Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June Reads II

Minette Walters has quickly become one of my favourite authors. "The Sculptress", her second novel, did not disappoint. If anything, it was even better than "The Ice House". Walters' books do not follow a series character which helps in not having to read them in order of publication even though I happen to have read the first two in order.
"The Ice House" won the Crime Writers' Association John Creasey Award for Best First Novel. "The Sculptress" won The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. Our library does not have her third novel, "The Scold's Bridle" which won the CWA's Gold Dagger Award, making her the first crime/thriller writer to win three major awards with her first three books.
"The Sculptress" is the name given to Olive Martin, in prison for "carving" up her mother and sister. Journalist Rosalind Leigh's agent has given her an ultimatum: write a novel about the grotesque murderer or be dropped by her publisher. At her first meeting with Olive all Roz can think of is "Lizzie Borden took and axe and gave her mother forty whacks....."
Because of a trauma in her own life, Rosalind is ambivalent about writing any more books or even going on living. But something about Olive captures her curiosity and she begins her own investigation. Why did 'The Sculptress' kill her sister and mother? And if she wasn't guilty, why did she confess?
Walters doesn't just write mysteries, she delves into the psychology of her characters and maybe that is why I love her books. I am unable to figure out not only whodunit, but why, up until the very end. One of the sites I read about her says that she does not use a plot scheme. She begins writing with a premise and doesn't know herself until halfway through a book, "whodunit". I'll be on the lookout for a copy of "The Scold's Bridle" as I read my way through the Minette Walters' books the library does have. It does look like I have at least thirteen of her titles to look for.
Next I read another Anita Brookner book: "A Private View". Her "Hotel Du Lac" was o.k., but after reading "A Private View", I probably won't pick up any more Brookner books for a long time - not that she isn't a competent writer - just that there are too many other authors I'd rather be reading.
"A Private View's" protagonist, George Bland is aptly named. He has lived a quiet, orderly life, working forty years for the same company. Now, as he faces retirement and deals with the death of his good friend, he is asking the one question all we retirees must ask: "Is that all there is?" When his solitude is interrupted by an invasive young woman, George first imagines and then plots a different life with the opportunistic Katy - his 'last chance' to 'live' life.
When we realize that George's ideas exist entirely in his own mind and that Katy does not plan on becoming a part of his life, we fear for George Bland's sanity and future. Does he find redemption in the last line of the novel?
"Dead Days of Summer" a 'Death on Demand Mystery' by Carolyn Hart looks to be 17th of the 20 books so far in this series. It is a quick read, written well enough, but not so well that I am inclined to follow the series character through 19 other books. Not when I have books by Minette Walters to read.
The final second half of June book wasn't a book, rather a chapter and a half of a sci-fi novel my younger brother is working on. I was a little slow in picking it up to read as the genre is not one I generally go to. However, I was quickly intrigued by the premise of one's great-great-great-great-great grandson traveling back through time in order to obtain a DNA sample from his (then) teen-aged great-great-great-great great grandfather. (My own interest in our family trees could have something to do with that.)
Les is a good writer. His interest in science fiction shows in how well he has thought out the complexities of time travel. I hope he finds the time to keep working on his book. I want to know why Alex needs Sean's DNA.
I would also like one of my family members to actually finish writing a book. Perhaps I should pass along some advice I heard many years ago when I was writing my novel: "Don't worry about editing as you go along - just get it written, then you can go back and edit." Or the E. B. White quote I read just this morning: "A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting word to paper."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Big Ole' Fish"

This picture of me taken along the Mississippi River when I was four shows me smiling. That's not the way I remember it!
We were on our way to Plainville, Illinois with Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour - going out to visit Grandpa's cousins - Roy & Nellie Gray
I'm almost certain this is the same trip where we had spent at least an hour stopped on the Mississippi bridge into Quincy, IL. There had been an accident which tied up traffic. Grandpa was so afraid the bridge would collapse with all the cars and trucks on it. I've often thought that is where my fear of crossing bridges comes from.
Anyway, we finally got to the Illinois side of the river where we stopped at a fish monger's. Someone decided it would be cute to have a picture of me holding a big fish. I KNOW I DID NOT WANT TO. I remember that. I didn't even want to touch a slimy old fish. I also remember crying about it so they must have bribed me - perhaps with the promise of an ice cream cone?

So-o-o, many years later what do I make my little boy do? Hold a big ole' fish to have his picture taken. It was June, 1966 - a couple months before Doug's 4th birthday. I wonder if he remembers this?
Forty-four years later and today would be a perfect day to go fishing. I don't know if they would be biting but the water is calm. The day is sunny after so much rain. The temperature is in the low 80's - a perfect June day.
It is the kind of day that when we were little, Mom might say, "Let's dig some worms and go over to the pond to see if we can catch our supper." Off we'd go walking across the field west of the house; through the gate into the pasture and on down to the pond. I doubt Mom even cared whether we caught any fish - it was idyllic just to be sitting under the willows enjoying the afternoon.
Mom always had to bait my hook for me, but I think Betty would bait her own. I know Ron did. We usually did catch enough bullheads and sunfish for a 'mess'; take them home where Mom would clean them and then fry them up for supper. I remember liking the taste of fish - I just didn't like having to be careful not to choke on a fish bone!

