Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Christmas Party

I looked at Terry all cold and wet as I sat
in my recliner in my PJs all toasty and said,
"If you are too tired to go, we don't have to."
It was eight o'clock at night and he had just
gotten back home from delivering mail in the rain.
"No Honey, I think it is important since you are new
to go socialize with the teachers from Blackwell.
Let me get my bathrobe.
Now are you SURE it is a pajama party?"
I assured him it was and we would have a super-fun time.
As we wound our way to Ken's house I peered out
at the black, rainy night and said, "Gosh, I haven't been on
this road since I delivered mail on Dave Graham's
route in 1980. It still looks exactly the same."
It had been pajama day at Blackwell elementary
so I didn't need to change clothes after work.
At lunchtime, our school secretary, Lisa, said everyone
had to come to the party in their pajamas. Everyone at the table
said it was a great idea....
We entered the party and I was excited to introduce
my funny mailman to my delightful co-workers.
Not one of the forty people enjoying drinks and food
had on pajamas.  Except Lisa.
They ALL turned to look at the late arrivals
and had on the BIGGEST SMILES.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Raccoon Hat Soup

For costume day at work today,
I borrowed Terry's size 2X Daniel Boone shirt.
I pulled it over a bulky sweater but it was still baggy.
My pal Ruthie had a raccoon get in her chicken coop in 1985
and Johnnie took care of of the problem and made her a hat.
She gave it to me thirty years ago and it STILL stinks.
I added the hat to my costume and got to work.
I told the office manager, Jennifer, I was Luranna Boone,
Daniel's sister and frontier librarian.
I was in my broom closet/office when the
nosy kindergartners came to get their coats for recess.
As usual, a half dozen squished into my office
to see what I was doing. My hat was a big hit
and they took turns sniffing it and petting it
and saying, "Ewww..." Little Zachary looked up
at me and said, "Can we boil it for soup?"
From the Frontier Librarian Cookbook comes
the recipe for Hat Soup:
1 Boil the hat
2 Add salt and pepper
3 Make Zach try it first

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Topless in Tahiti

"We've been swimming over four hours,
let's stop at that raft for a rest."
Kelly and Hugo and I were bored
sitting around the pool day after day
waiting for a 747 crew to call in sick
or go past duty regs.
The fourteen of us sitting reserve in Tahiti
couldn't believe our good fortune.
Three days ago I was laying on Sandy Beach,
south of Honolulu with three other
reserve flight attendants when Ellen Sue's
pager went off. She dashed to the pay phone
and came back screaming five minutes later
that she had been scheduled to deadhead to Tahiti
to sit reserve for seven days to cover sick calls.
Debbie and Kiki and I jumped to our feet and
raced to the pay phone. Debbie arrived
first was told she could go to Tahiti
and she said, "Hold on, my friends want to go too."
I was assigned the trip and so was Kiki.
Approaching Tahiti from the air took my
breath away. It was hard to imagine anywhere
prettier than Hawaii, but the endless shoals
around the tiny islands looked fantastic.
Our beachfront hotel was happy for the steady
business from Continental airlines and treated
us like royalty. Well, the front desk staff did
anyway, the barefoot maids glared at us the the
French-speaking locals were openly hostile
when we went to the store for French bread and cheese.
Every night the hotel put on fashion shows and
dance exhibits and after a few drinks
we would be asked to participate.
Jolly good fun but after three days
boredom set in and while all the girls
wanted to stay at the pool,
I needed some adventure and talked the two guys
on the crew into going snorkeling with me.
"I really need a rest guys, come along now."
We put our snorkel masks down and paddled to
the side of the raft and looked up at its occupants.
The two gorgeous girls were topless
and I managed to say, "Mind if we rest a minute?"
Kelly and Hugo couldn't speak but their
eyeballs nearly popped out of their heads
at the sight of their bare chests.
I felt embarrassed for them but it was rather funny
since normally both of them were unrepentant chatterboxes.
They spluttered and stared but no words came out and finally
the French girls managed to say in broken English,
"Go away disgusting Americans."
We paddled off and after a few more hours
in the crystal clear, warm bath-like water,
we returned our snorkel gear to the front desk
and thanked them for a wonderful outing and
told them we went to the mouth of the bay.
"But we told you to stay by the shore!"
the manager said emphatically.
"So many sharks where you decided to go."

