Meandering Thoughts

Meandering Thoughts

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Backing a 16 Foot Stock Trailer

We live on a small farm, Richard and I raised our three wonderful children on this little farm.  We have been here for 34 years and our roots are deep.  I grew up not a half a mile away, by the way the crow flies, actually there is just a field between the two houses.  If it weren't for the woods I grew up in, we could see the house easily from where we live now.  I think about the "roots" and wonder what propelled us to live in this particular house.  This home we live in was moved from the field that is between where I grew up and where we live now.  Just now in my meandering thoughts, I will tell you, it was also the house Richards great-grandparents lived!  Wow, the roots are really deep..............

We always had critters on our farm and a small corn field.  We raised hogs for more years than I can count.  We also, of course, had a horse or two.   Twice a year our six sows would have baby pigs and the cycle continued for years.  Some years were good, with wonderful litters of healthy piggies and some were not.  Usually the years we had great growing and plentiful pigs the market price for hogs was low.  The times we had smaller litters, that didn't seem to thrive, the price was high.  Do you know today, hog market prices are not that much different than they were thirty years ago?  You can bet your bottom dollar that unless you grew your own corn, that feeding a hog costs more today!  And it certainly costs more to produce a bushel of corn to feed that hog than it did thirty years ago.   That is all I'll say about that, this isn't about the farm crisis or political agendas!

Our children always had hog projects in 4-H.  They also had lambs to show and we even fed steers a couple years.  When my children were in their young teens we started taking horse riding to the next level and competing in competitive trail riding.  When this happened it also changed our trucking needs.  As it was, when we took hogs to market, we used a cattle truck with a ramp and side rails to load the hogs.  It was always a struggle to get hogs to climb that ramp.  They had never done anything but walk on level ground, who would think they would want to climb a ramp into a truck.  Things changed when we got the stock trailer.

Richard was an Ag. teacher in the local schools and classes made it impossible for him to be home on market day.  Which meant I had to back the 16 ft. stock trailer up to the barn, plug all possible exits to keep the hogs from escaping while trying to load hogs that were around 220 lbs.  There is no real way of knowing their weight, unless you have a scales and we did not.  You just learned to have a good eye for weight of a hog.

Now I must say I took a different approach to loading hogs than my husband would.  Only because he was strong enough to "handle" them and my way of doing it is to let them all out and they would be curious enough to jump in and out of the trailer without any assistance.  Then I would slowly sort the smaller hogs back into their pen and leave the 220 lb hogs to explore the isle way and trailer.  This worked most of the time.  Every once in a while a hog that needed to be in the trailer would slip back into the pen with the smaller one and I'd have to start again.  Sometimes this process took an hour or more, amazing how easy it was if you were patient!

When we first got the 16ft. trailer and I had to haul horses, I was terrified about having to back it up into a camping spot.  I'm sure you have all heard the line, "practice, practice, practice"?  I had to learn.  Richard wasn't going to be there every time I needed to back the trailer.  I learned by trying to put the trailer in it's home parking spot one day and ended up backing and pulling forward the entire counter clockwise circle in our barnyard before I got the trailer in it's place.  I would have learned nothing if someone would have been there helping me, I had to do it to learn it!  Of course, I may have mentioned before, men who help don't share the hand signals with women.   It is impossible to interpert what their hands want you to do through a mirror, IMPOSSIBLE!

Knowing now that I can back a trailer and load market hogs, you will understand how funny the rest of this story really is.   I took a load of hogs to Springfield stockyards, I'd never done more than ride along in the past and had no idea of the protocol to unload.  I pulled my rig into they yard with all the other trucks and trailers and had to go inside to see where they wanted me to back the trailer to unload.  I opened the door to the office and there were 4 men sitting there calmly talking about something, they all stopped talking when I came into the office, all eyes were on me and one man said with a smirk on his face, "I suppose you'd like us to back your trailer?"  I stared at them with amusement and said, "Just tell me which gate you want me to back up to and I'll do it thank you."   

I don't know if I've ever backed a trailer so perfectly!  Pulled up only one time and put it squarely flush to the gate!  I got out and the man said, "I guess this isn't the first time you have backed a trailer."   I could only smile............

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Web We Weave, part four

This is to wrap up the story about Michael Soutar, the con man from my previous stories.  The man who was ultimately responsible for the journey I am on today.  The man who escaped  his prison sentence and was on America's Most Wanted.

I believe that Michael was on the run for a year.   The Boston Globe writes that Soutar was first noticed in the early 1990's, by '96 he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, forgery, fraud, embezzlement and credit card fraud.  He was serving prison time, but escaped when he was released to have knee surgery.  Charged with bigamy in Texas, but not convicted.  He was always charming and loved the high roller life.

Attorney Generals office called me to advise me of his capture in August of 2005.  They were working on extradition back to Santa Fe.  It seems like there were some other states trying to get a hold of him as well.  Now, after all this time has passed they are asking me questions again, they really wanted to nail this guy.  Again, they wanted me to come and testify.  I finally had to contact a lawyer friend and he started talking to them.  Interestingly enough his daughter is a lawyer in Albuquerque,NM and when everything was said and done, I didn't have to go to testify.  It is not that I didn't think he was guilty and he had over charged my credit card, but I really was just a very small part of the big picture.

Michael Soutar was accused of taking between $150,000 and $200,000 from investors at the Santa Fe Market.  He was charged with securities fraud, securities sales by an unlicensed broker, racketeering, forgery, check and credit-card fraud.  The Jurors deliberated only an hour before returning the verdict of guilty.  He will be serving a 36 year sentence.  I can say I was conned by one of the best!!!

