Renee Weatherbee

October 2011 - Renee's Ramblings

Posted:  October 31, 2011

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh at Yourself Story #3 – What are You Talking About?

Five years ago in August, I volunteered to help my dad at his bar, the Wagon Wheel in Interior, SD during the opening weekend of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as he was expecting increased business.  I told him that he didn’t need to pay me, that I would just work for tips. 

Maybe I should have known better.  Bars are typically noisy places and with being three quarters deaf in one ear, it’s always been a problem for me.  Also, I often had a hard time understanding Dad, as he had a very low tone to his voice.  But I was looking forward to getting out of Pierre for the weekend and spending time with him and I thought it might be fun. 


Mid-morning when I got to his bar, as I pulled up, I noticed a man setting up a stand in the empty lot next to the Wagon Wheel.  When I saw Dad I asked him what the guy was doing.  His answer, “He’s setting up a braut stand.”  I asked, “Doesn’t that bother you?”  He gave me one of his famous “dirty” looks and said, “No, why should it?”  To myself I thought, that seem weird that dad wasn’t mad at the guy for selling food when Dad himself was selling hot dogs, potato salad and chips inside the bar.  Seems like it would be competition to me, but I shrugged it off.  Dad owned the lot where the guy was setting up his braut stand, so if he didn’t mind, why should I care.  Personally, I would have told him to move on down the road. 

Within an hour, the bar filled up, not only with bikers on the way to the Rally, but with families on vacation traveling through Badlands National Park.  There are few places to eat in Interior, a town with a population of 64, so Dad was cashing in on that fact. All the tables and booths were full.  I went up to each table, explaining that the only thing on the menu was a plate of hot dogs, potato salad and chips, a real bargain for only $5.00.  Some of the people complained and asked, “Isn’t there anything else to eat?”  My standard response was, “No, there isn’t, but if you don’t like that there is a guy outside selling brauts.”  I must have told ten different tables that throughout the day.  I was met with puzzled looks and then people would just go ahead and order what we had to offer.  Being the only waitress on duty, I got pretty busy and didn’t have time to think about anything.   

By evening, when business dropped way down, I had a chance to sit down next to dad at the bar.  We had run out of food and were discussing that.  I asked him, “I wonder how many brauts that guy sold?” 

Brauts?  What are you talking about, brauts?”

“That guy outside.  You told me he was selling brauts.  I wonder how he did?” 

“I didn’t say brauts!  I said rocks!” Dad said shaking his head at me. 

“Really?  I told people that if they didn’t like what we had they could go outside and get brauts.  No wonder people were looking at me funny, Dad.  They must have thought I was being a smart-ass.”  We nearly busted a gut laughing so hard.  I did make over a hundred dollars in tips that day, which was good, but even better was this memory I have of Dad and the priceless look he gave me. 




 Posted:  October 28, 2011


Positive Word for the Day:  Benevolent

be·nev·o·lent  adj \bə-ˈnev-lənt

Definition of BENEVOLENT

     a : marked by or disposed to doing good <a benevolent donor>

     b : organized for the purpose of doing good <a benevolent society>  

2          marked by or suggestive of goodwill <benevolent smiles>


Love can be unselfish, in the sense of being benevolent and generous, without being selfless.
Mortimer Adler

To feel much for others and little for ourselves; to restrain our selfishness and exercise our benevolent affections, constitute the perfection of human nature.

Adam Smith

 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

1 Corinthians 7:3   (King James Version)


As I read the above Bible verse, it brings to mind, my daughter, Amber, and I have to chuckle.  She had read a Bible verse about marriage and interpreted it to mean that the man has to do everything the wife asks for the first year of marriage.  I’m not sure what verse she was referring to, but it worked.  Her husband, Jeff, did pretty much that from October 23, 2010 until October 23, 2011. 

Sometimes when talking with Amber on the phone, I’d inquire what Jeff was doing and she would comment, “He’s making supper,” or “He’s doing the laundry,” or “He’s washing the dishes.”  Sometimes I would quiz Amber why Jeff was doing all these things when he works all day as a mechanic and she’s a stay-at-home mom.  It’s not that I don’t think a man should be willing and able to help out around the house.  I guess, I just feel that when the wife (or man) stay home with the kids, they should take on the brunt of the house chores.  Notice I didn’t say the cooking.  Why?  Because in my household, even though I am currently a stay at home “housewife – (ugh – I hate that word)” and “writer”, Al much of the time does the cooking.  Why?  He’s a much better cook than I am. 