Dream Library/Ornithology Center

I dreamed the school board gave us a building
but my library was a round building by the forest.
One side was books and the other side was tiered displays
of bird nests full of different speckled candies.
I looked out the window and a huge robin with
bright orange feathers was on a nest fanning her wings
in the sun and her chicks were too.
I turned around and the candies had turned into real eggs
but the chicks were hatching fully formed
into tiny two inch long beautiful birds.
I lean over and stare at the tiny mockingbird.
She fans her white and black wings
and I examine the tiny feathers,
looking closely at the black and white contrast.
My heart seems to grow bigger as I study the feathers
and I am filled to overflowing happiness.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Quail On The Run

I could see the top of the knee high grass moving
like in the movie Jurassic Park when the velociraptors
went hunting as my quails were on the run.
I could hear them trilling below the swaying swamp grass as
they dashed to freedom along the fence line and into the brambles.
I felt sad and proud like I felt on Troy's first day of
kindergarten as he climbed up those huge
steps of the school bus that would take him away
towards future independence.
The song, "Band on the Run" began playing in
my head and I felt cheered up thinking of
how much fun it must be for my covey
exploring the wilds of the yard.
Only Helen Keller remained in the coop
pigging out on the fresh feed in the dispenser.
I sat in my lawn chair enjoying the warm sun
and after a few hours I saw them bobbing around
back to their coop. Fred came under the fence first,
followed a little later by Ginger and Ella.
Gail didn't show up for another five minutes.
She's a full-blood bobwhite and pretty wild.
I tossed a raspberry to Fred and it rolled
under the buttercups. He lunged underneath
the weeds and came up chomping the juicy fruit
then turned and shared it with the girls.
They bobbed around the yard for a half hour
cooing and trilling before hopping back up
in their coop. After much burrowing in their
fresh pine shavings they all fell asleep in
the sun. I closed and latched the coop door.
Content knowing my little flock was safe.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Have You Seen the Whistle Pigs?

"I woke up with a song in my head Bren and it is to
the tune of "Have You Seen the Muffin Man."
I started singing in my goofy, robust voice,
"Have you seen the whistle pigs, the whistle pigs,
the whistle pigs, oh, have you seen the whistle pigs
that live on Boullion King?"
She looked at me across the kitchen table and smiled
and said, "If that's really what you want to do in
Ouray, let's go."
We hiked up from a trail called Falling Rocks
to about 9,000 feet in the glorious Colorado sunshine
and I began to whistle my chickadee call, followed by
my quail and pheasant calls.
"Look!" She shouted, "There they are! Tom
was wrong, they do come down below the tree line.
They came down because you called them."
I stared at the two fat groundhogs about 500 feet
away with surprise and happiness.
It was a tough two day drive from Seattle at 1,200 miles
in the blazing August sun but she needed her car
and when it comes to loyalty, I spell it with a capital L.
Earlier the previous day we got lucky in Toppenish
and the McDonald's counter girl told me the town was famous for murals,
so when Bren took a wrong turn going back to the highway
and I got to see over fifty really cool murals.
When we stopped in Ontario Oregon for lunch
I asked the waitress where Idaho was and she said,
"You're looking at it. Right on the other side of the bridge."
She smiled and said, "You'll like Idaho 'cause our speed limit is 80."
More like ninety the way we were driving to make it to
Ogden for the night. Tough work for Bladder Day Saints
determined to hit every rest stop in Washington, Idaho,
Oregon and Utah. It was getting dark a few hundred miles of
outside Twin Falls Idaho and we were getting nervous.
I suggested Bren call AAA and she did and the lady
told us we'd better stop at Trementon Utah for the night.
We got the last room and popped up at seven and cruised
through Salt Lake City and down down down to Ouray.
Coming into Ouray we stopped at the "natural" hot springs
for a rest break and after looking at the sunbathers
I decided humans could use a cute fur coat like dogs
to be a bit more attractive in their birthday suits.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Here's A Dead Branch Honey"

