Photos of Brady

Tuesday, September 30, 2003


We had a visitor while we slept. He has been much anticipated and planned for, and after the heat of the summer months, he is very welcome. He is the subject of prose, stories and poems. There is a magical quality to him that is the object of speculation by the old timers and scientific prediction by weather forecasters. Although many have predicted the exact time that he would arrive, they will be disappointed, because he came early.

Jack Frost arrived with a flourish, leaving a trail of shimmering sparkling frost. There is a fairy tale quality to the yard and the big woods surrounding our house, evidence to the path taken by Mr. Frost as he danced over the landscape.

Moonlight illuminates the frost crystals that cover the flower garden. Standing in her place of honor near the middle of the garden, the Last Rose of Summer now nods in sleep. Her last bloom is heavy with frost crystals and bowed in silent salute to Jack Frost.

Smalltown and the surrounding countryside will wake to frost on the pumpkin, and the fall color in the trees will begin to appear in earnest. The arrival of Jack Frost is the true sign of Autumn and signals the end of the harvest season.

There will be excitement among the townfolk, as Mr. Frost was not predicted to arrive until October 18. Speculation will now turn to the first snow of the season and whether we will have a harsher winter than first thought. Weather is a very big part of the fabric of life here in the country, and there will be a flurry of activity to finish the chores necessary to prepare gardens, yards and farms for the coming winter season.

We will be busy here as well as there are spring bulbs to plant, perennials and annuals to cut down and mulching to do. Before daylight breaks I think I will get my jacket and enjoy the wonder of our first frost. Lets take a stroll….down our country road.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, September 29, 2003


Goodbyes are sad. My great Grandmother would not say goodbye, only so long. I suppose she held the same opinion and elected to put goodbye into a vernacular she could deal with. Yesterday afternoon Mom and I had to say goodbye to all of our family that came to Smalltown for the wedding. We stood in the warm autumn sunshine hugging each one and smiling through our tears as they left for their respective homes.

Although we all write letters and call each other to keep in touch, we only see our long distance family for special occasions such as weddings, funerals and vacations. It had been a year since we had seen these family members, and will be at least that long before we see them again.

Today we have to go about the business of putting the house back in order and washing all of the bed linens. We will talk about the wonderful time we had while the family was here, look at the pictures we took and eat leftovers from the food it took Mom a week to prepare. These rituals help lessen the sadness and lift our heavy hearts.

We received a phone call from the relatives that live in Kansas letting us know that they got home safely, but it was after midnight before we heard from the Connecticut family. Their plane had landed safely and they were finally home. Having heard from everyone, I turned out the lights and walked down the hall to get into bed.

Goodbyes are sad, so I am going to focus on the wonderful time that we had, cherish the memories, and look forward to the day we will all be together again.....here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, September 28, 2003


Sunday is a day for rest and relaxation. It is an unstructured day on our country road, and I have looked forward to it all week. We usually attend church, but today we have company from the wedding that was held on Friday night and are not going. Mom and I have planned a big country breakfast for the family before starting the work on Sunday dinner.

The wedding was perfect. Every detail that went wrong in rehearsal went off without a hitch at the ceremony, which was a big relief. I watched the groom's face as the bride came through the door of the sanctuary, who had not seen her prior to the wedding. It was worth all of the hard work and stress just to see his face light up and the big smile on his face. As I turned to see the bride I saw the reason for his big smile. She was absolutely radiant, her gown a vision of tulle and silk that floated with every step. Her gaze was focused on the groom. The music she had chosen for her walk up the aisle was Trumpet Voluntary, and the regal music swelled and filled the room with majesty.

As the bridal couple stood on the dais in front of the assembled guests, family, the minister, and God to exchange their vows the sun was setting. Candles illuminated the church in a soft glow and lent a fairy tale quality to the service.
Women were dabbing tears as the minister pronounced the couple to be husband and wife, and after the requisite kiss the minister introduced the couple to the guests for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. A loud cheer rose from the crowd followed by spontaneous applause as the recessional filled the room and the couple began their walk down the aisle to greet their guests.

Today the newly married husband and wife will be coming to our house for Sunday dinner. Mom and I will be making a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, and have several desserts prepared. After dinner we will look at the wedding pictures that the photographer had processed at one hour photo so the couple could choose the pictures that they want in their wedding album.

The dawn broke on a beautiful crisp autumn day, one filled with happiness, love and promise.....here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, September 27, 2003


Autumn brings with it a myriad of festivals and events pertaining to harvest time. Smalltown is no exception, boasting an event called Food and Forest Day. This is a day that celebrates the area loggers and farmers, and their contribution to the community economy. Women also bring quilts, embroidery, and other needlework to display alongside the various vegetable stands and food booths. All in all it is a fun day.

The main street is roped off and all of the booths are set up there, the logging competitions are set up and all of the spectators line up to watch the fierce rivalries between the loggers. The events include old fashioned two man cross cut saw, one man hand saw, ax throw, log climb, and chain saw tree cutting. The Grand Champion for the past eight years is still competing, although she is now well into her fifties. She? Yes, we have a Grand-Dame of the woods right here in Smalltown by the name of Miss Ruby Lowe. It is a bone of contention for the men, but she is a widow who raised nine boys and three girls by herself from the income she made in the log woods, and she had to be good in order to survive. She is uneducated, but somehow has managed to keep her family together and the logging business her husband left when he died from going under.

Miss Ruby is five foot two and strong as an ox. The competitors fought valiantly, but today was Miss Ruby's day. This was her last competition. Illness has forced her to retire this year, and although some thought that she would lose her crown on that account were very wrong. Miss Ruby is a proud woman, and accepted the golden ax from all of the other loggers, who surrounded her and hoisted her up on their shoulders to the cheers of the crowd. It was one of those moments in time that Smalltown will remember forever.

Miss Ruby is a legend in her own time, a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, and Queen of the logwoods. I am sure that although she will no longer be competing, next year she will be right there cheering the events, the contestants and passing the torch to the new champion. Here's to you Miss Ruby.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Friday, September 26, 2003


This morning the sunrise broke through the trees, beautiful rays that lit up the fog like Christmas tree lights. Each day the sun rises and sets in the most unique ways. I try to watch them as often as possible and am never disappointed. It makes me feel closer to the hand of God, who paints the sky with the most amazing colors and brilliant hues.

Sunrise is a reminder to me that no matter what happened yesterday today is a new beginning. It is an unwritten tome of possibility and promise, and we are only limited by our imagination. As I stand here in my little corner of the world watching the new day break my heart is full and my spirit soars. Hope fills me with a challenge to make it a good day, and no matter what will happen in the course of the day ahead I will remember these few minutes under the panorama of dawn.

Sunset is my favorite most likely only because the sunrises I see are blocked by the trees of the big woods behind my house, the sunrays filtering through and the lightening of the sky. I can see the sunset in all of its glory until it slips into the horizon. When I was a teenager one of my favorite songs was "Red Rubber Ball" by the Cyrkles. Here in Smalltown I am blessed often with a sunset just like that, a brilliant red sun against an azure sky sinking slowly out of view.
Unbidden the words of the song flit through my mind and makes me smile.

There is a peace that comes with end of day. The hope that I began the day with is replaced with a feeling of accomplishment and finality. The tasks that were important this morning are completed and a night of rest lays before me.
When I was growing up my mother had a poem that hung on the wall. I have it now, and read it often. The last line says, "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world."� What greater assurance do we need?

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Thursday, September 25, 2003


Walking through the displays of chrysanthemums just on the verge of blooming is an uplifting experience for an autumn day. Their spicy fragrance reminds me of homecoming dances and football games. Today I was selecting the perfect mums for the porch pots and the wreath by the front door and was drawn to the rich burgundy color to compliment fall foliage. After making my purchase, I was loading the pots into the car when I saw a flash of orange in my peripheral vision. Turning my head that direction I saw a beautiful monarch butterfly in flight. I stood transfixed as the monarch fluttered among the rich hues of the flowers.

The monarchs usually begin their migration through our area the latter part of September, and are often seen well into October. Their beauty, especially with the bright sunlight shining on their wings takes your breath away. They are made of strong stuff, migrating thousands of miles to their winter haven. Although these butterflies are harbingers of autumn, there is a sadness for me in their journey. Just like the salmon who valiantly fight their way upstream to lay their eggs, many of the beautiful monarchs do not complete their journey.

Nature is a constantly changing ever present mystery. Here in the country people watch weather patterns and changes in nature very closely. An early sighting of the monarch signals a harsh winter, a fact that we have already had forewarning of due to the large population of fuzzy brown caterpillars crawling across roads and sidewalks, an unusually abundant crop of acorns and walnuts, and falling leaves several weeks earlier than usual.

After leaving the nursery parking lot, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for a pot of chili. Once the chrysanthemums were planted I wanted to celebrate by having something else that signals the fall season. Mom would be more than happy to relinquish her kitchen for me to cook dinner, and it was a treat for me as well. When I arrived home with the chili fixins’ she asked me what the occasion was. My reply? Why the sighting of the first monarch butterfly of the season, of course.

