P to neighboring, Monson S.P. While speaking to the Park Ranger, we found that the park was dedicated to several settler families that were massacred on the site by a Sioux war party. The Ranger showed us around to the side of his office to a nicely mown area and pointed out the now gentle, sod covered indentations that had once been the basement and root cellar at the Broberg family cabin. As we continued talking, the Ranger volunteered that he had an eyewitness account of the massacre, made by Anna Broberg, one of the survivors, who was at the time ten years old.

After the Ranger gave us a photocopy of Anna Broberg’s account of the slaughter, we returned to the car to sit and read the story.
The mornings light sprinkle was turning into a solid rain.

As we read the account, Anna’s tragic tale unfolded with swift and violent suddenness.

A short while later, during a lull in the rain, we climbed out of the car and walked the couple hundred feet to the Broberg cabin site. We stood on location and reread the story while aligning ourselves to Anna’s perspective of the scene. We could almost point to the location where various events occurred: The Indians had caught this and that family member over there (pointing). One person was killed about here, another over there (pointing). Anna fled roughly in that direction (pointing) to hide in shore line weeds at around Monson Lake.

Standing in the large clearing surrounded by woods, on this gray and darkly overcast morning, it again began to gently sprinkle.
I felt a wave of empathy wash through me.
My eyes darted back and forth reconstructing the home, crops in the field, the split rail fence, a wagon trail that led past here to the neighbor’s cabin.
Within my mind’s eye, a scene evolved and I began to imaginatively relive the sight and sensations of the carnage that occurred in our immediate vicinity. I heard the surprise, men shouting, women and children yell in surprise, occasional gunfire, screams of terror. In that fleeting vision I saw settlers running in several directions, the Indians emerging from the woods and splitting into groups to chase them. There were momentary flashing images and sensations associated with running, pleading, crashing sounds, fear, pain, and savage, victorious elation.

In their own space-time location, everyone in the Broberg family, had many times, walked through the location where I  stood. In most every instant, their lives were full of the space-time events that unfolded around them. Now, all we see is a grassy hole in the middle of a yard where once stood their cabin. Because of entropy, most of the information relating to their lives and death, has been muted into the background. The information that made events real in 1862 have mostly gone beyond the range of our senses, covered by layer and layers of intervening space-time events that continued to unfold hereupon. That environment and those events that occurred here, are all still here, but locked in space-time. Indeed, they are occurring right here and  now — at the Broberg cabin, 20 August 1862.

For the first time, I was able to sense time more as a location than as the customarily perceived clock flow. The date, 20 August 1862, was the date-label for an event that occurred in the spot we stood and as I’ve recently read, ‘one cannot refer to space-time events in tenses – tenses confuse.’

Camping anomalies
In the days that followed, Donna and I were amazed and entertained at some of the sights provided by some of our fellow campers, among the wonderous examples that brought us to chuckle or gasp with stiffled laughter, were:
1)  In one nearby campsite, a grossly overweight woman is seen waddling around alternately cooking breakfast, calling her children and setting the table. Looking closer we realize she has an electric toaster and electric coffee pot on the picnic table. Most campsites at Sibley are electrified, but still, camping is not what it use to be even ten years ago.
2)  Early one morning, with a 50ºF outdoor temperature, a male camper stepped out of his luxury recreational vehicle, a place of pampered luxury while ‘camping’. Bare from the waist up, he walked, with head held high, across the campground towards the bathroom, probably to shower. Meanwhile, we were bundled up with T-shirts, long sleeve shirts and sweatshirts, plus wearing stocking caps pulled down over our ears. Observing this display of, ‘half naked man against native elements’, Donna and I wondered aloud, ‘How high do you think he had the thermostat set is in his RV?’
3) Late one afternoon while we were eating lunch, Donna leaned across the picnic table and quietly said, ‘You aren’t going to believe this.’, while looking over my shoulder.
I slowly turned around and saw of all things, a man carving a roast turkey with an electric knife! Never, never, in my years of camping, have I ever seen anyone cook a turkey while camping, but more surprising yet, I’d never seen an electric knife in a campground!
Camping has become an honest to goodness ‘adventure’ for the proletariat. They arrive in motor homes when they probably don’t even own their home. They sit glued to their picnic tables surrounded with electric coffee pots, electric toaster and electric carving knife. While some go fishin’, other’s walk up and down the campground lanes inspecting and comparing neighboring ‘set ups’. They stay up until 11:00 PM nightly and sleep until late morning. Few attend the park Interpretive Center activities, few are seen on the park trails, at historical sites or museums or monuments.
It appears they spend much of their time sitting around, chatting with extended family, sipping beer, discussing their camping ‘set up’ or ‘rig’ and considering how thoughtful they were to bring their households electric kitchen appliances.
4) One evening just before we retired for the night, we saw the most amazing thing we’ve ever seen while camping. Tenants at a nearby campsite (different group than those mentioned above) were sitting around their campfire talking. As it grew dark, their campfire didn’t provide enough luminosity for the people to see one another. Someone went in the Recreational Vehicle and brought out an electric table lamp. When it was plugged in, the extra 100 to 200 watts of light apparently allowed them to enjoy their camp chat and the experience of nature.

While driving in and out of the campground on our various adventures, we’ve seen a portable television and two large, portable ‘ghetto box’ radios sitting on various picnic tables. This is not a good sign for the future enjoyment of nature in our nation’s campgrounds; the nature of the camping experience is changing.

The Great Sioux Camp, revisited
One ironic discovery was made at Green Lake. There, amongst the small rolling hills on the northeast shore of the lake was the site of ‘The Great Sioux Camp’, a Sioux village had sat on the spot for about a hundred years at just the time when Whites were moving into the area. This same location had more recently become Kandiyohi County Park #5, a camping, swimming, fishing and water skiing park. We drove through the park musing over the fact that the land use by whites was about the same as it had been by the Indians.

People were seen sitting and talking to one another, others were laying in the shade napping, half clad people were returning to their campsites from fishing or swimming in the lake, others hurrying to the beach, canoes and power boats were out on the lake. There were shouts, laughter and gaiety everywhere. Human life was teeming with individual purpose all across the previous location of the old Sioux Indian village.
Meanwhile, densely packed along each lane were tents and recreation vehicles. Centrally located, near the lake shore was a large, solidly built concession stand which sold fast foods and packaged foods, fishing bait, ice, etc. It all looked very commercialized, reminding me of a crowded urban park on a hot day.

Around and about Sibley S.P.
During the rain-free periods of our mini vacation, we explored points of interest around the park. We rode our bicycle, took car tours and explored hiking trails. We pointed out a variety of wild life to Jane, including: eight turtles, three pair of Mallard ducks, a beaver swimming and diving in a pond, a Great Blue Heron, American Egret, squirrels, a skunk, rabbit, deer, beaver, turtle, woodchuck and eight wild turkeys.

During our evenings at Sibley State Park, we attended three talk and slide show presentations: ‘Welcome to Sibley State Park’, the ‘Natural History of Mt. Tom’ and ‘Fur Trade’[5].

On one side trip, we stopped at a roadside historical marker overlooking Lake Minnewaska and the town of Glenwood, MN. A bronze plaque at the site pointed out that the hill we were parked and standing on was deposited by a retreating glacier about 11,000 years ago. It said that the glacier at this location had been between one and two miles deep! Suddenly, I realized why Minnesota was so low and boggy. It wasn’t because a glacier had melted here, it was due to the weight of the glacier which had depressed the land over those tens of thousands of years; the ground simply hadn’t sprung back from that weight. Thirty thousand years ago, our home at Nightstar* lay about a mile beneath the Wadena glacial lobe. No wonder we found so many rocks in our garden and see so many rock piles along neighboring farmer’s fields.

Settling the west: Then, now and again
We were surprised to find that the first white child was born in Kandiyohi County, during the year 1857. What a shocker!
That first white child was born in a fourteen foot by fifteen foot wide log cabin, only eighty six years before my birth, and one hundred years before I was in high school.
Reading that information made me more fully realize that central Minnesota, including Benton County where we live, is really no more than a frontier. I have pretty much taken for granted that central Minnesota was the same as everywhere else in the United   States, except for climate. Of course, we knew the area was settled in the latter part of the 19th Century, but dryly stating a date is not quite the same as comparing dates to events in your own life.

The cities and towns, the farms with their new and old buildings, television antenna’s on nearly every house, retail stores, power lines, paved roads, automobiles, bridges and schools are all essentially the same here and elsewhere across America. As such, we are lulled into accepting that since these structures look the same everywhere, that they existed on land that was settled all about the same time.
In a moment of reflection, I can see the rate of local settlement by the fact that, during the first seven years, from 1980 to 1987, after we bought our rural property, Nightstar*, five new homes were built along a two mile stretch of County Road 14, which passes the property. The change occurs slowly, like aging, where no single event creates a break between past and future climax states. We simply keep changing our evaluation of what is the norm and disregard what has previously occurred, anything prior to the ‘current norm’, is history.

As Donna and I discussed how people tend to take, ‘how things are,’ for granted, she told me of a discussion she had in 1972 with her mother, Eulah. At the time, Donna and Eulah were driving in the Los  Angeles urban region, when Donna complained about the traffic and crowds. Eulah replied,
‘It hasn’t always been this crowded in Los  Angeles. When I came to Los Angeles in the early 1920s, it was a small town with horse drawn buggies on narrow dirt streets. Extending for miles around town was orange orchards and to the east the desert.’

As we continued talking, I recalled that when my family moved to Pasadena, California in 1959, Los Angeles was already a large sprawling city. In the early 1960s, LA’s growing population was pushing community development south to form Mission Viego in Orange County. During our visit with Mike and Kay in Redlands, California, during 1985, we found suburban communities extending east into what was only a few years earlier a most inhospitable and desolate desert.

They left Sibley S.P., in the rain
On the last morning of the long Memorial Day weekend, we awoke to a good downpour. We dressed and came out of the tent to sit around the picnic table and heat water for our coffee and hot chocolate. Things were not going well around us.
Two campsite from ours, we saw a couple packing their gear to leave, their children waited in the family car. Several items had been unceremoniously tossed into their pop-up camper. They cranked down the top, set the small row boat on top and loaded their bicycles on a rack. They were soaking wet and looked quite solemn. I think I understood their rationale for leaving so early, in Anglo native parlance, ‘No inconvenience, even gettin’ soakin’ wet, can be worse than not bein’ able ta go fishin’. If you can’t fish, ya might as well pack ‘er up an’ go home!’

[Photograph: A chilly, wet morning at Sibley State Park. Donna and Jane, under our rain canopy, making breakfast on the Coleman stove.]

We remained dry  about the picnic table. Jane helped Donna cook breakfast.
While we ate our meal in leisure and sipped several cups of coffee, the campground came alive.

All around us were people rushing about in the rain. They hurriedly cranked down their tent camper RVs, raised the leveling legs, pushed in the beds, and loaded unused bicycles. Items that had been left out on the picnic table over night were wadded up in table cloths and dumped into the car trunk. Dripping wet bathing towel were removed from sagging, makeshift clothes lines and dropped into plastic bags. RV door awnings were seen bagged down with water, threatening to collapse their thin aluminum support poles.

On previous mornings, most of these folks were still in bed at that early hour. In fact, seeing so many adults up and outside working in the rain, I imagined many leaving before breakfast. The campground was undergoing explosive decompression. People were hurrying in the downpour, shouting instructions, trying to coordinate their actions.

One woman had a jacket over her head, she would of course end up soaked, but there was a slight chance that her hair wouldn’t get wet and that her mascara wouldn’t ‘run’.

The scene that went on around us would have been worth paying to see, it was a comedy of folly. One woman, backing the car up to their RV, got excited and backed right into the trailer tongue. Her husband shouted at her in a spiteful voice, then they traded places. For over an hour we sat at the picnic table in disbelief, watching the activities about us. Occasionally, we were led to snicker, but several times the antics of our fellow campers made us gasp, choke and squeal with laughter.

I rather thought that the rain had defeated a lot of spirits that morning, you see, during previous mornings, when a vehicle left the campground, it went out slowly, its occupants looking at each campsite along the lane as they discussed the merits of what they saw. Not so that day! When they left in the rain, their vehicle whisked right by, their heads did not turn to gawk. With rain water dripping from their eyebrows and noses, with clothing wet, they left cold, uncomfortable and probably hungry. The procession of disheveled campers that left, reminded me of a defeated army hurrying off the battlefield and returning home, ignoble, wet and weary…

We made best of the weather
Later that morning, we attended a ‘Frog and Toad’ presentation at the Park Interpretive Center. Jane watched in awe, then in glee as Tom, a captive toad, gobbled up live Blood worms given him by the Park Naturalist.

During the afternoon, we attended the grand opening of the Monongalia Historical Society museum in the old Lebanon Lutheran Church in New London.
Within in the last decade or so, there had been a growing interest in local and individual family history, at the community level. This interest manifested itself in the growing number of local cultural museums. The sort of things one usually finds on display are early photographs of the town, perhaps an early automobile, the first TV in town, an old icebox and kerosene stove, mannequins outfitted in ‘turn of the century’ clothing, local paintings, old books and Bibles, a quilt or two, old dished and bowls, and old local newspapers.

Just inside the door, in the vestibule of the Monongalia Historical Society museum, a table had been set up with racks of cookies. Teenage girls stood by, serving ‘Krumkukens’ to all who entered. The atmosphere was gay and light as there was a four piece band seated where the church alter once stood. The band was playing 1960s popular tunes mixed with ethnic Swedish songs.

We wandered through the building, looking at the museums exhibits which were loosely displayed in various rooms. People were standing and sitting everywhere, in the aisle, in the old pews, all listening to the music, talking and sipping coffee.
About half a dozen old men (about 70s) were gathered together intently looking at a map of northern Europe. Since they were mostly speaking in a somewhat Germanic language, I could only pick up an occasional stray word of English. Bending close to the map and running their fingers about the page, two old men were babbling away in their native tongue, when one suddenly lapsed back into English and said with some surprise, ‘Oh! Dat’s ware you frum.’

In the basement we found a hall and kitchen. The hall had chairs set side by side all along the walls. Once again, we encountered numerous people standing and sitting, sipping coffee and munching on Swedish rolls and lefse bread, whilst carrying on happy animated conversations.

By the time we returned to our campsite, the park was essentially deserted. Several wild turkeys were already encroaching on the perimeter camping areas, scavenging for tid bits of food dropped by exuberant campers during the holiday.

Early the next morning, after breakfast and washing the dishes, there lull in the rain, allowing us the opportunity to pack our gear for the return home. Before leaving the state park, we  left the car at the Interpretive Center and took the mile long, ‘Pond Walk’. The trail passed through a patch of woods, crossed a large meadow and swung around a large pond then uphill, finally circling back to the Interpretive Center.
As we walked, we kept an eye on the sky for any particularly dark rain clouds that might be approaching. During our leisurely hour and a half walk, we identified twenty six plants and nine animals from Jane’s Junior Park Naturalist Guide booklet.
The mid morning silence was only broken by our quiet voices and the squawk of a startled Mallard duck. We were the only humans on the trail. There were no other families or groups of kids hurrying along shouting at one another. Everything about the hike was pleasurable, and a fitting end to our mini-vacation.

Returning home: Battle of the Broom
On our way home from Sibley State Park, we stopped at a roadside historical marker that was located just northeast of the tiny crossroads town of Harwich. We hurried across busy Highway #23 to read the brass marker and find out what event occurred in the area to qualify it as a point of interest.
In our immediate vicinity had occurred, ‘The Battle of the Broom’, which was thought to be the last pitched battle between the Chippewa and the Sioux Indians for territorial rights in that part of the state.

A hundred and some years earlier, when the Indians fought, the nearly flat land aound us had been a woodland savanna. As we stood there looking about, I realized how much the area had changed in the intervening years. To our west was an large commercial strawberry field, which was bordered by an equal size, large corn field. To the northeast, ran a power transmission corridor of tall steel towers, not the small local carriers, but the big U.S. electric grid network towers. Behind us was a paved highway that bisected the state, running generally from southwest to northeast; the road was busy with cars and big sixteen wheel trucks all whizzing by one after another, at 65-70 mph, .

Thinking about the past, living in my own present, but standing in this ‘historic location’, I was consciously teetering between two time periods. Reflecting on the situation, I realized that the people passing by us in their cars were just as oblivious of the Chippewa and Sioux fighting there, as the Indians were of us, from their own time.

People in one time location pay little attention to people in another time location.
This is the same state of mind as people in one geographical location being oblivious of people and their activities in another part of town or in a different city. You may know there must be someone across town mowing their lawn, but it doesn’t matter, until in some way it becomes important to you.
If we spent as much time moving our mind’s eye, empathy and imagination across time as we do moving our bodies in space, time would tend to collapse between events, relative to the way technology has brought about an essential collapse in separation between geographical locations.
Geographical locations remain separate, time locations remain separate, but movement between locations and events can be facilitated.
Huge global transportation infrastructures, flying machines, ships, roads and motor vehicles, and trains move our bodies; what could a similar expenditure of human creativity and technology do for collapsing time?

Continued in Chapter 1987, Part 2 of 3.


[1]  Computing a dogs age from ‘human years’: Dogs age unevenly. The first year of a dog’s life is equivalent to 21 years in human  life, each year thereafter  is equivalent to 4 human years. So, 9 year  old Griz  (in human years)  is equivalent to ((1 yr x 21) +  (8 yr x 4)) = 53 years old Griz;  Jessie ((21 yr)+(4*4 yr))= 37 years old;  Pepin, 21 years old equivalent.
[2] Minnesota and the upper central Midwest was officially experiencing the worst fire threat in ten years.
[3]  See Journal 13 – Volume I, Daily Diary 1987, pages 2306 – 2332.
[4] See The Gathering: Other Episodes In The Caucasian Settlement of the North American Continent.
[5]  During the 1660s there were an estimated 60 to 100 million beaver living in this area of the north central USA and Canada. An explosive demand for furs developed in Europe, particularly for beaver pelts. Beaver pelts were combed and packed into ‘felt’, which was then formed and cut to create stylish men’s top hats. The fashionable hats cost about two months pay for a worker. In the wilderness of North America, the beaver pelt was a form of money with an exchange value of:
•  1 pelt=5 gallons whisky or 25 needles
•  4 pelts=1 each 3 point blanket
•  10 pelts=1 rifle or 1 each 15 foot long canoe
•  25 pelts=1 each 30 foot long canoe.
By the early 1800s the beaver trade was winding down and by the early 1900s, beaver were almost extinct across the region.

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

1986, age 43-44, Part 2 of 2

A year of growth and changes
1986 was a time of change around the homestead.
On one hand, we were continuing to get rid of various ‘survivalist gear’ we’d purchased and not used over the years. Amongst the items we sold were
•  an emergency generator, $950
•  double-barreled shot-gun for $175;
•  two each .223 semiautomatic rifle with two each 30 round banana clips sold for $600;
•  the  10 foot by 12 foot cabin tent and cots we used when camping on our property right after purchasing the acreage
•  a welding machine, $100;
•  pipe threader, $150
•  and an electric flour mill, $300.
The sum of these sales amounted to $2,275, which was equivalent to twelve weeks of Donna’s net wages.  Much of this money was spent refurnishing our house, a project that began late last year.

[Photograph below: JP’  by the flower bed, in front of our mobile home at Nightstar*.]

On the other hand, our delightful two year old daughter, Jane, was experiencing important milestones, among which were:
•  ‘All by herself’, she filled a cup of drinking water from the kitchen faucet.
•  She helped collect duck and goose eggs.
•  Was given her own swing — which I made and suspended from a tree in the back yard.
•  She spelled her first word, “dog.”
•  She visited the Shriner’s Circus in St. Cloud.
•  Jane’s maternal grandparents bought her a large red tricycle, which she learned to ride at  ‘death defying speeds’ along our driveway.
•  She was introduced to a balsa wood glider airplane and the art of kite flying.
•  She went with us on her first camping experiences to Kathio State Park,  and then to Itasca State Park.
•  On Halloween eve, Jane was dressed in a homemade clown costume and taken out for her first night of ‘Trick or Treating.’

Camping at Kathio State Park [1]
When Jane was nearly three years old, Donna and I decided to go tent camping again. It had been quite a few years since our last camping trip so we were both looking forward to the event. One Tuesday evening during mid August, we rummaged through our camping gear and pulled out our old six-foot by eight foot, yellow and blue mountain pup tent, an ice chest, Coleman stove, Coleman lantern, etc.

List of Camping  Gear
binoculars,8mm by 40 mm Kleenex tissue, box
camera knives, paring &   butcher
cash, $20 extra mixing spoon, spatula
clock oven, fold down
clothes pins, 6 pen & paper
clothing, spare changes plastic sheet, 10′ by 12′
coats, socking hats pots & pans, assorted
Coleman 80 quart ice chest radio, multiband
Coleman camp stove, 2   burner, white gas silverware
Coleman lantern, white gas. skillet, cast iron
cord, nylon, 30 feet sleeping bags, 2
dishes & cups, plastic tent, 6′ by 8, mountain   style’
firewood filled feed bag toilet paper, roll
flashlight towels, 2
hatchet wash cloth & hand soap
insect repellent wool blankets, 2
Jane’s boots & play   shoes
Camp Food List
bacon muffin mix, blueberry
bread, sour dough, loaf mustard, jar
butter, small tub onion, 1 medium
cheese, Cheddar Onion soup mix, dry
chocolate drink, mix peanut butter, jar
coffee, instant potatoes, 2 medium
eggs, 1 dozen pork & beans, canned
Frito corn chips pork steak, 2
hamburger, 1 pound rice, 1/4 cup
hash, canned roast beef salad dressing
honey salt & pepper
jam, jar sherry
lettuce, 1 head tomato juice, 6 sm. cans
lunch meat tomatoes, 2 medium
marshmallows, 1 bag water, carbonated
milk, dehydrated wine, white

During the next two days, while Donna worked, Jane and I washed the long unused gear, made a supply list and packed for the trip. At that time, we didn’t have a lot of camping gear so everything fit neatly in the trunk and back seat of the Ford.

Jane was excited about the prospects of her first camping trip. We’d told her about our backpacking and camping experiences and all the fun we would be having cooking meals over the campfire and on the little stove; we discussed marshmallow roasts, seeing the other kids at the campground and maybe even visiting the park playground. Jane was ready to go camping!

Since State Park campsites were taken on a ‘first come first serve’ basis, we made plans for Jane and I to drive the forty miles north-northeast to Kathio State Park at Mille Lac’ s Lake and set up our gear early in the day, before all the weekend campers arrived. Donna would go to work early, get off early, and meet us at the campgrounds during the afternoon.

Jane and I left just before noon, stopping at the Dairy Queen in Milaca for a lunch of hamburger, French fries and soda pop.
When we arrived at Kathio State park, we found that about a third of the camp sites were already taken; it was probably a good thing that we decided to leave early and get a campsite.

Our Park use fees for  two nights totaled $18.00, which included:
1) $12.00 at $6.00 per night camping fee and
2) $6.00 at $3.00 per day auto entry fee.

Jane and I drove slowly through the grounds, found a good campsite and began setting up our tent and equipment. Because we were camping with a small amount of gear, it only took about an hour to set up camp.

When  our work was done, Jane and I drove around the campground to locate the closest water hydrant. Not far from our campsite we found a wondrous playground, complete with several swings and a seven-foot high slide.
Jane had never been on a slide, so I explained how it worked. She had fun climbing the ladder, but found it scary to move out onto and sit on the steeply inclined plane. She came down that first time holding onto the smooth metal rails, her eyes wide with apprehension. Then,  after slowly dropping off the lower end of the slide and assessing the event, she ran back around to the ladder yelling over her shoulder, “Slide fun!”. After about six ‘trial run’s she began to relax her grip on the handrail which allowed a faster, smoother slide. As the weekend passed, Jane often had her eyes, mind and heart on the playground.

While waiting for Donna, I occasionally heard some one’s portable radio in a distant campsite. The sound of rock and roll invading the park seemed incongruous with the setting. During my many childhood camping experiences, I never saw a portable radio at a campground. In the mid 1950s I don’t think ‘portables’ were very common, but still, taking a portable radio to camp in the mid 1970s was quite a rare event. By the mid to late 1980s finding a radio at camp was not unusual, in fact, we brought our multi band to Kathio, but now, even portable televisions were beginning to show up.

Jane and I walked about the campground, visited the modern bathrooms several times; sat in the shade at our campsite, looking about, watching the chipmunks, birds and other campers; we talked about all the neat things we were seeing and doing.

Donna arrived during the late afternoon and promptly set about preparing supper. We chatted about the events of our day and how nice it was to be outdoors in a campground again. After supper, washing dishes and putting all out outdoor things under a tarp, we became tired from the long, event filled day. The family decided to go to bed early; just before dusk, we climbed into our small tent and quickly fell asleep.

Saturday
Saturday morning, under clear skies and warm morning temperatures, the family had a camp breakfast consisting of: camp baked blueberry muffins with honey, eggs and bacon, coffee and hot chocolate for Jane.
After our meal and the washing dishes, we drove to the Park Headquarters and rented a fifteen foot long aluminum canoe, paddles and life preservers..

That morning, we took Jane on her first canoe voyage and what a trip it was!. We only paddled about a half mile along the Rum River, but were totally surrounded by wilderness and isolated in nature. Jane was wide-eyed in awe as we pointed out two Box Turtles on semi submerged logs, two beaver lodges, a swimming beaver and thick carpets of water lilies.

After canoeing, we drove into Onamia to do some miscellaneous grocery shopping.
On our way back to camp we drove past a Box Turtle attempting to cross the road. I backed up and Donna brought the turtle into the car for Jane to see. As we continued driving, Donna showed Jane how the turtle had withdrawn its head and legs under his shell. This was Jane’s first ‘hands on’ experience with a turtle, she was excited and in her excitement she kissed the turtle.

From the turtles perspective, it was being held by a dangerous and probably hungry giant. As Jane lowered her face to kiss the creature, the terrified turtle flexed its head out from under the shell and clamped onto Jane’s upper lip. Jane yelped  and dropped the turtle, which hung momentarily from her lip before falling to the floor. I rapidly stopped the car on the shoulder of the road. We surveyed the lightly bleeding damage to Jane’s lip, while reassuring her that the turtle was just as scared and that she should never kiss wild animals. With that, the turtle was promptly and unceremoniously set free right there along the roadside, fortunate for him we’d stopped beside a bog; the turtle was undoubtedly quite glad his ordeal was over.

Back at camp Donna treated Jane’s small bite with an antibiotic salve, she recovered with little further thought of the event.

Saturday afternoon, we visited the park Interpretive Center and its small museum of Indian artifacts. Donna commented on the fact that we had quantitatively more and qualitatively better ancient Anasazi artifacts in our curio cabinet than the museum had Indian artifacts in their museum, and Kathio State Park was located on a centuries old, Mille Lac’s Chippewa Indian village site.

During mid afternoon, I crawled into the pup tent and took an hour and a half nap. Meanwhile, Donna and Jane walked about the campgrounds exploring nature. Donna showed Jane spiders working in their webs, moss growing on trees, butterflies and acorns.

That evening after a hearty camp stew [2] supper and  just before sunset, we started our campfire.
As hot, yellow-orange coals developed in the fire-place, I sharpened several small saplings to a point.  Jane watched with keen interest as Donna and I skewered marshmallows onto the sticks and held them over the glowing coals to roast. After seeing how the process worked, then tasting the roasted marshmallows, Jane’s wanted to try her hand and thus officially became a ‘marshmallow roastin,’ camp kid’.

Sunday
Early Sunday, just after dawn, I awoke and slipped out of the tent and hurried into the bushes to pee. At 6:00AM it was quiet and still throughout the campgrounds, there was a hint of fog and mornings chill in the air. Walking back into our campsite, I  looked around at the other tents, reflectively studying their style and composition.

Observations made at Kathio SP: Tent styles
It was plain to see that tent styles had changed considerably during the last thirty years. In the 1950s, tents were made from canvas or a lighter cotton fabric, all were impregnated with a waterproofing material, often mixed with paraffin. As the years passed, the percentage of cotton in tent fabric decreased. By the mid 1980s, most tents are manufactured using man-made materials and require a “fly” over the tent for effective water repellency.Tent styles of the 1950s were basically either the umbrella tent for families, or the two-man pup tent for soldiers, Boy Scouts and kids. By the 1990s tents came in a variety of styles and shapes, including: domes, various cabin types, a few umbrella styles, many one and two-man pup tents and a small variety of special climate tents for snow camping and mountain tents.

Whereas tents used to all be made of green or tan fabric, today’s tents come in a variety of colors and shades, including: blue, brown, gray, green, orange, purplish, red, tan, white, yellow. Wooden tent stakes were replaced first by steel stakes, then by aluminum, which are themselves currently undergoing replacement by plastic stakes. Wooden tent poles were first replaced by aluminum in some tent designs and are now being displaced by flexible plastic tension rods.

Gathering firewood [3]
There was a time, and not long ago when one counted the ever-present campfire, as one of the major enjoyments of camping. I’ve spent countless hours at night, snuggled down in my olive drab Army coat, with my black stocking cap pulled down over my ears, sitting on log or  rock, sipping a warm drink, while staring at the hypnotic flames and occasionally up at the stars. The memories of watching the flames and feeling the campfires heat on a cool night, while sitting and talking with friends or family, has been one of life’s simple pleasures.

When the family was camping at Kathio State Park  this August, we brought along a burlap bag filled with previously cut firewood. Bringing your own firewood to the campground is a significant point, because times have changed.