I could say "thank you" to Michael Soutar for his part in my journey.   Today, I am content with where I am and selling gourds at Fine Art Shows in Ohio.  Being "out there" isn't as important as it once was.  I have made amazing friends from Eureka Springs, AR and many places beyond.  All because of this little event, an entanglement in my original plans, turned out to be a wonderful thing! 

If you are incline to learn more about Michael Soutar, you can google him, he is on the first page!  Amazing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Web We Weave, part three

And so I went to the Artist Retreat in 2006.  I didn't think I would be able to even talk to John Two-Hawks.  I remembered how he overwhelmed me with his energy at the Jackalope in 2004.  Oh, it was good energy, just a little powerful somehow.

The retreat was amazing and yes, I could talk to John Two-Hawks, he is just a person after all, he has become a friend and confident.  It was an interesting path that brought me to this place.  Where one door closes and another one opens, we are standing always on the threshold, just stepping into the next great thing.  And so it has been for me an interesting journey to this point.

I am getting ready to do my ninth retreat with John Two-Hawks.  Each spring I do the Artist Retreat, now called Creative Expressions.  It is a place for us to learn that the struggles of an artist are really just personal struggles within ourselves.  We are all amazing no matter what our talent or degree of talent. We are all important in all our efforts, however big or small the effort.   It is a place I go and confirm what I know already and be with like minded people.  The "Ah haaa" moments always come at these retreats, the moment when it all fits together.  It is always amazing and wonderful.  I am grateful to have the ability to create anything my heart desires, that my husband, Richard, supports me at every turn.  This is something every artist needs to know and feel.  I know how lucky I am, I am blessed and grateful.

The retreat I am heading to this weekend, October of 2009, is called the Mending Medicine Retreat.  I have been going to this retreat since October 2006.   Every year I go with no expectations. I know I will see friends from other retreats, meet new ones and learn new lessons about the Medicine Wheel and our journey around the wheel.   I look forward to traveling to Eureka Springs, AR, a place that calls to me, a place that brings tears to my eyes when I visit the Blue Springs Heritage Center.   I know when I walk on the ground at the Blue Spring that the Cherokee ancestors also walked there.  I have played my flute in their honor as I sit in the beautiful gardens and tears streamed down my cheeks.   I was suppose to find these people and this place......... The web continues to grow and grow. One of my favorite quotes from John Two-Hawks; "We are all wrapped in the same ball of yarn, All connected, all important."    Later I will share the end of the Santa Fe story.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Web We Weave, part two

My gourds were wrapped in Santa Fe newspapers, it made unpacking a fun experience for sure.   I remember running across the picture and promotional clipping of John Two-Hawks performing at the Jackalope where I spent the weekend selling my beautiful gourds.  I saved that wrinkled piece of paper, just for the memory of it all.  I love little memory jogs!

Gratefully most all the gourds survived their trip home, some did get broken..... which takes me to an earlier story about the Water-bed and the UPS Man.  I will also note here, it took forever to recover my claim on the broken gourds, but it was resolved.  That was not the only thing that took forever to resolve.

My credit card company need documentation that the card was used fraudulently.  Than goodness for the Santa Fe police report. They too finally honored my over charge and I did not have to pay.   Not long after returning home I received a call from the District Attorney's Office regarding Michael Soutar.  It seems my charge against him began the ball rolling for more charges.  They wanted me to come back to Santa Fe and testify against this man.  Oh my gosh, I couldn't afford another plane ticket to Santa Fe.  They seemed to understand and I spent several phone calls recounting the information as I knew it.

Michael Soutar was to go before the judge on November 22, 2004.  The District Attorney's Office called me to tell give me the outcome of this event.  Michael was charged with 22 counts of fraudulent activity!  He was to be sentenced in December.  You'll never believe that the District Attorney's office called me the day after he was before the judge, to inform me that Michael Soutar had escaped while on work duty at a park!  Everyone seemed to be in shock and of course, the Santa Fe Market was closed forever.

Time passed, as it seems to do.  In February of 2005 I received a call from a women that wanted some ornamental gourds for her gift shop, The Blue Spring Heritage Center.  She tells me that her shop is near the end of the Trail of Tears in Arkansas, in Eureka Springs.  I'd never heard of Eureka Springs, but sent her the gourds and was content that she ordered them. 

In August of 2005, my daughter Emily calls, she wants me to turn on channel 45 on the TV quickly!  Low and Behold.......... it is America's Most Wanted and they are looking for my con friend, Michael Soutar !!  Yep, talk about falling off my chair!  I got the entire history of his antics on TV!  It seems that he had a real way at persuading women to fall for his lines.  Hummm, guess conning artists is no different.  He had been dating three women at the same time, duping them of their money.  One day they found out about one another and let's just say "stuff hit the fan!"  They took him to court and won and hence the probation issue.  They then went on to tell the story of his fraudulent activities in Santa Fe.  Of course, they were looking to capture him and put him away!   So I sort of felt I'd been conned by the best of them!

In September of 2005, my "Annie Oakley" friend Marcy, who keeps popping up in my stories from the Wagon Train Rides to the first story in "The Web We Weave", was driving back to Massachusetts from this year's trip out west.  We are happily spending a couple days together, working in the studio, and she tells me she'd just spent the weekend with friends in Eureka Springs!  There it is again, Eureka Springs, AR.  Where the heck is this place.   She also commissions a gourd for a friend there that is getting married.  Cool.

