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“The Most Persistent Fisherman” 02/03/2018

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After the skits had all been presented, it was time for the awards ceremony. I remember sitting there that first year feeling a little sad. I knew that I hadn’t won any of the tournaments like shuffleboard, or checkers… and lets face it, my cabin wasn’t exactly the greatest at … well… anything, so I wasn’t expecting to win any awards. It seemed that I would just have to sit there and watch all of these other guys get awards and maybe I could do better next year.

Then it happened…. I heard them say… “And the award for the ‘Most Persistent Fisherman’ goes to… Jimmy Higdon!!”  What? Did I hear my name called? I won an award? I was shocked, I knew that I had fished a lot, “but surely there must have been guys who fished more than me?”  I went up and received my award which was a fishing lure… (that I still have) went back to my seat… feeling pretty good about the whole world.

“You know, this Green Lake is a pretty good place… I can’t wait for next year!” were just a few of the thoughts that I had as drifted off to sleep in my bunk that night.

The next morning at breakfast we said our goodbyes to Green Lake in typical Moline Boy’s Choir fashion. We sang… “Our best to you… May your dreams come true… may old father time, never be unkind… Through all the years, may no grief appear… Green Lake Campers… here’s our best to you…. Our best to you….”

It was time to go home… what started off as a disaster turned out to be one of the best experiences and my favorite places in the world. I made many more trips back up to the Anderson Cabins at Green Lake both as a camper and as a counselor… Many years later I would take my son Ben there as a stopover on our way to Canada. We stayed at the Roger Williams Inn built in 1930… right on the lake. Ben was most disappointed that we didn’t even have a TV in our room… I just shook my head… Kids these days…

Many years past after that first awards night… each year I managed to win some kind of an award… and each year I left feeling pretty good about myself… It wasn’t until I returned as a counselor that I learned the rest of the story…

The night before the awards presentation, all of the counselors gathered to discuss who was winning what awards and then came the question that forever changed my understanding… “Which boys in your cabin aren’t receiving an award?”

I had only one boy… he was small and shy… he didn’t participate much… he didn’t exactly fit in… and he was very much a loner. His name was Bobby…

“Well has Bobby done anything this week we can award him for?” They asked.  I struggled to come up with something… “Well he… no that was Scott… Well he definitely… no you can’t award him for that…” finally after they passed me by a couple of times, I said… “Bobby read more than any other boy here at camp…” and there it was… Bobby won “The Most Prolific Reader” award… and then it dawned on me… I was Bobby and Bobby was me…

All those years ago, my counselor sat in this exact same position trying to come up with an award for me. A tear of gratitude came to my eye… I had no idea… I can’t imagine how hard he must have struggled to come up with “The Most Persistent Fisherman”

I never forgot how I felt about receiving that award… and I never forgot how grateful I was to the counselors, over the years, who struggled to find an award for a small, awkward, quiet boy…. who spent a great deal of time by himself… And I have spent the rest of my life trying to pay it forward…

NEXT TIME: ” You have been selected to attend a secret meeting… say nothing to anyone… this is top secret… Code Word “NZ”



The Papers… 01/26/2018

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the papers

The last night of Boy’s Choir Camp was celebrated with a skit from each cabin followed by an awards ceremony. The skits were always entertaining… at least from a young boys perspective. I remember my cabin’s skit the first year… It was awful.

We couldn’t think of anything else to do, so we decided to sing “This Land Is Your Land” Oh my… it was really lame… our counselor did everything he could to talk us out of it… but basically all we did was sing the song with a few props mixed in… like shaking a dust mop on the words “and dust clouds rolling” Yeah… it was pretty lame.

But the greatest skit EVER was… “The Papers”

So great in fact… that after a few years… it was banned… never to appear on Moline Boy’s Choir camp stage again.

The scene opens with The Godfather (Mobster) seated behind a table with two mobsters in chairs just in front of him and four mobsters standing behind them. The Godfather says in his best mobster voice.

