Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Look Who I Found!

I took an aimless trip to the mall to see if I could get inspired.  And indeed it happened.  It was not in the way I had ever expected.  I cut back through Penneys on my way back to my car.  There was this woman standing in line that sure had a familiar look.  And then she made that "Louise" expression.  I waited until she had made her purchase and then quietly said, "Diana".   I can't tell you how our hour visit revitalized me.

So much so, that I stopped on my way home, to take this picture of the boats in the bay with a dark sky.  It is a good day.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Posies

With all of the fun Christmas stories, I am hesitant to interject this post, but thought it might be appreciated. Who can resist a beautiful flower, especially this time of year.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Penrose Christmas Chronicles December 17 2011: A Tiny Bag of Candy for Louise

The Penrose Church house was in use until the mid 1930s for various activities, and remained in use for occasional activities like elections, dances, community meetings and the like until the 1950s when my Dad and Uncle Norman dismantled the building.  For 13 years or so our Grandpa Wasden was Branch President and Bishop.  Some time in the mid-1930s, a Christmas party was held in the Church house. A large decorated Christmas tree was set up at the front of the meeting room.  I don't remember if a program took place.  All I remember is how excited I was waiting for Santa, because I knew he was going to pass out little bags of candy to each of the children.  Instead of just going around and passing out the candy, Santa had a list of names.  How could Santa get the names of the Penrose children?  And finally Santa called my name: "Dwight."  How could he know my name was Dwight?  I eagerly went to the front to retrieve my Christmas bounty, so very, very rare in those dark days of the Great Depression.  As Santa handed me my bag, I said, "But my sister Louise is home sick and couldn't come tonight and she won't have a bag of candy."  And, lo and behold, Santa retrieved another tiny bag of treats with the name "Louise" written on it.  So I took our two little sacks of treats home and gave Louise her own candy sack, feeling relieved.  I was sorry she had not been able to go to the Church house and see the tree and have it personally handed to her by Santa, but at least Santa had not forgotten her, and I was glad.  I have never forgotten this event, another enduring childhood Christmas memory that has stayed with me forever.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Penrose Christmas Chronicles for December 16 2011: The Twenty-Five Cent Christmas Tree

When we were very young, we all continually pestered Mother to get a tree so we could put it up, decorate it, and turn on the magic colored lights a couple of weeks before Christmas.  But Mother never relented, and we always had the tradition of putting our tree up and decorating it on Christmas eve, then all of us sitting in wonder at the magic of the colored lights.  I wondered all my life why we had to wait until Christmas eve.  Then one day, just a few years ago, one of my sisters told me the reason for our late tree.  "Didn't you know," my sister said, "that Mother waited until Christmas eve to get a tree because she could go to town and buy one from the Boy Scouts for 25 cents, and that otherwise she could not have afforded to buy one?"  A tearful recognition set in as I thought about all of those Christmas eves when we finally got our tree and decorated it in time for Santa.  Not to mention my memories of Dad, who, though he could build houses, barns, cabinets, desks, make incredible inlaid wood marquetry works of art, and anything else, struggled each year to nail a couple of strips of wood together for a Christmas tree stand.  But ultimately he succeeded  while we some times worried how we were going to ever get the tree up. And thus, Santa was spared coming each year to our little house on another Penrose frosty Christmas eve without a Christmas tree to greet him.  Or was it her?  We would never know, and still after all these years, Christmas eve remains a mystery to be cherished.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Letter to My Siblings: December 15 2011