Winter comes, February of 2006 comes around, cold and gray.  A newly retired friend and I are in the studio visiting.  We were reflecting on the long winter, how much we needed sun and so on.   It was then I said, "I'd love to be in Santa Fe, where it warm and sunny."   She said, "well, let's go!"  About that time my dear husband walks in the door and hears our talk, he says, "this is a perfect time, I want to go too!".   Well if Richard goes, so must her husband, and now we are driving and I'm seeing weeks of being gone, not just a few days!  I decided to research this idea and find out when the Gathering of the Nations Pow Wow in Albuquerque happens.  While visiting this site on my computer, I found myself looking at their listing of musical artists.  (By this time, I'm very much more acquainted with Native American Flute music)  I picked one name from a list of thirty names.  Just one............  when I read the name, nothing clicked in my brain, but when his website popped up, I remembered with a jolt, it was John Two -Hawks.  The Native man playing flutes at the Jackalope in 2004.  I decided then and there to order a CD, I'd heard his music and liked it, yes a CD was necessary.

I called the number and remember talking to a woman.  I told her my story of hearing John Two-Hawks at the Jackalope and a little of how I happen to be there.  It was a nice conversation, she ask about my art and what I did.  She thought maybe I might be interested in an Artist Retreat in April.  I told her that I'd think about it and ordered the Cd's.

I spoke with my friend again about the trip to Santa Fe and about maybe waiting and going with me to an Artist Retreat.  This certainly fit my schedule better, a nice long weekend, rather than a couple weeks on the road driving to and from Santa Fe.  We agreed to do the retreat.   I called back to schedule it and started asking questions, dates and such.... "oh, yes, now where are you located?"  She replies, "Eureka Springs, AR".  She also tells me that she remembers me from the Jackalope and her best friend ordered gourds from me for her gift shop, the Blue Spring Heritage Center. 

Well, needless to say, you could have knocked me over with a feather!   Oh, yes there is more to The Web We Weave, part three!

The Web We Weave, part one

I decided in 2004 that it was time to get my gourd business "out there".  To me that meant trying to sell my work to speciality shops.  I went for the "big guns" and took them to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It happened that we were guests in a residence and I was able to mail gourds to an address ahead of our arrival.  My daughter, Emily and I flew out to spend a week in Santa Fe. 

Santa Fe is an amazing place, art is everywhere.  The energy of this city in the southwest will inspire any artist who needs recharged.  The landscape is so beautiful, the history is rich and colorful.  Art is in every shop and gallery.  I wanted to be a part of this excitement and claim to have my gourds in Santa Fe.
Well, I did make some major discoveries on my trip to Santa Fe in 2004.  So many that it will take several writings to tell you everything. 

I'll begin at the beginning, where Emily and I start our first morning in town with a rental car load of gourds and the optimism of a proud and excited artist, me.  We had breakfast and from there visited a little shop, then moved on to another gallery.  In speaking to one of the sales clerks I found this gallery to be filled with many artists who rent space and sell their artwork.  The sales clerks are hired to take care of the shop and you just have to provide art and decorate your display area.   Wow, did I ever find the perfect place for my gourds and they had some openings for artists!  The clerk went to find the owner and he wanted to see my gourds.  How easy can it get!   He loved my work, he said all the right things to make an artist blush and thought my price points were great and wanted me to join the gallery.  He was a good looking guy, maybe in his forties and was very charming, but most of all he LOVED my gourds.

I called Richard and he was a little less excited, but then he isn't known to make quick decisions and I had to decide before the space filled up and we were only there a week!   I agreed to become a part of the Santa Fe Market.  I choose my spot and then began the task of painting the space, gathering some display items, bought a rug, went to a Flea Market and purchased a couple antique looking display items and put what I had with me in the way of gourds to make a display.  I would then mail more gourds to them when I got home and fly back down to get everything in order.  Perfect.

Emily and I spent the rest of the week checking out galleries and enjoying our visit to Santa Fe.  We went to really nice galleries and also went to a place called the Jackalope.  A fun place with more affordable gift items for taking home.  It is a giant space under several buildings and yards full of pottery, tents with the local Native people selling their goods.  You can buy anything from t-shirts to furniture.  Love going here to shop.  A fun place and certainly well known to people who travel to Santa Fe.

We flew home after our week in Santa Fe.  I then got busy making arrangements to UPS gourds to Santa Fe and buying tickets for another flight out.   This time my daughter, Trisha and her 9week old, Kellen, were going with me.  We were to leave on a Tuesday.   The Friday before our trip back out, I got a phone call from the owner of the Santa Fe Market, Michael Soutar.  He ask me if I was still interested in the space, I said, "Yes, I'll be out again on Tuesday to finish putting the space together."  He mentioned he had others that were interested in the space and maybe I should have signed a contract before I'd left Santa Fe the first time.  No matter, he'd just mail me one, in the mean time we talked price for renting the space and he agreed that I could try it for three months.  This would certainly be prime time, Santa Fe Indian Market was soon and the Christmas season was coming!  If there was a chance to sell, this would be the perfect time!  So rent was agreed upon, time period agreed upon and contract was being mailed.  To hold my space he wanted my credit card number.  Sounded like a fair exchange.

