Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Long lines

Big E wasn't a very big town, but we had two elevators, the CoOp, and the Bunge CoOp.  Mom  worked at the Bunge Elevator. Our house, which we bought right after my 8th grade year, was 2 blocks south of the CoOp.

During those days, most wheat was delivered to the elevators in farm trucks, not the big semi's that most farmers use today.  Farms were still family farms and they were pretty small.  Most of the Wheat trucks had been bought in the 50's and 60's and held 300-400 bushels.   Wheat trucks were usually driven to town by the wives, daughters, and younger sons of the locals.  Small trucks meant frequent trips to town which  meant long lines at the elevator, sometimes stretching from the CoOp past our house and out to the edge of town. There could be 20 - 30 trucks in line at any given time.  Many of the drivers knew to take a book along to pass the time.  Drivers either read, or visited with one another by yelling from truck to truck, or if the elevator was slow dumping trucks, they'd get out and congregate in small groups which would break up and re-form as the drivers had to move their trucks one to tow places forward in line.

I have to admit, sometimes the line of trucks in front of our house were annoying.  They'd be there from 10 in the morning until midnight or later.  The exhaust could be smelled in the house.  You could always hear the rumble of truck engines and the grinding of gears.  I would usually check a couple of times a day to see how long the line was, or how fast it was moving and sometimes, I'd check out the custom cutters.

There were a couple of times when I made treats for some of the drivers I knew.  I was in 4-H and I was always trying out new recipes.  I know that at least once I made cake donuts and gave some to some of the drivers sitting outside.  A couple of times, I had girls ask to use the bathroom and a few times, I was asked to "Call Mom and have her tell Dad that the line is really long, so I won't be back for a while."

Before I started working at the elevator, I envied the girls driving the wheat trucks.  They had a "job", and got to drive a truck to town, read, and talk to cute custom cutters.  I never dwelt on the fact that those trucks weren't air-conditioned, that they were slow, rough-riding, or that the girls were hot, sweaty and bored while waiting in line to dump their loads.  I also didn't realize how much pressure they were under to hurry to town, get dumped and get right back to the field to be reloaded and start the process all over again.

And yet, knowing that it wasn't that glamorous, I still miss those days of the long lines at the elevator.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"Is Carol busy?"

Harvest is starting up around home.  It's 2 to 3 weeks early, but when the wheat is ready, it's ready.

I always get a little nostalgic when harvest rolls around.  While Daddy didn't have wheat (he's a COWBOY, not a FARMER), harvest touched our lives simply because everyone was touched by harvest.  Mom started working at the elevator during harvest in 1975 or 1976.  She just worked during harvest those first couple of years.  I don't remember what I did during those first couple of years.  I might have gone to stay with Grandma, or I might have stayed at home.  I might have cooked for Dad and Steve, but I don't remember doing so. I don't remember cooking for them until we moved to town.

We moved our trailer house into town in 1977, and I know I had to cook and do chores that summer.  In fact, Mom would leave me a written list of chores that were to be done by lunch time.  An addendum she always added to the bottom of the list was this phrase:  No swimming until chores are done.  MY DONE, not yours.  And, if she came home at noon, she'd check and quite frequently, I'd have to re-do my chores before I could walk to the pool.

It was about that same time that I had to take on the job of cooking the noon meal for Dad and Steve.  There weren't any Cafe's in Big E.  Dad refused to eat sandwiches, so I had to cook.  I was 13, old enough to cook one meal a day.

I'd decide what I wanted to fix, and then I'd call Mom at the elevator to find out how to cook it.  I knew she wouldn't be able to talk to me if they were busy, so when I called, I'd ask, "Is Carol busy?  Can I talk to her?"  If she wasn't busy, she'd tell me over the phone, how to cook meatloaf, or swiss steak, or how to fry potatoes, or how to make gravy  and I'd cook it for Dad, Mom and Steve.  Sometimes, we'd run a plate up to Mom, sometimes, she'd come home.

  I remember once when I called for instruction.  Bob, the manager answered.  I hated it when Bob answered because he always sounded mean.  "Is Carol busy?" I asked.  "YES," he yelled into the phone and slammed it back into the receiver.  Scared me half to death!  A little while later, Mom called me and said that it had been a rough morning and suggested I not call back that day. Believe you me, I didn't call back that day!  Bob later apologized to me, which didn't mean much to 13 year old me, cause he'd proved how mean he was.  Once I got to know him and could understand the pressures of harvest, I understood his reaction.  ( I can now look back and realize how annoying it must have been for everyone there to have me calling every single day, multiple times!)

That summer was the first summer Mom continued working once harvest was finished.   I still was a little leery of calling when I thought Bob was in the office, but I did call, I had to!  Dread filled my heart every time he answered.  I was so scared of him.  I learned to not call as often and to only call when I really needed Mom.  I would call her for cooking instructions, and permission to go to the pool, but I'd call Grandma for other stuff.  Grandma was't as good of a cook as Mom was, so I tried to not call her with cooking questions very often!  

I can't help but remember that time every single summer.  I still hate calling Mom when she's at the elevator--during harvest.  And, she's still working harvests.  She's retired, but she still is working harvest.   I still won't call here when I think she'll be busy.  I might get yelled at and hung up on!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Track season

Looking at those pigeon toes and knock knees, you'd never guess she can run.
But she can!  In her defense, Miss Kat is stretching or that top photo.  And in the second one, she's just coming out of her blocks.