My dad, Louis, really liked fishing. It was one thing he did often as long as he was able. I would guess he caught this big bass out at Lake Binder or the old reservoir. I remember fishing with Wayne Moore's at the reservoir one evening. We were too young to stay quiet for any length of time. Dad kept telling us we would scare the fish away. Eventually he and Wayne walked way up along the east shore to get away from us. I don't think anyone caught any fish that night.
I love this picture of my dad helping his little grandson hold the fish after Doug wasn't able to hold it on his own. I like remembering both of them this way.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

"Form Follows Function"

"Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple blossom, the toiling workhorse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function....." Louis Sullivan - Lippincotts' Magazine - March, 1896

This quote heads the "Prairie" section in the Jemerick Art Pottery website showroom. I learned of Steve Frederick and Cherie Jemsek in an article about the Des Moines Arts Festival going on this weekend. Pottery has been an attraction of mine for many years. I am very drawn to the Jemerick Arts & Crafts style. (Architect Louis Sullivan is credited with beginning the Prairie School of Architecture. One of the buildings he designed is the Merchants' National Bank in Grinnell, Iowa.) Viewing this website got me thinking about my own pottery collection.

Pictured above is one of Rhonda Millhollin's Leaf Bowls. When she still had her studio on main street in Corning, I loved going in just to watch her work and marvel at her creations. This "Iowa Oak Leaf Bowl" was commissioned by the State of Iowa to be given (if I remember correctly) as gifts to visiting dignitaries. (Mine was a gift from Gene & Kristina Knutson Young.)

The tall flower pot is a Guy Wolff creation I purchased at The Garden Gate nursery in Creston several years ago when it was still in operation. I love his pots so much. I thought he was a Wisconsin potter which was one of the reasons I gave Kristina one of his pots for her birthday. (The other being because I like them and I tend to give gifts that I like myself.) (Wolff shot to stardom after Martha Stewart gave Oprah Winfrey some of his pots on Winfrey's tv show. But I didn't know that when I bought mine.)

I don't think of my Isabel Bloom statues as pottery, though the concrete mixture used to make them must be related to the materials used in making pottery. The one in this trio is "Emma".

While still living in West Des Moines, I took an adult ed pottery course through the Des Moines Public Schools. It was the first time I ever felt "creative". I really enjoyed the classes, the instructor and the other students. The green bowl on the left above is one of mine as is the small white bowl with the brown rings in the middle. The turquoise vase is my only piece of Van Briggle pottery. I coveted their pottery from the first time I saw a"Lorelei" vase in an antique shop. Touring the Van Briggle studios in Colorado Springs, CO several years ago still ranks as one of my top vacation memories.

Dainty, delicate, small items attract me for some reason. The three above: A small white bowl I brought back from Ireland for Mom. It is from the Kylemore Abbey Pottery. Their distinctive fuschia flower is inside the little bowl. The "Ego" pot in the middle is one of Rhonda Millhollin's. The little butter pat plate on the right is one I picked up on one of our trips somewhere.

The bowl in back on the right is my last attempt at potting. A visiting artist at the Corning Fine Arts Center got me through the first firing. Now I have to wait until she comes back or another potter is on site to help me through the glazing phase so I can finally complete my bowl. (I've forgotten what I learned about glazes at my adult ed classes in DM.)

I had hoped to get back into throwing pots after I retired. Just making the one reminded me how much hand strength is required. Unfortunately my arthritis makes it too painful to pursue.

More of my collection. Left and right in front are both flower frogs. The one on the right has Celtic designs. The middle front bowl is an old favorite - a piece from Linda Young Williams when she was just beginning her varied artistic life. Her 'signature' pottery always included little birds. You can just make them out perched on the rim of this bowl. Linda moved on to other art forms but her pottery was always my favourite.
Vase back left is, I believe, a piece of Roseville. It was one of those lucky finds at an auction. Instead of being inside the building with the other good pieces, it was amongst the odds and ends in a box outside the auction building. The tall green vase at back, right was a gift from Oregon via daughter, Kari. Other than that I really like it, I don't know much about it.
I believe the small blue-green bowl in back is from the Corning Fine Arts Center while the taller one next to it was from the Fickle Frog.

Back left and middle are two of my creations. Taller piece between is from the Barking Spider Pottery. I bought it at The Atherton House Kiln Opening in Adel. Their kiln opening is usually the first weekend in May. The Atherton House recently sold. I'm hoping the new owner continues the Kiln Opening weekends.
The small plate front left was also purchased at one of the Atherton kiln openings. The little one on the right was from a visit with Gene & Kristina in Wisconsin. We toured several unique gift shoppes that day. Right rear is a Pam Dennis creation purchased at the Lagniappe in West Des Moines as a gift for my hubby Bubby. (This was several years ago. I would like to see how Ms. Dennis' work has evolved but find no website for her.)

