Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Search of a Spring

When I saw this picture hanging in the hallway of the local Windrow Restaurant in the autumn of 2009, I was captivated. This 'picture of a picture' shows a group of people standing near what almost looks like a grotto. Printing in the corner, however, identifies this as "Natural Spring Near Afton".
Springs have always held a fascination for me. That may be a result of visiting the spring on the Gray farm in Illinois when I was four years old. Or it may be from all the reading about pioneers I did when I was younger - how they would camp near a spring or look for a homestead with a spring nearby in order to have a source of water.
For a year and a half I have been trying to discover exactly where the spring near Afton (which is the former county seat of Union County - about ten miles east of Creston) is located. I want to see if there is anything remaining of the above structure. I've asked at the library, I've asked people from Afton, I've asked and asked. Finally Thursday I asked the owner of the Windrow about the picture and if he knew where the spring was located. He did. He gave me directions.
Then yesterday, I did a more diligent search on the library's Union County history shelves and discovered a slim booklet of "Small Towns of Union County". It included Afton and it included the above picture. The spring was/is? located three miles east of Afton at what was once known as Afton Junction. It is where the north-south and east-west trains once crossed. Not only was there a spring, there was also a swimming hole and picnic grounds. In addition to the two railroad depots there was a general store and possibly some other businesses. (I've heard there was a hotel.) So now I'm waiting for some warmer weather and an exploratory drive in the country.

I'm always on the lookout for springs when we travel. This photo was taken at Hooper Springs Park in Soda Springs, Idaho. Free soda water is available here. Yes, I filled an empty water bottle. No, I didn't care for the taste - it's not like the club soda we buy at the grocery. Soda water from this spring was marketed nationally in the late 1800's and into the 1900's. Soda Springs also has a geyser which erupts every hour. The area was a rest stop on the Oregon Trail (The Oasis of Soda Springs.)

Boone's Lick in Howard County Missouri was the site of one of that state's first and most important industries - salt. Here I am looking at one of the salt springs at Boone's Lick State Historical Site north of Boonville. Yes, I did dip my hand in and taste the salty water. (Bud's comment was, "Eww-ww, I can't believe you did that!") Daniel Boone's sons opened a salt business, shipping the crystallized product by keel boat to St. Louis.

One of my favourite camp sites back when we were still tent camping, was this one in Jo Daviess County in northeast Illinois. We had been at a wedding in Dubuque. I always wanted to see Galena, so after touring around there, we began looking for a place to camp. Wooded Wonderland was one of those serendipitous finds. Who wouldn't want to camp where you had to drive on Devil's Ladder Road to reach the campgrounds?
We were told to camp at any of the sites we wanted. This glade looked inviting. Once the tent was set up, I began exploring. I was elated to find we had camped next to a spring. At first I thought it was just a small pond - the edge of which is barely visible in the bottom of this picture, then I realized the 'pond' was being fed by a small spring.
The campgrounds were primitive. There was an old sawmill and remnants of some kind of mining or caves. Rusty old machinery, cars and trucks littered the area. It was a perfect place to camp and explore.

McMurtry Spring south of Cassville, Missouri on the Missouri-Arkansas border is another spring which has interested me since I first saw it in the mid 1970's. The kids and I were returning from a vacation on Beaver Lake near Rogers, Arkansas when my attention was drawn to a limestone barn and house near the intersection of highways 37 and 62 just south of the little town of Seligman, Missouri. My head was still turned, looking at those dream inducing structures (as in I could imagine living there), when I saw this pool. It was not signed, then, but on a trip Bud and I took twenty years later, a sign had been posted saying this was a stop on the Trail of Tears.

A spring is any natural situation where water flows to the surface from underground. A seep is a moist or wet place where groundwater reaches the earth's surface. We didn't have a spring on our farm. However, there was a seep on the side hill southeast of the barn. Before the field was tiled, there were a couple willow trees growing there. I always wondered if we dug it out some if the water would flow. Would we have a spring? Could we have a spring? It was one of my childhood fantasies - another reason I still go in search of springs in my old age?