At the start of the season, Miss Kat was running the 100 M dash, the 200 M dash and started the 4 x 100 relay.  As the season went on, she dropped the short dashes and picked up the 400 M dash instead.  The relay team changed and she was the only original runner at the end of the season, but had moved to the second leg which is a better leg for her.

That relay team left today for the State Track Meet in Wichita.

The girls run preliminaries tomorrow.  Kev and I can't be there, because there's this silly thing called work.  We'd much rather be in Wichita watching our baby run her little heart out.  Hopefully, we'll watch her run in the finals on Saturday.

The parents of the tracksters who went to State today made little "buckets" of treats.  I packed a cooler for Missy and packed her a box of Whales crackers (similar to Goldfish crackers.)  On the Whales, I put a note that said, "Have a WHALE of a good time!"  On her Ritz cracker packs with crackers and cheese, I put a note that said, "We sure think you are RITZ-Y!"  The Recees's cups said, "Hope you run your Reeces fast!  (Pretty lame, but it's supposed to be a play on the word...race. I had to explain that one to Miss Kat.)  The only note I forgot to attach was one on her Gatorade bottle...It said, "Gator-done!"

She didn't get to see what I'd packed as I took it by another Mom's house early this morning.  It was meant to be a surprise.  She texted me that she liked it all, and thanked me, but thought I was a little corny.

We've been very proud of her track accomplishments this year.  I've said in the past, she's a beautiful runner and to witness her achievements has been gratifying and very satisfying.  Nothing makes you prouder than seeing your kids succeed.

Gator-done Kat!

Friday, May 18, 2012


I went to a funeral yesterday in Colby.  It meant that I had to leave by 7:15 in order to get there on time.  I did, but I was almost late.  I'm one of those people who likes to be a little early, and NEVER late.  My arrival was later than I wanted it to be yesterday.  In fact, I was the last person seated before the family entered the church. 

As I was rushing to get into the church, I saw the family gathered outside, waiting for their entrance.  The Pallbearers were just starting to remove the casket of their grandfather from the hearse.  Standing off to the side, near the larger group of family, stood the new widow.  She looked so somber and deep in thought as she watched her grandson's start their work.  I can only imagine where her mind was at that moment.  In my mind, her standing there alone represented how she felt.  Her husband of 55 years was gone leaving her surrounded by a large family and yet still very much alone.  It was a poignant moment and I so wanted to stop and hug her before rushing into the church.  But, I didn't, because I also saw that  she needed that brief moment to herself.

The gentleman who died was the father of one of my friends, Sharon.  Denny, her father, was quite a character.   I met him shortly after meeting Sharon, as all the men in the family were avid bowlers.  In fact, that's where Sharon introduced me to her parents, the Bowling Alley.  Fritz, Sharon's mom, always tagged along and watched the men bowl while visiting with various other family and friends.  They were some of the most welcoming people I had met.  I've admired them for raising 9 good children and for adopting many of the people their kids drug home.  I was fortunate to be one of those drug in.

Denny's funeral was the first time I'd seen the Knights of Columbus present, and it was the first time I've witnessed military honors.  This one was special, because the honor guard was made entirely of family members.  They were a credit to their father, grandfather and uncle.

But what threw me was when Sharon introduced me to one of her nephews, (or aunt, or cousin) as her "best friend."  Now, I admit that we're close and are very much like sisters, but I'm not used to hearing someone refer to me as a "Best friend."  I felt honored and humbled, because I don't think of myself very good friend.  Maybe it was just the label that struck me, but it did throw me.

My brother once told me that I was blessed with the best of friends.  And I am.  WE are--Kev and I.  I know that I'm blessed by my friends, to to consider that maybe they feel blessed to have me as a friend is...almost inconceivable!  I was just doing what needed to be done.  I knew she'd need me.  Yes, she was surrounded by family and friends, but I knew that I needed to be there for her, so I was.  It was nothing special, and isn't it what any friend would do? 

I went to this funeral to honor a special man and his special daughter and yet upon leaving I felt like I had been honored.  Honored to be a part of the celebration of this man's life and honored to be called a "best friend."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kev's rustic coffee table

One of the first projects we did in this house was to install the pellet stove.  If you will remember, Kev found a big slab of black walnut wood and made this mantle.  He left the bark on it, and left it rustic looking.  At that time, Kev told me he was going to make a coffee table from the remaining slab, but he wasn't sure how he wanted it to look.

Then, this spring, 4 years later, he picked up some more pieces of the black walnut wood when he picked up the lumber for our stairs.  He told me he finally knew how he wanted to make his coffee table.  This is the result:

 He finally made his coffee table.  Two levels, one small piece resting perpendicular to the much larger table top.

I realize maybe the "legs" might not seem too impressive, but, see how clever it is designed?  The big stump was where the tree had branched.  Kev put the short piece of wood on one branch and the bulk of the table top rests on the other branch. He sanded the stumps making them as smooth as the table top.

It is beautiful. And, I have to admit, very unique.  I thought the wood grain was pretty before we sealed it, but once we poured the Tung oil on, the grain actually "popped".  It's a beautiful addition to our basement.