And, finally, two more of mine - the little red pot in front and the larger, flat brown bowl in back. I tried to make the bowl look like a bird's nest by incising lines around the outside before glazing and firing. The similar shaped bowl on the right is amazing. It looks like leather. The leather thong stitching around the top adds to the look of leather. An arrowhead hangs from the lacing. I think I bought this for Bud at an art show on the State Fair grounds.
The middle back vase is an example of Raku pottery which is one of the pottery firing methods that I find most fascinating. I have always wanted to try it. Memory says I purchased this vase on a trip to Arizona - I think from one of the Native American vendors who set up at the Oak Creek Canyon pass north of Sedona.
The front two pots are probably my oldest - both in the traditional Southwest Indian style and colors. The large one was left in the basement of the house we rented northwest of Urbandale in the 70's. It reminds me of the souvenirs from Mexico although it is not stamped as such. The little pot is incised "Bicknell Art '08(?) 7-28-32". I got it at a garage sale.
There are times I wish I hadn't vowed not to "collect" again after downsizing into retirement. If I do relent, it will be pottery that pulls me back in.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

"Accidents Do Happen"

"Just an accident waiting to happen." "That's why they call them accidents." "Don't learn safety by accident." "It appears to be a very tragic accident."

We all have accidents ranging from the very serious to the very slight. Les' December automobile accident comes to mind as does Kathryn's bruised elbow last week at Annapolis.
There was a reason Mom punished Betty and me for playing in the water tank - she was afraid of an accidental drowning.
I was raised by a woman who not only saw the potential for danger in the most everyday situations, she constantly reminded us of those possibilities. "Don't run with a pencil (scissors, arrow, stick, etc.) in your hand. If you fall, you could put your eye out." "Look both ways before crossing the street." "Keep both hands on the steering wheel." "Look before you leap."

I don't think I was quite as strict with my children, but I know I did/do possess many of the same worries my Mom had. I, too, believe in being careful. And while an accident is described as an unforeseen or unplanned happening, I do believe carelessness can lead to accidents. (Talking on a cell phone and/or texting, while driving, head the top of my list.)

I was involved in a (thankfully) minor accident a couple weeks ago. It left me shaken and teary. It really wasn't my fault, although I might have been going a bit too fast at the time.

I was approaching a blind corner. There weren't any stop signs. A little boy about three years old ran out in front of me. I tried to stop but my grocery cart bumped him and knocked him down. He began crying as his father helped him up. "See what happens? I told you not to run in the store." the dad was saying. While I was saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry. Is he all right?" The parents assured me he was o.k. and that it was his fault, but I couldn't help the tears that sprang to my eyes. It took awhile for me to calm down.

I was reminded of the grocery store incident this morning when I read about a 3-year old Des Moines boy injured Sunday when he ran into the street and was struck by a car. Luckily after a trip to the hospital he was treated and released. I cannot even imagine how I would deal with hitting a child while driving a car - bumping one with a grocery cart was scary enough.

There is a reason I always say, "drive carefully" or "have a safe trip" when saying goodbye to friends and family as they leave - it is my way of guarding them against an accident, as though my invocations can somehow protect them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

"Summertime and the Living is Easy......."

LtoR Betty, Ronald & Ramona Lynam
Trixie on the kitchen stool. Aug. 1, 1951

Summers were easy when we were kids. When we woke up in the mornings we peeled off our nightgowns and pulled on a dress - no shoes - not even flip-flops. We probably didn't even brush our hair before eating some cereal or toast and running outside to play.

Our hair was combed in this picture and our dresses were probably better than everyday ones, but still no shoes. We only had a month left before school started; third grade for me and first for Betty which means Ron would have been going into sixth grade. We would have a new teacher that fall - Vera Kimball. She would stay at Jasper #2 until it closed when Les was in Kindergarten.

It would be a few more years before we started wearing shorts and t-shirts during the summer. And 'baby-doll' p.j.s would replace the nightgowns. It was so hot upstairs in the summer. For some reason it seemed 'baby-dolls' were cooler to sleep in than nightgowns. I do remember that when we did begin wearing shorts, we were embarrassed if someone drove in and saw us.

Betty and I spent our days playing in the sand box, making mud pies, playing cowboys and Indians, playing house or having tea parties and, our favourite, trying to sneak out to play in the stock tank without getting caught.

We also spent a few days with Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour or at Grandma Lynam's. I never wanted to admit I got homesick but the first thing I would do when I got back home was pick a fight with Ron or Betty or do something to make Mom yell at me just so I could cry. Once I cried I was o.k. - the homesick feeling was gone.

Ramona & Queenie; Betty in our buggy. June, 1955

Four short years later and we were old enough to harness the horse to the buggy and take water to the hay field and to threshers in the oat field. That was so much more preferable than staying in the house to help Mom get dinner for the men who came to help. It seemed there was time to help do the dishes though before jugs of cold water would be needed again!

Our horse and buggy was also used for pleasure rides especially if some of our cousins were visiting. I remember the summer bumble bees made a nest in the seat of the wagon. We knew they were there but decided to go for a ride anyway. Cousin Frank Childers was standing behind us. He decided it would be fun to jump up and down which stirred up the bumble bees. They started stinging us and Queenie. The horse started running. By the time we got her stopped we were halfway up the lane at the other place. We all jumped out. Frank & I started running back home. Betty was more concerned about Queenie. She unharnessed the buggy and led Queenie home. Betty was the only one who didn't get stung.