That evening, over a steaming hearty bowl of chili, crisp saltine crackers and slices of sharp cheddar cheese, we talked about the impending winter season. Whatever comes our way, we will be ready. After all, we have had plenty of warning, thanks to the wooly caterpillars and the majestic monarchs.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Wednesday, September 24, 2003


Sleep had eluded me for most of the night, my mind refusing to cooperate with the clock. Throwing back the covers and dressing quickly I opened the front door and slipped out into the darkness. Breathing in the damp predawn air I stepped out onto our country road.

Smells assailed my senses as I walked. The heaviness of honeysuckle welcomed me as I passed Grandma and Grandpa’s house but the usual fragrance of Grandma's summer flowers was absent. Autumn had arrived and the summer blooms had been clipped back or pulled up. Grandma had put her garden "to bed" for the winter and Grandpa's vegetable garden had been tilled under leaving only the fall squash and turnips. The smell of the freshly turned earth mixed with the unmistakable aroma of fertilizer provided from Bob's barn and Grandpa's compost pile hung heavy in the air as I passed.

Bob's cows stirred as I turned at the edge of his pasture and walked back down the road. There was a small dip in the road between Bob's pasture and my grandparent's property. The temperature was always several degrees cooler there which has always been a mystery to me. In the summer months it is a welcome phenomenon but this morning I pulled my jacket more closely around me as I passed to ward off the chill.

As I passed our house the unmistakable smell of freshly mown grass followed me. Warren had been mowing the grass and mulching leaves, and the mold that had been stirred up in the process tickled my nose. As I reached the dead end I turned and looked up at the sky. The stars were fading in the predawn light. The cool air was crisp and taking several deep breaths I stood still as the sun began its ascent. Dawn is always spectacular, and this morning as I watched the day break my spirit soared.

A light came on in our kitchen and I could see Mom making the morning coffee. Smiling I looked once more at the dawn light streaking through the trees behind our house. Our front door opened and Mom poked her head out, searching the road. Lifting my arm I waved at her. Satisfied, she disappeared back inside the house. A new day awaited. Suddenly invigorated and hungry, I began the walk back down our country road toward the smells of breakfast..and home.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Life’s celebrations are events that lift the spirits and warm the heart. Someone very special in our family is getting married this week, and I was asked to help with the planning of the festivities. The stress of the deadline, coordinating the details, searching for the perfect dresses, tuxedos, music and juggling schedules for the arrival of the family has kept me so preoccupied that I overlooked something very important. Yesterday I was reminded of it.

The bride and groom had come over to finalize the choice of music for the ceremony. Searching for the ‘perfect’ music had been exceedingly difficult because the bride had only one request- no wedding march. The bride’s mother, who had come along to be a part of the music selection process was shocked to hear the news. No wedding march? My mother and I had already had this conversation and could identify with her feelings. The bride had a very different idea of how her special day would be and although she had not given much thought to what she wanted, she was very firm on what she did not want. The couple did not have a special song in mind so finding one at this late date had been overwhelming.

An hour later we had listened to all of the music and still no decision had been made. The bride is somewhat reserved, and getting no feedback I was getting frustrated. The groom had been very quiet during the whole process and had eventually gone outside to get some air, leaving the decision to his bride. A short time later we had all of the music chosen except for the special songs for the bride and groom. The bride’s mother, mom and I were very happy that our favorites were in the final three. Once the groom returned we played the songs for them again. This is when I was reminded of that something very special. Joy.

Listening to the songs of love and promise, imagining their wedding day, their eyes lit up with that special magical joy unique to bridal couples. Looking at my mom and the bride’s mother, understanding passed between us. I played through the processional and recessional that the bride had selected so that the couple could imagine the night of the ceremony and sent the three song selections with the couple so that they could make their final decision privately.

The afternoon was a reminder of what the day was all about. It is easy to get so focused on the planning and the details of the wedding that one loses sight of the most important thing. Weddings are beautiful, joyful celebrations of love and promise. Watching the happy couple in the time that we had spent together warmed my heart and lifted my spirits. Three pairs of eyes misted as they left to meet with the minister at the church, their joy evident.

My mother, the bride’s mother and I were also reminded of something else….. we had better dig out a hanky or two for the ceremony.

Until tomorrow,
Becky Strain


Monday, September 22, 2003


To my readers,
Today I encountered a glitch while posting my blog and could not publish it. Please bear with me, I hope to be able to post tomorrow. Thank you, Becky


Sunday, September 21, 2003


A few days ago I thought that I had seen Mama Kitty, the stray mother who brought her three kittens to my porch and set up housekeeping, adopting me in the process. In an attempt to help her I paid to have her spayed, but she ran away the minute I got her back home. That night she took her kittens and left. Weeks passed. Weeks have become months. What I thought was Mama Kitty turned out to be a groundhog, who scared me to death and has hopefully moved on.

Today I came home from a shopping trip with my mother and was walking toward the porch when I saw something run across the road from the big woods and dart under my car. After putting my packages in the house, I eased out onto the porch and sat on the step. Several minutes later, two little heads peeked out from under the car. After all this time, it was two of the kittens! I have left the garage door open about six inches since Mama Kitty ran away with the kittens, and have kept food and water in the garage in case they returned.
Sitting very still, I was rewarded with watching the two kittens run from the shelter of my car and disappear into the garage. They have certainly grown, and if they once find the food and water hopefully they will make a home here.

Nature is a delicate balance. In wanting to help we sometimes create more problems than we solve. I thought that I had earned the trust of the mother cat, but having always lived in the wild her fear of man outweighed the fragile bond we had forged in the time she lived here. I am grateful that I have been given a second chance to befriend the two kittens, and hope that they will feel safety and haven here.

Everyday since I came to live in Smalltown I have learned something about nature. I enjoy the miracle of each sunrise and sunset, sitting on the back porch with hummingbirds whirring around my head, watching baby birds nudged out of the nest and learn how to fly. Today I learned something from nature. To everything there is a season. I have been given a rare gift, and maybe one day soon Mama Kitty will let me know in some way that she is alive and well. Until then, it looks like there are two new boarders here…..on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, September 20, 2003

TODAY IS..... 

The country lifestyle measured the days of the week by task. When I moved to Smalltown women were primarily housewives and mothers who seldom worked outside the home. Since incomes were limited the women worked hard to run an economical home and save money any way possible. Women made clothes for the family, made their own breads and baked goods, clipped coupons, saved S and H Green Stamps, and took pride in handwork and keeping a clean house. In order to accomplish the endless work a homemaker had to be disciplined and organized. Our home was no exception. When Jennifer and I came to live with Mom and Warren, it was a strain on their retirement income and we worked hard to make ends meet.

Monday was washday. We washed baby clothes and diapers every day but everything else was saved for washday. The bedding was stripped, washed and hung out on the clothesline first because they dried quickly. Pillows and blankets were hung on the line to air. Once the linens were dry they were gathered inside for ironing while towels and heavier clothes were hung out to dry. It was a long day, but laying down on fresh linens dried by the warmth of the sun and fresh air was a luxury.

Tuesday was baking day. Loaves of homemade bread were baked first as that was a necessity. If time permitted we made cookies, cakes and sweetbreads. Pies and cobblers, buttermilk biscuits or cornbread were better made fresh as we wanted them. Meals were always light on baking day so we could enjoy the fresh desserts and hot coffee.

On Wednesday we cleaned house. After making the beds we vacuumed the carpets, mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors, dusted, cleaned the bathroom and washed windows. Once a month the mattresses were turned and vacuumed, the furniture upholstery was vacuumed, and the oven was cleaned.

Mending and sewing was done on Thursday. After three busy days, we slowed the pace a bit. Mom sewed clothing for Grandma, herself and me, and there were always garments in progress. Grandma and I did the hand sewing of hems, buttons, tacking facings and worked on mending projects. Sewing our own garments not only saved money but provided an abundance of scraps for the quilting box. If shirts or dresses were outgrown or showed wear the buttons were cut off and saved and the material cut up into pieces for quilting scraps.

Friday was ironing day, and we washed clothes if needed. Errands and grocery shopping were also done on Friday, but in the afternoon Grandma came down and we would sit and do needlework and visit. Many times Grandma and Grandpa would join us for supper before going back to their house.

On Saturday Mom washed and set Grandma’s hair. Mom cut our hair when needed and washed and set ours as well. Going to the beauty salon was not in our budget so it was indeed fortunate that Mom was talented with hairstyling.
We also cooked for the weekend and planned menus for the week.

Sundays was a day of rest. Most Sunday mornings we attended church and Grandma and Grandpa joined us for Sunday dinner. We enjoyed our day of relaxation because Monday morning we would have it all to do again.

Country living was challenging but the rewards were great. I learned the satisfaction of hard work, the skills of needlework, baking and keeping house.
I carved out a place for Jennifer and myself among family….here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, September 19, 2003


Four months ago I came home to find a mother cat and three little baby kittens on my porch. The kittens looked well fed but the mother was half starved. I left some food and water for her on the porch, and the next day she was back. The little kitten family adopted my porch and me, and over the next month I fed her every day. They were all very wild, but after realizing that I was not a threat, the mother eventually allowed me to pet her. Once the kittens were weaned, I caught the mother cat, put her in a crate and took her out to the vet to have her spayed. When I picked her up she was very frightened, and once I opened the door of the crate in the garage where the kittens were, she ran off and I haven’t seen her since.

