Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Reads II

The second half of July reading began with a small book recommended by my friend, Kristina, when we visited them in Tucson in February.
William Maxwell's "So Long, See You Tomorrow" is a memoir of a man seeking to make amends for something he had done fifty years earlier and was ashamed of. It relates an act of murder and how it affected the tenuous friendship between two lonely boys. The narrator is writing from memory, from newspaper articles from the time and from imagination.
It is interesting how Maxwell could make the reader see and feel the setting and characters with such sparse lines and paragraphs. Perhaps his forty years as fiction editor at The New Yorker honed his own writing. He won the American Book Award for "So Long, See You Tomorrow". Would I read more of his works? Yes, if I happen upon them, but I probably won't put them on my must read list.

"The Long Song" by Andrea Levy tells the story of a child field slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica in the mid 1800's. "Miss July" relates the story of her life over and over to her son so he can pass it on to his daughters. He encourages her to write the story down so he can have it printed for her because in 1898 this son of a slave is a publisher-editor.

Our library places "Rate This Book" slips in the front pocket of some of their books. Only one person has rated this book. On a scale of 0 to 4, they gave it a -1. I wouldn't agree with that, but only my resolve to finish a book I've begun reading kept me reading to the end. That and the fact that Ms. Levy won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction for her fourth book, "Small Island". Those awards made me think she must be worth reading. No, I do not plan to seek out "Small Island".

"Daughters of the Witching Hill" by Mary Sharratt was more palatable. And as it is based on the true story of women accused of witchcraft in Jacobean England (1600's), I found it quite interesting. It is also very scary to realize how poverty and social injustices can condemn innocent people. Ms. Sharratt lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England - the setting for "Witching Hill" during the years she researched and wrote the novel.

Reading this book makes it easy to understand from where the definition of "witch hunt" - "an investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views" - comes. There is a part of me which did not want to read this book because I already knew the terrifying ending for these women. The author wrote it in such a way as to be hopeful and followed it up with an afterward of facts about the real woman her novel was based upon.

I have put Mary Sharratt's first novel: "Summit Avenue" on my must read list. I'll also read "The Real Minerva" and "The Vanishing Point" if I can find them.

For my final July read, I allowed myself the pleasure of another of my Minette Walters' mysteries - her second novel, "The Scold's Bridle". When rich, spiteful old Mathilda Gillespie is found dead in her bathtub, her wrists slit and the ancient scold's bridle clamped on her head, few people mourn even as they are puzzled by the way the old lady committed suicide. When suicide begins to look more like homicide, her doctor and heir who becomes a suspect, tries to aide the police in unraveling the mystery. In order to do that, they must delve into Mathilda's past of blackmail, perversion and deaths.

Another wonderful read! And August will begin with more of the same......

Friday, July 30, 2010

"The Cave"

Doug and one of Mom's many cats,
in front of "The Cave", 1967. (And the brick
path I built to the outhouse when I was 12.)

Besides all of the buildings on the farm, there was one other place of importance. We called it "The Cave". More appropriately, it was a root cellar located between the house and wash house.
The cave was where we took shelter when there was a storm. I can't even count the number of nights we were awakened to "go to the cave!" because there were threatening clouds rolling in.
We would be down in the cave with a flashlight if we were lucky, but usually in the dark. Dad would be standing on the steps holding the cellar door half open, half closed watching the clouds. I remember one time a big limb came crashing down out of the Chinese Elm tree. He got the door closed just in time to keep from being hit. That same thing happened during a storm up at the Roberts'. Uncle Howard did get hit and hurt by a limb falling on their cave while he was watching a storm.
"The Cave" was also where Mom stored all fruits and vegetables she canned during the summer. Row upon row of good things to eat in pint and quart jars were lined up on shelves. Bushel baskets held potatoes and carrots dug from the garden in the fall and apples and pears from Grandpa and Grandma Ridnour's orchard.
I remember when there were jars of grape juice Mom had made from grapes from Reichardt's grape arbor. Betty and I sneaked out of the house one night to get a jar of grape juice to drink with crackers we had spirited away to our room. We called ourselves, "The Midnight Marauders" and believed we were so furtive.

The wall of our cave extended out like wings to the east and west of the cement top. I remember that flat bit of cement being my "stage" where I performed my songs and dances. I would face west so I could watch my performance reflected in the windows of the porch. Then I would walk out first one wing and then the other, bowing to my audiences. We never took dance lessons, but the little neighbor girls, Cathy and Debbie Olive, did. We went to one of their recitals. I observed carefully and then came home to do my own tap dance on the 'stage' of the cave.

Katrina and Alyssa in front of "The Cave".

The cellar door was also a favourite place to play for Mom's grand kids and great-grandchildren. They would slide down the door, roll their cars down it, even ride tricycles down the incline and out into the yard.

It kept us safe. It provided hours of entertainment for generations. Its constant temperature safely stored provisions for our table. "The Cave" is another part of our past we remember fondly.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Poetry As Panacea

"Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance." (Carl Sandburg)

Whether it was because Mom read Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes to me as a young child or for some other inherent reason, I have always loved poetry.
As a young teen romantic, I began copying poems I liked into a white, spiral notebook. I used a nib pen and ink the color of claret.

Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" was in there as well as Shakespeare's Sonnet #18, "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day..." Sometimes the poems weren't complete - just a stanza or two I had heard or read somewhere. I would check a book of poems out of the library, looking for ones to copy into my notebook. That was when I began to realize that poetry had a calming effect upon me. I could read a novel and escape into another world for a time, but as soon as I put the book down, reality returned. But if I was upset, undecided, at wit's end, I could read poetry for awhile, put it down, and a peacefulness would stay with me.