“Boys… it’s like this… I need you to get me the papers. This is the most important job you have ever done for me… you cannot fail me. Don’t return with out the papers…”

The four standing mobsters acknowledge the significance of their task… make assurances that they will not fail… and leave quickly.

In a few moments one of the mobsters rushes back in with a bunch of file folders saying… “I’ve got the papers boss, I’ve got the papers” He proudly places them on the Godfather’s desk and the Godfather begins to review them…

the papers2

Suddenly he stands up and says… “You have failed me… these ARE NOT the papers!” He then pulls out a gun and shoots the mobster with a cap gun (back in the day you could get away with that)  who proceeds to die a spectacular dramatic… long drawn out death. He is then carried off stage by the two mobsters who were seated.

A few moments later a second mobster returns with a stack of newspapers saying: “Ive got the papers boss, I’ve got the papers” He proudly places them on the desk and the Godfather begins to review them…

the papers1

The Godfather then stands up again and says… “You once again have disappointed me… You will never make that mistake again.” He pulls out a gun and shoots the second mobster who also proceeds to die a spectacular, dramatic… long drawn out death… and is carried out by the two mobsters who were originally seated.

Now the third mobster runs into the room yelling, “Ive got the papers boss, I’ve got the papers.”  He is  carrying what appears to be a set of accountant type journals… he proudly places them on the Godfather’s desk, who looks them over carefully…

the papers 2

The Godfather stands up again and says..  “I can no longer accept your blundering… you have failed me for the final time”  He pulls out a gun again and shoots the mobster who proceeds to die a spectacular, horrific… dramatic… long drawn out  death… and is also carried out by the two mobsters.

Suddenly the fourth mobster bursts onto the stage carrying a roll of toilet paper in each hand and proclaims… “Ive got the papers boss, I’ve got the papers”

toilet paper

The Godfather and the other mobsters jump up quickly and the Godfather announces… “We’ve got the papers boys… Come on… Lets go to the John…” And everyone runs off stage.

When the voting was done… “The Papers” won 1st place… to a young boy, it doesn’t get any better… Mobsters… intrigue… guns… and bathroom humor all in one skit… no wonder it was banned!

Next time I will tell you about the award I received… something that has stayed with me for almost 50 years…

Until next time


You’re Not Going To Take Me Alive!!! 01/22/2018

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One thing for certain… there was always something going on at Boy’s Choir Camp. In the mornings we had rehearsal, in the afternoons we enjoyed free time at the lake and the evenings were filled with the greatest games ever known to boykind…

One night was Counselors Hunt the Boys… the next night was Boys Hunt the Counselors, the next was Capture the Flag,  the next to last night was The Great Treasure Hunt and the last night was Skit Night followed by the awards presentations.

Today, I thought I would tell you about Counselors Hunt the Boys… Basically it is a game of hide and seek spread out over a vast area… (of course when you’re a kid it doesn’t take much to be a vast area) … But there was a catch… if a counselor caught you, then you had to pay them… I have tried to remember what great sum of money was involved… I think it may have started at about 10 cents my first year, and by the time I had graduated from the choir, it might have ballooned to the awesome sum of 50 cents… high finances for an 8 year old…

The event began at the Tea House (Our choir practice facility around a five minute walk from the cabins) About 45 minutes before sundown the whistle was blown and we had 15 minutes to find a place to hide… we were promised and assured that the counselors would remain at the Tea House for the FULL 15 minutes… Looking back… I’m pretty sure that  UN observers were called in for this event considering the high finances that were involved and the questionable integrity of the counselors. LOL

Four or five of us had decided that we would stick together on this mission… figuring that there was safety in numbers and besides, if one of us got caught, maybe we could slow the counselor down enough for the others to get away… a little like the slowest person getting eaten by the zombies while the others make their escape.

We found the perfect place… it was a thicket right next to a house in the woods that had been clearly marked and reported as being out of bounds… but that was the genius of our plan… we weren’t “technically” around the house… we were in the woods near the house… after consulting with one of the boys whose Dad was a lawyer… we felt that we were well within the legal interpretation of the rules.