When I was a boy, camping with my parents in the early 1950s, it was my responsibility to collect firewood, maintain the woodpile and tend the campfire. There was never any difficulty finding windfall branches or a fallen tree close to the campsite. While Mom and Dad set up the tent, I began scouring the area for twigs, sticks and branches. Several times a day, I would run to a densely treed area and haul out firewood and build up a supply for that night’s fire. Often we cooked part of the family meal on our homemade fire ring (a ring of stones).

During the early 1960s, upon returning from my tour of duty in Army, I continued to go camping. As the 1960s progressed, I found that firewood was becoming more and more difficult to find. I had go farther and farther afield to find limbs and deadfall and occasionally had to leave the campground for our wood.

By the mid 1970s, most park headquarters or their registration offices had begun selling small bundles of firewood. The approximately eighteen inch in diameter bundles had precut and split foot long lengths of firewood tied together. Very often these wood bundles looked like remnants from a local lumber mill, the irregular outer bark and wood parts of tree trunks that remained after the bulk of the trunk had been cut into lumber. Most often the bundles were composed of Poplar, Birch or some other fast burning ‘weed tree’ species, seldom wood as desirable as oak or Maple.  The wood bundles cost $1.50 each in 1986 and kept a campfire burning about an hour. Interestingly, a single bundle of firewood cost the same as the extra cost incurred to rent an ‘electrified’ campsite.

Besides there having been a loss of scroungable fire wood in the park environs, there has also been a loss of the rustic campfire setting. In 1986 all the parks have basically standardized their concrete and rock, or steel ring fireplaces.

Thinking back to 1970, only about one half of the campgrounds that I happened to camp at had ‘developed’ fireplaces.

Another fifteen years earlier, in the mid 1950s, the camp fireplace or rock fire ring was frequently made by the camper. During the mid 1950s, most campgrounds didn’t have campsites per sae, you simply drove into the area designated “Campground,” found a location you liked and set up your tent. Everyone pitched together to help carry the closest picnic table to a location near your tent.

Over the years, previous campers had collected rocks from about the grounds and arranged them in a circle or square as a fire ring for their campfire. Often one camper would set up their tent in a spot where there was already a picnic table and homemade fire ring, thus avoiding any other labor. Sometimes we’d dig a shallow fire pit, carry rocks from the closest ‘fire ring’ and make our own custom fireplace. Flat rocks were laid along the inside edge of the fireplace and a metal pot for hygiene, coffee and dish water was set on these to heat.

Although the family had a Coleman, two burner, white gas stove, we often cooked our breakfast in a cast iron skillet over the campfire. In the gray of many a chilly morning and evening, my childhood family and later friends and then my own family huddled near the campfire to warm themselves. At such times, while our meal cooked, everyone busied themselves doing little camp duties or meal oriented chores while chatting in muted tones, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and each other’s company.

Within twenty years after the mid 1950s, all campground’s were subdivided into small campsites to facilitate renting these “cubicles in nature” to the hoards of campers trying to escape the confines of suburbia every summer’s weekend. Now in 1986, gone are the free style fireplaces, the windfall firewood, the logs and rocks we sat upon, and gone along with these elements is the full pleasure of the outdoor experience that we once enjoyed. Today, the experience is catered.

The Park Ranger’s
During the 1950s, we campers occasionally didn’t see any State Forest or State Park personnel during our overnight campout. Just as often, however, a Park Ranger would drive through the campgrounds just before dusk and collect a small camping fee from the campers. You could count on paying for the privilege of camping in the National Parks, where there was usually an automobile fee as well as an overnight camping permit. Where ever fees were collected, they were reasonable and paid for the convenience of having pit toilets and a hand-crank water pump located somewhere on the grounds.

During the 1960s and 1970s, full-time Park Attendants appeared at the state level. The growth in the number of park personnel continued to mushroom. Within little more than another decade, by the 1980s, there were receptionists at the information stations; grounds keepers who mowed the lawns, cleaned the bathrooms and dumped garbage barrels; Park Rangers who drove through the campgrounds perhaps four times a day checking auto and camping permits; a Historian, Naturalist or Forest Ranger who might give several hour-long educational programs for campers, or be responsible for the parks Interpretive Center. Large parks had more personnel and smaller parks fewer.

Camp clothing styles
Campers have become much more conscious of clothing styles than they were in the mid 1970s. Donna and I were able to make this initial comparison, because we spent a full month camping at Kathio State Park and at Charles Lindbergh State Park during August and September 1974, during which time we spent a lot of time observing other campers.

Until the late 1970s, people wore, older, heavy-duty clothes while camping. The basic camp outfit consisted of a heavy-duty jacket. long-sleeved shirt, blue denim jeans, heavy socks, and boots or loafers. Only a half decade later, by the mid 1980s, camp clothing has become stylish and considerably more fashionable. The current clothing style tends to be brightly colored and may be coordinated between spouses or to match the family’s camping gear, particularly the tent colors. Those who understand class differentiation and its associated clothing symbols wear more subdued colors combined with khaki or white trousers. During the warm part of the day shorts, a tennis hat and sun glasses may replace the trousers and jacket.

In 1986, the camp outfit, for adults, includes shorts or slacks with a color coordinated canvas web belt, a rib knit sports shirt, colorful tennis shoes or boat shoes, white socks or no socks at all. Campers in their luxurious recreational vehicles and tent campers who are ‘roughing it’, both dress the same, both groups are dressed and groomed just as ‘natty’ as the other.
On the other hand, fat people and families who are fishing with motor boats, though gaily attired, still have a scruffy, hard look about them. Campers who are on vacation or touring, and those who bring their canoes or bicycles with them, appear to dress better than the families who camp with intentions of spending all their time fishing.

Preparing for our next camp out
Sunday morning after breakfast we packed our gear and returned home.
We thoroughly enjoyed our brief experience and talked amongst ourselves as we showered, then cleaned and put away the camping equipment. Early Sunday afternoon, we decided we’d go camping again, at Itasca State Park, during the long Labor Day weekend that was approaching in just two weeks.

In the days that immediately followed our trip to Kathio, we were browsing through several department store catalogs, looking for a larger tent. Finding what we were looking for, we drove into St.  Cloud and purchased several items, including: the tent, a new forty-eight quart ice cooler,an  air mattress pump and a plastic tub sized for washing camp dishes.

The eight foot by ten foot cabin style tent had a sewn in floor and mosquito netting, it  had a two-tone in color with a light blue top and dark blue lower half. With the larger tent we would have space inside to stand while dressing and undressing, room for a small night stand with radio, Kleenex, etc. and the Porta-Potti.

Having the Porta-Potti inside was of particular importance, it saved us from having to take a walk in the middle of the night to either the camp bathroom or run out into the bug infested bushes. We also ordered an eighteen cubic foot, completely enclosed car top carrier made of  tough flexible plastic, to help transport our newly expanded camping outfit.
And so the family returned to the camping experience.

Camping at Itasca State Park
As planned for the Labor Day weekend, the family drove northwest to Itasca State Park for a holiday that would last from August 27 until September 1 – an extended weekend. Donna attached a couple of vacation days to the holiday giving us nearly a week off.

It was dusk by the time we had our equipment set up that first evening, too late to start a camp meal, but just the right time to dine at the park’s Douglas Lodge restaurant. (smile)
The rustic hundred year old, log cabin style-hotel and restaurant was very pleasant and filled with a campground atmosphere. We arrived just before the restaurant closed and ordered their  ‘Special of the Day’, which included an excellent thick slab of meat loaf, a generous serving of mashed potatoes with gravy, glazed carrots, rolls and a visit to the salad bar. We were amazed at the tasty food quality, generous quantity, the great atmosphere, and service which only cost $6.50 each for Donna and my self, and half price for Jane. By the time we finished our leisure meal, we were the last patrons to leave the lodge.

Our five-day visit to Itasca State Park was filled with tours and sightseeing including: the Pioneer Cemetery, Indian Burial Mounds, Peace Pipe Vista, Mississippi River headwaters and Headwaters Interpretive Center, “Snakes Alive” educational program, Preacher’s Grove, Wilderness Drive, and a hike along the Wilderness Orientation Trail, the Wegman cabin, the 9,000 year old “Bison Kill Site”, largest Red pine and White pine in Minnesota, and the park museum.

Jane cooks her first meal
One evening, we had plans of making hot dogs with buns and canned pork & beans for supper. I cut each of us a short length of tree branch to roast our hot dog on.
Jane thoroughly enjoyed roasting her own two hot dogs. Actually, the term ‘enjoyed’ is not exactly appropriate. Jane did enjoy the novelty of roasting the hot dogs, but there was more subtly involved with this learning experience. She seemed to understand and appreciate the fact that she was doing something important, that for the first time in her life she was cooking her own supper and realized the importance of the step.

Music [midi: One Moment in Time]

Jane’s young personality seen developing
At nearly three years of age, Jane is very outgoing and friendly, more so than any other children I’ve seen. She easily engages adults in conversation and is fast to make friends with other children. We have surmised that her outgoing personality has probably come to her from her Grandmother Eulah and my father Robert F. Pierce, both of whom easily engage strangers in conversation. Donna, and particularly I, are quieter and more introverted, both Donna and I were shy around strangers when we were young.

While at the park museum, lovable little Jane engaged a woman in a conversation. As the two of them walked around the room looking at the displays, the woman began to explain what they were looking at and to tell Jane a little special information about each one. Since the displays were four feet above the floor, to high for Jane top see, the woman then began lifting Jane up so she could view the artifacts.

Jane makes a friend
One morning, we were sitting around the picnic table sipping hot chocolate and chatting about the day’s agenda, when I noticed a little girl from a nearby campsite edging closer to us. The girl, about Jane’s age, was pretending to look for small, special stones on laying the ground. She’d take a few steps, squat down, look at the ground for a moment then sneak a peek at us. Then she’d stand up take a few steps closer and squat and look for stones. I watched the girl out of the corner of my eye for a few minutes, then alerted Jane that there was a little girl behind her. Jane looked over her shoulder,  climbed down from the table and hurried over to our car to lean against the rear bumper, which was about half way between the girl and our table. The little girl, Sara, slowly approached Jane. The two girls stood about ten feet apart, not speaking, just staring at one another. After several moments, as if on cue, they slowly walked together. The girls signaling their intended friendship and passing a couple broken sentences back, and forth then scurried off to Sara’s campsite to play for a few minutes.

We toured parts of the park before lunch and again in the early afternoon. When we returned to our campsite later that afternoon, Sara and Jane picked up right where they had left off. Sara’s father gave the girls a ‘fruit loop’ candy to share. Both girls walked between our campsites, carrying their dolls [4]  in their left arm, a fruit loop in their right hand and both beaming with happiness.

The girls played for about an hour: sitting and playing in the grass between our campsites, sitting in lawn chairs, and running around the car — in opposite directions. While running, Sara, fell down, then ran to her mother to have the hand injury inspected. After the mother washed Sara’s hand , Sara extended the hand to Jane, where upon Jane kissed her ‘Ow-a’. Donna and I made a batch of popcorn and called Jane back to our campsite around 8:00 PM. We had a fun day!

[Above, a Journal 11 drawing from  the article, Approaching Interface.  A fleeting ‘now moment’ of shared reality wells up from nothing. We are the observers, looking northeast out from the kitchen window at a place called Nightstar* in the year 1986.
You are aware that I’m here beside you, my having come forward in time to join you in this dimension of strange space-time effects and ballooning worlds. As we stand here together, looking at symbols and communicating. We both look and see a transformation occur. Not quite overhead, a small flock of brown, wild ducks appear. They fly in a ‘V’ formation across the gray fall sky, only to disappear behind barren limbed trees, then out of sight over the forest.
The image collapses back to become part of the white plain, simultaneously, our shared reality dissipates and we are again lone observers locked into the immediacy of our own, all important, space-time locations.

Terrorism
As a child growing up in the early 1950s, I was surprised to learn the horrible fact that ‘just plain people’ occasionally preyed upon and killed other ‘just plain people.’ Of course, I knew at the time that there were policemen and soldiers, criminals and national enemies, but in my youth, I was surprised to find there was another source of violence. One day, while visiting a local drug store and reading their news stand comic books, I happened to look at the front page of the local newspaper and what I read, shocked me. According to the story, a greedy and demented man had taken out a large life insurance policy on his wife just before she was  fly somewhere by airplane. He secretly packed dynamite in her luggage with a timer set to detonate when her airplane was in flight. It was shocking to learn that someone had killed a whole airplane full of innocent, unsuspecting people and his own wife out of a greed for insurance money.
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[Image above: Photocopy of  a drawing from Journal 11: Terrorism: The Early Days of Widespread International Guerrilla Warfare’.]

A few years later, in the early 1960s, the concept of threatening certain and sudden death on a number of unsuspecting people began to take on a new form. Occasionally an unhappy Cuban refugee to America would hijack a passenger airplane in Florida for a ride back to Fidel Castro’s, guerrilla exporting, Communist Cuba.

As the 1960s began to pass and the war in Vietnam escalated, strife increased in the USA. Negro Civil Rights stories splashed across the newspaper headlines as the sons and daughters of the affluent American middle class took to the streets in protest over war and racial discrimination. Toward the end of the 1960s, and into the early 1970s, it seemed that between the ‘draft dodgers’, disgruntled Cuban-Americans wanting to return to Cuba, various militants, social dissenters and other ‘crazies’, that U.S. passenger aircraft hijackings became almost a weekly affair.

At the end of the Vietnam War, during the early 1970s , ‘skyjacking’ in the U.S.A. declined; however, incidences overseas increased. The foreign ‘skyjackings’ mutated beyond the fairly benign form found in the USA.  If foreign authorities refused to refuel a commandeered airplane, if extortion threats were not met, or a passenger plane was not allowed to land at specific airports, the hijackers began singling out and killing individual passenger hostages and threatening to blow up the aircraft with everyone aboard. Religious and political factions from nearly all the Moslem Mideast began sending out commandos (terrorists) to hijack commercial passenger jets or plant explosives in luggage which was timed to detonate while the aircraft was in flight.

Terrorism became a quasi-political tool.

In 1979, after the overthrow of the US backed ‘Shaw of Iran’, by followers of the Moslem cleric, the use of terrorism against U.S. nationals and US owned businesses in the Mideast began to develop in earnest. During the late 1970s, ‘revolutionary’ groups, supposedly representing large segments of Mideastern country populations, began sponsoring abductions. At first, their targets comprised groups of people, i.e. tourists on passenger jets, or a foreign embassy staff.  As Western nations in those areas began taking steps for their safety, the number of targets dwindled, so kidnappings shifted and narrowed to individual Americans who either lived in or had businesses in the Middle East. Acts of terrorism which were once aimed primarily at Israeli citizens, broadened to include Americans, then Brit’s and Germans.

During the 1980s, social movements in the United States began splintering, some factions became violent. Members of  ‘Right to Life’, an anti-abortion group, blockaded and even firebombed abortion clinics. During the 1990s, frustrated that their agenda wasn’t being accepted by the public at large, they began murdering the doctors and personnel who work in the clinics.

Meanwhile, various animals’ rights groups, and Greenpeace, have thrown paint on people wearing fur coats, sunk fishing boats, sent letter bombs to opponents, etc.
After the turn of the millennium, terrorists turned to bombing public gatherings, at first they singled out nightclubs and restaurants frequented by Westerners. The IED (improvised explosive devices) was used extensively against US and Coalition troops in Iraq. While Car Bombs (vehicles filled with explosives) and Suicide Bombers (person wearing explosives strapped to their body) were used, primarily in Moslem countries, against crowded public market areas.

These acts of group terrorism and senseless acts of murder by individuals are increasing in the U.S.A. and throughout the world. The murder and maiming of groups has become increasingly common. Like a deadly virus that is slowly becoming pandemic, the number of people and groups involved with violence is increasing, along with the number of victims. [5]

Don and Eulah’s telephone chat [6]
Every few weeks, Donna’s parents, Don and Eulah would telephone on either Saturday or Sunday morning, to see how we were doing and chat with Donna and Jane. The subject of one such conversation, on Sunday, November 16, was of a VHS video tape we sent to them of Jane at the Benton County Fair and about our home.

Eulah told Donna that Jane looked a lot older than two years of age. Eulah stated that from her observation of the video, “Jane displays a lot of patience for her age, while waiting her turn on the carnival rides”.
Eulah and I chatted for a few minutes at which time I noted that her voice sound a weaker and more tired than during our previous conversation, a couple of weeks earlier. When Donna and Eulah talked to one another, Eulah admonished her, “Take extra special care of Jane and see that no harm ever comes to her…be sure to raise her right and give her a good education…”

Jane was, her Grandma Eulah’s special girl, she loved Jane very much.

When Jane was given the telephone, she talked with her Grandmother about our dogs (Griz, Jessie and puppy Pepin), about playing with her tinker toys and how she would soon have a birthday.
A few minutes later in closing, Eulah spoke to Donna of Jane, saying, “She’s quite a kid.”

The death of Eulah Clara [7]
On Thursday morning, November 20, Don telephoned Donna at True Value Hardware with the sad news that her mother, Eulah had died. Donna immediately phoned me with the news and as soon as possible left work to come home.
At the time of her death, Eulah was eighty-five years, nine and a half months old. She was born Thursday, 7 February 1901 — 11 years before Arizona became a state.

Later: Don told us of Eulah’s passing (paraphrased): ” …It was a little after eight o’clock (in the morning). Eulah was partially sitting up, propped up in the bed. She was trying to take her potassium pill, I gave her several sips of water and she couldn’t get them to go down her throat. She was so exhausted she didn’t even want to talk. I noticed when she finally swallowed that it was like there was no reflex at all holding the pills. She kind of sat back a little and rested a bit. Then all at once her eyes flew wide open. There was no movement what so ever, except her eyes were the widest I have ever seen them. Right away the oxygen generator started to slow down. I tried to shake her, move her, and she was absolutely rigid. She passed away about 8:20 in the morning and by 9:30 she was leaving the house by way of the mortuary. It was a sad day. One that had been anticipated for a long, long time. She’d been losing weight for the last two weeks or so…she was below a hundred pounds when she passed away…”

Eulah’s spirit visits Donna [8]
Saturday night, the third night after Eulah’s death, Donna and I went to bed at our customary time and had fallen asleep., Sometime during the night, Donna awakened to see a brilliant white light growing in size toward the end of her side of the bed, but near  the  ceiling in the corner. She felt her mother’s presence beside her and indeed, Eulah asked Donna if she saw the growing and expanding light.  As Donna watched, she saw that there was a figure seated inside of the light. The figure was dressed in a simple gown and sat with open outstretched. The woman had a pleasant smile and was beckoning. Donna answered Eulah, who was still standing beside her, saying, “Yes. I see it. What is it?…Yes! You made it didn’t you? You’re really going to heaven!” Eulah’s presence then began moving toward the light. She answered Donna, simply saying, “Yes,” an utterance that trailed across the room into the light.
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[The image above was photocopied from my Journal 4: The Passage. It’s a drawing I made based on  Donna’s description of her vision, discussed in this text. The drawing was entered along with Donnas write-up of the event.

As the light diminished in size and was reclaimed by the night, Donna realized who the woman in the light had been. The woman with outstretched arms, who was beckoning, was Eulah’s mother Maude, come to guide her into Heaven.

Donna was filled with happiness for weeks after this unusual experience, knowing that we do pass from this life to another. As she said, “We can transcend into the light, into Heaven, if our hearts are good and filled with love. And we will be met and guided by someone we love dearly.”

Jane at 3 years and 1 month [9]
How different Jane’s and my early childhood years were.
During my earliest years, my father worked, then he was gone to the Navy during World War II.
My memories begin with only my mother and I about the house. Jane, on the other hand, has grown accustomed to my being around the house and caring for her for the last year and a half, since my layoff from Landy Packing Company. We are together daily from around 7:15 AM until Donna comes home from work about 5:30 PM.

During week days, I wash dishes; wash, dry, fold and put away clothes; clean, sweep and dust as required; mow the lawn, rake leaves or split wood (seasonally dependent); make our lunches; start supper; read; work on my journals; read to Jane and take care of her needs.
Although I keep an eye on Jane, she is mostly left to her own devices. She spends her day playing with various kitchen implements, pretending to mix and prepare food. Often she is seen giving her dolls a ride, in the bed of her toy dump truck. She colors in her color books, looks at the Sears and Penny’s Christmas catalogs and practices writing on a Magic Marker Board.

We sit together on the couch at least twice a day, spending about fifteen minutes per session reading from Little Golden Books, Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, and many other story books.
By her second birthday, Jane knew the letters of the alphabet and single digit numbers, by their shape and sound.  Since then, she began learning to read words of two to five letters, from my specially prepared three by five-inch cards. As the months passed, I increasingly laid the cards side by side to form simple sentences, such as,

THE RED CAR CAN GO.
PET THE DOG.

By the end of November when Jane turned three years old, she was slowly reading from an old 1940s First Grade, Dick and Jane, Reader, she also had begun printing the letters of the alphabet.
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A month later,  she could print her name and well over half the letters of the alphabet[10] , which was quite unusual and advanced for a three-year, one month old child! (smile) By 3 years, 2 months of age, she knew and could print the alphabet. [See Jane’s journal entries, above.]

Changing my correspondence technique
Late this year I made a few changes in my letter writing routine, with amazing results:
1) Ever since moving to Minnesota, I’d been writing my letters with a pencil, on simple 8″ x 11″ college lined school paper. When I began using quality stationary and a fountain pen, the apparent change in formality caused my return correspondence to decline.
2) When I quit writing five to ten page letters, after receiving one or two page replies, and began trading essentially, page for page, there was another decline in my return mail.
3) When I began waiting to answer my personal mail for as long a period as it took each correspondent to  answer my letter, there was a further reduction.

Occassionally, Donna would say, “I don’t know why you write so soon after you hear, you know they won’t answer you for, uhhh…how long’s it been?” or in a similar vein, “You spend the day writing and you got that (!) note in reply?”, she chuckles and continues, “I, wouldn’t be in any hurry to write back!”

Although I didn’t want to think about it, when I did, I realized Donna was right, there was little equity in the quality of mail exchanged with some of my correspondents.

Everyone loves to receive long letters in quick response to their writing.

A ten page letter takes the better part of a day to write. In terms of equity, I was giving $50 worth of my time, usually for $2 to $5 of the correspondents time, and had to wait several months for the privilege of a reply.

Within a year of changing my correspondence techniques, the amount of time I spent writing was reduced by at least fifty percent and over the next couple years it dropped to probably ten to fifteen percent of what it had been formerly.

Donna’s father flies up to visit with us for Christmas
Early in December, about two weeks after Eulah’s death, Donna invited her father, Don, to fly up from California to visit with us during the Christmas and New Year holiday.
Don was obviously depressed from Eulah’s recent death and happy with our invitation; plans were made for him to stay with us from December 22 until 8 January.

Don took care of some business he had to attend to in Redding, then flew to the Minneapolis International Airport.
He arrived on Monday, December 22, aboard Northwest Orient Airlines, flight #154, at the scheduled time of 4:53 PM.
Although Don arrived on time, all of his baggage, except for a ‘carry on bag’ went elsewhere and it took several days before the wayward suitcases could be rerouted and delivered to St. Cloud.
The day after his arrival, I took Don to visit several retail stores in St. Cloud where he had some last minute Christmas shopping to do.
Much to Jane’s delight,  ‘Grandpa’ spent a lot of time holding, playing with and reading to her. It was a match made in heaven, Don and Jane sitting together on the couch watching TV and hug-snuggling each other. Every once in a while as Don read to Jane, he would doze off to sleep for a few minutes, Jane sat with him patiently looking at her book until he would suddenly awaken with a start and resume reading.

Gifts and Eulah’s personal affects
On Christmas morning, the family gathered around our gaily decorated Christmas tree to open presents. Everyone took turns handing out gifts. There was something about having family together, that made Christmas more pleasurable than it was during those years when Donna and I sat alone, forlorn and sad after opening our gifts.

Among the gifts we each received were:
•  Donna: five cable knit sweaters, an antique ‘swan’ planter, antique figurines that had belonged to her mother.
•  Jane: two dresses, five Teddy Ruxpin Adventure Tapes & Books, two Teddy Ruxpin clothing outfits, two dolls, a kaleidoscope, Old Maid cards and a pair of Navy colored slacks.
•  Larry: two Harris Tweed jackets, two neck ties, and a sweater vest.
•  Don: a 5 inch by 7 inch framed color photograph of Jane, flannel shirt, wool scarf.

Our relatives sent: A year’s subscription to National Geographic, $15.00 cash, a bushel of oranges and grapefruit, two fruitcakes, a box of dates, and a date/coconut cake.

Later in the morning, Donna opened two boxes of Eulah’s personal effects that Don had mailed preceding his visit. The boxes contained Eulah’s costume jewelry, dainty handkerchiefs, hats and scarves. Some other items that Don brought in his luggage were Eulah’s 1928 Bible, an old and very nice Amethyst necklace and a framed eightieth year birthday card from President Ronald Regan.
That evening after our Christmas meal, we sat around the table talking about Eulah. At eighty five years of age, she was amongst the last of that generation of people who settled the old west and brought it into the modern era. Her early life in the Arizona territory and after statehood, was a time that existed toward the end of that period, it was at the end of the horse and buggy days– the time when Halley’s Comet had last visited Earth.

Donna’s 39th birthday
Saturday, December 27th, two days after Christmas, was Donna’s thirty ninth birthday.We spent the morning chatting and playing with Jane.
During late afternoon, Donna opened her birthday presentsto find she’d received; seven pair tweed design stockings, a smooth faced brassiere, a pair of supple brown leather gloves with cashmere and wool linings.
After supper, we sat around the table, this time angrily discussing ‘illegal immigrants’. The paragraph that followed has been edited out of this public article.

Don returned to Redding,California
While Donna was at work on her week days, Don spent a lot of time watching television, reading to Jane, napping, reading my journals and chatting with me. I spent my time doing dishes and minor housework, working on my journals and writing letters to relatives and chatting with Don.
During late morning, Thursday, January 8, 1987, two weeks after Don’s arrival, Donna drove her father back to the airport in Minneapolis for his return home.
Why is it, when you have enjoyed visiting with company, when they leave a sadness sets in? In the days following Don’s departure, we missed his happy and exuberant presence about the house.

An oil painting of Eulah
Several months after returning to California, Don shipped to Donna, a large, framed, oil painting of her mother, Eulah. The well executed painting was made by Donna’s artistic, half sister, Kedina, and made from a circa 1929 photograph of Eulah;  whom I might add was a beautiful twenty eight years old woman. Don said the painting hung on the wall in Eulah’s bedroom for several years prior to her death. [See photo at left of   Eulah’s portrait painting hanging on our bedroom wall at Nightstar*.]

What’s on TV tonight?
My favorite programs in 1986.
•  Local Evening   News
•  National   Evening News
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Movies
Movies that Donna, Jane and I attended during the year:
Aliens with Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehm
Crocodile Dundee with Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon
Down And Out In Beverly Hills with Nick Nolte, Richard Dreyfuss, Bette Midler
Flight Of The Navigator with Joey Cramer, Veronica Cartwright, Cliff   DeYoung
Heartbreak  Ridge   with Clint Eastwood, Marsha Mason,Everett   McGill
Highlander with Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Roxanne   Hart
Peggy Sue Got Married with Kathleen   Turner, Nicholas Cage, Barry Miller
Short Circuit with Ally Sheedy, Steve Guttenberg, Fisher Stevens
Space Camp with Kate Capshaw, Lea Thompson, Kelly Preston
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home with William   Shatner, Leonard Nimoy
Tai-Pan with Byran Brown, Joan Chen, John Stanton, Tom   Guinee
The Clan of the Cave Bear  with Daryl   Hannah, Pamela Reed, James Remar
The Fly with Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz


[1]  See Journal 11, High Plains Drifter, page 1836, “A Return to the Camping Experience.”
[2]  Camp stew: Cook together: about 1 quart of water containing a package of commercial dehydrated onion soup mix, 1/4 cup rice, 1 diced potato, 1 diced onion, small can stewed tomatoes. Add a pound of fried hamburger to the stew mix. Serve with sour dough bread topped with peanut butter. A hearty, easy to make stew good for cool and cold evenings in camp.
[3]  See Journal 11, High Plains Drifter, page 1844, excerpts from “A Return to the Camping Experience.”
[4]  Jane had her duck doll, “Ducky,” a gift from her paternal Great uncle Bill and Elizabeth Pierce.
[5] Over the next 14 years, while the threat of terrorism was drilled into the public consciousness as a huge threat, more people in the USA died from bee stings than from terrorist attacks. Fear generates business.
[6]  See Journal 12, Point of View, page 2007, part of the article “Jane Elizabeth Pierce: The days between ages two and three”
[7]  See Journal 4, The Passage, page 536, “An Account of the Death of Eulah Clara Roberts-___”
[8]  See Journal 4, The Passage, page 539, “The Passing of Eulah Clara___– Mother’s Farewell Gift”
[9]  See Journal 12, Point of View page 1984, “Jane Elizabeth Pierce: The days between ages two and three.”
[10]  See also Journal 11, High Plains Drifter, page 1822+, ” Drawings by Jane Elizabeth Pierce.”

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

1986, age 43-44, Part 1 of 2

 Themes and Events
*  The U.S. Department of Agriculture approves the release of the first genetically altered virus into the environment, it is used to attack a form of herpes affecting pigs.
*  As oil drops below $15 a barrel for the first time in years, there is an increased fascination with larger cars, the price decline helps fuel a stock market rally.
*  The national debt exceeds $2 trillion, having doubled in the last 5 years. The Trade Deficit jumps to an unprecedented $18 billion.
*  The world’s human population reached 5 billion persons in July, a 20% increase in 12 years. The Human Race is increasing in population by 150 babies per minute or 216,000 per day, a number that is clearly not sustainable.
*  A report in the New England Journal of Medicine that the risk of death from all causes, can be significantly reduced with moderate exercise.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
*  This car stops at all garage sales.
*  You’ve obviously mistaken me for somebody that cares.
*  Crime wouldn’t pay if the government ran it.
*  Go ahead hit me — I need the money.