I have worried and fretted over her, but knowing how scared she had been I knew that I would never see her again. The little kittens were gone the next day, so I figured that she came back during the night and moved them. I was doubly troubled, fearing that they would all be in danger over in the big woods.

Tonight as I arrived home, I shut the car door and started up the walk toward the house when movement caught my eye along the fence row. It looked like a cat running toward the road, so I ran over to see what it was. I could see the weeds moving, and since Mama Kitty was dark gray it was hard to make out where she was. I stopped moving and began to call to her, thinking that if she recognized my voice she would eventually come out. Standing quietly, it was some time before I was rewarded with seeing the weeds sway again. Leaning down, I reached out to pull the weeds back to see if it was indeed Mama Kitty when whatever it was sat upright and looked at me. “AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!” I cried.
There I was, eyeball to eyeball with a fat old groundhog who was undoubtedly as startled by the turn of events as I was. Putting his hands up to his face and turning his head away from me provided the opportunity I needed to remove myself from the weeds and his presence, and hurry back up the walk.

Once gaining the porch, I turned and looked back toward the road, where the rotund groundhog was waddling across the road into the big woods as fast as his short little legs could take him. Although I still don’t know if Mama Kitty and three little kittens are alive and well, I do know that there is a groundhog in the neighborhood. You never know what you will find …..here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, September 18, 2003


Autumn is always a bittersweet time for me. I am a child of spring, of new beginnings, and fresh starts. I love to see the newness spring brings. The bright new green of the leaves budding into fullness, new blades of grass, and perennials pushing up through the dirt and reaching toward the sunlight. Renewal, rebirth and reawakening. The joy of new blooms, longer days and new purpose.

Autumn is a time of taking stock of oneself, introspection and reflection. The beautiful fall colors are brilliant in the waning warmth of the sun, the rich color of fall foliage, mums, and pumpkins are a sharp contrast to the crisp azure sky. The green of lawns, pastures and gardens fade and turn brown. Even the beauty and vivid fall color eventually fades to brown, the leaves finally letting loose and falling to the ground leaving empty branches to face winter alone.

These changes in nature always stir me. It makes me feel so very small in the scheme of things, everything fulfilling the purpose to which it was created.
And what of me? Have I followed the path and fulfilled the purpose for which I was created? As I came to the signposts along this journey called life, I had choices to make, a direction and path to choose. I have wondered so many times what might have happened had I chosen differently, taken another path or direction. Would I have been a happier and better person? Could I have achieved greater success, wealth, and influence?

On a more personal level, my thoughts always turn toward the people who have touched my life. Where are they now, what have they accomplished with their lives, are they happy, have I touched their life as they have mine? My thoughts are always as tossed as the falling leaves, and as melancholy as the wind that whistles through the pines. The signposts were not always clearly marked, and at times, I made wrong turns that took me far from home. There is a natural order to things, however. Autumn is a time of reflection, winter a time of rest. There is faith and hope that indeed, spring will come.

Earlier in my life, I hated autumn. Now I embrace the changing seasons and the lessons to be learned from it. I know with certainty that I am in the right place at the right time and for the right reasons, for the signpost points down a country road…..toward home.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, September 17, 2003


Today I went to the mailbox to get my mail, and when I pulled the lever to open the box the whole post moved back and forth. My heart sank. Grandpa put that post and mailbox up forty years ago when they moved here. When he put things up they stayed put. I had to replace the mailbox ten years ago because of rust, and I felt bad then because Grandma and Grandpa’s name was still on it. I put their old mailbox in the garage with all of the other things that I can’t bear to get rid of.

Their homemade aggravation board is there, and the metal chuck wagon Grandpa made to hold their food when they went camping at the lake. An old Sears and Roebuck lawn mower, the lawn chairs they carried everywhere they went. There are many things still there that tell the story of their lives here on this little place.

I thought, like we all do with things, that the post would always be there. I suppose that there are folks that would question why that post being loose would get me all stirred up. It is just one more thing that will be replaced. One of these days all of their fingerprints will be gone. As the old things are replaced there is more of me and less of them. Things change all the time, some say for the better. I suppose it is because I live here in their home that I feel that loss more keenly.

When I am working around the place there are so many things that make me smile. The metal stake that Grandma put orange halves on for the orioles that migrate through twice a year, a blue bluebird house that Grandpa made-except that a flying squirrel moved into it before the bluebirds found it. They chewed a bigger hole in it to make coming and going easier. Violet pots under the porch, a tin can that Grandpa put around a dogwood sprout in the back yard. The tree now towers over the mobile home, and the tin can split and rusted from the force of the tree trunk growing. The clothes line Grandpa put up for Grandma. A tin can, now rusted, that Grandpa put over the crank on the tongue of the mobile home to keep it from rusting.

I will put up a new post for the mailbox, but only when the one Grandpa put up completely gives way. It gives me comfort to feel them here. Their fingerprints may be slowly disappearing from around the place, but one thing I know for certain; their fingerprints are just felt now rather than seen. In my memory and in my heart their fingerprints are permanent and enduring…..and in my stories of our lives here on their country road.

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, September 16, 2003


This spring I hung a wind chime on the porch by the front door that I had received for my birthday. It is a small chime, making a tinkling sound when it is moved. There is a very small bird house at the top, the decorative variety just meant to look cute. One day as I was returning from work and walking up the steps to the front porch, I heard the little chimes tinkling. Looking up at the chime I was just in time to see a tiny little wren poking his head out of the hole in the bird house. It looked at me just briefly before hopping out onto the peg and flying off to a nearby birch tree.

I could not believe that the wren could even get in or out of the hole, as the whole bird house only measures 3” by 4”. The industrious wren had declared squatters rights for his mate and himself and immediately began a building project. From my living room I watched Mr. and Mrs. Wren build their nest, which was a challenge as the pieces of twigs they chose to use could not fit through the hole. Trip after trip they made, until finally they found some straw pieces used by the city workers to seed some grass along the edge of the road.

Once their nest was made, and Mrs. Wren was sitting upon it Mr. Wren perched on a small branch in the birch tree and began to sing her the most beautiful and melodious of songs. Wrens have the most wonderful song, and I felt very lucky to have the happy little couple nesting so close so I could hear them sing. Every day as I left the house and returned to it, I would hear the little chimes tinkling. The wren would poke her head out the hole, hop onto the perch and fly to the birch tree. As they came and went the chimes let me know it, and always made me smile.

The little wren family raised two families this summer, and the bird house was a constant hub of activity. Several days ago as I was leaving for work, the chimes didn’t sound. Looking to the birch tree I could see several wrens flitting about. When I came home that evening, all was quiet. The little wind chime/wren house is empty. I hadn’t realized how much a part of my day the wren family was. Now that their families are raised and out on their own, I still see the wren couple in the yard from time to time but for the most part they have moved their household to a more natural location……on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, September 15, 2003


Today I walked down our country road like I have thousands of times in the thirty one years since I came to live here. The trees are bigger now, forming a canopy over the road where the branches overlap. The valiant little dogwood tree that stands at the edge of the road by my mailbox is much the same size it has always been, but its presence is a testament of the strong mettle that defines life here.

I have walked by that tree several times a day for more than half my life. It is planted four feet from the black top road in the rockiest, poorest red clay soil, by the bank that fronts my Grandparents property where I now live. The tree’s trunk is actually made up of seven smaller trunks that have twined together, and leans slightly outward from the bank toward the road. Over the years trucks have clipped branches, leaving them dangling and torn. I would get Grandpa’s saw from the garage and trim the tree, hoping that it would survive the latest attack. Several times the trunk has been scarred and gouged by heavy equipment working on the road. A time or two I was sure that the little tree had suffered too much damage to survive, yet in the spring there were green leaves and beautiful snowy blooms.

I have walked down our country road in anger, sorrow, joy and happiness, but the valiant little dogwood tree has stood strong. Storms of life have buffeted me and challenged my resolve. The winds of change have blown, bending my will. Like the dogwood tree I have not broken and I have deep roots on this country road. Life experience and a strong faith have helped me spread my branches and reach toward Heaven.

A valiant little dogwood tree has taught me much about life, about grit, about constancy. It has been a silent comfort, friend and companion. Although scarred, twisted and broken it remains beautiful beyond measure and a beacon of hope. A signpost of home.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, September 14, 2003


Autumn brings a definite snap to the air and invigoration of the spirit unlike any other season. The leaves are beginning to turn color and some of them have already let loose of their summer home, falling to earth, and their haven of winter rest. The pine cones and acorns are falling with increasing frequency which is a sure sign that winter approaches.

Brightly blooming summer annuals are fading and pulled up in order to make room for the rich and vibrant hues of mums and asters. Corn stalks, bales of straw, pumpkins and gourds are beginning to make their appearance in clever displays in yards and on porches in anticipation of Halloween and harvest time.

Lawn mowers and weed eaters are heard less and less. In the distance I can hear the high school marching band practicing for the beginning of football season, and tonight's first home game. Nothing says autumn like football and marching bands.