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Play Purse

Growing up pre-television era meant we had to come up with our own entertainment. We played house, dress-up, office, tea party, cowboys and Indians, camping and with our dolls.
We had old clothes, hats and shoes for dress up. I also had an old white clutch purse of Mom's. In addition to play money and an almost used up compact and lipstick, I kept a ring in it which was too big to wear on any of my fingers.
Picking up after myself was not one of my good habits. I would leave my play purse laying around wherever I put it down. Mom threatened several times that if I didn't take care of it she was going to burn it.
One day I was looking for my purse and asked Mom if she had seen it. She said she had, that she had gotten tired of picking it up and had thrown it in the burning barrel. I asked her if she had taken my ring out of it, but she hadn't. I ran out to the barrel and found the remnants of the purse. Luckily, I found my ring.

This wasn't one of those ten cent rings from the five and dime. This was a ring my grandmother Bessie Lynam had given me. She said it was a friendship ring which had belonged to her grandmother, my Great-great Grandma Aggie.
It is hard to tell in the picture above, but the ring is encircled with twined hearts and some little flowers which look to me like lily of the valley. The band is 1/4" wide and I would guess a size 6. It doesn't have any markings, but looks like gold. After it was burned, it tarnished very easily so maybe it was gold plated?

Agnes Georgina Hull Richardson was born October 18, 1850 and died March 25, 1943 - sixty-eight years ago today. She was 92 1/2 years old.
This picture of Grandma Aggie with Dad (Louis), Grandma Bessie and baby Ron was taken October 11, 1940 - a week before her 90th birthday. It is unusual to have a five generation picture because so often the great-great grandparents are already dead. In this instance, it is the fourth generation missing because Flora, Bessie's mother and Aggie's daughter, died comparatively young (61).
I remember growing up hearing about how close Grandma Bessie was to her Grandma Agnes because her own mother (Flora) had died young. I know at that time I thought this meant really young and that Agnes had raised Bessie.

I don't know why Grandma Bessie gave me this ring instead of giving it to her daughter or a niece. Was it because I was the oldest granddaughter? She was the oldest granddaughter and the ring was given to her by her grandmother, so maybe Grandma Bessie was doing the same thing?

This ring is one of those family treasures I want to pass on. Should I carry on the tradition and give it to my oldest granddaughter? Or will I give it to my daughter because Lily of the Valley is her birth month flower? I just want the recipient to know the story of who it belonged to - and treasure it enough to keep it out of another trash fire.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Books and Baking

The raking part of Tuesday's post, Reading and Raking, didn't work out too well, so today, we'll try Books and baking. Happily I report there was no problem with my shoulder in stirring up a batch of cookies - I didn't even burn my fingers as I usually do when taking something out of the oven.

I read both Anne Perry's ninth and tenth William Monk mysteries, A Breach of Promise and The Twisted Root this week. Promise details the importance of a young woman's beauty and reputation in Victorian times. When successful architect Killian Melville hires Sir Oliver Rathbone to defend him when he is sued for breach of promise to marry Zillah Lambert, the daughter of Melville's patron, Barton Lambert, he refuses to tell the barrister of his reason(s). He insists that he never proposed marriage to the young lady - that her mother was so anxious to have her daughter married that she misconstrued Killian's friendship with Zillah.
The trial is all but over - all that remains is the settling of damage amounts - when the talented young architect is found dead. It appears to be a case of suicide until an autopsy confirms it was murder.
As usual, it takes Monk and Rathbone working together to solve this crime. Hester Latterly helps some, but does not play as large a role as usual. I was able to guess the reason for Melville's refusal to disclose why he would not marry Zillah and figure out how he was killed. But there were other aspects of the story I did not see coming - including Monk proposing marriage to Hester at the end of the book. (I have assumed since the beginning of this series that would happen eventually.)

I liked The Twisted Root a little more than Promise though I am now seeing that all these novels follow the same pattern. Monk is hired to find a missing woman. The coachman who drove her away from her fiance's home is found murdered. She is found and charged with the murder; Rathbone is hired to defend her. There is another murder and several red herrings.
I still enjoy the writing and the Victorian settings; maybe I should just spread them out a bit more and not read two in a row.