 Anyway, back to Amber and Jeff.  I do have to give her credit for her creativity and Jeff credit for his willingness to do many of these things, because Amber believes the Bible says it’s so.  Amber has had discussions with some of her friends about this topic and I’m not sure she’s been able to find the Bible verse she’s referring to again, but kudos to Amber and Jeff for allowing this to work in their relationship.  She often told me that once the year was over, it would be her turn to do these things and the things Jeff wished her to do.  To be fair to Amber, they do have five kids in the household to care for, so I’m sure it takes both of them and the kids to do their fair share to try and keep up.  Amber says that she chose to ask Jeff to do this, partly to give him an appreciation of how hard it is to be at home all day with five kids and keep up with household chores.  They came into their relationship each with two children and they had one child together.  She felt he didn’t always appreciate the things she did do for the family.  This exercise of him doing everything she asked over the past year, did give Jeff an appreciation for all that has to be done and all that Amber did on her own, not only while he was at home, but when he was stationed in Afghanistan for a year.  So this was an agreement that they came to for their marriage and it seems to have helped their relationship. 

 I do know I’ve seen a vast improvement in their household organization and less clutter, partly because they rented a home big enough for the whole family, but also because everyone is trying harder as a family to be more organized and have things flow easier.  It can’t be easy with seven people in one house.   The laundry alone is a full-time job if you are going to keep up with it. 

The past several years have been hard.  Amber suffers from Grave’s Disease.  Jeff has been deployed.  I am so proud of these two that they are overcoming all the negative in their lives and moving on with the positive. Amber and Jeff’s house may not always be the cleanest, but their house is full of life and love, it has to be with all the beautiful children running around.  Amber and Jeff are doing a great job of raising them, Baine, Nancy, Michael, Emilee and Joseph. 

Happy Anniversary (Oct. 23) to Amber and Jeff and wishes for many more!  May God continue to bless your marriage and family. 




Posted:  October 26, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt Reminds Me of Grandpa Lange

Right now, believe it or not, I am reading about Teddy Roosevelt.  I’m not a history buff.  I developed an interest in him when I recently read the book, “The Big Burn,” by Timothy Egan.  The book is about a major forest fire that happened in 1907 that burned much of the national forest lands of Montana, Idaho and other parts of the Rocky Mountains.  The book also talks about how Teddy Roosevelt was responsible for most of our national parks being designated as such for the public.  Timothy Egan brings history to life when telling his stories – he doesn’t just give the facts – he writes as if he was there and knew these people personally.  When I read about how Teddy had ranches in the Dakotas and how he spent much of his time there and how he was friends of Seth Bullock, a Deadwood historical figure, then that peaked my interest to learn more about Teddy.  Not to mention that Teddy’s face shines out on Mount Rushmore National Memorial in my home state of South Dakota and I’ve always felt I should learn more about the Presidents on the mountain.

Willard Henry Lange was my grandfather.  He spent much of his life as a rancher near Interior, South Dakota, near Badlands National Park.  Teddy was a rancher near the Badlands of North Dakota.  Grandpa Lange was a cowboy born and raised.  Teddy was from a rich family from New York City, but he learned how to be a cowboy.  Grandpa Lange had sparkling eyes and a sense of humor.  I image Teddy’s eyes sparkled, too, as in his autobiography, he loves to tell stories about some of his escapades during his cattle roundup days.  He wrote often about riding stubborn or untamed horses.  Grandpa always had a tale to tell about his horses, too.  Back when Teddy was ranching, there were few fences, so he and his neighbors helped each other by going on roundups searching for branded cattle.  Their roundups would last two to three weeks as they had much ground to cover.  Grandpa Lange had branding and roundups on his place.  They would only require two to three days of work, because they had fences.  His neighbors would also come to help him, in which Grandpa would reciprocate and help them.  Both men loved horses and the ranching lifestyle.  Teddy got into politics for unselfish reasons.  He didn’t need the money or the fame and perks.  He genuinely cared about the good of the people, all people not just the rich.  Grandpa Lange went so far as to become president of the school board of Interior, SD, which tells me he did care about his community and the children there.  Teddy valued family as did my grandfather, who had seven children of his own and numerous grandchildren.  I do remember that Grandpa enjoyed spending time with us grandkids.  He had to.  There were rare times when he didn’t have a houseful staying at his place, which he called Camp.  Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States from 1901-1909.  He was a graduate of Harvard University.  Roosevelt’s policies centered around, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” I’m not sure if Grandpa every said those words, but he was soft spoken and sometimes carried a big stick to keep us unruly grandkids in line.  Grandpa was born in 1914, while Teddy died in 1919.  I would almost bet that had either been born earlier or later and had they met, they would have been friends.  They probably would have gone on a roundup together.  I wonder what Grandpa would have said about the city slicker, rich cowboy from the East.  I don’t know, but I bet it would have been good!

