Neighbor Logan (9
tomorrow) spent time with us after we got home from our trip. I love
his sense of humor. He posed, showing off his muscles, with great
help from a tennis ball.
There had been several heavy downpours, so we drove to see how high the creek was.
He reminded us that we didn’t have batteries for the radio controlled cars, and Dollar General was on the way home. The right batteries were not in stock, but Logan showed me where Pokemon cards would be. He explained that with cards costing only $1, the display was always empty. He dropped down flat on the floor and looked under the rack. There was always the chance someone might have dropped a pack out of sight. No luck that day.
When Rose and John
$pencer came home, Logan enjoyed playing with Sadie. He loves dogs,
so he didn’t mind that Sadie kept licking him.
settled down, he had a tug-of-war with her.
We didn’t need a
reminder that it was good to be home.
In the midst of
our homecoming from the trip out West, someone asked a question about
schedules. I was enjoying the moment and not ready to look even one
minute ahead. I said, “All my planning ended with this trip, so I
might as well be dead. Just think, that makes this heaven!”
I’m glad the
assembled company laughed instead of going out to dig my grave.
We saw many people
on our trip, and finally we had someone come to see us! (Brother of
brother-in-law Thom) Russ and Elizabeth met us for lunch at the
Jukebox Junction. We love this annual visit, time they carve out of
a conference to spend with us. Hours spent with family are
In the middle of
the night, I heard someone walking in my room. Being surrounded by
family, I assumed the footsteps were friendly. They were. Lightning
lit up the room as grandson David stepped in from the deck. He
carried my solar stars and walked them into the bathroom. He knew
one star had already been damaged by wind and that I often bring the
hanging stars inside when it is windy. I was able to get enough
words together to thank him before I fell asleep again. John and I
were impressed at the debris on the roads this morning, evidence of
high winds. Everything was dripping wet, and the creek was high and
I laughed when I went in the bathroom, seeing where David had hung the wet stars. They were still trying to shine, giving their best effort in the dim light.
I FORGOT to
write the story about Larry, Chicken Grandma’s husband. I heard him
mention Minnesota and asked if that is where he came from.
“Oh, naw!” he
said. “I grew up about five miles from here, and Faye maybe ten
I asked, “Did
you go to the same schools?”
replied. “We were in the same room all the way through. Back then
she was just another girl in the class.”
I laughed, because I could hear behind those words, the tone a boy would have used. You know a 10-year-old would have said the word GIRL with disgust. He went no further, because it was obvious his view of Faye changed drastically, and they have been happily married many years.
I kept forgetting John and I are years older than Faye and Lar, maybe because they made us feel young. They mentioned the age of their youngest son, and he is only a few years older than our elder grandson.
a trick from rehab days. The most slippery tub we had was in a
handicapped room, of all places! John warned me before I stepped in.
I put a washcloth where my feet would be and did not slip.
to write about going to the Lewis and Clark Experience. This
non-museum was in Sioux City, near where the members of the
expedition camped. I was surprised to learn that only one man from
the group died. He died in that area, and the rest of the men went
all the way to the west coast and back without further loss of life.
Amazing! The facility was geared for school children. We saw
youngsters eagerly stamping their cards and rushing to the next
exhibit. I felt the display was disjointed, but that’s a small
drawback, since it was obviously exciting to the children there.
I had asked John to stop the car when we first saw the snow-capped
peaks of the Rockies on the horizon. We passed a small windmill near
the road, one I could almost have reached out to touch. Water was
running out of a small pipe, and it was the only windmill I ever saw
accomplishing anything. Then I saw the solar panel. Although the
structure looked like a windmill, it was really a solar mill.
I NOTED a
regional food item that we had not seen before. We tried to eat in
local restaurants most of the time. I ordered a chicken dish with
lemon, spinach, and artichokes one day and saw the same item on the
menu at a different place the next day. That did not define it as a
regional favorite, but it was worth noting.
about fence structures along interstate highways in Colorado and
Utah. John slowed down for me to take a picture of one. Does anyone
know what this is for? There was an earth ramp up to the fence, and
in the middle of the ramp was a divider. I guessed it would guide
wild animals off the highway. The drop on the other side would
discourage them from going near the road again. I’d love to know if
my supposition was near the mark.