Barbara Vine's, The Blood Doctor, was the third book I read this week. It was really hard to get into - not the psychological thriller I have come to expect from Vine/Rendell. The book deals with a Victorian doctor obsessed with the hemophilia in the royal family. It goes into more detail than I care to know about the House of Lords, of which the Doctor is a Life Peer, as well as the topic of hemophiliacs.

Today I made a batch of Mom's Poor Man's Cookies. These cookies were the ones she always kept on hand before the Dishpan Cookies became her favourites.
I was searching through the online Adams County Free Press archives last week when I ran across her recipe. It had been published in the paper back when they used to use contributed recipes.

Poor Man's Cookies:

A 2 Cups Rolled Oats
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed
1/2 Cup White Sugar

B 1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 Cup Hot Water

C 1/2 Cup Shortening, Melted and Cooled
1 tsp Vanilla

Combine A in a bowl. Combine B and stir into A then stir in C. Mix well then roll into walnut sized balls. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees about 10 minutes until golden brown. Let stand 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool. Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

My cookies do not taste as good as I remember Mom's tasting. Nor are they as good as the Dishpan Cookies.

I'm thinking I should look for some different authors at the library tomorrow - maybe even bake brownies instead of cookies next time I feel like stirring something up.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Mom! Mom! It's a Tornado!"

When the tornado sirens first blew last evening, I didn't think the clouds looked that bad. Then we heard there was a tornado on the ground six miles southwest of Creston. I was looking out the window overlooking the pond when I saw a likely looking cloud. In the time it took me to go out on the deck to take pictures, the funnel was already formed and dropping.
This first picture was taken zoomed in.

This was taken on normal setting a couple seconds later so you can see the tornado in relation to our pond.

My dad was a dedicated cloud watcher. By watching threatening weather with him, I learned at a very young age what to look for in the clouds. And I've been a cloud watcher myself ever since. Of course now we have Doppler and super Doppler to warn of potential bad weather. There's nothing like storm spotting with one's own eyes, however.

I believe this type of tornado is called a "rope" because of the way it twists and turns and "ropes out".
I have seen a lot of tornadoes in the distance and viewed a lot of tornado damage, but the closest I've ever been to one was June 7, 1984. Kari, Preston and I were at my Mom's farm. I was fixing supper. There were storm warnings out and Preston was in the front yard watching the clouds. Yes, I had passed my Dad's and my fascination on to him.
Suddenly he came running into the house: "Mom! Mom! It's a tornado and it's headed this way!" "Sure it is, I said." "No, really, he yelled, come look!" By the time I got out into the yard there was a cloud of debris racing northeast across the neighbor's pasture about a half mile away. I could see we were out of the path of the twister - unless it turned, of course. I sent Mom and the kids to the storm cellar while I got on the phone to call the sheriff to warn the town of Corning. I was told they were already aware. My cousin, Gary Mitchell, had already called it in.

In this photo, you can just make out some of the dust being churned up by last night's tornado. I don't think this one damaged any buildings. That was not the case in the 1984 tornado. A home a mile and half west of Mom's was completely destroyed. Luckily the mother and child home at the time made it into the basement just before the tornado struck.
A neighbor a mile east and two and a half miles north lost his barn. Interestingly enough, the barn built to replace it was damaged in another tornado three years ago.
To me, this rope tornado looked a lot less dangerous than some I've seen. The size can be deceiving, however, as some tornadoes get more intense as they narrow and tighten. (Size does not necessarily indicate strength. I'll remember that the next time I'm photographing a rope tornado - or indeed, any tornado.)

