Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Photography as Hobby Part II

Candid. A term I learned fairly early on in my snapshot days. As the word relates to photography, it means taking pictures of subjects acting naturally or spontaneously without being posed. Less of having the kids standing in stair steps, saying 'cheese' and more of capturing them unaware. Kari was playing in the sand and pebbles along the river in Jester Park when she looked up just in time to see me taking her picture. (Note the closed right hand - full of small rocks, I'm sure.) This has always been a favourite picture of mine.

Now, this one is really candid! What a happy child playing in the dirt. Not only playing in, playing with. How did she know the benefits of facials at such a tender age? Another favourite photo.

Preston looks absolutely delighted in this picture. Or is he just grinning because he had spilled his cereal bowl? One thing is for sure, we all enjoyed trips to the farm to see Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Louis. He was probably just happy being there.

What was Doug thinking last November 14? He was holding his little grandson, Rodney, whose first birthday we were celebrating. Was he thinking about being a Grandpa? Was he wondering why his Mom couldn't go anywhere without a camera? Maybe he was just thinking about another piece of birthday cake.

Back to my attempts at capturing scenic moments.........

Early this spring, on a day I didn't think the storm clouds looked all that threatening, we stood on our deck and watched a tornado form then touchdown only a few miles west of us. I managed taking several photos of it before it went back up into the clouds. I've seen many tornadoes from a distance in my lifetime, but this was only the second time I was this close to one and the first time I got pictures.

How many times had we whizzed down I-40 in northern Arizona without ever taking the short side trip to see Meteor Crater? Watching episodes of Meteorite Men with Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold on the Science Channel got us interested in meteors, so on our way to visit Lorrie and Kevin and the boys in February, 2010, we finally stopped at this fascinating place.

I had assumed it was a national historic site, but it is owned by the family of the man who first identified it as a meteor impact strike, Daniel Barringer, which means we had to pay admission instead of using our National Parks Pass. But it was worth it. The visitor center has an interactive discovery area, a wide screen movie theatre which shows "Collisions and Impacts", a gift and rock shop, the Astronaut Memorial Park and walking trails and viewing decks around the crater rim. From where I took this photo, it is 550 feet down to the bottom of the crater - one place visitors are not allowed to go. Meteor Crater was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1967. It is also known as Barringer Crater and Canyon Diablo Crater.

We were headed to Winterset to visit Preston's one day when Bud said, "Did you see that heron?" "What heron?", I asked. He was already turning around. "That would make a good picture", he informed me. Just west of the intersection along Hwy 92 on the south side of the road is a small pond. When there has been enough rain, the overflow spills out in a small waterfall. This stately heron was perched at the edge of the fall. Bud was right, of course, it did make a good picture.

On the Monday after Christmas, we had a lot of fog which sent me out in search of photo ops. I love all the hoar frost on everything. This photo of spider webs on the hen and chicks in my strawberry jar was just one I took that day.

The one I took of the frost on the trees near the Civil War Monument and the flags in McKinley Park tell a better story of what the weather was like. Looking at pictures of snow is one way of trying to stay cool on this very hot (97 actual, heat index 105 degrees) July day.

If it weren't quite so hot, we could go fishing down at the pond; maybe get this big catfish back on the line. It was just a year ago when Bud had it almost landed before the line broke. Once again I was going for an artistic shot. The fish was thrashing back and forth causing splashes and swirls in the water. I almost succeeded.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Don't Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water" *

We called them dish pans. They were enamel, rectangular or round, white with red trim or ecru with green trim. Into one a tea kettle of boiling water was poured, cooled with just enough cold water to allow for the washing of glasses and cups - always those first, followed by silverware, then plates, serving dishes and finally the pots and pans. Another dishpan held water to rinse the soap off the clean dishes before they went into the draining rack.

They were also used to bathe the baby as I'm demonstrating in the above picture taken in the summer of '44. Mom took pictures of all of us in a dish pan except maybe Ron. I don't recall seeing a picture of him being bathed.

