A Birthday Tale


Several weeks ago, the tail of my favorite horse, Miracle, disappeared.  When she died from colic after giving birth several years ago, one young lady at the vets took hairs from her tail, made a braid, and gave it to me.  Since then, it had hung in the hallway next to Dad’s spurs and a photo of the family farm above Dad’s parade saddle. Suddenly, it disappeared.  Where could it have gone?  No one had recently been to the house except Martina, my Italian exchange student, and me.  My daughter and grandson had stopped by, but no one else.  Nothing else had disappeared.  It was a mystery like the time I found a handful of dry dog food under the saddle.  I never solved that one and had given up on solving this one.  I had even considered looking for something else to hang in its place.

On my birthday yesterday, the principal walked to my room with a bouquet of flowers and a package.  The bouquet was from my grandson.  I opened the package. Much to my astonishment, there was Miracle’s tail, the top of the braid carefully and colorfully wrapped, a thin copper wire winding through it, and and then wrapped around the bottom.  My daughter had managed to take it without my seeing her do so, took it home, and had wrapped it so it would not come apart.  When I originally told her about it, she and my grandson commented how strange it was and made note of the dog food incident as if some mystery lurked in that particular place in my house.

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My grandson had picked out each individual flower.  He obviously knows my favorite color is orange.

Then to top off the day my son also sent flowers.  It dropped 50 degrees from yesterday afternoon to late last night, the wind shrieks, clouds loom dark and ominous.  It is a good day for bright flowers.

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An “Italian” Evening–One


Two weeks and one day ago, Martina arrived from Milano, Italy, to live with me until the end of the school year.  We have discovered astonishing similarities:  we both sing and play the piano, we love vegetables and fish, we read books.  Tonight my grandson and daughter are coming over for Italian food.  We went grocery shopping today, bought pancetta for pasta alla carbonara.  Because my grandson is vegetarian, we purchased Morning Star “bacon” and will make a separate vegetarian version for him.

As we planned this repast, I learned that in Italy everyone eats several courses unless in a very big hurry.  Course one includes various little goodies like cheeses, nuts, salami, often thought of in the US as antipasto, but it can include many other things.  Each person obtains a drink of his or her choice and snacks on the goodies and converses.  There are separate courses that follow:  pasta, meat or fish, salad, and finally dessert.  Italians eat dinner late, e.g. 9-9:30, which reminded me of Argentina where people also eat late.  I like to eat late unlike many people in the US.  However, we won’t eat that late tonight, more like perhaps 7:30 or whenever we get everything done.

Right now as we await the arrival of my family, Martina and I are sipping tea while she works on a dystopian short story she has to write for English class–she is a senior here–and I write this blog post.  The snow from last evening has mostly melted and the sun is setting.  Martina loves Panhandle of Texas sunsets and sunrises.  I will take photos of the food and post them tomorrow.

 

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You’re Gonna Eat That?!


This is the title of my newest book which currently resides at the designers for formatting, placing the photos in the correct place and position, making sure everything is just right.  The subtitle is:  Adventures with Food, Family, and Friends.  It includes family and travel stories, adventures, poems, and recipes. Here are a couple of food photos which will be in the book with recipes.

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Every Sunday until publication, I will post an update as to progress.  My goal is to have it available for purchase for Christmas presents for those who love food adventures.

 

September 1, on the Rim of Wonder


Sunrise

Dappled clouds

Owl hooting

Wren climbing

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Later, I graded papers and watched part of John McCain’s funeral, some of which almost brought me to tears.  I often disagreed with him but never did I question his passionate love of country, his courage, his willingness to buck the norm, to defy convention when he thought it was the right thing to do.  I think he and I shared certain values on which this country is based even if the country as a whole rarely lives up to them.  These include the conviction that all people are equal, that everyone deserves justice, and each person carries the right to find his or her own share of happiness without judgment and condemnation from others who may think differently.

Later, while working on the latest book I am writing, I found handwritten recipes written by my grandmother, my mother’s mother, Nellie Narcissus Duke (Kaiser),whose father came here from Switzerland as a child.  One, for dumplings, remains readable.  The other written in pencil on the front and back of thin paper is fragile.  It is for Strawberry Shortcake.  If Grandmother Duke ever made dumplings, I do not remember it.  Mother did–chicken and dumplings.  I wonder if she used this recipe.  I do remember conversations about the shortcake because Dad did not like strawberry shortcake even though he liked strawberries.  I took photos of these two recipes written decades ago in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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Black Raspberries


Mom filled the white bowl with black raspberries.