Trisha, baby Kellen and I flew out to Santa Fe the third week of August.  Indian Market was the weekend coming up and we'd be there for this event.  I was so very excited.   We arrived and immediately finished making purchases for the space, put everything in place and finally happy to call it finished.  I called Richard and ask if the contract had arrived, it hadn't come before I left home.   No, it had not come in the mail that day.  So before Trisha and I left the space I knew I had to get this contract signed and we could go about our merry visit in Santa Fe.  

I found the sales clerk I'd met the trip before with Emily.  She was not quite as  friendly as I remembered, especially since I was asking for the owner, Michael.  I told her that I just needed to sign a contract with him and she said, "Oh, I wouldn't sign any contracts with him, he is in jail!".  Red Flags went up!  I ask why and she told me, "for former probation violations".  It was then I decided to call my credit card company!  Yep, that sinking feeling I got when I talked to the sales clerk was for a reason!   He had way overcharged my credit card!  I called Richard, and he said I should file a police report!

I knew the display I'd just finished could not stay in this place!   The Santa Fa policeman came and took all my information, he told me to write it out on a form and take it to the police station.  At this point the tears started.  I had a booth to take out, I had a daughter with a nine week old baby and was at a loss what to do next.  He was such a nice young man, my tears softened his position, he kindly said, "okay, I'll file it for you, you just do what you have to do and I'll take care of it."

When Trisha and I rented the car, we decided to rent a van, mostly because of the baby stuff.  Well, the baby stuff was covered with display and gourds.  We were packed to the roof and didn't exactly know what to do next.  My mind is ever working on another plan and this seemed to be the case this day.

While Trisha and I were in Santa Fe that week, my "Anne Oakley" friend, Marcy was also in town, visiting her sister. (you can read about meeting Marcy in my Oregon Trail writings.)   I called Marcy and we caught up with one another the next day.  Before meeting with Marcy, I had decided to go to the Jackalope and talk to the owner, giving him my long and sad story.  Now, I must tell you, this took a lot of guts on my part, I was really going to have to sell myself and my work.  Most artist's would understand, making art is one thing, being your own spokesperson is another!

My daughter, the baby and I first spoke with a sales clerk at Jackalope, we were then taken to her manager, from there we were then taken to the secretary of the owner, telling the story over and over about what had happened at the Santa Fe Market and with the owner Mr. Soutar.  We finally got inside the office of the owner of the Jackalope, his name is one I love, Darby McQuad!  Something musical about his name.  Mr. McQuad listened to my long story, interestingly he knew of the mess regarding Michael Soutar! 

Mr. McQuad agreed to rent me an outdoor space under one of his tents at the front of his business for the weekend!  How cool was that!!!!  So for the weekend of Indian Market in Santa Fe, I sold gourds!  I was really selling gourds in Santa Fe, NM......     While we were at the Jackalope, Trisha and I would take turns walking around and it was here that I first heard music from the Native American style flute, it was being played by a Native man, John Two-Hawks.  I loved the music but was still too wrapped up in my own experiences to even consider purchasing his music.  But...... I remember the way he looked and the power he held, it was very overwhelming to me, but in another sense very calming.   I didn't understand it then, but that is another story.

My friend Marcy came to my rescue when we were packing up from the Jackalope to leave for the weekend, she filled her truck with my display purchases and gourds.  Trisha, baby Kellen and I were to catch a flight the next day and Marcy agreed to pack my gourds and mail them to me.  She would then deliver my display purchases to my home on her way back to her home in Massachusetts in a couple weeks.  Talk about a turn of events.  How lucky was I?  When you think about all these events and how it all worked, you know there is a divine plan in everything that happens!  If this boggles your mind, wait until you read "the rest of the story".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wagon Train Ride on the Oregon Trail, 1995

In 1995 we went back on the Oregon Trail Wagon Train Ride.  We had so much fun the year before that our friends decided to join us on this year's trip.  I mentioned in my previous writing about the 1994 wagon train ride, our host gave Ryan and Tere a free trip for a wedding gift, because they became engaged on the  trip the year before.  We couldn't let that pass by, now could we?

I also mentioned in the last writing about the artist, Tom Lucas.  We stopped by his home and shop to see his artwork.  This year my goal was to find elk teeth ivory's and beaver teeth.  I so wanted to have earrings and a necklace like our "Annie Oakley" friend from last years adventure.  I was sure Tom would have these items.  Come to find out, he had beaver teeth, but they were still in the skulls.  As I mentioned before, he traps beaver to feed their "pet" bobcats.  He gladly gave me three skulls and told me if I put them in pots of boiling water and let them cook awhile, the teeth could then be extracted. So we left with beaver skulls and visions of beaver tooth necklaces in our heads.

We stayed the night before our wagon train ride in the town of Atlantic City, WY.  Had fun at the bar/restaurant playing cards and just relaxing.  Talk turned to last year's trip and our chance meeting with Marcy and Brian.  We just happen to mention them to someone in the bar and found out that they were in a camper just outside the building.  How interesting to run into this couple again this year.   We went knocking on the camper door and were greeted like old friends.  (Have I mentioned that Marcy is still a friend today, almost 20 years later!  Yep, it is true, and she was just here visiting us this past week on her way West.)