Naturally, I continued the tradition. This is Doug in his bath March, 1963. There was probably a fire in the wood burning stove - keeping Mom's kitchen warm for his bath.
Doug's Dad left for two-week National Guard Summer Camp the morning after he was born, so Doug and I spent the first week after the hospital stay with my parents. I was lucky to have Mom there to help me learn all I needed to know about taking care of a baby. Things like using my elbow to test the water temperature before I put him in the pan.

By the time Kari was born, I had one of those little plastic seats you put the baby in and then immersed in the sink or bathtub. My kids liked splashing and playing in the bath, but they hated having water poured over their heads to wash out the shampoo.

It was a good thing my brother Ron and sister-in-law Ruth had a double kitchen sink. Their twins were able to have baths at the same time. This August, '74 picture shows Andrew Hans on the left and Lorrie Anne on the right. It is hard for me to imagine having two little ones at the same time.

A more recent picture of a baby being cleaned up is this one taken last November right after grandson Rodney enjoyed his first birthday cake. Some of the cake and frosting had already been removed at this point. Katrina has told me Rodney just loves being in the bathtub.

* This saying dates back to 1512 in Germany and is attributed to Thomas Murner. It would only apply to the first two pictures as the bath water was thrown out of the dish pans. The idiom means "do not discard something valuable in your eagerness to get rid of something useless associated with it."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

WWI - "The Great War" - Firsthand

All my recent WWI novel reading got me thinking about someone who had served during that war - our neighbor, Albert G. Reichardt. (Shown above standing amongst his field of oat shocks.) I'm not sure what the G. stood for - George, possibly, as he was born February 22, 1890.

Albert entered WWI at Camp Dodge in February, 1918, the month the United States declared war on Germany. He was 28. Eight months later, in October, a month before Armistice, he was wounded in the Argonne Forest fighting. Ten days later while in the hospital, he "took" spinal meningitis. Shorty, as we always called him, exhibited one of the long-term consequences of meningitis - deafness. I remember him cupping his hand behind an ear in order to hear what we were saying. I also remember him using a hearing horn. Albert was discharged from service in April, 1919.

The Meuse-Argonne Offensive began September 26, 1918 and ended November 11. It was the largest engagement by the American Expeditionary Force. In three weeks of fighting, battle deaths numbered 18,000 - about 1,000 a day. (More soldiers died from disease during the war than they did from being killed in action or dying from their wounds.) 126,000 Americans were killed while France and Great Britain lost almost an entire generation of young men in "the war to end all wars." (Would that it had.) I remember hearing that Shorty had suffered being gassed in the war, but I don't know if that was true. (Germany did use poison gas (chlorine) against the allies.

Albert was one of the lucky ones who survived his wounds and came home from France. When my parents moved to the neighborhood, they became friends with Shorty, his brother, Maurice and sister, Ethel. The siblings lived about 3/4's mile south. Soon Dad was exchanging farm labor with the men and others nearby as neighbors did in those days.

After Ethel died, Shorty took over the household chores in addition to working outside. Maurice continued farming with his beloved horses, but Shorty bought a Ford-Ferguson tractor to use for his share of the farming.

Shorty became very adept at cooking and preserving food. He had a large garden and many fruit trees. One of my early memories is of going down to Reichardt's to pick cherries. He may have only had three or four trees, but it seemed like a forest to me. He would have the ladders up in the branches when we got there. There would be buckets with wire 'hangers' affixed to the bails so we could hang the buckets over a limb and use both hands to pick. I don't know how he and my Mom could pick bucketful after bucketful of cherries. I would get maybe two or three inches in the bottom of my bucket and then "have" to go to the outhouse - which really meant I wanted to go up to the house and play with the kittens. I remember one time Betty and I went into the house and started exploring. It was very embarrassing to be asked, "What are you doing upstairs?" I was ashamed enough of my actions to stay among the cherries the rest of the morning.