The days are becoming shorter by several minutes every day, and as though to make up for it the sun is more brilliant and the moon more luminous. The nights are cooler, even nippy which is a prelude to the first frost. While tending to garden chores and getting ready to put it to bed for the winter, I noticed one rose bush still blooming. Reaching for it, I started to cut the canes back and mulch the bush against the coming winter, but my hand dropped to my side. As I stood in the warmth of the fading sun these words came to me....

The Last Rose Of Summer

Basking in the warmth of the afternoon sun
One lone rose braves autumn's chill,
A delicate contrast to the spent garden
The last rose of summer stands proud and still.

It is said that the rose is a gardens queen
And her beauty no rival or peer,
She holds court with quiet dignity
And her fragrance draws passersby near.

Her flower garden now nods in sleep
She holds vigil with silent aplomb,
Until frost falls in the dark of night
And she must meet winter alone.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, September 13, 2003


The first opportunity that I had to work on the dish towels I was making for Mom’s Christmas gift came two weeks after my trip to the Five and Dime to buy the supplies. Mom and Warren had to make the one and a half hour trip to Ft. Wood for medical appointments and grocery shopping for the month. They were retired military and Ft. Wood was the closest military base to Smalltown. They left early in the morning and were expected to be gone all day.

The muslin material had to be hemmed before I could proceed with the project, so I got out Mom’s sewing machine and hemmed the edges. Putting the sewing machine away again, I gathered Jennifer’s diaper bag, Jennifer and my bag of supplies and walked up to my Grandparent’s house.

Grandpa had brought in Grandma’s old copper boiler and it was on the stove heating water. Grandpa sat at the kitchen table holding Jennifer on his lap while Grandma and I worked. Once the water was at a rolling boil, we shook out the muslin squares and put them down into the boiling water. Boiling the material removed the sizing and would make the towels soft and absorbent.

While the material boiled Grandma and I got out the iron on transfer patterns I had selected and began cutting out the motif for each towel. There would be seven in all, one for each day of the week. Setting the transfers aside Grandma got out the iron and I went to the garage to get the ironing board.

After the muslin had boiled about an hour we removed the towels from the boiling water with a long handled wooden spoon and put them in the sink. We rinsed them with cold water, wrung them out good, and I took them out to hang them on the clothesline to dry.

Grandma fixed a nice lunch of beef and noodles, green beans and homemade bread and butter. Grandma promised to bake a pie while I finished up the preparation work for Mom’s dish towels. When Jennifer went down for her afternoon nap, I went to the clothesline to check the towels. They were a little damp yet, but would iron out just fine. Grandpa took the copper boiler and headed for his shop to putter and I pressed the towels and ironed on the transfers. After I put the ironing board back in the garage, I helped Grandma with the dishes while she finished with the chocolate meringue pie she had made. Setting it aside to cool, we walked in to the living room to do our needlework. I folded the towels all but one which I was going to begin embroidering and chose the floss I would need. “Grandma, I forgot my embroidery hoop and needles- I will have to walk back down to Mom’s house to get them,” I said. “Oh don’t do that Becky, you can borrow some from me.” She went to her work basket and returned with the proffered items. “How on earth are you going to work on your embroidery when you are around your Mother all the time? You’ll never get the towels done before Christmas.”
“Well I have been thinking about that a lot. I can hardly say that I am making them for you since we are often together, so I was thinking of saying that I am making them for my friend Diane’s wedding gift. She is to be married in the spring. What do you think?” I asked.
“Oh that will work as well as anything I suppose. If she admires them you will know that she will be very happy when she opens them up at Christmas,” Grandma said. She picked up her cross stitch and I began embroidering my towel, working companionably until Grandpa brought the mail in.

“How’s that pie coming along?” he queried.
“I’ll make some coffee and then we’ll have a piece,” she replied. With that Grandpa clapped his hands together and rubbed them back and forth in anticipation. He took his place at the kitchen table, and I set aside my handwork and went to the kitchen to set the table. As Grandma started to cut the pie we heard car doors shutting in the driveway. Walking to the door, I saw Mom and Warren coming up the walk.
“Better get out a couple more pie plates, Grandma, Mom and Warren are back already,” I said. Opening the door for them, I went back to the kitchen to pour coffee, when I heard Mom say, “Oh look at this cute dish towel! Are you making this Mom?” Frantically I looked at Grandma, who gave me a sly wink before replying to Mom’s question. “Actually I gave Becky some dish towels to make for her friend Diane’s wedding present.” Hoping for the best, I turned and looked at Mom.

“Well you are sure doing beautiful work Becky. She will love them I’m sure. Maybe when you are finished with hers you could make me a set. Mine are threadbare,” she said. Laying down the hoop, she walked to the kitchen.
Greatly relieved, I laughed and said, “Really? I hadn’t noticed, had you Grandma?”
“No, I hadn’t. Now, who wants a piece of chocolate pie?” she inquired, quickly changing the subject.

Smiling to myself I thought what a wonderful Christmas it was going to be….on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, September 12, 2003


One of the charms of Smalltown is the Five and Dime. The old fashioned quaintness of the dime store was carried over in the inventory they stocked, many of the items a testimony to Smalltown’s elderly population and simple lifestyle.

When visiting my Grandparents as kids my brothers and I enjoyed a trip to the Five and Dime primarily because they had big glass bins of bulk candy up by the old cash register. The candies were sold by the pound, the clerk using big metal scoops to put candy onto a scale where it was weighed before being placed into a bag.

Grandpa had brought Grandma and me into town to buy a few things while he went to the hardware store. While Grandma selected some new embroidery floss I looked through the iron on transfers. I wanted to make Mom some new dish towels of Christmas and in order to finish the embroidery in time I needed to get started now. I chose a cute little teapot and cup and saucer pattern with happy little faces. There was a different motif for each day of the week, and the name of each weekday was printed below each picture. Showing Grandma my choice, she helped me pick out embroidery floss while the clerk cut seven one-yard pieces of unbleached muslin for the towels.

I liked to go down the toiletries aisle because the display of cologne bottles was so pretty. There were sample bottles that you could try, which was always a treat. Purchasing fragrance for myself was an extravagance I could not afford, so I helped myself to a dab or two of Emeraude which was a particular favorite of mine. The Evening in Paris bottles were a striking cobalt blue with shiny silver caps. Grandma always kept a bottle on her bureau and used it only for special occasions. When I was little I thought that the bottles were so beautiful only very rich ladies could buy it.

Grandma had a tin of Raleigh’s Ointment, her embroidery floss and a can of Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder in her hand, and by the time Grandpa had come to pick us up we had paid for our purchases. Walking over to the candy bins, he bought a pound of horehound drops for himself and a pound of bridge mix for Grandma and me.

On the way home, we stopped at Joe’s Drive In and Grandma had them pack a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. Mom was making an apple crisp for supper, and the ice cream would be the perfect topping for it. When we got to Mom’s she was just finishing washing the dishes, so I picked up the dish towel to dry them for her. Noting its threadbare condition I smiled at Grandma, who understood my meaning.

Hearing Jennifer start crying, Grandma went to get her up from her nap. Grandpa and Warren came in, chatting about how soon the pumpkins and turnips would ripen and Mom was taking meat loaf and macaroni and cheese out of the oven. Hanging the dish towel up to dry I started setting the table for supper. Grandpa called in to the kitchen and asked Mom if there was any hot coffee.

“My goodness!” I said. “Whoever said that country life was boring didn’t know what they were talking about!”
Mom said, “As I remember, Miss Becky, that is what you said just three months ago.”
“Yes,” I admitted, “I think you are right.” As I passed her on my way to the table with the plates she said, “Mmmmm, someone smells good.”
“Yes, it’s Emeraude. Grandma and I were at the Five and Dime today.”
Laughing, she called everyone in to supper.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, September 11, 2003


My Grandma had a way with food, but with yeast dough she was magic. She would work for hours making intricate braided breads or tying dough into bowknots. Her cinnamon rolls, coffee cake and sticky buns were legendary. When she baked bread or sweet rolls she often made extra and shared with neighbors, and many times town folk would call and order coffee cakes or sweet rolls when expecting out of town company.

When I asked Mom to teach me how to bake yeast breads she offered to watch Jennifer for me and sent me up to my Grandma’s for the lesson. Midmorning I walked up to Grandma’s.

Grandma’s kitchen smelled like breakfast. “Mmmmm, smells like buttermilk pancakes and homemade syrup.” Nodding in the affirmative, she poured me a cup of coffee. “Your Mom is cooking supper for us all tonight and you are going to make the hot rolls,” she said. Thinking it was a pretty optimistic outcome for my first lesson, I tied on my apron and tried to appear more confident than I felt.

Grandma got out two bowls as we were both going to make a batch of yeast dough. After getting the ingredients ready we read through the recipe we were using. She set eggs out to warm to room temperature, explaining, “Reading a recipe and following directions doesn’t always bring success. Yeast dough is something you have to understand and develop a feel for. I’ll make a batch first so you can see what I mean.”