We then found our spots and prepared to settle in… I had brought my woolen green army blanket off my bed into the woods with me to use as camouflage… The army knew what they were doing with those green blankets… pile a few leaves and twigs on those things… and poof …instant invisibility!!!

We hunkered down… initiated radio silence (we didn’t actually have radios, but that meant we could only talk if it was an emergency… like spotting a snake or something)… and we waited…

We heard the whistle blow again… they had released the counselors… the sun was now setting and the woods were starting to get dark… time went so slowly… we could hear the screams of boys being captured… we heard the counselors yelling to one another… “Got one over hear…” Check up in those bushes…” Be sure to check behind the cabins…” And all the while… we remained still and silent…

Fifteen minutes went by… no counselors nearby… 30 minutes now passed… still no counselors… but darn… it’s getting hot under this blanket… and then with only 5 minutes to go… one of our guys broke radio silence… “I have to go to the bathroom!!!” he said with an unmistakable urgency. “Shut Up and hold it!!” was the swift and unanimous reply.

Finally, the whistle blew again… we confirmed the time by checking our watches… it wouldn’t surprise us for the counselors to blow the whistle early in a ruse to catch a few  of our unsuspecting and more gullible brothers.

It was over… we did it… we survived… they didn’t even come close…  And the best part of all… my 10 cents was still safely tucked in my pocket.

The next morning, I woke up and I felt like I itched all over… I must have gotten some mosquito bites I thought… I looked in the mirror and… OH MY… I got A LOT of mosquito bites… they were all over my arms and chest and legs. On the way out to calisthenics… I stopped the nurse to ask what I might do for the mosquito bites… she just looked at me shaking her head and said… ” Uhhh those aren’t mosquito bites… you have POISON IVY!!!” Leave it to me to lay down in a patch of poison ivy… You know… maybe that’s what made it such a great hiding place!!

In all the years I went to camp… I was NEVER caught… When I went back as a counselor… we were asked to put a $2.00 bounty on our head during the “Kids Hunt the Counselors” competition… My first year I was so confident that I put up a $10.00 bounty and my last year I put $25.00.  You know… if I were a counselor today… it would be $100… Come on kids… come find me… I dare you!!!

Next time I will tell you about Skit Night… and the skit that was PERMANENTLY banned!

Until next time…


Guys Are Swimming… Guys Are Sailing… 01/20/2018

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Green Lake Northern Baptist Assembly 1946

When I last wrote… I was in my bunk, sad… lonely and hungry. It had been a restless night…

Of course one reason I was miserable might have been the fact that I was laying on top of a woolen, green army blanket. I mention laying on top because I had decided that if I was expected to make my bed in such a way that there were perfectly square corners and blankets tight enough to bounce a quarter off of…  perhaps I would be better off not messing it up by getting under the sheets in the first place.

This was an unfortunate idea for two reasons. First… because a wool army blanket is incredibly scratchy.  To be honest, I don’t think I have ever worn or owned anything made of wool since. The second reason is that although one might think that August in Wisconsin may be hot… let me assure you… that at night… it is not!  So sleeping on top of the blanket was not one of my better ideas.

The next morning we were greeted by someone bursting in our door banging a pan yelling something about having  five minutes to be up, dressed and in front of the cabins… I suppose that a simple alarm clock or a cheerful “It’s time to get up” would have been out of the question.

We then staggered out of our cabins and made our way down to the main field where we began a lively session of calisthenics……. calisthenics… does that word even exist anymore? Or was it just something dreamed up to torture us??

Anyway… after the torture session…errr… I mean calisthenics… we headed down to the dinning hall for breakfast. You know… I don’t really remember much about breakfast… I was probably so hungry from dinner the night before that I ate whatever they had… plus I’m pretty sure that breakfast included those little boxes of Captain Crunch cereal so I was in good shape.

After breakfast it was back to the cabins for cabin clean up… My goodness… they really took that clean up stuff seriously… and then again… we did too, because the order in which we were dismissed, got in line for lunch and a plethora of other benefits depended on your cabin clean up ranking. We then put on our Sunday best and went to church.