I was in my twenties before I tried to write any poetry. I'm sure those attempts were pretty juvenile.
In my thirties (the 1970's) free verse and blank verse forms of writing poetry became popular. It was much easier to write poetry without having to worry about rhyming and meter. Consequently, I wrote more poems.
Another decade passed before I got interested in trying to write poetry again. I took an adult ed class through the West Des Moines Schools when I was in my late forties. The instructor was a very interesting retired priest. He was going to teach writing rhymed, metered poetry - no free form or blank verse for him.
The first night he began with something easy - he had us writing Limericks. They are five line, usually humorous poems with a strict rhyme scheme (aabba). For example:
There once was a woman from Corning.
She jumped up to go to work each morning.
Retired and moved to Creston,
Whereupon she gets her rest on.
No longer is she forlorning.
The class was an interesting mix of a dozen or so - men and women, mostly middle-aged, although there were some younger and some older. We were all there for various reasons. I remember Mike Pace was in the class - he of the Iowa Lottery hosting as well as Iowa Realty's show of homes. As a musician, he was taking the class in order to help with writing lyrics.
When we had to write a poem in iambic pentameter, I wrote about the ring of Grandma Lynam's that I received after she died. I didn't realize how meaningful it was until I choked up when I had to read it aloud in class.
I've used a Sandburg quote, here is one I like from JFK: "When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses." Weren't Sandburg and Frost Kennedy's favourite poets?
I've been feeling the urge to try writing poetry again. Perhaps to add something to my blogs. Or maybe just to give my brain a bit more challenge. Writing Haiku could be a start:
Cattle and a pond
A photo op not taken
You remembered.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dressing Like Twins

This photo of Dad, Betty and myself is a late entry I found after I had posted this blog. The circle skirts were red with white swirls. The blouses were white with red cherries on the shoulders and red buttons. Mom made the skirts, but I think the blouses were purchased.

Betty, Ramona and Fritzi (I think)

My little sister, Betty Ruth Lynam, was not quite two years younger than I. (Sept. 23, '45 - Nov. 18, '43) There were times Mom dressed us alike. In this picture we're not dressed alike except for those @#*! long brown cotton stockings we always had to wear under our dresses. I still remember sitting on the stools in Dunham Drugstore with Mom and Betty, drinking a nickel coke (which was one of our treats), looking down and finding a dollar bill. I hopped down and picked it up. I was rich! Before I could quit imagining all I was going to spend that dollar on, Mom took us down the street to Biggar's Department Store, down the stairs to the basement and used my found money to buy some of those ugly brown cotton stockings! To borrow one of my granddaughter's laments: "It's not fair!!!"

Dad (Louis), Mom (Ruth), Ronald, Grandma Delphia, Grandpa Joe Ridnour in back, Betty & I in front. This picture was taken the summer of '47 when we went to Illinois to visit Grandpa's cousins. We were posed here on the lawn of Frank & Nellie (Gray) Anderson's. About two blocks from their house was a park on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River where we went to play on the swings and slides and merry-go-round and watch the ships and barges go up and down the river.
I don't remember the color of our matching, striped, dresses.

Norman Firkins, Mom, Betty and I on the west side of Jasper # 2 Schoolhouse. Weren't our plaid skirted dresses cute? This may have been the "end of the school year" picnic - or some special occasion - we didn't dress so well for a normal school day. Normie was clowning around. I was probably cuddling so shyly close to Mom because I had a crush on my brother's best friend.

There was a time in the early '50's when it was popular to wear 'Mother-Daughter' dresses. These I do remember, they were pink and aqua. The bolero jackets were pink over aqua sundresses. We had ordered them from a catalog, probably National Bellas Hess. This picture was taken in August, 1950.

And, finally, probably the last time Betty and I had matching dresses. These were black and white striped taffeta. The sleeves were a puffy white sheer fabric. The occasion was Ron's eighth grade graduation - May 22, 1954.

We still had dresses made off the same pattern in later years, but never with matching fabric. As long as Betty was still in grade school, we sometimes wore one another's clothes. But after she was in high school, too, I would no longer trade clothes with her. I wonder if my granddaughters are as stingy with their sisters as I was with mine?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

"I've Been Everywhere, Man"

"I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the deserts bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere." (Geoff Mack)

A few years ago when we were talking about some of our trips, Katrina said, "You've been everywhere!" For a young woman who hadn't yet traveled much, I suppose it might have seemed that way. To me, it seems there are still many places I haven't traveled and still want to see.

From the very beginning, Bud and I have traveled well together. We both prefer road trips. We both prefer country over city. We like discovering hidden gems and serendipitous finds. And I've always liked photography, so our travels have been pictorially documented - if only I had kept track of where we were and when we were there!

The top picture is of Amish buggies at a farm sale in SE Iowa near Drakesville. There were many more buggies and saddle horses tethered in this field across the road from the auction farm site. The attendees were predominately Amish.

Bud is always willing to stop whenever something catches my eye whether to take a picture or do some exploring. In this case, I saw a "Plants for Sale" sign next to a driveway off Hwy 2 in Van Buren County. He drove up the long, pot-holed, gravel drive where we discovered these very photogenic chickens as well as many interesting plants and a hospitable owner. She invited us to look around and let her know if we had any questions. I did buy some plants - the only specific one I remember was Horsemint. The last time we were down that way, I looked for the place, but didn't see any sign and couldn't remember exactly where it was.
An interest in photography is something I share with my son-out-law, Ken - only he is a much better photographer than am I. When he and Kari were here in May, we stopped at some old farmsteads so he could take shots of derelict buildings which is something I also like to do. The building in this picture (taken along that same road near Drakesville as the top picture) started life as a log cabin, then was sided over, only to be ending its life with its humble beginning again exposed. At least that's the way I saw it.
Many times when I see something that looks like it would be a good picture, we have already passed it. I say, "Oh, that would have been a good picture." Bud will say, "Do you want to go back?" Often I'll say "no" just because I don't want to back track or make him back track. This was one of the times I said "yes".

We were headed to Louisville, KY for an RV trade show when we worked at Midwest Products when I saw this interesting looking barn. We had spent the night in Quincy, IL and were driving down the scenic route (Gardner Expy-Hwy 57) toward Cahokia Mounds. I had never seen shutters on a barn before.

Flora, fauna, barns, waterfalls, grandchildren, beaches, mountains, historic sites, Victorian mansions - I have so many pictures. I'll just keep taking more. Maybe I'll even get some of the ones written on before I completely forget where/what they are of.
This final picture is of the clematis I had growing on the fence in front of our home on the farm. It died before we moved. Someday I hope to find another one like it. Not because it is my favourite color of clematis, but because of its name - "Ramona".

