All My Ancestors

4 July 2012

Bachelor Farmers and Corn on the Cob

Filed under: South Dakota, Unruh Family by allmyanc

Tonight we had corn on the cob at dinner. I’ve been working on my extreme dislike for grocery shopping and consequently, we’ve taken advantage of some of the fresh produce available at out local Sunflower now Sprouts Farmers Market.

Every time I eat corn on the cob it takes me back to my summers in South Dakota. The farmer across the road from my grandparents’ place grew corn. His house was up the hill and not all that visible from the road, and I could not understand why it wasn’t just ok to cross over into his field and help ourselves to a few ears. I loved the stuff and couldn’t get enough. My grandmother ran the country post office and store, but being 17 miles from a town, fresh produce wasn’t high on her list of offerings.

We called him “Batch.” Tonight I was wracking my brain trying to think of his real name. I always thought of him when I heard Garrison Keillor talk about the Norwegian bachelor farmers–especially the part about seeing their bedding on the clothesline once a year. That part of South Dakota was populated with second and third generation immigrants from Scandinavia, so I’d assigned Batch to that category.

I decided I’d see if the 1940 census would help. This was about 10 years before my grandparents moved up there from Beaver County, Oklahoma, but I knew that by the time I started going up there in the mid to late 1950s, some of the “old-timers” were still there. So perhaps I would recognize some of the names.

Somehow, I remembered Granddad calling him “Augie.” So, I thought I’d search Hughes County, located right in the middle of South Dakota, for a man named August. Sure enough, the third on down, was August Rauch in Township 111, Range 77. This section was only 5 pages long, but it was full of names I recognized. There was Earl Mosteller, and his father Earl, Sr. I never knew Earl Sr. but Earl Jr. was a missionary and always spoken of in reverent terms. I knew his mother, Mabel, and she’s there too–she lived in Canning, the little village where my grandmother’s store was, in a small trailer, out behind Grandma Clark’s place. I didn’t see Grandma Clark there, so perhaps it was prior to her arrival in Canning. The DeHarts were there as well–I knew Alda and her brother Charley and their canaries. Charley was at the post office every day to pick up the mail and one week when I was bored, I’d dyed my two white kittens with food coloring. Charley had only on good eye, and he said, “Is my eye deceiving me or is that cat green?” It was the funniest thing I thought I’d ever heard.

There was Merl Putnam, age 17. He was a man with 3 sons when I knew him, and he was one of the few people who could match my granddad’s exacting standards. Granddad helped Merl build his home down the hill on the creek, and Merl helped granddad keep his buildings and equipment in good order. I think Merl’s oldest son bought Granddad’s 1932 Ford pick-up I learned to drive in when Granny and Granddad came back south for their retirement.

I saw the Nye family–I remembered them–Clayton Nye had twinkly eyes and always had a kind word for me. All their kids were in the area–I knew some of them later. And there were the Samco family, who were listed as merchants of the grocery store. That was the store that my grandmother later owned–I didn’t know the Samcos but I do have a post card that has “Samco’s Store” on it. And in the same building as the “grocery store,” there was a hardware store, long since abandoned when I was there. I saw the proprietor of that store on the census as well. The Fry family was there, the family that owned the store in between the time the Samcos had it and my grandmother bought it. By the time I knew Canning, it was a sparsely populated place with a church and a post office and a large, two story red-brick school that had once housed all grades through high school. I attended that school when I was in the 6th grade, and by then it was functioning as a two room school. However, because of its former grandeur, we had a gymnasium in the basement and really nasty looking lab specimens in one of the upstairs rooms. Those rooms were not heated but they served just fine for recess on the days we couldn’t go outside.

But back to Mr. Rauch/Batch/Augie–here he is on the census (along with the Nye family)–

Look at where he’s from–it’s not any part of Scandinavia. Luxembourg? He was 46 in 1940 so when I knew him in the late 1950s, he was pushing 60. This makes me wonder when he immigrated. Like all our genealogical quests, one answer leads to many more questions.

I enjoyed this trip down memory lane–the “village of Canning” showed teachers and preachers (both the husband and the wife were listed as ministers) at the small country church, and many many farmers. But there were also some folks who worked in the gravel pits for the WPA and even one man who said he was a musician in an orchestra. I don’t remember too many of those out in the prairies–when I knew him later, Mr. Schomer was a farmer. And there were a couple of young women who were listed as “typist” for N.Y.A. Sounds like perhaps an offshoot of one of the WPA programs, but I’ll have to do more research for that.