 Posted:  October 24, 2011

Positive Word of the Day:  Amiable

a·mi·a·ble adj.

1. Friendly and agreeable in disposition; good-natured and likable.

2. Cordial; sociable; congenial: an amiable gathering.


People care more about being thought to have taste than about being thought either good, clever or amiable.
Samuel Butler

Charity, good behaviour, amiable speech, unselfishness — these by the chief sage have been declared the elements of popularity.
Burmese Proverb


Okay, yesterday, I was not very amiable.  Just ask Al.  In truth, I kept accusing him mostly in my actions, and less with words, of being disagreeable and unfriendly.  He seemed sullen, unresponsive and totally unconnected to anything going on around him, especially me.  I was testy, mumbling under my breath, shutting doors just a little too hard, nearly stomping up and down the stairs, etc.  He didn’t say much.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t communicate what was on his mind.  I took all this personally and felt like I had done something wrong.  The more I thought about his behavior, the more worked up and agitated I became.  The more agitated I became, the more snippy I got with him, to the point where I ended up agitating him to the point that he snapped back at me. It ended up being a day full of negative thoughts, behavior and attitudes. 

We started our day out well.  We went to church.  It felt uplifting and inspirational.  We both enjoyed our time and the people there.  It was a perfect day weather-wise, the sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, no humidity.  I was restless.  I couldn’t make up my mind what we should do to enjoy the day, whereas Al sat over in his chair with the TV blaring zoned out to me and my restlessness.  To be fair, I didn't communicate well with him what I was feeling either.

It wasn’t until hours later, after letting my “ugly” side slip out making snide comments and rude gestures that Al told me he didn’t feel good.  His wrist and his foot ached.  This brought on another little argument over whether he should take more Advil or not.  My belief is that Advil is great for these kinds of aches and pains.  His belief is that he shouldn’t take it more often than every eight hours.  So we ruined a perfectly gorgeous day by being uncommunicative to each other.  I will admit I was being insensitive to his pain, as I felt, if it hurts, then take something.  He felt he was doing the best he could to alleviate the pain with just enough pain killer to make it bearable. 

The result, neither of us was very amiable to the other, making it a tense and uncomfortable day, which otherwise we should have been enjoying.  I admit I was the worse one of us two, because for most of the day, I didn’t realize how much pain he was in, because he failed to communicate that to me or I was unreceptive - probably the latter.  Once he did tell me about his physical pain, I backed off somewhat, except that I let the frustration of the day still rule me and wasn’t as sensitive or care-giving as I should have been.  That evening, we were both sitting on the couch watching TV together.  I realized that I owed him an apology and just as I opened my mouth to say something, he apologized to me.  That’s what amazes me about our relationship.  We often have the same thought at the same time.  He started to apologize to me for being grabby and unresponsive all day.  I stopped him and said, “No, I am sorry about how I treated you today.  I should have been more understanding that you didn’t feel well.”  We both laughed at that point, which instantly released the tension of the day.  We became more amiable toward each other.  We shifted our thinking, which shifted the mood of the rest of the evening to be more pleasant. 

Thankfully, we don’t have many days like this one.  Hopefully, next time I’ll focus more on him and less on myself and maybe it will save the day before the day is over.  It’s never too late to try being a little more amiable.  