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Livin' on Tulsa Time"

Andrew, Tina & Nicholas Lynam

"Livin' on Tulsa time
Livin' on Tulsa time
Well you know I've been through it
When I set my watch back to it
Livin' on Tulsa time...." (Don Williams)

I have been unable to get this song out of my head since my nephew Andrew told me last weekend he is transferring to Tulsa, OK with his employer, US Cellular. I am happy and excited for him and his wife and son. I'm also a little sad for my brother not having one of his grandsons nearby. I remember being so glad for Ron & Ruthie when Andrew's moved to Red Oak from Indiana - they would be able to spoil Nicholas. I benefited, too, from being included in Nicholas' birthday parties.

I don't know how Ron views their move. I see it as an opportunity to explore a new area of the country. Bud & I have been through Tulsa, but didn't really stop to see anything. Instead we went over to Muskogee and Ten Killer Lake area. What I remember most is how really green and beautiful that part of Oklahoma is.

Our first trip to eastern OK was to Heavener so I could see the Heavener Runestone. That trip included stops at Tahlequah, the Cherokee Heritage Center and Natural Falls State Park. I'm already looking forward to seeing the Philbrook Museum and Gardens in Tulsa if/when we go to visit Andrew & Tina in their new home.

One thing I do remember about going through Tulsa, besides the Oral Roberts University buildings, was the barge traffic on the Arkansas River. I had never thought about the river being navigable that far upstream. Tulsa was known as "The oil capital of the world". It was also the home of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys - they the originators of "Western Swing" music. "San Antonio Rose" is one of their hits. The name of Oklahoma's second largest city comes from the Creek word Tallasi meaning old town.

For Andrew, Tina and Nicholas, Tulsa means new town. I wish them a smooth transition and loads of happy new experiences and memories.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bear Butte South Dakota

Bear Butte or Maho Pata

It was at a fiftieth birthday party for a friend of Kari's that I first heard of Bear Butte. The women gathered were talking about meaningful celebrations and places to go on retreat when one of them said she and her friend had gone to Bear Butte in South Dakota. They talked about how it was a sacred place, very meaningful AND very challenging to climb.

When Bud and I began planning a trip to the Black Hills in the 90's, I knew I wanted it to include Bear Butte near Sturgis, SD. Other than what I had heard at the party, I didn't know anything about the lone laccolith. At the visitor's center before beginning our midday climb, I learned the importance of the area as a religious site and landmark for the Plains Indian tribes. We were told we would see prayer cloths and bundles tied in trees near the paths and instructed to leave them alone. This wasn't some ancient sacred site but one very much in current use by the Lakota, Cheyenne and others making personal pilgrimages.

Armed with bottles of water and determination to reach the top, we set off on the nearly two mile "Summit Trail". It was easy going at first with lots of switchbacks and moderate elevations. I was fascinated at the many pieces of colored cloth tied to tree branches. It began to feel like we had already walked more than two miles when the steep part of the trail began.

Bud was eyeing the path ahead and judging how much further it was to the top, while I was begging for a rest and wondering if he should just go on without me while I waited at this gorgeous overlook for him to come back.

Then I remembered that one of women at the party had some real physical limitations - not just out-of-shape like I was. She said it had taken her four hours to make the climb but it was worth it. So after a short rest here, we went on. It really wasn't much further to the platform deck at the top. It was worth the climb. The view in all directions was amazing.
Bear Butte became a South Dakota State Park in 1961 and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1965. I wouldn't mind another visit to Maho Pata someday - while I'm still able to make that climb.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Other Brother

This picture of my niece, Kristi, and her Dad was taken at Ron's birthday party in May. We had lunch with Gene & Kristi today to celebrate Gene's birthday. (July 22, 1942)
Our family has always called him Gene but his full name is Harold Eugene Beavers, so he also answers to Harold or 'Beav'. He's been a citizen of Creston for many years.

Gene was raised by his grandparents on a farm near New Market. After high school, he went into the Navy for three years. He got home from the Navy and started classes in the fall of 1963 - just in time to meet my sister, Betty. They were both enrolled at Clarinda Junior College.

I was waiting outside the HyVee in Corning for Kenny to get off work Saturday, October 26, when Betty & Gene pulled in to the parking spot next to my car. Betty came over and asked if I would do her a big favor - go out to the folks farm and tell them she wouldn't be home that night - she and Gene were eloping. I didn't want to, but I finally agreed. I didn't know how to tell Mom & Dad what was going on so I finally just blurted out, "Betty won't be home tonight," without thinking how they might interpret that. But before they could imagine the worst, I told them she was going to Oklahoma with Gene to get married.

That is how I got my third brother. This picture of Betty, Gene and Mike was taken on the folk's front porch in 1964. In October, 1968, their daughter, Kristi, was born.
They were married almost ten years when Betty died of a brain aneurysm, October, 1973. Even though he eventually remarried, Gene always called my mom, "Mom" and me "Sis".
I remember shortly after they got married and were living in Clarinda, I had gone down to see Betty one Saturday night. We were sitting in a cafe having a coke when one of their friends came in and told us Gene had been in a car wreck and was in the hospital with a broken back. That was a scary night. He recovered but I know his back still bothers him.
Gene was born in eastern Kentucky near that state's border with West Virginia. His mother was from that area. His father, Harold R. Beavers, was a career Army man, serving in World War II (D-Day) and the Korean Conflict. He was killed in action in Korea in 1950. Google Harold R. Beavers or Camp Beavers Korea, for information about Gene's Dad's military career.
Another interesting thing about Gene's Dad is that he came to Clarinda, Iowa on one of the orphan trains in 1922 when he was five and was adopted by Roy and Gerene Beavers of New Market. His name was Walter Colowsky before it was changed to Harold Roy Beavers.
Harold or Gene, Colowsky or Beavers, I am lucky to have my third brother.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"The Inside Story"