Milk was scalded and set aside to cool and warm water was added to the dry yeast to dissolve it, sprinkling just a little sugar over the yeast to help activate it. Patiently she creamed the eggs, butter, sugar and salt by hand. When the dissolved yeast was thick and foamy and the milk was warm but not hot enough to kill the yeast action or melt the butter, both were added to the creamed mixture. Flour was added slowly, thoroughly mixing after each addition. Grandma dipped her hand into the flour canister repeatedly, sprinkling flour into the dough until it was the right consistency. Once the dough could be handled by hand it was turned out on the floured counter for kneading. She kneaded the dough gently until it felt right to her, picked it up in her hands patting it into a uniform mound and placed it into a greased crock bowl to rise. Running hot water over a clean dish towel and wringing it out well she covered the bowl with it.

“Alright, Becky, it’s your turn,” she said. Most of what Grandma told me about the dough making process wasn’t written in the instructions on the recipe card, so I hoped she would help me if I made a misstep. Starting with the scalded milk, I worked through the steps. When the yeast was foamy and the milk the temperature of Jennifer’s baby formula I added both to the bowl. Instead of dumping the flour in by the cup full, I tried Grandma’s technique, which resulted in more pliable dough. She reminded me not to “trouble” the dough by working it too much, which results in stiffer dough and could affect the yeast action. Turning the dough out onto the counter for kneading I tried to imitate Grandma’s soft hand with the dough. When I thought it felt right, she checked the pliability. Smiling, she said, “Good Becky. Now pick the dough up and pat it in your hands to dust off the excess flour, then form a rounded mound and put it into your bowl to rise.” Once my covered bowl was sitting next to Grandma’s on the counter we cleaned up the dishes and sat down for some lunch.

An hour later the dough had risen over the top of the bowls, the wonderful yeasty smell permeating the warm kitchen. Pressing the pad of her finger against the dough, Grandma showed me that the impression remained in the dough which signaled that it was ready. Punching down the dough, we began pinching off small pieces and forming uniform balls, tucking the ends under and placing the rolls into prepared pans. We set the rolls aside for the second raising and preheated the oven. When the rolls had raised double their size we put them in to bake. Grandma made her dough out into two loaves of bread and placed them into loaf pans to rise.

When my rolls were golden brown we brushed them with melted butter. I was so proud! “Grandma, they’re beautiful, aren’t they?” “Yes they are, which is just as important as how they will taste,” she replied. When her loaves of bread were baked and brushed with butter, we cleaned up the kitchen, which was filled with the aroma of fresh baked bread. Hugging Grandma, I thanked her for the lesson. “I can see why you love yeast baking so much Grandma. So much of you goes into each batch. I can hardly wait to show Mom.”

Working with Grandma in her little kitchen that day taught me more than the rudiments of yeast baking; I learned some important life lessons. Grandma had a patient and gentle spirit. Her kitchen was the heart and soul of her home, and cooking was an outward expression of who she was and the love she felt for her family and friends.

Each time I make yeast dough I think of our lesson that day and the gentle spirit whose baked goods had graced our kitchen table so often.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, September 10, 2003


New beginnings mean that something has ended. In the vernacular of marriage, endings are extremely painful roller coaster rides of emotion riddled with guilt, heartache and failure.

Logically and practically I knew that ending my marriage was the right thing to do. My daughter and I had been in eminent danger, our lives had been threatened, and moving to Smalltown with my family was both the best thing to do and the only option left open to us. Our time here has been wholesome and healing.

This morning I stood in front of a judge in a courtroom on the second floor of the county court house and swore before God and man that my marriage was irretrievably and irrevocably broken. The judge asked me a few questions before he dissolved the marriage and awarded sole custody of my daughter to me. The sharp rap of the gavel echoed throughout the chamber and brought finality to the matter.

The weight of failure sat heavily on my shoulders. Morally, ethically and personally failure is hard to accept or rationalize. It had been my errors in judgment and my choices that had changed so many lives. Knowing that, my heart was broken.

Months ago I vowed to make this new beginning a positive one for Jennifer and me. Throwing back the covers I got up and walked to the window next to Jennifer’s crib, looking out at the night. Standing there watching darkness ebb these words came to me-

The wings of dawn brought such a beautiful sunrise
It made me catch my breath.
How I yearned to share it with someone
But the moment passed by unspoken.

Blue skies welcomed the joyful praises of
The songbirds as they greet the day,
Yet the moment faded and was gone
Leaving me alone in the silence of the morning.

Daily rituals take me through the days
Giving a reason to leave the haven of home,
For in the normalness of the workplace
One can find the companion of conversation.

I have mastered the art of brewing coffee for one
And cooking for myself, but in returning home
Only the ticking of the clocks disturb
The silence that awaits me.

No one smiles when I cry over love songs
Or sees the tears that fall in the darkness of night
No one holds me in the circle of strong arms
At the close of day, content.

The thoughts that pass through my mind
The beauty that I see in the world
The deepest feelings of my heart
The innermost being that is uniquely me, lays silent….

Hearing Jennifer stir in her crib, I turned to watch her wake to the new day. Someday there will be time for me, but right now Jennifer needs a mother….and her breakfast. Picking her up, we stood and watched dawn break…on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, September 09, 2003


September is harvest time for apples in Missouri. The apple orchards open their doors to the public during the month and apples are available by the bag, half bushel or bushel basket full. After the punishing summer heat, we looked forward to the crisp cool days of September with gratitude.

In anticipation of apple time Mom, Grandma and I spent many afternoons getting out our recipes for apple butter, jelly, chunky applesauce, apple pies, crisps, and dumplings. Our favorite apple cake recipe came from Stephenson’s Apple Farm in Independence, Missouri. The cake is so good that long after our canned apple slices are gone we buy apples from the local grocer just to make it.

One of the best things about going to the apple orchard is that everyone got to go along because no picking was involved. We left midmorning, making the two hour trip just in time for lunch. We had packed a picnic lunch to eat at the roadside park located about a mile from the orchard, and as we enjoyed roast beef sandwiches, chocolate cake and hot coffee we went over the list of things we hoped to buy. Grandma thought that Jonathan apples were the best for baking and apple butter, Golden Delicious best for eating, and the tart Granny Smith apples made the best fried apples for Redbank breakfast. Packing the picnic basket and thermos back in the car, we made the short drive to the orchard.

Grandpa parked the car under a shade tree to keep cool, and we walked to the huge red barn where the apples and wares were kept. The big double barn doors were open wide in invitation, encouraging the sun in to illuminate and warm the cool dark interior. In one corner several men were cranking an old wood and cast iron cider press. There was a table of fresh apple cider in paper cups which tasted wonderful. The pungent smell of ripe apples, hay and warm September sunshine was heavy in the air, assailing the senses.

Jennifer was holding a small red apple she had mistaken for a ball while we strolled through the various displays of apples. Grandma and Mom were making their selections and as they chose the baskets they wanted Grandpa and Warren set them out on the floor. Once the apples were paid for and set by the front doors for loading we walked through the different stalls of apple products. Just before leaving we bought fresh caramel apples one of the women was making. She had been stirring a big copper kettle full of caramel, and pulling it off of the fire to cool a bit she began to insert sticks into the apples. After swirling the apples in the thick caramel they were set on big trays to cool. Bales of straw had been set up for sitting so we sat and ate our apples while watching the caramel making process.

After loading our eight bushels of apples we started home to Smalltown. Jennifer fell asleep on my lap while Grandma and Mom discussed what to do first. We wouldn’t start canning until morning but it was going to be a very full day. Grandpa and Warren would wash the apples in big galvanized tubs outside before bringing them into the kitchen. My job would be coring and quartering, Grandma’s specialty was peeling and slicing and Mom was going to can the slices. Once that was done we would begin the apple butter making process, make the chunky applesauce and jelly. Once the plans had been finalized, Mom decided she would have time to make a Stephenson’s Apple Farm cake before we ate supper.

Mom and I had made a pot of beef stew for supper and while that heated she made the apple cake, Grandma made some corn bread and I set the table and made fresh coffee. Soon we were all gathered around the kitchen table enjoying the beef stew and corn bread. There was a festive atmosphere in the little kitchen, with everyone talking about apple time of past Septembers. I cleared the dishes and poured coffee while Mom brought the fresh cake to the table for serving, which resulted in a round of applause. The scent of apples and cinnamon smelled homey and cozy as we ate our warm apple cake.

Listening to the laughter and conversation, I decided that there was nothing better than apple time in September…….on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, September 08, 2003


Gardening in the Ozarks is a challenge. It is not for the faint of heart and the rewards are hard won with tedious backbreaking work. Like most flower gardeners I carved my flower garden out of the front lawn with my own two hands, battling poor soil, prolific weeds and a never ending parade of garden pests. After five long years of blood sweat and tears my garden had begun to bloom and prosper, finally bearing some resemblance to the glossy pictures in popular gardening magazines.

One morning I was returning home from my morning walk anxious to get started with gardening chores. I had received my fall bulbs via mail order the previous day, and I was looking forward to getting them planted. As I neared my driveway I noticed my neighbor Bob striding purposefully down the road with what looked to be a feed bucket in his hand. It was unusual for him to be out so early in the morning but I waved as I turned into the drive. Waving back, Bob hollered, “Hey, my calf is in your garden!”