I was thinking to myself,
"Why do weeds grow twice as fast as
my flowers?" as I sat on my little
plastic garden stool which has wheels
digging out dandylions along the road in
front of my house. I noticed two older ladies
walking down my road having a nice chat.
"We were just looking at those pretty purple
flowers yesterday." Said the shorter lady.
"Feel free to pick them anytime." I said
and stood up and smiled at them.
"Would you like to see my bird sanctuary?"
They replied that they did so I led them around
to mummy's wheelchair ramp so they could see
the birds bathing in my old Tupperware chip tray
behind the lattice under my fir trees.
We walked back down and I led them to the other
side where I had built a large brush pile
and added two more birdbaths with milk gallon
drips and a bird swing-set.
"My dog-walking friend Camille gave me
her daughter's old "Birds and Blooms"
magazines which taught me how to make my
yard appealing to birds." I said.
The ladies smiled and were delighted and
the taller one reached up and pulled a branch
from my hedge and handed it to me and said,
"Here's a dead branch Honey."
My eyebrows went up in astonishment but
I recovered quickly and said, "Thank you."
I had just put that dead branch there yesterday.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ringneck Pheasants in My Office: Goodbye Sweet Sixteen!

"Well, according to this download from the internet,
we need to dunk their beaks in water if they are
hatched from an incubator."
Brenda and I leaned over the cardboard pen
in my office and stared at the two week old chicks.
"That sounds easy." She said.
After fifteen minutes of catching the tiny chicks
and dunking their heads in the water dispenser
we were satisfied they knew how to drink and
felt like accomplished pheasant mothers.
It was not easy! They were tiny,
but fast as greased lightning.
Six weeks later the phone rang
and Brenda asked me how our babies were.
"They are fine but I had to put a top on the pen
because they kept flying out to sit on the windowsill.
Now the odor in the room burns your eyes because
they grew so fast but when I try to clean the pen
they all fly out! Can you help me release them
to the yard tomorrow?"
Brenda stood in the middle of my backyard
where the pheasants were SUPPOSED to live happily ever after.
"Okay, when I slide them out of Milo's cat carrier
into the pen, you can put the top on the pen." I said.
Ugh. We stared up into the sky as the sixteen pheasants
shot straight up into the sky as if out of a cannon and
away into the wild blue yonder and I said,
"Goodbye sweet sixteen!"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Forty Year Reunion Roosevelt High School Seattle Washington Class of 1975

You know you are getting old when your reunion name tags
are in LARGE PRINT (thankfully),
you hear the word, "Legacy" in the program,
and a missing husband has NOT
sneaked off for a smoke but is sound asleep in the car.
Our reunion was held at the swanky Sand Point country club
and I arrived with my classmate Bill Cook in his
cherry restored 1967 candy apple red Mustang.
I'd dieted all summer to squeeze into my size twelve
white and pink-rosed cocktail dress but it was
tough breathing since I only got down to a size fourteen.
The zipper got caught on my back-fat while getting ready
and Terry was still at work.
Luckily one of Troy's friends was home next door
and managed to zip me in.
Probably scarred him for life!
Only a hundred of our six hundred classmates showed up
and I remembered most of them.
All past slights from high school are forgiven when
you know you are down to your last few decades
so I hugged people that I couldn't stand when I was eighteen.
I sat at a table with my best Latin club friend,
Marie McGarry and she had come up from California to see us all.
I was also with Bryant elementary friend Marcia Burkhart
and there was a good showing of Bryant and Assumption people.
Right after dinner, Aime Lambert ran up to me and said,
"Gretchen, have you seen Tom?! I can't find him anywhere?!"
I told her I hadn't seen him and an hour later
she told me, "I found him asleep in the car!"
I just laughed because I was ready for bed too.
We are almost sixty now and old and tired
and ready to retire.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"That Gretchen is SO Stupid."