Fifty years ago today I hung wallpaper for the first time. The previous day Mom and I had washed the woodwork and then painted it. We still had the wainscoting in the kitchen then, so that took several hours.
What was so memorable about my first papering experience was that Mom had me paper the ceiling. There I was up on a plank supported by two stepladders while she instructed me in what to do. Only when it was done did I learn that Mom had never papered a ceiling! I felt pretty proud of myself. We got the ceiling and two walls done that day then finished up the next day. If I remember right, the paper was a design of green ivy on pink and white and the woodwork was light green.
I'm reminded of this topic by my diary, of course, but also by something my nephew, Andrew, posted on Facebook a few days ago: Dear current and future homeowners- I am laying down the law, do not install wallpaper for any reason in your home. It does not look good, it will not be "in style" in a few years and it is terrible to remove. There are a few exceptions to this rule but please send your application for exception to the wallpaper ruling... to me and I will review it for possible approval. Thank you, All homeowners who hate wallpaper. (I tried to tell him that according to "Sarah's House" on HGTV, wallpaper is already back in style.)
Flash forward twenty years and I was a very experienced paper hanger. There was the house my cousin and his wife had moved out of, but because of a deal they had with the owner, my Mom and Aunt and I papered three rooms in one day. I remember the last room only got done with the help of a little wine. My aunt had to go to town to get some more wallpaper paste and I told her to bring me back some Rose` since there wasn't going to be any other remuneration for my efforts.
When Kari, Preston and I moved to "The Little House", I papered every room except the living room which had been paneled. I also papered a couple of rooms for Pam Lillie with her help. I don't think she had ever papered before.
It was while helping Jan Behlers paper her upstairs bedroom that we decided with our talents and experience, we could go into business together. We had a lot of fun coming up with a name for our enterprise - finally settling on, "The Inside Story". We thought that was so clever and would get people's attention when we ran our ad for papering and painting. We did get several jobs that summer, and boy, did we ever learn a lot! For instance - walls in an old house are never plumb. And what to do when you have just enough wallpaper to finish the job and one of your strips tears in two.
As a rule, whenever we put new wallpaper over old, we only removed the old paper that was loose, or easy to scrape off. There was one job, though, where we had to get all the old paper off because the homeowner wanted the room painted. I could agree with Andrew then. What a job! I wish I had known then the trick of using fabric softener mixed with water and squirted on with a spray bottle to wet the paper before scraping.
I know my papering days are over, but I have done a bit of painting since retiring. Getting up and down off a ladder is harder than it used to be. But I'll never regret learning to paper when I was sixteen. It resulted in some memorable and good times with family and friends as well as earning me some extra money.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"MacArthur's Park is Melting in the Dark....

All the sweet, green icing flowing down.
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again, oh no...."

For some reason, the prodigious rains we've been having reminded me of Jimmy Webb's 1968 "MacArthur Park". It was recorded by Richard Harris that year and Harris' version is my favourite.

There was a lot of discussion about the meaning of the song. To me it seemed obvious it was about lost love. I don't think it had anything at all to do with cake melting in the rain.

The icing on one of Doug's first birthday cakes was white, not green. However, it does look like it could have been melting that hot August night in 1963. I know I made the chocolate cake he is eyeing in this picture; not sure who brought the white one, probably either Grandma Ruth Lynam or Grandma Betty Botkin.

The picture was taken in the kitchen of our first house (after two apartments) on the south edge of Brooks - what we referred to as the Hanzie house. It was a cute little two bedroom bungalow with an open porch across the front and a big yard. The man who inherited it when his parents died offered to sell it to us for, I think, either $3,500 or $5,000. I know it wasn't very much, though at that time it seemed like a lot. I also remember him offering us an antique bed and dresser for $25. The bed was carved walnut, as was the dresser which had a marble top. At that stage in my life, I hated antiques. How many times since then have I wished I'd been smarter?

We lived there a little over a year before the house was sold to Gene & Carolyn Dixon. Later they sold it to Richard & Virginia Westlake who lived there for many years.

This picture of my parents was taken at Grandma Ridnour's October, 1962. Their cakes were made in honor of their 25th wedding anniver-sary. Mom's sister, Lois, probably made and decorated the cake on the left. She made and decorated a lot of cakes for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. I'm pretty certain she was self-taught. I can remember watching her make frosting roses and being quite impressed.

Rain and cake. Is 'MacArthur Park' the only song which links the two?

Monday, July 19, 2010

(Gran) "Daddy Daycare"

We've had a lot of fun with our grandchildren over the years. This picture from the summer of 1990 (20 years ago!!) shows Grandpa Bud watching over Alyssa in the wading pool at Legion Park near our home in West Des Moines. Katrina is in her purple bathing suit looking to see what her little sister is up to while Zach is in the figured white trunks in the background, merrily splashing away.
I'll always be grateful for days like these spent with my grandchildren as they grew up. I'm so lucky we lived near them.

Now we have great-grandchildren to enjoy. And although we probably won't be as much a part of their lives as we were the grand kids, it will still be fun and memorable to be around them.
In this picture, cousins, Ridge (Brock's son) and Rodney (Katrina's son), are playing at our home last Saturday - looks like they are wrestling.
The subject of day care came up while they were here. I don't know what the statistics are, but I'm sure almost all children now spend at least some time in the care of others while their parents earn a living. My generation was probably the last one to be raised by a mother who did not work outside the home.
I was lucky when Doug was little and I went back to work because my Mom was willing to take care of him. I did not have to worry about him during the day while I was at the office. I knew he was in good hands. He did occasionally stay at Marilyn Mitchell's and Carolyn Dixon's. In both those homes he had other little kids to learn to get along with.
By the time I moved to Mt. Vernon, Iowa, Doug was in kindergarten. I've forgotten the name of the family he stayed with after school, but remember they had a boy his age. And the family that he stayed with the two evenings a week while I took college courses in Cedar Rapids doted on him - they had four girls and were happy to have a little boy around.
Finding reliable day care for Kari and Preston was a little more difficult. I didn't know anyone in West Des Moines. It was a case of picking someone out of the ads. Some of them didn't last too long. When Kari was a toddler, I picked her up after work one day and the woman was so apologetic because her little boy had bitten Kari. O.K. - that can happen. But when it happened again, I looked for someone new to watch her. And got really lucky - the principal at Denny's school had a next door neighbor who wanted to do day care. Shirley was just the opposite of the previous woman - she did too good a job. Kari became a part of the Water's family. I remember the night I went to pick her up after work and she cried because she wanted to stay with Shirley instead of going home with me! Then I cried. I was devastated.
When I had Preston, Shirley didn't want to take care of two, so I was searching again. The woman I picked out - again from an ad in the shopper - was young with two little ones of her own. She didn't have a phone so I couldn't call her during the day to see how things were going. When Kari started talking about going to another house during the day, I began to wonder what was going on. I learned that the day care provider was leaving my children and hers with someone else while she did what?? I never did find out.
Luck was with me again when I found Marianne Bradley in Urbandale. She was a single mother with a son between the ages of Kari & Preston. In order to stay home with him she started a day-care business. She had a large number of kids, but she was organized and set up to care for them. The downstairs of her split level home had a large, well-stocked play room and a separate room with cots for nap time. Her back yard was fenced. Marianne became a friend as well as my kid's day care provider.
I hope Ridge & Rodney's parents are able to find competent and caring providers for them while they are working. It's hard enough having to leave them with someone else. Knowing they are well cared for can make it a little easier to leave them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