A mid winter’s power outage
Living in Minnesota would be just fine, if it weren’t for the occasional life threatening scares we receive from the weather.
During the summer months we are concerned when there are severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings issued for our locale. Because we live in a mobile home, we are subject to greater risk from wind damage.
During winter, we become concerned over: 1) the possibility of being ‘snowed in’ for an extended period of time, 2) the snow depth accumulated on the mobile homes roof and 3) extended electric power outages. Unfortunately, major winter storms, snow depth, being snowed in and an electric power outage all can happen at the same time.

On the morning of January 27, I awoke at 3:45 AM and got up to go to the bathroom> While walking about in the house, I discovered we were in the midst of an electric power outage. Initially, I felt it was chilly in the house so went to the livingroom to check the indoor-outdoor thermometer. The outdoor temperature was a horrid -25ºF,. Meanwhile, the indoor temperature had  slipped from its normal 60ºF thermostat setting to 48ºF. The microwave and VCR display lights were out, of course, so were the house lights.

[Photograph. Winter 1985-86. My little pal, Jane, in her snow suit, on the driveway in front of our garage.]

I hurried back through the trailer to awaken Donna, so we could concert our efforts to warm the house and look into the situation. Donna immediately telephoned the electric company to find that the power had failed only an hour earlier. That told me the mobile home’s indoor temperature was dropping at the rate of 12ºF per hour.
We had to act fast, before the interior froze up.
We quickly dressed by flashlight, putting on multiple layers of clothes, then lit candles about the front room and kitchen. While Donna  brought Jane into the front room and dressed her, I started a fire in our wood burning stove and began warming a pot of water for coffee. At times like these we are extremely thankful that we had the foresight and took the expense of buy the stove and maintaining a supply of cut and split fire wood!
Once the living room was warming up, we started the Toyota Corolla and let it run for a few minutes to warm the engine oil and block. We wanted to make sure that we had any means of escape, if it became too cold in the house and we were forced to abandon the premises until power was restored.

At 5:17 AM the electricity suddenly blinked back on. Needless to say, with the outdoor temperature still in the -27ºF range, we were happy to hear the furnace’s air circulation fan come on and blowing warm air through out the home, to see the electric lights and digital clocks all functioning again. As warm air began pouring out of the floor registers our world rapidly returned to normal.
We remained a little tired from our short night’s sleep, but knowing we’d come through a potentially dangerous situation gave us cheer.

Music [album: Battlestar Galactica – Season 3, Mandala in the Clouds]

The Hero’s of Challenger
Around 11:20 AM on January 28, Donna telephoned home from work with terrible news. Her voice was cracking with stress as she solemnly told me, “The shuttle exploded just after takeoff.”.
A few moments later I turned on the television and found CBS anchorman, Dan Rather, explaining what had happened… For the rest of that day and the next several day,s we were filled with a sense of loss and sadness. Not only had we lost one of our space shuttles and her crew, but we lost someone who we’d all come to view, as a friend.

[Internet  image: January 28, 1986. The space shuttle   Challenger exploding  at ten miles   altitude, shortly after lifting off from Kennedy Space Center.]

During the summer of 1985, NASA searched the nation’s school system for a talented teacher who would exemplify the character of a professional astronaut, a pleasant and charismatic person with a friendly continence. From some 10,000 applicants, NASA chose one such person.
Last Fall we were first introduced to the teacher via television: Her name was Christa McAuliffe, a beautiful, thirty-seven year old high school Social Studies teacher from Concord, New Hampshire. Through the winter the media kept we Americans up to date on Christa’s progress while providing taped footage of her astronaut training.
We watched with anxious approval as ‘one of us’ was fitted with her space suit and as she went through the various aspects of astronaut training.
Christa was always cheerful and happy, like one of us, she felt blessed by having been chosen to travel into Earth’s orbit aboard the space shuttle. As the months passed, through the national TV news media, we met Christa’s husband, Steve, her two children, even her Mom and Dad. The TV networks took us on a guided tour of Concord, Christa’s home town,we saw where she lived, worked and shopped, and even talked with her friends.

Christa prepared lesson plans and was to give  series of ‘Classes From Space’. TV networks were scheduled to air these, ‘the first school classes given by a teacher in space for children on Earth.’ It was a plan that was guaranteed to have large audience participation from schools and homes across the country.

At one minute twelve seconds after launch: Challenger had accelerated to 2,000 mph and was ten miles in altitude. In her main fuel tank was a half million gallons of liquid hydrogen and oxygen.
Mission pilot Michael Smith had just said the words, ‘Roger. Go at throttle up…’ when we saw in seeming slow motion and at high telescopic magnification, a yellow glow on the right side of the right solid fuel tank…which quickly exploded. A second later, as our jaws dropped open in horror, a much more devastating explosion occurred engulfing the entire ship in a rolling ball of fire. The maelstrom of fire continued to expand upward and outward, while particles of indeterminate size were seen blown out of the fireball. One solid fuel booster then  the other flew up out of the fire and smoke, continuing their death flight in separate wide arcs. Then  as the shuttle debris began falling, we saw smoke trails from a cloud particulate black rain,  as everything dropped from the sky toward the ocean.

At the White House, Mrs. Nancy Reagan was watching live television coverage of the lift off; when she saw the fireball, she exclaimed, ‘Oh my God. No!!’

Moments earlier, we’d seen what had been a happy, cheering party atmosphere in Christa McAuliffe Social Studies class at Concord. The scene quickly turned into a time of confusion, denial and horror. Immediately after the explosion, we saw students with their brows wrinkled and near tears; here and there, hand’s covered stunned face’s and mouth’s; some children looked at the camera, their face drained, wishing to escape from the formality of the television crew taping their class.

Everyone had the same exuberant happiness and excitement for Christa.
It was crushing to see our astronaut hero’s all die before our eyes.  This was a sad day, for me personally, for our family, and the United States.[1]

Our ‘Traditional’ English dinners
I always thought it was nice to have ‘traditional’ family dinners on  occasion when visiting friends and neighbors.
Donna’s and my family had no traditional meals to draw upon. The problem was that my much of the paternal side of my family had been on this continent so long, since the 1620 Mayflower and settling of Nantucket Island that we’d simply lost the idea of a traditional meal – all of our meals were simply – American. Donna’s family adopted American foods when they came to this country in the 1800s, so no traditional German or French foods came down through her line either.

During the winter we borrowed several English and New England cookbooks from the public library; I read one while Donna read several. After reading, Donna selected a variety of dishes traditional English dishes and began cooking special dinners for our Sunday afternoon meal.
English dinners are an excellent fare in cold weather, but were too heavy for our hot, humid summers.
The New England dinners we selected were quite heavy as well, but ohh, sooo, very tasty!
On occasion we’ve drooled over and eaten heartily of Donna’s sumptuous meals of:
1) Roast beef with horseradish sauce,  Yorkshire Pudding, and roast potatoes;
2) Pot pie, glazed turnips and Treacle Sponge Pudding;
3) North Shore Smothered Ham, Aunt Mary’s Brown Bread, Boston Baked Beans and white wine (recipes from New England). Note: England lies on a latitudes similar to mid Canada, but experiences milder winters.
We purchased three English cookbooks and one New England cookbook for our home reference library.

Books read during the year
During the year, I read books on various topics, mostly whatever was either important in our lives at the time or of general topical interest to myself, including:
British   Cookery © 1985 by Jane Grigson – A British cookbook with a historical look   at most of the food items discussed.
The New   Diary  © 1978 by Tristine Rainer – How to use a   journal for self guidance and expanded creativity. 323 pages.
A Book of One’s Own: People and Their Diaries © 1984 Thomas Mallon – A history and study of diary forms, in their authors own words. 318 pages.
Shogun ©  1975 by James Clavell, publ. by Dell Publishing

Three types of supermarket
Of the three types of supermarket we encountered in St. Cloud, all shared several similar characteristics: the floors were apparently washed and polished on a daily basis, everything was clean, and there was good bright incandescent (neon tube) illumination. The buildings were all large  measuring a couple hundred feet or more on a side, with concrete floors that were covered with heavy duty linoleum or tile. Shelves were always kept well stocked with whatever products were carried. Store employees, whether they were stocking shelves, taking inventory or the cashiers, were all courteous, helpful, friendly and busy. Each store carried a large variety of food products and a plethora of other small household items, ie; toilet paper, Kleenex, paper towels, cat and dog food, soaps and laundry detergents, pot and pan abrasive powders, scratcher pads, polishes, paper plates, stain removers, shoe polish, some had greeting cards, a small selection of stationary, a few inexpensive paperback books, various non prescription pharmaceutical supplies. In the standard and upscale type super market, the sundries might occupy five percent of the floor space, in the ware house market they occupy perhaps one to two percent of the floor space.

The standard supermarket
The standard supermarket, which I think came into existence during my childhood (ca early 1940s), is a large one floor grocery store carrying a huge variety of brand name and ‘house’ label foods all in various size containers.
Coburn’s Grocery, was St. Cloud’s standard type of supermarket. It carried a large supply of quality fresh fruits and vegetables, but not always a wide variety of either. The standard supermarket maintained a large well stocked meat department. The cans, boxes and packages of food or sundry household products had all been taken from their shipping boxes and stacked neatly on display shelves that generally were not higher than an adult could reach. Occasionally after shopping at Coburn’s, we had to visit another market to pick up a few specialty food items.

The warehouse market
A supermarket type that developed since the 1970s is what we referred to as a “warehouse” market.
St. Cloud had two such grocers, one was aptly named, Warehouse Market, the other was, Red Owl.
In a warehouse type market, cans and packages are found still in their shipping containers.
Often, the store’s interior decor reminded me of an industrial setting. Employees might be seen using hand-operated forklifts to raise or lower pallets of unopened shipping boxes from overhead pallet racks.
Shopping carts were sometimes larger and more heavy-duty than the ones used in more conventional grocery stores, even low boy pull carts with flat beds were in use.

Warehouse markets seemed to specialize in bulk items, offering a smaller variety of products, in fewer size containers.  They carried fewer and lower quality fresh vegetables and meats. Many foods were ‘off brands’ or ‘house labels’ that supposedly tasted the same as the national “brand name” which they emulated.
We found that there was often a difference in either the taste or shape of the product inside the package, that made the house brand inferior to the national brand name. We found that the slightly more expensive brand name food item was always a better tasting product, that observation was never violated.

One practice the warehouse markets encouraged, and which I didn’t care for, was in offering bulk soda pop, bulk cookies and bulk candy. Customers buying these items received a small price break on the soda pop – when they brought their own empty and presumably washed, plastic quart soda pop containers back to the store and refilled them with any one or more of a variety of perhaps twenty premixed flavors.
Small candies and various cookies were sold by the pound and were scooped out of their individual bulk bins into thin plastic bags, by the customer.

About the only thing of value that I could see in this type of marketing was that individual items were priced a little cheaper. Of course you have to remember the adage, ‘You get what you pay for’.
We shopped at the warehouse markets a few times during their first couple years in town, but only while they were still a novelty to us. After shopping at a warehouse market, we always had to go to a standard grocer to pick up the items or packaging sizes that had been unavailable.
The little money we saved didn’t justify the taste difference, the inconvenience, or time wasted having to finish our weekly shopping elsewhere. Before long we quit shopping at this type of store, but noticed over the years, that their parking lots seemed busy, so they must have continued to thrive.

The upscale supermarket
Byerly’s, was St. Cloud’s only ‘upscale’ supermarket. The grocer seemed to have a slight international and cosmopolitan air to it, while carrying foods that the other grocers didn’t. Although most of the product brands and container sizes found in Byerly’s were exactly the same as found in the standard supermarket, there were differences. Unlike her competitors, Byerly’s carried live lobster and other fresh sea foods; vegetables not readily found locally, i.e. artichoke and egg-plant; many fresh herbs and exotic fresh foreign vegetables; fruits not in season i.e. strawberries, various melons, mango’s; fresh bakery goods from the stores own in house bakery.

Prices at Byerly’s were comparable with those at the standard (Coburn’s) supermarket. Generally speaking, the people seen shopping at the upscale grocer were better dressed, generally thinner, more handsome, have pleasanter faces, look more alert and cough less (generally healthier) during the winter.

‘Remember the Alamo!’
One hundred fifty years ago, on March 6, 1836, the American defenders of the Alamo died at San Antonio, Texas.
After a twelve day siege, one hundred eighty-eight freedom fighters who held the Alamo were overrun and killed to the man by four thousand troops under the Mexican General, Antonio de Santa Anna. Among our fallen heroes were colonel’s William Travis, James Bowie and Davy Crockett.

We should remember, American cultural difference with the Mexican’s in Texas could not be bridged in the 1830s these differences remain in the late Twentieth century. We Anglos, are giving up southern California and other property all along the US – Mexican border. Mexican Americans are taking the land back in a way that is completely legal, they know it, we know it: “One house at a time, one business at a time and one neighborhood at a time.”
In the decades to come, I think we will legislate ourselves right out of the southwestern USA. The direction this is taking, reminds me of Chief Seattle’s famous speech of 1854, “… I will not mourn over our untimely decay, nor reproach my pale-face brothers for hastening it, for we, too, may have been somewhat to blame….”
You can read Chief Seattle’s entire somber and heart rendering speech at the following website (and elsewhere):
http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=1427

Pepin is born
On March 8, Griz and Jessie (dogs) had their first of two litters of pups. We decided to keep the first-born of their first litter for ourselves, and sell the rest.
After we found a home for all his siblings, we gave our new pup the name, Pepin. [2]  From the beginning, it was apparent that  Pepin was going to grow into a big dog and just as we thought, he did; becoming much larger than larger than either of his parents. His sheer size and head shape pointed to the St. Bernard in Griz’s genealogy. Pepin’s adult fur coat was primarily of long white fur. He had the most interesting little round black spots all over his coat and a black mask across his face and ears, otherwise he was just a Big, long-haired, shaggy white dog.

The 1986 return of Halley’s Comet [3]
During late 1985, as Halley’s Comet approached from the outer reaches of the  solar system approaching the sun, it became visible just after sunset; however, because of the extreme cold winter weather, we didn’t go outside to stand around and look for it.

From the television news, we learned Halley’s Comet measured approximately eleven miles long and three miles in diameter, its long axis was along and pointed in the direction of travel. It was composed of a mixture of ice, frozen gasses, rocks and dust; the whole mass was moving along its orbit at speeds between 20,000 and 118,000 miles per hour.

As the comet drew closer to the Sun, the news media and specialty advertisers brought the importance of it’s “once in a life time” passage to the public mind. Over a several month period, the comet’s publicity increased interest in astronomy. The many beneficiaries of Halley’s Comets’ passing were the retail outlets who hawked binoculars, small telescopes, comet photographs, astronomy magazine subscriptions, Comet T-shirts, jacket patches, medallions, books, etc.
Unlike its previous passages near the Earth, this time no one was frightened, instead, ‘Halley’s Comet-1986’ was an interesting curiosity – and a commercial success at best.

[Photocopy: Journal 11: High Plains Drifter, drawing of Donna and me observing Halley’s Comet from the County road.]

By March 1986,  the comet reached  perihelion and was moving away from the Sun approaching Earth’s orbital radius. On March 15th and 16th, between 5:00 AM and 5:20 AM, Donna and I walked down our driveway, then a short way south along County Road #14, to a point where we had a clear view across the low land toward the southeast. We wished Jane would have been older than her two years three months, so she could have enjoyed the vague sight with us, never-the-less knowing she wouldn’t understand what we were looking for through the binoculars, we left her at home asleep.

Donna and I scanned above the southeastern horizon, but were unable to find the comet with our naked eyes. Then, using our 8mm x 40mm power binoculars we located its faint diaphanous glow above the distant, darkly silhouetted trees. The weather cooperated with our short viewing sessions by remaining clear and starry, but with chilly 22ºF to 27ºF temperatures.

It seemed to us, that with all the news coverage given the event, there wasn’t much to see, the performance did not match the advertising. Even with the binoculars, Halley’s Comet was not easy to locate, nor did it reveal much detail to us amateurs.
The comet was seen having a tail that appeared to be about three times as long as its greatest width. The tail extended in a direction opposite to the sun and had a slightly conical appearance. The entire apparition appeared as a very thin, light bluish-white glow and did not have truly definable boundaries. Because of its distance, there was no noticeable movement to the comet in the few minutes that we were observing, it just seemed to hang still in the predawn sky.

Clothes washing, 1980s style
Every two or three days, after Donna and Jane had awakened, I began washing a load of clothes. I might point out that for the most part, our clothes are washed to remove the smell of body odor, only my work clothes, some of Jane’s school clothes and our socks ever really get ‘dirty’.
Compared to the onerous duty ‘laundry day’ was prior to the advent of the automatic washer and dryer, in the recent decades washday chores have become an easy and almost non existent task.

Soon after buying our mobile home in April 1977, we purchased a Montgomery Ward Heavy Duty 18 wash machine and clothes dryer set.
The wash machine handles clothing loads up to eighteen pounds; it has a water volume selector, a water temperature selector and a washing timer that either can turn the internal agitator at regular speed or at  reduced speed for the more delicate fabrics (curtains, anything with lace, rubber backed throw rugs). We never weigh the clothes, figuring that eighteen pounds on the ‘fill’ setting means ‘full’, nine pounds means ‘half full’, etc.

The clothes washing technique I used: 1) Pour into the empty machine a measured quantity of either powdered or liquid laundry detergent, whatever we’re using at the time, i.e. Tide, Purex; 2)  turn the load volume selector dial to provide the quantity of water needed for the size of a load to be washed; 3) while the water is filling the machine, I rummage through the hamper separating the white and colored clothes, or occasionally toss all colors into the machine together; 4) when the clothes are loaded and the machine has about filled with the proper amount of water, I close the hinged lid; 5) twist the Timer selector to wash the load, usually for twelve minutes; 6) Press the Start button and walk away.

The wash machine’s agitator quietly twists clockwise and counter-clockwise stirring the clothes around and about for the chosen twelve minutes cycle, then the machine empties the water and spins the clothes semi dry. It then automatically refills the machine to the previously selected volume and goes through a several minute’ rinse cycle’. At the end of the rinse cycle, the water it again automatically pumped out and the clean clothes are spun semi dry. It takes about a half hour from start to finish for the machine to wash a load of clothes.

After about forty-five minutes to an hour, I lift the damp clothes out of the wash machine and toss them unceremoniously into the front loading clothes dryer. Once the dryer’s door is shut, I set its timer at thirty minutes and press the Start button.
A full load of wash usually requires two or three thirty minute dry cycles to dry and fluff the load. Although the timer can be set for periods up to two hours, we prefer to check conditions after thirty minutes, feeling that the dryer’s electric heating/drying elements represent a fire hazard. On occasion, clothes that have been over “dried” become so hot they almost burn your hands when they are initially touched.

It takes between ten and twenty minutes labor to sort, wash, dry, fold and put away one batch of laundry. Bulky items like towels, pants and shirts are folded and put away faster than smaller items, like socks, underwear, etc. It does not take over an hour per week to wash and put away the entire households laundry.
When I was a child, in the late 1940s, it took perhaps two hours on a Saturday morning to wash and hang the clothes on the clothes line to dry, and another hour or more of ironing before the garment and other items were put away.
Maintaining clean and fresh clothing has become a minimal inconvenience since the mid 1960s.

The curio cabinet
Using our Federal and State income tax refund [4] this spring, we bought a traditionally designed curio cabinet made of dark Fruitwood. The cabinet, measuring a little over six-foot high, two and a half feet wide and a foot deep, has two sets of glass doors covering an upper compartment with three shelves and a lower compartment with two shelves.

Over the years we filled the top shelf with small family heirlooms: Donna father, Don’s baby dish, a Knowles serving bowl that my parents used when I was a child, a ruler from the Hagameier store, several photographs, Bibles, my Grandmother Alma Shafer’s mechanical pencil, my old journal writing pen, etc.

[Photo at right: Our curio cabinet, shelves filled with the items mentioned in the associated text.]

The top middle shelf displayed our set of antique silver plated tableware including: an ornately carved teapot, creamer, sugar bowl with lid, syrup pitcher with separate plate, butter dish with elevated final for hanging the lid, butter knife. We bought the set piecemeal from several antique shops ca. 1977 and had the individual items professionally resilvered, the butter dish was restored prior to resilvering. The set dated from about 1901.

The third shelf contained a portion of our Anasazi Indian artifacts: An eight hundred year old bowl that Donna found; several stone ax heads, including one from my Grandfather Pearl Shafer’s farm; several stone arrow points, stone spear points, stone knives and scrapers; and a variety of pot chards; a handmade antique trading post doll and an old cast iron figural Indian bank.

The top shelf in the bottom cabinet became home to a variety of personal and heirloom glassware, including, a Carnival glass candy bowl from Donna’s mother, Eulah, a cut glass candy bowl, etc.

The bottom shelf  housed several antique wooden boxes and antique tins which contain: various small family heirlooms, mid to late Twentieth century political pin backs, and other small collectables.

Beside it being a handsome piece of furniture, the curio cabinet displayed, for our daily enjoyment, many of the small items which have special meaning and personal interest to us. Every few weeks I enjoyed looking through the boxes and tins on the bottom shelf, exploring and rekindling pleasant memories over the providence of many of the items stored therein.

Meltdown at Chernobyl , USSR
On April 26, an explosion and fire occur at the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, which eventually spreads over a large area contamination thousands and thousands of people. The accident was kept secret  by the Soviets, from the international community, until April 30th, when radioactivity spreads across Soviet boarders. The environmental damage done by Chernobyl could be thought of picking up, where Three Mile Island, left off in the degree of environment contamination [5].

We sold the electric generator
On August 8, we sold our emergency electric generator for $950 and used the money to pay off the balance of the Ford Granada’s installment loan. No sooner was the loan paid, when the car promptly developed mechanical problems.
I converted the small generator shed into a second dog house for our female Black Labrador/German Shepherd cross, Jessie.

A weekend in St. Paul, May 15-16
The family planned to take a holiday and go to the Twin Cities for Saturday and Sunday, May 17 &18. Our schedule of events was to leave early Saturday morning, drive to ST Paul and see the Science Museum, spend the night in a motel, then Sunday morning visit the Minnesota Zoological Gardens and return home in the late afternoon.

Being unemployed, I prepared for the trip by bringing in our Styrofoam cooler, filling the extra ice cube trays and a five quart container with water for freezing; brought the suitcases out of the closet,;  filled the Ford with gas, washed the car and cleaned the windows.
Friday evening, Donna brought home a pizza for our supper allowing extra time for our suitcase packing.

Saturday, May 15th
Saturday morning, the family awoke at our regular time of 4:30AM, did the last-minute packing and make sandwiches for our lunch. I fed the dogs two consecutive meals and set a feed tray in the garage for them to nibble on until Sunday evening. Lastly, the ducks and geese were given a double ration of corn. We knew the ducks and geese would be alright, since they routinely worked the upper and lower yard for bugs and frogs.

We left home at 6:30AM Saturday morning, everyone excited about our two days of discovery. It wasn’t often that we went on a ‘road trip,’ so we were looking forward to the novelty. We brought a large well packed suitcase and a cooler, which was filled with ice, soda pop, sandwiches, apples and a liter of white wine.

By 7:35AM we’d driven 52 miles and arrived at Rodgers, Minnesota; about half way between home and St Paul. We hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so stopped at the Country Kitchen restaurant. It had been fourteen months since we last ate here; we were about to find that the food quality and service had seriously deteriorated.

The window shades at our table hadn’t been opened yet thus leaving the table dark. I asked the waitress to open the shades whereupon she went into a dither and finally said, “I can’t, they’re broken!”, but when prompted to, she went ahead and gave the ‘broken shades’ a try, and to ‘all of our surprise’, found they opened normally.  8-)

When the waitress filled Donna’s cup with coffee, I asked her to only fill mine half way (I drink coffee slow and a full cup always gets cold while sitting), the girl nodded then filled the cup 90% of the way.

As I tried to pour some back into the pot, a little trickled onto the table. I used my napkin to sop up the spilled coffee. When the waitress returned, Donna asked for two more napkins, we had to ask her two more times before they were delivered.

Restaurants like Country Kitchen, Sambos, Perkins, etc, don’t cook excellent meals, the food is usually tolerable, a little bland, with a tendency to be greasy and with little consistency (the vegetables aren’t ever really fresh and crisp, the meat seems to have been processed with some kind of a filler, i.e., oatmeal). These shortcomings are not mentioned to be negative, because it is nice to go out to breakfast, or supper, and these restaurants are frequently found near common public destinations. Face it, when you go out to breakfast its for a change of habit and to socialize, not for the food quality.

Our breakfast meal consisted of:
•  Donna had 2 pancakes, 2 eggs-over light, 2 pieces bacon, 2 sausage links. $2.99
•  Jane: 1 pancake. 55¢ (plus tidbits off Donna’s my plate)
•  Larry: 2 pieces toast with jelly, 2 eggs-over light, 2 sausage patties, hash brown potatoes. $3.45

I’m far from being a connoisseur of fine foods, but there is a low-level of taste quality that when encountered, makes one sit back and look questionably their plate with a worriedly frown.
The ‘worried frown’ condition is reached when you find that the texture and taste of a particular food item doesn’t fall within what your memory says are the taste limits for that food.
When you’re hungry, but need to stop eating and dwell on whether or not to finish chewing and swallow a mouthfull of food that tastes odd, you’ve reached that point.
This is what happened to me when I began chewing a bite of my sausage patty. Then, not wishing to be overtly fussy with the waitress, after the hassle over the shade, coffee and napkins, I asked Donna to taste the sausage. She agreed. The texture was poor, as if the meat had been ground too fine and the spice mixture used in preparation was lousy.

Then, I found my hash brown were very poorly prepared. It was as though the premade serving had been only partially defrosted in a microwave, then put on a hot griddle, but just long enough to brown the exterior and finish melting the interior ice crystals, but not long enough to cook the interior.

Donna and I looked around the restaurant and noticed that the restaurant had stopped using the customary disposable paper placemats, dishes were now being set directly on the table.
It seemed par for the course that the salt shaker on our table was greasy with a pea size glob of food dried on one side…

Before leaving the restaurant, we’d already decided never to eat at this particular Country Kitchen again.
A couple of years later, while driving through Rodgers, we noticed that the restaurant had gone out of business. Another restaurant opened in the same building, but it too failed. In the fullness of time, as the city of Rodgers grew, the structure was bulldozed. Amen.

We arrive in St. Paul at 9:30. We located the Science Museum on 10th Street, just several blocks off the 35E Freeway and parked in their underground parking facility.

When the museum opened, at 10:00, we browsed through the Gift Shop, then saw the Technology applications demonstration.
At 10:30, when the Omnimax theater office opened, we bought tickets for the movie presentation, then stood in queue until the theater opened. It was a good thing we bought our tickets when we did, because it didn’t take long for a large queue of movie patrons to develop that extended  a city block in length.
At 11AM the theater doors opened and we filed in. Wanting the best viewing experience possible, Donna, Jane and I took seats in the center of the theater.
[Internet image at right is of Imax theater seating, which is the same as the Science Museums; however, the screen seen here does not curve around to the sides as it did in the Omni theater.]

This was our first visit to a theater using the large Imax film format on an impressively large screen. Unlike the customary movie theaters, where the seating rows are on a slight incline, which gradually rise from front to rear, the Omnimax format required each row of seats to rise about a foot, from the one in front. This resulted in two very steep stairways, which divided the theater into thirds. The seats were tilted back slightly to provide a comfortable view of the enormous 7300 square foot screen, which extended spherically to the sides, far beyond ones peripheral vision.

Here I quote from the museums brochure describing the Omnimax experience: “The world’s largest film projector, the Omnimax with ‘take up reels’ four feet in diameter, uses a single fish eye lens to project 70mm film onto the tilted dome. To ensure sound as brilliant as the picture, the theater uses a sophisticated six track audio system capable of producing 5,000 watts of power…”

The film we saw was entitled, The Dream is Alive. The combined effects of a huge, wrap around screen, the resolution of the 70mm film and tremendous acoustics, all combined to provide an incredible experience.

During the film, we spectators were taken into Earth’s orbit aboard three 1984 Space Shuttle missions.
When the Space Shuttle took off, the theater seats and our very bodies shook from the near deafening sound and low-frequency vibrations. Meanwhile, our entire field of vision was filled with the enormous space craft, rocket ignition, the gantry falling away,   searing flame, billowing smoke, and then the Shuttle rising, the Earth falling away behind us…
A few minutes later, while beautiful, ethereal music filled out ears, we visually drifted through space looking down on the Earth from a 200 miles high orbit…we floated down the Italian peninsula in a matter of minutes.

Then back at Cape Canaveral: In another sequence, while observing astronaut training, we were taken on an escape pod, which slid down an inclined cable from the Space Shuttle to a distant emergency capture net. Talk about the visual reality! As we spectators sailed down the cable in an escape pod, I found myself pushing deeper into the theater seat, twisting my head from side to side, tightly clenching the armrest and trying to escape. It was impressive, it was thrilling! There are, without a doubt, fingerprints pressed into the steel armrests throughout the theater. Whew!

By the time the film was over it was lunch time.
We took the elevator down to the parking level, found our car, popped open the cooler and set up a picnic lunch in the front seat. Our tasty meal consisted of both bologna and cheese sandwiches, each with various spreads and salad vegetables, also Frito chips and canned Diet Pepsi.