The first picture showed Shorty in a field of oats which had been cut and bound into sheaves and then built into shocks. The next step was to pitch the shocks onto a rack to be pulled over to the threshing machine. It was hot, dusty, hard work, especially as the stack got higher. Generally the younger guys did the pitching while an older, experienced, man placed the shocks in a semblance of order. (That's Jack Harvey in the lower right and one of the Johnson's atop the rack - can't tell who the lad in the middle is - possibly Glen Dean Johnson.) This rack is about half the height it would be before being pulled to the thresher. Each summer, the threshing ring moved throughout the neighborhoods. All the men in the area helped thresh while some of their wives came to help prepare the noon meal at the farm being threshed that day.

Something else I remember about Albert was the brand new 1949 Nash he bought. His was a maroon color instead of the turquoise of this stock photo, but it was just as big. What did a single man need with such a big old car? And why a Nash when everyone else in the neighborhood was driving a Chevy, Ford or Plymouth? I don't remember the car he had before the Nash, nor the one (s) after. I just remember the big old boat I got to ride in once.

This picture of Maurice and Ron in our buggy with Shorty standing behind was taken in our barnyard with the corn crib in the background. Our faithful, willful pony, Queenie, posed patiently.

Though they never married and had kids of their own, they always seemed to have time for us. I learned to play cards at their kitchen table - grown-up games, not kids games. Oh, yeah, and I learned not to go snooping in the neighbor's house.

(Albert G. Reichardt died July 19, 1964 - threshing time in bygone days.)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Letters From Home

There was no chance of me not picking up this book when I saw its romantic, nostalgic cover. And when I read that it was about the correspondence between a young woman and a soldier she danced with once at a USO club before he shipped out during WWII, naturally I had to read the book. Then I read the author's notes wherein she related her grandmother had given the letters written by her grandfather from the war to her to read. That just added to my reading anticipation. Letters From Home is Kristina McMorris's first novel. It is a lovely, emotional, book.

It also made me think about the anticipation, excitement and pleasure of receiving a letter in the mailbox that we no longer experience - nor will today's youth ever know - what with the instant communication via texting, skyping, e-mails and face book. Does 'mail call' at some foreign base mean anything anymore? Does S.W.A.K. on the back of an envelope? Or an upside down postage stamp? How well I remember not being able to wait until I got home to see if I had a letter - I would go to the post office and ask before the mail went out on the route for delivery.

Shakespeare wrote about 'a pound of flesh' in the Merchant of Venice in 1596. The reference is to something which is owed that is ruthlessly required to be paid back.

I read two Simon Brett, Mrs. Pargeter books - Pound of Flesh and Mrs. Pargeter's Package.
Brett's mysteries are new to me. I almost failed to find them in the library as I had written down 'Brett Simon' and was looking in the S's. Brett has written many books including the Charles Paris series, the Fethering series, and others as well as the Mrs. Pargeter series. I chose the latter because I liked the sounds of a 60+, overweight, amateur sleuth. (I wonder why?) Of these two titles, I liked Pound of Flesh best. Brett's light comedic mysteries are fun. His dry sense of humour caused many chuckles. I'll be reading more of his works.

Sadly, I read the last two of Anne Perry's WWI series - At Some Disputed Barricade and We Shall Not Sleep. I would very much like knowing what happens to Joseph, Matthew, Hannah and Judith Reavley after the end of 'the great war'. Perhaps she will change her mind and write some more in this series. It is hard to beat Perry's historical mysteries.

Lastly, I read another Catherine Aird mystery, Parting Breath. "Oh, what is death but parting breath?" (Macpherson's Farewell by Robert Burns) In this case, the final utterance of a young student of ecology, murdered in the quad at the University of Calleshire, was, "twenty-six minutes". What those words and a long-lost letter purporting to identify Jane Austen's unknown lover have to do with each other is up to Inspector C.D. Sloan to figure out before another murder takes place.