"She's A Lady....."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, she's a lady.
She always knows her place -
She's got style, she's got grace..."
(Paul Anka)

I don't know how Grandma would have felt about Tom Jones singing "She's A Lady" to her though I think she would have gotten a kick out of it.
I've always thought of Grandma Bessie Lynam as a 'lady'. Specifically the definition "a woman of refinement and gentle manners" as opposed to the definition "a woman of superior social position".
This picture of her was taken in front of her house at 811 10th Street in Corning. It was her last visit to her home. She had been in the care center for several years but when her house was sold and was going to be torn down, we took her back for a last visit.
I've always loved this picture of my grandmother. Her sweetness and gentleness show through her slight smile. When my hair was long I wore it twisted up in a knot just like she wore hers because I wanted to be like her.
Growing up, we were much closer to Mom's mom than we were to Dad's. I suppose it was natural that we spent more time with Grandma Ridnour. I can remember when I got old enough to reason, I questioned why I thought I liked Grandma Ridnour better when Grandma Lynam was so much "nicer". From reading my diaries I can see I spent much more time at Grandma Lynam's after I started high school - sometimes going to her house for lunch, other times spending the night. Her house was a block from the high school.
Bessie Lucille Duncan was born one hundred nineteen years ago today - July 16, 1891. Her parents were farmers. Her Grandmother Aggie was a 'grass widow'. She raised her little girl alone. (Bessie's mother, Flora.) I doubt any of Grandma's family ever had much money. Had she been born in different circumstances, I'm sure she could have quite easily been a LADY.
Years ago, I had a dream about Grandma and Barbara Graham. Barbara was the wife of the owner of The Graham Group where I was employed in Des Moines. Barbara really was a lady - rich and refined and so very nice. In the dream I walked into the dining room of a fancy country club and there was my Grandmother having lunch with Barbara Graham. When I showed surprise that Grandma was there, Barbara said she didn't know why I was surprised - that my grandmother was a delightful woman. I analyzed that dream pretty easily - two ladies enjoying one another's presence.

This picture of Grandma Bessie and her first grandchild, my brother Ronald, was taken in April, 1941 on the front porch of our house. Ron was almost a year old. Grandma had seven grandchildren, fourteen great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren at the time of her death August 14, 1987 - less than a month after her 96th birthday. I doubt Brock, Zachary or Katrina remember her but we do have pictures of them taken with her.
If I could choose any relative to really know, it would be my Grandma Lynam. She was a rather private person, maybe not much different than others of her generation, but she didn't talk about her past or her feelings.
She was more likely to drink her tea out of a saucer than to hold her teacup with an extended pinkie - she was still a lady in my book.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July Reads I

What good reading I've had the first half of July, mostly thanks to Minette Walters.
When I find a new author I really like, it is hard for me not to read my way through all the books she has written before I read anything else. I almost did so the first two weeks of July beginning with:
"Acid Row" by Ms. Walters.
Acid Row is the nickname given to Bassindale Housing Estate - subsidized housing for low income families. The project is riddled with crime and infested with desperation and fear. Poor design resulted in only two through streets in the area - the balance ending in dead ends. The two main streets looped back upon themselves - confounding anyone trying to find an address in the compound - and adding to the loss of life when the riots broke out. Social workers were trapped along with innocent residents.
But wasn't a social worker responsible for the riots? Hadn't she planted the idea that a pedophile was living in Acid Row? And wasn't there a 10-year-old girl missing? This book differs from the others of hers that I have read in that there is no murder or trying to figure out who the perpetrator is. It is a well written, compelling weave of plot lines building up to a suspenseful ending.
"The Echo" is Minette Walter's fifth novel - my second July read. A destitute man has been found dead in the garage of a wealthy woman. Who is he? Why did he choose her property upon which to die? Why did she pay for his funeral when she claimed not to know him. Could he be her missing husband who absconded with ten million pounds five years previously? Or a career diplomat missing for seven years? Why, when the police rule the man's death suicide by starvation, does the woman agree to an interview with a reporter six months later which will only result in an investigation into the man's identity?
I think it is this author's ability to plot such twisting tales that makes her books so enjoyable to me. She may hint at an attraction between her characters, but there is no "love story" - just plain, good, mysteries - ones that are hard to unravel.
I have read most of Anna Quindlen's novels. The library got her newest, "Every Last One" in May. I had not read any reviews of it. The dust jacket talks only of a woman who has built her life around her family - husband and three children - and the rituals of their everyday lives. Her daughter is a high school senior; twin sons are in middle school; husband is an ophthalmologist.
The blurb mentions one son's deepening depression and a shocking act of violence. The book itself is an easy reading look into the lives of people who could be our next door neighbors. I'm two thirds of the way through before being surprised by the hinted at act of violence. I may not have read it had I known what was coming.
Quindlen puts her readers inside the mind of her character. She shows us how the wife/mother deals with tragedy. She gives hope. She also makes her readers wonder how they would deal with such life-altering events.
Carol Goodman is a new author for me. Her "Arcadia Falls" focuses on a mother/daughter and their strained relationship after the untimely death of the husband/father. The mother is forced to sell their Long Island home, give up their upscale life and find a job after her husband's death because of his poor dealings as a 'prosperous' hedge fund manager.
The job she finds is teaching at a private school in upstate New York. The atmosphere is Gothic. The setting resembles the Hansel & Gretel woods, even their new home looks like the witch's cottage. The book is a fairy tale murder mystery updated with cell phones, i-Pods and a modern day woodsman in sheriff's clothes. I couldn't wait to finish it and get on to:
"The Dark Room" by Minette Walters. What a relief to be reading another intelligent, superbly plotted, English murder mystery. When our heroine, Jinx Kingsley, respected fashion photographer and only daughter of millionaire Adam Kinglsey, is found unconscious in the wreckage of a mysterious car accident on an abandoned airfield, the police suspect a suicide attempt. And why wouldn't they when they learn that her fiance has abandoned her to run off to France with her best friend?
"Dazed, confused, and suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, Jinx is placed in an exclusive private clinic, where she struggles to regain her memory." I know; sounds just like any other run of the mill mystery, doesn't it? Trust me. It's not. Trust me. Read any one of Minette Walters' novels books and tell me you're not hooked. This was the first time I was pretty certain of who the murderer was before the end of the book. It's an amazing author that can wrap up the book, deliver the guilty party, but still leave you wondering.
Have I mentioned how much I like Minette Walters books? To quote Publishers Weekly: "Minette Walters has continually worked outside the boundaries of crime drama. She simply won't walk the line - and she's confoundingly good".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Just Like Riding A Bicycle"