So now I’m off to see what I can find about Mr. Rauch’s immigration. As I tell my clients, it doesn’t have to be MY famly for me to get involved and enthused.


14 February 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane via Google Maps

Filed under: Cemeteries, Oklahoma, Perryton, South Dakota, Texas by allmyanc

Written for 52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #7

from Amy Lenertz Coffin at

Play with Google Maps ( This is a helpful tool for determining the locations of addresses in your family history. Where your ancestral homestead once stood may now be a warehouse, a parking lot or a field. Perhaps the house is still there. When you input addresses in Google Maps, don’t forget to use the Satellite View and Street View options for perspectives that put you were right there where your ancestors once stood. If you’ve used this tool before, take sometime and play with it again. Push all the buttons, click all the links and devise new ways it can help with your personal genealogy research. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with Google Maps, or suggest similar easy (and free) tools that have helped in your own research.

As I’ve written here many times, I come from a family of farmers–persons who had land, for the most part.  Those farms and ranches are no longer in the family.  But I can visit any time I like using Google Map.

My maternal grandparents lived on a ranch in South Dakota.

The main buildings were the house and the barn.  The barn, at the time of this photo, sported my grandad’s brand above the doors, Lazy XY.  The house actually faced north, but this is the southern exposure.  It was too cold in South Dakota to have a north facing entry, so we always used the “back porch” as the entry.

My grandparents had moved most of their things back to Texas by the 1980s–they were in their 80s by then and they first spent winters in Oklahoma and Texas with my folks and my aunt and uncle, and later stayed “in the south” year round.  Shortly before my grandmother died in 1998, the house burned.  We don’t know the details, we just know that it burned to the ground.  In a sense, it was a blessing that the house took care of itself–

When I find myself thinking about the carefree summers I spent at my grandparents’ ranch, I look at my photos, but I also often pull up their place on Google Maps:

I can still see the barn and the tree rows planted east of the house to catch the wind and snow.  A trailer home replaces the house for the family that lives there now.  If I really want to, I can move to the right on the map to “roam” the pasture.  And I can follow the road (306th Ave. on this map) a couple of miles down the hill to the little village of Canning where my grandmother ran the country store and post office, and where we lived the year I was in the 6th grade.

This picture brings back lots of memories.

Over there at the left is the beginning of the spring-fed lakes where we swam in the summer time and ice-skated in the winter.  At the right, the “top” of Cactus Loop, is where the school was.  There was a cemetery behind it and a huge hill down the side.  We sledded in the winter and rolled down in tractor tires in the spring.  Why we weren’t killed is amazing to me.  My grandmother’s store and PO was to the left of the intersection of Chesley Rd and 206th St.  It looks like there’s some sort of barn there now.  Above where Spring St, crosses Chesley St. is the church, with another cemetery behind it.  On up that hill takes me back to my grandparent’s ranch.  See the house at the lower right?  I won’t include the name of the people who live here, but my granddad helped build that house–with someone as particular as he was–they got along fine.  The drilled holes for the nails before they pounded them in–no nail guns here.

I have these places, and others, bookmarked on Google Map.  I like visiting them occasionally.  There’s a country cemetery in Beaver County I like to visit–it’s easy to count the miles as I travel down the road, and I know how many miles and which directions it is to visit where my great Aunt Edna and Uncle Gurly lived, and where my great-grandparents lived out there in Beaver County Oklahoma.

And then I can always “drive-by” the house where I grew up (marked with the small white heart)–it’s a different color now but it’s still located across the street from the high school, between the First Christian Church and the Church of Christ on Jackson Dr., and I can drag Main Street if I’m feeling really nostalgic.


15 August 2009

Ponies of my Past

written for the 78th Carnival of Genealogy

Despite having grown up in a rural community, and in a family that had nothing but farmers, which inevitably included some livestock, I didn’t do lots of horseback riding. This is undoubtedly due at least in part to my own terror of most four-legged creatures–dogs, cattle, horses, you name it, with the exception of cats. I managed to negotiate the farm life without too much interaction with horses, except that the excitement and appeal of riding them sometimes overtook me and I had to try to ride. My aunt, only 4 years older than me, spent hours riding through the pastures. I wanted to be able to do that, but what if the horse saw a snake? or bucked me off? or saw a snake AND bucked me off? or was charged by a crazed bull? or stepped in a hole? or ran away with me, dragging me hanging from one stirrup and bumping me along the ground where I’d hit my head on a rock? or lightening struck me while I was out there all alone? The terrifying possibilities were endless.