Now that we are retired, summertime living is once again easy. There is no alarm clock going off, no schedule which has to be kept, air conditioning when it gets really hot and humid and a nearby library full of books to be read.

Happy First Day of Summer!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Tammy's In Love

"I hear the cottonwoods whisperin' above,
'Tammy...Tammy...Tammy's in love'
The ole hooty-owl hooty-hoos to the dove,
'Tammy...Tammy...Tammy's in love'"

There has been so much "cotton" blowing off a nearby cottonwood tree the last few days which is what reminded me of this song. Debbie Reynolds had a #1 hit with it the summer of 1957. The song is from the movie, "Tammy and the Bachelor" which starred Reynolds, Leslie Nielsen and Walter Brennan.

The summer of '57 is the summer I learned to swim. Corning's new pool opened that year. Betty and I were a little 'old' to be just learning to swim. I think there were five or six of us in our class. I was so excited the first day because I learned to float! I learned to swim well enough by the end of lessons that I passed the test which allowed me to go into the deep end of the pool. I loved diving and spent most of my time at the pool repeatedly diving off the low board. Once I thought I was brave enough to go off the high board; climbed the ladder, walked to the edge of the board, looked over and went back. I made all the kids waiting on the ladder climb down just so I could. Yeah, they laughed at me.

It was the summer before I started high school. I was pretty interested in getting to know some of the town boys who were going to be in my class. But I was too shy to actually talk to them other than a "hi". Then I would go home and write in my diary that I had "talked" to GD or JB or LH that day.

And I would listen to: "Does my lover feel what I feel when he comes near? My heart beats so joyfully, you'd think that he could hear. Wish I knew if he knew what I'm dreaming of. Tammy....Tammy....Tammy's in love." and imagine that I, too, was in love. Boy did I have a lot to learn! (But being able to remember those feelings is what makes me able to understand what my granddaughters are going through.)

Sandra Dee replaced Debbie Reynolds in the next two Tammy movies: "Tammy Tell Me True" (1961) and "Tammy and the Doctor"(1963). The theme songs from those movies aren't nearly as memorable as "Tammy". I'm sure the song and the movies had a lot to do with the number of little girls named Tammy in the late 50's and early 60's.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Juneteenth 1865, 1920, 1925 & 2003

Harris Robison, Lois Ridnour, Carroll Robison, Ruth Ridnour & either Trix or Poochie. (Back of photo says "Trix & Poochie" but I can only see one dog. Mom's beloved pet was Poochie, so I'm guessing she's holding Poochie not Trix.)

Juneteenth is an African-American holiday which began in Texas as 'Freedom Day'. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued September 22, 1862 with an effective date of January 1, 1863. It wasn't until June 19, 1865 that the news of their freedom reached slaves in Texas. The Civil War had been over two months and ten days.

It was most likely the Poor Peoples March to Washington, D.C. led by the Rev. Ralph Abernathy in 1968 when I first was aware of Juneteenth and its meaning. There has been an Iowa celebration of the date for at least twenty years.

June 19 to me had a more personal meaning - it was the birthdate of two of my aunts. Mom's little sister, Lois, was born June 19, 1920. In the picture above with Aunt Lois and Mom are two of their cousins - Harris and Carroll Robison. The boy's mom, Merle Means Robison and the girl's mother, Delphia Means Ridnour, were first cousins.

Harris died four months after his 17th birthday in May of 1936. There's no date on this picture, but I don't think it could have been taken too long before he died. His obituary says he died of complications after a severe attack of the flu. I could tell by the way Mom talked of him many years later that the death of Harris affected her deeply.

Ruth Lynam and Leona Lynam Childers Shropshire beside the lemon tree in Leona's backyard in Phoenix, AZ, 1999.

Five years after Mom's little sister was born, Dad's little sister, Leona Maxine Lynam, was born - June 19, 1925. When I was young I wondered how my parents both had sisters with the same birthdate. I also found it fascinating that they both had sisters named Evelyn. (Dad's sister, Evelyn Lois, was born May 8, 1923 and died May 12, 1923. Mom's sister, Evelyn Grace Ridnour Roberts was born November 28, 1916; died June 1, 2000.)

For Mom's 80th birthday, we gave her a trip to Arizona to visit her sister-in-law. It was her first ride in a commercial airliner and she loved it. I think Mom and Aunt Leona were fairly close. Aunt Leona was only twelve when Mom & Dad married. Mom was the big sister Aunt Leona would have had.

Celebrating his 70th birthday, Ron's family - Nicholas, Tina & Andrew Lynam; Dale & Christine Heidebrecht; Ronald & Marge Lynam; Carston, Lorrie & Kevin Yoakum; in front, Erick & Aiden Yoakum.

June 19, 2003 found us celebrating two more birthdays. Kevin & Lorrie Lynam Yoakum's twin sons, Aiden & Erick, were born that day. For twin brothers, they seem nothing alike, but they are both equally special in their own way. I have high hopes of knowing these two for many years to come.