I only had time to take nine photos including this last one of the funnel back up in the clouds. It is the slightly darker line right at the bottom of the cloud in the middle of the picture.
Is the fact that we had our first severe weather on the second day of spring a presage of things to come? Will it not only be a dark and stormy night but a dark and stormy season as well? Will Preston again be saying, "Mom! Mom! It's a tornado!",?
Will Dorothy be calling, "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!"?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reading and Raking

One of my all time favourite photos is this one of my youngest son, Preston, raking in the spring of '76. He loved being outside and helping mommy.
It is the time of year when the grown up Preston and his family came to the farm and helped with the spring raking and clean up. And while they may miss the annual ritual, I'm content with having a smaller bit of raking to do where we live now.
Ki and Dominique visited us last Friday. And while they did not come to rake, as they were leaving I discovered our neighbor on the north had cleaned my flower beds on that side of our house. She did not want me to be doing it with my recent shoulder surgery. And while I appreciated her thoughtfulness, it made me feel like I was sloughing off.
So Sunday afternoon, I went out and raked a bit on the south side of the house. I was taking it easy - the shoulder was working fine - when suddenly, pain. I quit immediately. By evening I was able to do my exercises, but the arm still hurt some. Luckily, when I went to therapy yesterday I learned I hadn't done anything major. Lesson learned; take it easy for awhile longer. Good thing I have still have some books from the library to read!

I was happy to find a new Rhys Bowen Molly Murphy mystery at the library. Even though In Dublin's Fair City came out in 2007, our library just got it in February of this year. That gives me hope that they may be getting some of the other older books in the series as they have the newer ones. Even reading them out of order does not lessen the pleasure of following Miss Molly as she makes her living as a private investigator in New York.
It is with some trepidation that Molly accepts an assignment to travel back to Ireland to try and find the long lost sister of a theatre impresario. Things start to go wrong when she is persuaded to change cabins with a famous actress and the actress's maid is found murdered.
Molly is able to convince investigators she had nothing to do with the murder, but once she is in Ireland, she becomes involved in the freedom movement and a dangerous mission of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
I put Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy mysteries in a similar category as M.C. Beaton's Agatha Raisin's, though they are set in different time periods and locales. They are quick reads with interesting female characters. The two Beaton novels I've read the past week are: There Goes The Bride and Busy Body.
Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline was another book I finished reading last week. It was a paperback I had had on my bookshelf for some time - a garage sale purchase, no doubt. I may have read some Scottoline's before. She seems to be a prolific and admired author. However, I find her writing style a bit too 'cute' for me. Or maybe I just didn't care for the Italian mob and the South Philly locale she was writing about.
I'll stick with Anne Perry and Ruth Rendell mysteries for awhile - and definitely stick to reading rather than raking!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Primrose Hill, London - Paradise Hill Adams County, Iowa

One of the books I read last week and a book I am currently reading both had mentions of Primrose Hill in London, England in them (pictured above). I could not read "Primrose Hill" without thinking about "Paradise Hill".
Primrose Hill is a hill of about 260 feet located on the north side of Regent's Park. The name also includes the surrounding area which has always been one of the more fashionable districts in the urban belt of London. Current and past residents are a who's who of notable names.
A one-bedroom flat can be had for a mere 300,000 pounds - about $486,000 at today's exchange rate. Paradise Hill in Adams County, which was comprised of a house and garage, an old barn and forty-six acres could have been purchased for one-fourth that amount three years ago.

Crystal and Dean Firkins with grandsons, Bruce and Steven taken in 1954.
The Firkins were our neighbors about 3/4's of a mile north of us in Jasper Township. They moved to their farm in 1936. Dad & Mom moved to ours in 1938. The friendships formed were close and long lasting. As kids, we called them 'aunt' and 'uncle'. I still have a double heart pin that he gave me when I was eight or nine which has my name on one heart and 'Uncle Dean' on the other. Their younger son, Norman, and my brother, Ronald, were best friends all the way through country school.
Crystal, daughter-in-law, Mona, son, Jim Firkins, and Jim and Mona's son, Bruce. Jim's lived in Minnesota so when they were home for a visit, we usually went up to see them. And years later Jim would always come down to see Mom when he was back.
Crystal could be a bit of a character. She wasn't the typical farm wife like my mom, but she had a heart of gold. (She moved her invalid sister in with her and took care of her many years.)
One of the things I remember most about her was learning to play Canasta. Before the advent of television, more time was spent socializing. Getting together with neighbors and playing cards was a common pastime. Crystal took her card playing seriously. She was out to win every time. What I remember is the way she would scream if someone else went out (won the game) before she did. (The screaming was even more prolonged when she won.) In later years, Crystal, her sister, Ruby, Mom and another neighbor got together regularly to play Pitch.)