After lunch we returned to the Museum exhibits to see the, ‘Walk Through Time’ exibit and Dinosaur laboratory. Lastly, we  returned to the Gift shop and bought Jane a dozen hard rubber dinosaurs.

We left the museum at 1:30PM, realizing we’d have to come back to see the rest of the exhibits. Parking for a half day cost $3.00.
We drove out-of-town several miles on the I-94 freeway to the Holiday Inn-St Paul East.
We took occupancy of room #825 on the top floor, the room had two double beds and rented for $56 per night, including tax.

Our room had crème colored walls, a white stucco textured ceiling and mauve wall to wall carpeting. There was a contemporary floral painting print hanging above the head-board on each bed, and a small desk with chair. At the other side of the room a 19 inch color television sat on a chest of drawers facing the beds.
[Photograph at right: Holiday Inn East, St Paul, Room 825. During our visit to the Twin  Cities. Jane with toys laid out on the bed looks on.]

The rooms pecan colored furniture had what is called, ‘radiused edges’ (rounded). The dresser pulls were brass plated to make the furniture look more expensive and older in style. The desk lamp and wall lamps were brass plated.

The bathroom had a long sink, large wall mirror, toilet and bathtub-shower combination. Next to the toilet were two wall mounted dispensers each carrying a roll of toilet paper.
My first impression was that the hotel wanted to make sure ‘users’ didn’t run out of paper in the middle of a ‘job’, however, when I had need to use the paper I found that one roll was of coarse and other, soft tissue. That left me wondering if the hotel was offering ‘two texture choices’ to pamper guests, or if it was just a coincidence. Why would anyone use coarse toilet paper on a soft bummy? The hotel provided wash cloths and towels, however, they were made from thin, inexpensive cloth and didn’t have the name of the hotel imprinted; probably in an attempt to reduce patron theft.

After carrying our suitcases and snack food up to the room, we washed up and decided to drive around to look for a restaurant for supper. We’d already checked the hotel’s dining room and found the price of convenience was exorbitant.

Saturday mid afternoon, we drove through downtown St. Paul and saw an odd sight: Great buildings, that during week days held thousands of well dressed professional employees, were deserted. The sidewalks so busy during business hours were now essentially vacant, except for a few wandering derelicts.
The people loitering and shuffling about downtown were grossly overweight, of mixed race and poorly dressed.
And, what an interesting mix of architecture we saw, tall multi story modern buildings mixed with the shorter, older style buildings which had patina coated copper roofs and gutters.
[Metropolitan St Paul, photograph at left was taken from a ridge near Harriet Island (?) during a weekend family outing to the Twin Cities .]

Continuing our explorations, we drove up a hill six to eight blocks northeast of the State Capitol building and came upon a neighborhood that had long ago seen better days. Up behind the capitol lived a mix of poor mixed race peoples from all over the world. The community had few poor white children, but those we did see were fat. Motorcycles were parked here and there on small unkempt lawns, or what use to be lawns, automobiles were seen to be badly rusted, the older houses were not kept neat, many needed paint. Although we were on a hill, high enough to take a panoramic photograph out over the city, we thought it unwise to stop and get out of the car in that area.
Being rather well dressed, carrying an expensive camera and driving a used but nicer car (for that area) discouraged us from exposing ourselves to any unnecessary confrontations with people who might have thought we were taking photographs of their homes and unenviable living conditions.

A short while later, while driving down a main highway some four miles east of the St Paul downtown area, we found the ‘Ol Mexico’ restaurant. A Mexican meal sounded good to everyone so we stopped.

Seated at our table we chatted about our day while sipping Margaritas and eating tortilla chips dipped in salsa. Our meals consisted of:
•  Donna had 2 flautas, rice & beans with sour cream and guacamole topping.
•  I had a taco, enchilada, rice & beans with shredded salad topping (lettuce and tomato).
•  Jane had a plate with bits from Donnas and my plate.

We finished our tasty and thoroughly filling meal around 5PM and drove back to our hotel.

By the time we reached our room, we were all tired from a long busy day. The family washed up, put on our pajamas and sat back on our beds to watch television. The hotel provided HBO (Home Box Office), which was a cable subscription service that showed recent movie releases. The service was part of our rental fee so we started our evening watching the movie, Sweet Sixteen.
At 7:00 PM we watched a second movie, The Ambassador, starring Robert Mitchum and Rock Hudson. This was Rock Hudson’s last movie prior to his dying from AIDS. The movie was about mid-east terrorism, a decent movie up to the end which turned unnecessarily gruesome and bloody.

At 9:00PM we watched the National news. Jane fell asleep. Donna and I went to sleep around 9:30, after quietly practicing ‘the ancient arts’.   :-)
It was a good day!

Sunday, May 16th
The family awoke at 5:30AM. Jane promptly scooted off her bed and crawled into bed with Donna and me for some good morning kisses. We discussed the highlights of what we’d done the previous day and what we might find at the Minnesota Zoological Gardens that morning.

At 6:30 we got up and busy about our room. I disappeared into the bathroom to shave, while the girls put on their swimming suits. While I dressed, Donna and Jane went down to the hotel’s indoor swimming pool; I followed a few minutes later, bringing our 35mm Minolta camera.
Upon entering the enclosed pool room, I was  immediately hit by the strong odor of the pool’s chlorine disinfectant. The chemical dosage was so high that the girls were attempting to keep from getting their faces wet because the chlorine stung their eyes. The girls were making the best of their time in the pool; Donna was backing around in the shallow end, holding Janes hands. Jane held on, laughing and kicking, learning her first swimming movements.
Meanwhile, I browsed around in an adjoining combination, gym-exercise room and rode on an exercise bicycle for a few minutes. The ‘Dynamic Duo’ spent about twenty-five minutes in the pool before we all returned to our room.
The girls showered while I sat looking out our eighth floor window; watching the morning’s business activity in the street below.

To our immediate north, just beyond the hotel parking lot, is the I-94 freeway. Across the freeway to the northeast, are the 3M Corporate Offices, their Research and Production facilities, all being spread over an area of about acres. Beyond  3M is part of St. Paul’s residential suburbs, mostly hidden from view by stands of trees.

It didn’t take long for the girls to dress and pack our suitcases; by 7:30AM, we were feeling hunger pangs and discussing breakfast. Donna phoned the hotel restaurant and found they were charging a dollar per cup of coffee! (gasp) Donna drove a couple blocks to a local MacDonald’s fast food restaurant and bought two cups of coffee for a total of 64¢.

We left our room at 8:30AM and checked out of the hotel.

Since the Minnesota Zoological Gardens didn’t open until 10AM, we had a lot of time for breakfast and the commute. We stopped at a Mr. Donut shop for donuts and coffee. Donna wanted something more, so we drove across the street to McDonalds where she bought a Sausage McMuffin with Egg.

In Burnsville, as we neared the zoo, we took a brief sidetrip detoured to sight see a new housing development called Cinnamon Ridge. We hadn’t been in a new residential development for a long time and were curious to see current housing styles and trends.

As we drove up and down the streets in Cinnamon Ridge, we saw that some of the detached houses looked nice, but the yards were small and the houses looked rather cramped and close together.
Part of this new, densely populated community was composed of apartment complexes. The apartments consisted of dozens and dozens of 8-plex apartments which were clustered together, frankly it looked dehumanizing.

We arrived at the Minnesota Zoological Gardens at 10:30.
Our explorations began in the Gift Shop, conveniently located near the entrance ticket booth. Next we watched some thirty monkeys going about their daily business in an outdoor enclosure.
We bought buy tickets for the Sky Rail ride. The Sky Rail was an elevated monorail conveyor-train comprise of  eight totally enclosed cars, each car had four separate two person seats, large side windows, and an intercar loud speaker.  The one and a quarter-mile ride cost a reasonable $2 per adult, lasted almost a half hour and carried up to sixty-four passengers, around the five hundred acre zoo at tree top-level.

During the ride we saw a variety of zoo environments and exhibits, including: the bison, elk, Bactrian Camel, Musk Ox, moose, Siberian Tiger, prairie dogs, the zoo’s large natural Minnesota forest area with its wild squirrels, native birds, swamps and natural ponds.
As the monorail moved between exhibits, our Naturalist guide-monorail operator discussed each environment, the animals that lived there, and pointed out special recent incidents in any of the environments. The monorail ride provided a visually interesting and informative tour of the park, it was a fun experience that made us appreciate the zoo.

When the monorail cars returned to the Sky Rail station, we walked to a near by area where attendants were giving children rides on a young elephant. At first, Jane was afraid to sit on the elephant, however, considering that she was only two and half years old, who wouldn’t be?! During the ride, Jane assessed the situation and realized it was both safe and fun. A while later, after being helped down from the elephants back, she stood on the elevated boarding deck reaching out to pet  the elephant whilst happily exclaiming, ‘Big…Big”.

Jane’s enthusiasm directed us to the Children’s Petting Zoo, for a close up look at a horse, goat, some sheep, llama, geese, etc. Remember, during the previous summer (1985) we took Jane to the Benton County Fair for her first, second and third, ‘horsey’ ride, she never forgot the experience and was eager to see and pet a horse at the zoo.

[Photograph above: A view along the Tropical Trail, looking  across an  exhibit as the paved visitor’s ‘trail’ winds about within the enormous glass roofed ‘Tropics’ building.]

Around noon we finished visiting the Petting Zoo and realized it was lunch time. We walked  to the Zoo’s large cafeteria and bought a meal of hamburgers, French fries and Pepsi. By this time our legs were starting to feel tired from the unaccustomed walking so the break was welcomed.

Early afternoon was spent walking the Tropics Trail  and the Minnesota Trail in the zoo’s enormous main exhibit building.

The tall glass-topped building was filled with tropical vegetation and various larger animal species, each set in a habitat resembling their natural home. Visitors entered the exhibit from the second floor of the exhibit building and wound their way around and down, along an eight foot wide asphalt trail. The trail had a placard at each ‘view’ with a photograph and  discussion the each animal species. The wildlife was cleverly confined by use of water motes, concrete walls, Plexiglas or net, all unconstructive and built into the design of the habitat. The exhibits along the main trail were well illuminated from sunlight entering through the entire roof.
In order to increase the floor space, the ground had been dug out in the shape of a huge bowl and the ‘visitor’s trail’ wound around and down, zig zag style, between exhibits. At the lowest point of the trail was a large pond with a central island. Ducks and Flamingoes swam or stood in the water. Gibbons swung from branches of several tall realistic looking concrete (?) and dead trees on the island. As we worked our way back up the other side of the bowl, for about a hundred and fifty feet, the  trail wound through a darkened ‘cavern’ where nocturnal creatures  (several types of snake, leopards) were displayed un der dim red lighting within their naturalistic environments. There was also a large windowed aquarium view of the dolphin tank, then back up, across concrete ‘foot bridges’ amongst a cliff-like area where mountain goats lived, then up and out of the bowl and into the exhibit buildings 2nd story.

I was happy to see that the animals had freedom to walk about in a jungle like setting that was not only a lot larger than the steel cage zoos of my childhood, but that there was considerably more variety in their environment.

During my childhood in the 1940s, zoo exhibits consisted of concrete rooms with bars up front for visitors to look through, and steel service doors in the rear. Inside these cages, you typically saw one or two larger animals laying on a bed of straw, usually motionless, expressionless and ‘spiritually’ lifeless in their extreme and unending boredom. If one of these captives was seen moving, it was pacing back and forth, back and forth in its small area of confinement.
As a child, I felt the zoo was unnatural, cold and austere. I didn’t like visiting the zoo, it felt cold and unfriendly, the animals didn’t look happy, the poor creatures were kept in nothing more than concrete prison cells.

Recently built zoos are interesting and much more enjoyable to visit. The outdoor wild life exhibits provide one to five acres, maybe more, for each species to roam about on. Their terrain might include multiple environments, a mix of ponds, prairie, forest, hillside. The Minnesota Zoological Gardens had it all, the park was a pleasure to visit.

Jane particularly enjoyed the Bottlenose Dolphin exhibit. Donna held Jane up on several occasions so she could see over the crowd when the dolphins jumped out of the water.
I asked Jane how many Dolphins there were, she replied aloud by rapidly counting, 2-3-4-5-6-7-8’. All of the people around us turned and looked at Jane in surprise. You could almost read the confused expression on their faces, which translated into, ‘I didn’t know children that young could count!’  (At the time Jane was only 2 years 6 months old) Meanwhile, Jane continued laughing, completely beside herself with excitement as the dolphins threw a red ball to the audience, as they jumped up from the water, did ‘tail walks along the water surface, and splashed showers across front row visitors.

As we prepared to leave the zoo, we returned to the Gift Shop and bought Jane hard rubber figurines of a lion, antelope, zebra, penguin, seal and dolphin. Donna and I bought ourselves a molded composition sculpture of an American Bison ($20) and  a raging elephant ($35), both were about nine to ten inches long and seven to eight inches tall.
We left Minnesota Zoological Gardens at 3:00 PM and drove the eighty-two miles home in two hours.

All of our animal friends were happy to see us: Griz, Jessie and young Pepin barked and jumped with glee, the ducks and geese came shuffling up across the yard toward us, quacking and squawking.
We were home, back in the forest and so ended our delightful weekend trip.

This year’s events are continued in Part 2 of Chapter 1986, Age 43-44, Part 2 of 2.


[1]  See Journal 9, The People Book, page 1433, “The Hero’s of Challenger”
[2]  Pepin, named after the warrior king Pepin The Short, father of Emperor Charlemagne.
[3]   See Journal 11, High Plains Drifter, page 1714, “The Return of Halley’s Comet.”
[4]  The period Donna and I spent unemployed in the latter months of 1985 resulted in our receiving a $955 Federal and $206 Minnesota State Income Tax refund in early 1986. The $1161 represented the tidy sum of about one persons monthly net wages. The curio cabinet cost approximately half of the total tax refund.
[5] “Chernobyl Is a Vast Wasteland, December 15, 2000 ,By SERGEI SHARGORODSKY, Associated Press Writer.
CHERNOBYL,Ukraine(AP) – At first glance, it looks the same as the outside world: forests, fields and streams, peaceful village houses. But barbed-wire fences, radiation warning signs and checkpoints caution visitors that they are entering a different land.
It’s called the “Zone,” a term lifted from a Soviet science fiction novel written by the Strugatsky brothers more than a decade before the April 26, 1986,Chernobyl nuclear plant accident.
Here the rivers, land and trees are poisoned by radiation, and a closer look reveals that the quiet wooden houses are crumbling structures abandoned 14 years ago.
Barred to outsiders by about 800 guards, the 19-mile-radius zone around Chernobyl absorbed the bulk of the radioactive fallout from the 1986 explosion and fire. It covers 1,400 square miles and was once home to 120,000 people who lived in 90 communities.
Winding roads now lead to ruined settlements. In a field, nearly 1,400 contaminated vehicles and aircraft used in the Chernobyl cleanup are rusting.
The forests are rich in berries, mushrooms and animals, including some exotic varieties like the Przhevalsky horses brought here to eat and stamp out the high grass which is highly contaminated by radiation.

Pripyat, once the area’s largest city and home to 48,000 people before the accident, is a ghost town of apartment high-rises still sporting Communist Party slogans and Soviet-era symbols, overgrown bushes and an abandoned playground with a motionless Ferris wheel and broken toy cars. Electric poles and wires announce the approach to the Chernobyl plant itself. A giant red structure surrounded by rusty cranes is the remnant of two unfinished reactors. A sprawling building behind a fence houses reactors No. 1 and No. 2.
[Image at right: Winter in deserted, radioactive, Pripyat, USSR]

A bust of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin greets visitors at the plant’s entrance. Next to it stands a curvy modernist statue, a memorial to those who died trying to contain the 1986 catastrophe. Farther away is a huge building, its single smokestack supported by metal bearings. This is where it all happened 14 years ago.
At one end is reactor No. 3,Chernobyl’s last working one, which was stopped for good on Friday. The building’s other reactor, No. 4, is encased in a 1.1-million-ton sarcophagus that looks like a haphazard assortment of cement and rust-streaked steel plates.

Beneath is all that remains of reactor No. 4, a maze of collapsed ceilings, corridors littered with debris, and bizarre cankers produced by melted nuclear fuel that no human can approach without being killed by radiation.
Just one brick-sized piece of fuel that recently fell onto the sarcophagus roof emits deadly radiation. And radiation on a balcony facing the sarcophagus is about 80 times normal background levels.
The road out of the zone passes through the “Red Forest” – trees so damaged by radiation that they took on a reddish hue. Today, most of the forest is dead, and only a few dried trees stretch out their branches in a silent reminder of the century’s worst nuclear accident.”

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

1985, Age 42-43, Part 2 of 2

Continued from: 1985, Age 42-43, Part 1 of 2)

A late season, major winter storm
The week following our cross-country vacation  brought absolutely beautiful Minnesota winter weather. The little snow that had been on the ground when we returned home had completely melted by the February 28, leaving us to experience early April-like temperatures.

While the long-term normal average daily high was 29°F and the average low, 8°F, we were enjoying temperatures that were 10°F  above normal, as seen in the table below:

Fri 2/22 Sat 2/23 Sun 2/24 Mon 2/25 Tue 2/26 Wed 2/27 Thu 2/28 Fri 2/1
High
(°F)
     30 42 42 37 30 35 54 47
Low
(°F)
     20 28 30 30 15 7 28 30

.
Thursday, February 28
We heard a weather report discussing an atmospheric disturbance in the Rocky Mountains, the disturbance was turning into a winter storm, but neither its severity or track could be determined yet.

Friday, March 1,
It was another beautiful day. We’d completely forgotten about that chance of snow forecast for Saturday through Monday and went to bed Friday night under clear starry skies with the moon shining in our bedroom window.

Saturday, March 2
We awoke to cloudy skies and cooler temperatures than experienced over the previous few days.
Just before lunch, Donna and I walked down the driveway to collect our mail from the mail box beside the county road. When we came out of the woods and encountered a stiff wind, coupled with very chilly temperatures, we decided to check the latest weather forecast. During lunch we listened to the weather radio and found that previous forecast which had called for “…the possibility of snow…” had now been upgraded to, “…chance of significant accumulations from a rapidly developing, potentially severe winter storm.” It was thought the storm would track to our south, possibly through northern Illinois.

Sunday, March 3
I awakened at 2:30 AM to go to the bathroom and saw from the bathroom window that the ground was lightly dusted with snow. When I got up at 5:30 AM, the ground was covered with snow, there was blowing snow and a strong wind. Neither of us were particularly fond of snow, so we turned on the weather radio to hear the latest forecast.

To our dismay, the National weather Service office in St. Cloud was saying,

“…travel may well neigh become impossible…snow depths could easily reach a foot or more…there is the possibility of the development of towering drifts…”

Hearing the news and seeing the conditions outdoors, we snapped out of our morning stupor and immediately went into action: I made sure that we had a several day supply of firewood in the rear addition. Meanwhile, Donna started the electric generator to make sure it worked, then began trickle charging the batteries on our John Deere tractor– we wanted to make sure everything was in fully operational order.

At 6:30 AM there was an inch and a half inches snow on the ground.

Since I hadn’t recorded a snow storm for my journal and this was going to be a major snow storm, I decided to write a follow up in a notebook, then transfer the story into Journal 7: A Sideways Glance. As the day passed, I wrote up the temperatures and events leading to the present.

Donna and Jane read and played together then did some work about the house.

Meanwhile, outdoors, weather conditions deteriorated.

Strong winds, light snow and blowing snow continued throughout the day, leading to a rather modest three inches accumulation of fresh snow. By 3:00 PM the National Weather Service was reporting,

“..Winter storm warnings are in effect for this afternoon through Monday…in the St. Cloud area wind gusts have reached thirty five mph…Locally some areas will probably get twenty inches snow by Monday evening… This exceptional storm will continue to produce winds of twenty to forty mph with gusts over fifty mph through Monday. Traveling will be extremely difficult in south and central Minnesota as more snow becomes available to blow around. Most likely very little travel will be possible in central and southern parts of the state tonight and Monday as drifts get higher and blowing causes low visibility…

Before dusk, snow and blowing snow had reduced our visibility to about three hundred feet. The local news had begun announcing that highway ramps were becoming impassable and in some areas, snow drifts two to six feet high were being reported. During the day, we often looked out the window to check the storm’s progress; by evening we saw that it was beginning to snow harder.

Monday, March 4
We awakened at 6:00 AM. Through the illumination provided by our outdoor security lights (nicknamed, Supernova) we could see that it had continued blowing and snowing over night. Curving around our buildings were graceful looking, wind sculptured snow drifts standing about two feet high. Across the flat portions of the yard were undulating snow ripples with an occasional snow embankment standing a foot higher. A sheet of snow was plastered against the west side of the garage, while a gravity defying partial snow bridge had formed almost reaching from the roof of our heat pumps cold frame to the trailer. Suddenly, we were startled by a nearby clap of thunder.

As the morning progressed, we periodically listened to the local news and the National Weather  Service. The reports said,

“We have received eleven and a half inches snow and an additional  six to seven inches can be expected…the Wind Chill Index is -10°F…all school are closed…”

Other reports stated,

“The storm has shut down highways and airports in the southern one-third of the state, thousands of travelers are stranded around the state…three hundred persons are stranded at the Minneapolis International Airport where five hundred flights have been canceled…visibility in many areas is near zero…”

If there was one thing I didn’t like about snow storms, it was being ‘drifted in’ and cut off from potential emergency services. Almost every year, we were engulfed by between one to five winter storms that cut us off from any chance of seeking help or escape should an emergency situation have arisen. Our primary concerns were with the remote possibility of personal injury and loss of space heating due to a power outage. In either case we would be unable to get out to the county road or to town if a major storm was in progress. Also, we were experiencing one of those rare storms that deposited so much snow– there were reports of house roofs collapsing in South Dakota. Since we lived in a mobile home, whose structural integrity was less than that of a regular ‘stick’ house, we were alert to and concerned with the potential for excessive snow loads.

Usually, when there were snow storms accompanied by strong winds, the county snow plows were pulled off the rural roads, to wait until the brunt of the storm had passed.

During the day, I was amused watching Jane’s tricycle slowly disappear beneath the snow. The handlebars were still above the snow in the morning, but gradually became covered, and by afternoon even the highest little red hand grip was submerged in a deepening blanket of white.

I took late afternoon snow depth measurements about the yard and found the snow ranged from fourteen to seventeen inches deep.

We were surprised, and happy to find, that at our 8:00PM bedtime, the full moon had begun shining in through the bedroom window.

Tuesday morning we awoke to find the sky clear and that there’d been no new snow over night. I promptly bundled up, started the tractor and cleared our driveway. There was so much snow to push that it took a record hour and a half to clean out a spot in from of the garage and the center of the 800 foot driveway.

And thus ended our first and only real snow storm of the winter season. In a brief two-day period, our environment went from barren ground with mild spring-like temperatures to, snowdrifts, -10ºF wind chill temperatures and having received over seventeen inches of snow.  Whoa! Minnesota!

[Above, a photocopy of my Journal drawing, The Rune: Keys to the Rune. ‘Want to play a game? Look in here. Coded treasure map directions made clear.’ J7_911.jpg. A coded Rune alphabet, simply entered in one journal, allows deciphering of a treasure map found a 1000 pages and several journals away, which in turn leads to a secret location where 800 year old Anasazi treasures may be found. If the journals have not been read consecutively and directions not followed the several  times  they’re given, the necessary combination of  1) the reader’s memory and 2) the provided code keys will not unlock the directions provided in the map. This page is one of the directions.]

Porky, the parakeet, died on Easter
Ever since returning from our vacation and bringing home Porky from Bobby and Arlene’s, the little birdie was sniffling and shivering. We found that during our vacation, his cage had been set near a floor register where he was apparently exposed to a more or less continual draft. Undoubtedly he caught a cold and couldn’t get rid of it.

On April 7, Easter day, around 12:30 PM, just after our lunch, I had returned to working on my journals at the kitchen table when Porky hopped out of his cage and fluttered to the kitchen floor. I watched questionally, as he walked rather wobbly into the corner beneath his cage, fell over and expired. I called Donna into the kitchen. We crouched beside his cage, looking down at his small still form and  feeling very glum. We said ‘Good bye’ to our little feathered friend, but let him lie where he died for an hour or so until Jane awoke from her nap; we wanted her to see and understand what happened to our pet.

With tears in our eyes, we laid little, “Pork-u-punt” and his favorite toys in a small box. We buried him about four hundred feet southwest of the mobile home, outside the west yard gate, down by the low land. When we left, there were two small, side by side graves in that location, our first parakeet, Icabod P. Tailfeathers and Porky. That was another one of those sad days we had at Nightstar*– saying ‘Goodbye,’ and burying our pets when their lives had passed. Both graves, were in their own time covered with rocks, and then with moss and forest leaves…

[Over the following decade, I occasionally cleaned the leaves off their diminutive resting places and recalled loving thoughts and fond memories of these two playful, little parakeet pets, and of Alexander R. Little, who flew off into the woods and was never seen again.]

My unemployment benefits expire
My extended Federal unemployment benefits expired in early April, at a time when Donna had only five weeks to go on hers. Although Donna’s compensation still was bringing in $129 per week our expenses were $229 per week. We were becoming concerned, but not overly so, because, during the previous few months, we’d bought three one ounce Canadian Maple Leaf gold coins and put $1,000 in Series EE Government Savings Bonds.

Besides these recent investments, we previously had stashed away, some other liquid assets.[edited].

Selling our new Ford pickup
As the weeks passed, my Federal Unemployment Extension benefits, then Donna’s Unemployment and her Federal Extension benefits expired. We were living quite well and making ends meet while we received at least one person’s Unemployment compensation, however, with neither of us drawing an income, our good times appeared to be rapidly coming to an end.

During the latter part of May, we put an advertisement in the St. Cloud Times newspaper Classified Ads Section attempting to sell our one year old, tan, Ford pickup truck.  It was our intention to sell the truck and use the proceeds to pay off the bank loan, thus reducing our overhead.

We still had the Toyota and at that time didn’t need two automobiles.

Our newspaper ad simply stated:

“FOR SALE: 1981 Ford F-100 1/2 ton pickup, 6 cyl., 36,000 miles, exc. cond. Ph 387-2675”
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Immediately after the ad was printed in the newspaper, we received a call from a local farmer who said he ‘might be interested,’ that he’d ‘be over to look at it in a few days’. His ‘few days’ turned out to be three weeks. Never-the-less, when he saw and drove the vehicle, he could tell we’d taken good care of it. We transferred the title to him for $4500, which we used to pay off the bank loan. We were out only the down payment and the monthly payments we’d made since purchasing the vehicle. The down payment was the price reduction we received from trading in our old GMC pickup, the truck we used when moving to Minnesota. The monthly payments we’d made, could be seen as cost of renting or leasing the vehicle for the period we owned it.

Donna finds employment at True-Value Hardware
During the middle of June, Donna applied for and was accepted into employment with the St. Cloud True-Value Hardware store. She was hired as the store bookkeeper, with a beginning pay rate of $5.50 per hour and after thirty days a pay raise of $0.50 bringing her hourly rate to $6.00 per hour. Although she was paid less than at Landy Packing, her work conditions at the hardware store were a lot more pleasant. Her boss, W, once an employee in the business, was buying the store from the previous owner.

In order to realign our family’s finances with our current income, we first sold the Ford pickup truck and paid off the associated bank loan. Next, we cashed in our Series EE Saving Bonds and paid off a loan on our heat pump and several small revolving credit lines with Sears, Visa, etc. These actions reduced our weekly expenses from $229 to $151. In mid July, when Donna got her first pay raise, she was bringing home $180 per week, leaving us a weekly savings of $31.

Early in the AIDS epidemic
During early August, I ran across an odd, half page news story stuck in the middle of the news paper,  it’s headline stated: ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome — A Medieval Plague For Modern Times.’ Because there is so much sensationalism in the news media, I began reading the story with half-hearted enthusiasm. Finishing the article, I sat back in my kitchen chair as a sense of apprehension swept over me. I’m a fairy educated person who keeps up on the current news through weekly news magazines, the newspaper and television, yet this was the first I’d ever heard about a disease called, AIDS.

I was surprised to find that there were already thousands of people in the USA with the AIDS disease and perhaps up to a million who had been already been infected. What’s more, the method of transmission, via homosexual behavior and sharing drug needles, promised to keep the disease in the population for a long time. I realized that our permissive culture, which almost seemed to cater to deviation, would be an excellent medium for the disease to propagate and spread.

I became immediately concerned with  AIDS because, we modern people, with our culturally defining streak of egalitarianism, would allow the disease amongst us and into our homes. I sensed that our way of thinking would bring about a pandemic, no different from what was brought about by European ignorance of germs and vectors, during the Bubonic plagues of the Middle Ages.

It seemed that immediately after the AIDS news article hit the nations news papers, that the national TV news media and weekly news magazines carried the story. At first, there were quite a bit of AIDS related information in the news, but in a short time new stories diminished and over the next few years one heard less and less about the disease. After initially being washed with the diseases statistics, we became desensitized, after all,  AIDS only affected criminals who shared drug needles and men who were morally deficient homosexuals.

Classic denial spread amongst other nations as well, particularly in the Far Eastern countries, where they ridiculed Western society as perverts. These nations announced that such a disease could not spread in their country, because they didn’t have homosexual problems nor intravenous drug users. Meanwhile, in Africa, the disease was running rampant among heterosexual tribal members and was spreading along transcontinental highways by truck drivers and widespread prostitution. The hand writing was on the wall…

Jane’s learning curve goes geometrical
Jane’s happy, friendly and loving personality, coupled with her good looks and rapid mental growth made her a very special child to us. We knew she was well above average because when asked to get something, or to put something away, she understand and accomplish the job, though still barely even able to talk.