There were twelve of us on this trip.  Matt was the youngest and he was probably nine.  Friends and family members are all horse people and wanted to ride a horse and not be riding in a covered wagon for miles on a bumpy hard road.  So our host said we could have as many horses as we needed, we thought that was perfect.  When we arrived at the tumbled down starting point of our event, there were indeed horses of all sizes and conformations.  Tack was laying wherever it had been dropped.  We were told to pick our horses and saddle up!!!   There was not horse and saddle that went together, you found what you needed and made it work.  The trading of equipment until everything fit the horse you were riding went on for some time.  Bridles had to be fitted, girths were swapped, and stirrups adjusted.  It truly was like doing a live jigsaw puzzle.   Meanwhile, our host's just watched while we worked it out.   (I'm not sure they had a clue about getting that many horses ready.)  This wasn't difficult, we all knew how to tack up, but it should have been a clue about the knowledge of our hosts.

Our journey on the Oregon Trail (Mormon Trail) was so much fun, the sky is never ending, the smell of sage was in the air.  Horses were very nice to handle and we stopped at some tumbledown places that people tried to live at one time or another.   Weather worn wood barns and homes, trickles of water nearby were barely enough to water even one horse.   We felt the presence of the past and what it might have been like to travel this vast open land for a piece of land to call home.

We arrived at a different spot this year to call camp.  The tipi's were up and it was in another grove of aspen trees.  Very beautiful setting. Campfires, the guys brought guns to shoot targets, we gathered plant material to fill baskets to take home, we did day rides from base camp to places of interest and food was great.  After our evening meal one night we gathered cans of water to "cook" our beaver skulls.  This was suppose to be a project for the females in the group, kind of a ceremony to create our own "tribe", to remember the trip with this touchstone or in this case a beaver tooth necklace.  Our name would be the Beaver-tooth Tribe.  Well, six females gathered around the fire, the skulls were put in the hot water and then it happened.  The smell of these skulls cooking was more then the "tribe" could stand, one by one they left me to attend to the project.  Oh my, the smell was really bad, but I couldn't just forget about those skulls, I had to be the one to finish the project.

Then it happened, my friend "Annie Oakley", Marcy came riding into camp with Brian.  She found me by the fire and she helped me to extract beaver teeth from the skulls.  To this day we laugh at the story, each of the girls on the trip did get their stylish beaver tooth necklace.  I still wear mine, I don't often see the others wearing theirs, but I know they have them tucked away in a special place to remember the aspen grove with tipi's, the big night sky, the smell of sage and cooking skulls, Brian playing his guitar around the campfire.  They'll remember the horses they rode and the vast, windy desert of Wyoming on the Oregon Trail.

Our trip together continued, we went to Cody, WY and into Yellowstone, camping in tents, taking turns at making meals, sharing a wonderful time together.   It is also reminding me of another story or two........

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wagon Train Ride on the Oregon Trail, 1994

Richard and I, along with our son Ryan and then girlfriend Tere decided to vacation together back in 1994.  We headed to Wyoming with our destination point being Atlantic City, Wyoming.  Historic South Pass City is old mining town, it is the closest thing to Atlantic City and can be found on a AAA map.  South Pass City was a boom town, boasting 2,000 inhabitants in 1871.  By 1875 South Pass City was nearly deserted.  Both places are south and west of Lander, Wyoming.    Atlantic City pretty much consists of a dozen houses, two bars and a couple of A frames for overnight guests.  It is located in the middle of Bureau of Land Management country and cattle are seen grazing right outside the bar/restaurant's door. 

We often learn lessons in life that might be considered by others before an event is planned.  I, however, think only the best about anything and never consider that it could be any thing different that what is advertised. It was in the AAA book afterall!    The company we were doing the Wagon Train ride with, is no longer in business, I don't wonder why.  In all seriousness, we had a great time.  Just not exactly what  we maybe envisioned.

When we arrived at the starting point our first hint of things revealed themselves.   It was a fallen down house (shack) and barn.  Electric fence pens for horses with no grass (what am I thinking we are in the desert).  One wagon, a team of horses and some saddle horses.  The couple were very nice, but lived in Mississippi and come to find out they leased this bit of land for their "Wagon Train Ride on the Oregon Trail" business.  It was later discovered they lease these horses and probably all other components to host their business.  It is not to say we didn't have a wonderful time, we did, but things are not always what they seem and that is the lesson.

The plans were to take a Wagon Train trip on the Oregon Trail, which consisted of an entire day of traveling in a covered wagon.  We made stops at historic landmarks along the way and after hours of travel we arrived at an aspen grove with tipi lodges to spend the night.  The road we traveled still holds the scars of the early pioneers, the wagon wheels etched themselves in the hard desert floor.  This is also the trail the Mormons used to pull their handcarts across this country on their journey to Utah.  One of the landmarks we stopped to view was the site of  one group of Mormon travelers that lost their lives due to the onset of early winter.  Unprepared for the cold of winter, they died on this open and windy plain.  As romantic as the west seems, it is raw and unforgiving.  I respect those who survived and those that still live out there.  It is a hard life.  The sun and wind and cold and wind is constant.  And yet, it is some of the most beautiful country you'd ever want to see.  The sky was always beautiful, day or night.  The land makes you wonder how anything can survive.

Our host for the covered wagon trip were very nice, as I think back I wonder, "did they know any more about the area than we already knew?"  Were we just "easterners" looking for a connection to the history of the west?   Today, I'd answer yes.........  we wanted to know and experience a few days of what life might have been like, we didn't even scratch the surface to really knowing. 

We had wonderful meals, campfires and we even were treated with a visitor who showed us knapping.  That is the art of making arrowheads.  He was married to an Shoshone native woman and they lived on the Wind River Indian Reservation at Lander.  He was an artist and we were invited to their home and his studio after the wagon train ride was over.  We found when we visited them, they kept two beautiful bobcats and trapped beaver to feed them.  His studio was wonderful, with many beautiful items from jewelery to antler and horn items, his name was Tom Lucas and he was quite a craftsman.