Norman Firkins, Ronald Lynam, Sammy Jenkins taken during the 1946-47 school year. Ruth Perrin was the teacher at the time. The Jenkins family lived on the corner a mile west of us. They moved to California around 1950. The Firkins also moved to California when Norman was in 8th grade, but moved back to Iowa within a year.

Dad, our dog, Laddie and Bruce taken in front of the Firkins home. At some point in my Grandpa and Grandma Lynam's marriage, they lived in this house. I think it was in the late teens or early 20's. Grandpa George was listed as one of the director's of Jasper # 2 in some of the old secretary's books Dad had. (Dad was secretary for many years including when the school was closed.)
The house was the typical two-up, two-down (rooms) with a one story kitchen added on to the side. If you went in this front door, there was a room to the left, a room to the right and the stairs right in front of you.
I don't think Crystal named her place "Paradise Hill" until after Dean died in 1981. She was a big fan of Helen Steiner Rice's poems which were used in an inspirational card line from Gibson Greetings. Those were Crystal's favourite cards to send to others. She always underlined significant words (like 'friend') in the cards she sent on Mom's birthday. (Sometimes double and triple underlining.)
In her last few years, Crystal paid for space in the local newspaper to print "On Paradise Hill". Sometimes her writings would be thoughts about her family; often they would be one of the Helen Steiner Rice poems. Sometimes they would be both, but always they ended with a personal thought from Crystal, On Paradise Hill.

(Crystal Firkins died in July, 2003; five months before her longtime friend, Ruth Lynam.)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"Eirinn go Brach" (Ireland Forever)

How old was I when I first realized our family name was Irish and then was told my Lynam great-great grandparents came from Ireland? Late teens? Twenties? By the time I was in my thirties, I was reading all I could about Irish history and subscribing to Ireland of the Welcomes magazine - using its issues to plot my someday dream trip to Ireland. It was just a dream. Then in my forties, it seemed a little more doable. I set my goal to go there for my fiftieth birthday. I didn't quite make it, but in September of 1994, two months before I turned 51, I went to Ireland! As the Aer Lingus jet lowered altitude and broke through the clouds preparing to land at Shannon Airport, I saw the "forty shades of green" patchwork fields spread below me - just like in the pictures. I cried.

The above picture was taken on my third day of driving and trying to see as much of Ireland as I could in two weeks. I was on the "Ring of Kerry". There was a lay-by (scenic view turn out) at the top of the Kerry Mountains, before the town of Waterville. This man, who I believed to be an Irish Traveller*, was playing his concertina for tips. (*Travellers are also known as 'tinkers' or 'gypsies'. I was told, or read, they prefer to be referred to as 'travellers'. There are around 23,000 in Ireland.)

As I was touring my adopted native country on my own, there are not many pictures of me. This one was taken overlooking Liscannor bay on my way to Lahinch. I bought the Aran sweater at Blarney Woolen Mills in County Cork on my second day. Even though I was there in September, it was rainy and cold - the damp cold that seeps right into your bones. I think I wore the sweater almost every day over top of at least two other layers.
Lahinch is home to world renowned links golf course, Lahinch Golf Club, founded in 1892, as well as being a destination for wind surfing.

I remember my older brother, Ronald, telling me he had heard from someone that our family came from County Cork. Cobh in County Cork was a major embarkation harbor for Irish immigrants, so it is possible they "came" from County Cork. I first learned they actually came from County "West Mead" from some distant Lynam cousins. Then, by looking at maps of Ireland, I learned it was really County Westmeath, not West Mead. And even though I made it to the County of my Great-great grandfather William's birth, I was not able to locate where in Westmeath he was born. The only information I had at the time was "near Mullingar" - not much to go on then. Now with so much information computerized, I might be able to find the exact place. (Younger brother, Les, has been in contact with a distant cousin in Canada who told him the cottage still stands, still inhabited by relatives.)