As I've said before, I like my English mysteries.....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Personal History With Champagne

The first time I drank champagne was when I lived in Cedar Rapids in 1967. It was around the time of my 24th birthday - so almost forty-four years ago. And I drank it from one of a set of four of glasses like this one. It may have been this very glass. It is the only surviving one of the set. This coupe or saucer glass style was popular from the 1930's until the 1960's.
It was also the first time I ever had lobster - I loved both new tastes and still do.

I have wondered whether I like wine and champagne because of the taste or because I adore stemware. In addition to my surviving saucer glass, I also have the two plain flutes on the left from a set of six. (Moving around a lot is hard on glassware.) The two crystal flutes on the right are the two I bought one time when Kari and I were staying at a hotel. (I find drinking champagne out of a plastic glass abhorrent.)

In addition to flutes and coupes/saucers, the tulip shaped wine glass is also acceptable for champagne. I once had a set like this and was really sad when the last one got broken.

A set of six of these crystal flutes does survive after having them many years - mostly because they were still in a box in a shed while we lived on the farm. I didn't find them again until we moved.

This boxed gift set of two Galway Crystal flutes from Ireland are my most treasured champagne flutes. Bud gave them to me when we got married. They are etched with the Irish Claddagh - Heart, Hands and Crown for Love, Friendship and Loyalty. I rarely use these. I would be really, really sad if one of them got broken.

Champagne has become the drink of celebrations - weddings, New Year's, birthdays, job promotions, etc. I like champagne any time, but there are three times a year I always drink some from one or more of my remaining glasses - Mother's Day, my birthday and New Year's Day.

Ever since I read Ian Fleming's book, Dr. No, when I was in my early 20's, I have wanted to taste Dom Perignon champagne. There are more expensive champagnes, but this one has always seemed the epitome to me.

Maybe it is time to start my bucket list......headed by a bottle of Dom Perignon (chilling in a bucket).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Photography as Hobby Part I

I can't remember just when I became interested in taking "artistic" pictures - most likely in my late 20's or early 30's - sometime after my children were little and all my photographs were of them. As cameras have improved, so have my attempts.

This one of the moon half way between New Moon and First Quarter, I took before the fireworks display July 4. It was by far the best of the pictures I took that night. I'm going to call this one, "Starry, Starry, Night". (Don McLean's song, "Vincent" should be playing.)

Another picture taken over or of the pond that has become a focus or background since moving to Creston. This one was taken last summer. It is so delightful to see the sun and fountain in concert making rainbows. ("Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.")

The October, 2010 Hunters Full Moon was my subject for this shot. I used it on my October 24 blog. "The moon was a ghostly galleon, tossed upon cloudy seas." Nearly sixty years have passed, but I can still vividly hear the recording of Alfred Noyes', "The Highwayman".

Early Sunday morning, July 3, I was sitting, reading in the computer room. When I looked out the window toward the pond, I could see my reading light reflected above the pot of flowers on the table on the deck. "I wonder if there is any way a picture of that would come out?", I thought to myself. So I tried it and was VERY happy with the results. Why had I never thought of such an attempt before? I guess my brain is still working.

I have never claimed to be a good cook. When I was a teenager, one of my brother's friends said if I could learn to cook like my mother, I wouldn't have any trouble finding a husband.

I know I will never be the cook/baker my Mom was, but I have learned enough to get by. Once in awhile I even try a new recipe like this "Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Cheese" dish. It was so pretty I took a picture of it along with the other salads we were having for lunch Wednesday. Bud is not the salad lover I am. That's his small salad above left, while mine is on the right. I ate all of it plus half the mozzarella salad. I could live on salads. (I'm like my Mom, this way.) "Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy (salad) days of summer...."

Water is often featured in my artistic photographic attempts, perhaps because mine is one of the 'water' signs? I love anything to do with water - oceans, rivers, streams, ponds, falls, lakes, springs, rapids. If I see a sign for a waterfall, I'll do my best to get there and take a picture. Which is why when I saw a sign for "Rochester Falls" in northern Missouri last fall, I had to check it out. It is hard to imagine these as falls. What I can imagine is that there was once a mill on this river and the dam and millrace did constitute more of a 'falls'.