I pour Bossie’s white milk over them,

watched it form a pattern,

flowing around the raspberries–

a design in deep purple and white.

I thought it almost too beautiful to eat.

I was seven.

Now I rarely find black raspberries.  Red ones won’t do.  They lack intensity, the beauty.  Every year we went to Hunt’s Orchard north of Amazonia, Missouri, to buy black raspberries, took them home, sorted to discard the imperfect ones, then threw them way behind the garden next to the timber–huge trees, oak and hickory.  Eventually, these imperfections transformed into thriving black raspberry bushes.  We had our own patch, created from the discarded, the imperfect.

Mom fed us fresh raspberries for a few days.  The rest she used to create her famous pies, froze a freezer full.  Baked, they transformed a winter kitchen into the warmth and sweetness of my mother’s family devotion.

I bake pies, many kinds of pies.  I have never made a black raspberry pie.

 

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Note:  this will be published in an upcoming publication by the Story Circle Network.  In July my daughter, grandson, and I went to Hunt’s Orchard–yes, it still exists.  I asked about black raspberries.  We were too late; the season was over.  The timber behind the garden area was to the right in this photo.  The person who bought the land years later bulldozed down all the big trees.

Missouri Roadtrip-the Home Place


6CC097FA-6B1F-4C37-8170-6026A42B8C30This is he house where I grew up north of Fillmore, Missouri.  My dad lived here in this house from 10 year old to 90. He died in the month after his 90th birthday.  The house stands on the land my great grandfather established after he arrived from Switzerland in the mid 1800s.

3A97C88F-30A5-4A32-99E3-5E4D8E1172F5This is the only building left at the site of my grandparents original house and barns.  It is an old carriage house.  In this photo my daughter and grandson are taking a look.  One of the original stained glass transome windows from the house hangs in my own house. My grandparents were Lilliebelle Werth and Pleasant Lightle.

 

D44A6726-4FF1-4FB0-9F89-47F7E7C98391When I was a child, this was once a chicken house but mostly the farrowing house for our registered Hampshire hogs.  Later I learned that when first built during Prohibition, Dad held dances here which the sheriff checked to make sure there was no alcohol.

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This is corn and soybean country. The view reaches across the land from the back of the home place.  We met the young couple who own the house now. They keep everything spic and span just like my parents did.  I am grateful.

 

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Antioch Christian Church where we attended church when I was a child.  My mom’s fruit pies were famous here.

Memorial Day–Memories


While I was growing up, my mom grew peonies by the side of the vegetable garden.  Red, pink, white, huge spectacular blooms that always arrived around this time of year just in time for Memorial Day.  We would pick many, put them in mason jars and take them to my father’s and her family’s cemetery plots.  She has created a metal apparatus to hold them so the wind would not blow them over.  We took water to fill the jars.  We did this every Memorial Day always.

No one lives close any more.  There is no one left to take flowers there.

My mother’s family members are buried in the Mound City, Missouri Cemetery.

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My mother’s parents’ gravestone.  She was Nellie Narcissus Kaiser before she married rather late for back then–in her late twenties.  I never knew my grandfather.  He was so much older than she that even though he lived to be 80, he died long before I was born. My great-grandfather Kaiser was born in Switzerland and brought here as a child.

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The gravestone of my mother’s grandmother.  I know she lived with my grandmother and grandfather a lot of the time from family photos, but I also know that she died in San Diego.  No one ever told me how she got there or why.

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The gravestone of Aunt Julia, Mother’s sister.  She never married, loved fancy antiques and china.  I frequently use some of what she left me.  She came to see me rather often and we visited antique stores when she visited.  To say she was an independent woman is an understatement.

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My parents’ gravestone is on the right and Dad’s parents’ on the left–in the cemetery in Fillmore, Missouri.  My grandfather, Pleasant Lightle, had walked from Illinois to Missouri as a child according to family stories.  My parents met dancing. I always smile when I see the peonies planted at their graves.