I’m not sure what to say about church… except that you have to keep in mind that I was only like eight years old…. and my only recollection was that church was…  awful… the minister droned on and on…  we sang hymns and songs that I didn’t know and the worst part… the most awful experience of all was… Communion.

I still remember it like it was yesterday… we were all seated at a table and given a 6 ounce paper cup… then a pitcher was passed from one guy to the next with the idea that the person to your right would pour for you and you poured for the next etc…  Unfortunately for me… Kevin Brown was sitting next to me… when it came time for Kevin to pour into my cup… I realized with horror that it wasn’t grape juice in that pitcher like I had been promised… It was… TOMATO JUICE!!!!!

Oh the humanity!!!! How could this be happening…. I hate tomato juice… And between you and me… I just know that Kevin Brown must have known that I hated tomato juice… because you know what he did??? He filled my cup to the brim. YES HE DID!!! Then we were told by the minister to drink all of it!!! “Drink all of this in remembrance of me…”

I am pretty sure that was the worst moment of my young life up to that point…

After church it was lunch time… I was still thinking about how hard it was to keep from throwing up after drinking the tomato juice that I hardly touched my lunch. Then it was back to the cabins for “Siesta.”

The rules for Siesta were simple… For 30 minutes we were required to rest on our bunk… we must have one elbow on the bunk at all time… we could read, rest.. or do nothing at all… but definitely no talking… we were encouraged to use that time to send a letter home to our parents and let them know how much fun we were having… Fun? Fun?? Who were these guys kidding… this place was no more than a concentration camp!!!

So I took the opportunity to inform my Mom and Dad of exactly what kind of place this was and tell them that I couldn’t believe they would knowingly send their little boy to a place like this… and if at all possible… could they come and pick me up…. NOW!!!

I put a stamp on it and as soon as Siesta was over… I mailed that puppy!!!

After mailing the letter, it was time to go to the lake front for free time… They had a swimming pool, row boats, paddle boats, a small island that you could take a boat over to and swim in the lake. They had a ceramic shop where you could make all kinds of cool things, they had the Lapidary shop where you could polish stones and make jewelry and gifts to take home… They had shuffleboard and bike rentals… miles of trails to hike and walk… And best of all… I discovered fishing!!!

I still remember Howard Hedlund had this really cool spinning rod and reel combination… I had never seen anything like it before in my life… I mean, I had an old Zebco back home that I had never used… but this was different… it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. (It would actually be a long time before I would ever get my first spinning rod and reel.)

The first thing I did was go to the little convenience store on the waterfront and buy a small plastic fish with a hook, line, sinker and bobber  wrapped around it… It cost me $1.25 and was the best money I had ever spent… believe it or not… I still have it in my tackle box today…

I had found my calling in life… fishing… for the rest of the week… I knew what God intended for me to do… Now this was fun!!! This camp stuff really was fun!!!

You know… in hindsight… I probably should have sent another letter to Mom and let her know that things were now GREAT!!! Oh well… Heck… I was only a kid… I never gave the letter another thought…

Until next time…

Hello Muddah… Hello Faddah… 01/09/2018

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Green lake

Green Lake Wisconsin

I mentioned in my last post about summer camp…  one week each summer for several years of my young life, and later as a counselor… I would spend at the American Baptist Assembly in Green Lake Wisconsin with the Moline Boys Choir. I mentioned in my post O Holy Night about being a member of the Moline Boys Choir. It was a tremendous commitment of time and resources for my family. We rehearsed every Monday and Thursday evening for an hour and then another hour on Saturday mornings. In addition, we had dozens upon dozens of concerts every year. When Dr. Swanson passed out the rehearsal schedule in September for the upcoming Christmas and Holiday season… it was literally pages long. I have no idea how Mom and Dad got me to everything I needed to get to.

Then in August, before school started, we were given our reward for all of that effort… a week at Boys Choir Camp. I have so many memories of Green Lake… it was one of my favorite places in the world… but it certainly didn’t start off that way.