I LOVED coming
back to my own bathroom. Have you noticed that public toilets and
motel fixtures are designed for a short six-year-old?
had a marvelous trip, but it was time to get home. The official log
showed we drove 4,814 miles in two and a half weeks.
Our last person to
visit on the trip was Audrey. John had been in phone contact with
her for the last few years, but this was the first time he had seen
her since they graduated from high school 60 years ago. I knew she
had been a refugee, but I heard more of the story. She came from
Estonia and probably does not remember her father. He was in a war
camp and died of TB. She remembers seeing a statue from the ship,
which her mother told her was the Statue of Liberty. She was eight
years old. Their sponsor did not know they had arrived, so someone
took them to the Waldorf Astoria for the night. I cannot imagine
life from the mother’s point of view. She must have struggled for
many years to care for her daughter. Audrey went to school, not
knowing a word of English. She spent half the day in second grade
and half the day in third. It seems the language began to click when
she took piano lessons. Audrey and John were in the first graduating
class of Our Savior, a Christian school in the Bronx. From there she
went to two-year Concordia College, eventually married her college
sweetheart, got a BS in nursing, and later a master’s degree. She
and Frank had two sons. The couple had a good life together, making
it to their 50th wedding anniversary before Frank died.
Audrey smiled a lot and gave us a warm welcome. Several times she
said how good this country had been for her. I agreed with someone
who said Audrey was a blessing to the United States. She worked in
the Veteran’s Hospital, and after retirement, volunteered there.
There was one
amusing incident. I knew Audrey was not hearing me well, so I said
as loudly as I could, “You don’t speak with an accent! How did you
Audrey replied, “I
cooked the pasta and meat together in the oven.”
Imagine a big-eyed
cartoon of me, sitting there wondering exactly what she thought I’d
said. John picked up on it, and he repeated my conversation for her.
In Kentucky we
went through horse country and hilly landscapes before getting to
East Tennessee, near home. It was marvelous to drive in and find
hugs waiting for us. After other trips, we walked into an empty
house, needing to unpack the car and buy groceries before being fully
functional. Not this time! Rose made a statement that I ought to
work with needlepoint, frame, and put on the wall. She said, “We
cleaned so that you wouldn’t have to.”
Son John $pencer
said, “We’re going to cook breakfast for you tomorrow. We found
vegetarian sausage that Rose can eat, so we’ll have biscuits and
sausage, bacon, and eggs.”
What a homecoming! When David came home from work, we had another warm welcome and more visiting. I didn’t know returning from a trip could be so exceptional.
the time and were getting to Springfield too early for lunch. Cousin
Peter and Debi had the wonderful suggestion of having brunch together
instead of lunch. They met us at the restaurant, and we chatted
until the hostess seated people at every table around us. We did
right well, considering some of us don’t hear well and some don’t
talk with booming voices.
on the phone to make the plans, they mentioned that we would go by a
rest stop at mile 30 on the interstate. Debi’s father gave the
easement to put that rest stop on his property. My question for Debi
was if she remembered the building of the highway. She did, indeed.
She remembered a night when she had a slumber party, and she and her
friends walked over to the construction site.
I was interested in the health of their church. Some years ago four churches joined together, because none of them were big enough to keep going on their own. Debi was pleased to tell us that the melded church has been held up as an example of a successful integration. She and Peter, along with others, worked hard to make it happen. It’s always great to hear a success story.
The time together was all too short, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.
Friend Faye (https://thechickengrandma.wordpress.com/) in northwest Iowa is the fourth blogging friend John and I have visited. It is the most marvelous thing to meet someone you’ve known only through the computer. Maybe this time I’ll call it instant bonding. Faye and Larry came out to greet us, and there was not a moment of silence after that.
Because of Faye’s
blog name, I wanted a photo of her chicken coop. She did a post on
the building of it, using reclaimed materials. Farmers are
resourceful, and I’m convinced Faye and Lar can fix or recycle almost
As one of her
girls wandered by, I asked Faye if she touched them. I should have
asked if she petted them. She scooped up a black one and let me pet
it. The answer is, she picks them up from time to time to keep them
used to human contact. Their grandchildren would be disappointed if
they couldn’t get near them.