As I watched the needle on the scale creep
up, my life passed before my eyes.
The moment I had worked so hard for
for five long years had arrived.
I had been selected to be
a flight attendant and the only thing
between me and my dream job was my weight.
As I stared in horror,
the needle climbed to one hundred and thirty pounds
and I felt the floor open up under me.
Blackness and dizziness started enveloping me
and I finally heard a distant voice saying,
"Do you think you can lose that last five pounds
by training? You have six weeks before you are
scheduled in Houston."
A miracle.
It was a miracle.
After eating 1,000 calories a day for five years
I was HIRED.
"Oh yes, that will be easy." I said
smiling at the young lady in the hotel room.
Only two weeks ago I had been sorting mail
at four-thirty in the afternoon
when I overheard the mail carrier
on the next aisle over say,
"That Gretchen is SO stupid.
She never knows when to give up."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Visiting Alaska and Denali National Park

This was the trip of a lifetime. Seeing Denali was my husband's lifelong dream and we were fortunate enough for the summit to come out for fifteen minutes during our Back Country Tour on our last day of vacation. Our bus driver, Dave Salmon, stopped so we could take pictures. He was an outstanding guide with twenty years of experience. He has a Master's degree in zoology and gave detailed information on bears, caribou, moose, ground squirrels, ptarmigan and mosquitoes. He also gave us information on the history of the park, the geography and geology of the area. He was also friendly and funny and treated our group like one big happy family. We met many many interesting people from every state in our great country from grass farmer's from Wisconsin to sugarcane farmers along the Mississippi. We met a group of sisters living near us in Seattle and are going to further our friendship too. We also met visitors from every other country while at the park and had fun taking pictures of each other all over the park. It was on the Back Country Tour that I got to fulfill one of my life time dreams. I was able to pan for gold on a real claim in Alaska in the Kantishna river behind the lodge. Being a Seattle native, the gold rush was a big area of our school studies because Seattle was grown from supplying the miners of the Klondike gold rush. When I was ten, in 1966, I remember thinking it would be so exciting to pan for gold. While I didn't find a nugget big enough to pay for our vacation, I had a lot of fun trying. At one point a grizzly bear was chasing a herd of caribou about a mile from our bus. It was fun to watch until the herd began to tire and the reality of what might happen dawned on us. Our entire bus began to chant at the caribou, "Run, run, run!" and up and over the ridge they went, leaving the disgruntled bear to a lunch of wild blueberries.
The new visitor's center at the park is stunning. I've been to lots of national park centers and none can compare Denali visitor's center beauty, range of displays and friendly rangers. Ranger Mark's talk on the wolf packs of the parks was fantastic. We learned so much about the wolves and he had two pelts which were saved when illegal hunters killed them. There are two free buses which circle the park. We took the Riley creek campground bus around the lower parts of the park, which is a hop-on hop off bus. One stop is at the Horseshoe lake trail head. A mother moose lives near the lake with her calves. She was feeding on muddy lake grass close to the shore and didn't mind us all taking pictures of her. The other free bus, the Savage river bus, goes fourteen miles into the park. It is also a hop-on hop-off bus. We got on and off all over the route. One of my favorite spots was the historical Savage river cabin. At one time in the 1930s there were forty cabins and a mess hall so it was fun to look in the windows and see all the old furniture and supplies. This bus drops off my favorite part of the trip which was the dog sled home and demonstration. I didn't know the park had this and it was one of MY life long dreams to see real life mushers mush. We were allowed to see the kennels and pet many of the dogs and when we were in the stands waiting for ranger Mark to introduce the show, you should have heard the dogs howling to be part of the sled team! When the ranger woman flew around the mud track with the dogs at top speed, it was thrilling! Neither my husband or myself had ever been on a long train ride before but like most people, we love trains. I had bought an upgrade to the Gold Dome car and it was worth every penny. This was a one time trip up to Alaska for us since we are getting older and I would suggest paying extra for this FANTASTIC ride. Our conductor George has been on the television show about Alaska and we felt like we had gone through a time machine when he came to punch our tickets wearing a traditional Alaska railroad conductor's uniform with cap. In the Gold Star cabin, you are on the top of the train in an assigned seat with plenty of leg room and able to walk around and meet neighbors and go outside to take more pictures. The meals are included in the price and we met wonderful people from all over our great country. The scenery was stunning and we saw many moose and it was exciting going over the three hundred foot high trestle bridge. My work friend from a previous job, James Ogden, has now been promoted to conductor so if you take this trip, tell him, "Gretchen says, 'Hi'" I do hope you take this trip to Alaska. It is the only untouched ecosystem left on our lovely planet and when you see the vastness of six million acres, you will be glad you did.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Did You Find Your Book Yet? End of the Year in the Library