As her second year approached and passed, some of the important things Jane learned or discovered included:
•  Household belongings have a certain place and go back in that place after use.
•  Keys were small, but very important items, they were used to unlock doors and needed to start some equipment.
•  How to operate and thereby ‘control’ a radio, which was somewhat similar to operating a television.
•  That our food ultimately comes from a garden. Some of the things growing in the garden were ‘food’ and therefore good, while some were called ‘weeds’ and were not good.
•  Clothing had to be washed and dried and household items need to be maintained. Concurrently, she began learning how to fill the wash machine with clothes and soap.

During August, when Jane was   1 year-9 month old, I printed out each letter of the alphabet and the numerals one to ten on separate, three-inch by five-inch white poster board cards, using a red marker. Thereafter, every time Jane needed a diaper change, I’d lay her on the bathroom sink counter, make the diaper change, then show her about ten to fifteen of the written symbols, while repeatedly pronouncing the letter or number to her. Jane would imitate me and try to pronounce the letter or number.

We had a good time doing our routine and before long Jane was pronouncing the letters and numbers aloud with only occasional assistance. Of course, when we read her children’s ‘beginning reading’ story books, I’d point out some of the letters she had already learned. The reinforcement showed her that the letters we looked at and learned to pronounce in the bathroom, made the sounds that told the story in the book. Jane quickly grasped the concept that letters and their associated sounds became words which in turn told stories.

Purchasing a used Ford Grenada
On August 30, right after Donna began working at True-Value Hardware, we decided we needed a second automobile. Anything could  happen while Jane and I were at home, Donna could have car troubles in St. Cloud, the Toyota could have a break down at home, in any event, we needed a second vehicle. We found an interesting advertisement for a used car in the St. Cloud Times.

After work one Friday evening, Donna went to look at the car. She came home with a glowing report. The car, a 1977, two door Ford Granada with hard brown vinyl roof, looked and drove as if in very good condition, despite having 87,177 miles on its odometer. The owners wanted $2,400 for the vehicle, a price she thought could be lowered.

Saturday morning, Donna and I returned to St. Cloud to look at the Ford. The owners weren’t home for the weekend, so we were able to look the car over in their driveway without disturbance.

Monday morning, Donna took some time off work to do some dealing on the Ford. She took the car for another test drive and stopped at our auto repair shop to have the mechanics look at it. The mechanic looked the car over, listened to it run and put its electrical system on an oscilloscope. He said there were a couple minor problems that did not need fixing, i.e., the vacuum tank was sucking air. Donna returned to the owner with her short list of problems and complained about the price. The owner caved in agreeing to sell the car for $1,650, we paid his new asking price and closed the deal. That evening Donna drove me back into town in our ‘new Ford’, where we picked up the Toyota and returned home.

The Ford Granada was a nice car with a lot more leg room than our Toyota Corolla, it’s best feature however, was an air-conditioner. In all previous years we’d driven about and simply suffered under the summer’s heat, but with the Ford’s air-conditioner, we learned a whole new level of luxury and were instantly spoiled.
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[Panorama of the upper yard,  five years after  moving onto Nightstar*. The 1.5 acre yard with the pond, 14 ft x 70 ft mobile home, 26 ft x 27 ft garage, solar cold frame (center-left), 12 ft x 16 ft   rear addition, outhouse, generator shed, storage shed, garden, compost bins and fencing.]

An afternoon at the Benton County Fair, August 1985
Around August 1st, Donna and I took Jane on her first visit to the Benton County Fair in St Cloud. Jane wasn’t two years old yet, but could see from the activity, the gay colors of the tents and happy music emanating from the various attractions, that this must be a fun place.

We walked through the Broadway looking at the displays, watching people play games of ‘skill and chance’, we saw Cupie dolls, teddy bears, older preteens running around together, lots of children with their parents. There were fair employee ‘barkers’ calling out to people, ‘Step right up and win a doll…Take a chance…Try your skill…”
[Photograph at right: Looking north across the Broadway, from atop the Ferris Wheel.]

The Broadway, consisting of booths, food stands, etc., were grouped together at the north end of the fair, while the amusement rides were located at the south end. As soon as we walked past the last tent in the Broadway, we entered the area where the ‘rides’ were set up. The first ride we encountered was the Pony ride, where for 50¢ or a dollar, a youngster could ride a pony. Jane had seen horses on television and in movies, but this was the first time she’d seen and touched one.

When I recommended she ride the ‘horsey’ and that, “Mom will help”, she was momentarily apprehensive. By the time she’d gone around the track once, her nervousness dissipated and she was reveling in the experience. That afternoon, before we left the Fair, Jane requested to ride the ‘horsey’ two more times. What a pleasant memory.

After riding the ‘horsey’, we all rode the Farris wheel. The ride was a little scary to Jane, being so high off the ground, as a matter of fact it was scary for Donna and me too. Yet we could look all around from an elevation and perspective Jane hadn’t seen  before. Over the next couple hours, we rode several rides, stopping back at the Horse ride ever so often; we had soda pop, cotton candy and sweltered in the extreme heat and humidity of the August summer afternoon. We  walked amongst the Fair exhibits, and stopped at the Barnyard Petting Zoo. [Photograph at right: Jane’s first ride on a horse, Donna assists. A fun day for all.]

During this, Jane’s first visit to the Fair, I had just turned forty-three years old and was more of a grandfather in age than the typical father’s age. Jane’s excitement and the fun we had, was always a highlight of the day for me. Her youthful spirit and our adventures of exploration gave me a second glimpse of childhood. The same can be said for Donna, who was in her late thirties; Jane gave us of her expansive vitality and continually made us a proud and involved parents.

Within a couple of years, Jane was old enough and eager to ride the larger ‘really scary rides’ by herself. Sometimes, an older child or young teen would share a seat with Jane as the contraption swung, spun, rotated, rolled, rocked and gyrated. Donna and I stood back in the shade and watched, no longer as hearty as we once were.

Hahaha. There was the time in our younger lives, when the both of us rode similar rides at the with glee,  and ‘threw up’ from motion sickness. Those days were passed by the time we reached our early twenties. These were Jane’s days; when she was having fun, it was fun for us too.
[Photograph at right: Looking south-west across several amusement rides, from atop the Ferris Wheel.]

Dissatisfied with our furnishings and clothing [2]
When Donna and I first moved to Minnesota, our minds were filled with the dream of developing a homestead in a rural setting. Literature such as, The First Time Farmers Guide, Mother Earth News magazine, various ‘back to the Earth’ and survivalist literature fed our minds with agricultural and ‘do it yourself’ technologies, which in turn directed the spending of our discretionary income.

A decade after moving to Minnesota, we had accomplished all of our original dreams: we purchased a mobile home, thirty-nine acres of raw land, installed a driveway, well, drain field, garage, large garden and had thousands of dollars invested in peripheral equipment. By the middle of 1985, we’d come to find that we didn’t need a large electric generator, flour mill, dehydrator, and the one thousand gallon underground gasoline storage tank. Other things, such as our old driftwood bookcase-stereo stand and my huge stereo speakers, once prized possessions, seemed dated and tied to a much earlier time and phase of our lives [3].

It was at this time that a sense of dissatisfaction began creeping into our minds. The mid set that brought us to Minnesota, which fueled our imagination and kept us working on homestead projects, began to fail our current needs. Over the years, we were required to save all of our excess cash in order to purchase the items associated with the homesteading mind-set. Habits die hard, because even when we finally accomplished and paid for everything we wanted, we continued saving every extra dollar. Meanwhile, in our front room there were compound bows and archery equipment hanging  on the walls. The couch was thread bare, our coffee table was banged, bumped and dented. Elsewhere in the house, the bath towels were worn and frayed, our pillows had lost much of their stuffing, and our clothing, even when new somehow just wasn’t right.

On several occasions we walked through the trailer appraising the things we lived with. The synopsis was, ‘Something is wrong.

We rationalized that as soon as a certain plateau was reached in our cash savings, we’d buy a new couch and coffee table. As the summer of 1985 slowly passed, we came to realize that the thread bare couch and well used coffee table were not the source of our dissatisfaction, they were symptoms.

I don’t recall the moment, but it was during late summer when we finally arrived at the consciousness that verbalized our thoughts, the essence of which were as follows:

‘The house doesn’t look or feel like someone LIVES here, it looks like people STAY here.’

Such personal conclusions are difficult to reach oneself. With the words expressed, we knew a major project was both required and drawing near.

The concepts of taste, style & class
Since my layoff at Landy’s and Donna’s return to work, I’d taken over the role of ‘house Daddy’, as such, I had time to do research. During August I checked several books out from the St. Cloud Public Library and  began to study Basic Home Decoration and Basic Principals of Interior Decoration. Important points from the books were copied and outlined for future reference.

In September, we bought a variety of home decoration magazines,so we could study the pictures and see how the decoration principals worked in real life. Among the magazines were several monthly issues of House and Garden, Home and Garden, Town and Country, Country Living, House Beautiful, and a few others. While studying the contemporary photographs in each magazine, we found a basic decorating theme running through each. We did not find these principles at work in our house. At even the most basic level, our front room lacked both a conversation grouping of furniture and good illumination. On one visit to the St. Cloud Public Library, I borrowed, Classic Styles in English Homes and Traditional American Homes; both books were filled with glossy photographs.

Finding the flaw in our decorative style
A strange thing occurred… While studying the book and  magazine illustrations, I became aware of a previously unrealized subtlety. Although all of the portrayed furnishing styles adhered to the proper decorating principles, there was a difference. The difference wasn’t directly related to the standard decorating principles, there was some other factor at work. 1) Generally, the house with a small yard and new, gasoline efficient automobile parked in plain view, also had Country or Contemporary style furniture. On the coffee table was seen the hint of a TV Guide or National Geographic magazine. A frosted, glass unicorn, or photographs of the children sat on soft end tables. The happy, broadly smiling owners were cleanly dressed in sports clothes. 2) Larger houses with their larger lawns and shrubbery, also had large dogs or a hint of horses. In the background could be seen a dark-colored Chrysler or other larger American automobiles. Many of these house interiors were furnished and decorated with sets of traditional style furniture. The interior of these houses looked considerably more tasteful and expensively decorated than the smaller houses discussed above. If the husband and wife were shown indoors, they were seen seated on a floral print couch and dressed in evening clothes; if photographed outdoors, they wore leisure clothes, but with ear rings, scarves, rings, white buck or boat shoes. 3) In the third decoration theme, material goods such as automobiles and horses were neither seen nor alluded to. Photographs of the house exterior showed large trellises and expansive flower and rock gardens, terracing and woods. The house interiors were furnished with museum grade furniture from the 19th Century or earlier, original cloth wall hangings and old, original oil paintings adorned the walls. Photographs of the owners were seldom included in these articles.

Each magazine targeted a specific ‘social class’. I’d always mistakenly thought that a family simply bought the style of furniture they just happened to like, the more discretionary money a family had, the better grade furniture that they bought – in that style.

Reverence for the old and antique
Donna and I grouped the magazines according to display of social class. As social class increased , there was an associative increase in reverence for the old and antique, for the non mass-produced, the beautiful.

Conversely, as the magazine’s target subscription population decreased in social class, decorating styles changed toward the contemporary and the new.
•  Televisions were more prominently displayed as you went from upper to lower
•  Paintings were replaced by reproductions and lithographs, then by wall decorations such as brass swans and colorful tin butterflies, etc.
•  Built in bookcases, filled with books in the upper classes, were replaced by standing bookcases, then by wall units which held plants and selections from Reader’s Digest.

At first, income seemed to be the important variable, but on closer observation income was not all that important. If every family had the same taste and values, but their income varied, then mass-produced furniture and furnishings would simulate the more rare tasteful and quality items. This reasoning was not seen in the magazine photographs. Indeed, each social class tended to have their own values and tastes, so that decor was more related to family values than income.

Our furnishing’s reflected our upbringing
It struck us as odd that we hadn’t realized that there were time-honored principles involved in household furnishing. How could we have missed seeing the relationship between class values and the household furnishing style? In order to answer this question, we had to look back at several generations in both of our families.

Both Donna’s father, Don, and my mother, Hazel, were raised on working farms. In any  American farm community of the 1920s and 1930s, there was a fairly heterogeneous population of people whom, for the most part, shared a common heritage with their neighbors.

Don was from a predominately German farming community in southern Indiana. Hazel was born into a Swedish-German farming community in Michigan. Both families had the values, incomes and education common to farmers in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. Being somewhat isolated from the rapid urban progress of the times, these farm families continued to blend expediency, frugality, and their own semi impoverished traditions into their household furnishings. Of course, the life style one learns and lives with during their youth, are models for the perceptions passed down to the next generation.

The story was different with Donna’s mother, Eulah, and my father, Robert.

Eulah’s father, James, was a successful concrete contractor in the early 1900s. For health reasons, James took his wife Maude, (whom was ill), and young Eulah to Arizona. In the first decade of the century he gained title to about four hundred eights acres of territorial Arizona land. A few years later Maude died of an infection. Soon afterward, James was shot to death by Maude’s sister’s husband, who was said to have owed James money[4]. At that time, and being in her mid teens, Eulah was left alone with just her younger brother. At age fifteen, Eulah married a commercial photographer and became the mother of five children. Over the next several decades, Eulah owned and operated the Hickson photographic studio in Yuma, to support herself and her five children. Although Eulah’s maternal great-grandfather, a) Francis,  had been a medical doctor; b) her grandfather, Theopholas, an accomplished music teacher who played five instruments; c) and her mother, Maude Dorr raised in a genteel Southern life style; d) time and circumstance had reduced Eulah to a small business owner and ‘working Mom’.

At the end of World War II, when Eulah met and married Don, she’d already raised her children to adulthood; there had been little time or money for travel, the arts or the finer things. After their marriage, Don and Eulah seemed to have moved every couple years, never really setting down roots or becoming part of the community they lived in. They were not a shiftless family, but Don did seek various employment opportunities, and was required to move due to job transfers; he tried to move into situations where he could hobby farm as well as carry a regular full time job.

My father, Robert, was raised in an educated, suburban Chicago household during the 1920s and 1930s. His mother, Elsie, had been a teacher and even a high school principal for a while. His father, Glen, was a licensed mechanical engineer and teacher. Robert was married after completing two years of college. Over the next four years, the family had three children, of which two survived. Robert was drafted into the military and served in the U.S. Navy toward the end of World War II. During the next decade and a half, the family moved several times across the country. Moving ever so often doesn’t allow time to become established in a community, while the expense of moving and being unemployed several times kept the family from buying quality household furnishings.

As I entered my teens, Mom and Dad turned to religion and Dad subsequently returned to college. There simply was never enough concern for worldly goods in our household to think about ‘style’.

As a result of our parents backgrounds, Donna and I grew up in homes where furnishings, decorative style and related values were unimportant. Our parents did what they could to raise and train us in what was important to their household’s mind set. In both of our childhood homes, the necessity for frugality and expediency, coupled with frequent moves all played together to eliminate concepts of style, class consciousness and a reverence for the old and unique.

For all of our lives and up to this point, Donna and I were unaware of the relationship between household furnishing, family values, and social class. Unaware of the nuances that streamed about us, we lived in the world with a freedom allotted only to the naive and ignorant.

Learning of style and class
Abruptly awakening into the realization that household furnishing was related to one’s social class, I decided to inquire further into the  concept. I borrowed the book, Class, form the public library. Class promptly answered the question I had in the relationship between household furnishings and social class.. There was not only a relationship between household furnishings and class, but between other factors as well, such as clothing style, house style, pets, beverages, foods, money, where in the country one lived, lifestyle, and more.

Many thing that we’d previously referred to as ‘trashy’ or ‘good’ now fell onto the somewhat ill defined structure of social class. We became rudimentarily aware of the subtle nuances of preference and symbols. At the same time, we began seeing our personal belongings and those of our friends, acquaintances and even stranger’s in a new light of understanding.

Starting over, starting right[5]
Having begun to look at our furnishings with new eyes, we understood that nothing less than a complete overhaul would be required. We had already realized that our household furnishings were not an extension of our personalities, interests or tastes. The dissatisfaction we felt stemmed from the incompatible nature of the various incongruent furniture styles and symbols we’d surrounded ourselves with. We didn’t feel at home in our own house. Having studied house decoration and furnishing styles from proletarian to lower upper class, we found our likes and tastes near and perhaps just below the upper middle class.

Using concepts of Basic Home Design, magazine photographs, and the ideology expressed in thne book, Class, we set about remodeling our living environment. What followed was a tidal wave that swept through the house. For awhile it was difficult to let go of some of the familiar items we’d accumulated.

Restructuring
Our banged up coffee table and driftwood bookcase-stereo stand were chain sawed into kindling for the fireplace.
•  We sold some of our unused hobby farming equipment,
•  bought oriental style throw rugs for uncarpeted floors throughout the house,
•  we reupholstered the couch,
•  replaced the archery equipment that hung on the wall with lithographed images that were related in some way to our ancestral family history.
•  We bought traditional style furniture made of Fruitwood with brass fixtures
• We bought new drapes and curtains for the entire house,
•  Replaced all of our towels and wash cloths, bed sheets,
•  Bought a large set of Revereware pots and pans,
•  two standing bookcases.
•  All of our electronics, except for the TV were moved out of the living room and into a 3rd bedroom newly redefined as the Activity Room.
•  Our  library was moved out of the Activity Room into the living room. The process continued and expanded in scope through the winter and into the spring of 1986. Renovating our household furnishings cost over $5,000, which largely came from a small amount of gold bullion coins we had accumulated.

[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Our livingroom’s south wall, picture taken from the kitchen entry; antique rocker, curio cabinet, wood burning   stove. Photo on right: the livingroom’s north wall. My journals on bookcase top shelf, Alladin lamp at right.]

[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Jane’s bedroom: Jane with Ducky, Rabbit and host of doll friends, cherry finished wood bed frame and nightstand. The south wall in on the right. Photo on right: Jane’s bedroom, south wall on the left. The dresser bought with money from  my parents, Donna’s childhood rocker is seen at lower right.]
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[After refurnishing: Photo on left: Our master bedroom, southwest  corner at left: Brass bed; a quilt Donna and I made, the leather trunk I refinished while at Ted’s house in the early 1970s,  1928 portrait of  Eulah Snyder hanging on the wall. Photo on right: Master bedroom, looking toward the southeast corner. Seen here the two antique dressers that  I bought 11 years earlier from my friend Ted in  California. Photographs of our 19th & 20th Century ancestors cover the dresser tops.]

Return to SRAPO[6]
During June, as Journal 7: A Sideways Glance to Other Horizons neared completion, I turned my attention back to my old SRAPO hobby (Stellar Radii And Planetary Orbits). SRAPO was one of the great and interesting hobbies of my life. Thinking within its parameters led me into abstractions and  ‘minds eye’ visualizations that have been extremely enjoyable and a labor of love to explore.

During  Summer and into the Fall, I reworking an accumulation of SRAPO notes and previously written text. I added descriptions about planetary surface features that we as visitors might see, if we could actually journey to those theoretical worlds.

In October, I began writing and transferring the entire SRAPO project into Journal 8, SRAPO. The old graphs were updated and carefully redrawn, new images and charts were added and SRAPO was again ‘finished’, at least for the present. In its mere one hundred twenty seven page journal length, were the keys and information necessary to draw deep conclusions about surface conditions on any planet we might one day find or consider that carried intelligent life.

The study was terminated with ‘data templates’ that allowed the reader to follow the study in two directions: 1) You could create an imaginary set of star-planet relationships, then find the planetary surface conditions and general adaptations life must make to exist under those proposed conditions, or; 2) you could propose the general characteristics of an intelligent life form’s morphology then back track to the planetary surface conditions he might have come from, an environment favoring the proposed characteristics and morphology. Thus answering the question “What kind of environment would a ‘gray’ alien come from, if they in fact did exist?[7].

Although it was possible to move from hypothesized star-planet relationships to planetary surface conditions, I do not think the reverse is possible. General life adaptations on a planet frequently relate to surface temperature, gravity etc, but do not specifically relate back to the parent star’s spectral classification. If you knew the star, planet size and its location in the ecosphere, you would be able to carry the study  to a basic planetary environment and have a fair assessment of and intelligent  and advanced tool using life found there.

I only worked with SRAPO a few times, each encounter separated by about a decade. After each encounter with the hobby, I put all my reworked notes and records away in the file cabinet, awaiting their next expansion. After years passed, I would again pull out the old paperwork for another enjoyable and exhaustive four month study. During each of these periods, all the information, wisdom, and insights that were accumulated since my last study, were integrated. The entire project was then rewritten with its new, increased understanding and perspectives.

SRAPO has been like an artist’s canvas,  filled with the still life images of other worlds. Each decade when I’ve painted, the image of those other worlds has become clearer and more focused.  (Click the SRAPO tab at the top of 4dtraveler blog page to check the progress of converting the study into this public media. Also see Categories in the right column of this blog, the entries are labeled in order:
0 SRAPO: Introduction
Chapter 1: Water
Chapter 2. Average Planetary Surface temperature, etc.

Changing our wardrobe styles
As previously mentioned, there was something disagreeable about the clothing style we wore. Even when we purchased a new shirt or blouse, stockings, shoes or jacket, something was vaguely amiss with the article, something we were unable to fathom.

One day while browsing through the newspaper, I read a review of the recently published book, Color Me Beautiful. Simple stated, the book was designed to help a woman determine her  ‘complexion category’ based on variations in her skin color and tone, hair and eye color. The book then went on to help determine the colors of clothing and accessories that most complimented her given complexion category; at the same time, assisting the woman in organizing her basic wardrobe. While Donna read Color Me Beautiful, I read Color For Men, both books by the same author. In this same period of time, I also read The Official Preppy Handbook, which dealt specifically with upper middle class behavior and their preferred clothing styles.

What we learned was– as with household furnishings, there was a relationship between clothing styles and social class. The distinction did not derive as much from cost, as it did from a combination of color, style and texture. We found that clothing, 1)  made from natural fibers with a traditional or suggested English or Scottish style, 2) that were understated and non legible, had class; clothing made predominantly 1) from man-made materials, 2) with French or modern styles, 3)  that had glossy colors, 4) and were legible, had the least class.

Using the principles derived from the ‘Color__’ books and The Official Preppy handbook brought several pair of blouses and slacks. During the winter of 1985-86, she began wearing, on alternate days,  the new then the old clothing styles. She also began wearing a slight amount of cosmetics, and accessorizing with scarves and earrings. Not only did she feel better about the style change, she looked better! Since the style change worked on a limited basis, we progressed into a major wardrobe overhaul.

One weekend day, we took every item out of our closet and gave it the ‘color-style-texture-legibility test’. Over 90% 0f our combined wardrobe failed and was summarily discarded. In the period of an hour, we filled several large garbage bags (subsequently donated to Goodwill) and about a half dozen paper grocery bags (for burning) with clothes being discarded [8].

Over the next few weeks we upgraded Donna’s wardrobe. One evening she related an interesting observation: Since the upgrade in style and while shopping, she occasionally received quicker, friendlier and generally better service. At first I was surprised to hear this, but recalled that this same phenomena was discussed in  the book, Class. Continuing to reflect on Donna’s observation brought me to the realization that one’s social position is not inherent, it is ascribed by others. If you understand and exhibit the time honored symbols of value within your society, other people will reward you with the appropriate amount of deference and respect.

Shaving my 13-year-old mustache
One day during November, I asked Donna and Jane if they’d like for me to shave off my mustache. The girls surprised me by simultaneously and resolutely stating, “Yes!”. Gosh! Suddenly, I became aware that my thirteen year old mustache was out of favor. The twosome went on exclaiming how much they “…want  to kiss a smooth-faced Daddy.” A few minutes later, we gathered in the bathroom, the girls flanking me and looking on with great interest. I lathered up my face and shaved off that old mustache and have maintained a clean-shaven face ever since.   :-)
I’d walk a mile for a bunch of extra kisses, wouldn’t you?!

Jane’s development by her 2nd birthday
Jane’s second year was filled with travel, adventure and new experiences, including:
1) The wonder and merriment of the blinking lights on the Christmas tree and all the amazing toys that came from those brightly wrapped boxes beneath the tree.
2) Our trip around the western United States aboard Amtrak.
3) Her first meals at a restaurant.
4) A trip to Minnesota Zoological Gardens to see all the large and small animals, and the Children’s Petting Zoo.

By November 30, Jane’s second birthday , she was able to recognize and pronounce each letter of the alphabet and numerals, one to ten – all from her stack of three by five-inch memory cards.

Ever since Jane and I began this learning process, I realized our working together would undoubtedly develop her reading skills, but never dreamed that before she was two years old she’d already be ready to start reading!

Almost daily, Jane and I spent a two fifteen minute sessions sitting together on the couch, where I read stories to her. Periodically, I’d ask her to identify a shape, a color, or some item on the page. Sometimes, I asked her the page number or what letter I was pointing at. Sometimes, I read fast, sometimes slow, often stopping to point out an easy one syllable word, then have her pronounce it along with me. Right after her second birthday, Jane began to learn how to read in earnest.

[Photocopy of drawing from Journal 6: The Travelers Guide To People and Places, entitled, Principle of the Conservation of Genetic Similarity. Relates to the journals genealogical context at,  J6_762.jpg]

Observations regarding toddler age children
Babies and small children have a tremendous learning capacity.  Compared to a young child, adults learn slow and seldom make insightful jumps in understanding. Adults tend to feel that since the toddler is unable to speak they are also unable to understand, this is totally in error. It may take several days for a concept to sink into a tot’s mind, but when it does, the concept becomes a building block in their life’s world view.

One morning , I showed Jane (two year one month old) how a mirror reflects sunlight. The next morning before sunrise, Jane came into the kitchen with a small hand-held mirror, got Donna’s attention and pretended to reflect sun light at her.

What’s on TV tonight?
•  My favorite programs in 1985.
•  Local Evening   News
•  National   Evening News
•  ABC, CBS or NBC evening movies.

Movies
Movies attended during the year included:
A View To Kill  with Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones
Back To The Future with Michael  J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
Cocoon  with Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley, Hume  Cronyn, Brian Dennehy
Ladyhawke with Rutger  Hauer, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer
Murphy’s Romance with Sally Field, James Garner, Brian Kerwin
Out of Africa  with Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Klaus Maria Brandauer
Pale Rider with Clint Eastwood, Michael Moriarty, Carrie Snodgrass
Prizzi’s Honor  with Jack Nicholson, Anjelica Huston, Kathleen Turner
Summer Rental with John Candy, Karen Austin, Richard   Crenna, Rip Torn
The Trip To Bountiful with Geraldine Page, John Heard, Carlin Glynn
Wierd Science  with Anthony M. Hall, Kelly  LeBrock, Bill Paxton
Witness  with Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Josef Sommer, Lukas Haas


[1] Our savings: [edited]
[2]  See Journal 12, Point of View, page 1932, “Of Growth and Change”.
[3]  The driftwood bookcase and stereo speakers both came from that period of time when I lived with my ‘little hippie family’ in a cabin on Fickle Hill Road, Arcata, CA, just prior to the time when Donna and I met.
[4]  James was said to have had a relationship with his wife’s sister, infuriating her husband who came over the Roberts house and shot James through the screen door.
[5] See pictures the house after refinishing at the end of this chapter: Living room, Jane’s bedroom and the master bedroom. The pictures show what our homes interior looked like from 1985 through 1996.
[6] See SRAPO in this 4dtraveler blog.
[7]  The idea for this direction of thought was to allow someone who claims to have seen an extraterrestrial intelligent life form to use the information from his sighting to back track to a similar, but generic home world. This information does not point out what star the alien’s have come from, but tells something  about their biology.
[8]  See also Journal 10, Index, beginning on page 1583-1594, household clothing inventory. [This footnote refers to a handwritten journal entry, information that may be converted into a blog ‘Autobiography Appendix’ in the future.]

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Filed under Autobiography, __4. Little House in the Woods- Beginnings: 1980-1987

1985, Age 42-43, Part 1 of 2

Themes and Events:
*  President Ronald Reagan is inaugurated for his second term in office. Vice President George Bush is back too.
*  Halley’s Comet makes its return.
*  Obesity is found to be a major killer, in the same category as smoking and high blood pressure.
*  A new form of cocaine called, Crack, hits American streets.
*  Mikhail Gorbachev becomes Premier of the Soviet Union. Unlike his precessors, Gorbachev wants to weaken the Communist doctrine and allow free enterprise into the  East Block of Soviet Republics. Relations between the two major nuclear superpowers begins to warm. President Reagan and Premier Gorbachev have a 2 day summit in Vienna which brings our nations closer together, establishing a new level of relations.
*  For the first time since World War I, the United   States becomes a debtor nation. Also this year, the U.S. Federal Deficit reaches $2 trillion.
*  There seems to be a lot of terrorism toward the end of this year: In October, “The Palestine Liberation Front” hijacked the cruise ship, Archille Lauro, and shot a wheelchair bound American then threw his body overboard.  In December, terrorists simultaneously attack the international airport terminals at Rome and Vienna, killing 18 and wounding 110.

Buttons & bumper stickers:
I owe. I owe. So off to work I go.
When times get tough, the tough go shopping.
Child on board.
Elvis didn’t die, he moved to a better place.