I remember the first time I arrived at the Anderson Cabins at Green Lake… my first thought was… what have my parents gotten me into? To call them rustic would be an extreme compliment. I still remember walking up the stairs to cabin B4 and looking inside… There were four sets of bunk beds lining the walls, there was an old pot belly stove for heat (That wouldn’t ever be necessary in August) an old beat up stove, a table with four chairs and…. well… that’s about it.



Before you say that doesn’t look bad… These are new/recent pictures… we didn’t have air conditioning or carpets… heck we barely had mattresses and blankets. (The yellow curtains might have been there 45 years ago LOL)

Now, I must admit that part of me was pretty excited… I had never been away from home before,  and the thought of sleeping on a top bunk was really exciting for me and let’s face it… I was going to have a whole week without my sister or anyone else telling me what to do… That rather appealed to me.

So when we got to the cabin… we were the first ones there, which if you knew my Mom and Dad, you would have expected that. I immediately took possession of one of the top bunks, told my Mom and Dad that they were free to go and sat back and waited for the other guys to show up.

Within the hour… one by one the rest of the guys in our cabin began to arrive, there were eight of us altogether, including our counselor and the last to arrive was our captain… Gary Pearsal. Now Gary was a few years older and as such he was wise beyond years. He had red hair and kind of a raspy voice… trust me when I say that when Gary spoke… I listened.

Gary’s first act upon entering the cabin was to look us over and size us up, kind of like General Patton reviewing his troops, and then his second act was to reach up,  grab my suitcase which was sitting on my bunk and throw it down to the bottom bunk… with the proclamation that this top bunk was his!!!

I looked at him and said with as much confidence as I could muster… which was to say I was nearly crying…. “B… Bu..But that’s my bunk!” He said… Naaaa, he always gets that bunk and for me not to worry, I will like the lower one better.

I was speechless… how could this travesty of justice stand? I looked over at the counselor… knowing that he would set things right… He got up walked over to where the two of us were standing… put his arm around me and said… “Gary’s right… you will like the lower bunk better… it’s MUCH easier to make… trust me!!”

I think that there are a few things that you should know at this point… First of all, Gary Pearsal would one day be a groomsman in my wedding and both he and the counselor were right… the bottom bunk was a much better choice… much easier to get in and out of… and definitely much easier to make those square corners and to get the blanket tight enough to bounce a quarter off of. But you couldn’t have convinced me of those things at that moment… I was crushed.

At this point it was time for dinner… we all piled in the counselors car and drove down to the lake area where the Dinning Hall was. The only thing I could say about the food that night was… well… it was awful. They had cucumbers and salad, and I don’t know what the meat was, but I wouldn’t have given it to my dog…  “What’s wrong with these people… don’t any of them know how to fix food for a kid?”

We went back to the Cabins, had an introduction to what we would be doing during the week and we were dismissed to go back to our cabins… I went to bed that Saturday night, in a bunk I didn’t want to be in, with a mean guy (Gary) in the bunk that was rightfully mine… I was hungry and ready to go home… what I didn’t know was that it would get worse!

Until next time…


Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about with Hello Muddah… Hello Faddah… Here I am at Camp Grenada…

Dad… 01/06/2018

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dad mom and verna 1957

Dad, Mom and Verna 1957

When Dad was first diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer, I remember a nurse or perhaps it was a hospice worker coming into his hospital room and talking to him about what he wanted to do with the time that he had remaining. One of the suggestions that she made was that he could write a book… Dad write a book? … How odd that thought was to me…  That’s crazy… What would he write about?

Now 37 years later… how I wished he would have been able to do that… how  I would have longed to have his thoughts and stories written down…


Dad truly lived an extraordinary life… During his lifetime, he traveled all over the United States, he worked on farms, he worked on ranches, he worked for the power company with an expertise in high tension lines… And in my lifetime, he worked for and retired from the maintenance department of the Moline School system… responsible for the maintenance of 12 elementary schools,  3 Junior Highs, and one very large High School. He was one of the men responsible to keep everything in good working order.

Dad was definitely a guy who could fix things… there wasn’t anything mechanical that he couldn’t fix… once he built a utility trailer just from the items he had laying around the garage…

Dads trailer

But there was something else… Dad could fix other things as well… school problems… work problems…life problems. He was a good listener and an even better fixer.