Clonmacnoise in County Offaly, was one of my 'must sees'. This sixth century monastery was the seat of learning in Ireland. It was visited by scholars from all over Europe. I spent many hours here and could have spent as many more. It is a beautiful and fascinating place located strategically on the River Shannon (behind me). The ruins of churches including "The Nun's Church" and "St. Kiernan's Church", round towers, and a cemetery are extensive. (St. Kiernan is the patron saint of Clonmacnoise.) Pope John Paul II visited here in 1979. The bullet proof shelter built for him to speak from seemed very out of place in this ancient site.

The Hill of Tara in County Meath - the mythical seat of the high kings of Ireland - lies in Eastern Ireland between Navan and Trim. It was so cold and rainy the day I arrived. I sat in the car, hoping the rain would stop, wondering if I should just visit the information center and church and forget tramping through the wet grass to reach the top of the hill and the various sites. Finally I decided rain or no, I hadn't come all this way to let a little rain stop me.
This is the picture I took of Lia Fail - "The Stone of Destiny" setting on top of the King's Seat. Legend was that the stone would roar when touched by the rightful king of Tara. There is also some controversy over whether of not this is the true "Stone of Destiny".

Irish Mythology excites me as much today as it ever did. There are so many places in Ireland I would still like to see for myself. Having a digital camera would make taking many more pictures so very doable. I note that the pictures from the nine rolls of film I took on my '94 trip
are beginning to fade. Scanning them all into my computer would probably be a worthwhile endeavor.
I remember stopping at a pottery shop shortly after leaving the Hill of Tara. The kiln had been fired. It was so warm there and I was so grateful to get the chill out of my bones.
There are many places in the world I would love to visit, but if I could only go one place, I would probably choose to go back to Ireland. It was a dream come true, one I hope I never forget. Erin go bragh!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Reading and Recuperating

Not that I've ever needed an excuse to read, but if I did, recuperating from surgery is a good one. The first several days home from the hospital saw me napping as much as anything else. (The pain meds may have had something to do with that.) But in between the naps in my recliner, there was always a book at hand - nap, read, nap, read....
I did not want the onus of library books at this time so I turned to the unread stash on my bookshelves. If anyone had asked me if I ever read any of David Liss's novels before, I would have said yes. I thought I had. I thought liking him as an author was the reason I bought The Whiskey Rebels at a garage sale a couple years ago.
After reading this intriguing historical novel, I discovered I do like Liss as an author and I haven't read any of his other works. Our library only has one of his books - The Coffee Trader - which is now on my list of 'to read'.

I have often remarked that my favourite way of learning history is to read a well-researched and well-written historical novel. Such is the case of The Whiskey Rebels. If I ever studied or read about The Whiskey Rebellion in the past, I had forgotten it. And while I was always more interested in reading about the Civil War era than the Revolutionary War era, I have read and enjoyed the history of the Revolutionary War.
This book is set in post war Philadelphia in 1792. Alexander Hamilton is Secretary of the Treasury. He is engaged in a bitter power struggle with political rival, Thomas Jefferson, over the creation of the fragile young nation's first real financial institution: The Bank of the United States.
While real historical figures play a role in the novel's plot, they are not the central characters. Two protagonists, Ethan Saunders, a former spy for General Washington during the war and Joan Maycott, the widow of a war veteran who trades his promissory notes for payment of service during the war for land in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, alternate relating this well plotted mystery.
I am guilty of naively assuming the great political divide in our nation was born in the 20th century. I assumed everyone was on the same side and had the same agenda of getting our young country on its feet in the late 1700's and early 1800's. Reading The Whiskey Rebels points out how untrue that was. It also reminded me of how much I love historical fiction. I must read more of it in the future.

My other four reads during the mending period were two Minette Walters - The Chameleon's Shadow and Disordered Minds - and the next two in Anne Perry's William Monk series - Weighed in the Balance and The Silent Cry. Both these women remain at the top of my most favourite authors. The two Walters books are as dissimilar as possible - one featuring a crippled Iraqi war veteran set in 2006; the other about a wrongfully convicted twenty-year-old mentally retarded man set in 1970. What is the same is Walters's amazing ability to write such psychologically compelling novels.