My granddad religiously read the American Quarter Horse and could recite horse genealogies like I can recite my own family members. He talked of sires and dams and which horse was “out of” which–following these bloodlines and their accomplishments was his passion. Once when I was taking him to visit what was then the National Cowboy Hall of Fame here in Oklahoma City, a college friend asked me if he knew any of the cowboys enshrined there. I answered that he probably knew some of them, but he was more likely to know their horses. Sure ’nuff, he recited the names of their steeds, along with their “out of’s”.

This picture is undoubtedly from one of the traveling carnivals that came to town each year. That’s my brother in front of me, in the hat. He was considered “good” with horses. and cattle. and various other four-legged critters. Still is. Note my moccasins. I was never able to wrangle a pair of boots from anyone, but I did have several pair of moccasins.


My maternal grandparents lived on a ranch in South Dakota. They had an old gray mare called Sedan, named for her original home in Sedan, New Mexico, as I recall. She was gentle when everyone else rode her but she knew my terror and managed to act up every time I was on her. When we were young teens, Granddad bought my brother and I a paint pony–he was brown and white and part shetland. My whole life I’d heard how onery and sometimes just plain mean shetland ponies were. Ours certainly lived up to that reputation, at least when I was aboard. My grandmother named him “Flip” because I was always getting flipped off, so to speak. He managed to trot hard enough to bounce me off when he saw the barn OR he would ride close enough to the fence to brush me off. He only behaved that way when I was riding him. Or at least my brother managed to get his bluff in on him so that he would behave when Thad was riding him.

Here’s Flip behaving beautifully with my brother aboard–my brother in his hat and boots, once again.

And here’s an older picture in my collection. I don’t know the name of the horse in this picture, but I do know the kids aboard. They are my uncle Pete and his cousin Winifred. This photo must have been taken about 1922, probably near Pampa, Gray County, Texas. It could have been at either of their homes or the home of their grandparents–at this time, they all lived northeast of Pampa, if I’m correctly remembering my dates.

So there were always horses around. But it was better for me to not be around horses. They just weren’t my friends despite my wanting to be a good rider. I can tell you how to do it, but I can’t actually do it.

Sort of like dieting.


1 June 2009

The Good Earth: Family Ties to the Land


The Good Earth: Family Ties to the Land

Written for the 73rd Carnival of Genealogy

Writing about this topic could fill a book for me.

As far back as I’ve traced on both sides and all branches of my family, there have been land-owners and farmers.  I learned very early what was meant by a section or a quarter section of land, that there was nearly always a road on the section line, and I learned that land is organized by counties.  I used to take my dad to the county courthouses with me to read the deeds–he taught me to cut through the standard legal language to the “meat.”  He could read the land descriptions which looked like hieroglyphics to me–I still have to be very deliberate when I’m reading and mapping them.

No one was a land baron, though I suspect a couple of great-great grandfathers had such dreams.  For example, John Osborne ((1808 NC – 1865 TN) bought a large amount of land at the intersection of two railroads in what became Humboldt in Gibson County, Tennessee.  My understanding is that this was not an all above-board transaction, but there is even now a part of that town that is called the Osborne Plat.   His son came to Texas and had 9 children, born in about 5 different counties– his letters that survive all refer to his search for land.

My grandfathers kept moving south and west as the nation developed and  land became available.  Everyone farmed.  Even the one professional man, who was born in New York City, William Green Ball (1806 NY – 1881 IA), country doctor, was a founding member of the Warren County Iowa agricultural society.  My third great-grandparents (2 sets of them) who immigrated to McPherson and Harvey Counties in Kansas in 1874 from Russia brought turkey red wheat with them from the steppes of the Ukraine and southern Russia.  I grew up in a town in Texas nicknamed the “Wheatheart of the Nation.”