I told Judy last night that I have a theory about why we six have always managed to stick together despite some being fabric store fanatics, some being spendthrifts, and the like.  My theory is this: We were isolated. We had no other playmates.  Mother built a safe haven for us and Dad protected us.  We had to depend on each other, look after each other.  Like the time the schoolbus driver kicked Louise (Louise? are you kidding?) off the bus for something she didn't do, and we all dutifully and loyally trooped off with her.  The girls had no choice but to be close since they shared a room, all crammed cozily together, while I luxuriated in my private room, until Steve came along and started annoying me.  I never had a male playmate.  I had four sisters for playmates.  I never learned sports, how to throw a ball.  But I learned to make up fantastic tales in my imagination, to invent games with my sisters, to lead Liz astray who believed everything, to play annie-annie over the house, to throw rocks on the galvanized metal outhouse roof when someone was in there, to play school, road, build forts out of sagebrush, to haul Mother's Children's Literature book around the yard, to dig holes in the orchard to hide from Mother, to play our imaginary family sagas. Louise taught me to read, I tried to teach Liz how to read but she couldn't understand ditto marks.  Sad.

It wasn't just that we were isolated and had no other playmates.  Our home was a safe haven.  We never felt threatened.  We were never hungry.  We stayed warm in the winter with coal and cottonwood.  We were lonesome for Dad and watched for the little Model A roadster on Saturday nights when he would come bearing the Denver Post funnies and maybe make a kite and fly it for us. We ran in the country lanes, climbed on the snowdrifts in winter, played in the leaves in autumn.  We lived in close proximity to one another.  We pretty much knew everything there was to know about each other.  My sisters tattled on me.  Other than little spats, I don't every remember any serious animosity that ever existed among any of us. We teased, we played pranks.  We never talked about fairness, how tough life was, or why we had so little.  We grew up together, and we have continued to live life together, no matter how far apart or how much our lives diverged.  We have never, any of us, ever really left Penrose.

Students and Teachers at the Penrose School early 1900s

I'm sure this page from Mother's original photo album has been posted before, but after posting the photo above (I don't know where it came from), I thought it appropriate to show the two photos on the left of the students and teachers in the Penrose school.  Where did all these kids come from?  There aren't a half dozen people living in the Penrose valley today.  The school was a tribute to pioneer resourcefulness and emphasis on education, largely fostered by early farmers who had little, if any, education themselves.

The Penrose School House at the turn of the Century

This blurry photo may well be the only one we will ever see of the original Penrose school and school yard in the early 1900s.  The school was located only a short distance from the home in which we grew up, but the evidence of its existence had long vanished when we lived there.  However blurry, the photo evokes memories of a barren school yard, an outhouse, home made swings, and children at play.  Where did they all go?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ann and Liz

I was going through old photo files today and came across this one. I thought it appropriate even though it may have been posted before.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Chronicles December 9 2011: When Santa Forgot to Come

When we were very young, probably in the 4-6 yr. old range or thereabouts, Mother informed us one wintry day before Christmas that Santa would be late that year.  She also informed us that Santa had found it necessary to recruit Ezra the Mailman to deliver our package that Santa had arranged to be sent from Monkey Ward.  We were disappointed, of course, but full of wonder and anticipation over what bounteous gifts we would get when Ezra delivered Santa's package from Monkey Ward.  I don't remember what we actually got on Christmas day. Usually our stockings were a wondrous treat since Christmas was one of the few days of the year in which we received a bright big orange, bulging out in the toe of our Christmas stockings.  Of course, my short boy's stockings were so much shorter than my sister's much hated long brown stockings, which were valuable only on Christmas day.  Then we always got a few peanuts and a few other nuts and some hard candies.  We savored these priceless treats and stretched them out as far as we could

Then, day after day, I and one or two of my sisters perched eagerly on the roof of our tiny pine slab barn, more of a shed, where Mom milked old Spot, the black and white Holstein that gave us our milk, during the days when Dad was gone seeking work during the Great Depression.  We waited and waited and waited until we could see Ezra coming down the frozen dirt road toward our mail box.  Nothing today.  Our spirits sank again. Nothing the next day.  Would Santa ever get Monkey Ward to send his package with Ezra?  Then one magic day we saw that Ezra had delivered a package by the mailbox. Hurrying down from the barn roof, we ran to the mailbox, filled with excitement and anticipation and wonder.  Taking the package to the house, we opened it, just knowing of the treasures which it contained.