I was starting a nervous breakdown
over my 17,000 barcoded items at work
that needed to be checked back in
by the end of the following week
until I asked my first grade class
if any found their books. Tavas,
"I found it in my attic but forgot
to put it in my backpack."
Jack, "You know how you toss a book
as high as you can Mrs. Nixon?
It finally fell off the roof
but I forgot to put it in my backpack."
Sophia, "It was in my brother's room
under the chair cushions."
I guess lots of teen boys
like those Jewel Fairy books too.

Monday, May 25, 2015

My Office Stinks or Why Raising Pheasants Inside is a Bad Idea

I clicked the Play Video icon on my friend's
Facebook page and stared at the beautiful pheasant
walking in his back year. When we moved to Kenmore
in 1990, I'd see pheasants in the meadows along the river.
That was before my sister's dog ran loose and chased them away.
I found pheasant chicks on Craigslist and built a small pen
of cardboard with a tarp bottom and chicken wire top.
I called Brenny to see if she'd go to the feed store with me.
We picked up all the gear they told us we needed
and on May 16th we picked up my eleven ten day old chicks.
They were tiny and fuzzy and very cute.
What I didn't know was that they would stink.
Eye-burning stink.
I don't care though. Now they have quadrupled in size in
a week and lost their downy coats.
I left the chicken-wire top off their pen when I dashed
for water and five had flown the coop.
They were on the windowsill pecking at the glass trying to get out.
I got them back in the pen and gave them
corn on the cob and juicy watermelon.
When they get a treat they like they
trill. Just like the Tribles on Star Trek.
The rest of the time they just peep, peep, peep.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Library Fun at Blackwell Elementary With "Sophie's Squash"

I tinkled my little chime that sits on the counter.
"Good afternoon class."
I smiled out at the three rows of first graders
beaming up at me as I perched on my fancy, padded, swivel stool.
"Good afternoon Mrs. Nixon." Said twenty-five toothless sweeties.
"First I will read you, "Sophie's Squash" and
then you can read me "That is Not a Good Idea."
I focused the document camera so Sophie and her squash were
six by eight feet high. The lush colors of the greens
and market sprang to life. Sophie loved her squash.
Everyone loves someone or something at least once in their life.
She has a surprise after putting the rotting squash in the soil
and waiting for the snows of winter to recede.
Bernice has sprouted new growth AND she produces two babies,
Baxter and Bonnie, who look just like their mom.
"Let's draw Bernice, shall we?"
"Okay, look at the screen. Oops. Ugh.
Bernice looks like a bowling pin.
I'll try Bonnie. Uh oh, she looks like a Candyland piece.
Baxter will be perfect.
Oh no! He looks like a peanut.
Well, do your best kids."
"Look, look Mrs. Nixon!" They all hold up their workbooks.
"Hey, no fair! Your squash look better than mine."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Installation of the Bothell Bike Trail Bridge