My dad farmed, his dad farmed, and so did my maternal grandfather.  In fact, my paternal grandfather and uncles often planted and harvested a crop in the Texas panhandle, and then they loaded up their equipment and traveled 640 miles north up Highway 83 to South Dakota to harvest their crop there.  My maternal grandparents left the Dust Bowl scarred Oklahoma panhandle about 1952 for the very cheap land available in South Dakota, and my paternal relatives farmed part time up there as well.

All of the men in my family farmed and all of the women had gardens.  Later, my dad planted a garden out in the field near the irrigation well, but I well remember my mom starting lettuce and some of the more tender plants in hot boxes dad built.  My younger brother was recently recalling his “first job,” at age 7 or 8, hoeing our great-Aunt Eva’s garden– for $.75 per hour and all the candy he could eat.  Aunt Eva managed to make the desert bloom like a rose–the desert of the high plains of the Texas panhandle–she grew peonies and roses and dahlias and foxglove and water lilies in her ponds.  In her garden she grew tomatoes and green beans and cucumbers and onions and peppers and dill for canning.  She also wielded a mean hoe if a snake of any sort dared invade her domain.  Further north, in the even more desolate Oklahoma panhandle, another great aunt grew a garden so lush and beautiful, you knew it had to be tended by a person with very exacting standards.  Aunt Edna always brought us gallon (!) jars of her delicious dill pickles and her pickled, stuffed green peppers, tied with white cotton string.  Yum.  I know now that she learned her gardening and pickling skills from her German Mennonite family.  I’ve given it a try and I can do it, but it sure is a lot of work.

My dad died about 6 years ago.  His brother, my Uncle Ray, is still farming at age 80–just one more year, you know. Uncle Ray is the only one of my dad’s 7 siblings still living.  I suspect my agricultural heritage ends with that generation.  My other brother wanted very badly to farm, but he couldn’t make it pay enough to support his family.  His current place on the lake, though, is tended by a smaller version of his favorite John Deere tractor and his garden is luscious.  And I do have a cousin with a PhD in agronomy–his email “handle” is “Dr. Dirt.”

Every quarter or so, I get a newsletter from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), because I still am part owner of the 1/4 section my dad owned when he died, and am a part of the partnership that still “farms” our grandfather’s land in Texas.  It gives me a sense of pride to get that flyer–I know it is counted as junk mail and unnecessary government intrusion by many of my family members, but when it arrives in my urban mailbox, I like it.

I have my herb garden growing, and I have a couple of vegetable plants in my flower bed.  I started some hollyhocks on the back porch and will transplant them soon.  Every time I do that, I think of my family and how many generations we have worked the land.

“We know we belong to the land, and the land we belong to is grand” is part of the Oklahoma state song.  I hope my 6 generations of Texas relatives will forgive me for using it as a way to sum up this posting.

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22 February 2009

Holiday Traditions: July 4 Redux

Filed under: Anderton Family, Holidays, South Dakota, Unruh Family by allmyanc

Week #7: Share your holiday traditions. How did you spend the 4th of July? Did the fire truck ever come to your house on Thanksgiving? Share your memories of all holidays, not just the December ones.

For this week’s blogging prompt, which I really like, by the way, I’m going to reprint an earlier post.  I’ve posted several times about holidays–sometimes after hosting Thanksgiving at my house and sometimes after going to my brother’s.  Other postings are related to honoring a great-uncle on Memorial Day and another posts a picture of “Christmases long, long ago…”

But here’s one of my favorite memories:  The July the 4 rodeo in South Dakota:

July 4 Rodeo

Filed under: Holidays, South Dakota — allmyanc @ 10:51 pm Edit This

I think most families had picnics or barbeques for July 4. My dad always said he worked outside all day and he wasn’t interested in eating out there, too. He had a point–it was usually 110 degrees and not many shade trees in the Texas panhandle.

But I was lucky enough to be in South Dakota staying with my grandparents on July 4 most summers. We still didn’t have a picnic, but we did get to go to the rodeo in Ft. Pierre. Ft. Pierre was just across the really big old metal bridge over the Missouri River from Pierre, but it seemed further away than that because it was such a different place. It was a fairly rough town–lots of bars and cowboys and such. Sometimes my cousin Willie rode the bulls in the rodeo, and then eventually he was one of the clowns. I don’t think they call them clowns any more, but that’s how far removed from rodeos my life is these days. Do they call them bull fighters?

