Renee Weatherbee

July 2011 - Renee's Ramblings


Posted:  July 25, 2011

Reviewing Childhood Dreams

After reading, The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, and watching his video “Achieving Childhood Dreams”, I wrote down my list of childhood dreams.

To be a mother to nine children.  I became the proud mother of three daughters, Amber, Angel and Arin.  They are my greatest accomplishments.  They turned out to be loving, generous, productive, and independent  women – each with her own personality and gifts.  Amber is my free-spirit, who is raising her own family of five children while putting her own dreams on hold.  She is a little earth-mother – loving to garden, cook and use her artistic creativity wherever she can, in decorating her home, refinishing furniture and inventing recipes.  Angel is my most organized daughter, which serves her well in planning for her family’s needs and in taking over a family business.  She is a girly-girl who rarely has a hair out of place or her nails undone, which speaks to her organization skills, being she is a mother of a five year old and one on the way.  Arin, my baby, has special gifts of generosity, compassion and insightfulness.  She appears sometimes to be able to read your mind.  She’s expecting her first baby and she, also, is very organized.  All three are wonderful mothers (or will be), which I think reflects on me.  In spite of the decisions I made for my life, they all turned out well.  I didn’t get those nine children of my own to raise, but I will soon be a grandmother of 10 children – even better!

To own my own horse.  Unfortunately, I don’t nor have ever owned a horse.  I haven’t completely let go of this dream, but I will confess I’m not sure I’d enjoy riding as much as I did as a young girl.  I still think horses are the best animal God created.  My home is decorated with horse statutes, prints and I even have an Alpaca fur rug with a horse woven into it.  Somehow, just having these items in my home brings me the same joy I experienced as a child, when I actually got to ride horses. 

To ride in a hot air balloon.  Riding in a hot air balloon over the Badlands of South Dakota is something I experienced in a reoccurring dream as a child.  Even today, if I close my eyes, I can picture the rugged scenery below and feel the sensation of floating over the buttes and gorges.  I can see the clear, blue sky surrounding me and the vivid colors of the balloon – red, green and yellow.  It’s as if I really did do this activity, but it never happened.  A hot air balloon ride will remain on my bucket list.

To parachute from a plane.  Up until I was in my late thirties, I always dreamed of parachuting from a plane.  From my childhood dream list, it seems I had an adventurous spirit at one time, which apparently I’ve outgrown.  I cannot now see myself jumping from an airplane.  With my luck, the parachute wouldn’t open.  I have a fear of extreme pain, so I’ll let this dream die. 

To be a race car driver.  My adventurous side used to want to be a race car driver.  I’ve let go of this, but I do like my car to have some zip to it and I’m itching to see just how fast my Pontiac G6 really goes.  It’s speedometer goes up to 160 miles an hour.  It’s so tempting, but so far, I haven’t gone above 103.   I am fearful of the law.  So much for my adventurous side.

To marry Mark McCain from the Rifleman.  I spent my pre-teen years dreaming of marrying Mark McCain from the Rifleman.   I fell in love with his crooked smile.  My childhood friends and I talked about Johnny Crawford all the time.  We included him in many of our play activities.  Whatever happened to Johnny Crawford?  He now runs a 16 piece swing dance orchestra playing music from the 1920s.  I saw a recent picture of him, and I’m sorry, Al, my heart did a flip-flop!  Okay, this dream has to die – I’m married and so is Johnny.

To own a pet monkey.  My dream of owning a pet monkey faded when I started having my own babies.  Toddlers are such little monkeys that this satisfied my childhood longing to own one. 

To own a dog like Lassie.  Lassie was my childhood hero and I’ve been fortunate to have wonderful dogs in my life.  Kimoko, the German Sheppard, who protected us kids before we even started school.  Pongo, who’s tragic end of being run over by a neighbor caused me to miss work for two days because I couldn’t stop crying over him.  He was my replacement for my kids who no longer needed me so much.  Toby, the chocolate lab, who I gifted to my brother, because of being forced to move into an apartment.  Dakota, the golden retriever, who, by Divine Intervention, found a new home with 10 acres to run and two boys to chase around.  Dogs are the second coolest animal on the planet.  It remains my dream to share my life with one again someday.