While camping in this aspen grove, I was thrilled to discover the red -shafted woodpecker, a kin to our eastern yellow-shafted woodpecker.  This was my first experience sleeping in tipi lodges, I loved it!  (When I looked at pictures to post with this, I laughed at the tipi's, our host's had no idea how to put up a tipi lodge.)  Richard and Ryan brought their guns and set up targets (cans) to shoot at and they had so much fun.  In the late afternoon, we noticed a four wheeler coming our way.........  a couple were riding the four wheeler and they were drawn to our tipi lodges.  When they got off the ATV Richard was sure he was meeting Annie Oakley!   She had on a holster with guns in them!   The couple pretty much hung out with the boys and continued to shoot, while the women tended the fire and cooked.   I'm thinking I would not have been a very happy pioneer, I wanted to hang out with the horses and the boys too!

Later they came to the fire and food and we also got to enjoy the company of Marcy and Brian.  Marcy is pretty amazing and to my delight we are still friends today.  Marcy not only had six guns on her hips, she wore elk tooth earrings and a beaver tooth necklace.  She was very cool!  (I feel sure she is laughing as she reads this blog!)  Marcy and Brian were living the life of the west, Brian liked to look for gold and they traveled around the west on their quest to strike the Mother load.  They gave our trip so much flavor and color, what fun.

While we enjoyed our time at the aspen grove, one very important event took place.  Ryan and Tere took a sunset ride away from camp and he proposed marriage to Tere and she said "Yes!".  The couple hosting our trip gave them as a wedding gift a FREE wagon train ride for the next summer!   Yes, of course, we were all looking forward to coming back! 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October Tipi Lodge

It is October, the winds have picked up and a chill is in the air.  It is time to put the tipi liner in the lodge.  I did that today.  The liner is the inside insulating wall.  The air that comes into the tipi in the summer is cool and refreshing.  When the liner is hung, the air comes under the tipi still, but is blocked by the liner.   There is a "skirt" on the liner at the ground, flat stones were used to hold the skirt down flat on the ground. When you have a small fire inside the tipi the draft coming between the walls takes the smoke up and out through the top of the tipi.  It is wonderful how well it all works.

While tying the inside liner to each lodge pole, my ceremony was to say a prayer with each tie.  There are 15 poles and they are tied top and bottom.  When I finished it was pleasant to sit inside the lodge and just try to remember what a sacred place this is for me and what it meant to those before me. 

Then I remembered a vacation we took out west.  It was Richard and I, our son Ryan and girlfriend Tere.  (They are married today.)  It must have been about 1994.   We were headed to Wyoming, the destination was Atlantic City and a wagon train ride on the Oregon Trail (also Mormon Trail).  That is another story.

We camped at a place called the Terry Bison Ranch.  We were driving pick-up trucks and sleeping in tents on the ground.  This ranch had a nice restaurant, entertainment and you could also rent horses and ride.  Well, of course, we wanted to ride.  When they ask if you can ride, we said yes......   I know they were thinking, sure, sure, just some more Easterners who want to be "cowboys"!  The guide told us there would be NO CANTERING.   It wasn't long before they knew we were serious horse people, we knew to check the see if the girth was tight before mounting and I ask them to shorten my stirrups.  We got to do more than just mosey along when they knew we could ride.  There were two amazing things that happen to us that evening at sunset.  As we rode the mesa of brown colored prairie grass and green sage, we came to the edge, down below was a "Dances with Wolves" moment for me, the bison grazed there by the hundreds!  It took my breath away and I still get goosebumps remembering.  It was so beautiful!

The second thing to happen and I think it happened because we could ride.  We were taken to a place on the prairie that had revealed something the ranch people had never seen until that summer.  As we rode our horses on this plane of flat open country, our guide pointed out an amazing thing upon the earth.  He explained because of all the rains this summer and of course the wind blows constantly out in the west, something had been uncovered after who know how many years of concealment.
As we looked where he pointed we could see them too.  Circles of flat stones lay on the earth, there were anywhere maybe 15 or 20 circles of stones, different sizes too.   These flat stones held down the liners inside the tipi lodges from long ago.  I was in a sacred place, a place where true indigenous people had walked and lived.  Wow, what a special gift to see this place.  I remember these things as I sit inside my tipi lodge.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I have two nightgown stories............  they both make me giggle just remembering them.

The memory occurs when my children were young.  For some reason I went out on the front porch in my knee length, ruffled nightgown.  We live in the country, so you can get away with things like this.... but when the door slammed shut behind me, I knew I was in big trouble.  The door was locked and my ruffled nightgown was caught!  Couldn't pull it through and no one else was up to help me.  So for a few brief moments I thought about slipping out of the nightgown and making a dash around the house to the back door.  My senses came to me when I realized how long I'd be in the open as I made this dash.  We don't live that far from the road and farmers (who love to road farm)  they often use our road on the way to the local coffee house in Cedarville.  I couldn't risk being the morning topic at the coffee shop and I continued to push the doorbell until someone got up and finally let me in the house.

My second memory comes during the same time period, probably early 80's.   I was talking to a friend on the phone as I sat at the dining room table, looking out the front window.  Along comes a County mower on a big green John Deere tractor.  We mow on both sides of the road, our mail box is across the road, so it looks very nice in the summer.  In the middle of the mowed, well kept area of our mailbox, grows a big patch of wild tiger lilies.  They were green but not blooming.