My flower garden borders his cow pasture but I wasn’t too concerned, as I thought he meant his calf had its head across the fence again trying to eat my Grandmother’s snowball bush. She had planted that bush thirty years ago and had chased numerous generations of cows away from it through the years. It is a ritual that I carry on today. As I rounded my garage, there was indeed a Black Angus bull calf munching on a mouthful of my purple coneflowers.

Horrified I turned to Bob who was still standing in the road holding the feed bucket and stated the obvious, “He’s eating my coneflowers!” Seeing my distress he quickly decided that the best course of action would be for him to stand on the road shaking the feed bucket hollering, “Calf……..here calf!”, while I circled around behind the calf hopefully driving him back over the fence and into the pasture.

Being a city girl born and raised, I was not convinced that this was the best course of action but I moved tentatively toward the calf flapping my arms in what I hoped to be an intimidating fashion. At this point the calf turned on me snorting indignantly, obviously more bull than calf. He had no intention of going back over the fence or anywhere else I wanted him to go for that matter. We stood eyeball to eyeball for endless seconds before he took off down the garden path toward my iris bed and began eating what still remained upright.

I only had to follow the cow pies and crushed flowers to see where the bull had already been, as he was quickly reducing my walking garden to mulch and stubble. With renewed vigor Bob began shaking the feed bucket hollering, “Calf! Here calf!” Desperate to salvage what was left of my garden and suddenly filled with courage for the task, I ran toward the obstinate bovine screaming at the top of my lungs. He lifted his head and looked at me, iris blades dangling from his mouth.

All at once, as if by design he lurched forward, ran back up the path and sailed haphazardly over the fence- landing much to the surprise of everyone present, into the pasture. The fence waved precariously for a moment, and then in typical bovine fashion the bull strolled nonchalantly off toward the barn, swishing his tail as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.

Happy with the successful outcome of his plan, Bob checked the stability of the fence, waved farewell and started home feed bucket in hand. Calling after him I said, “Hey Bob! What about all this damage?” He pondered the question only a few moments before responding, “Well Becky, in light of all the free fertilizer you were blessed with I guess we can just call it even.” Typical, I thought.

Peace and quiet descended once again as I stood watching the bull depositing fertilizer in the pasture. Smiling to myself I turned and started toward my walking garden to repair the damage. Knowing the recycling nature of the plant world, with any luck my neighbor would have coneflowers among his cow pies next spring. All in all it had been quite a morning.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, September 07, 2003


It was harvest time. The weather had been perfect for corn this year and we had been patiently waiting for the ears to mature. Grandpa had inspected the crop and proclaimed it ready to harvest, so Grandma and Grandpa stayed for supper and we made plans.

The next morning Mom and I got up early to prepare the food for the day. By cooking the food ahead, we wouldn’t have to stop during the day to cook meals. While Mom made potato salad, baked beans and slaw, I made a batch of buttermilk biscuits and browned sausage for gravy. Grandma was bringing fried chicken, corn bread sticks and a blackberry cobbler.

We started the day by eating a hearty breakfast together before heading out to the garden. It had been decided that Grandpa and Warren would pick the corn while Mom, Grandma and I shucked. Once we had enough corn shucked and ready to go to the kitchen, Mom and Grandma would start blanching the ears and cutting the corn off the cobs for freezing. I would continue to shuck.

Jennifer was put into the new playpen that Grandpa had bought for her and was playing happily and watching all of the activity. There was already a sizeable heap of corn by the time we arranged our chairs and set to work. This was only my second experience shucking corn and I wasn’t looking forward to it….

One summer our neighbor Rose invited my Mom to pick corn at her mother-in-law’s farm in Emporia, Kansas. It was free for the picking, and since we had a big station wagon, they decided to go together, and then divide the bounty when they got back to Shawnee. Mom had arranged for a babysitter to watch my brothers and I for the day, and once we were settled they set off for Emporia.

We were riding our bicycles mid afternoon when a strange car pulled into our driveway. We were happy and surprised to see Aunt Beulah getting out of her car. She was our favorite Aunt, and when she came to visit really neat things happened. We were sitting at the kitchen table drinking kool-aid and listening to Aunt Beulah’s travelogue of the trip she had just taken when Mom and Rose got back with the corn.

When everyone had said their hellos Aunt Beulah said, “Looks like I came at a good time Esther. Would you like some help with the corn?” Nodding, Mom said, “Aunt Beulah, you’re a Godsend!” And so it was that Aunt Beulah helped us with the corn. Mom and Rose had packed the car so full of corn, that the entire space from the driver’s seat back and from floor to ceiling was filled.
Mom filled brown paper bags with corn while we carried it out to the back yard, dumped it out and ran back to the car for more. In no time we had a mountain of corn, and while Mom took Rose home with her corn, George, John and I followed Aunt Beulah to the backyard for shucking lessons. Aunt Beulah seemed to know what she was doing, and before we knew it we were all shucking corn and laughing at her marvelous stories. It was great fun at first, but by the time Mom called us in for supper my brothers and I were dragging. We made no protest when Mom said it was bedtime.

The next morning we got started nice and early, but there was no joy in the camp. Our hands and arms were sore, we were tired, and the pile of corn seemed to have grown overnight. What little enthusiasm I had disappeared the minute I found the first worm. The boys hooted with gleeful laughter, but their merriment died when worms started to appear with greater frequency. Aunt Beulah seemed undaunted by the worm ridden ears, simply snapping off the affected part of the cob, tossing it into the pile of husks and kept on shucking.
The memory of Aunt Beulah sitting next to that corn in the early morning sun chatting and laughing with three kids who had lost all interest in the whole project made me laugh.

Mom asked me what was so funny. “I was just remembering the last corn harvest I helped with,” I replied. “Oh my gosh!” Mom said. “ Rose and I filled that car with free corn not thinking how much work it was going to be. Bless Aunt Beulah, her surprise visit saved the day. If she hadn’t come when she did we would probably still be shucking corn. As it was it took four days to get it all into the freezer.” Groaning, I said “Yes, but look at this pile.”

Grandma smiled. “Oh I think we’ll be done in no time, Becky. Dad and Warren are almost done picking and it’s almost lunch time. Once they have eaten some good food and rested a bit you can help your Mom and I while Jennifer takes her nap. Dad and Warren are old farm hands.” Hope bloomed, and as I thought about being relieved of the dreaded shucking detail I bent to the task with renewed fervor.

Shortly we were all sitting around the kitchen table enjoying fried chicken, potato salad, slaw, baked beans, corn bread sticks and iced tea. Grandpa and Warren were entertaining us with tales of the corn shucking contests on their farms when they were young. Before we knew it they were walking to the back door, laughing and wagering on the outcome of this contest. “Hey!” Mom called. “What about dessert?” Grandma said “Esther, we had better get water boiling. Something tells me that corn will be ready to blanch in no time.”

While we worked in the kitchen, Jennifer took her nap. The sounds of laughter drifted in from the backyard. Hearing a car pulling in to the driveway, I walked to the front door just in time to see Aunt Beulah getting out of her car. Calling to her I said, “Come on in Aunt Beulah, you’re just in time for lunch.” “Oh?” she said. “What are we having?” “Corn!” I said, laughing.

The extra pair of hands and lighthearted conversation made short work of our corn harvest. Grandpa and Warren’s shucking contest had been declared a tie, and once they had carried the last of the bags of corn to the deep freeze we all sat down to blackberry cobbler and ice cream. Mom said, “Aunt Beulah, you’re a Godsend.” To which we all agreed.

What a nice day it had been.....here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, September 06, 2003


Inspired by those who have gone before me to create an heirloom to pass on to my children, I lovingly spread my finished work. I had been sewing on this quilt all of my grown up years, so this was indeed the moment I had been working toward most of my life. My joy quickly faded as I stood before the gift I would pass on to the next generation in dismay.

Drawing closer revealed irregular swatches of mismatched prints held together with large stitches galloping randomly with no seeming rhyme or reason. The bright splashes of color made me smile; knowing that a child had been at work and a Mother’s love had left the imperfections for a memory.

In places the cloth was almost threadbare from being sewn and resewn countless times. Broken threads and puckered seams gave evidence of a Mother determined to teach the discipline of tiny even stitches to rebellious hands. Some pieces were quite large, marching with joyful abandon as though placed there in the haste of youthful happiness. Other pieces were tiny and very intricately worked--marred only by the tears that had fallen as the pieces were stitched together, a broken heart finding solace in the busyness of the task.

What I had hoped would be a flawless work of art loomed before me imperfect, broken, mismatched, and unlovely. Defeated, I turned and started from the room but was drawn by an unseen hand to turn and look again. I couldn’t believe my eyes- I beheld a tapestry of such incredible beauty that I could but stare at it, the workmanship so fine and meticulous I wondered whose hands might have pieced it.

The tapestry of my life was interwoven with so many things--memories of happy carefree times, bright summer days, faraway places, and people loved. I saw Great Grandmother’s dresses, my Aunt’s aprons, my brother’s shirts, my Mother’s kitchen curtains, and my baby dress. I saw my graduation dress, a dress I had made for my daughter and fabric that had been given to me by friends and loved ones.