Anne Perry's books are more adventures of the Victorian private sleuth, William Monk and his two companions in detecting, Nurse Hester Latterly and Barrister Sir Oliver Rathbone (whose name had to have been chosen because of Basil Rathbone).
In The Silent Cry Monk must spend a good deal of time deep in London's dangerous slums. He experiences feelings of having been there before and flashbacks that lead him to recovering some memories of his past life.
Hester's knowledge of plants and their medicinal properties help Rathbone win his case in Weighed in the Balance. I was so proud of myself for spotting the bouquet of Lilies of the Valley in an early description of the room where the death occurred and holding on to them as the cause of death all the way through the book even though it was made to appear poison from the bark of yew trees was used. My own detecting abilities remain sharp.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Mamas Don't Let Your Babies....."

Ruth, Betty, Ramona and Ronald Lynam, July, 1953. Taken at a Quad Cities area park during our visit to Aunt Leona & Uncle Al's in Davenport. (Mom always said Les was in this picture, too - you just couldn't see him. He was born in February, 1954.)

Our Momma had to rank in the 90th percentiles for mothers when it came to keeping us kids safe. There could not have been a single warning we didn't hear growing up. If we were out of her sight for more than twenty minutes, she came looking for us. The only way we could get away with anything 'dangerous' was to sneak away from the house. The stock tank south of the barn was one of those forbidden destinations. It was like a magnet for Betty and me - especially on hot summer days. I cannot tell you how many times we sneaked around the coal house, the chicken house, the corn crib and the barn to get into the water tank; only to have our Mom show up with a willow switch in hand. As she marched us back to the house, we felt the sting of the switch on the backs of our bare legs. "How many times do I have to tell you to stay out of the tank?"
I was nine and a half in the picture above. I think it was the following summer my wayward ways led to one of my most painful experiences. I wasn't trying to be a cowboy, I was just trying to emulate my big brother. Ron was was fourteen and already tall that summer. When he went down to the east pasture to bring the cows up for evening milking, he would vault onto the back of one and ride up the lane.
One afternoon when Betty and I had "piked off" (as Mom put it) we were out in the cow lot - possibly on our way to the tank. Some of the cows were lying down. I got the brilliant idea of riding one as I'd seen Ron do. So I got on the back of one (Dinah, I think) and she stood up. But she just stood there. I told Betty, "Make her go!" She made her move, alright. She twisted the cow's tail and the cow took off like a shot. Everything was going okay until the cow took a sharp right and I kept going straight. I landed on my left shoulder. The pain was excruciating. I was screaming, "I'm killed, I'm killed!" Betty took off to get Mom, but she was already halfway to the cow lot. She had either heard my screams or was coming to check on us to make sure we weren't in the tank again.
Mom picked me up and took me to Dr. Fry. The diagnosis was a nearly dislocated shoulder. Three weeks ago today, I had surgery to replace that shoulder. I firmly believe the reason the shoulder deteriorated can be traced back to the injury I suffered fifty-seven years ago. And even though I kid Ron about it being his fault (I hope he knows I'm kidding), I know it was my own unwise choice to try and ride a cow.
So far, everything about my shoulder replacement surgery has been positive. It was a lot less painful and the healing has been faster than I had anticipated. I started physical therapy yesterday and am looking forward to having full use of my shoulder/arm in time for spring cleaning and flower planting.
Two things did happen before and after surgery that seemed significant to me: the morning of surgery I was completely calm. I've always had good health; no surgeries, etc., so I thought I would be a nervous wreck. Instead, no qualms whatsoever.
After surgery, when I was coming out of recovery and they said they were taking me to my room where Bud was waiting for me, I was still a little groggy - conscious enough to know it wasn't going to happen - but I had the overwhelming thought/desire that my Mom was going to be there waiting for me in the room, too. She was there to pick me up when I originally got hurt. I guess I felt she would/should be there for me when I got the owie fixed.
You never get over wanting or needing your Mommie.