As I'm talking to my friend, this guy on the mower, lifts the mower up to pass what we mow and go around the mail box.  Then he proceeds to drop the mower on the bed of tiger lilies and mow them off.  I am off the phone and out the door in a flash!  Yelling loud enough to be heard over the tractor and mower!!!  The driver probably doesn't hear me, but he sees this wild looking woman, in her knee length ruffled nightgown, that perhaps had be wash to thread bear.  He looks like a "deer in headlights", he politely turns the mower off and takes off his ear protection to see what the heck I wanted.  I proceed to give him a lecture about the difference between flowers and weeds.

As I recall, he was just a kid, doing his summer job.  I expect he learned a little about flowers that day, but he also learned that women in flying nightgowns are not to be messed with!  By the way, we have lived here for 34 years and the flowers out there were never mowed down again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Water Bed and the UPS Man

A few years back, I noticed that I'd wake up in the morning and my shoulder was damp.  It occurred to me that our water-bed had a little tiny leak.  I tried to patch it with various things, fingernail polish, duct tape, vinyl patching product and then just resorted to a towel under my shoulder each night.  It was most annoying!  We have had our water bed for years, yep, you could say, "since they first came out".  Was that really back in the 70's?  We like the water-bed, it's always cozy warm to crawl into at night.  It has never bothered my back, but I will say that Richard didn't like sleeping in it after his rotator cuff surgery.  But, I am not sure he could be comfortable in a more conventional bed either.

OK, back to the leak.  So, my daughter, Emily says, "Mom, get online and order a new liner".  Well that is pretty easy.  I placed the order and it arrived by UPS when I was out of town.  My husband just moved it inside the house and when I came home we would dealt with it.  Now many of you know that water-beds hold lots of water and getting the water out is not an easy task.  The day we decided to replace the liner, Emily was there to help.  We had drained as much water as we could out of the bladder, but it was still squishy with liquid.  Lifting it out of the frame was difficult, water is heavy!  Plus, the liner was like picking up jello with your fingers tips.  It tends to squirm and fall every which way.  We decided to move it by trying to put it into the cardboard box that the new one came in, of course, it was bigger than the box.  So it kind of eked out the top. the cardboard started tearing so I proceeded to duct tape the box to keep the squishy liner inside.
We managed to drag, scoot and lift it to the front porch.  Richard said he'd use the bobcat to move it out the the curb on trash day.  Trash day was almost a week away and it rained sometime during the week, creating a more unstable box.

In the mean time, I'd had some gourds delivered by UPS and several had gotten broken.  So I was dealing with UPS to make a claim.  They told me to pack up the broken gourds and they'd send a UPS truck to pick them up.  So I waited for this to happen.

One day I was going to the mailbox and realized the water-bed in a cardboard box that was sitting at the front door was gone.  The thought crossed my mind that Richard didn't haul it to the curb, but where did it go?  Couldn't figure it out at all, even Richard was puzzled.  The next day my UPS man came to pick up my broken gourds.  Off hand I ask him if he'd come the day before and he said no, he was off yesterday.  For some reason I told him my puzzlement regarding the water-bed liner in a taped together cardboard box.  Then he said "Ohhhh, so that is why my boss ask me this morning about that broken box with a water-bed liner sitting on the office floor at UPS!"  My UPS guy knew nothing about it, he'd had a sub yesterday.   Then we both started laughing, trying to figure how this UPS sub managed to get my water-bed liner into his truck and then into UPS. 

The story doesn't end............  UPS sent this box back to the company I'd ordered the liner from and less than a week later a new water-bed liner arrived from the company!!!!   Of course, UPS then had to come out and get the new liner and ship it back to the company, we certainly didn't need another liner.

Today I ran into my UPS guy at another place of business in Yellow Springs.  He and I just look at each other and start laughing.   The people around us think we are loosing it!  I know UPS guys have a bunch of funny things happen, if a book was written, this story might make the pages.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More on Friends

I have been blessed with many friends, of the human kind.  I also have had many animal friends.  I remember them fondly, many are no longer walking this earth.  Their friendship was just as important to me as my two legged friends.  They also shaped who I am today.  Maybe making me a better person than I might have been if they weren't in my life.

I have had horses that I felt such a connection with, that even today as I write this the tears fill my eyes.  They were always there listening to my secrets, sharing some grief or embarrassing moment.  They instinctively knew my heart was in distress and would stand quietly and wait until I had recovered enough to go for a nice long ride.  Taking me back to nature always healed my wounds. 

The dogs that have been in my life are numerous and memorable.  They are so perceptive about the feelings you are having.  Don't you wish people were that sensitive?  What a world we would live in if that were the case. 

In this photo, left to right, Trudy our wonderful quarter horse mare, Feasty, our anglo/arab, my Arab, Bones and Arab, Knipper.  Our dog Paula in the front.  They were all getting their pictures taken for 1992 Christmas card.  Trudy, Feasty and Paula are no longer with us.

Yes, I just had to mention my four legged friends.  I have been blessed by them all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Old Friends......

Yesterday one of my friends from long ago came into town.  We grew up together, going to the same school for the entire twelve years.  I see her today as she looked all those years ago.  Young, happy, and just as funny as she always was.  We have friends in common that we grew up with, none of us have changed.   We are sure that we look as young as we once did and it is only other people who have changed.