The rodeo was the highlight of the summer, though. Usually we got to go to town and buy some new cowboy duds. My fave was the summer I got to buy red jeans and a red checked, ruffled shirt. I tried every year to wear the boots that were in the upstairs closet at my grandmother’s, but they were just too big. And while my brother got boots, I couldn’t talk my grandad into buying me some. I don’t think I actually tried too hard as it wasn’t all that cool for girls in the early and mid 1960s to wear cowboy boots.

That rodeo has been held every year since 1832, according to this website. I wouldn’t doubt it. Ft. Pierre has been there for a very long time–early fur traders were there by the late 1700s and by 1830, there was a trading post there. Of course, before that, the Sioux were there–one of the confrontations that Lewis and Clark had in 1804 with the American Indians on their journey west happened here.

But much of that history I’ve learned since then. At that time, I knew that Casey Tibbs was from Ft. Pierre and that he was the ultimate rodeo cowboy. I assume we saw him ride in the early 50s, thought I don’t specifically remember. What I do remember is that some guy flicked his cigarette ashes in the cuff of my little brother’s jeans and they caught on fire.

And I have this picture from Casey Tibbs’ funeral in 1990. It’s from an article in the Rapid City newspaper. The man standing beside the casket is my great Uncle Velcie, a cowboy in his own right (his last name ought to be AnderTon–a common mistake). Uncle Velcie broke horses for a living, but he also worked on the Oahe Dam when they were damming up the wide Missouri. Then there was the time he broke and trained 20 mules to a hitch, driving them from the Black Hills to Death Valley. That was in 1966 when he was about 57–not much older than I am now and I’m pretty sure I’m not up to it. He was still working cattle in his 80s.

Uncle Velcie and Casy Tibbs

I loved going to the rodeo. I’ve heard lots of people say they’ve never been or only been to 1 or two. My husband had never been until I took him to the National Finals here in Oklahoma City before they left town. He cheered for the animals–and I’d never really looked at it from that perspective before. But I loved the grand entry at the beginning, and at the Ft. Pierre event, there was what I remember as a really great fireworks show at the end. We must have been really dusty and smelly at the end of that long evening and probably slept the 17 miles home to my grandparents’ home, but I just remember what fun it was and how much I looked forward to it every year. And I’m glad to say I’ve known some real cowboys.


21 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Filed under: Anderton Family, South Dakota, Unruh Family by allmyanc

My grandparents, Elmer Dewey Unruh (1908 OK-1998 TX) and Lida Lee Anderton Unruh (1906 OT-1998 TX)

on their ranch near Canning, South Dakota

Summer, 1981

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14 January 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Filed under: Anderton Family, South Dakota by allmyanc

Gordon Velcie Anderton 1909-1997

Above, with wife Freda Jack in New Mexico, and above right, at funeral for Casey Tibbs in South Dakota.

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8 December 2008

Family Interviews at Thanksgiving

Filed under: Holidays, How to, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Unruh Family by allmyanc

The day after Thanksgiving I did what we genealogists recommend and support.

I interviewed my aunt.

A little background.  My aunt is only 4 1/2 years older than I.  She was born when  my mother was 14 and their brother was 16.  My grandmother was 40.  Needless to say, she and I have always been more of the same generation than different ones.

My mother (her sister) and grandparents (her parents) all died in 1998–Annus Horribilus as Queen Elizabeth II deemed her 1992.  My uncle (her brother) died last year.  So in some ways, it’s just us now.  We try to get together every Thanksgiving and this year I decided I would try interviewing her.  I really didn’t think she’d go along with it and I thought it might be redundant since we shared so many of the same experiences.  But I wanted to give it a try.

I started working on family history about 25 years ago, and part of the impetus was the stories that my grandmother told me.  I felt like I had done a pretty good job of asking my questions and writing down what they told me.  But the longer I’ve worked on a timeline for my grandparents’ lives, and examined photos, and tried to put the bits and pieces together, I’ve found I still have questions.  So I decided to interview my one remaining source, Aunt Cheri.

I used some of the questions in “My Memories” from Holly T. Hansen and Jennifer Hunt Johnson’s “Capture the Memories” series as a starter.  I was surprised at how pleased my aunt seemed that I was asking to interview her.  She sat up a little straighter and though typically a rather shy person, spoke eagerly and forthrightly.  I captured our conversation on an Olympus digital recorder–I have yet to transfer it to my computer, but editing will be done with Audacity, a free program I’ve used before.  We stopped after about an hour, planning to come back to it.  I should also say that I offered to send this book home with her so she could answer the questions in private, but she indicated she’d rather do it by talking.