Juneteenth has a personal celebratory meaning for me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Lippincott Cousin

Jack Dodd (Picture taken at Gothenberg, NE)

Several years ago I corresponded (snail mail) for awhile with a distant Lippincott cousin in Grand Island, NE. She was related to Rebecca Lippincott who was a sister of my Grandma Ridnour's mother, Matilda (Tilly) Lippincott Means.
We fell out of touch - probably my fault for not answering her letters - and I hadn't thought of her for years. That is, until this week when I was sorting some of Grandma R's pictures and found this one of Jack Dodd. Grandma had written his name on the back of the folder and in parentheses "Descendant of Ami Lippincott".
I'm trying to get some of these old pictures back to family members. I remembered the cousin lived in Grand Island, NE. If only I could remember her name, I could possibly find an address for her. The name that finally came to me last night was 'Johnnetta Moore' so I wrote it down in order to try to track her down today.
My sub-conscience took over while I slept. I woke up this morning with the right name - Jolita, not Johnnetta, Moore. I googled her and got one hit on the name with an e-mail address at a company in Omaha. I sent her an e-mail at 7:29 and at 7:33 had a reply. The Omaha Jolita is the same one I had written to in Grand Island. We are back in touch.

This picture is of Jolita's great-grandmother, Rebecca Lippincott. For a long time I thought David and Catherine Lippincott only had the two daughters because Matilda & Rebecca along with Becky's son, Ami, were the only ones I had ever heard of. I now know there were older siblings - Sarah (Conally), Tom, Maggie and others? Maggie was Mort Staggs mother. He was born in North Dakota. I think Bertha and Tom both lived in Missouri. More research to do!

In addition to the first two pics, I also mailed this one to Jolita. It is of Ami Lippincott and Della Earl Dodd. Not sure who she is, but I'm sure cousin Jolita can tell me.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June Reads I

I did not read Minette Walter's second book, "The Sculptress" next as I supposed I would on my June 1 post. Instead I turned to a book on my own library shelf - Wallace E. Stegner's "Angle of Repose" - the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1972.
I know I've read Stegner before because I recognize him as a 'favourite author'. But it has been a long time and I'm not sure which of his books I've read. It might be "Crossing to Safety" or "Remembering Laughter" - maybe both.
"Angle of Repose" is narrated by Lyman Ward - a retired history professor confined to a wheelchair due to a debilitating disease and the amputation of one leg. He has returned to live alone in the house where his grandmother died against the advice and insistence of his son who thinks he should be in a care facility. Ward is dependent for much of his care upon the same woman who cared for his father during his declining years. He has decided he will research his grandparent's lives and write a chronicle of their years spent on the western frontier a century before. He has his grandmother's letters, drawings and articles but nothing of his grandfather other than his own memories of the man.
Stegner based his grandmother, Susan Burling Ward, on the real life of Mary Hallock Foote. He had been given access to Foote's historical letters by a family member. There was controversy about Stegner's use of substantial passages from Foote's letters without credit after he won the Pulitzer. I agree with one critic that while the letters added to the authentic feeling of the story, it was Stegner's own imagination and prose which made the book so enjoyable.
It took me almost two weeks to read this book, partly because I was busy, but mostly because it is a book to be savored. When I finished the last page, I just sat in awe and asked, "How does he do that?" Then I ask myself why I would spend time reading some of the books I do when there are such first rate authors like Wallace Stegner?
I finished "Angle of Repose" a couple of days ago which gave me just enough time to read Anita Brookner's "Hotel du Lac" - winner of the 1984 Booker Prize.
Our protaganist, Edith Hope, has reached the hotel, on the shores of Lake Geneva, in a state of confusion. Her best friend made the arrangements and drove her to the airport, insisting she stay away until she has atoned for her unfortunate mistakes and "grown up". Of course we do not know what her mistakes have been until more than half-way through the book. We are allowed to learn about romance novelist writer, Ms. Hope, as she learns about herself through her interactions with and observations of some of the other hotel guests.
When one of those guests, Mr. Neville, proposes marriage after only a brief acquaintance and Edith accepts even though they do not love one another but because she does not want to end up in life alone, we do not know what happens until the final page. Even then we are left wondering about the future of Edith Hope; just as we are left thinking about our own life's choices.
And now I begin "The Sculptress".

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lynam Cousins Not Lynams

Patricia (Patty) Lynam Wyrick, Springfield, MO and her three children.

Friday I attended the funeral of Lois Chubick Lynam in Nodaway. She was the widow of Dad's first cousin, Kenneth Lynam. Dad's father, George and Kenny's Dad, William were the sons of Barney Lynam. Patty and I share the same great-grandfather.

The first time I met Patty was at a family reunion at Paul & Evelyn Lund's farm home in 1955 (?). She and her older sister, Marilyn were near the same age as Betty and I. We got over our shyness enough to at least talk to each other a little. I probably saw her again a few times during our growing up years, but not any that stand out.

In the past fifteen years, I've seen her twice - both times when she was in Iowa visiting her parents and with her Mom otherwise I would not have recognized her. But once I re-met her, I was drawn to her - partly because of her friendliness and partly because she reminded me so much of my Aunt Leona.