He also had a way with people… Dad was just as comfortable talking to a farmer as he was the Head of State. In Dad’s younger years, before moving to Illinois… he enjoyed playing an occasional game of poker and one of the people he enjoyed playing with when the opportunity presented itself  was a  politician from Missouri… perhaps you have heard of him… Harry S. Truman… Dad always said that Harry was a good poker player.


I have to laugh when I see the Progressive TV commercial where the man is turning into his mother…  “Progressive says that it can’t save you from becoming your parents, but it can save you money when it comes to bundling home and auto insurance.”

In many ways, through the years, I have found myself turning into my dad. (Or at least I flatter myself to think that)

Dad and Aunt Esther

Dad and Aunt Esther circa 1920

I remember when I went to summer camp… Dad always took a carload of boys who carpooled with us and each one was responsible to pay the driver (my Dad) $5.00 to help defray the cost… Not only did Dad never take any of the kids money, but when we stopped to eat, he always paid for each boy that was with us. He would say that… “If theses boys are with me, then I will take care of them just like they were my own.” As I reflect back on my own experiences… I don’t think I have ever taken money from any child or parent  for any reason when they were with me and I was responsible for them…. just one of the many influences Dad still has on my life today.


I think it only fair to point out my Dad’s hair in this picture… When I was young, the only choice of haircut I got was Butch Cut or Buzz Cut… whichever I preferred… something not quite fair about this picture LOL


There are so many stories to tell and I am looking forward to sharing them with you… maybe I will tell you a little more about this camp that I went to… Do the words “Camp Granada” mean anything to you?

Until Next Time…



Telling Our Stories… 01/05/2018

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Whats your story

“Jim… You have such a good memory!” I have sure heard those words a lot as I have been sharing my family stories with you… but it isn’t true. Just this morning I went to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk… just milk… I came home with $48.00 worth of groceries… and yep, you guessed it… no milk. (true story)

Perhaps I have selective memory… much like I am accused of having selective hearing, maybe I remember the things that I want to remember and forget the things that I don’t…. I’m sure that is entirely possible.

What I do tend to remember, however, are stories… I have always loved stories… they have a way of bypassing all of my defense mechanisms and slipping straight through into my soul.

You know… I think Jesus must have loved stories too, because so many of his teachings involved telling stories.

Something else that I have been thinking about here lately… is how these stories have become such a significant part of who I am. The stories of my life are what has made me the person that I am.

One of the remarkable things that I learned in Seminary is that I am a middle aged white guy from an industrial town in the mid west… I was raised by older working parents, one a teacher and the other a maintenance engineer who worked hard everyday to care for me and my sister, who gave me every opportunity that they could and always placed my well being above their own…. and as such, I have my own personal and unique way of looking at the world.

For a long time I have struggled to understand what made people act and think the way that they do. We seem so divided… Republican… Democrat… Red State…Blue State… Conservative… Progressive… Men… Women… Pro Life… Pro Choice… Black… White… Stand for the National Anthem… Kneel for the National Anthem… Black lives matter… all lives matter… The list of things that divides us is long indeed.

I think a great deal of the problems we face are because we no longer tell our stories… we no longer share the stories of what makes us who we are. We are too busy telling others what we think instead of why we think that way.

I am so dismayed when I see speakers or political figures shouted down… especially on College Campuses. Instead of listening and then challenging the speakers with well thought out questions… it has now become vogue to shout them down or see to it that they don’t come on campus at all.

I had first hand experience with this during seminary… a student asked if a representative from Sam’s Club could come on campus and extend discounted memberships to  the students… Sounded reasonable to me… Suddenly it was as if an invitation to the KKK had been extended. Some of the professors along with a group of students were stirring the pot of dissension… demanding that Sam’s Club be uninvited. I spoke to the staff person who had extended the invitation to Sam’s Club on behalf of the student and she was in tears over the controversy. She just didn’t understand… and neither did I.