To swim the English Channel.  When I was a freshman, I read an article about Lynn Cox, a woman who swam the English Channel in 1972 and broke the record set by both male and female swimmers.  I wanted to be her.  I believed myself to be an excellent swimmer, when in fact, I was just okay.  Swimming was a passion of mine until I nearly drowned when I was in my mid thirties.  In retrospect, I never would have made it across the English Channel or across the Missouri River, for that matter.  I’m just not that athletic – not surprising considering the only sport I was ever involved in was high school track and I hid on the bus to avoid competing at the first track meet and dropped out shortly after that.

To break a bone and be in a cast and get all that extra attention.  As a kid, I often envied those kids who came to school with a cast around their arm or leg.  They got so much extra attention with everyone wanting to write on their casts.  Fortunately, my bones remain in tact and I hope they stay that way. 

To live in Rapid City.  It’s always been my dream to live in Rapid City and after forty-eight years, this dream came true, at the lowest point in my life, making it even more special.  I never want to leave this area, but when I do, it will always be my dream to return.

To be a writer.  It was in the seventh grade, when I first realized I wanted to be a writer or journalist.  Due to my own immature choices in life, I never went to college, therefore, nearly gave up on my dream to be a writer.  Now I am a writer in my own mind.  My success will be measured by whether or not my writing can “move” people and this has happened on several occasions, so I feel successful, even though by monetary standards, I am not.  I believe this passion is a gift from God. 

To have a figure like a Barbie doll.  I failed to develop boobs in my teen years and often was teased by my friends.  I had curves elsewhere, but not much for boobs and my butt was always too big.  Oh well, this dream will never happen.  Sorry, Al!  Maybe if I would have trained to swim the English Channel I’d be in better shape.

To live in a mansion like the Beverly Hillbillies.  This was a childhood fantasy.  I am very content to live in our two bedroom home near the Black Hills of South Dakota.  In fact, I feel very blessed and rich to have had this opportunity.  The view from our back patio is worth millions to me.  Thank you, Al, for providing me with our wonderful home.

What were your childhood dreams?  I’d be fascinated to hear about them.  You might surprise yourself by recalling them.  I know I did.  (To share your childhood dreams, click on the Contact Me tab to send me an email.)


Posted:  July 21, 2011


Work in Progress

Road rage remains as one of the areas where I could use a lot of work.  My patience runs short when some antagonistic jerk or jerkette behind me starts laying on the horn.  Most of the time, I don’t retaliate, but it takes a tremendous amount of will power for me not to slam my car into park, swing open my car door and jump out to pummel the pompous ass bold and impatient enough to dare blast their horn behind me, especially when it is unwarranted.  It’s not like I’m not quick on the pedal when the light changes.  Usually, it’s the person in the car ahead of me that suffers from slow reflexes.  For me, I’m never in such a hurry, that I’m going to startle the person into action.  I’m confident they’ll move forward when they wake up, but nine times out of ten, there is some rude person in line that just can’t handle a two or three second delay.  Those are the people I want to beat up.  Who do they think they are that their lives are so important that they have to get where they are going to the point where losing a few seconds turns them into raging, eye-bulging monsters.  In truth, when I do retaliate, it’s usually just a waving of the finger, which only makes me look small and feel like an idiot.  But it happens. More than I’d like to admit. 

But in other areas of road etiquette, I’m not that innocent myself.  I have my limits.  For instance, tailgaters will bring out the worst in me.  Especially those who insist on getting so close to my rear end that I can make out their facial features and it’s usually when you’re traveling down the highway at high speeds – those are the moments when I feel my inner monster busting to get out and an evil streak comes over me.  That’s when I delight, if it’s a two lane highway in a no passing zone, to apply the brakes and slow my speed down to twenty or thirty miles under the speed limit and stay there.  It’s especially satisfying when in a construction zone area.  That’s one place I won’t drive even a mile over the speed limit, because of safety issues and because in South Dakota the fines are doubled.  But if the person behind me insists on tailgating, I’ll go way under the already reduced speed limit, knowing that there is no chance for them to pass me.  One time, I’m ashamed to admit, after being tailgated for ten miles by some cowboy in a truck in a road construction area, that I succumbed to racing him down the Interstate when leaving the construction zone, because he flipped me off.  It was a battle of fingers for about five minutes, until he finally took off at a speed that had to exceed a hundred and twenty miles an hour.  Unfortunately, my kids were in the car and witnessed their mother engaged in a senseless war being waged by one tall finger. 