I beheld friendship, forgiveness, love, beauty and mercy. In the eyes of the world my life lay before me as I had first seen my heirloom; imperfect, broken, mismatched, and unlovely. In the eyes of love my life is a beautifully worked tapestry woven with Grace, a magnificent gift to future generations.

My heirloom, my life.... God’s tapestry.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, September 05, 2003


Grandpa added wood to the campfire and took his place next to it. My brothers and I waited, three pairs of eyes wide with wonder focused on his face as the flames danced… He began his tale….

“The shallow water along the edge of the lake is very shallow and warm. The sunlight warms the water and you can see the bottom of the lake slope down gradually. Just past the buoys that mark the far edge of the swimming area there is a steep drop off. The water is very deep there and begins to get cooler as the sunlight can’t reach the lake bottom. The fish are bigger and there are huge turtles that live down below the surface in the deep. These turtles are huge- their shells are four feet across and their heads are as big as basketballs. Expert and champion swimmers have started swimming across the lake, but some never reached the other side. Once they swim past the warm water of the shallows, past the buoys where the water is cool, and out into the deep they get a muscle cramp and can’t swim. They don’t wear life jackets being expert swimmers and all, and while they are trying to work out the cramp those big turtles notice the movement in the water and begin to swim up from the lake bottom. They come up slow-like toward the surface, then ‘CHOMP’, they bite down on the swimmer’s foot and drag him down to the deep. Down, down, down, to the bottom. And they wait. When the swimmer stops moving they eat him. Those big turtles are very strong, and once they get you they don’t let go…..”

Three mouths were gaping open, eyes wide with fright. Mom came to our rescue by proclaiming it to be our bedtime, and for once we offered no protest.
I laid there watching the flames of the fire as I thought of Grandpa’s tale. We had come down to the lake for a week of swimming, and Grandpa had finally deemed us big enough to learn how to ski. Tomorrow was to be our first lesson.
Suddenly I wished we had never come. It was a long time before we fell asleep.

Grandpa helped us all aboard the boat and started moving out toward the middle of the lake. My oldest brother George was to go first. We all listened to Grandpa’s instructions, then George jumped into the water. Grandpa pushed the skis toward him, and once he had them on Mom tossed him the ski rope. When George had the rope between the skis he nodded, and the big boat roared to life. Slowly George came up out of the water, teetered back and forth and fell into the lake. Grandpa circled around and waited until George was ready. On his signal the boat surged forward again. This time George was able to hang on and ski a ways before falling. After several more tries we were pulling George in a big circle around the lake. When he fell the next time he was tired, and Grandpa helped him up into the boat to rest. Everyone was excited and talking all at once, but I was looking out across the surface of the lake. We were out in the deep where the water was cold. George had been in and out of the water which was sure to attract the turtles’ attention. My stomach began to churn.

“Well, Becky it’s your turn!” Grandpa called over the engine noise. Shaking my head, I said, “John can go next.” John hesitated only a minute, listened to Grandpa’s instructions, then slipped into the water.

After getting his skis on and the rope taut, John nodded. The boat jumped forward, pulling John out of the water and up on the skis. After a short distance, he wobbled a bit and tumbled into the water. Watching him bob in the water, I watched for turtles. We were making a slow loop in front of him to push the skis back to him when he hollered, “Turtle! Turtle!!” Grandpa quickly stopped the boat, moving to the side and reaching for John. George and I went still, eyes focused on John. Grandpa pulled him up into the boat. “Turtle, Mom! I felt it on my leg!” he said. Checking him over, Mom said, “John, I think that you felt the strap from your life jacket. See, it must have come loose when you took that spill into the lake. Isn’t that right, Dad?” Looking from Mom to the three of us kids, he said, “That’s right John. A turtle wouldn’t come up to the surface of the lake with the boat motor running. You’re safe.”
“Man, Grandpa, that was scary! I thought it was one of those big turtles for sure,” John said. His strap secured, John jumped back into the water. John signaled and once again the boat surged forward. John popped right up that time, skiing around the lake twice. When he was once again safely in the boat, he said, “I didn’t want to fall again just in case there really was a turtle.”

All eyes turned on me. “Well, Becky, it’s your turn.” Mom said. Seeing no way out of it, I jumped over the side of the boat, cold green water swirling over my head before I surfaced again. Getting into position with the skis and rope, I nodded my head, but all I could think of was a big turtle grabbing my foot. Time after time I fell into the lake. Trying to hurry to get my skis and the rope, I would barely be into position before signaling Grandpa to go. I was getting tired, and everyone was hot and hungry. I was just reaching for the ski rope again when Grandpa called out, “Hey Becky, turtle!!” Grabbing the rope handle I nodded my head and the boat took off. I was so intent on getting up out of the water that I didn’t even realize I was skiing until I had started the second circle. Only then did I topple into the water. Moving alongside, Grandpa reached down to pull me out of the cold deep water. “Guess I was mistaken about the turtle, Becky. It was just part of a stick poking out of the water.”
I was so happy to be back in the warmth and safety of the boat, I just smiled.

That evening after supper, Grandpa put more wood on the campfire and took his place beside it. The flames danced…..Grandpa started his tale, when Mom jumped up, “Kids, I think we have had enough excitement for one day, don’t you?” She gathered us up, and tucked us into our bedrolls. “Good night, kids. Sleep tight.”

All in all it had been a good afternoon. My brothers and I had learned how to ski and had escaped the turtles of the deep. Smiling, I watched the flames of the campfire dance as I drifted off to sleep.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, September 04, 2003


My mother told me that when she brought my little brother John home from the hospital she walked by his room to find me standing in front of his crib contemplating some dark and sinister plot. At the age of three it is debatable what might have been going through my mind--probably the same thing that went through my brother George’s mind when I was brought home from the hospital three years earlier.

John was born under a happy star. He may have been born with club feet and congenital cataracts, but nothing slowed him down. He had his first surgery at the age of five months to improve his eyesight, and once he had braces and corrective shoes for his feet he never looked back. He is considered handicapped due to his sight problem and is legally blind, but it is really hard to believe.

John just wanted to be a regular normal kid. Because of the thick coke bottle glasses he wore, he knew people stared at him, but he also knew that in a few minutes they would forget about it and accept him on his own merit. He had to attend the Kansas State School for the Blind through the fifth grade before he was accepted into the public elementary school George and I had attended.

John was a baseball fanatic, but because of his sight problem, could not play organized sports. That did not keep him from realizing his dream of being a baseball player, however. He worked at it every day, made a modified baseball diamond in our back yard, and stood by the hour learning to hit the ball. He'd hit the ball, run to field it himself, run the bases back to home plate and start again. His little baseball was so grass stained it was hard for George and I to see it in the grass ourselves, but John never gave up. He was a better player than we were, organized neighborhood ballgames, and his team won a lot of the time. I remember the day I heard the loud crack of his bat connecting with the baseball-it sounded different this time. The next thing I knew it came crashing through my bedroom window, which was a very long way from home plate. He was pretty proud of that.

John accomplished all of the regular normal childhood things. He was a cub scout, boy scout, a duck......yes a duck. Mr. Meyer, who was his sixth grade teacher the first year he attended public school , used to say he had 23 students and 2 ducks. John liked to talk like Donald Duck, and became quite proficient at it. He taught his best friend how to quack, and before long they had a secret duck club, secret duck code book, and other duck-like things that were of course, secret.

When we went to the library, John always got books on riddles and jokes because he loved to hear people laugh. He followed us around the house reading jokes and riddles, and once he heard the sound of laughter, he never got off the stage again. He is still a frustrated comedian but he has perfected his delivery, and with very little encouragement can entertain for hours on end.

We all played the piano as kids, but John wanted to play the drums as well. Actually he was very good, and when my junior high school drill team was in need of a drummer to play cadence, I asked if John could do it. He became our drummer, playing cadence for our performances until I went to high school.

After George went to the Navy and I got married and moved away, John finished high school. He moved to Smalltown to live with Mom after graduation, which really spiced up our quiet life. He started a running regimen which quickly blossomed into a lifelong passion. He has been running for 27 years, and still hasn’t gotten where he is going. He has been in numerous marathons and races, but mostly he runs because he loves it.

John attended college, and after graduating, was ordained as a minister. The next year he moved to New Orleans to attend the Baptist Theological Seminary for his Masters. It was there that he met his wife Barbara. Barbara compliments and completes John. They have a wonderful relationship, and we love her for the unique person that she is. After receiving his Masters of Divinity they moved to Rock Island, IL. They spent 2 years as church planters, and had their son John before returning to New Orleans to live. John had thought he had been called to preach, but he wanted to help people, so through a series of events now works at a psychiatric hospital as a psychiatric social worker. Barbara works there as well, and they are both caring and committed people in their profession.

John is one of the richest people I know. He is a caring, loving, loyal person and knows who he is and where he is going. He is disciplined, focused and hard working. He sets goals and surpasses them, encouraging and challenging others along the way. John is beloved by his many friends, a dedicated husband and father, and a wonderful brother and son.