In the end… the invitation was rescinded… thank goodness… I would have felt so sorry for  the poor young minimum waged employee who would have been unsuspectingly sent into that hornets nest… and those who were so vocally opposed would have had no problem at all continuing their grievance by protesting the event.

We are all different… we all see the world through different lenses… wouldn’t it be nice if we all began sharing our stories…  and talking to one another instead of talking over one another. Perhaps we could follow John Wesley’s admonition… “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” Telling our stories might be a good place to start.


“Tell Her You’re Sorry!!!” 01/04/2018

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The times were dark…. War was raging in Europe… America was at the peak of the depression… and US involvement in the war was now imminent. Life on the farm for Mom, Dad and my brother Phillip was difficult as well. One of those things that remains a mystery to me is exactly why Mom and Dad chose to leave the farm… but sometime shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor they left the farm and moved across the Mississippi River to Southern Illinois… this was the area that was originally home for Dad.

This is a picture of a going away meal held for Mom and Dad at the farm before their departure.

dinner at the farm1

leaving the farm

I think that part of the answer of why they moved was for financial reasons as evident in the fact that Mom took a job at the new Sangamon Ordnance Plant, which was a US Army ammunition manufacturing facility near Illiopolis, Illinois. I don’t know how long she worked there, but for a time, my mild mannered Mother built bombs during WWII.

This is a picture of women munitions workers in WWII… this is similar to what Mom would have been doing. Although I’m pretty sure I remember something about 500lb bombs.

Munitions workers

At some point after this and during a time of transition, Mom began teaching in a one room school house. I always loved listening to Mom as she described having to walk to school in the snow on bitter cold days, and when she got to school, she had to start a fire in the wood stove to warm  up the classroom before the children arrived. Of course, Phillip went along with her.

phillip birthday

My favorite story of Mom’s one room school house days began when one of the older girls came rushing into school crying that my brother Phillip had hit her with a stick!!!

Mom called Phillip in and confronted him, asking, “Did you hit her with a stick?”  He looked over at the girl… looked back at Mom and said… “Yes I did!”

Mom said, “Tell her you’re sorry!” Phillip said…  “NO” Mom reiterated… “I said tell her you’re sorry!!” … Phillip reiterated… “NO

Knowing that Phillip would be held to a higher standard since he was the teachers child and knowing that it wouldn’t be good to let him get away with such rank insubordination… and keeping in mind that this was also the same woman who had built bombs… Mom looked at him again and said… “If you don’t tell her you’re sorry, I am going to spank you!” Phillip thought for a second and said…… “NO

So Mom turned him over her knee and spanked him… sat him up and said… “Now, tell her you’re sorry!!” Phillip said… “NO”

She spanked him again and by this time she was starting to cry herself… “Now tell her you’re sorry!!” … “NO” he responded

Now with tears flowing down her cheeks she spanked him one last time… almost unable to get the words out she said “Please tell her that you’re sorry!!” Phillip thought for a second and said……. “NO I WON”T!!”

With no other recourse… totally exhausted… beaten by a five year old… Mom just told him… “Go back outside!!”

Years latter when Mom was telling the story… Phillip said, “I don’t remember that ever happening… but I can guarantee you one thing…  if I hit her with a stick… SHE DESERVED IT!!!”

mom and phillip 1945

Mom and Phillip 1945

Yep… that’s my family.

I don’t have a clue what I will talk to you about next time… We’ll both have to wait and see.


“His Name Is Peanut…” 01/03/2018

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Pet Peanut Charlie

When my Mom and Dad were married back in 1938, they lived on a farm in eastern Missouri, so I wasn’t surprised when I ran across pictures of my dad plowing with his team or pictures of their old farm house… but there was something in the pictures that surprised me.

Pet and Peanut, Dad’s team of horses/mules, were household names in our family. Their names came up periodically in conversation and there were many stories that Mom and Dad would tell about them. But the surprise I had, when I looked through the pictures… was that there were always three horses hitched up to the team… I recognized Pet and Peanut… but who was the other one?

After a few hours of looking through pictures and old notes that my Mom had made… I discovered……. Charlie.