I was flooded with relief as I finished delivering
the mail from Bothell to Kenmore and back
along highway 522. The entire distance from
Bothell QFC shopping center down to Kenmore Safeway
and back was fairly hair-raising, trying to get in
and out of traffic without being nailed by a semi.
The scariest spot to deliver was to the
Balls of Bothell, on Dead Man's Curve.
It's really known as Wayne Curve.
Unless you are pulling out into traffic
in a tiny mail jeep and wondering if
you'll live to see pie at Petosa's
at Bothell Landing or not.
I'd finished delivering Valhalla and crept
back on the highway going east towards Midas Mufflers
when I saw the bridge. While it meant a fifteen minute
delay for pie, I mean mail delivery,
it was exciting to watch the gigantic semi do a
Y turn to back across the four lanes of the highway.
On the back of the longest flatbed I'd ever seen were
two several hundred foot long slabs of concrete bridge.
My mouth dropped open as the driver backed the slabs
backwards across the highway and down the narrow drop
and steep hill into place across the Sammamish river.
That was in 1980 and now I ride my bike up from
Kenmore to Bothell and across that bridge every day.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Son the Sign Flipper 6/11/2012

I cruised over the hills of Canyon Park
with the scent of McDonald's
filling my mini-van.
Double cheeseburgers, french fries, hot cocoa.
All the treats that a teenager loves.
It was March and bitter cold
and the snow had started coming down
in giant, icy flakes.
As I came over the rise and climbed
the next hill, I was excited to see my
first-born child at his job.
My son, the sign-flipper.
At sixteen, this was his first job outside
of yard work and house work.
So him having a real job was a big deal in our family.
I reflected on the years of fun family life
as I drove along.
Holidays, family camping trips and vacations.
Picnics in the swamp, making pies together.
At eleven, he began that natural pulling away
that a son starts with his mother.
At fourteen, I couldn't stand being in the same room
with him most of the time and
at fifteen he was worse.
At sixteen, I could feeling him come back to me
occasionally like we were pulling some familial
rubber band. Short glimpses into the future.
But I knew I would never be the rock star again.
The days of being stuck together like glue
were long gone.
As I pulled up to where Troy was twirling his sign
I could see his expression of consternation with me.
I just wanted to give him hot food and drinks
while he stood in a half inch of snow.
I wanted to be his rock star one last time.
I lowered the window and he came over to accept
my maternal offerings of food and love.
"Hurry up mom! There have been hot chicks
driving by waving at me!"
No thanks, no gratitude, no manners.
Hot chicks?!
I drove off hurt but full of pride as I looked
in my rear view mirror
at my son
the sign flipper.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

How the Blind Lady Showed Me an Owl

The chirping sound of the bird was loud, sharp and insistent.
I slowed down and could see a red-winged blackbird in the maple tree.
I got off my bike and sat down on the grass next to the bike trail
and closed my eyes and listened to it.
I had just finished an article in my favorite magazine,
Birds and Blooms, about a blind lady back east that
teaches bird listening classes for blind children.
Her main tip was to listen in your yard, then parks
and concentrate on telling different bird calls apart.
I sat in the warm sun and that song of the red-wing blackbird
sounded harsh, like he was angry.
I opened my eyes and stared at him and followed his song
to the next tree.
There sitting quietly, in the early morning sun, was a two foot tall
striped brown and black owl. His head rotated slowly around
and his gold eyes looked at me.
I thought his eyes looked like that of a cat.
I had never seen a wild owl up close before
and I sat there until he went to sleep.
Then I rode home.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Story of Mabel (Huff, Stowe, Barmuta) Philbrook Minnesota 1920)