I remember only one gift I got from that magic package:  An aviator's style cap with long ear flaps that buttoned under my chin.  All other memories of that Christmas have vanished.  But forever pressed indelibly on my mind and in my hopes are the eagerness, the wonder, and the joy that we children felt during our scanty Christmases.  Times were hard. Mother was often by herself.  We had no money, no car, no telephone, no inside plumbing. We navigated the dark with kerosene lamps until I was nearly eight years old.  But today's extravagant piles of soon-to-be forgotten luxury toys and bounteous gifts can never be a match in wonder and excitement as we awaited and opened the brown covered package from Monkey Ward that Santa had forgotten to leave us on that cold Christmas eve so long ago.

Background Picture

After much trial and several tribulations here is a background picture. Ann informed me she was tired of autumn leaves and it was Christmas. Why is she always the instigator of everything? Anyway I more or less figured it out. First, convert to "blogger in draft" a sort of beta form of blogger. Which I did in case you notice the format is a tad different. Go to Design.>templatedesigner>background image>upload image.
The image is supposed to be no larger than 1800 x 1600 pixels but I had to get this one down to 500x333.
It's a bit much but the only other choice is to put the picture in the upper left or upper right corner and then have a plain yet-to-be-determined color for the rest of the blog. Feel free to vote.  Or find a better Christmas picture.  At least it's better than solid black.  We'll do better as we figure this out.  L, D.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Penrose Christmas Chronicles

When I was six or seven, I told Mother I would like a book about Jesus for Christmas.  So on Christmas morning here was my wondrous book. The book was a cheap one, marked 29 cents inside the front cover and I am sure even the 29 cents was hard to come by in those troubled days.  I was so proud of this book.  I took it to Sunday School in Byron and showed it to my teacher.  She looked at it and told me "These are such poor pictures of Jesus. He doesn't look kind."  My day was crushed and my heart sank.  Forever after, I have never forgotten my sad feelings when my precious new book that came from Santa Claus was destroyed by an unthinking and careless Sunday School Teacher.  So ever after I have thought, "Be very careful what you tell a child."  And I have never forgotten this incident, seared permanently in my heart.  But I know that Mother loved me enough to honor my humble Christmas request with the best that she could do, and my heart goes out to her even now for this treasured gift after so many, many years.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Importance of People Who Touch Our Lives

My old school chum and Sheep Barn roommate Felix Bessler is in hospice in Cody with terminal lung and liver cancer.  For each of us, we can think of one or more people who said something, did something--an act of love or kindness, a word of encouragement, a suggestion--that altered the course of our lives.  For me, Felix Bessler was one of these persons.

Felix grew up in a large family in a tiny house on Willwood, the farming community south of Powell WY.  He slept with other children in the unheated basement of their small home.  Somehow, he had saved enough money to start school at the University of Wyoming in Laramie the fall after our graduation from Powell High School in 1949.  Louise and I started college at Northwest Community College in Powell.  During Christmas break, I saw Felix, or "Red" as he was then fondly called, at a Powell High School basketball game.  He said, "Blood, I've got an extra bunk in the room in the hayloft of the sheep barn at the UW stock farm.  Why don't you come down with me and go to school there?"  Great question.  I had no money.  I had no job.  I had a scholarship that would pay most of my tuition, only a thimbleful at the time.  Dad cashed the $75 check I earned at my job at the Park County Sentinel, a weekly paper that was about to fold, when we made a quiick trip to Powell where the K Bar was the only place open to cash a check.  I packed my meager belongings in a cardboard box and in my FFA Samsonite suitcase.  Mom and Dad never said, "How do you think you can do this?  You have no money.  You have no job.  You have no clothes."  Instead, they waved goodby on a frosty January 1 as I headed for Willwood to pick up Red and head for Laramie.