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This is the gravestone of my great-grandfather, Dad’s mother’s father, who came to the US from Switzerland when he was 18.  According to my dad, he did not want to be conscripted into the Swiss army because at that time Swiss soldiers were being hired out as mercenaries.  His mother stood on the roof of their house waving until she could see him no longer.  They never saw each other again.  I grew up on the land he homesteaded in Andrew County, Missouri.  Andrew County is filled with descendants of immigrants who came from Switzerland.

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The old carriage house near the house where Dad spent the first ten years or so of his 90 years.  It is all that is left standing.

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The house where Dad lived the last 80 years of his life and where I grew up.

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When I was a child, the building in the foreground was used at various times as a farrowing house, once for Rhode Island Red chickens, and to store various farm supplies.  When I went to visit Dad after Mom died and we were at the cemetery on Memorial Day, a man came up to Dad and asked if he was Doyle Lightle.  They started chatting and I learned that when Dad first built it during Prohibition times, he held dances there.  The sheriff would send deputies to watch and make sure no one was drinking.  I had lived there and visited there for decades and had never heard this story.

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I took this photo standing on the levee next to the Missouri River looking toward the Rulo, Nebraska bridge.  This is the land my mother’s family owned.  On some Sundays as a treat, we would cross the bridge to a restaurant on the Nebraska side.  It was famous for its fried catfish and carp.

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This is country with lots of water and trees.  This picture was taken near Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  Several times in my life, I have seen flooding from the bluffs on the Missouri side all the way to the bluffs on the Kansas and Nebraska side of the river.  When I was a child, my uncle and aunt lived on the river farm until a flood reached half way up the second story of their house.  They gave up and moved to town.

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When I was a child, there were trees like this in lots of places on Mom’s family’s farm.  About this time of year we would hunt for morels and often pick a bushel basket full.  Mom dipped them in egg and cornmeal, then fried them.  We practically lived on them for week or two.  I was shocked as an adult to go into a fancy market and discover that dried morels were 95 dollars a pound.

 

 

 

 

Argentinian Adventure–La Finca


After sitting in the airport in Iguazu for four hours because the plane was delayed over and over, we finally arrived in Cordoba around midnight and rushed to La Finca, the family place out in the country, for dinner.  Yes, dinner.  Gaston’s family, including his 92 year old grandfather, uncles, cousins, aunts, everyone had actually stayed up and waited to meet us.  I could hardly believe it.

I know Argentinians are the biggest consumers of beef in the world.  We did not have beef; we had leg of lamb grilled over the special grill his father and uncles had built–a separate house just for grilling and eating.  It was a warm night and we ate outside. It is a family ritual for everyone to congregate on weekends, but especially Sunday afternoons at La Finca to eat and socialize.  Gaston and I went there both Saturday and Sunday.

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It was the end of summer (Southern Hemisphere in March).  The crop in the distance beyond the trees is potatoes.  Gaston’s grandfather, who is 92 now,  bought this land, planted the trees, created this peaceful get away in the country.  Gaston’s uncle and aunt now live there with their college age children.

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The building in the background houses the grill–chimney on the left–and the dining area I mentioned earlier.  We ate inside once around the table that must sit at least twenty.  The rest of the time they hauled the tables outside and we ate under the trees.

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Gaston’s grandfather and I standing before the trees he planted decades ago.

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The same trees upclose.  Yes, those are very sharp protuberances sticking out all over the tree.  You see these trees in cities too, but there they have cut off all the sharp pieces so people cannot get hurt on them.  I could just imagine what would happen if a person pushed another person against one of these.

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The drive from the main road to La Finca.  Sunday afternoon Gaston’s mom and I strolled up and down this drive while Gaston with his dad and uncle and a cousin installed a drip line to water the bushes on each side.  Like here, they are suffering a drought.  They did not want years of work to die.

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The original house where Gaston’s uncle and his family live is on the left.  I loved it here and felt very privileged to spend a weekend with the family doing whatever they do on weekends.  On Saturday, the men all went to help someone move while I sat with Gaston’s aunt, her friend, some cousins.  We chit chatted, drank mate, took naps, ate pear tart and other desserts, and whiled away an afternoon.

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Occasionally the peace was disturbed by the raucous chatter of parakeets.  The huge nest in this tree is shared by many parakeets.  They do not build individual nests.  When they get going, they are really loud.