Kenny & Lois had five daughters. The middle one, Karen Hardy, died of cancer about a year ago. the youngest, Marianna Harris, gave the eulogy for her Mom. It reminded me so much of my own Mother that I could not help but cry - for their loss and my own. I do not know if Mom and Lois knew each other before they married cousins, but there seemed to be a bond between them the few times I saw them together. Maybe it was just that they were both five feet tall and Kenny and Dad were both six foot six.
Whenever I am around any Lynam relatives, I look for the family similarities. What I call the "Lynam look" but in reality if we go back far enough it is the "Gravett look" (Barney's wife, Nancy's, parents.) A nephew of Kenny & Lois's, Greg Hackett (Velma's son), was at the funeral. I had never met him before. He certainly took after his Mom's side of the family.

This is a picture of 14 of the 15 grandchildren. I hope someday to have all their names and which daughter they belong to. One grandson, the middle one in the back row in the burgundy shirt is Marilyn's son, Keith Lynam. He is the only one with the Lynam name - choosing to take his mother's maiden name because he loved his grandpa Kenny so much.
Patty and I talked about how we wish we could have a Lynam family reunion - similar to the one I planned in 1990 when I invited any and every 'Lynam' I could find in the phone books. (How much easier that would be now with the internet.) Perhaps we will. She took my e-mail address and said she would be in touch. I hope she is. I hope we become better acquainted. One of the problems with a family reunion is that everyone is so excited to meet one another at the time but then we go back to our own daily lives, get busy with them, and never do anything about staying in touch with those distant cousins.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Grandpa Joe

LtoR Lottie, Rufus, Joseph, Katherine & Florence Ridnour
Circa 1902

Diary entry Feb. 23, 1960: "I woke up around 1:30. Mom was upstairs. She told me that Grandpa died around 11:30 last night. Got up at 6:45. Rode bus to school. Went to school because I knew I could be of no use at home. Kinda hard on me this morning but I resigned myself to the fact this afternoon & kept dry eyes."
Funny, the way I remember it Mom made us go to school even though I didn't want to. And I clearly remember crying in the locker room in Phys Ed. Grandpa Joe Ridnour was the only Grandpa I really remember - I was only 4 when Grandpa Lynam died and 7 when great grandpa Rufus Ridnour died.
Grandpa is the cute little boy in the picture above with his parents and sisters. He also had a little brother, Freddie, who died. He is buried with his Mauderly grandparents in the Nodaway Cemetery. The little stone only has his name - no birth & death dates. I have figured out he must have been born after Grandpa & before Florence (though possibly after Lottie). Rufus Ridnour & Katherine Mauderly were married Sept. 29, 1895. Joseph Rufus (grandpa) was born June 11, 1896 (114 years ago today). Florence Mae was born July 3, 1899 and Lottie Lucille was born July 15, 1901.
I remember Grandpa as a farmer and gardener although he also did carpentry work. I remember how crippled he was with arthritis and helping him milk the cows when it was so hard for him to milk because his hands were so swollen and hurt and how he walked hesitantly because his knees hurt so. I remember him tearing a slice of bread into a bowl, spooning in raspberries and sugar and pouring cream over top. I remember him as a kind and gentle man.
Ron tells a couple stories he heard about Grandpa as a young man. One of them had to do with a tramp hiding under a bridge and trying to rob Grandpa on his way home from a dance in Nodaway. Supposedly the would-be robber grabbed Grandpa's horse by the bridle to stop it and the buggy. Grandpa pulled his revolver and shot over the horse's head. The tramp let go and Grandpa, horse and buggy ran home. It was not known if the stranger was hit or just high-tailed it out of the area.
After Grandpa died, Grandma gave Ron his revolver. Many years later, after Grandma had died and Ron and Ruthie were visiting Aunt Evelyn, she remarked that she didn't have anything of her Dad's. So Ron made a point of giving her Grandpa's gun. I thought that was very unselfish of him. I'm not sure I would have done the same. I have wondered what happened to the gun after Aunt Evelyn died.
Grandpa Ridnour liked to fish and hunt and trap. He went elk hunting in Montana with his brother-in-law, Tom Haley and his Haley nephews several times. Grandma had a fur piece made from animals Grandpa trapped. I remember helping him dig out dens of foxes.
He also knew his way with needle and thread - making quilts with Grandma. When Grandma had to take over the milking and chores, Grandpa peeled the potatoes and started supper as well as making breakfast.
Grandpa Joe had sixteen grandchildren. He lived to see fifteen of them. The sixteenth was born six weeks after he died. He was named Joseph.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Care, Love, Family

"Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family." Anthony Brandt
We had a wonderful family reunion on Memorial Day. It began last February when Lorrie and I talked about the possibilities of surprising her Dad for his 70th birthday. For a time it didn't look like it was going to happen, then everything came together for a day at which only five of us weren't present.
Pictured above cutting their cakes are the May birthday celebrants: My brother, Ron Lynam (May 7), my nephew-in-law, Dale Heidebrecht (May 18), my sister-in-law, Susan Lynam (May 29), my daughter, Kari Fleming (May 31) and my daughter-in-law, Shelly Botkin (June 1). Not present was my grandson, Brock (Botkin) Fox (May 23).
I understand why family was even more important to my Grandma Ridnour and my Mom as they aged - we never know when we are all together if it is going to be the last time. This was the first time in many years we have (almost) all been together. For many it was the first time they met the newest family members.
To say that I LOVE my family is to state the obvious. Love - "A sense of strong affection and attachment." Sometimes I think we all overuse the word love - "I love that song, car, ice cream, movie, book, etc., etc.
Perhaps some of the definitions for CARE more closely describe my familial feelings - "active concern, liking, fondness, attention to"; yes, sometimes even 'worry'.
As families grow in members and distance, it becomes more difficult to know everyone well enough to decide if we care about them. By extension - because they 'belong' to one of our loved one's family, we may 'love' them, too. But to really 'care' about them, we have to get to know them. To know them we have to spend time with them.

These little boys are Ron's grandsons: clockwise beginning with the tallest in the blue shirt: Nicholas Lynam, Erick, Aiden and Carston Yoakum. (They were putting potato chips in my fountain and watching them go into the pool - racing to see which one's chip went first.) Because they are my great-nephews, I love them. Because I have been lucky to spend some time with them and get to know them a little bit - I care about them.
I hope they enjoyed our family reunion as much as did I. "Family faces are magic mirrors looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present and future." Gail Lumet Buckley

Monday, June 7, 2010

Drive-In Movie Theatres

Yesterday was the 77th anniversary of the opening of the first drive-in movie theater. It happened June 6, 1933 in Camden, NJ. (This blog was supposed to be published yesterday but I got too involved with HGTV, NASCAR and Masterpiece Mystery.)
When I was growing up there were drive-ins in the nearby towns of Creston, Red Oak and Clarinda - as well as in or near dozens of other towns in the state. Now there are only four left in Iowa - Newton, Maquoketa, Spirit Lake and Grandview.
I'm sure I had been to a drive-in with my family as a child even though I don't remember a specific occurrence. What I remember most is going to the drive-ins after I began dating. I knew the outdoor theaters were referred to as "passion pits" - a convenient place to park and make out. I didn't like 'necking' for hours on end so I insisted upon watching the movies - which were usually "B" grades and not all that good.
Often there were two movies and since the first one didn't start until 9 p.m. or later, that meant getting home after 1 a.m. My curfew was midnight on weekends which meant I had to spoil the evening for the other couple when we double dated. I remember pleading for a later curfew after my Junior Prom but still having to be home by 1. Other kids were staying out all night, but not me. The Creston Drive-In was showing four films that night, but once again we had to leave in the middle of a movie.
When my kids were little, we went to the Plantation Drive-In at 63rd and Grand in Des Moines a few times. I remember once letting Doug take the car before he was 16 so he could take a visiting cousin to the movie. I was at a friend's a few blocks away and told him how to leave the Plantation by a "back" route so he would take less of a chance getting caught driving without a license.
There was another incident with Doug at a drive-in. This time a few years later when he and a girlfriend had gone to the Red Oak drive-in. He became ill while there. I got a call to go and get them because he was too sick to drive and the girlfriend couldn't drive a car with a manual transmission.
I believe the last drive-in movie I went to was in Red Oak in '83 or '84. I took Kari and Preston to see Star-Trek II: the Wrath of Kahn with Ricardo Montalban.
I have heard that drive-in theatres are making a come back - indeed the one at Grandview, Iowa was constructed in 2007. I'm pretty sure my drive-in movie days are a thing of the past, however.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

On to Montana

Devil's Tower in Wyoming isn't far from the Montana border so setting foot in that state so we could cross it off our list wasn't difficult. As long as we were in the southeast corner of MT, we decided to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. After being at Wounded Knee, SD earlier, I can't say I had much sympathy for Custer. (Yes, I know Custer died here 14 years before the Wounded Knee massacre. It's the entire big picture of what was done to the Native People I'm thinking of.)
On the way to the Little Bighorn, we crossed through the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. We were cruising down the road in one direction as a family of llamas was headed in the opposite direction. The brown spot on the rump of that baby hardly shows, but it was so cute. We had just left Ashland, MT where we had stopped at the St. Labre Mission & Indian schools. I remembered how Mom had once sent them some money in response to an unsolicited "gift" and how she had been on their "please donate" list ever after.

As it turned out, the campus buildings and museum were very interesting. Before leaving, we took in the gift shop. I'm always attracted to silver jewelry. My eyes immediately went to this bracelet with the large topaz - my birthstone. I knew there was no way I could afford it, but asked to see it anyway. I about fell over when I saw the price written underneath the band - $55! Not only was the price right, it fit perfectly without any adjusting. Certainly my lucky day!