The Life of Mabel Stowe Barmuta 9/27/2011

I was born in Philbrook Minnesota on September 27th 1920 at home.
Philbrook was a one horse town.
The town had two grocery stores and we’d sell all our eggs, milk and cream there
and we’d buy the flour, sugar and salt back from them.
The town had two gas stations and two churches,
one for Catholics and one for Protestants.
We all went to the same school first through eighth grade.
My mom’s name was Alice Huff and she her family had moved from Pennsylvannia to Minnesota and my dad was born in Staples Minnesota.
My dad, Elmer Stowe, had a ranch up in Montana and wanted my mom to go live there but she didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave her family.
I had two older sisters, Martha and Myrtle.
My dad picked us out all M names then chose Wallace
for my little brother because he said it was an
upside down M.
We lived two miles out of town on a wheat and cattle farm.
We were pretty well off and had a Ford Model T when I was little.
We didn’t have any electricity and used wood-stoves for heat.
We had one in the kitchen and one in the living room and
my dad had to take his axe and cut down trees all winter
for heat because he was too busy running the farm in the
We had a small two bedroom house with a basement with a cellar.
My dad would bury carrots and beets in sand and they’d keep all year that way.
He just threw the potatoes in a heap.
All the dry food like sugar and flour went in the cupboard
but the cold stuff had to be kept in the lean-to in a bucket
of cold water. You’d have to go out and pump in fresh cold water
a couple times of day to keep it fresh.
In the winter it was so cold you just left it in the lean-to.
We didn’t have indoor plumbing
and had to run out to the biffy to use the restroom.
When it got too cold we had to use a chamber pot.
We didn’t have indoor running water but the
pump was next to house in a lean-to.
That was my job and it would freeze in the winter.
If you forgot to trip the pump to get the water out,
you had to prime it every to get it restarted again.
I’d bring the water in every day after school at four and
fill the cream cans .
I had to fill the tea kettle, the reservoir attached to the stove
to keep hot water, and the water pail for drinking water.
To wash clothes once a week on Monday
we’d boil water on the stove, then fill up the
washing machine. The tub had a crank and
I was the motor. I’d raise and lower the crank
which would make the agitator bar turn back and forth.
After I washed the clothes, mother would boil them for twenty minutes
and then I’d wash them again and then I’d run them through the wringer.
We didn’t have electricity but we used kerosene lamps
with mantels and they gave off a lot of light.
The school was two miles from our farm and we’d walk both ways.
When it snowed a lot my dad would hook up the horses
to the big sleigh that he used to haul trees in the winter.
It was about twelve feet long and five wide.
We had three big draft horses that pulled the sleighs
and plows.
The schoolhouse was white and good-sized and our teacher
had fifty to sixty kids from first to eighth grade.
For fun we worked.
Just kidding. We played tic tac toe and there was a ball and a bat for
the whole school. In winter we’d make snow angels.
We each have a lunch pail and you’d better not lose it.
The lid was attached to the pail
and you’d put in an apple and sandwich and a jar of milk.
Mother would always cook roasts and bake bread and we’d make
sandwiches from that.
There was water cooler was in the school-room with a spigot.
The bigger boys hauled in the wood for the woodstove
that the school board men had cut and delivered to the shed.
At home for fun we kids played card games like Bunko or BINGO
or tic tac toe.
My grandmother lived about two miles away and I’d ride my brother’s bicycle
over on the big road to her house and back but I’d never tell anyone.
I was a good bicycle rider and I’d even stand up on the cross
bar and steer that bicycle with my feet!
At Christmas time we’d go to my grandmother Huff’s house and my aunts and mother would make dinner for all of us.
The last day of school was always a big deal and the school would put
on a big picnic. They’d make sandwiches and potato salad. The homemade ice cream and lemonade were treat foods you’d never have all year. You couldn’t just open a can of lemonade and lemons didn’t grow in Minnesota!
We’d have footraces and I always won my class. I was fast.
The high school was five miles away from our house and I stayed in town
with the high school teacher and his wife.
My mother died when I was sixteen and my dad sold the whole farm he was so heartbroken and got a small house in town. My older sisters had gotten married
and moved away so I went to work.
I went out to my sister’s in Detroit and I went to work at a restaurant.
It was very high falootin and I didn’t like it.