Faye offered us
peach iced tea and pie. When setting up a meeting with a blogger, I
suggest we just sit and talk. I don’t want people diverted from
conversation, because there is never enough time to say and hear
everything. She asked in such a way that I knew the treat had been
prepared. Additionally, I had seen photos of some of her creations
in a post. Only a fool or someone on a restricted diet would have
refused. Both the tea and the pie were superb.
We didn’t talk
with our mouths full, but the conversation never flagged. We found
out Larry likes motorcycles as much as John likes trains. Faye had
photos of some trains on her camera and shared them with us. I
wanted to know what crops they grow, and the answer was corn and
beans. I thought that’s a little different from where I grew up in
Tennessee, where we grew cotton and beans. They live way out in the
country, so I asked where they bought groceries. Ten miles in any
direction was the reply.
The land in
northwest Iowa is beautiful – fairly flat and very green at this
time of year. Before we left home, John showed me a Google map of
the area. Everything, and I mean everything, is square. The land
was laid out in squares when it was settled, so all the roads run in
straight lines. What a contrast to the roads in the mountains of NC
that go in endless circles!
We laughed a lot
as we talked. I can’t remember all that we found amusing, but the
conversation was most enjoyable. I wanted a quick refresher on their
three sons. One lives nearby, but the other two are further away,
meaning they don’t see their children and grandchildren as often as
Faye knows birds
and mentioned pigeons. I remembered pigeons from the three areas
I’ve lived in. When a black and white bird flew over us, I asked her
what it was. A pigeon. It’s coloring was not familiar to me, but
the flight pattern was. When I described a bird I’d seen on a
bridge, she thought it might have been a red-tailed hawk.
Larry and Faye
talked about cracklins, if I have the name correct. It’s something
he loves and she could happily live without. Pigs are raised in the
area, and sometimes they are given one. After the good cuts are
taken, they render the lard. It’s a messy job they do in the barn.
They heat the bits and pieces. Faye likes to use the lard (fat) for
pie crusts, and the meaty bits get crunchy and are frozen for later
I loved the story
about French toast. When the boys were growing up, Lar occasionally
cooked breakfast for them. They were active, always running about
the farm, and they were bottomless pits. Four pieces of bread fit in
the skillet he used. The boys could eat much faster than he could
cook. His solution was brilliant. After every two pieces of toast,
they had to drink a glass of milk or water. That no only slowed them
down, it filled them up.
This was just a taste of our time together. Faye and Lar are warm and caring, the kind of folks you are instantly drawn to. As we were leaving, I took a quick picture of them with John. This was an event to remember and to share with others. When we were back on the road. I just sat and savored our visit. How blessed we were to have that marvelous time with Faye and Larry!
Faye wrote a lovely post about our visit. Read it here and get a bonus — the recipe for her pie shown above.
John is barely visible in a photo taken in the Milwaukee Shops. Hogging the picture is a Great Northern Steam Engine which ran out of Sioux City, Iowa. John enjoyed talking to two volunteers at the museum.
We went to church
in South Dakota. It was a Lutheran Church of the Reformation, and we
think it’s an association of Lutheran churches of which we know
nothing. They used the hymnal we used to have, and the service was
our favorite. The small church had active members, and I could also
say the active church had small members – lots of children. The
children were well-behaved. How I wish I could have taken a photo of
one boy! He was nonchalantly barefooted. I laughed to myself when I
saw that, because John was not approving the jeans I was going to
wear. My black slacks were missing for several days, and I thought I
might have left them in a motel. John found them yesterday, along
with his missing socks and underwear, in a bag of laundry. He washed
last night, so I was presentable to go to church.
At the church,
there was another young boy who was chewing gum. As the teenager
passed the offering plate in front of him, he pulled the gum out of
his mouth and pretended to put it in the plate! I was glad he didn’t
Susie asked about the states we have been in. That’s John’s
department, so I asked him to rattle them off, which he did –
easily. We have one more to go, our 13th. John’s list is
North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas,
Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Indiana.
Nebraska I went to the restroom at a gas station. The stalls all had
the same fixtures, but I was in a hurry and did not have time to read
I’m sure my face
registered surprise when the seat was hot. Thankfully, there was a
sign right in front of my nose to explain that. The day was hot, so
I didn’t find a hot toilet seat to be particularly comforting.
The instructions for using the bidet were on the door. Wouldn’t you love to see the reaction of settlers going across this area in covered wagons if they saw that sign??