Fifteen miles north of Laramie, Red told me that his girlfriend, Dolly, had a cute little blonde girlfriend named Velna and that I should call her when we got to town and go on a blind date to a square dance.  Three or four days later, I knocked on the door of 615 Flint, knees trembling, fearful,  What would she look like?  Would she turn up her nose when she saw me?  Would she think she had made a big mistake?  Off to the square dance we went.  Three years later we got married.  Fifty nine years after that, 62 total, we are still together, though neither of us can square dance any longer.

So Felix was responsible for me going to the University of Wyoming and for finding the girl who would be my lifelong companion.  How much more can one person affect your life than that?  We have stayed in touch over the years.  But I have never forgotten, nor have I ever given Felix enough credit, for the ways in which he changed my life forever.  Thank you Felix (Red), and may you be at peace.

Photo of the Sacred Grove

By the way, the photo I posted on the Blog banner is of the Sacred Grove.  I thought it was appropriate.

December 3, 2011: A Letter to My Siblings

Dear Ann:
Two days ago Velna reminded me it was your birthday.  Of course, I knew that already.  That was the day I walked downtown to urban Powell and noted Dr. Coulston's Cadillac was gone behind the Coulston Clinic where it always was parked.  I put two and two together and when I got home, sure enough, there she was.  I never could figure out why anyone else ever thought this was such a big surprise.  Anybody could have figured this one out.  I do remember you made a lot of racket, but we didn't seem to mind since you were somewhat of a celebrity.

I am proposing that on the 1st day of each month you post the stuff you have bought during the previous month, or that you are thinking of buying this month.  Explain the reasons why everyone else should also buy it.  Then make sure you buy it yourself instead of sending us all of to the store while you laugh your head off at home at how gullible we are.  The lastest: My $30 nucular powered S&P shakers. Ann offered me a free lunch, not knowing how expensive it was going to be. Then she hustled me off to Costco and headed with warp speed to the location on the shelves.  Now she is peddling dirt.  Listen up.  Or better yet set up your own Ann's Terribly Interesting Infomercial Network."    But what would we do without you?

Dear Liz:
You may be the most gullible among us, I thought, until I heard Judy actually forked over a boatload of cash to buy a book Ann recommended.  Are you kidding?  I couldn't ever get her to part with a $20 bill to give to Robert.  But you have the most melodious laugh and the longest and most involved phone answering message.  And you do use big words once in awhile to remind us you were an English teacher.  Or something.

Dear Steve:
How much stuff have you bought that Ann talked you in to?  You may be the wisest one amongst us since as you say, you are not here to get personal pressure and influence to part with your hard earned cash so you will have something later for garage sales and to store in your store room.  We're all happy you are making stuff again.  Send pictures.  Tell Mary Lynn you are sorry.  She'll know for what.

Dear Louise:
We're all happy you got new shingles on your roof and that the storm didn't blow them all off.  Do you remember when you learned a naughty word at school and brought it home and you and I repeated it millions of times in the front yard of the original Penrose house and laughed and laughed and laughed?  I still laugh every time I hear or see that word.  We're all happy that you are happy.  We just need to hear a word or two on blogs once in awhile.  Like, "Good morning. I am fine? How are you? Love, Louise."  Stuff like that.  So we know you're o.k.

Dear whoever is left.  Let's see.  Ann, Liz, Steve, Louise.  Oh yeah, Dear Judy:
Last but not least.  What can I say? I'm living in shock at what a spendthrift you turned out to be. Thank you for checking up on me and Velna so often.  I try not to commit any egregious sins in between your calls.  And we're all amazed at all the things you do--RS, gardening, kid tending, phone calling, doing good works of all kinds and manner. 

There we are.  All six of us.  Can you imagine how empty our lives would be, each without all the other five?
Love, Dwight

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ann!

You couldn't scare anyone if you tried.  Not even your sweet little face would keep the birds out of the strawberries.
Please have a very happy day.   And I am so glad that you are my sister.

Who could resist loving this little girl?