After living in Virginia for six months, I would like to dub it the “Horn-Honking” state, instead of it’s nickname, “Virginia is For Lovers”.  There a thousands of impatient people there who start laying on the horn before the lights even turn green or who, if you have the audacity to travel the speed limit, will pull up beside you and flip you off.  I don’t care.  I’m not speeding down those four lane highways, because if you travel for an hour on one of the major highways, it’s a good chance you’ll see at least one big pile up of cars.  In fact, I don’t recall ever going on the Interstate and not having to slow down or stop because of an accident ahead.  It’s a war zone out there. 

Soon, I’ll be back in Virginia due to my husband’s work relocation.  Just sitting here thinking about it, my body starts going into defensive mode and I feel my middle finger itching to rise.  Yup, I’m still a work in progress with a long ways to go. 

Posted:  July 18, 2011 (written in 2006 - one of my brighter ideas! LOL!)

Eleven Hour Road Trip From Hell


After purchasing a new Alero jazzed out with a sun roof, I set a goal to drive every highway in South Dakota I hadn’t explored, preferring spontaneity over planning. 

 Working for State Tourism, I assisted visitors with vacation planning who often asked me which highways were under construction.   I directed them to an online construction map, a convenient way to avoid the dreaded orange cones.

 Choosing US Highway 18, across southern South Dakota east to west, I anticipated a scenic route off the beaten path, leaving Rapid City into the Black Hills, to Wyoming traveling south and reentering South Dakota. 

I chose to go solo, my preferred method.  You don’t have to listen to whining kids or to a man snoring in the seat next to you with drool oozing down his neck.  You can crank up the music and bop around.

Forgetting the route I chose through the Black Hills suffered a massive forest fire earlier, I viewed blackened tree trunks sticking out of the ground, dotting the landscape, resembling stubble on a grungy man’s face.

Turning south in Wyoming, I drove two hours seeing nothing but spiraling sagebrush and an occasional antelope herd.  They looked like ants grazing in the distance.  I nearly popped a kidney before finding a rest area.

Back in South Dakota, the landscape changed to hills, grassy valleys and wispy pine trees.  It was hours until sunset and no clouds in the sky. 

US Highway 18 runs through Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Having to relieve myself, I stopped at the casino, or so that was my excuse.  I set my limit on what I would lose and went inside.  Lost in the electronic world of dinging bells and lights flashing, I played.  An hour later someone pointed to the blackened sky.  Reluctantly, as one of my favorite pastimes is losing money in casinos, I pulled my face out of the slot machine and got my gambling behind back on the highway. 

Suddenly, torrential rain blocked any silhouettes of trees, buildings, fences, or tornados.  High winds rocked my car while the wipers swooshed.  The rain pelting the top of my car sounded like blasting machine guns.  Ominous bolts of lightning came straight down giving me glimpses of the landscape.  Thoughts of getting trapped in a prairie fire ran through my head.     

I kept my speed down to 40 miles per hour worried a buck deer would jump across my car and stick his giant rack through my sunroof, gripping the steering wheel like I was hanging from a cliff.  I thought, “It can’t get any worse, calm down, the sun will come out just as sure it did for Annie, only please don’t let it be tomorrow!” 

Dreaded orange cones appeared and my car slammed into a dip in the road.  Now I was in gumbo.  I’m not referring to a delicious mix of Creole stew.  (By the way, I hadn’t eaten all day, I was starved.)  I’m talking about sticky, slick, clay, muck.  Two hours later rain still pouring, afraid this might be a replay of Noah’s ark, I thought “You idiot, why didn’t you check the road construction map.  You always tell people to do that?”   I slowed to 20 mph to prevent sliding into the ditch.  With a headache, burning pain in arms from gripping the steering wheel, and a stiff neck, my car fishtailed across the slick as snot mud for two hours before hitting pavement.  Too bad no one bothered to paint lines on it.  Everything was black.  I couldn’t see where the road ended.  (Did I mention that I am night blind?)  Only it was  five o’clock pm, with no daylight.  It was spooky.   For three hours I’d endured horrid conditions, as rain continued unmercifully.  My eyes crossed from trying to keep focused.  I had no idea where I was. 

An eternity later, I came upon a town, pulled into the gas station, and lugged myself out of the car on shaky legs.  Under the canopy pumping gas, rain poured down at a slant and pelted my face with cold, hard rain.  With spotted eyeglasses, I stumbled into the convenience store, starving and about to mess my pants.  After wiping my glasses, I looked in the mirror to see a woman possessed, a site, with eyeballs about to pop through my lenses and frizzy hair.  I could barely pay for my items, because of cramped fingers.