Here is a public apology to my hubby:  “I’m sorry, Al.  I should have been taking care of you when you didn’t feel well, like you always do me.  Please forgive me.”


Posted:  October 19, 2011

My Mistake

A week after arriving in Virginia, Al and I left the house to drive to Lowe's, Al being excited to find one of his favorite stores hidden behind a grove of trees. I plopped my body behind the wheel and drove to the end of the drive way, stopped and waited to pull onto the busy two lane road in front of our house. The speed limit on this road is 45 mph, but you really have to watch people coming from the left as about a mile down the road, there is a curve. People come speeding around that little bend and up on you very fast. I did a double check and pulled onto the highway. A block or two down past our house is the end of the road, so I didn't get up much speed, knowing the stop sign was there and familiar with the busy traffic that pulls into the WaWa Convenience Store on that corner.

No more than three seconds after I pulled onto the highway, a man in a car behind me began blasting his horn, not just tooting it, but laying on it for the full block or two until the stop light, through the agonizing wait for the light to change and until he could speed past me flipping me off while he was at it. I guess he was mad that I wasn't going the speed limit. I guess he was in an extreme hurry. I guess he had no patience. I didn't react the way I used to with my usual finger gestures. I just waved and smiled at the person, which I think angered him even more.

The whole incident probably lasted a minute at most, but by the time we reached Lowe's parking lot, I was sobbing. I felt violated and victimized. I felt hated and I kept wondering what in the world did I do to deserve that kind of treatment. I looked at Al and said, "I hate it here. I want to go home. I can't believe how the rude people are."

He put his arm around me and consoled me. In his wise manner, he put things in perspective for me. He suggested I pray for the guy, because he said he felt sorry for the people involved in that man's life. He said imagine how he treats his family. He talked about how miserable of a life the guy must be living to get that worked up over someone driving under the speed limit. I confess I didn't pray for the jerk at that momemt. I was too upset and the only people I felt sorry for besides myself were the people who might have the misfortune to be a part of that man's life. I know he had a passenger and it appeared the passenger was completely embarassed. I waited in the car while Al went inside the store, too shook up to want to be around people.

Hours later, laying in bed, I still could feel my heart racing and my anger building when I thought about that man's behavior. I wondered how he treats his wife, if he has one, and his poor kids and that's when I realized that I needed to pray for him. Not just for his sake, but for the sake of his family. I prayed that whatever problems the man had for him to become so aggravated with a stranger over a little thing, that God provide him with relief. I prayed to forgive him.

It took a few days, but I finally did actually forgive the guy. I also began to really see the people around us, people in the grocery stores, people at the quick shop, people driving past in their cars, people at the post office and everywhere we saw people. All treated us with kindness. People driving cars were being courteous. People were opening doors and holding them for me. People were saying hello.

That's when I realized I had made a mistake and been too quick to judge the citizens of this state by the actions of that one man. It was wrong of me to let his actions influence me about how I felt about the people of this area. It was an awesome feeling to realize people are the same no matter where you go and that most people are courteous, friendly and welcoming. All the hospitality shown to me was reminding me of home.

Then the following week, we found a United Methodist church. It, too, was hidden behind a bunch of trees. We'd been going by it every day and finally after nearly a month here, we noticed it. I had been on the Internet and knew there were several United Methodists churches in the area, but I had yet to spot one. We were so excited and made plans to attend the following Sunday.

Nervous about walking into the church the first time, it took some self-prodding to get out of the car and walk toward the door. I reminded myself that I was there to show respect to God and that I felt it was my duty to honor him this way. We walked into a building with modest furnishings, but were met by people who were practically glowing. Many of the them came over to Al and I and introduced themselves and shook our hands. One lady hugged us, not once but twice. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not particularly comfortable with a lot of touching and affection from strangers, but this time it felt so good. Another man handed us a welcome bag and the pastor came over and talked with us welcoming us to the service. The service began with some contemporary music, then all greeted one another and we received more handshakes and hugs. It was Communion Day, an extra blessing. Then the pastor had everyone hold hands and form a human chain while we sang the closing song. I don't remember the song, but I remember the feeling that God's Spirit was in the room and it was amazing, humbling and unforgettable.