He must have been like the family member who nobody ever talks about… or, it’s possible that they didn’t have him all that long, but Pet and Peanut were definitely a part of our family history.

One of my favorite stories that Dad would tell from time to time… was about an occasion when he went out to the barn to harness up the team and take them out to the field. My brother, only 3 or so at the time went along with him “to help.”

When Dad slipped the harness over Peanut’s head… (I probably should mention here that my Dad always did have a mastery of colorful language…) Dad said that Peanut picked up his foot and “intentionally” put it down right on top of my Dad’s foot… Dad yelled out at the top of his lungs… “YOU SON OF A *****”  (I warned you about Dad’s colorful language)

My brother, quite shocked, looked up at Dad and said… “Daddy… that’s not his name… His name is Peanut!!”


The next day… my brother was walking round and around the pump outside the  door of the farm house saying quite clearly… Son of a *****… Son of a *****… Son of a *****…

farm house


I guess it’s true what they say… you have to be careful what you say around kids…

There was another time when Dad was out plowing in the field near the house… and for no reason at all… Pet and Peanut stopped dead in their tracks. Dad yelled at them to continue, called to them… coaxed them.. cajoled them… but there they stood… ears pinned back… standing like statues… not moving an inch.

Dad Pet Peanut Charlie

Dad had a small whip that he snapped in their direction, and all that accomplished was getting them to side step slightly… BUT THEY WERE NOT MOVING FORWARD!!!  Dad was getting angry.

He jumped down off the plow and stormed up to give those stubborn, dumb @$$ mules a piece of his mind… when out of the corner of his eye… two feet in front of their legs was my brother, Phillip… sitting right in the middle of the furrow… Happy as a clam… playing in the dirt… Somehow, he had wandered out of the house and into the field.

Dad was shocked… plow teams don’t stop for anything… Pet and Peanut NEVER stopped for anything… There was absolutely no reason that they didn’t just keep on going and walk right over top of him as if he wasn’t there… but they didn’t…

Dad picked Phillip up… hugged him… probably scolded/spanked him (That wasn’t a part of Dad’s story… but I know Dad!!!) and took him back up to the house… From that moment forward… Pet and Peanut were heroes and legends in our family. Rightfully earning immortal status in our family lore…

How our lives could have turned out differently… a few more feet… and Phillip would have been…

Life is that way sometimes… it can change in an instant… but our family has always been grateful to God and for two stubborn, dumb @$$ mules… who had no intention of doing what they were told…



History Detective… 01/02/2018

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History Detectives

One of my favorite television shows is a little known program on PBS called History Detectives. In the show, people send in family pictures and heirlooms that have mysteries or stories or family myths attached to them and they ask the “History Detectives” to help them discover the truth about their family member, the artifact or the picture in question. Sometimes the stories turn out to be true… sometimes they turn out to be false… but the “Real” story is always fascinating and usually more than the family could have ever hoped for.

Here recently I have been experiencing my own family mysteries. My Dad died in 1982, my brother, Phillip, died in 1996, my Mom died in 1997 and my sister, Verna, died in 2013… so I am the last one left, and as such I have unceremoniously become the keeper of our family history and along with that title, I have inherited some large boxes of pictures and keepsakes.

Pet Peanut Charlie

The problem is… that I am definitely the worst possible choice in my family for this responsibility.  I never met my Grandparents… they had all passed away before I was born, and unfortunately, I never paid attention when Mom and Dad talked about these things. In addition,  at family reunions…. the last place I ever wanted to be was sitting around and listening to all of the “old people” talking about what happened 100 years ago…

farm house

Oh how times have changed… Oh how I have changed… Now I’m the “old people” and I long to know the significance of all of those old pictures and heirlooms.

One thing that I have learned from “History Detectives,” is that all families have stories… and all families have mysteries… so in the next couple of posts, I want to share with you a few of the fascinating things that I have discovered  in those old pictures, along with some of the mysteries I have solved and the hilarious and touching stories that go along with them. I will try not to bore you… I promise!!!

Until next time…