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.

5776CE1A-1C1F-4232-BFE4-50F8B1387533

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.

 

050EC16C-195A-4404-8DF0-81DF5434F71E

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.

SAM_1160

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.

SAM_1159

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.

SAM_1161

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.

SAM_1090

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.

SAM_1094

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.

SAM_1097

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.

SAM_1098

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

SAM_1167

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.

SAM_1134

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.

SAM_1150

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.

SAM_1145

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.

IMG_3100

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.

IMG_3104

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.

IMG_3095.JPG

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

IMG_3110.JPG

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.

IMG_3108

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.

IMG_3093

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.

IMG_3101

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.

IMG_3107

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

IMG_3106

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

IMG_3103

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

IMG_3094

IMG_3099

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.

 

IMG_2230 (1)

IMG_2866

IMG_2373

IMG_2318

IMG_2304

SAM_0947

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.

Blood Quantum: A Poem for Our Time


 

My grandson cuts himself into 16 equal pieces:

4/16 Urhobo from Africa

3/16 Spanish from Spain

4/16 European–two Swiss German great, great-grandfathers

(Werth and Kaiser), Irish, English and who knows what

3/16 Mexican–whatever mixtures that may be

2/16 Navaho

 

Who am I? What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

Do we really know?

Who sets the rules?

white men

black

Indian

Native American

Irish

English

German

from where and for whom?

 

He looks Navaho:

-blue black straight hair

-pale brown skin

-obsidian eyes.

One four year old girl asks him,

“Are you American Indian?”

His six year old self says nothing.

She repeats,

“Are you American Indian?”

He says, “It’s complicated.”

 

The Navaho won’t claim him, too little blood.

He needs 1/4, not 1/8.

Caddy and Fort Sill Apache allow 1/16, not Navahos.

1/4 blood is for

-Sioux

-Cheyenne

-Kiowa

-Navaho

1/8 works for Comanche and Pawnee.

Some Cherokees only want a Cherokee ancestor.

 

But he is none of those.

Is he Navaho?

Is he white?

The old South goes by the one drop rule:

one drop of Negro…

Is a person with 99/100 per cent white

and 1/100 black, black?

Who says?

Kids at school ask, “What are you?”

He tells them.

They say, “You’re lying.”

 

I only know specifically about two ancestors,

the Swiss Germans.

Another great grandfather disappeared during the Civil War.

I don’t even know his name.

Who am I?

Who are you?

I think I’ll get a DNA test.

Then I’ll know how many pieces I need to cut myself into.

 

Note:  This was originally published in my book “On the Rim of Wonder”.  I had a cousin send me 75 pages of ancestry information.  I looked up more myself.  That one great grandfather remains a mystery.  I had my DNA done.  It did not match what I expected from the ancestry work.

Blood quantum is the term the US government used to determine whether a person would be qualified as an Indian.  Now many Indian Nations use it to decide who can be on the tribal rolls and who cannot.

 

 

Sunday Poem–“Hair”


No females in my family had long hair.

Dad did not like it,

said it showed male domination

over women.

Once when grown and gone

from home, I began to grow mine

out, experiment.

When he saw it, he told me

he thought it unbecoming.

I cut it.

Mom said she had long hair

when she was young.

Her dad forbade her to cut it.

In her twenties she chopped her golden locks

off, flapper style, then hid her head

in a scarf, afraid.

 

Note:  This poem is from the family section of my book, “On the Rim of Wonder”.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Poem–A Life


IMG_1645

I wrote the first blog post about this in February, a second a few weeks later.  The following poem I wrote a week ago but never posted:  too upset, too sad, too filled with regrets I could have no way fixed because I did not even know all the story.  He remained unconscious for two months from late January until March 22.  It seems strange that the memories of a life I lived so long ago, mostly forgotten, could surge into so many waking moments now years later.  Life:  always filled with wonder, surprises.

yesterday we put his body in the ground

the wind blew through the trees

whispering green spring, beauty

yesterday we put his body in the ground

the man I loved, beautiful mahogany velvet

dazzled the world with his smile

yesterday we put his body in the ground

my daughter’s father, standing with family

some we had never seen before, worldwide

yesterday we put his body in the ground

watched a life flash by, slides from baby

to our life long ago, other lives and children

yesterday we put his body in the ground

family, friends, two of his children

a life struck down, too suddenly, too soon

In honor of the life of Kenneth A. Mowoe

You will not be forgotten, your memory lives on with me, your family, your children and grandchildren, your friends.  Peace.  Love.

IMG_2666

Frozen


Two weeks ago today, the sickening news came:  my daughter’s father, my ex-husband, suffered a massive heart attack while working.  Rushed to the hospital, resuscitated, then open heart surgery. He never regained consciousness, not yet.  He lies there, part of his brain not working, tube-fed, not breathing on his own.

She drove all night, six hours to get there.  She thought they had taken her to the wrong room, unrecognizable.  Last week end, I drove with her.  Except for his hands, I would not have recognized him myself, so thin, so aged. How could someone change that much in the ten years since I had last seen him?  She went back again late this week, returned late last night.  Moved to a longterm care facility, he remains the same except he no longer even opens his eyes, no more staring into the void.

I feel frozen.  This morning I delivered my grandson to my daughter–he stayed with me this trip.  Checking on her father’s apartment, my daughter found his photos, some from when we were young.  She showed a few to me.  I stared, shocked, dismayed.  My today’s to-do list just sits here.  I force myself to work at it bit by bit, write two peer review assignments for a class I am taking–I do not want to disappoint, vacuum and dust one room at a time, tell myself I need to go out on this 20 degrees warmer than normal day and garden, write this blog post.   I feel frozen.

He had plans neither she nor I knew about, plans to perhaps make him happier, return to the land of his birth.  Will some miracle occur, will he awaken, recover?  Is there some appropriate time for which we wait?

I feel frozen.  When will I thaw?

 

Gratitude


Thanksgiving brings so many thoughts, including thoughts about the divisive political discourse in the country now.  However, it seems more productive and in keeping with the day to focus on gratitude.  As I write this I think of both personal and broader things for which I am grateful, one of which is that I live in a country where divisive political discourse can actually and legally occur.  Now to the more personal (even though I think the personal is political, I will not focus on that)–here is my starter list:

-my family–daugher, son, and grandson; daughter and grandson will join me shortly to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

-my mother’s pumpkin pie recipe which my grandson will help me prepare when he arrives; he says it is the only pumpkin pie he really likes.

-my job which I truly love–teaching public high school; my students frequently make my day.

-where I live in beauty truly on the Rim of Wonder.

IMG_2376

IMG_2373

IMG_2323

IMG_2165

IMG_1645

IMG_1584

IMG_1807

IMG_1596

IMG_1580

IMG_1589

IMG_1419

-my health

-my friends

-my ability to travel to all sorts of fascinating places

IMG_0592

IMG_0577

IMG_0169

IMG_0198

IMG_2069

 

IMG_2040

IMG_1966

-a life I love