One of the things I found out was that my grandad and his dad were perhaps WPA or CCC workers, something I never knew.  This came up when I asked her about how her family handled money.  The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl formed my granddad, her father.  But I’d never known about the work off the farm–I asked her if she had any idea how they’d managed to hold onto their land out in Beaver County, Oklahoma.  My grandmother had told me lots of stories about the window sills filled with silt and hanging wet sheets over the windows.  My granddad’s father had asthma so this was bound to be so hard on him.  [Read Timothy Egan's The Worst Hard Time for a fascinating account of this time and place.]  I never heard Granddad talk about this time, though I did find that he kept fritzing when I told him I was reading the newspapers from the time and place.  I remember finding that they were behind in their taxes a year or two, which in retrospect, was appalling to him.  I should have been gentler with my approach and I might have gotten a little more information from him, not to mention being a little more comforting about the importance of the long view.  My grandparents always had enough money when I knew them–Granddad was a very savvy money manager and never bought anything on credit.

Perhaps as important as the information I gained was the confirmation that interviewing relatives is important, even those with whom you have spent a great deal of time and who are “your” generation.  I hope I get to do extend this interview and now I have plans to “corner” my younger brothers.

Just a confirmation of how important it is to talk to the living.

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31 March 2008

I Loved That Car!

It was a 1963 Chevrolet Impala SuperSport convertible, with a 409 engine. It was navy blue with a baby blue interior. I think the top was white.

1963 Chevy

I suppose as a female I shouldn’t have cared much about cars. But I did. I had a girlfriend whose brothers were proud of their mechanical skills and their restored antique cars, and I picked up some car knowledge from them. Plus this was the era of the original Mustang and the GTO, so there was a lot of car talk going around.

Additionally, I grew up in the Texas panhandle, where the highways are seemingly never-ending, disappearing off into those unreachable horizons, and vehicles are important. It goes without saying that the cars had to be powerful because things aren’t close together out there, and when you had to go to the neighboring town, like maybe sneaking off to see your boyfriend, you wanted to get there and back home in a reasonable amount of time. Amarillo, the nearest town of any size, was 2 hours away–we didn’t measure in miles, it was too depressing. Rather, we used time.

My grandad bought that car for my brother and I. I asked my brother once why he thought Grandad took us squirmy, loud kids fishing–understand that our grandad wasn’t the stereotypical warm, fuzzy grandpa–he swore like a sailor and he was probably more than a little bipolar. My brother said, “I think he liked us.” Leave it to my brother–a man of few words. So I guess Grandad bought us the car for the same reason.

I’ll never forget walking across the big round gravel driveway, out to the granary, and around to the back to see the car. There it sat out in the middle of the South Dakota prairie, a sort of enigmatic picture. The granary was ancient and held my great-grandfather’s carpentry tools. And then there was this gorgeous car. I still wasn’t clear on how I got so lucky, but I was willing to deal with the ambiguity.

I don’t remember how we got the car home to Texas. I guess we must have driven it all 640 miles home, but I don’t remember that as well as driving it back and forth to college. You couldn’t have a more impractical car than that one in this part of the world–it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Riding with the top down was almost an impossibility because you risked baking. Anytime it rained, of course, if you were driving at any speed, it leaked. But who cared? We were young and the car was fast.

My brother and I were driving home from college one night–actually early morning– through the back roads in rural Texas. From nowhere, there was a sheriff or a highway patrol–my brother got a ticket for going 121 mph! The thought of that gives me cold chills now, but at the time, we were pumped about beating our time driving home from school. That car could fly.

1959 ChevyThere are other special cars in my memory–the 1959 Bel Aire sedan I drove when I first got my drivers license at 14! And used it to break a guy’s ladder that was sticking out the back of his pickup the first time I drove it to the grocery store. I think this was the car that we had air-conditioning put in–it was a unit under the dash in the middle–it froze your shins if you were riding in the middle, but what a luxury we thought that was.