First day of school, 1949

What I should have done for Ron's 70th Birthday was find an aviator cap to give him - one like he is wearing in this picture. Would I remember riding to school perched behind him on his bike without the visual image? I doubt it. What I do remember is teaching myself to ride his bicycle.

I wanted to be able to ride a bike just like my big brother but I couldn't even reach the pedals! So I took a bucket out to the road, upended it to stand on so I could get on his bike, then pushed off to coast down the little hill toward the other place. Did I tip over many times? Yes. (Luckily the road wasn't graveled then.) Did I learn to balance the bike eventually? Yes. So when I was tall enough to reach the pedals, I was ready to ride any time I could find his bike unused.

I wanted my own bike so badly. But that wouldn't happen until July 10, 1957 when we purchased Carol Vogel's bicycle. I had made a deal with Mom to clean out the brooder house and get it ready for the chicks that spring in exchange for a bike. I don't remember if we had already talked to Vogel's about buying Carol's and it just took three months to close the deal and get the bike. I just remember how happy I was to have wheels! And such nice ones on a pretty blue and white frame.

I started riding the bike everywhere - even down the lane to the pasture to get the cows. I felt so free being able to take off on that bike and go anywhere. Well, at least over to the neighbors. I had a special place to park my bike - leaning against the elm tree right outside the back door - ready to hop on for adventure in a minute's notice.

My multiple speed touring bike. Picture taken at "The Little House", 1981.

"The bicycle will accomplish more for women's sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged." (From Demerarest's Family Magazine, 1895 - Author unknown)

I didn't have another bike for another twenty years. We were living on the acreage outside Urbandale when I bought this bike at Montgomery Ward. I had already learned all about gears and the dangers of hand brakes from riding the bicycle Doug had purchased from a friend of mine. (Lois Campbell) I was riding his bike down to the corner east of "Our House" when I tried to brake to turn around and start back. By the time I remembered the brakes were on the handle bars, it was too late; I wiped out. You can still see the scars on my left elbow - no scars, just pain, in my left hip.

That bike was left behind when we moved back to Des Moines in '84. Eventually, I bought a used, brown, three-speed when we lived on 4th Street in West Des Moines. I think that one rusted after being in the flood of '93 and got put on the curb during clean-up week.

I always wondered what happened to my first bicycle. Then I found this picture (June, 1966) of my little brother and remembered - he made it into his "Bat Mobile". Or was it Bat Bike? Now I wonder what happened to it after that?

"The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. (Sloan Wilson)

I was talking about riding a bike with some of my grandchildren last week. They began lamenting how their mom had taught them to ride by putting them on a bike and pushing them down a hill. I told them that was the same way I had taught Doug to ride - by putting him on the new red bike he got for his sixth birthday and pushing him down a hill in MacRae Park near our apartment off SW 9th in Des Moines.

I think Kari pretty much taught herself to ride. Her first bike was a pretty green, just like her birthstone. I bought it used for her sixth birthday. Preston taught himself to ride her bike before he was six. But I think he still had to wait for his birthday before getting a bike - a citrusy lime green one if I remember right, also a used one. It was easier to find pre-owned bikes in the city. (Plus I couldn't afford new ones for them.)

Last year Bud & I each bought a new coaster bike. I have to admit I haven't ridden mine as much as I thought I would. It's quite a bit harder pedaling up those hills than it was 53 years ago. But this morning I got it out, ready to pump up the tires and go for a spin. There's nothing like riding a bike to make you feel young again.

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." (H.G. Wells)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

First Grandson; First Great Grandson

There are many firsts in a person's life. Few are more memorable than your first child - unless it is your first grandchild. I blogged about Brock's birth on May 23 this year. This tandem picture of Brock and me on the left and Brock and his son on the right really shows how much they look alike.

Ridge is one year old today. He is my first great-grandchild. I have yet to meet him, but through the magic of facebook, I do see pictures of him.

Happy first birthday, Ridge William.

Monday, July 12, 2010

"The Twelfth" aka "Glorious Twelfth"

My Irish great-great grandparents, William and Catherine McDonnough Lynam with their six surviving children. (Five others died in infancy.) My great-grandfather, Barney Lynam is on the left in back. His brothers were John, Joseph and James; sisters were Anna and Katherine. This picture was taken sometime after William died in 1898. His picture was inserted - what we would call photo-shopped today. William was born in County Westmeath, Ireland in 1832 and Catherine was born in County Antrim in 1832. They met and married in Ripon, WI in 1856 living there and then in Somerset, Ohio before moving to a farm near Brooks, Adams Co., Iowa in 1878.

When I first became interested in family history and could trace some of my great-great grandparents back to Ireland, I became fascinated with that country and all things Irish. One of the first things I learned about my great-great grandfather and grandmother was that they were both Catholic. parents were Protestant as were theirs. Even Great-grandpa Barney was Protestant. I learned that both he and his brother James had married non-Catholic women which is the reason I was not raised a Catholic.