Al's eyes were all lit up and when we got to the car, he said, "I want to go back there. What do you think." I agreed wholeheartedly. The next weekend I knew I would be back in South Dakota for a visit. Al said he'd go without me, as we didn't want the congregation to think we weren't coming back.

Two days later, in the mail, we received a little note card from a lady named Julia, inviting us to come back to church and stating that if we were shopping around for a church, to consider theirs. It was a very sweet note.

Al found out his sister was coming that weekend for a visit and decided he'd probably miss church as they were going sightseeing. I was in South Dakota driving down Interstate thinking about the people at the church and how I hoped they wouldn't think we forgot about them, as it would be at least two weeks before we could go back. Just as I was having those thoughts, the phone rang. It was Pastor Garry calling to thank us for coming and inviting us to come back. I was floored. No offense to the church I attended in Rapid City, but I had been attending there for over a year and had never received a phone call. I had even marked on a card several times that I'd like a call and given them my email address, as I wanted to learn more about how to become a member. Here we were living in Virginia, a place where I was quick to judge the people as rude, getting a call from a pastor after just one Sunday of church. I was more than impressed. I promised him we'd be back.

We went back to the Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church in Ordinary, VA, the Sunday after I got back and we were met by people with the same warmth and enthusiasm. The Pastor just doesn't shake your hand after the service, he "holds" your hand with his and genuinely thanks you for coming and invites you to come back. We will be back. over and over again. God showed us there is a light at the end of this tunnel (the tunnel being our "homesickness.") I hope I've learned my lesson and that next time I won't be so quick to judge.

A big thank you to Pastor Garry and his whole congregation! We will always remember your warm hospitality. There is nothing "ordinary" about this church! This message is found on their website:

Welcome to Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church, a place where love grows. It sure does!


Posted: October 15, 2011

Nemec Family Legacy

When you ask Ernie and Laurel Nemec of Ernie's Building Center/Ace Hardware of Midland, South Dakota, how you can have a successful business for over fifty two years in a town of three hundred people, they will say that it was all thanks to the support of their community and surrounding area. In a time when most Main Street businesses in small towns have folded, the Nemec's found the formula for success by making customer service their top priority, followed by having available the right products by knowing their local customers' needs. Another key to success is that the Nemecs always showed their appreciation to the communtiy by volunteering their time and materials for school projects and community events.

What started out as a small lumber yard that needed tons of clean-up grew to a construction company and a hardware store. The Nemecs were no strangers to hard work and they passed their work ethics to their five children and grandchildren. After fifty two years, they made the decision to turn their construction company over to their son, Randy, and wife, Holly, and their hardware and building supply store over to their grandson, Tyler, and his wife, Angel. Angel DuBois Nemec is the daughter of Renee Weatherbee of Rapid City, South Dakota and Greg DuBois, Pierre, South Dakota.

On October 8, Ernie and Laurel put on their final customer appreciation day at the store serving a meal to hundreds of their loyal customers/friends, a long time tradition. All who attended also came to welcome Tyler and Angel on board as new owners of Ernie's Building Center/Ace Hardware. Ernie and Laurel are proud to be able to keep the business that they poured their heart and soul into in the family.

Ernie and Laurel look forward to traveling around the East Coast and other areas of the United States in their new motorhome and visiting family and friends along the way, but say that they will always look forward to coming back home.

Tyler and Angel are excited to be able to take over the store and offer the same customer service and quality products to their loyal patrons and welcome new customers to stop by. They have learned a lot from their mentors, Ernie and Laurel, and appreciate all the assistance to get them familiar with the business.

Congratulations to you all, Ernie and Laurel, Randy and Holly, and Tyler and Angel and many wishes for your safe travels and continued success!




Ernie and Laurel Nemec standing in front of sign highlighting 52 years of serving the community through Ernie's Building Center and Nemec Construction Company.  Angel and Tyler Nemec are to the right - new owners of Ernie's Building Center/Ace Hardware.

Ernie's Building Center Ribbon Cutting on October 9, 2011  - Angel and Tyler Nemec in center surrounding by Ernie and Laurel Nemec and their five children and Roy Hunt, valued employee of the store.

Ernie, Tyler & Angel Nemec and Roy Hunt, Ribbon Cutting, Ernie's Building Center/Ace Hardware, Midland, SD, October 9, 2011.