Journal 6, The Travelers Guide
Journal 6: The Travelers Guide To People and Places, was dedicated in its entirety to a massive genealogical research project that I was undertaking. Journal 6 began with an overview of the conditions in Europe during the last Ice Age then rapidly jumped ahead to Neolithic culture and traced the migration of our ancestors, the  Getae, from the steppes of eastern Europe into northwestern Europe.
I researched and associated narrative accounts of the physique and character of individuals in the Norman, English and Irish branches of my family, with their images (photographs of statutes, paintings, sepulchral effigies, commemorative postage stamps, images from the ancient coinage, etc.).
The study progressed down several pedigrees, including that of: William the Conqueror, a descendant of the Danish-Normans who occupied Normandy, France, who married Matilda of Flanders, a descendant of Alfred the Great, King of England, who was himself a descendant of Cerdic the Saxon. Meanwhile, the Irish and Scottish lines beginning with Breogan of Spain, gained power in Ireland and after many generations crossed into Scotland and after more generations, their descendant, Duncan I, married, Maud, 3G-granddaughter of Alfred the Great.
These pedigrees, combined and descended through the Plantagenet’s, Bohun and other English families, and descended through the Sayers family to Richard Sears [1], a direct family ancestor of mine, who immigrated to the Plymouth, Massausecheuttes, in 1630AD.
The work done to assemble the genealogy, collect eyewitness accounts, gather the photographic images and world-wide postage stamps, and later write the one hundred thirty-five page study, required many, many long hours of research at the St. Cloud Public Library, the University of Minnesota, St. Cloud campus library and at home.
Eyewitness accounts of the individuals were extracted from their various sources and combined into a composite of each person. Images were carefully photographed from books, then developed and trimmed to fit in the journal. The postal stamps were ordered and inserted into and along with the narrative as it was written.
Later in this chapter, see the related Journal drawing, entitled, Principle of the Conservation of Genetic Similarity.

The genealogical studies mentioned above that went into Journal 6: The Travelers Guide To People and Places, are being posted in the 4dtraveler blog, see:
My family in history/Old World: The Ancient Family
My family in history/Old World: The Saxons
My family in history/Old World: The Normans
My family in history/Old World: Irish & Scottish,
My family in history/Old World:From Royal Grace to frontier colonial.
Click the Genealogy tab at the top of the blog to find which are (♥) posted or () pending.

The Well Spring, prose
On January 20, I wrote a preface to Journal 6: The Travelers Guide To People and Place entitled, The Well Spring.

The Well Spring [2]
“I Larry, am son of Robert, who was son of Elsie, and grandson of Anna Flora, daughter of Harmon, a Union soldier in the Civil War, who was in turn descended from John Anderson, who fought for the Independence of our nation, the United States of America. These men descended from the families Warren, Howland, and Tilley, who came from England on the ship Mayflower to become among the first permanent Caucasian settlers on the North American continent.

[Preface drawing: “is the sixth Journal of Larry F. Pierce, being written in the year of our Lord 1985 at the forest homestead-Nightstar*.”]

We descended from the Royal House of England, the seed of Norman and Briton, the sons and daughters of the Bourchiers, the Plantagenets and William the Conqueror, who was a Norman descendant of the dispossessed Viking nobility of Norway. Our seed has come down from across Europe through the houses of Kings Merovens of France, Gundicar of Portugal, Cerdic of the Saxons and Constantine I of the Roman Empire.
Back amongst the shadows, in unrecorded time, where names and lives were spent in that mist of antiquity, we grew from the issue of a nation of people known as the Getae and the Aryan tribes. You are the son’s and daughters of the Gatae, your Paleolithic home was during the glaciation, the lush pluvial plains of the Sahara, your Neolithic home, the steppes of eastern Europe, the Iron Age found your people moving into western Europe.
Ten thousand years, ten thousand miles and three continents later, you are the children of those who survived the westward migration, the countless wars and conquests. You are intelligent, resourceful and adaptive, your ways are subtle; you are relatively tall, your cheekbones high; your hair, eyes and complexion are light. You are a blue blood and you stand at once among men and yet above most, for in your blood flows over two thousand years of Getae nobility.
This then is your history…”

Jane and Porky
As Jane grew from her infancy to become an ‘older baby’, she became aware that there was another creature that lived in the house. And that other creature was, Porky the parakeet. Porky was a friendly fellow who loved to sit on our shoulder, the top of our head and who would follow us through the house or fly down the hall looking for us, just to see what we were doing. Porky lived in his cage in the kitchen, right behind my side of the kitchen table, as had his precessor, Alexander R. Little.
Porky’s cage door was almost always left open, he had free reign to come and go through the house as he pleased.

From the time Jane began sitting in her high chair she’d watch curiously as we’d talk to the parakeet, teaching him to speak. And indeed as the months passed Porky learned to screech a few important words, such as, “Hello” and  “Ity bity birdie” He couldn’t speak very clear, but our practiced ears picked up his screechy ‘English’, and the other endearing, cooing, or excited chirping sounds he made.

Once in a while, Jane would sit on the couch beside her mother watching, as Porky came to visit.
When Jane learned to walk, there were several occasions when she’d be walking through the living room and Porky would fly around, squawking then land on her head. The first couple times this happened Jane cried. As soon as she learned that Porky was a friendly bird, Jane began approaching his cage,  saying his name, “Por“, while patting her head with a big smile, trying to coax him to come out and play.

Books read during the year
Class © 1983 by Paul Fussell – A satirical look at what   matters and to whom.
Color For Men  © 1984 by   Carole Jackson – Clothing colors and styles to wear, based on the   individual’s complexion, hair and eye color and physique.
The Official Preppy Handbook © 1980 ed. by Lisa   Birnbach – Growing up looking Prep, being Prep.

An unemployment benefits extension
In early February, I received the last of my Minnesota Unemployment benefits; however, because of the depth of the economic recession we were experiencing, the Federal Government extended benefits to unemployed workers for an additional two months. Upon the termination of my state benefits, I immediately began receiving Federal Unemployment compensation.

About this time, we sold our largely unused Studio #1 Knitting machine for $325. We also sold a large number of yarn cones  filled with different colors of yarn that were once used with the knitting machine. We received $130 for the yarn and a nicely finished wooden homemade yarn rack that  I made in 1974.

Jane goes exploring
Not long after Jane learned to walk, her new-found mobility and curiosity led her to begin a voyage of discovery in the cupboards. For months, she explored our floor level kitchen cupboards, examining and playing with canned goods, plastic storage containers, mixing bowls and all the other goodies that lived therein.

Journal 7, A Sideways Glance
Journal 7: A Sideways Glance To Other Horizons was filled with several topics of interest, including: Our experience’s touring the western United States aboard an Amtrak passenger train, soap making and, the ‘Heritage Concept’.
The Heritage Concept explored ‘multigenerational cooperation’, wherein one person cooperates with individuals in other generations possibly far removed in time. This differs from the more common association where many people, of a single generation, work together cooperatively, ie, ‘working with fellow employees at your place of employment’.

What I did was to buy fairly rare and expensive postage stamps and mount them in clear plastic holders at the center of each Transmission Document. Below the document, I  entered the stamps cost in terms of: loaves of wheat bread, ounces of gold, kilowatt-hours of electricity and current wage income. In circles set in the corners of the document, I entered the date of purchase, cost, year the stamp is to be sold,  leaving the sales cost circle blank (see below).  The stamps were ‘launched’ all from with a few months of one another, but have extractions dates spread across the 21st Century.
Persons in the chain of  ownership of Journal 7, will find at the ‘preprogrammed’ sales date, whether concerted space- time cooperation is possible for human beings.

I did not approach this project with the idea of just ‘doing right for a future person or generation’, The Heritage Concept should not be thought of as beings similar to putting away a cash savings to help your child through college, or perhaps not cutting down a forest, but saving the wood resource and forest habitat for your grandchildren.
The Heritage Concept is perhaps, more like two people in pre industrial times, communicating between remote locations. Here, the message is: Does it work?  Can it be done?
The next step would be to elaborate the transmission document and its data-mass cargo. The little efforts we make today can be magnified over time by leverage. It isn’t important how accurate we are targeting the specific extraction date, because critical focal points within the time stream fluctuate, always magnifying what is immediately ahead. What is important in interpersonal trans time communication, is taking the first step, much can arise from that first step.

“The first telephone voice: Alexander Graham Bell’s notebook entry of 10 March 1876 describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, Bell utters these famous first words, “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.”  The Transmission Documents fulfill a similar function.

[Photocopy above is one of a half dozen ‘Transmission Document’ pages from Journal 7: A Sideways Glance To Other Horizons, article, The Heritage Concept.]
Note, document shown above is 27 years into its travel and has 73 years before its message is delivered. The other documents, while all launched at about the same time, will individually become available for retrieval at intervals in the future. Staggering their arrival over the years allows me to access the same person at different periods of their life and to intercept with several successive generations…like skipping a stone across the waters of time.

Traveling by Amtrak to California[3]
During January, our friends Mike and Kay and family, invited us to visit with them at their home in Redlands,California. Donna and I had been at home all winter drawing Unemployment Compensation while periodically applying for work, as well as working on our individual projects and reading, so were agreeable to a sightseeing adventure.
We made arrangements with our neighbor Arlene to care for Porky the parakeet, and water the house plants during our absence.
We hadn’t been on a real vacation for ten years so decided to make the trip memorable.

Instead of flying to California and miss seeing this great land first hand and up close,  we decided to travel by U.S. Amtrak passenger train. We planned a route that would take us by Coach to Chicago, where we’d transfer trains. From Chicago we’d have a private Sleeper cabin while traveling southwest across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, down into New Mexico, then across Arizona and California. Mike and Kay would pick us up in San Bernardino, California, only a few miles from their home in Redlands, California.

After visiting with Mike and Kay for eight to ten days, we’d board an Amtrak Coach in Redlands and ride to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles we’d transfer trains and be assigned a private Sleeper cabin for the return trip. Our route home would take us north along the California coast, then through the mountains in Oregon, into Washington; and finally east across the northern tier of states, crossing Idaho, Montana and North Dakota, and finally into Minnesota. We would in effect be making a circular grand tour of the western half of the United States, riding through the great plains, the deserts, mountains, and the high plains.

Reservations for our round trip tickets were made ahead of time to ensure our place on the train.
The last couple days before leaving, we were busy putting everything in order, packing and doing those million and one last-minute things that must be done prior to a long trip.

Monday, February 4, Preparation
Monday, during mid morning, another neighbor, Barbara, came over to receive instruction on the particulars of feeding our ducks, geese and dogs. As soon as she left, Donna took the pickup truck next door to Bobby’s farm and bought six bales of straw. Then, while I stuffed fresh straw in the dogs house and laid down a heavy layer of straw on the poultry shed floor, Donna prepared to do errands in town.

Jessie dog required a visit to the Foley veterinarian clinic to have a biopsy performed several persistent sores on one of her ears. While Jessie was at the vet’s, Donna drove into St. Cloud for a haircut, to do some last minute shopping and make bank deposits.

Arrangements were previously made for ‘parakeet Porky’ to stay with Bobby  and Arlene while we were on vacation. In the early evening, Arlene telephoned to let us know she was home from work; we promptly took Porky, his cage, bird seed and night cover over to our friends farm house.

Tuesday, February 5, More preparation
Donna and I were awake and out of bed bright and early Tuesday morning. While I washed the previous night dishes, Donna began setting out Jane’s vacation clothes and packing a diaper bag. Several loads of last minute clothes were washed.
The rest of the morning was spent puttering around with this and that, we were too excited about the upcoming trip to become interested in, or concentrate, on anything.

The afternoon was spent leisurely packing our suitcases. We watered the house plants, carried out the garbage and washed the last dishes. Meanwhile, Jane was becoming excited over all the activity, our packing and all of our talk about traveling ‘far away, all the way across the United  States in a train’, about seeing mountains and deserts. Although she was still small, Jane was, like us, caught up in the excitement of an adventure.

Tuesday evening: Donna drove into Foley and returned with a pizza for our supper. I telephoned Mike, in California,  let him know we were ready to leave and would be seeing him in a few days.
We went to bed a little early and were asleep by 8:00 PM.

Music [midi: Twister]

Wednesday, February 6, “All Aboard!
I awoke at midnight after only four hours sleep. My stomach was upset and gaseous from our pizza supper and the anticipation of leaving on vacation. Donna had been awake since 11:30 PM. Both of us laid in bed trying to go back to sleep, but neither of us could, for our minds were filled with  details and excitement of the coming day’s events.

Unable to sleep, we got up an hour later and had a cup of coffee.
Donna awakened Jane at 2:30 AM and dressed her for our drive to the St. Cloud train depot. While the girls did their last-minute things in the house, I started the car to warm it up, then carried out our suitcases and other luggage. It was an invigorating -3ºF outdoors, which awakened us considerably from the sleepy stupor we were experiencing in the house.

We left home at 3:00 AM.

We had not experienced a hard winter, temperatures were relatively mild and there was little snow on the ground. What snow still existed, were the icy remnants of a moderate snow storm that we received a month earlier. The mild weather made it easier for us to leave, because we knew life would not be difficult for the animals, there’d be a reduced chance of our homes water lines freezing up and there was no snow load on the mobile homes roof.

[Photocopy of journal drawing: Front end of the   Amtrak passenger train that we boarded in St Cloud.  J7_915-6.jpg]

Our first item of business was to stop at the train station, pay $788. for our reserved tickets and check in our two largest suitcases. With an hour and a half hour wait until the train arrived, we drove a couple of miles to Perkin’s restaurant for breakfast. We relaxed and chatted happily amongst ourselves while enjoying our meals.
Donna’s and my breakfast consisted of: two eggs each (over light), a generous slab of ham, hash brown potatoes, two slices of toast with jelly, and a “bottomless” pot of coffee. The meals cost $1.99 each and an additional 55¢ for the coffee. We left the restaurant satisfied and wide awake after the caffeine from several cups of coffee.

Our Amtrak carrier, The Empire Builder, arrived at 5:30 AM, we anxiously walked out of the depot to the loading platform. From our vantage point, standing right, next to the train, we were surprised by its massive size.  We were both dwarfed by the two-story tall cars and deafened by a ground vibrating, deep, sibilant hum from the locomotive engine. We stood looking about, a little confused at first, then found a conductor who looked at our tickets and directed us into a couch.
The silver-colored Coach had what appeared to be an aluminum skin with a red and blue stripe painted down the entire length. The colorful stripes continued down the length of the passenger train, running just below a row of large windows located high on the side of the passenger cars.
The Coach car stood about sixteen feet high, while passenger eye level in the second story was about fourteen feet above the ground.
There was a single door at the bottom center of the Coach and inside a luggage compartment and a spiral stairway leading to the upper, second story. There were several large sitting rooms in the down stairs level, but these were reserved for groups who were traveling together.
We walked up the stairway and made our way down the central aisle looking for four adjoining seats. The train was back in motion before we found a place to sit. I noted there were very few people in the Coach, which had seating for about sixty people; its few passengers were either sleeping or attempting to sleep.

Donna and Jane took seats on the left side of the aisle (facing forward in the train) while I took a seat next to them on the right side of the aisle. We set our coats and carry-on bags on the empty seat next to me. We settled back in our seats to survey our immediate surroundings and get a visual perspective of the terrain passing by outside our window.
We were scheduled to arrive in Chicago around 3:00 PM so would be in the Coach for about ten hours.

[Our initial Amtrak Coach seating, with less leg and seat space than in a Sleeper compartment.]

A half hour after departure, the train was moving through Minnesota’s partially wooded and snow covered countryside, traveling at forty five to fifty miles per hour.
At about 6:15AM, it was still dark, and except for the sound of the trains heavy wheels clicking on the tracks, it was peaceful and quiet. Here and there were seen isolated farm houses, their interiors seemed illuminated by a single light, probably in the kitchen where breakfasts and lunches were being prepared.

On our way to Minneapolis, as we passed through several small communities, we saw an ever-increasing number of cars and other vehicles moving along the streets and highways, all carrying their occupants to work.

Meanwhile, Jane was having a grand time, bouncing on her seat, looking out the window and exclaiming, “aat! hmmm, egh…” Once, when Jane would turn to me and say, “hi-daa!”,when  I turned to look at her, she was smiling and waving at me. I threw her a kiss.
-= xoxo =-

At 7:18AM, when we left the Minneapolis train depot, there were only eight people aboard our Coach, including the three of us. About that time, a pleasant, older, colored fellow, wearing a white jacket came through the car introducing himself as Earl Woods, ‘Chief of On Board Services’ and advising us that if there was anything we needed to just let him know. Earl pointed out a sign on the wall, at the back of our Coach which give the prices of the various beverages that were available.

Table of Beverage price list on the back wall of our  Coach

Cold beer $1.50 Milk & juice $ .60
Wine in splits 1.75 Soft drinks .60
Cocktails/ liquor 2.25 Hot chocolate(seasonal) .60
Coffee/ tea .50
Donuts 2/per .85

.
.
.
.

With day break, it became lighter in the passenger car, looking around, I was able to more fully appreciate the compartment we were riding in. The Coach looked relatively new. There were a pair of seats on either side of a central aisle that ran the length of the Coach. The seats on either side of the car were staggered about six inches, so they were not directly sitting side by side.

We had wide, comfortable reclining seats, with an adjustable foot rest. An extendable, fold down table retracted from the back of each seat in front of us, allowing us a small personal space to temporarily set food, magazines, or other personal items.
The seat fabric was attractive, having been designed with various small geometric shapes and colored with combinations of soft beige, orange, dark blue, light blue and gold. The Coach walls and ceiling were covered with a rough textured carpet in beige and light brown. The floor was carpeted in an ox-blood and blue design.
Above each seat was a high intensity lamp with an adjustable beam for personal lighting, and reading at night. The lights were built into a recess above our heads which also was the bottom of a “carry-on baggage” luggage rack. The ample sized luggage racks extended down the length of the Coach and afforded lots of room for our carry-on bags, and small suitcases.

The train jiggled too much to use the table for writing my journal entries, so I decided to record  notes on a note pad. The  incidents and thoughts would be written as they were encountered, then when we returned home, I’d decipher the scribbly text and rewrite the events into my journal.

Running along beside the Mississippi River, we slowly made our way through the Twin Cities.
Beyond the windows of our cozy coach, was a cold, gray, early winter morning. Businesses were just beginning their work day. As we sped past, here and there, men could be seen, each caught up in the minuscule of their job. City streets were quite filled with traffic, as commuters hurried to their jobs, trucks were beginning to make deliveries, heavy equipment was being moved, and school busses carrying children to school.

Nearing Red Wing,Minnesota we entered hilly terrain and sped amongst the steeply sloped hills that rose abruptly one hundred fifty feet or so above the train. We continued winding through hilly terrain beside the Mississippi,  until we crossed the river and entered La Crosse, Wisconsin.

We were surprised to find that having crossed the river, there was about a five-inch accumulation of snow on the ground and high fog. As we continued across Wisconsin the snow deepen to about seven inches then gradually declined to perhaps one inch. I realized that the most recent snow storm encountered by the Midwest, must have passed to our home to the south, on a northeast track that brought the brunt of the precipitation up through central Wisconsin.

At noon, Donna opened our well stocked “food carry-on bag” and made us each a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which we had with water. We found that the train’s kitchen makes sandwiches at a cost of $2.25 each, so we saved $9.00 on the meal.

Chicago, Chicago
Approaching Chicago during mid afternoon, we passed through miles and miles of city enroute to the main passenger train depot.

While modern freeway arteries approach a city from its growing side, railroad tracks enter from what was, more or less, the prosperous part of town,  over a hundred years earlier. The once hopeful, affluent homes and attendant business’s seen from the railroad tracks, are now old and dilapidated. The streets are narrow, the neighborhoods have become home to the lower working class, ethnic and racial mixes. This is an interesting, but blighted part of America  that the automobile traveler seldom, if ever sees.

From our position high on the train and atop raised railroad tracks, I could see deep into the dingy and shadowy slum neighborhoods. I was appalled by the communities we passed through. The homes and buildings were obviously old and in various stages of dilapidation. I don’t recall seeing new paint anywhere, there were just miles and miles of decaying neighborhoods. Frequently, I saw large buildings that had been closed, their windows were boarded up. Here and there, narrow streets were blocked by delivery trucks which were backed up and unloading boxed products at steamy and foul looking docks.

That portion of the city that the train passed through was, ‘ethnic’. It was well-known and acknowledged among whites all over the USA that, “If you were driving through parts of Chicago (St. Louis, Miami, Los Angeles, Detroit, etc.) and your car broke down, they might never hear from you again.” By the looks of those neighborhoods and the thought of some elements that might arise from there, I believed it.

Union Station, the main Chicago passenger train depot was located right down town. At 3:00 PM, when we disembarked from the train, we were surprised to see the Sears Tower skyscraper, the tallest building in the world right across the street [4]. We carried our tightly packed, heavy suitcases, “carry-on bags” and the video camera bag through a long underground passage from the train yard to the depot. I don’t know how many stories high Union Station was, whether we were on the main floor or in a sub ground level area.

The depot was a rambling structure with a seeming profusion passages leading  in different directions. The central corridors were lined with many small shops which carried newspapers and magazine of all description, curios, and expensive fast food.
Even  in the dead of winter, on a Wednesday afternoon, the depot was crowded with all sorts and ‘flavors’ of people of all social rank. There was a great deal of activity, load speakers calling out arrivals and departures, people were either carrying their luggage or pulling it on small wheeled carts, many people were simply standing around chatting or being alert and watchful of the many strangers.

We sat on a long wooden bench, in a crowded Waiting Room, our suitcases stashed safely between our feet for the next hour and a half; until,it was finally time to board our train for the trip across country.

We left Union Station at 4:40PM aboard Amtrak’s, South West Chief, Sleeper Car #31, Economy Sleeper compartment #2.
We immediately found that the Sleeper cars had better suspension and provided a smoother ride than Coach cars.

From what I’d seen, my impression of Chicago and the depot were negative. I found it reassuring that there were policemen patrolling the corridors and large public rooms of the depot. As the South West Chief  traveled southwest, leaving the city, I saw graffiti spray painted on a wall, it’s message was simple and straight forward, ‘FUCK WHITES’.

Wednesday evening, supper
At dusk, after we’d just left metropolitan Chicago and were streaming through the countryside, Donna went to the Lounge car and returned with two plastic glasses filled with ice. We dug into our “carry-on food bag” and brought out a can of 7-Up soda pop and a pint of brandy. After two drinks each we began to rapidly collapse from the day’s excitement and our lack of sleep the night before.

At 6:00 PM, we went to the Diner car for supper.
For our entrée’s, Donna ordered Salmon Creole ($7.25) and I ordered Boneless Short Ribs ($8.00). We split a bottle of Burgundy wine. Each of our entrée’s was served with the following;

 A tomato and shredded  lettuce salad in a Styrofoam bowl, choice of   dressing.
 A variety of five different kinds of warm dinner rolls, served with more than a sufficient number of butter patty’s.
 Whipped potatoes.
 A fairly large serving of steamed, mixed vegetables.
 An eight ounce carton of milk and a disposable, clear plastic glass.

We had a leisurely dinner filled conversation, periodically turning to watch the outdoors pass by and excited at the experience of eating in such a nicely furnished, unique, mobile restaurant. Jane sat at the table with us, looking all about, while sampling bits of our mixed vegetables,  mashed potato and drinking from her bottle.

When our meal was finished, we brought the two cartons of milk and three dinner rolls back to the Sleeper compartment. Donna filled two of Jane’s bottles with the milk.

The Sleeper Car steward helped pull down the upper berth and make the lower seats up into beds. We visited the bathrooms, changed into our bed-clothes and crawled into bed. Donna and Jane slept together in the larger bottom berth, while I slept on the top berth, my nose only inches from the ceiling.

Wednesday, February 6, Table of Onboard expenses:

4 cups of coffee $2.00
1 small package donuts $0.85
3 cartons (8 ounces each) milk $1.80
1 Salmon Creole dinner $7.25
1 Boneless Short Rib dinner $8.00
1 splitBurgundy  wine $1.75
Expenses $21.65

Thursday, February 7, early morning
Donna and Jane  had an eight hour sleep during the night, not awakening until nearly 5:00AM.  While Jane continued sleeping, Donna and I took turns going to the downstairs bathroom, for a wash cloth bath and to change our underwear and socks.

We awoke this morning just before reaching Hutchinson, Kansas.
Outside it was still dark.
With the cabin light on, all I could see was limited to our compartment. While Donna was washing up, I listened to a small portable radio we’d brought in the “carry-on bag”. The local, Kansas news reported, “…the low is 38ºF and we expect a high of 53ºF. President Reagan gave his second State of the Union address to Congress last night…”

I turned off the radio, settled back against my seat and looked out into the darkness beyond the compartment window. Our train gently rocked from side to side, while from beneath the train, arose the “click…click…click” sound of steel wheels rolling at a high speed on the railroad tracks.

I was coming to realize that trains were almost anachronisms of a bygone era, possibly existing today only because the US Government was subsidizing the national Amtrak system.

Railroads flourished as America expanded, during the days when raw materials were being transported from source to factory, from farm and range, to market. In those not so distant days, the land was  basically unsettled, still largely wild and pristine. There were few roads across the western territory and no economically viable alternative method for transporting large quantities of raw materials over long distances. With the discovery of oil, manufacture of automobiles and creation of the Interstate highway system, trucks came to replace much of the commercial function previously held by trains, while passenger jets move people from coast to coast in a matter of hours and at cheaper fares than offered by Amtrak.

Configuration of Amtrak’s,  Southwest Chief

== C-4 C-3 S-2 S-1 D L C-2 C-1 B-3 B-2 B-1 E-2 E-1 Southwest Chief

C=Coach, S=Sleeper car, = Our sleeper compartment, D=Diner, L=Lounge, B=Baggage, E=Engine

 Jane awoke while Donna and I were sitting in a vacant compartment across the aisle. She pulled back the Sleeper compartment curtain and gave us a big smile, Donna gave her a bottle of milk and thus began Thursday.

Jane held up quite well during the first day of our trip, despite having been awake since 2:30AM while we were still at home, then having only a 1-1/4 hour nap during the day.

[Photo of one side of the Sleeper compartment. The small, wall hinged, folding table is shown opened for use. The individual controls for light and tempered air, to call the car attendant, etc., are in a control panel seen in  at upper left, next to the head rest. Each seat has its own set of controls. The curtains close, when necessary, to block out light and for privacy.]

Music [album: Out of Africa, I Had a Farm in Africa]

As the minutes passed, twilight extended across the land, breaking up the shroud of nights darkness and giving form to the images that passed beyond our window. It seemed strange to speed through the countryside, at 60-70 miles per hour, catching glimpses of the familiar and the unfamiliar: seeing people for just an instant, watching houses rapidly pass into, then out of view.

To me, the train and our compartment were a unit of continuity, a relatively fixed point in space. The world beyond our cabin window was in apparent continual motion, the sights it offered were brief and fleeting. Yet, I realized that to those people waiting in their automobiles at the train crossing, that our passing train and the faces in the window were similarly, fragmentary flashes in the relative continuity of their static and familiar world.

Watching isolated new houses, then isolated old houses repetitively flash past our window, suddenly gave me a deeper understanding of the visual aspects of Space travel vs. Time travel. Although the concepts were already understood, it was the process of seeing the new… old… new… old, that lent a recognizable everyday visual dimension to the concept.
The concept arose: In Space travel, the environment appears to move relative to your craft, but the houses look the same. In Time travel, the environment appears to remains stationary relative to your craft, but the houses change.

Ideas such as this, can develop while traveling on a train, because as a passenger, one becomes almost a total observer. I had not realized this effect while driving a car. While driving and even as a passenger in a car, ones attention is preoccupied with road conditions, traffic and other busy distractions.

The evening before, when we went to bed, the ground over which we crossed had about a six-inch snow cover, but this morning, west of Dodge City, Kansas, there was only a twenty percent patchy snow cover, with accumulations primarily confined to roadside ditches and occasional wooded areas.

As it became lighter outdoors, we could see to the distant horizon, and found the ground was flat with only an occasional low hill. Scattered here and there across the plain, we saw an occasional broken down windmill water pump; the old farms and families they once served, were gone. The windmills were rustic reminders of a bygone age, they were rusting sentinels in a changed land.

Corn and wheat were the primary agricultural crops raised in the southwest quadrant of Kansas. Every so often we passed a grain elevator that was built alongside the tracks.

At one point, we passed a railroad spur to a huge cattle feed lot which held many thousands of head of cattle, the lot appeared to be about a mile wide and at least a half mile deep.

Approaching the Kansas-Colorado border, the landscape gave way to sage brush with few trees. Amongst the wide expanses of low brush were 120 to 160 acre agricultural fields with a fifty percent snow cover. It was apparent that in this region, the human population density was even less than the sixteen persons per square mile density we had at home, in rural Gilman,Minnesota.

We continued our trek west, racing across the flat countryside at seventy miles per hour, occasionally reaching eighty mph.

Donna brought two cups of coffee from the Lounge car. As we sipped our brew,  we chatted while looking out the window, occasionally commenting about the interesting and desolate environment we were passing through.

An old deserted farm came into view and a few moments later, whisked by, quickly leaving our sight and falling behind the train. The house had weather worn and unpainted exterior walls, its window panes were no longer filled with glass. A broken down windmill and a stand of old trees stood in what had once been the yard, near the house.
I considered the history of the abandoned home, realizing that it was once some families place of joy and love, up until fifty to eighty years ago, perhaps earlier.

A little after 8:00 AM, Bruce Brooks, our Sleeper car steward,  brought us each a complimentary cup of coffee.
Bruce, in his mid forties, looked, talked and had an easiness of character that was amazingly like the persona of famous movie actor, Robert Redford. When we engaged him in conversation, Bruce leaned against our compartment door and continued charming us with his  friendly informative banter.