Originally, I was going to stay on US Highway 18 east another eighty miles and then go north into Pierre.  I revised my plan.  I would have gotten a motel room, but I had to be to work in the morning.  Reluctantly, I turned north along the east edge of the Badlands toward Interstate 90, figuring that would be the safest route. 

Torrential rain continued as the wipers swished on at full speed hypnotizing me into oblivion.  I drove 40-45 in a 60 mph zone.   The rain slowed down and I punched the accelerator, causing the car to hydroplane.  It’s a scary feeling to realize you’re no longer in control of the car or your senses.   The rain let up.  Without braking, I gained control of the car.  Up and down, around chilling curves, I made it to I-90 heaving a sigh of relief and praying, a little too soon, for again, the rain pounded down.  I wasn’t the only idiot on the road.  Now I had to deal with numerous semi-trucks whizzing past me, throwing tons of water onto my windshield, while I held my breath for five seconds until I could see again.   

Hours later, I reached my driveway, thanked God, fell out of the car and crawled up the steps to the front door.  Instantly, the rain stopped.  A five hour trip turned into an eleven hour road trip from hell.  I took that route for the scenery.  Ironically, I saw nothing on Highway 18.  Did I ever take another solo trip?  You bet, and will until my dying day!


Posted:  July 13, 2011 

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh at Yourself Story #1 (I got hundreds!)

Last week, after three people pointed out that my left brake light was out, I proudly walked into a Napa Auto Parts store and purchased a bulb for $2.37.  I could have tried to find a full service gas station, but they are as rare as a cooperative politician these days.  Besides, I’d changed brake lights before and knew it was an easy fix. 

My husband, Al, can fix anything, but he’s been deployed to Qatar for three months.  I’d already had to fix a clogged garbage disposal with the help of verbal instructions over the phone from my brother in law.  I also managed to get not one, but two rocks unlodged between the blades of our snow blower (never mind how they got there), which took a lot of strength and some prayer.  This would be nothing compared to those two projects.

So I went to the garage with my little light bulb in hand, popped open the trunk and noted there were two black screws on pins holding the carpeting in place near the brake area.  No problem.  I unscrewed them and pulled back the carpeting.  I was flabbergasted to find that there was no obvious way to get to the brake lights.  Sure, there was a metal plate with two bolts sticking out, but it didn’t look like that was how to get to the brake light bulb.  That’s not how my old Pontiac was.  There were some thick wires I tried pulling through but they weren’t budging.  Then it dawned on me, pardon the pun, like a light bulb!  I looked over the red plastic cover on the outside of the car that covers the brake light, peered in and saw the bulbs.  I deducted that they must make those red plastic covers pop-off now.  How cool was that!  Things get more and more efficient and user friendly every day!  I went scrounging through Al’s tool box and found a mini crowbar tool, thinking this will be perfect for popping off the red cover. 

It took quite a bit of applying pressure, but I finally got the stubborn cover off, breaking off the corner of plastic in the process.  Crap, I thought, this won’t look nice when I pop it back on, but I shrugged it off and finished my task, easily, mentally patting myself on the back, pulled out the old light bulb and replaced it with the new.  There, I thought.  Now all I needed to do was pop the red plastic cover back on.  Al could repair the corner piece I broke off when he got home in a few weeks.  I picked up the cover and pushed and squished with all my might trying to get it back in place.  It wasn’t working.  I debated about calling over my neighbor’s husband and asking him to pop it back on for me, but decided not to bother him.  I went in the house and called McKie Service Center, where we purchased the car.  They said that it sounded like something for a body shop to repair, but said to bring it in and they’d see what they could do.

Upon arriving at the service center, I was greeted by a nice service man who grinned at me and said, “Don’t worry, it’s not just women who make this mistake, we’ve had some guys too.” 

“So you mean, these don’t just pop back on?” 