Yellowstone Park was on the next day's agenda so we drove to Red Lodge, MT for the night. What a neat town that is! So many places to choose from for dinner; including the yummiest pie from Red Lodge Pizza Company.
One caveat about getting from Red Lodge, MT to Yellowstone - you have to go up and over Bear Tooth Pass. The picture of Bud was taken atop the pass before starting down the other side. The reason he looks so pleased is because he had planned the whole route ahead of time. He loves mountain passes. I hate them. He loves all the switchbacks and sharp turns going up the mountains. I hate them. It didn't help that before we left on the trip, I'd had a horrible dream that we went off a cliff on the way west.
Luckily going down the other side of the almost 11,000 foot pass was much gentler - lots of alpine lakes and meadows full of wild flowers. Lovely.
I still remember the joke I learned in grade school: "Point to your head and say the abbreviation for Montana."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"It's A Rabbit, Jean"

The first part of July, 2006, found us plotting our way toward California for a wedding on the 15th. Priority on the list of stops along the way was one in the state of Montana. It didn't matter where, just so we could say we had been to Montana - the only state west of the Mississippi we hadn't been to other than Alaska and Hawaii.
After studying the Atlas we decided to go west to the middle of Nebraska, north to the Nebraska-South Dakota border in order to see Nebraska's waterfalls near Valentine.
After staying overnight, from there we went to Wounded Knee, SD to visit the massacre site and cemetery, drove through the Badlands and Spearfish Canyon and overnighted in Spearfish, SD. The next morning we headed for Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming.
No pictures, nor other's recommendations - not even "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" - can prepare you for seeing Devil's Tower up close and in person. Rising 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, Devil's Tower was named the first National Monument in 1906. We arrived early in the morning before the park was crowded with visitors. We decided to hike the 1.3 mile Tower Trail which circles the tower.

It was while on the trail I saw the cutest little baby bunny. I stopped to take some pictures of it. (You can just make out the bunny to the left of the middle of this picture.)
While I was taking pictures, the hikers behind us on the trail caught up. The kids stopped to look at the bunny. The mom wanted to take a picture, also. The dad, very exasperatedly said, "It's a rabbit, Jean. We have rabbits at home." He stomped on down the trail. His wife and children following along.
From that day to this, whenever anyone suggests we stop to look at something ordinary, one of us will say, "It's a ______, Jean. We have ______s at home."
Just another one of those little sayings that has found its way into our family's lingo.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"It Was A Dark and Stormy Night......"

One of the things Kari and Ken hoped for during their week's stay was an old-fashioned Iowa storm with lots of thunder and lightning. They sort of got their wish Sunday night when some storms passed to the west and north of us. Yesterday afternoon was hot and humid. We were under a tornado watch, but there was nothing on radar near us. Then in the late afternoon a strong thunderstorm cell popped up between Bedford and Lenox. The sky got dark. Clouds began swirling around. The TV station reported wind and hail southwest of Creston. Then Creston's tornado sirens began sounding. TV radar showed conditions right for tornados north of town and south of town. Neighbors began making their way to the clubhouse where our basement shelter is located.
We stayed on the patio and watched the clouds. By 5:30 we heard that a tornado had touched down in Ringgold County north of Mt. Ayr. Kari & Ken's wish for a BIG thunderstorm had been answered.

It was such a beautiful morning. Bud suggested we drive down toward Mt. Ayr to see the damage. Most of it was located on two farms. This one on the west side of Hwy 169 had the most extensive losses. The top picture is of a cattle feeding area while this one shows the silos and areas close to the house.

North of the above pictures and on the east side of the road, another farm lost the house roof and their barn. Luckily no one was injured at either location.
I believe our Oregon kids are going to take home some interesting stories and pictures of their Iowa vacation.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

May Reads II

A very short second half of May reading list - two books. But two remarkable books.
First, I finally finished reading "Moon Tiger" by Penelope Lively. Let me restate that - I finally read the entire book. I began trying to read Lively's Booker Prize winner in 2007 after my friend Kristina recommended it. I didn't like the protagonist. I couldn't understand why my friend thought it was so good - which was unusual because we almost always like the same books. I finally gave up on it with the promise of trying it again someday.
In the meantime, I received a second copy of "Moon Tiger" so I passed it on to Kari, asking her to read it and explain what I was missing. Kari found the redeeming values of the book and wrote a very good review of it on her blog (which I recommend you read because I'm not going to attempt reviewing Lively's book myself.
This time when I picked up the book, I began reading anew without any thoughts of what anyone else had said about it. I was able to read it through, enjoy the story and the language and then discuss it with Kari while she was here. It is one of those books I will re-read in the future. Next time with a pen in hand for underlining and notating. Not only have I finally read "Moon Tiger", I can recommend it as a very good read.
"The Ice House" by Minnette Walters is a book I just happened to pick up while browsing in the Half Price Bookstore a month or so ago. The back page blurb got my attention because it was set in a Hampshire country house. I love English mysteries. Then I saw the book won the John Creasey Award for best first crime novel.
I love it when I discover a new author. And this author is good. As a rule I can figure out 'whodunit' before the end of the book. Not only did I not know who the murderer(s) was, I did not even know who had been murdered! Excellent writing; excellent mystery(s). I must read more. Luckily, the local library has four more of Ms. Walters' books. Hers do not follow a series character, so I do not have to worry about reading them in any order. They are stand alone books, although the library does have her second novel. I believe I will read it next.