But reading all the Irish history put me directly on the side of Catholic Ireland. Which is why I became so incensed the first time I saw tv coverage of Orangemen marching on the "Glorious Twelfth" in Northern Ireland. I don't remember how many years ago that was. Certainly before the 1998 peace agreement which largely ended thirty years of violence between the predominately Catholic groups who want a united Ireland and the mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain a part of Great Britain.

"The Twelth" also known as "Orangemen's Day" celebrates the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. At the time I saw the tv coverage, "The Troubles" between nationalists and unionists was at its peak. Instead of parading in their own areas, the Orangemen paraded through the predominately nationalist areas, taunting with fifes and Lambeg drums, flaunting unionist dominance in Northern Ireland. It was obvious to me they wanted to provoke trouble. Why couldn't they just stay in their own part of town?

After several relatively peaceful years, today's "Glorious Twelfth" began with overnight riots in Belfast. Three police officers were shot and another two dozen injured as they tried to control the rioters - mainly pro-British Protestant groups burning Irish flags and photos of the politicians in favour of a United Ireland. Why the renewed violence now? Perhaps because it is the 320th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne?

I could never side with the Protestant Orangemen. I'm glad my Catholic great-great grandparents left Ireland when they did.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Alder Catkin

"Whenever the wind drops
an alder catkin into my palm,
or a cuckoo calls merrily,
with trains screaming by,
I fall to reflecting,
and struggle to grasp life's meaning,
and, as usual arrive,
at the place where it slips from my grasp.
Reducing oneself
to a speck of dust in a starry nebula
is an old way out,
but wiser than trumped-up grandeur.
and it's no degradation
to realize one's own insignificance,
for in it we realize sadly,
the implicit grandeur of life.
(From Yevgeny Yevtushenk's Alder Catkin)

Somewhere in my reading this morning I ran across the word catkins. It nudged a memory from my childhood - nudged but did not summon. Was it in a children's book Mom read to us? Or was it a verse from a poem? Is there a nursery rhyme about catkins?

Catkins are those slim, worm-like flower clusters that hang from many types of trees in spring. The word is from the Dutch katje which means 'kitten'. Maybe what I'm remembering is Mom identifying the pussy willow catkins for us. I thought she called them catkins because they were gray and furry and soft, like kittens.

But the memory that was nudged was of this type of willow catkin - not the pussy willow type. So maybe I'm remembering the catkins from the willows around the pond? Mom was my teacher when it came to identifying every kind of plant. She knew all the trees, flowers, bushes and weeds. Recently when I was with Ron and asked about identifying a particular plant, I said, "Didn't you learn all the species from Mom when you were little?" For some reason, he did not. Which means either he wasn't interested in a botany lesson or Mom didn't identify plants and trees for him. I believe it was the former.

I've also speculated that as a daughter, I remember plants just as I remember familial relationships because of some inherited gene. From the beginning of time, it has been the females who learned what plants were safe to eat and passed the knowledge to their daughters. Just as they remembered the family relationships so clan lineage was kept distant enough to result in healthy descendants.

I'm almost certain I'm remembering the catkins of the willows. They are the one tree I can always identify by smell as well as sight. The aroma of Salix evokes many memories. Catkins are but one of them.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dad's Favorite Summer Chapeau

A few weeks ago Bud wanted a straw hat to wear while fishing with a friend. The one he wore while mowing and fishing when we were still on the farm was worn out. He threw it away before we moved to town. Walmart had a hat in the sports department similar to the one he used to have. I called it a golfing hat. But it cost more than Bud wanted to pay. We even looked at Farm and Home but all they had were cowboy hats - not Bud's style.
Then a couple weeks ago at a garage sale, we spotted this little number for a quarter. I made him buy it for future fishing trips.
The hat is a "palm straw with green visor" or, at Tractor Supply Co., an "outback straw hat with green visor". I like that name best. It is the kind of hat my dad always wore during the summer. He wore it while planting corn in May and mowing hay in June. He wore it while cutting, binding and shocking oats in July. He wore it until the oats were threshed and then had to go to town to buy a new one because one of the "traditions" when all the oat shocks had been hauled to the threshing machine was to throw some one's hat into the thresher with the last of the sheaves. The oats came out into a wagon; the remains of the hat blew onto the stack with the rest of the straw. Seeing little pieces of green celluloid told you it was Dad's hat that went into the straw pile.
I don't remember where Dad bought his hats. It might have been Turner's or Biggar's or Andrew's. I think they only cost a dollar or two. Or did he buy them at the Red Star Mill? He hung out there a lot especially on a Saturday night while Mom did the shopping. The men would carry chairs outside and sit in front of the mill office talking and pitching pennies.
John Hinck owned and operated the mill. It seemed like he and Dad were good friends although I think John was probably friends with everyone. His personality and longevity as a Bottle Row merchant earned him the nickname "Mayor of Bottle Row". Bottle Row was the area south of Sixth Street - Highway 34 through town until the new Highway 34 by-passed Corning. It got the name supposedly because at one time there were so many beer parlors or 'pool halls' in that area of town.
John's signature work clothes were his striped overalls. He was one of the few men as big as Dad. I remember one time he gave Dad some of his old overalls when he bought new ones because Dad was the only one he knew who could wear them. Dad brought them home but I don't remember him ever wearing them. He just wasn't an overall man. He mostly wore green or brown work pants and a white tee shirt with a pocket - and his outback straw hat with the green visor. That is the way I remember him the best.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Choices We Make