“Oh no, they are glued on and they are hard to get off.  I can glue this one back on for you, but you need to find that corner piece, otherwise water will get in there and corrode the inside of your light fixture.”  He then said he could order me a new plastic cover for $300.  Nearly choking, I said, no thanks, please just try to glue this one back on.  He did fix it, but then came back to the waiting area and stated that he could order me a new cover for $100.  I went ahead and had him order it and $167 later, my car looks like it did before I had the brilliant idea to change the bulb myself.  The kind service man promised never to mention it to Al, however, the first thing I did was confess to him through email.  (I can never keep a secret, dang it!)  His response back was four words, “You crack me up.”  Two hours later, he emailed me two links to a website on how to change a brake light.  A little late for that, don’t you think?

Was this funny?  No, not at the time.  Two days later, I was driving down the highway and wondered where in the world my brain had been that day, and then began laughing hysterically through tears running down my face.  It’s only money, right?  So much for my handy man skills.  I wasn’t winning any awards this time for being an independent, capable wo(man).  Al, where are you.  Come home, I need you here!

Smilie and Winnie Pig

Posted:  July 11, 2011 


The Priceless Pigs

Browsing around an antique show, I spied a farmer pig cookie jar.  Curious, I asked the dealer, “How much do you want for that pig cookie jar?” 

“Eight?”  He replied.

“Eight dollars?” I questioned. 

“No!  This is an antique! I wouldn’t sell it for less than $800!” he barked.

Stunned, I spewed back, “Oh, I wondered because I have one at home just like it and his wife too!”  I walked away feeling rich. 

I gained newfound admiration for my pair of pig cookie jars.   On my kitchen counter for fifteen years, in four different homes, they were still in excellent condition.  Mom gave them to me when I got married.  I asked her where they came from.   She thought maybe from a garage sale.  I impressed her with the story about their worth.   

I researched the pigs and discovered they were manufactured by the Shawnee Pottery Company and named Winnie and Smilie Pig.  With USA engraved on the bottom, they were authentic antiques valued at fifteen hundred dollars for the pair.  

Recently divorced and living in a drafty, twenty year old mobile home with my three daughters,  I had difficulty keeping up with heating bills and living expenses. Even working two jobs, each day was a struggle to juggle money to keep the utilities going, the lot rent paid and food on the table.  The fifteen hundred dollars, if I could sell the jars, would help tremendously.  Feeling like I won the lottery, I knew that if things got worse, I could sell them.

When my father came to visit, I showed him the jars.  Interested, he thought they had been his mother’s and teased me about giving them back to him.  For the first time in my life, Dad and I had something to talk about.  He was never much of a talker, which frustrated me, but now we had some common ground. 

My parents divorced when I was thirteen.  Few parents got divorced back then.  I felt like the oddball at school.  My insecurities as a teenager made me question whether Dad loved me.  He never said so.  After the divorce, I saw him occasionally, but it was strained.  The more insecure I became, the more I needed to hear him tell me that he loved me.  I never heard it until years later after the damage had been done.

My teenage and young adult years were crazy.  I used drugs and alcohol frequently.   My self-esteem was so low I could barely communicate with anyone.  I daydreamed of Dad telling me those three magic words.  My relationships all centered on my need to feel loved, therefore I made many mistakes.  The pain I felt over needing a father who was there for me was debilitating.  I cried until I became numb and always had that nagging question in my head. 

After Dad became interested in the cookie jars, he asked his five sisters if they remembered them.  There was division among them.  Over the next year, every time Dad called, he would ask about the jars and tease me that they should be his.  When I asked him if he wanted them, he would say no. 

My finances dwindled due to the higher cost of heating during a hard winter.  I tried selling the cookie jars to a local antique dealer, but he only offered me two hundred dollars for the pair.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it, knowing their value.  I struggled on and somehow made it to summer with the pigs in possession. 

Then my refrigerator shut down.  The repairman said it would cost too much to fix it.  I had no cash and my credit was bad.  I hated borrowing money from family or friends, even though I had done it a few times.  I knew I couldn’t ask anyone for that kind of money, except maybe Dad.  I was afraid to ask him, because, even in my adult years, I wasn’t sure how he felt about me.      

I called him.   “Dad, my refrigerator broke down.  I don’t have any credit to get another one.  Would you buy me one in exchange for the pig cookie jars? “

“I can’t take those jars from you,” he replied, “but we’ll go get you a new refrigerator.  I’ll put it on my Sears card.”  

“Dad, I insist you take them, because I’ll never have the money to pay you back.”

He told me not to worry about it and instructed me to meet him in his home town a hundred miles away.  I carefully wrapped up the pigs and drove there.   