In 1940 I wrote my aunt in Portland Oregon and asked if I could stay with her and she told me to come on out. I got to Portland and stayed there three days and then I took bus to Seattle to my great aunt Bernice’s house near Greenlake.
She told me to go down to Boeing so I did. They hired me and sent me to Boeing school to learn how to make airplanes. The war started soon after that and I got started running a turret lathe making all kinds of airplanes. I ran that machine for ten years making parts for warplanes. They were putting those planes out by the hundreds for the Air Force and sending them to Europe and Japan.
That’s were I met Arky. He couldn’t go to war because he was the only guy that knew how to repair all the machines.
He asked me to go to a movie after work one day and I did.
That started the whole thing rolling.
We went to Thirteen Coins or Russell’s and Lion’s Music Hall where we did the jitterbug. I was pretty good at jitterbugging.
We got married in 1945 and moved to North Seattle near Roosevelt Way.
In 1947 we moved out to here to Kenmore and Arky and his brother Vlad Barmuta started building this house.
The highway from Seattle to Kenmore was still brick back then.
Kenmore was a one-horse town back then and the main restaurants were The Porterhouse right across the highway and we’d go to the Kenmore Community Club down the street.
Arky kept working for Boeing and then he started his own furniture making company below our house called Barmuta Furniture Company.
Kenmore had an annual celebration called Frontier Days.
We had a parade and over by the drive-in theater they had carnival games and rides.
We joined Seattle yacht club and our group would cruise all around the San Juan Islands and one year we went clear up to Juneau Alaska.
Mike was born in 1950 and he went Arrowhead elementary, Kenmore junior high and Inglemoor High School and the UW. He got a job and moved to Everett.
Donna Mae was born in 1957 passed away from cancer when she was five.
After I worked at Boeing I got hired at Eldec Electronics as an inspector.
I retired at some point and here I am today,
having my ninety-first birthday today.
Hard to believe.

I recorded this story while laying on Mabel’s couch, like I was prone to do, gabbing and resting and enjoying “girl time.” She was a terrific next-door neighbor.
Later that day, I took her to renew her driver’s license because she wanted to.
She no longer drove but wanted to have it. Because she could.
There are a few inaccuracies in this story because Mabel's memory was in decline.
I typed verbatim.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Standing in the 747 Engine in Australia

I looked out the plate glass window at the 747
parked at the end of the jet way.
Mary said, "Look at the mechanic down in
that engine. He looks so small."
I looked down and saw him and he did look small.
Even with the nose of the plane almost to the window,
it was so darn long that the mechanic was hundreds of feet away.
My imagination took a quick spin of roughly
two dozen things that could go wrong with that engine
between Sydney Australia and Honolulu Hawaii.
I said, "You know what would be cool?"
Mary looked at me, and I continued.
"What if all fourteen of us got up in that engine for
a picture?" I looked at her twinkling blue eyes and big smile
and continued, "You know how nice they have been to us
this Christmas? They even chipped in for our dinner
because they knew how homesick we were."
Tall thin blond Andy said, "Go ask Gretchen."
I went down the jet-way to the outer stairs
and down the stairs to the tarmac.
"Excuse me" I said to the white-overalled mechanic
when he came down the ladder.
I cranked up my smile as high as it could go,
"I don't suppose we could go up for a photograph?"
He laughed in that sunny "No worries" Australian way.
"Sure lassie, go get your mates."
I ran yelling back to the crew,
"Hurry, hurry! He is going to take our picture in the engine!"
We climbed the ladder into the cowling and huddled together
and the mechanic snapped our picture.
As I stood there with a smile on my face
I did the mental calculations of our combined weight
and wondered what the stress limit on the bolts was.

"Don't Embarrass Troy"

We were in the van on our way home
from Canyon Park Goutback Steakhouse.
Contrary to my New Year's resolution to
lose ten pounds, I was craving gout food.
Terry told me not to embarrass Troy
when we arrived at Dollar Tree for coconut water.
He got out of the van and walked to the window and
told me to peer in the window at our son working.
We had our faces on either side of the round
window decal advertising all the hot sale items.
So I did and he starts tapping on the glass until Troy saw us.
I was thinking, "In what world would this NOT embarrass our child?"
But I didn't say anything...
just peered in as instructed...