Creston celebrates "Balloon Days" each September. Here they are off in the distance but still reflected in Lake McKinley. (Water, again.) I have pictures of a balloon right over our pond, but liked the composition of this shot.

Yet another full moon picture - this one a successful attempt of September's Harvest moon reflected in the pond.

Flowers are another favourite photographic subject. Poppies are so pretty - so fragile looking - but they don't last long. This one was already growing when we moved here. I believe it is a "Louvre Oriental Poppy". I love its delicate petal color contrasted with the dark centers.

Derelict buildings are another favourite topic for me. Generally I like taking photographs of barns in any condition. Even though there is a barn in the background, it was this structure which caught my eye on a trip in SE Iowa. Did it begin life as a dwelling which became a storage shed when a newer house was built? I like the juxtaposition of the upper vertical siding and the horizontal logs below.

My digital camera makes taking and sharing photos so easy, but my scanner makes it possible to share prints from days gone by - and that is even more fun. Photography as a hobby is and has been a good one for me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Fox and the Grapes

"Cunning as a fox; sly as a fox; clever as a fox; quick as a fox." There are many different fox quotes. In this case, the 'quick' one applies. It is pretty hard to get a close picture of one of the several foxes I often see early in the morning near the pond.

Yesterday morning I saw four. One sat quietly near the fence just watching as the others sniffed and ran up and down the dam. I imagined they were the little ones looking for breakfast and the one watching was the mama. When a bull frog croaked from the marshy area below the dam, one of the foxes nearly leaped off the dam in that direction. Frog legs for breakfast?

Foxes primarily eat small rodents as well as birds, insects and fish. Also, as I well know from my chicken raising days, one of a foxes' favourite meals is chicken. "Don't let the fox guard the chicken coop," has come to mean "don't put anyone in a position they can exploit for their own ends."

Foxes will also eat fruit. One of my earliest 'being read to' memories is Aesop's Fable of The Fox and the Grapes. The book Mom read from had this same 1918 John Rae illustration.

The way I remember the story, the red fox was very hungry. When he saw the grapes hanging from a vine above his head, he tried jumping up to reach them. Even when he stood atop the wall, he still could not jump high enough to get any grapes. Finally he gives up, declaring that the fruit was probably not ripe yet, anyway. Is this where we get the term sour grapes?

Another childhood memory involving foxes was "helping" my Grandpa Ridnour dig out some fox dens. I don't know what the bounty on foxes was at that time and I don't remember the name of the terrier he had then, I just remember one of the dens was in the pasture north of Ira Jackson's and the other was along the road over east of our place. Two emotions stand out from those memories - the first was excitement about helping Grandpa capture those marauding predators. The second was fear for Grandpa's dog. I was just certain when it went down into the den either the fox would hurt it or, more likely, it wouldn't be able to get back out. I did not realize that terriers were bred to hunt both above and below ground. (Terrier from the Latin terra meaning earth.) His little black and white dog was as fearless as the breed is noted to be.

Around the time when this picture of Bud was taken thirty years ago, fox took on a new connotation - it was the nickname he called me. (A female fox is a vixen - a term sometimes used to refer to an attractive, flirtatious female.) He called me 'fox' and my daughter, 'little fox'. He gave me the small carved figure above and my daughter a stuffed toy fox. (No wonder I fell for him.)

So when I see the foxes down at the pond early in the morning, I am reminded of many different things, not the least of which is this favourite poem:


When foxes eat the last gold grape,
And the last white antelope is killed,
I shall stop fighting and escape
Into a little house I'll build.

But first I'll shrink to fairy size,
With a whisper no one understands,
Making blind moons of all your eyes,
And muddy roads of all your hands.

And you may grope for me in vain
In hollows under the mangrove root,
Or where, in apple-scented rain,
The silver wasp-nests hang like fruit.

by Elinor Wylie