Funny how our minds play these tricks on us.  What is our brain hiding from us that would be so shocking for us to know?  Could it be we do have more character lines than we did in high school.  Maybe, our hair has changed color, but then who really knows it could be that color on purpose.  We all still talk the same and our giggles are the same.  We all fall into the pattern of who we were in school, the ones that had a lot to say then, still do now.  The ones that quietly listen, still quietly listen now.  And yet, I know we have all changed.  I know that I have become more outspoken, but sometimes hide that when I'm around these friends, I like listening to them, hearing their opinions and their stories.  As I get older, I am a little more outspoken with them.  I guess it is about time, we have been out of high school for 42 years now!

This group of friends I ran around with, had a very close bond.  We had very similar life styles, most lived in the rural area, their fathers were farmers.  We were all in 4-H together, went to summer camp together, went swimming at Orton Pool on hot summer evenings and we went to school from first grade to grade twelve.  We went to football games, school dances, basketball games, ate lunch together and shared the same classes.  Our graduating class had 54 graduates.  We were all pretty close. 

The most fun I remember having with these friends were the slumber parties!  Oh my gosh, I can't imagine anything we did that was more fun.  I had one at least once a year, usually for my birthday.  There were always another one or two besides me that had yearly slumber parties.  We'd all bring our 45 records and play music on the old record player into the night.  We'd giggle about boys and probably did our share of gossiping.  Don't think we ever got much sleep, we had all next day to catch up on that!  We all loved being together and didn't want to waste a minute sleeping.

As adults we had a slumber party at my house.  We left the husband's with the kids and we all got together for an overnight.  We were probably in our 40's.  It was fun.  We always seemed to have something to talk about, we were all in the same stages of life.  We had the same problems and the same joys.  And so it is today, we can still talk together like no time has passed and yet we know it has. 

My friends gathered at my home the year of our 40th class reunion.  It was the only event planned, our class was never very good at planning the reunions.  But the "ole gang" got together.  We laughed about things that happened in classes, the teachers, the classmates.  Oh my, the stories we have.......

Cherish every stage of your life, share it with those around you with joy and laughter.  If you can't share joy and laughter, share the tears too.  We all understand, we all love one another and it will again bring us back to joy and laughter. I celebrate the friends of my youth, I celebrate all the friends in my life, they have helped me be the person I am today.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Becoming an Artist

I grew up in a home with creative people.  I didn't especially think about my parents as creative, but looking back, I know where some of my gifts have come from.  My Father built the house we lived in.  He had so much talent.  My Mother was right beside him, helping, designing and creating our home.

My Grandmother, Gladys Rankin, was a seamstress.  She had her own business making little girls smocked dresses.  I'm not sure how or when this all began, I do remember going with her on Saturdays to make dress deliveries in Dayton, Ohio.  Her business name was "Miller Frocks".  My Grandmother has been gone many years now, I still have many of her sewing labels and buttons and even some of the fabric with smocking on it.  My Mother often helped her make dresses.  I remember the sewing room in our house that was used for creating beautiful little dresses.   (This photo was taken in 1956 at Easter, Grandma's dresses)

I too learned to sew.  I took sewing projects in 4-H, everything from nightgowns to formal wear.  There was no end to the sewing  possibilities.  My daughters also took sewing projects in 4-H.  I kept sewing as a young married wife.  Making curtains, children's play clothes and later quilts.  I still have all the equipment to sew, including a quilting machine.  For awhile I quilted other peoples pieced quilts.  My sewing room waits, just in case I want to come back and sew.

As my children got older and we began to move into horses and outdoor sports, I stopped sewing so much.
Now it is hard to even plug in the machine to patch a pair of jeans.  Funny how things change.  But my sewing knowledge has been helpful in what I do now.  In fact, many things I learned to do while being a homemaker has proved to be an asset in gourd art.  As a homemaker, besides sewing, I learned to weave baskets, I took a couple of jewelery making classes, I have been a gardener, and I have handled tools in my husbands shop. 

All of these things are important steps to being a gourd artist.  The sewing stitches come when I do a coil weave of fibers on the rim of a gourd.  The basket skills have helped me do weaving techniques, knowing how jewelery is put together helps with beading projects on gourds.   Of course knowing how to use hand tools and this helps with cleaning and opening gourds.  Gardening gourds is another adventure that taught me the joy of growing gourds!  

My biggest hangup had to do with artwork............   I'd never been encouraged to spend time drawing, took not one art class in school (beyond elementary art projects, where everyone makes exactly the same thing!).
So drawing on gourds to create any kind of design has taken lots of practice.   Some of my early pieces are very primitive and I am more than a little shocked people paid money for these gourds.  But alas, my artwork has evolved and more often than not, pleases me.  Oh, I still have some work that is very questionable, but that is how we learn.  I started my gourd work in 1999.  I still have a passion to do it and love everything about gourds. 

In 2008, I took my first real art class from wonderful painter.  Amelia Bhatnagar, has been so supportive of my primitive attempts at painting with acrylics.  Because of her encouragement I plowed forward, often without  fear, it is only just paint on paper.  If it doesn't work, paint over it, I like that!   No mistakes, only lessons in what works and what doesn't.  The first year I painted 42 paintings.  Some I love, others, not so much.   But it is fun to see the growth.  From my paintings I have made prints, cards and a calendar.  I have had the most fun! 

I am always excited and eager for the next creative expression to be shown to me.  Taking pictures this past summer with my digital camera has been amazing.  I never know what will come next and isn't that a wonderful thing?  The doors are always opening and I am thrilled to be on the threshold of those open doors.