Posted:  October 3, 2011


Culture Shock?!? or Am I Being Too Pessimistic?!?

 Being here in Virginia now for our fourth week, it hit me that I might be suffering from culture shock.  There are some major differences between South Dakota and Virginia.  Surprisingly, South Dakota seems to be ahead progress-wise of Virginia in a few areas. 

As I sit here typing and gazing out my window, one glaringly obvious difference stares me right in the face.  Power lines.  It seems that many of South Dakota’s power lines, at least inside towns and cities, are now buried underground.  Out here, very few are buried.  It is standard procedure here to own a generator, due to frequent power outages, which brings me to another major difference.

Trees.  There is an abundance of trees out here. Millions of amazingly tall trees growing so thick together, you can’t glimpse what’s beyond them.  The trees can easily fall over, as they grow in sandy soil.  The wind doesn’t blow much here, except in a hurricane, tornado or tropical storm, however, when it does, there can be some deadly branches crashing down.  Ironically, we drove by a tree farm yesterday, and Al said, “They really gotta farm trees out here?”  We laughed, because you couldn’t tell where the tree farm began and the forest started.  It all looked the same.   My thought was who needs to buy trees, they are in your face everywhere!

Wind.  As I watch the weather forecasts in the evenings, I sometimes have to chuckle out loud.  Those meteorologists seem to make a big deal out of 25-30 mph winds.  Ha!  That’s nearly every day in South Dakota!  I guess if you’re out on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay, those 25-30 mph winds create some treacherous white caps and the wind can cause higher waves to crash along the beaches.  And as fragile as some of these trees seem to be, probably for a lack of any kind of pruning or clearing, a little wind can be something to fear.

Population.  South Dakota’s population is around 730,000 people for the whole state. Virginia’s population is over 7 million, and I’m guessing most of them live on the East Coast.  Traffic flows ALL the time.  There is no QUIET time.  For me, my daily routine consists of driving one half mile to the Post Office and back.  No big deal, right?  The truth is, it’s risky.  Why?  Traffic!  Always traffic.  Never-ending traffic.  I’m thinking brake shops probably do pretty good out here.  About every half mile there seems to be a stop light.  The posted speed limits between these lights is 55 mph, which most don’t abide by.  Most seem to cruise along at 70, tailgating and lane hopping around the few of us who do abide by the law.  Then, bam, all at once, the light turns red and people slam on the breaks.  You just hope they don’t’ slam into you first before they get stopped. 

I would love to be able to walk to the Post Office. It would be a nice little mile jaunt round trip.  I haven’t walked once since I’ve been here, other than inside Walmart.  Why don’t I?  There are no sidewalks.  No curb and gutters.  Only drainage ditches along the highways, and no shoulders at all.  Sure, you can find sidewalks in the city center areas, but first you’ve got to fight traffic to get there.  You might only need to drive twenty miles, but that twenty miles will take up to an hour to get there.  Across the Coleman Bridge that crosses the York River, there is a lovely walking path that follows the river.  We’d like to spend more time there, but again, you get in your car, drive there, and then on your way back across the bridge, you have to pay $2.00.  Doesn’t sound like much, but Al has to come back across that bridge every day from work, so it’s adding up, which leads me to my next difference.

Tolls.  You can’t drive ten miles without having to pay a toll charge.  We went to Atlantic City, NJ, last weekend, a 275 mile drive.  We spent at least $50 in toll charges, plus we paid $57 to ride a ferry across the Chesapeake Bay from Delaware to New Jersey, which cut much of the drive time, however, dug into our entertainment budget.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, a 23 mile long spectacular engineering mystery to me, charges $12.  For me it’s worth it once in a while, because it feels like you’re driving right straight into the ocean.  I’m not sure what Virginia spends their toll fees on, as many of the roads are in rough shape, they aren’t paying much maintenance on them, there is no snow removal, they don’t appear to cut the grass along the roads or trim back the trees.  You won’t find a toll charge anywhere in South Dakota, plus there is no state income tax.