He told us that all the Amtrak passenger cars east of the Mississippi River were old cars and that those west of Chicago were newer, being made as recently as 1979 or 1980. The newer Sleeper cars, like the one we were traveling in, were too tall to go through the old, short height railway tunnels in the East.

[Riding the rails. Photocopy of my Journal drawing: Top: Route map of our travel across the midwest to Los Angeles, then up the Pacific coast and back across the northern tier of states.   Lower left: Drawing of our Sleeper Compartment. Lower right: Cut-away view of one of the Sleeper Car bathrooms. J7_931.jpg].
.
Mr. Brooks said that the track we were riding on, belonged to the Santa Fe Railroad. We were surprised to learn that the Conductor and Engineers, who work for in this case, the Santa Fe Railroad, only operate the train for about three hundred miles then are replaced by a new operations crew. However, he and the other Amtrak employees stay with the train all the way through to its final destination.

Bruce was concerned over losing his nine-year old job with Amtrak. The Federal Government was considering a large reduction in subsidies given to the Amtrak system that could have taken effect as early as that coming October.

Ever so often as we continued west, Bruce would stop by. Once he brought a newspaper I wanted, he periodically offered us coffee and was always a cheerful and pleasant person.

At 8:30, with the fresh coffee our steward provided, we opened a box of powdered cake donuts that were brought from home, and began thinking about breakfast. Once again, Donna dug into our ‘food carry-on bag’ and pulled out a meal consisting of: an orange followed by breakfast cereal. While Donna had two each four ounce boxes of Corn Flakes, I had an equal serving of Raisin Bran. The milk for our cereal was purchased from the Lounge car.

After breakfast, Donna followed Jane as the twosome began exploring the central aisle of our Sleeper car.

The Sleeper car bathroom
While the private Sleeper cabins were located along, and on either side of a central aisle on the second floor of the Sleeper car, each Sleeper car also had six bathrooms located downstairs on the first floor.

Each private bathroom was a fully enclosed unit, with a lock on the inside of the door. When locked, the locking mechanism exposed a small sign by the handle on the door’s exterior, alerting anyone who might try to use the facility that the room was “Occupied”.

The bathrooms were small, very clean and well illuminated. Their walls were sheathed in stainless steel near floor level and a lime green plastic, the rest of the way up to the ceiling.

Inside, and to the left of  the bathroom door, was a stainless steel sink with faucets for warm and cold running water. Above the sink was a large mirror, to the right of this were two 120 volt outlets for electric razors, hair dryers, etc. Immediately to the right of the sink was a liquid hand soap dispenser, on the left were built-in stainless steel compartments for trash, sanitary napkins, disposable baby diapers, etc.

Directly across from and facing the door, was a toilet that when flushed, screeched with the loud sound of a ‘rushing gurgle’. On the wall, above the back of the toilet was a fold down “diaper changing table”. Beside the toilet, and next to the sink, was a cabinet with a recess containing a roll of toilet paper. Above the recess was a built-in tray that dispensed paper hand towels at the rate of one-at-a-time.

When I said the bathrooms were small, I meant that when you’re sitting on the toilet and lean forward, your head would touch the bathroom door.
As it turned out, the bathrooms were just the right size, because their confining walls kept you from falling down while using the facility. All during the trip, our Sleeper car was jiggling and swaying, making it difficult to keep one’s balance while taking a wash cloth bath, brushing teeth or changing clothes. If it weren’t for the support offered by the walls, we’d have likely fallen to the floor and received an injury. Instead, we were periodically tossed off-balance, bounced against a wall, and somewhat thankfully, retained our footing.

Later Thursday morning
The South West Chief continued speeding along beside a highway, we were traveling much faster than the cars and trucks.

A dense ground fog we entered earlier in the morning began to burn off, as we approached La Junta, Colorado, revealing the distant terrain. We were beginning to move out of the flatness of the Great Plains, into small mesa like formations. An arid environment stretched out beside and in front of us as far as we could see. Vegetation consisted primarily of various sage and Century plants, all the plants displayed small, moisture conserving leaf forms.

Between La Junta and Trinidad, Colorado, we crossed snow covered range land. The soil was a yellowish-brown color, possibly a very sandy loam; what vegetation there was, consisted of short grass, scrub and an occasional Cholla cactus.

During our early February trip, the riverbeds we encountered were dry; their intermittent seasonal flow had in years past, cut deep arroyos into the underlying sandstone. Trees were only seen, sparsely growing along the lower banks of the riverbeds.

I noticed that over the hundreds of mile, there had slowly occurred a change in the type of cattle at pasture. In the Midwest we’d seen mostly Jersey cattle. Once out on the plains, the Jersey’s gave way to Herefords, which were a hearty range stock.

Looking through a distant blue haze that hung on the horizon to our west, we could see the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains. At the north end of the range stood 14,125 foot Mt.Lindsey. In a moment of reflection over trivia, I recalled that the Sears Tower in Chicago was one tenth the height of the mountain.

As the miles sped by and we approached Trinidad, Colorado, we noticed that the mesas were becoming larger and more pronounced geological features. The train was also slowly gaining elevation and before long we were traveling amongst gnarled Junipers.

Southeast Colorado appeared to be a dusty, ‘big sky country’, hot in the summer and cold in the winter. There was little evidence of material affluence; human subsistence appeared to be derived from cattle ranching. There were few houses and they were spread far apart. Reflecting on the conditions, I wondered how the area would be to live in after retirement, if you located relatively near shopping and medical facilities. I supposed that housing and rents would be low and the climate would be neither as cold as Minnesota nor as hot as Arizona.

Trinidad,Colorado was surrounded by high, Juniper covered mesas.  Approaching Trinidad, we began to see adobe houses and other homes with stucco siding. Indian or Mexican influences were beginning to show up in decorative symbols, such as stylized Thunderbirds, or an occasional house painted turquoise, or pink. The better looking houses in this high plain region, did not appear to associated with ranching. When we passed a mobile home park, Donna pointed out that all the homes had ‘swamp coolers’ (evaporative coolers) on their roofs.

During our cross-country trip, it was interesting to watch as the deciduous forests of southern Minnesota and Illinois gave way to the Great Plains of Kansas, then the plains gave way to the arid prairie in south-central Colorado. It had been a long time since I traveled across the southwest; it was a refreshing experience to once again see these arid lands.

Near the New Mexico-Colorado border, the train began climbing a grade  into the mountains. Our steward informed up we were gaining one hundred seventy-five feet elevation per mile of track which explained why our ears were popping to equalize pressure.
Just inside New  Mexico, at an elevation of 7,588 feet, we passed through the half mile long Rayton Tunnel.

During late morning, I videotaped our Sleeper compartment, a bathroom, the Diner car, Lounge and a Coach car. Trying to navigate through the aisle while filming was a little harrowing. The train was swaying as I walked with one eye to the camera’s viewfinder, whilst simultaneously trying to compose, narrate, tape, keep my balance and not bump into other people, like wise navigating the corridor.

We bought our video camera relatively early after the instruments became available, so not a many people were familiar with the bulky shoulder held cameras. As I walked about, trying to make the tape, people occasionally stopped to ask questions about the camera, an attempting to find out if I was shooting a private or commercial tape. The attention added to my self-consciousness, making my work all the more difficult.

In the Snack Bar, which was located on the lower deck of the Lounge car, there was a rather seedy looking Colored fellow of about twenty-five years old, sitting at a table with a white girl, who was perhaps eighteen years old. On the wall, above and behind the fellow was posted a price list of sandwiches, drinks and other goods sold at the Snack bar. While I was attempting to tape the sign, I kept my left eye open and looking about while my right eye monitored the image in the monitor, which was like a small one inch wide television. While looking about, I noticed the fellow was trying to hide his face behind one hand, yet trying not to make it obvious that he was hiding. He peered out from his hand glowering at me in a nervous and threatening manner. When I saw his body language, I figured he was probably ‘wanted’ by the law, and may have even been on the train in flight from the law.

Later, the Amtrak cooks invited me into the Kitchen galley, on the lower level of the Diner car, to tape their facilities. The galley was entirely surfaced with stainless steel. There were large work counters along one side, with a sink and water. Under the counters and along the opposite wall, were refrigeration compartments and other storage bins holding plastic cups, etc.
I was surprised to find that there were no foods actually prepared on the train. All the meal entrees were frozen and only needed  to be microwaved before serving. The mixed vegetables and tossed salad came in bulk plastic bags and were scooped out in serving sizes at meal time.

Sixty mile south of the Rayton Tunnel, we passed one of the most prominent land marks on the prairie, the Covered Wagon Mount. The shape of the tabletop mountain looked a little like the silhouette of a covered wagon, for which it was named. The train’s engineer announced that the landmark was used for navigation purposes on the prairie during the mid 19th century. I vaguely remembered that many years earlier, while passing through the area, my parents family stopped at a store or gas station in the small community.

Shortly after passing Covered Wagon Mount, we came to Watrous,  New Mexico, which was located in a small valley. Passing through the small community, while continuing to follow the old Santa Fe Trail, we saw the ruins of a wagon train “Way Station.”   I was surprised at the large size of the structure, the building’s perimeter appeared to be 60 to 70 foot square.

Thursday afternoon and evening
By 2:00 PM, we were thirty miles southeast of Santa Fe. The train was descending a steep grade, going zig zag on tracks that could be seen curving out a “S” like shape, far ahead in our direction of travel. We were descending into a huge bowl-shaped valley surrounded by distant flat-topped mesas.

Human habitations and the infrequent Cottonwood trees were seen clumped together in lower areas, near the banks of dry stream beds. Most of the rural houses were either: 1) Stucco covered, 2) faced with unpainted, weathered clapboard siding or, 3) were mobile homes. There was little discernible affluence in northeast New Mexico.

Looking across the plain, I saw that the sparse vegetation consisted primarily of grasses, more or less evenly spaced Junipers and an occasional Yucca. On the mid distant plateaus, I thought I could see Pinion and Bristle Cone Pine, while in some low areas there appeared to be Cholla or “jumping cactus”, all evidence of dry, high desert conditions.

Run off from intermittent cloud bursts had carved deep arroyos across the arid landscape. Extending across the landscape, the soil and rock strata had warm colors which ranged in pastel shades from brown, tan and red to purple. The ground was strewn full of various size shale like rock of different size. The soil color and general rockiness reminded me somewhat of Martian surface photographs returned by the Viking Martian Lander.

At fourteen and a half months of age, Jane was proving to be a great traveling companion. Although, because of her very young age, she slept longer at night than we and napped once or twice daily, but when she was awake, she played hard. It didn’t take long after we’d transferred to our Sleeper in Chicago and Jane had gotten use to the novelty of our small cabin that she began to curiously explore her environment for new adventures.

As we walked around the train, Jane discovered several pastimes that proved great fun. Firstly, she enjoyed the game like effort of trying to walk and keep her balance, while the train rocked and swayed its way along the tracks. As we’d walk down the corridor, she was occasionally thrown off balance against a compartment wall, fall on her behind (which was protected by diapers and pants) then clamber back to her feet, wide-eyed, smiling and vocalizing her approval. Secondly, she found endless pleasure climbing up and down the stairs between the Sleeper cars first and second level. Stair climbing was a new experience, not only was each step an obstacle, but the room changed perspective as she climbed. At home we had lots of neat places to explore, but nothing like stairs and a strange floor that wiggled and jumped beneath her feet.

In the vicinity of Lamy, New Mexico, we saw the remnants, perhaps the last bastion of the Hippie lifestyle.
Here and there across the local countryside, were ‘poetic’ houses made from refuse, there were cheap solar applications made from plastic sheets covering makeshift frames, we saw very old mobile homes (for their age, more aptly named “trailers” ) and a variety of vans and trucks which were converted to ‘living spaces’. Expensive modern houses were built right next to trashy, unkempt houses, and the aforementioned ‘poetic’ shelters, an interesting socioeconomic mixture that I thought would someday lead the offspring of these divergent lifestyles into intellectual and biological hybridization.

Just north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, we passed a modern Pueblo Indian community on a Reservation. At first we marveled at the couple hundred nice, free standing, government built houses and at the  modern water storage tank that stood on a hill nearby providing pressurized water to the Indian houses.

As the train grew closer, we didn’t see glass panes filling the windows of the fairly new houses. None of the Indian houses had a lawn, trees or evidence of other landscaping, the houses simply stood on almost barren sandy soil.   There were bits and pieces of trash discarded and windblown about the ‘front yards’ and across the entire community, while each back yard had its own pile of garbage and trash. Many back yards had a homemade, mud glazed, adobe bread baking oven. Parked haphazard anywhere around the houses were newer model pickup trucks, few passenger cars were seen.

I imagined that the Indians were given the houses by the US Government, but still didn’t have the cultural background, education or interest required to maintain the free dwelling or the community.

West of Albuquerque we sped through the desert.
The area was a great flat expanse that was virtually uninhabited. The soil was a brownish mix of granular sand and clay, while vegetation consisted of closely spaced sage brush measuring only six to eight inches tall. There wasn’t a tree in sight.  As we moved through this inhospitable terrain, Donna went to the Lounge car and bought us four Margaritas. We sat in our compartment sipping the drinks while quietly chatting and watching the sun set. The palate of orange sunlight, brownish soil and long purplish shadows amongst the sage was beautiful in this desolate land.

We went to the Diner car at 5:45PM for our evening meal.
Donna ordered the Boneless Short Ribs entree; I had a Half Chicken with Spanish rice. Our side dishes were the same as those served with the previous nights meal. Once again, supper was excellent, the dining experience an adventure in itself. I left the waiter a $4.00 tip.

Just after 7:00 PM, our train stopped at Gallup,New Mexico, meanwhile Jane was drifting off to sleep. Donna and I sat back for a bit of relaxation, unwinding and preparing ourselves for a good night’s sleep.

Ever since leaving Chicago, we’ve essentially had two Sleeper compartments for our daytime use. The cabin directly across the aisle from ours was empty, so we’ve used it to sit in while Jane napped, and at other times to see the best sights, or to escape from the bright sunlight, which for a while was glaring through our compartment window.

During the day, our steward, Bruce and the Diner’s waiter, provided us with five free cartons of milk for Jane. Their thoughtfulness was appreciated.

Thursday, February 7, Table of Onboard expenses:

2   cups of coffee $1.00
5   cartons (8 ounces each) milk $3.00
5   cartons (8 ounces each) milk $0.00
3   diet Cola’s $1.80
4   Margarita’s $9.00
1   Half Chicken dinner $7.25
1   Boneless Short Rib dinner $8.00
tip $4.00
Expenses $34.05

We pulled down our berths just before 9:00 PM, then went to the bathroom to wash up and brush our teeth. Returning to our compartment we said good night and crawled into our respective beds.

Since our journey began, I’ve slept in the narrower, fold down top berth. Donna and that ‘tiny bed hog’, Jane,  have slept together on the wider bottom berth. The bottom berth was created when the two, wide, facing cabin seats were folded down thus filling the space in between.

During the few minutes that I remained awake in my bed, I thought about our day: Traveling through New Mexico brought memories I’d experienced in my youth, when our family traveled about Arizona and New Mexico during family vacations. It was pleasant to once again smell the musky earth scents of the desert. It was good to once again see the table top mesas, Cholla cactus, the miles of sage brush and dry sandy desert soil.

As we sped through the landscape there was a continual sense of adventure, undoubtedly brought about by the rocking motion of the train, traveling through a long dark mountain tunnel, seeing the parallel railroad tracks gently curve downhill to become a single line in the distance, watching distant mountains draw slowly nearer and wondering what sights lay ahead.

Friday, February 8, San Bernardino
I awoke briefly at 12:30 AM. with an uncomfortable pressure in my ears as the South West Chief rapidly descended from the mountainous region to the west side of Flagstaff, Arizona. After spending a few minutes yawning, trying to equalize the pressure in my inner ear, I drifted back into a dreamless asleep…and was again awakened at a little after 3:00AM, by the jiggling movements of the Sleeper and the need to visit the bathroom. Gingerly, I slipped down from my berth, dressed as best I could in the narrow space available, between our berths and the cabin door, then groped my way along the dimly illuminated aisle and down the stairwell to the bathroom.

Dressing in an economy Sleeper cabin when the sleeping berths were folded down, was a bump, grind, and twist proposition. There was only about a ten inch wide space between the berths and the cabins sliding glass door, just enough space to stand, but not really enough to dress. While standing there on one leg trying to reach down my side and grasp, then tug up my pants, the train was rocking and occasionally lurching, which made the initial dressing ritual- very difficult. I later found that as we approached Barstow,California, the train was running at ninety miles per hour!

We found the best way to dress, was to simply pull on ones trousers and a shirt, then while holding everything together, carry the rest of your clothes and washing materials to the bathroom to finish. When the berths were retracted, that is when they were converted, back to seats there was plenty of room for one person to change, while your companion travelers took a short walk down the train aisle.

Donna awoke and went to dress about the time I was coming back from the bathroom. We had a cup of coffee, made Jane a bottle of milk, and awaited the first leg of our trip to end.

We arrived in San Bernardino, California at 6:00 AM, twenty minutes behind schedule. A few minutes later our hosts, Mike and Kay and their children, Joe, David and Laurie arrived to pick us up.
We had a splendid trip and an exciting adventure aboard Amtrak. The best part was that we were only two days into our vacation.

Visiting with old friends[5]
Several side trips we took while visiting with Mike and Kay opened our eyes to the population changes that were occurring in the southern California, including:

Music [midi: Terminator 2]

In the desert east of L.A.
On Thursday, February 14, after our friend’s children had left for school, Mike and Kay packed a picnic lunch with plans for us to visit Joshua Tree National Monument, located about seventy miles east of Redlands.

The terrain east of Redlands was a very hot and arid desert, filled with Creosote bushes and various cactus. Eleven years had elapsed since Donna and I moved to Minnesota from the Los Angeles urban region, and about sixteen years since I’d driven on the road on which we were traveling. My memory of the desert between San Bernardino and Palm   Springs was one filled with great vistas. It had been a largely unspoiled desert where one could travel for miles and miles and not see a single human habitation, or any sign of the presence or passing of Man. It was a place where one would occasionally see a solitary hawk, or perhaps a flock of buzzards circling high on the thermals. The only other things I ever saw move in those miles and miles of desert were an occasional grasshopper and a distant “dirt devil” whirlwind.

Over the preceding sixteen years, things had changed! There had been a staggering amount of residential building east of San   Bernardino and Redlands, urbanization extended  miles into the desert on either side of the highway.
There were large subdivisions built in places so hot, sandy and forbidding that I thought the area would remain unsettled well into the 21st Century. Alas, the scenic desert vistas had become broken into patches of development and large clusters of homes. Looking to the distant horizon, one could see smoke-signal like dust trails, rising behind far away cars that traveled down gravel roads. (Note: California built out its freeway system and expanded greatly into counties such as Riverside and San Bernardino. Indeed, in San Bernardino County, population quadrupled from 1960 to 2010, from five hundred thousand to over two million, with the attendant homes, public infrastructure, state highways, and freeways.)

Laid out across the desert in a grid like pattern, were the local distribution poles for electric and telephone service, while coming around the mountains from Los Angeles, were large steel, power transmission towers carrying electricity to Palm Springs.

Worst of all, were the wind generators, those industrial creations of favorable tax finance, who looked like hoards of leviathans  with steel spines rising from the soil. Spread across the desert valley’s and extending up along the top of the foothills on either side of the freeway, were hundreds and hundreds, perhaps thousands of wind generators. Having never seen a “Wind Farm” (where the wind is harvested) I initially thought the sight was interesting, but only as a novelty.

Of course Man had “harvested” the wind for quite some time to drive sailing ships, to rotate the grinding wheels a wind mill, to pump water for livestock and rural homes, but the wind farms were a new phenomena. As an effort to develop wind-electric generator technology, experimental work had been done in particularly windy locations along  the northeastern U.S. seaboard and in the San Francisco area during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The wind farms were apparently in the late experimental and early industrial production phase during 1985. The towers had diverse designs, height and construction, as were the types of generators, number of generators per tower and the number of airfoil blades on the rotors.

The generator towers were not uniformly spread across the desert. Here and there, over the  approximately ten  to fifteen square mile area, were large groups of generators laid out in a checker board grid. From the layout, spacing and technology seen on the ‘farms,’ it was evident there was some combination of the following factors at play:  1) Corporate land ownership was probably not continuous across the valley and hills;  2) There were experimental divisions within and between farms based on tower structure, airfoil numbers, airfoil type, etc.;  3)  There may have been different tax requirement, tax needs and tax incentives at work with the different corporate owners;  4) There appeared to be different levels of advancement in the technology between one  ‘farm’ and another. In any respect, there was a lot more diversity evident than could be justified by slightly differing wind gradients across the ‘wind farming area’.

All that I saw, was an explosive continuation of urban sprawl and technological blight spread across the desert. If the southern California infrastructure continues to support such rapid growth over the next century, then all those currently new, nice looking desert communities may become slums and the desert will have been trashed. Where in lies the value? Where does the water come from?

Lunch at Bob’s Big Boy
On Saturday, February 16, while we were all in Pasadena visiting the ‘old Howard Street neighborhood’ (Chapter 1959), we stopped at a Bob’s Big Boy restaurant near the corner of Lake  St .and Colorado  Blvd. for lunch. I walked out of the parking lot to stand beside Lake St. in order to get a good vantage from which to videotape the familiar, mountain configurations. It so happened that few minutes earlier, when we were in the old neighborhood, a mere two miles north, we could see the mountains, but from our downtown location, the smog obscured their detail. Try as I may, I couldn’t see the mountains in the viewfinder nor get their image on videotape.

A moment later, when our party entered Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, a hostess asked, ‘Smoking or non smoking?’ Her inquiry was a question commonly asked before determining where to seat a restaurant’s patrons. In a joking and slightly mocking voice, I asked, ‘What difference does it make with the smog so bad you can’t see the mountains?’ The hostess gave me a dead pan look and thankfully didn’t reply to my comment. A little embarrassed, from having stated the obvious to a disinterested functionary employee, I still found it a little macabre that the residents should worry about protecting their lungs for thirty minutes when eating, while their homes, jobs and lives were spent submerged in a yellowish-gray sea of air pollution, with a visibility of less than two miles.

El Monte revisited
After lunch, Mike and Kay took us southeast through El Monte so Donna and I could see the apartment we’d lived for a couple of years just prior to our move to Minnesota.

Our entourage almost missed the 11633 Basye Street apartment address in El Monte as there had been a lot of change in the community since we lived there.
We turned onto Basye Street knowing that the driveway entrance into the apartment complex was still a block down the road. Donna and I were filled with enthusiasm, little realizing that about three minutes later we’d again be at that same corner leaving this neighborhood in stunned disbelief.
In the time it took us to drive that one short block, someone in the van pointed to a window in the apartment complex which had been broken and was then simply covered with a newspaper taped over the hole. Someone else pointed to the fact that bed sheets were being used as an alternative to curtains, over apartment windows.

Just before we turned into the  apartment parking lot, we passed a black, dilapidated ‘bean wagon’ (Mexican gang style car). Sitting inside and standing outside, leaning against the vehicle were six or seven Mexican males all appearing to be in their twenties and early thirties. All were wearing plain white T-shirts with the short sleeves rolled up, all were drinking beer or wine. Since it was illegal to openly drink alcoholic beverages in public, most were drinking from bottles kept ‘out of sight’ in paper sacks. They looked like a tough bunch and were probably part of a loosely affiliated local gang.

Feeling a little apprehension, we turned into the parking lot and drove toward the rear, where there was an area to turn around. Originally, we’d intended to get out of the van and videotape the ol’ apartment complex, however, the disintegration seen about the neighborhood made us decide to stay in the vehicle. Between Mike’s $25,000 to $30,000 van, our manner of dress, the video equipment, etc., we’d be prime targets for robbery in this type of neighborhood.

As we drove slowly through the parking lot, we looked through the breezeway hoping to glimpse the swimming pool. We could see the small commons lawn had been replaced by gravel. The walls along the back of the complex had been profusely sprayed with graffiti.

Parked about the parking lot were several more ‘Bean wagons’ in various states of decomposition. The ‘Bean wagons’ all shared similar characteristic, regardless of how old or dented the paint job or auto body had become. They all had either a black or purple paint job; all displayed shiny, expensive hub caps; there was some combination of  decorator cloth fringe around the windows; fake fur on the dash board; religious figurines and-or other gadgetry dangling from the rear view mirror; all were older, cheaper model cars.

Mike turned the van around at the back of the parking lot, near a growing pile of refuse. At the spot where Donna and I use to park our car and motorcycle, we noted that an adjacent privacy fence had been sprayed with graffiti and partially knocked over, undoubtedly having been rammed by a car. At this point everyone was anxious to leave the neighborhood and get back out amongst the anonymity of traffic that flowed down Peck   Road, this was not the kind of place to stop.

When we turned out of the parking lot back out onto Basye Street, someone pointed to a peculiar sight, something we’d missed a couple of minutes earlier. In the apartment complex across the street from ‘ours,’ each apartment had its own private balcony. A decade earlier, people were frequently seen sitting out on their balcony reading the newspaper, talking, or having a barbecue. Things had really changed! Nearly every balcony had sprouted a spider web like clothes line, each filled with laundry. The scene was jarring, because of the juxtaposition between a relatively modern apartment buildings and a ‘turn of the century’ tenement district.

Several blocks further south on Peck Road, we passed the location where there had once been a large thriving shopping center. The buildings remained, however, all the retail merchants had left and the store windows were boarded over with sheets of plywood. We drove past the two-city-block-size site, our mouths agape with surprise. Pieces of paper, a few cans, an automobile tire and a few pioneer weeds were all that graced the huge parking lot where we once browsed and shopped.

In 1974, the ratio of ‘whites’ to other races in El Monte had been about 85:15, by this time, our 1985 visit, the ratio had reversed. Over that short period of time, whites hadn’t just drifted out of the area, they were apparently in full retreat. Meanwhile, the working class neighborhood had become  impoverished. Almost overnight, as time is measured in the affairs on Man, El Monte became become a Third World city [6].

Music [midi: Terminator 2]

Tuesday, 19 February, “All Aboard!”
After a great visit with Mike, Kay and the kids, our time to leave arrived.
On the morning of our departure, we traveled from San Bernardino to Los Angeles in an Amtrak coach.  The large Coach compartment was clean, comfortable and identical to the one we rode in from St. Cloud to Chicago a couple of weeks earlier. Once again there were few people riding in the Coach, so we had pairs of adjacent seat on either side of the aisle.

The three of us were feeling ‘a little under the weather,’ when we left, undoubtedly a result of all the nervous excitement we’d experienced traveling, eating different foods, and the changes in our daily habits and schedule. Donna had a sore throat, I felt puny, as if I were on the verge of coming down with a cold, and Jane was cranky.

Although the ride to Los Angeles was only sixty miles, it provided a very interesting overview of the Los Angeles Urban Region.

Around 6:30 AM, at mornings first light, we crossed over the new eight lane #210 Freeway, once again traveling through communities from a vantage point few people see. I sat silently by the window, grimly observing as the train passed through residential neighborhoods, behind industries and near retail centers. It was disheartening to see a continual eyesore of refuse built up just out of sight of the roads that passed by the front of the buildings. I wondered why, with the trash collection facilities available, the people didn’t pick up their effluent.

In one large working class community, individual back yards fell into three fairly evenly divided categories: 1) Clean and well-kept, reflecting the pride of ownership; 2) Trashed, with stripped automobiles and auto parts laying about, as well as junk and refuse of unknown origin scattered about the yard. 3) Yards that had literally reverted back  to the wild, complete with knee-high or taller grass and weeds, bushes that had over the decades  escaped care and spread profusely, and small trees some of which simply died in years past and now stood without their bark.

Business’s in Los Angeles made liberal use concertina wire, more so than in any other city seen during our trip. We saw many places of business with the razor-sharp ‘ribbon’ style concertina strung in winding bands along the top of chain link security fencing and, or, along the top perimeter of business roof tops.

Frequently, we saw graffiti painted or sprayed on available flat surfaces. Most of the work was applied directly from a can of spray paint, with little or no artistic intent. This form of expression has become a blight on walls, highway over passes, the back and sides of business buildings and even on private homes and garages, in older urban neighborhoods.

Several times, while crossing the city we saw the symbols “D swastika T.” Upon inquiry we were told it meant, ‘Dog of a Town’, a symbolic reference to the oppression, ostensibly used by whites, to keep the poor ‘Chicano’ population in poverty. Where ever Mexican graffiti has a social message it is aimed at whites. Most of the graffiti consisted of names or terms (probably much of this is gang related), i.e.: JOC ROC NO 1,   El Chino, TONY“, etc.. Some of the Mexican inspired graffiti was even a little artistic, at least more so than what we saw in the Colored ghettos of the upper Midwest.

We arrived at the Union Station depot in Los Angeles  at 7:20 AM and found some comfortable chairs for our two and a half hour layover.

Union Station depot was a large, older building, looking ever so much like it had been constructed during the 1930s or 1940s. It’s wide floor space was ‘T’ shaped, while the floors themselves were of inlaid marble that was well polished. The building had a very high wooden ceiling, so high in fact, that several pigeons had made their home inside. The half dozen or so birds freely flew about, well above our head, as they went from location to location watching for crumbs of food on the floor.

There were very few people in the depot, so it was rather quiet, but whenever someone coughed or dropped a suitcase, the noise seemed to echo through the empty expanse of the building. Along the ‘lower leg of the T’, was the depot’s main Waiting Room where Donna, Jane and I sat. At juncture the ‘top of the T’,  was a forty-foot wide by thirty foot high arch. Almost beneath the arch was a coffee shop and a magazine store. Beyond the arch and down either side wing of the depot, were more Waiting Rooms with polished wooden benches, large clean bathrooms and ticket booths. We chatted for a while then took turns watching the luggage and browsing around the building, going to the bathroom, and visiting the News shop.