Upon arriving at his house, I carried in the boxes of jars.  I began to unpack them.  Dad tried to stop me telling me to take them home.  Knowing how interested he’d been in the pigs, I couldn’t take them back.  I insisted he keep them as trade for the refrigerator.   I left them in their new home.  

 We drove to the nearest Sears store.   With a new refrigerator, he drove back to my house and set it up for me.   I thanked him for helping me out.  He thanked me for the pigs. 

Several years after the pig exchange, my credit was repaired and salary higher.  I needed to trade my deteriorating trailer for a new one.  I didn’t have any other means, but to trade it in.  I wanted my teenage daughters to have a decent place to live. 

When I picked out a new mobile home, I asked Dad to inspect it before I signed the papers.  I trusted his expertise.  He drove ninety miles to meet me, gave the deal his approval and then took me to lunch. 

After lunch, I thanked him.  His inspection gave me peace of mind.  Hugging him was hard, because he had never been affectionate, but grateful for his help, I made the first move.  I looked up to Dad since I was a little girl.  He was my hero even though, I felt I disappointed him.   

I was about to drive off when he stopped me.  “Wait a minute!  I almost forgot something.   Come here,” he said walking toward the trunk of his car.  He opened it and pulled out boxes stuffed with newspapers handing them to me.  “Here’s your pigs.   Take them home.  They’ll look real nice in your new house.”

I stood there amazed.  Years of questioning whether Dad loved me were wiped away with one gesture.  I felt loved.  The pigs had been proudly displayed in his sister’s café for two years and started many conversations.  Dad and his sisters had discussions about where the pigs came from, never solving the mystery, but the mystery of whether my father loved me was.  As I proudly display them in my home, thirteen years after he gave them back to me, and three years after his death, they are priceless never to be sold.  There is no value on love.   Now I can treasure his memory and forgive the past, his and mine.


Photos below:  Grand Entrance to Interior's Frontier Days Rodeo

July 4, 2011

Posted:  July 5, 2011

Interior, SD – Bringing Back It’s Rodeo Heritage

Some of my most treasured childhood memories of the 4th of July are of attending the rodeo in Interior, SD.  This rodeo, which began in the 1920’s, grew to be the second largest rodeo in the world.  By the time I was born, the rodeo wasn’t as grand as it was at it’s peak, however, it was still one of the most respected, well-run rodeos of the sixties and early seventies.  I wasn’t aware of any of that.  All I knew was it was a big day for my family.  It was a day when we got to wear brand new clothes, a day where we got to bug our parents for money for the concession stands, a day of conning someone into giving me a horseback ride, a day we spent anticipating the dark so we could wave our sparklers into figure eights, a day when we stood in awe of all the cowboys brave enough to come barreling out of a shoot on a mean-spirited, bucking horse or a raging, bucking bull, a day when I envied the cowgirls racing around barrels and charging toward the finish line, a day when we finally went to bed well after dark where my legs would ache from all the frenzied running from one end of the rodeo grounds to the other. 

Interior, a town whose sign boasts of a population of 57 people, quit hosting a rodeo in the late seventies.  For whatever reason, maybe it was a tradition that needed to take a rest.  Fortunately, the rodeo now called the Interior Frontier Days Rodeo has been revived in the last two to three years.  My family and I attended the revived rodeo this past weekend and we weren’t disappointed.  It had everything the rodeos of my youth did, plus more.  New since my last rodeo there, women were now competing in roping contests individually and as teams. 

This small town rodeo committee devised the grandest entrance to a rodeo I’ve ever witnessed.  The announcer built up the crowd’s anticipation by telling everyone to watch for an incoming helicopter due to arrive at the opening of the show at 4:30pm.  Right on time, a helicopter was spotted in the sky heading toward the arena – first just a speck, growing bigger and bigger, until hovering right above the arena and landing in the center, it’s blades stirring up dust, it’s motor at a deafening roar, when out stepped a cowboy carrying the United States flag to a cheering crowd.  The helicopter left the arena, then out on a horse rode a handsome, young cowboy carrying a South Dakota flag, leading another saddled horse toward the man holding the US flag, who then mounted the horse.   The announcer introduced other cowboys who rode into the arena one by one each carrying a flag of all the different branches of the armed forces.  As each cowboy rode in with their flag, the theme song from that military branch played over the speakers.  It was, without a doubt, the most patriotic grand entrance I’ve ever witnessed, proving that not only can a small town revive a past tradition, but that they can outdo what’s been done before. 