Like my brother George, I am proud of John and I love him very much. They may have ganged up on me when we were kids, but I have the two best brothers in the world. I am very thankful that in middle age we are closer to each other and have more fun with each other than we ever have.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, September 03, 2003


High humidity and summer heat rendered our box fan in the house useless by midday. After lunch I laid Jennifer in her crib for a nap but she was too hot and too fussy to rest. Taking a quilt, the baby and a few of her toys we went out to the front yard and settled under a shade tree. The August sky was a bright azure blue, full of huge cottony clouds gliding lazily across the sky.

There was a soft breeze made cooler by the shade of the big oak tree, and soon Jennifer had ceased her fussing and was absorbed with the shiny black eyes of her teddy bear. Stretching out on the quilt I stacked my hands under my head and looked up at the clouds drifting by.

When I was growing up I spent a great deal of my summer vacations on a quilt under our big elm tree reading. Every two weeks Mom took my brothers and me to our local library to pick out books. She always chose one that she wanted us to read, and under her guidance we read most of the children’s classics. Once we had finished the requisite book we could read the books that we had chosen for ourselves. An avid reader, I completed the entire Nancy Drew Mystery series, the Hardy Boys Mysteries and much of the teen romance section.

On days when I had finished a book or just wanted to daydream, I watched the clouds. The never ending parade of animal clouds would float across the sky, constantly changing shapes and becoming something else before moving on. Many times Mom would come out for a while and we’d look at the animal clouds together. Where I saw dogs, cats, and zoo animals Mom always saw shapes that were more dramatic and magical than what my imagination conjured up. With her help I also began to see large medieval fire eating dragons, winged horses, dinosaurs and unicorns. Mom always told us we were only limited by our imagination, so she encouraged us to daydream, read, and use our imaginations.

Looking over at Jennifer, who was now chewing on her baby rattle I pointed up at the sky and said, “Look honey, do you see the kitty?” She was watching my face instead of the kitty cat floating out of view, and realizing that she was of course too small to watch the clouds I began to describe the animals I saw to her. Several minutes later I glanced in her direction to find her sound asleep.
Smiling, I shifted her to a more comfortable position, and rolled over onto my back to watch the clouds.

The front door opened and closed. Mom walked over to the quilt and sat down, handing me a glass of iced tea. Inclining my head toward the sleeping baby I said, “She finally gave up. I was just watching the…”
….”Animal clouds?” she asked. “Mind if I join you?”
Smiling I said, “Sure. I bet we can find a large medieval fire eating dragon or two up there, don’t you?”

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, September 02, 2003


Older brothers can be your best friend or the bane of your existence. This is true if the sibling is a brother, but if you are a sister of an older brother it is absolutely most assuredly true.

As brothers go mine fall somewhere in the middle. My older brother George and younger brother John were always in cahoots with each other, me being the focus of all their heinous and nefarious plans. They are the reason I am scared of the dark, afraid to open a closet door, and why I look under the bed before I get into it. Reading this will only validate their success and send them into raucous laughter and hoops of hilarity.

George was three years older than me and six years older than John, so our interests were quite different. Much of the time instead of playing games with John and me he could be found in his room drawing large sailing ships or historical manor houses. If we ventured into his room , he would launch into a lengthy oratory of his project. We never knew for sure what he was talking about, but he was so enthusiastic that somehow it was interesting.

For Christmas one year George received a large scale model of the USS Constitution and he sat by the hour working painstakingly on that model. He has always enjoyed history of all kinds and is knowledgeable about it. Athletic pursuits never interested him, but he mowed yards for extra money. He had a paper route for a time, and I remember how scared we were when he came home after being dog bit and had to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot.

John and I were always bugging Mom and Dad to let us go with George when he went places and got to do things we couldn’t. He was in scouting and had to put up with us tagging along to a lot of the functions because Dad was the scout leader and Mom helped with the special events. We made obnoxious pests out of ourselves I’m afraid.

After grade school George and I never attended the same school again. We seemed to start going our own ways as we grew older, but we all caught up with each other at the dinner table each evening when we sat down as a family to eat. This was a hard and fast rule in our house, and Mom made sure that the family reconnected during meals.

George started out in scouting as a cub scout, advanced to boy scouts, and finally to explorer scout. When he was only fifteen years old he was awarded the honor of Eagle Scout. It had been a long and hard fought victory, but we were all so proud of him at the ceremony. He also earned God and Country, Order of the Arrow, had made two trips to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, two years at Camp Nash and made one canoe portage from Eli, Minnesota to Canada and back again.

After high school graduation George attended the local junior college for a year before enlisting in the Navy. This was the first time one of us would be going away for a long time, and when he left it was pretty traumatic. Several days later, his street clothes and overnight kit were mailed back home from San Diego, California where he was in basic training. It was such an odd feeling- as though he was never coming home again.

George loved the Navy. His first ship was the USS Monticello, where he served for 2-½ years. He wrote wonderful and interesting letters home about his travels, but it only served to remind us how very far away from home he was.
One day we got a call saying that he had fallen from some scaffolding on the ship, breaking his arm and injuring his back. It was a very scary time, and I was sad that he was there in a strange place with no family to be there while he was mending. This event proved to be a turning point for George. Due to his injuries he was reassigned to the disbursing office where he was trained in disbursements and payroll.

George was reassigned to the USS Oriskany for the remainder of his tour. After receiving his honorable discharge from the Navy, it was the training that he had received following his accident that secured him a job with the Department of Defense at the Marine offices in Kansas City, Missouri. He has been promoted numerous times through the years and is now a certified PC repair technician.

John and I are outgoing personalities, where George is more reserved. He has always been a thinker and a dreamer, and because we are so different, he has remained somewhat of a mystery to me. He has had many friends in life, and he bought a home in the neighborhood we grew up in and lives across from his best friend and wife from high school. George has a West Highland White Terrier named Murphy and a cat named Cheetah.

George lives as he has all of his grown up life, steadily, orderly and quietly. He is a good son, a loving brother, a loyal friend and a good man….a quiet man. I am proud of him and love him very much. He hopes to retire soon and build a home with us here in Smalltown…..on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, September 01, 2003


Our bird feeders have been a great source of joy and entertainment. We have watched many resident bird parents bring their new offspring to the feeders and birdbath, and have enjoyed the many different birds who drop in for food and water as they migrate through our area.

Living in the woods we have a very large bird population. There is always a flurry of activity at the feeders and birdbaths, and we are rewarded with their beautiful songs. The drawback about living in the woods is that we also have a large number of squirrels who also love sunflower seeds and cracked corn. They are voracious eaters and can devour large amounts of feed in a surprisingly short amount of time. When the feed is gone they chew on the feeders and perches.

Squirrels are cute and highly entertaining in their own environment and we have greatly enjoyed both their resourcefulness and their antics. Once they find the bird feeders and the feed they become regular visitors, set up housekeeping and claim squatters rights. They sit on the feeders for extended periods of time, eating like there is no tomorrow. This keeps the birds from being able to eat, which is a problem during the nesting season as the birds can only be away from their nests for short periods of time to feed and drink.

We have employed all of the tried and true methods of squirrel proofing the feeders but nothing outsmarts them for very long. One in particular was especially resourceful. He would climb the ‘squirrel proof’ pole and wrap around the feeder on the bird perch. Locking his toes around the perch, he picked up a sunflower seed and then hang upside down. He would hang by his feet and eat the seed and then roll up to the tray, get another seed, resume his upside down position eating the seed, swinging back and forth as he did so. He could hang there for long periods of time eating seeds, so we named him ‘Hangs By Feet’.

During the summer months Hangs By Feet visited the feeders and drank from the birdbath several times a day. He was not disruptive to the birds and we enjoyed watching him each day. When the days shortened and temperatures cooled we noticed several more squirrels. By first frost we counted over twenty. Our feed bill rose sharply and we were filling the feeders several times a day.

One fall day we left to do some shopping in a nearby town and returned home around supper time. We heard the birds chirping and flitting around in the trees, so we walked over to the feeding station to investigate. The feeders were all completely empty, several perches had been chewed in half and two lids were laying on the ground, riddled with tiny teeth marks. Refilling the feeders, we covered the feeders until morning, but two of them would have to be replaced.

Discussing the problem over dinner we weighed our options. We could either stop feeding the birds, or find someone to hunt the squirrels. Both options were upsetting but the squirrels were becoming too destructive and disruptive. A few days later, our neighbor Bob was telling us that his squirrel feeders were empty. He had many squirrel feeders in his yard but had stopped feeding them during the summer. When we told him about our problem with the squirrels, we hatched a plan of action. We quit feeding the birds for two days, during which time the squirrels rediscovered their feeders at Bob’s house.

Having replaced the ruined feeders and refilled them with fresh seed, we returned to the house and sat at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee. Fifteen minutes later, the birds were once again eating at the feeders. Peace and harmony returned.

Several days later, we noticed a squirrel climbing the ‘squirrel proof’ pole to sit at the feeder. The three of us looked out at the feeder in dismay. “Oh no!”, we cried. Then he plucked a seed out of the tray and hung upside down to eat it.
“Hangs By Feet!” “It’s Hangs By Feet!” “Hangs By Feet is back!” we all cried at once.
We’ve had several generations of Hangs By Feet and as long as Bob keeps his squirrel feeders full, harmony reigns and all is well….on our country road.

Until tomorrow,