Are believing in 'free will' and 'things happen the way they are supposed to' philosophically compatible?
Having a granddaughter in the house for a couple days makes me remember when I was her age. She has spent a lot of her time on facebook and texting her friends. She's much more interested in her friends (boy & girl) than her grandparents, which I totally understand. (Deise is pictured here with her Grandpa Bud at Lake Icaria last summer.)
Fifty years ago my steady boyfriend left for six months National Guard training first at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri then to Fort Jackson in South Carolina. I missed him. We didn't have texting or the internet. I had to wait until he got to camp, received his post address and wrote to me before I could write to him. He wasn't even allowed to call during the first few weeks.
Kenny's brothers and their girlfriends were nice enough to come and get me and include me in their parties, but it wasn't the same without him there. I went with Jim & Joan, Gary & Judy and Carm to a wiener roast at Botkin's July 3rd - the night after Kenny left on the train. "Carm & Ronnie went to Creston. The rest brought me home - 10:40." Each night's diary entry included: 'Tonight's Song'. The song that night was Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" which fitted my mood perfectly.
Those lyrics included "maybe tomorrow a new romance, no more sorrow but that's the chance - you gotta' take". I was still wearing Kenny's class ring. I had promised to be true - to wait for him. But that didn't mean I couldn't run around with my girlfriends that summer and flirt with other guys, which from reading my diary I did plenty of.
Then a month after Kenny left, my chance for a new romance - the son of a woman I knew from church called and asked me out. His folks were divorced and he lived in Mt. Ayr with his grandparents. He was in the Fairview area visiting his Mom. I had met him once previously and she knew I had had a crush on him. She encouraged him to call me and ask me out. I accepted without first talking to my Mom. She and Dad were both upset with me for 'stepping out' on Kenny while still wearing his ring.
The date was a one-time deal. The guy was going steady with his long-time girlfriend and I with my boyfriend. But what if we had hit if off? What if I had ended up with him instead of Doug's dad? These kind of philosophical questions are the ones that intrigue me. - The choices we make and the consequences.
My brother's novel deals with such questions, I think, in that if time travel was possible we couldn't go back and alter anything or that would completely change the future. (Doug wouldn't be here if I hadn't waited for Kenny.) That doesn't mean we can't wonder how our lives might have been different based upon our choices fifty years ago (or five minutes ago). So is it choice or destiny or a combination?
Those what ifs.......

Monday, July 5, 2010

Celebrating the Fourth

Fireworks at the Boston Pops

Our fourth of July plans were washed out the same as many others' in Iowa. Creston postponed their fireworks display until July 31, but we went ahead with the planned cook out although we had to move it from the deck to the covered patio.
The only fireworks we watched were the ones from the Boston Pops program on TV. Which was ok, because we watched them from the comfort of the couch - no bugs, no humidity.

Even though we now have shade on our deck (thank you, Thea), the new umbrella couldn't keep the rain off all of us. The large umbrella is such a welcome addition - makes our space so much more usable in the afternoons.

Somewhere over the years I've lost my enthusiasm for fireworks even though the 4th of July was a big deal when I was a kid. The sale of fireworks was illegal in Iowa as was the possession and firing of same. The law banning fireworks in Iowa was passed in 1938 after the town of Spencer burned June 27, 1931 when a display of fireworks for sale was accidentally set on fire.

All the law accomplished in the southern counties of Iowa was making people drive to Missouri for their fireworks. I think Dad and his neighbor friends usually drove down to Hopkins - the first town across the Iowa state line in Missouri - to load up on fireworks. I remember "Fireworks for Sale" fliers coming in the mail in June advertising other Missouri locations with competitive pricing.

My sister and I were too young to shoot off firecrackers. We could have the sparklers, but that was all. At some point, we were deemed old enough to light "ladyfingers". These were very tiny little firecrackers. I can still remember how excited (and scared) I was the first time I held a punk to a ladyfinger. They often didn't even go off, which only prolonged the excitement until one finally popped.

We gradually worked up to some of the larger firecrackers, but never to the cherry bombs or M-80's my brother and his friends would set off under tin cans to see who's can blew highest or lit and threw into the stock tank to watch the water blow into a geyser.

It seemed like we always invited neighbors and/or family to come for supper of fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans, followed by homemade, hand-cranked, ice cream before the evening grew dark enough for the fireworks.
Dad would lean a section of eave spout against the front yard fence as the launching pad for the rockets. A few rockets were the highlight of the evening. In those days they only came in red or green. Dad wouldn't let anyone else light the rockets, but we all oh-h-d and ah-h-d as they exploded over the field across the road.

Some years later, bottle rockets were invented - or at least discovered by us. Setting off those little gems was as much fun as watching the big rockets, plus we could buy so many more. After my brother grew up and moved to Missouri, he used to bring fireworks back for the 4th. My kids went through many of the same rituals celebrating our country's independence as did I.

Maybe it was after they grew up that I lost my enthusiasm for fireworks. Or maybe I've become jaded and think of fireworks the same way I do mountains - you've seen one, you've seen them all. I still enjoy the getting together with family and eating, however.

Hope you had a Happy 4th of July and remembered at least once why we were celebrating.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Flooding in Iowa

Today is the 52nd anniver-sary of the tragic 1958 Audubon County, Iowa floods. Nineteen people lost their lives. The entire west side of Exira was destroyed by the flood waters of the East Nishnabotna River and Troublesome Creek. One woman who survived by clinging to a tree was carried some 45 miles downriver to Griswold before she could be rescued.
My diary for July 2, 1958 reads: "It rained 4 inches last night (from 2 a.m.) and this morning. Several people dead and such damage in Audubon County." I didn't record how much rain fell in Audubon County, but memory says it was more than 10 inches in a matter of a few hours. Because it rained during the night, many people were unaware of the danger.
This picture was taken at my grandson Ki's graduation party at his home in Winterset in May. Left to right, my son, Preston Fleming, his wife, Shalea, his aunt Nancy Jensen Fleming with her son Eric and husband Chuck Fleming (Preston's uncle). Behind Chuck with back to camera, Preston's daughter, Deise and my other son, Doug Botkin.
I hadn't seen the Fleming side of Preston's family for quite some time, so it was nice to see them and catch up. Chuck's sister Pat and her husband, Frank Rose, were also there.
Nancy grew up on a farm near Exira. I think she said she was 13 at the time of the flood. The Jensen farm wasn't near the river so they weren't in danger, but of course, she knew most of the people affected by the tragedy.
It has been a very wet spring. Iowans are again facing floods. The levee protecting the Birdland neighborhood in Des Moines has developed a leak. The levee failed in the floods just two years ago, and in '93. (I've already blogged about our experience with the '93 floods when we lived in Valley Junction.) I feel sorry for the people going through it once again. Even if the levees hold, the uncertainty they are facing right now has to be extremely stressful.
Some people are complaining about 4th of July holiday plans having to be changed because of the high water at Saylorville Lake and Lake Red Rock. How insignificant that seems compared to the disastrous loss of lives and property 52 years ago near Exira, Iowa.