When the rodeo announcer introduced the cowboy who came out of the helicopter as a Vietnam vet, I was proud to see my uncle, Ronnie Gartner, holding that American flag he fought so hard for.  Not only did he fight for it, he was wounded severely for it, for this country of ours.  You could tell the crowd was touched and humbled, both the locals all knowing Ronnie and the visitors, just as moved.  After the event, I overheard my uncle tell my mother that the helicopter ride brought back a lot of memories and my heart went out to him, as I know many of those memories were horrific events he lived through.  I may not always agree with my uncle’s opinions, but I am proud that he and many other Vietnam veterans fought for all our rights to express them. 

I am also very proud of the people of this tiny town of Interior and all their successful efforts at reviving an old tradition – the Interior rodeo.  Judging by the large crowd who attended the rodeo on the 4th, this tradition may continue on for many decades.  Kudos to the cowboys and cowgirls who did an excellent job of putting on an entertaining show!

Posted:  July 1, 2011 

My Fourteen Year Old Boy-Man

It took every ounce of strength I had not to allow my facial muscles to break out into a grin and to keep my laughter deep down inside, so as not to offend my fourteen year old grandson, Baine, who announced to me the other day, “Grandma, I forgot my razor.  Since I’m going to be here for a couple of weeks, I’m going to need to borrow one.  I have to shave every two weeks.”  In fact, as I’m writing this, I feel this giant tickle building up inside and I want to burst out laughing, but he’s in the other room and I can’t allow myself to sit here alone laughing out loud like a madwoman and have to explain my thoughts.  So I hold back, well, not completely, there is a giant grin across my face as I write this.

I am so fortunate.  This boy-man is still willing to spend time with his grandma that he considers ancient.  The pride I feel for this kid is overwhelming at times.  He’s not a wimp or grandma’s boy – he just happens to be a kid who gets along with all ages.  He’s used to being pestered by his four younger brothers and sisters, but I think he welcomes the break from them while staying with me.

He’s a little rough around the edges.  I’ve had to remind him of some table manners.  I’ve had to point out the use of a garbage can more than once.  I’ve had to raise my voice a time or two, when he’s hounded me for a yes, when I said and meant no.  However, he’s continues to be affectionate and considerate.  Yesterday, we went for a hike together.  He carried our water bottles in his oversize pockets.   About every ten minutes, he’d stop on the trail, pull out my water bottle and say, “Grandma, drink this – you’re panting.  You need to keep hydrated.”  He made me feel special watching out for me like that, which makes me believe he’s going to make some lucky young woman feel the same way some day. 

I get a glimpse of his vulnerability, which tears at my heart, when he expresses a little fear at meeting a girl he’s been talking on the phone with for weeks.  She’s a friend of his cousin and, as it turns out, she’s coming to a family gathering on the 4th of July.  He admitted his nervousness about meeting her in person for the first time worrying she won’t like his physical appearance.  Why he worries, I don’t know – he’s a handsome boy-man.  He passed me up in height and I’m 5’8”.  He’s broad shouldered, built like a man, but with the face of a boy.  He could use a hair cut – ha!  As a former hippie chic from the seventies, I can’t believe I just said that!  In his words, “I love my hair and you ain’t touching it!” 

As his grandma, I worry about him getting his first broken heart.  I am quite certain that I’ll want to trounce the hussy that hurts him, but I will have to behave and try to offer a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. 

Baine has a mind of his own, but that mind is full of astonishing ideas and dreams.  He’s been astounding his family for years with his detailed plans of new inventions and entrepreneurial ideas.  Now, he’s interested in writing (he’s the apple of my eye!).  He’s been writing an epic adventure in his notebook and I’m helping him sort through it and organize it.  Who knows – he may be the new J. K. Rowling.  Whatever he chooses to do, I’m certain he’ll be successful – as long as he stays strong against the dark forces of this world.  I cringe when I remember the crazy behaviors I had at the age of fourteen and pray that he’ll be smarter than I was.  He’s got many life choices to make - if only I could create a bubble of protection around him.  Oh, I do, I pray for him frequently.

A note to my daughter, Amber:  Kudos to you – you have done an amazing job of raising this boy – he’s a fun, affectionate, creative, and respectful kid.  I know you are as proud as I am.   

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