State Income Tax.  I don’t know much about Virginia’s politics and policies yet, but it’s evident from Al’s pay check that they get their share in state income tax.  It must not go for roads.  It must not go for litter clean up.  It definitely does not go for sidewalks or bike trails/walking trails.  Sure, there are a few walking trails, but they wind through the creepy woods.  I’m just not really interested in that here, but I’ll hike Spearfish Canyon trails any day.  Almost every town in South Dakota has a walking/biking trail nearby and if they don’t there are always sidewalks.

Bugs.  Sure every state has it’s nuisances in the insect department.  We had to deal with tiny black beetles finding their way into our home at Redrock Meadows.  Sometimes, a spider or two crept into the house.  And there was the dreaded wolf spider all over our yard, but I got through that imagining them chewed up in the lawn mower blades. 

Speaking of spiders, Al came in the house the other day eyes bulging, heart racing warning me not to come outside.  He said there’s some humungous spiders (and that is plural) climbing up the side of the house.  He rushed to Lowe’s for some insecticide.  While at the counter, he explained the size and look of the spiders to the sales clerk.  She replied, “Those are just banana spiders.  Don’t kill them.  They eat the other spiders.”  Okay, after he tells me this story, I’m like wondering what other spiders are we talking about.  I just had to do a quick Internet search and here are some of the other spiders found in Virginia, just to name a few:  brown recluse, hobo spiders (what do they go around hopping on trains), southern house spiders (we have a southern farmhouse style home, but I ain’t being hospitable to those creeps), grass spiders, black and yellow garden spiders and now I’m about to crawl out of it of my skin.  

Back home, sometimes, but rarely, you’d fight off a mosquito or two, but they were easily chased off with some citronella.  Here in White Marsh, and we should have had a clue by the name of the town, the mosquitoes are so large you can see them coming from twenty feet away.  Their fat juicy bodies ready to suck the life out of you.  However, the smaller ones in South Dakota must carry the biggest impact, as there have been 20 reported cases of West Nile in 2011.  Virginia does better with only 5.  The mosquitoes here must be lovers, not fighters. 

Mattress stores.  There is an overabundance of mattress stores here, one in every strip mall, many as stand alone buildings.  You can’t drive a mile without seeing one, even in the less populated areas.  It’s kind of like the video lottery casinos of South Dakota – they are everywhere.  One can only contemplate, what’s the deal with the so many matress shops?  Some of my facebook friends suggested maybe bed bugs and spider infestations.  I’m guessing that because Virginia is for lovers, that all those lovers are taking it to the extreme and flopping around just a little too much on those things. 

Gambling.  Speaking of South Dakota Video Lottery, there are no slot machines or video gaming machines in this state.  Someone told us once that there will never be.  That’s most likely a good thing, but I wouldn’t mind spending my money on a slot machine here and there to fund state projects and skipping the toll booths on the highways.  

People.  We have been surprised to find this time around (as compared to our six months stay in 2008), the people of Virginia have been warm and friendly.  Nearly everyone we’ve had direct contact with has met us with a smile and a little conversation.  We are so lonely and needy for company that we are always chatting up the sales clerks and servers, and we make unnecessary trips to stores, just so we can have some human interaction outside ourselves.  We nearly lassoed our neighbor lady when she came by to introduce herself.  We didn’t want to let her go.  We are also embracing the racial diversity here, somewhat lacking in South Dakota. 

I have to admit that people out here aren’t nearly as hardy as us South Dakotans.  I read an article in a newspaper yesterday written by a lawyer from Richmond who spends his summers on the Chesapeake Bay (just a few miles from where we live now).  He talked about all the strange weather phenomenon this year (hurricanes, tornados & earthquakes) and how his summer went way to fast.  He stated that one day it was 88 degrees and the next day 68.  That’s when he packed up and went home, because it was too cold.  Please!  I’ve also witnessed people wearing jackets when it’s 70 degrees.  You just don’t see that back home.  South Dakotans are hardy folk!

We did experience sincere Southern hospitality when we attended church yesterday. We were warmly greeted and welcomed by many members of the church.  Several of them gave us bear hugs.  One gentleman grabbed our hands and cupped them with both of us, not letting us go.  It was very uplifting and spiritual.  I slowly feel my pessimism fading, as I deal with my homesickness, knowing we are in good hands – these good people willing to take us under their wing.  Maybe I’ll even bring back some of that Southern hospitality with me when I return.  One can only hope.


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