About 3 months after I went to college, Dad bought me a used Chevy of some sort–one time having to come pick me up at school and get me back somehow impressed on him that he needed me to have a car. When I graduated from college in 1973, he bought me a new car–the first new car I’d ever owned. I think he was a little disappointed that I wanted a Toyota Celica, but he got it for me since that’s what I wanted. My high school boy friend’s 1956 Olds 88 (the tales that car could tell!), my Grandad’s ’48 Ford pickup I learned to drive in, 1948 Fordwith an in-the-floor shift, my brother’s first car that was a really a pick-up, a family Buick that kept catching on fire, my Uncle Larry’s’57 Chevy with Hank Williams songs on the radio, my grandmother’s circa 1954 purple Pontiac–all cars that are strong in my memory.

But they can’t top the Chevy SS convertible–I loved that car.


20 February 2008

President’s Day….Late

Filed under: AnceStories Prompts, Ephemera, General, South Dakota by allmyanc

Here are Miriam’s prompts for this week. I guess I’m not really late if we consider that George Washington’s birthday isn’t until Friday–we just celebrated last Monday, supposedly.

*As a child, do you remember celebrating either Lincoln or Washington’s birthdays? How did you celebrate them? What do you remember learning about either of these men?
It’s been so long since grade school. :-) But it seems to me I remember acknowledging both–along with the shoebox covering for the Valentine’s exchange, we cut out silhouettes of Lincoln and Washington each February.

Of course, I remember the “Honest Abe” stories–his hard beginnings, his mother’s death and his studying by candlelight, and his walking so many miles to return a penny or so he’d shorted his customer. Honesty seemed to be a big theme for emphasis because I also remember the cherry tree and “I cannot tell a lie” story for George Washington. And his wooden teeth.

The other thing I remember is that when I would visit my grandmother in South Dakota in the summers, we would sometimes stop by a little house in Blunt. The house had belonged to one of Abe Lincoln’s teachers back in Illinois who had lived in Blunt at the end of his life. His name was Mentor Graham–though I don’t know if that was really his first name or a title–but I loved going there and feeling a direct connection to Abraham Lincoln. In 1981, my grandmother and I got to take my sons there–one was an infant and the other was 3, but it is a meaningful memory for me even if they can’t remember it. :-)


*Did you get a day off of school, have an assembly, or was there a play performed?
Not that I remember. But those were the days before “Spring Break.” ahhhh, the good ol’ days

*Do you ever remember reading any books or watching any movies about these two leaders?
I don’t remember anything specific, though I have some recollection of Sam Waterston playing/reading for Abe Lincoln in Burns’ The Civil War.


*In your opinion, who was the greatest leader of our country, and why?
I don’t know that I want to do this one here. I can say that I have a great deal of admiration for both Lincoln and Washington–for their vision and their sacrifice and their humanity.


*In your current career, do you get Presidents Day off? Why or why not?
It depends. I’ve had jobs that we did not have the day off–teaching at University, working in a public library. I now work at a state historical society and we had that day off. Who knows the reasoning?!!


*In many communities, Presidents Day weekend is well-known for sales and special deals. How do you feel about this? Do you like to go shopping on this weekend? Or do you feel this emphasis on commercialism is disrespectful?
I can’t say that I think it’s disrespectful, but I don’t shop on that weekend. Of course, I don’t shop any weekend and as seldom as I can get by with, so I’m probably not typical in this respect.


*Presidents Day is also a day when veterans and Purple Heart recipients are honored. Are or were there any Purple Heart recipients in your family or ancestry? Have you written about what they did to earn this great award?
I don’t know anyone in my family who was awarded the Purple Heart. I do remember that one year we were doing a display for Veteran’s Day at the library, and one of our security guards brought his medal for our display. That’s really the first time I can remember seeing a medal and the person to whom it was awarded.


The other things I remember about Lincoln and Washington are that the summer we took the boys to South Dakota, 1981, we also visited Mount Rushmore. What a huge undertaking that must have been.

And my husband and I visited the log cabin ?replica? in which Abe Lincoln was born on one of our vacations before the kids were born–I just remember how beautiful Kentucky was and how much it smelled like whiskey.


Another favorite memory is going through Mount Vernon on one of our trips to D.C. I loved being there and looking at the gardens as well as the house. I thought His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis was a strong biography of Washington–I tend to like to get inside people’s heads, and I thought Ellis did a good job of describing the “why” of many of Washington’s decisions.

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