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Just as in New Mexico in the US, water comes through acequias.  The drive goes over this little bridge in the foreground.

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Near this acequia the family grows lemon trees, vegetables, flowers, and other delectables for family use.

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It was so lovely and peaceful here, I did not want to leave.

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Gaston’s aunt and mother love succulents and flowers.  This is only a tiny portion of the plant collection growing everywhere around Gaston’s aunt and uncle’s house. His aunt is very proud of her plant collection. Many of her plants were familiar.  Some even have the same names in English and Spanish probably due to their Latin origins.

 

 

My Mother–Barbie Doll


Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mother’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was afraid of absolutely no one and nothing.”  They married late:  34 and 38.  He adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love, cornfields, hay rides,      books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed, I was going to possess:  piano lessons, a college education.  Her father, who died long before I was born, loved                 fancy, fast horses.  So did she.  During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing with stories of run aways horses pulling her in a wagon.      With less than one hundred pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them,               a tiny Barbie Doll flying across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

Note:  this poem is in my book “On the Rim of Wonder” and was also recently published in “Inside and Out”, a collection of writings by women.  It is available on Amazon and published by the Story Circle Network.

Addendum:  My mother loved horses and flowers.  When I look at the flowers around my house I think of my mother.  And, yes, I have horses.  The following photos are dedicated to my mother’s memory.

 

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My mother’s mother and father.

 

Adventure in Argentina


 

On March 3, I left for a two week trip to Argentina to visit my former exchange student and his family.  On March 4, Gaston met me at EZE airport in Buenos Aires.  I took the red eye from Houston to EZE, ten hours but an easy direct flight.  Little did we expect then that we would be spending a considerable amount of time in an eye clinic in Cordoba, the city where Gaston lives and attends engineering school.  We spent most of three days in Buenos Aires, then flew to Iguassu to see the famous falls. Several days later while waiting on a four hour late plane from there to Cordoba, suddenly I could not see clearly in my left eye; large pieces of black something floated all around and everything was blurry.

At nine the next morning we walked the five blocks from Gaston’s apartment to the most advanced eye clinic in Cordoba, a private clinic open on a Saturday morning. After experiencing multiple eyedrops in both eyes, seeing several doctors,  being subjected to all sorts of modern machines and tests, I found out I could not see because my left eye was quite inflamed with lots of fluid which made it nearly impossible for them to see what they needed to make a definite determination.  They gave me a prescription for the inflammation and told me to return on Monday morning and to be as quiet and calm as possible to facilitate healing.  That nixed the planned road trip Gaston’s parents and I planned to start that same Saturday.

Some blessings are unexpected.  While I would have seen more of Argentina than I did with a longer road trip–ultimately we took a shorter one, I would not have spent a relaxing, fun weekend with the whole family at La Finca, the family place in the country outside of Cordoba–photos later. I became acquainted with family members and friends, lived their typical weekend life, ate Argentinian food, all things I would have missed if we had been able to follow our original plans.

On Monday some of the inflammation had cleared so they could see that I did not have a retinal detachment–my main concern.  The doctors cleared the way for a shorter road trip and told me to come back Thursday morning.  At that time they were able to determine the exact problem and told me to make an appointment with a doctor here in the states because I would not be in Argentina when the final solution needed to occur.

Three trips to the clinic, seeing multiple doctors plus a retinal specialist twice all cost a total of 110 dollars.  Tomorrow morning my left eye receives a laser treatment and then I am told I will be fine; I visited the doctor here on Monday.  He told me exactly what they had told me.  I can only begin to imagine what my Monday trip to this doctor and the laser tomorrow will cost.  At times I wonder if it would not have been better to stay in Cordoba another week, pay the extra flight cost, and receive the laser treatment there.

Tomorrow photos of Buenos Aires and our adventures there will appear after I return from the retinal specialist’s office.

Note:  at a lecture last evening I saw a friend who is originally from Germany.  After she heard my healthcare adventure in Argentina, she informed me that she has to use very expensive eye drops.  They are so much cheaper in Europe that she and her husband, she is in her 80s and her husband 92, fly to Europe regularly to get the drops.  Even with the cost of these flights, they save several thousand dollars each time.