About 9:30 AM we heard an announcement over the station intercom, stating, “First Call to Board the Coast Starlight Number, Number 14, at Gate E!” Shortly thereafter we boarded the train and chose vacant cabin #4, in Sleeper car #2.

While the train prepared to leave, our sleeper car attendant, Jonathan Davis, introduced himself saying he would  be with us to Portland,Oregon. Mr. Davis was about a thirty-five year old white man, with black hair that was beginning to gray. He had a medium build, stood about 5 foot 8 inches tall and had a slight tendency to stutter.

About 1:00 PM we were an hour north of Los Angeles and traveling amongst steeply sloped coastal hills. The hills were covered with lush vegetation, various grasses and brush which at this time of year made them a pleasant green. Among the hills were moderate value homes situated on five to ten acre lots. Many of the homeowners were seen raising a couple of horses, complete with horse sheds and white painted wooden cross fencing. I surmised that being so close, within commuting distance of a major Los Angeles suburb, that the acreage might cost as much, if not more than the house its self.

Ever so often we passed more gentle slopes that were planted to lemon orchards.
As the train came out into a widened valley between the hills, we found much of the flat space planted to vegetable crops. The tillable ground  appeared to be a sandy loam. Long, removable, irrigation lines had been stretched out along the crops rows in several fields and a fine mist could be seen spraying out over the vegetables. A couple of men were standing nearby in each irrigated field, probably waiting a given amount of time to move the sprinklers.

Approaching Oxnard, California, the train moved away from the coastal hills and inland onto a flat plain. Essentially the entire plain was planted to citrus orchards or vegetable row crops. Here and there in the large vegetable fields were groups of migrant Mexican workers. In one field they were picking cauliflower, in another lettuce, elsewhere broccoli and cabbage. While most of the workers were bent over picking the vegetables, then placing them in either a wooden tray or cardboard box, others had the duty of carrying the filled containers to a nearby truck that followed as they progressed across the field.

Configuration of Amtrak’s, Coast Starlight

=== C-3 C-2 C-1 L D S2 S-1 C-C B E-2 E-1 North

C=Coach, S=Sleeper car, = Our sleeper compartment, D=Diner, L=Lounge, C-C=Coach with Crew quarters, B=Baggage, E=Engine

Afternoon and evening
Donna went to the Snack bar at noon and bought back two cans of soda pop, where upon, we had a picnic lunch of Italian sausage sandwiches, that Mike and Kay made for us that morning.

By early afternoon the train had moved back to running along the Pacific coast.  North of Oxnard we traveled through miles of sand dunes, where all we saw was dense chaparral brush, telephone or electric power lines and the rail road track. There were  long expanses where no other traces of Man could be seen.

WHile the sky was overcast in the morning,it cleared during the early afternoon. Meanwhile, a strong and continuous wind blew across the landscape, buffeting the chaparral and causing the grasses to dance on the sand dunes, making the vegetation appear to be in a rushing current.

Having lived in Minnesota for eleven years, we found it enjoyable looking out over the ocean, where we could see spray blown from the white caps, and watching waves break along the shoreline. At one point, we watched two fishing trawlers at work about a half mile out. Nearer shore, several hundred sea gulls were bobbing about in the water, while several thousand gulls stood on shore watching. I guessed that the fishermen and birds were waiting for a school of fish to arrive.

Ever so often we passed an offshore oil platform. The platforms appeared to be one to two miles from shore and were spaced between five to ten miles apart along the coast.

A sudden announcement over the trains intercom system startled us, stating, “In California, smoking cigars or pipes may be done only in private cabins or rest rooms. Marijuana is illegal and may not be smoked at all on the train…”

The announcement continued, listing a variety of rules, regulations and restrictions of which I did not take note. Interestingly, California has found it necessary to expound rules and regulations, more than all the other states that we’d traveled through, combined. From my brief and limited observation, particularly in the southern half of California, the residents are engrossed in a plethora of legal sensibilities to the point of ad nauseum. It reminded me of the hostess at Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Pasadena, who inquired, ‘Smoking or non smoking’, before seating us, while outdoors, visibility was limited to less than two miles by the smog.

We went to the Diner car for our 5:30PM table reservation. Donna and I both ordered the prime rib entrée, which came with steamed mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes, a variety of warm dinner rolls, tossed salad, and milk.

During the first half of our meal (about twenty miles south of Salinas, California), we watched the sun slowly sinking behind the coastal range mountains. In the distance, we could see fog moving inland, seeping amongst the valleys, between the hills and surrounding their bases. We had a quiet supper, enjoying the sunset and sights that whisked by, relaxing after another fun and event filled day.

Returning to our cabin, we opened several premixed Margarita’s and sat back to take in the view while we chatted amongst ourselves. Low in the darkening western sky, we watched Venus become visible.
Before long it was pitch dark outside and our attention turned inward to chatting and playing with Jane.

As we came around a hill and began descending, suddenly we had a large panoramic vista, one which offered quite a visual impact: At an elevation below us and extending for miles, was a virtual sea of illuminated dots. The air was crystal clear making the myriad of lights appear to be sparkling jewels or a sprinkling of Fairy dust. There were a great number of amber street lights intermingled with red ‘stop lights’ and green ‘go lights.’ Scattered about, were the long display lights seen on billboards, while all across this spectacular menagerie were the moving lines of automobile headlights and red auto tail lights, several floodlights were moving about criss-crossing in the sky.

As we drew nearer, muted whitish-yellow and yellowish- gray interior house lights became visible. Occasionally, when we passed a home near the rail road track, we could see into the windows where there appeared to be lights of variegated color, emanations from the household’s color television. It looked so dreamy and peaceful outside amongst the lights.  When we crossed a freeway overpass, the sight of  high density traffic brought me back to the realization that beyond our cabin window was a teeming mass of humanity and that we were entering San Jose, California–a major sprawling city.

Music [Album/midi: A.I., Dreams]

Wednesday, February 20, In silence
I awoke at 4:00 AM, wiggled into my clothes and went to the bathroom.
Returning to our cabin, I found that Donna had folded the bottom berth back in the seat configuration, then crawled into the top berth with Jane to get a little more sleep. I turned on a small overhead personal lamp in the lower seat, retrieved my pencil and note pad from our ‘carry-on case’ and looked out the darkened window to get my bearings.
Outside, it was very dark and overcast. I surmised we were in the mountains, because the infrequent lights I saw were well below our elevation and far, far away. To my right rear, shining from a nearly recessed fixture on the wall was a high intensity lamp which I’d switched on allowing me to see and write. As we rolled on through the night, the train swayed this way and that, making the bright circle of light on my stenographers pad move back and forth with small swirling jumps.

Looking about, and listening, I noted how very quiet it was aboard the train during that early hour. The only audible sounds were the “rumble, rumble, clack, clack” of the trains heavy wheels on the track and the “jiggle, jiggle, squeak, squeak” of our Sleeper compartment door.

Our cabin door was closed and its heavy privacy curtain pulled shut. Sitting in the small compartment with the upper berth folded down to within inches above my head and unable to see out into the Sleeper car’s corridor made it feel like I was inside a mechanical womb. Thinking about this, I realized that private cabins that will exist on early space stations and our first manned planetary probes will undoubtedly be something like this. Of course they will be designed with concepts of human engineering and therefore adequate, but they maybe too small for many personal memento’s a pioneer would like to have brought along. The inadequacies will only become meaningful after the first few weeks, when the excitement evolves into routine.

I came out of my early morning daydream when a growing discomfort in my ears was suddenly relieved, and the air pressure was equalized. Although it was too dark to see out the cabin window, I realized we were changing elevation and were definitely in the mountains.

Around 6:00AM, Donna and Jane got up and dressed. About that time, we were gaining elevation, and skirting Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon.
The train was not moving so fast as it wound its way through the mountains.
As light from the morning sun diffused through the cloudy sky  and down amongst the valleys, we saw we were traveling through a pine forest which had about an eighteen inch snow cover. A sign posted along the railroad tracks pointed out Sharp Peak (elevation 5,960) several miles to our west. Our map showed the peak to be very near Crater Lake National Park.

Later, as we crossed the Cascade Mountain Range, enroute to Portland, Oregon, the snow became quite deep.  We could see from the freshly graded piles of eight foot high, canyon-like snow, beside the track, that the railways snow removal equipment had recently been at work.

As the Coast Starlight creaked along its steel trail on the side of the mountain, I craned my  head to look up the nearby slope. There were large pines with heavy snow loads on their boughs extending up the mountainside as far as the sky. Beside the train, the snow banks were becoming very deep making me wonder about the possibility of an avalanche.

[Photograph taken from our Coast Starlight Amtrak train, as it traveled through the wintry mountains of  the Pacific northwest.]

For a few moments, the sun broke through the clouds and cascaded down between layers of low flying clouds, creating a very beautiful and panoramic sight. Above and around us were ominous dark gray clouds, yet far below us and bathed in brilliant sunlight, were clouds clinging to the mountain slopes and spread intermittently along the valley floor. It was as though we were traveling through a great crystal palace with shimmering light, snow-covered conifers and bright colors. The brilliance was contrasted by bands of dark clouds that scudded past overhead, white and gray trees beside the tracks and the ghostly fog crowned mountain tops.

This magical apparition was short-lived, because after a few minutes, we entered a cloud bank and our view of the mountains and valley melted away. Inside the fog, our world shrank and became a mottled gray, all that was visible were the hulking masses of conifer trees that passed only a few yards from the Sleeper car windows.

As we descended from the higher mountain elevations, the snow depth rapidly decreased from about five feet, to one foot, then to a few inches. When we passed McCredie Springs, along Oregon Highway#58, enroute to Eugene, there was no snow at all. West of McCredie Springs, the conifer forest gave way to a leafless deciduous forest as we traveled down a long meandering valley. Running through this valley was a shallow fifty foot wide rushing river, with green water. In the valley, everything was wet, there was moss was growing on the tree trunks and in patches on the ground, mud puddles were seen practically everywhere. A timely message was broadcast over the trains intercom, pointing out that this time of year was Oregon’s ‘monsoon season’.

I had always though Oregon was a mountainous state, but found to my surprise that between Eugene and Portland, the soil was low and almost waterlogged. Along this leg of our route there was a lot of very shallow standing water and waterlogged land. The standing water, short grass and gray skies made me think one might expect to see a similar sight traveling in Holland or any area recently reclaimed from the sea. We learned that most of the mint raised in the United States, comes from this area of cool moistness.

Wednesday afternoon
We arrived at Portland, Oregon at 1:30 PM, ending our ride north on Amtrak’s  Coast Starlight. We had a three-hour layover in Portland before boarding Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which would return us to St. Cloud, Minnesota.

Boarding the Empire Builder, we found ourselves in a brand new Sleeper car, which had an upstairs bathroom, only five steps from our cabin!

Leaving Portland, we crossed the Columbia River into Washington and began traveling west. At this time our train was quite short, consisting of only four cars. Since our Sleeper was the last car in the train we took the opportunity to stand at the  open ‘back door’ and watch the edge of town, then the rural environment pass behind us. It was an interesting and unique perspective.

Initial Configuration of Amtrak’s, Empire Builder

===

S1

C-1

L

E-1

 Northeast

S=Sleeper car, = Our sleeper compartment, C=Coach, L=Lounge,  E=Engine

Before long, Jane began rubbing her ears and crying, a sure sign that she was overly tired and wanted to sleep. Donna changed her into her fuzzy, soft pink pajamas and placed her on the top berth for a nap. After supper, which we ate in our cabin, Donna and I had a margarita as we relaxed before going to sleep. We climbed into our berths at 8:00 PM under clear, starry skies and fell right asleep.

The train continued to speed across Washington.

Wednesday, February 20, Table of Onboard expenses:

2   cups of coffee $1.00
7   cartons (8 ounces each) milk $4.20
1   Dorito chips, small bag $0.60
1   can Coke Cola $0.60
1   cheese burger $2.25
1   Boneless Short Rib dinner $8.00
   (from the Lounge Snack Bar)
Expenses $16.65

Sometime during the night we awakened briefly, just long enough to realize our train had stopped in the Spokane, Washington railroad yard, where other cars were being connected to the Empire Builder.

Thursday, February 21, Mountain & Plain
It was a pleasant and exciting experience to awaken each morning to the “rumble rumble clack clack” sound of the train’s heavy wheels on the track and the “jiggle jiggle squeak squeak” of our compartment’s door. The sounds and swaying movement of the train seemed to bracket our day with the promise of adventure, interesting new sights and experiences.
In a moment of reflection, I recalled traveling by train with my mother. That was in 1946. We took the train from Chicago to Seattle to visit with my father who was on leave from the Navy, then we traveled back to Chicago. I was four years old at the time and on a train that went through St Cloud, Minnesota and traveled the very tracks the Empire Builder was now traveling.

At 3:00AM Thursday morning, we climbed from our berths to greet the day. Even though we were up quite early, we felt as refreshed as though we had a full night’s sleep. So as not to disturb Jane, we quietly converted the bottom berth back into seats, then moved Jane unto the top berth to finish her night’s rest. While one of us stayed with Jane and our belongings, we took turns going to the bathroom, to brush our teeth and take a delightful, early morning wash cloth bath.

As soon as we were both washed and dressed, Donna went to the Diner car and brought us each back, a cup of coffee. While Donna was gone, I checked the train schedule against a map of the western United States and  found we were near the Idaho-Montana border.

Note: Even though there was no one up and about in the Diner car at 3:00AM, we previously found that the Conductors always kept two pots of coffee warm overnight– for the engineers and himself. It was from this special supply that we had been getting our early morning coffee, ever since our second morning aboard Amtrak, two weeks earlier.

Before dawn, we entered the seven miles long Flathead Tunnel, the second longest railway tunnel in the Western Hemisphere. The interior walls of the tunnel appeared to be only about four feet from the side of the railway cars and about the same distance above the roof. About every half mile there was a recession in the tunnel wall that was large enough for several people to stand. These were the only areas in the tunnel which were illuminated. During the nine minutes that we were in the tunnel we must have been changing elevation, because my ears felt discomfort and popped several times to equalize pressure.

When  the sun first peeked above the horizon, we were leaving Whitefish,  Montana and winding up into the towering landscape of the Rocky Mountains; continuing to gain elevation, we worked our way back into the mountain range. The sky was dismal, overcast and gray, the ground covered with eight to ten inches of snow.
Before long we were skirting the southern border of Glacier National Park. The crests and saddles of all the mountains were covered with snow. Many of the north facing slopes carried so much snow that few trees had found a niche to grow. Meanwhile, southern facing slopes were covered with dense coniferous forest.

Occasionally, we’d pass an isolated rural house and see a TV satellite dish in the yard. It was strange, but not surprising to see backwoods homes with satellite dishes, television might be amongst the only socialization some of the residents have for weeks on end during major snowstorms.

We noted that in the high mountain valleys, that houses were built with steep angled roofs, so snow would easily slide off. Where the snow was seen to have slid off a roof, it lay heaped in a pile four feet high along the sides of the house. Some houses had a very heavy snow load on their roof. One deserted cabin roof had collapsed under the snow. Passing through the small community of Essex, we saw wisps of bluish gray wood smoke exiting  home chimneys, the sparse community looked warm, peaceful, and friendly, but seemed very remote.

Slightly ominous thoughts came to mind when I thought about the combined factors of that environment: The inhospitably rugged and rocky mountains; the nearly isolated small homes that possibly depended to a large degree on their fireplaces for heat; the deep snow packs; the obviously cold, long winters and short growing seasons found there on the edge of Glacier National Park [7].

We rolled through Marias Pass, elevation 5,216 feet at 8:30AM, thus crossing the Continental Divide, which incidentally was the lowest pass between Canada and New Mexico.
Just east of the pass summit, we entered a strange land, made up of small knolls. The windward side of these rock hills were windswept, barren and clean, but on the lee side, lay snow drifts twelve feet high. As we passed through this high area, hunger over took us so we folded down our cabin’s small table and dug into the ‘food carry-on bag’ for breakfast. Donna had two each small boxes of Special K cereal, while I had two small boxes of Corn Flakes. We bought milk for our cereal from the Snack bar.

A mere forty-five minutes after crossing Marias Pass, we were rapidly descending from the mountains, moving eastward out onto an immense treeless, grassy plain. As the miles passed, we moved further and further out onto what became the practically featureless and visually boring Montana flat land. Looking back, behind us, to our west, we could see clouds obscuring the peaks of the Rocky Mountains where we had just been.

By the time the train reached Cut Bank, Montana, we were seeing evidence of ‘strip farming’.
In an attempt to control soil erosion, winter wheat was planted in strips about one hundred feet wide and up to a mile long. Between the tilled strips were fallow strips of the same length, so that only one half of a field was under tillage at any one time.

About one hundred fifty miles out onto the Montana plains, we passed perhaps a half dozen small communities with a combined population of maybe six thousand people.

As the Empire Builder traveled east, paralleling the US-Canadian border, which laid some twenty-five miles to our north, we passed across miles and miles of land without seeing a single house; I estimated the population density to be on the order of one person per square mile.

When we approached a small town, it made me think of how it might look approaching an oasis, these were the only places where deciduous trees grew. The newer houses were mobile homes, most of which were clumped together in small mobile home parks. There was no urban sprawl, a communities homes were all located close by one another. I didn’t see any evidence of affluence, infact, most everything looked old, haphazardly set in place and well used. Although there was an agricultural base across the state, the farms appeared to be enormous, being simply grain based. I had no idea what the majority of the people did there for a living.

With an unobstructed sky and no appreciable incandescent light scatter, an astronomy hobbyist with telescope could have the perfect observatory– for part of the year.

The environment looked so dry, I wondered where, in centuries past, the Blackfoot Indians and huge herds of buffalo got their water. Looking at the miles of grain fields it was easy to assume that when 19th Century ‘Whites’ killed off the buffalo, that Man eventually replaced beast as a consumer of grains that had grown there.

Meanwhile, as we traveled, I spent some time each day taking notes for my journals, playing with Jane and chatting with Donna. Jane frequently sat on Donna’s lap, while the two read stories, or Jane sat on the floor playing with a doll. Every so often, Jane would accompany one of us as we walked through the train. Occasionally, we’d sit in the Observation car’s swivel seats and look at the passing terrain through the large window,s that curved up over the top of the train.

[Photograph, Amtrak Observation car. Standing in the second story, Amtrak Observation car, with its side facing swivel seats. A lower floor (stairs center left at dark colored sign) has a snack bar, couch, several tables and a television.]

Several times, we sat in the sofas and browsed through magazines in the Observation Car or went down stairs to the Snack bar. When Jane became tired, we’d let her sleep on a seat in the empty cabin directly across the hall from ours. Occasionally, Donna and Jane would sit together in the adjacent cabin, until Jane fell asleep.
We certainly had a great trip to California and the return trip was equally as nice. We fell in love with traveling by train.

Crew and passengers
As previously mentioned, our family walked through the train several times, exploring and on round about trips to either the Diner, or combined Observation car – Snack bar. During several trips, we counted the number of people and found the train was carrying about of one hundred sixty passengers, and was therefore loaded to fifty seven percent capacity. The numbers entered  in the following diagram, directly below the Sleeper and Coach cars, represent the estimated ‘full capacity’ of these cars, not counting the Amtrak crew.

Configuration of Amtrak’s, Coast Starlight

=== S-2 S1 C-3 L D C-2 C-C B-2 B-1 E-2 E-1 East
40 40 80 80 40

S=Sleeper car, = Our sleeper compartment, C=Coach, D=Diner, L=Lounge, C-C=Coach with Crew quarters, B=Baggage, E=Engine

As we found earlier, the train’s crew was made up from two groups: 1) The railroad employees who operated the train and, 2)  the Amtrak employees who ran the passenger services. The following lists show the jobs of each crew member, we guessed at their job title’s.

RAILROAD EMPLOYEES AMTRAK EMPLOYEES
1 Baggage car attendant 1 Forman in charge of  Amtrak employees
3 Checking train (1 is the Conductor) 4 Sleeper and Coach attendants
2 Engineers 1 Snack bar operator
6 Railroad Employees 1 Amtrak Ticket taker
2 Waiters
1 Maitre de
2 Cooks
12 Amtrak Employees

There were eighteen ‘operations and service’ personnel on a train carrying about one hundred sixty passengers. Discussing this with our Sleeper Car attendant, we found that during summer months, the train is continuously filled to capacity and reservations for a Sleeper cabin must be made months in advance.

At Havre, Montana, the train stopped in a railway yard to refuel, dump garbage, and recharge the toilet’s water reserve. The stop was long enough for us to get off the train, and give us the opportunity to look around at the large freight yard which contained ten or eleven sets of parallel side tracks. On one track sat twenty-one flatbed cars loaded with new wooden railroad ties. On another track  there were more than thirty grain hopper cars strung together with an additional assortment of tankers, box cars and some unknown types of what looked like railroad track maintenance equipment.

About seventy miles east of Havre, our train was sidetracked at Wagoner, Montana waiting for a west-bound train to pass. It was an unusual ‘town’ with a history.

We were surprised that Wagoner was even shown on the map as being a town, because it consisted of only about six very old buildings sitting in the midst of the huge, featureless Montana plains. Most of the buildings, which I took to be houses, were built fairly close together, huddling together while surrounded by vast empty spaces. Some of the buildings appeared to be uninhabited, all were weather-beaten and none were painted. Scattered everywhere amongst the buildings were a decades old accumulation of trash. There were soda pop and beer cans, papers and countless pieces of various flotsam laying about.  There were several rusting automobiles bodies from earlier decades of this century as well as a couple broken down autos from more recent eras. Dotting the landscape  in and about Wagoner, were automobile tires, a rusting metal bed frame with springs, all partially covered by sand. Several houses had sagging unpainted fences. We didn’t see any people moving about outdoors or any newer vehicles, so I couldn’t tell if the ‘town’ was  deserted or not. If Wagoner wasn’t a ghost town it certainly was well on its way, whatever happened to the town, it had seen better days– a long, long time ago.

It was right there, in Wagoner, in 1901, (probably within only a few yards from where we sat) that Kid Curry, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid jumped and robbed the Great Northern Oriental Limited.
Looking out the high window in our Sleeper compartment, I could almost see the robbery plan. Geographically, Wagoner was located about half way between Chicago and Seattle, Washington. The gang had come in by horseback over the plains. I wondered how long they waited, in what must have been the ‘busy’ young frontier town of Wagoner before the train arrived. Old photographs I’d seen of the three bandits, showed they were all well dressed and looked rather “dandy” to be way out in the middle of Montana. Surely, their presence must have raised some questions in the wild and woolly days of 1901. In any respect, the Great Northern stopped to take on water when the outlaws overcame the train’s crew. The gang blew up the Express car and rode out across the plains with $68,000, a large sum of money for the turn of the century. [In 2011 the purchasing power of their $68,000 take would be equivalent to around $2,000,000,000!]

Thursday’s supper reservations
At 5:55 PM an announcement was made over the trains intercom stating, “Person’s holding 6:00 o’clock dinner reservations may now come to the Diner.”  That would be us, and a few others… (smile)

When we arrived at the Diner car, the Maitre de directed us to our table. The tables were set on either side of an aisle along the windows. Each table had a complement of four wooden chairs, two on each side of the table;  each table was covered with a clean, textured, tablecloth.

Several dinner accouterments had already been placed on the table before we arrived.
In the center of the table, near our window was a clear glass vase with a fake, but realistic looking yellow pedaled flower. Although the flower wasn’t real, it’s presence added a sense of elegance to the experience. Beside the vase sat a small oblong container  containing small packages of sugar and imitation sweeteners. Set beside the sugar and sweetener container was a small bowl with individual servings of whipped butter. Beside the vase was a stainless steel wire rack which held three stainless steel bowls. Each bowl contained a half dozen or more small, individual serving size packages of salad dressing, blue cheese, French and Italian dressing. Our sturdy, white plastic eating utensils were neatly wrapped in napkins at each place setting.

Soon after being seated, our waiter set each of our places with a plastic glass of water, handed Donn and me a menu and bid us a good evening.

A few minutes later, the waiter returned for our order, and left a basket containing a variety of five very tasty warm dinner rolls. The rolls were wrapped and covered with a white cloth napkin to help retain the warmth.

That evening I ordered Meatless Lasagna ($5.00), while Donna had the Boneless Short Rib dinner ($8.00).

Shortly after we’d placed our order, our waiter brought us each a Styrofoam bowl filled with a crisp, lettuce and tomato tossed salad. The salad consisted of a mixture of various types of lettuce and a single large wedge of tomato. We immediately chose our preference of a small container of salad dressing from the previously mentioned stainless steel bowls that sat on our table. The protective film of tinfoil and plastic was peeled off the top of the containers and the individual size serving of dressing was poured over the salads.
[View into the Diner car, where we enjoyed tasty, sunset suppers whilst traveling through the scenic western countryside.  The kitchen is located downstairs.]

Next, we peeled the tinfoil-plastic film off our small tubs of whipped, imitation butter and scooped the contents out onto our dinner roll. By that time, the waiter had returned with three cartons of milk and a set of clear plastic glasses.
We ate our salads and roll in leisure, while chatting and watching the countryside pass at dusk.

Just as we finished our salads, the meal entrees arrived. Each entrée, and side dish, came in an oblong, rigid, white plastic dish measuring nine inches long and seven inches wide. In the center of the dish was the meat (or meatless entrée) which was flanked on one side by mixed, steamed vegetable and on the other by mashed potato.

When our meal was finished, the maitre de brought our tab and returned a few minutes later to collect the pay. We found that ‘change’ was made in such a way so it would be easy for the patron to leave a tip. As customers stood to leave, the waiter would approach  the table lean forward, crane his neck and look about anxiously to see if a tip was left for his services. I thought the procedure lacked taste, but suppose the waiters were paid minimum wage and depended on tips to earn a decent living. We didn’t disappoint.

Upon returning to our cabin, Donna changed Jane into her pajamas and laid her down to sleep. We celebrated our last evening abroad the train by sharing a couple of cans of premixed Mai Tai’s whilst chatting about the sights and experiences from our day.

By this time we were starting to think about home and were hoping everything had fared well and with property and pets during our absence.

Friday, February 22, “Saint Cloud!”
Our travel alarm awoke us at 4:00AM on Friday morning.  We hurriedly dressed and made sure all of our ‘carry on’ belonging were securely packed. As we walked along the trains hallways that one last time, everything seemed so different.

The sedate, dim illumination along the aisle, the rocking motion of the Sleeper car and squeaking sounds of our cabins door that greeted us every morning and throughout the days of our trip, seemed all part of the mystery and magic of the trip, but as we prepared to leave the train, their accustomed friendliness faded into the mechanical disturbances they were. That morning we weren’t simply embarking on another day of adventure, we were almost home.

The Empire Builder arrived at the St. Cloud train depot at about 6:00 AM. Before we collected our baggage from the station master, the train was pulling away from the station en route to Chicago.

Looking about, we were surprised to find that late February’s early morning temperatures were still quite mild and that there was little snow or ice. We loaded our suitcases and ‘carry on bags’ into the trunk of the Toyota and quietly drove to Perkin’s restaurant for breakfast.

The rest of the day was spent unpacking and glumly moping about the house. We were tired and sad to see our vacation end, but happy to be back at our little house in the woods.

Events from the second half of 1985  will be posted in: ‘1985, Age 42-43, Part 2 of 2′.


[1]  A list of some of the books used in this study include:  1) Americans of Royal Descent by Charles Browning, publ. by J.B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, PA.  2) Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists, 4th edition, by Dr. Frederik Lewis Weis, © 1969, Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, page 7.  3) Peerage of England, by Sir Egerton Brydges, K.J., Vol. IX, 1812, First AMS edition 1970, AMS Press Inc., New York, NY 10003, page 468.  4) Complete American Armory and Blue Book by John Matthews, republished 1965 by Heraldic Publishing Co. Inc, page 68.  5) A History of England Under the Anglo- Saxon Kings, first published 1845 by Dr. J.M. Lappenburg, Kennikat Press, New   York, in two volumes.  6) Anglo- Saxon England by F.M. Stenton, 3rd edition, © 1971, Clarendon Press, Oxford.  7) An Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England by Peter Hunt Blair © 1959, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  8) The History of Ireland To The Coming of Henry II, by Authur Ua Clerigh, first publ. 1910, reissued 1970, Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY.  9)  A Social History of Ancient Ireland, Vol II, by P.W. Joyce, first publ. 1913 and reissued 1968 by Benjamin Blom, NY.  10) Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland © 1973, Marjorie O. Anderson, publ. by Rowman and Littlefield,Totowa,NJ.
[2]  See Journal 6, The Travelers Guide To People and Places, page 763.
[3]   See Journal 7, A Sideways Glance To Other Horizons, page 915, Riding The Rails: An Experience Aboard The U.S. Passenger Train System.
[4]  The Sears Building, in downtown Chicago, stood 1454 feet high and was comprised of  110 stories. By comparison, our rural Gilman  property is 1320 feet, or one-quarter mile wide.
[5]  See Journal 9, The People Book, page 1339, “A Visit With California Friends.”
[6]  See also Chapter 1987, “Settling the west: Then, now and again”
[7]  I was familiar with the tragic story of the Donner party pioneers, whom on their way to Sacramento from the east, became stranded by an early winter’s snow in the Sierra Nevada mountain range during the winter of 1846-47. The pioneers did the best they could to make shelters from their covered wagon and small trees cut from the forest, but suffered great hardship. Of the 89 persons in the party, 47 died, those who survived  did so by being forced to resort to  cannibalism. So much for being trapped back in the mountains by deep snow for the winter!

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