Thursday, December 31, 2009

Straddling the New Year

Well we carried out our wacko plan. More precisely, I helped the children carry out their wacko plan. We rang in the New Year twice.

For anyone who hasn't read the blog since the very beginning, we live very close to the North Dakota line. As it turns out, we live more than very close, we live ON the North Dakota line. While Dad was here he looked up the property description at the county office, and found that the rear of our property directly abuts our neighboring state.

Also for anyone who hasn't read the blog since the very beginning, the children were planning to walk across the line into 2010. Are you kidding? Almost midnight and how many bazillion degrees below zero? In all honesty, during the summertime I didn't see the flaw in walking, either. But sleepy, warm, snuggled in bed at 10:30 pm, the faults were glaring.

So we drove over to the gas pumps, just across the line, and sat there. Devon didn't come, being tired and oh yes, frostbitten (doing superbly, by the way - can't even tell it happened), Jack wasn't insane, so it was just Damon, Tiggy, and me. We sat there for several minutes, till our clock read several minutes after 11 MST, just to be sure, wished each other a happy new year, and drove back into 2009.

The little gravel road that marks our rear property line has the state line running right down the middle of it. So, if you can believe it, we were driving along in both 2009 AND 2010!!! I was in the old year, and the kids were in the new. The car was just confused.

An hour later, the children rang in the new year...again. I snored softly.

Happy New Year!

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Helpful Hints from the Northland

Give the sheriff plenty of time to get there.

Subzero Light Show

First, an update on Earboy: the affected area continues to heal, redder than the surrounding tissue but with excellent capillary refill. Pip pip may keep both his ears...this time.

Christmas lights are a staple of the holiday season across this whole grand country of ours. Still, it should come as no surprise that this area has its own little twist on this favorite mode of decoration. Of course, there are many traditional displays, too, but as you scroll down keep your eyes peeled for...well, just about anything.

A couple weeks ago, we went to a park in Williston, that had been converted into a drive-thru light display. Many of the displays were linked to music being broadcast from wee little FM channels, right there in the park.

At $5 a car, it was one of the few paid attractions I've seen in this area in any season. Some of the museums charge admission, but you wouldn't believe how many places are just plain free.

Plentywood had some very competitive light-putter-uppers, including one on the main street that had their own lights coordinated with their radio broadcast, just like at the Williston show, only it was a house. The kids made sure we remembered to put the radio on 88.9 FM every time we drove past. Maybe by next year I can post a video of that one.

One family went all-out, decorating every square inch of their whole property, front, back, and sideways.

And this one here, ok I have to admit to a bit of a camera glitch. If it had really looked like this, it would have been overkill

by any standards. "And right here in our own Plentywood, we have a man-made display of the famed Aurora borealis!"

As for the last two pictures, they could definitely go under the heading, "Only in Montana."

Whether you're an enthusiastic recycler - even more than Tina and me put together, or just wanted to hitch a reindeer up to an old horse-drawn road grader for kicks, Montana is the place for you.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Helpful Hints from the Northland

Contact the Snowplow Guy right away.

He has to put all that snow somewhere, and where better than in front of every unoccupied house in town? Once a new resident is there, he promises to put those huge piles of snow somewhere else. Where, I'm not exactly sure.

Yellow Birthday

Tiggy turned 11, and we had a happenin' birthday party. It was yellow. Macaroni, corn, garlic bread, lemonade, and probably some other yellow things I've forgotten by now.

We ate the cake, lemon of course, elegantly decorated by the birthday girl, then she and I took a walk down to get the mail after dark. Woo-hoo! Party animals!

On the way home, we stopped off in the front ditch so she could show me the snow cave they'd been digging. I was definitely impressed, and even more so when they continued to dig it out after subsequent storms covered it over. Over and over and over again.

It's still down there somewhere.


Helpful Hints from the Northland

Don't leave your soda cans in the car.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #1

1. You look at the stars. First of all, you can see them. That's different. They're all wrong, too. None of the constellations are where they belong - some are nearly upside down, and you're pretty sure a few are backwards. Then you can't find the North Star...till you realize it's overhead.

Yes, Toto, you aren't in California any more.

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #2

2. "Frizzle" is an actual, official weather term, not just something you did to your hair with a bad blow dryer.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Pip pip, the Naughty One-Eared Chicken

Eric B. Hare, a missionary to Burma back in the early 1900's, told the story of Pip pip, the naughty chicken. Pip pip lived in the jungle with his family, and always disobeyed his mother. When she cluck-clucked for him to come, he would say, "Pip-pip-pip-pip-pip, I'm a big chicken now! I don't have to obey my mother."

Always he was the first one out of the coop in the morning, and the last one into it at night. Day after day, despite repeated warnings, he continued his independent and disobedient behavior. And then one fateful day, he waited too long to return. By the time he got to the coop, the door was locked up tight, and he couldn't get in. The next morning, Mr. Hiss the snake could be seen nearby with a conspicuous lump in his belly.

And no more Naughty Pip pip.

We went to eat dinner with friends today, braving blowing snow and serious wind chills of -30 to get there. After a lovely meal, the kids wanted to help feed the lambs, and take a few slides on the snow saucer thingys. Not all of them had brought every single item of winter clothing they would need, so our friends kindly gathered hats and mittens for them. Most straightly we warned them, as we always do when wind chills are so severe, that they must not set foot outside without the proper coverings. So they all went out in compliance, though not without several arguments from Devon.

A little while later, they came back in. Damon and Tiggy stayed, but Devon went back out shortly. A few minutes later, Jack noticed Devon's borrowed hat and mittens sitting on the counter by the microwave.

Just as I reached the back door to call the disobedient little troll in for a good scolding, in he walked. The good news, I suppose, is that now I know I can recognize frostbite at a glance. Skin turned white, check, frozen solid and hard, check. A stretch along the folded rim of his outer ear (helix) was completely rigid.

He cried through our hasty efforts to warm his ear back up. As with any frostbite, only time will tell how severe the permanent damage is, and it's bound to look very ugly before it gets better. All I can hope is that, whether he loses a piece of his ear or not, that his listening skills improve.

If not, my hair will be snowy-white by spring.

Please - no more adventures for a while,
Noni Beth

Thursday, December 24, 2009

We Remember

December 24, 2002, 8 months pregnant Laci Peterson was reported missing. Not quite four months later, she and her son, Conner, were found dead in the same area her husband, Scott, was known to have gone fishing around the time she disappeared.

Scott Peterson is now on death row in San Quentin State Prison.

Laci and Conner are buried in a peaceful cemetery in Escalon, CA, not far from where we went to church. They are not forgotten - not by their grieving families, and not by the millions of lives they touched.

Right around the corner from our home was a touching memorial to a teen named Justin, killed several years ago by a hit-and-run driver. On a sign posted to the cross, his mother still pleads for "Justice for Justin". The driver who took that young man's life has never been found.

It would never be possible for a mere human to catalogue the pain and suffering that so often seems worst during the holidays - the broken family circles, the lives changed forever by loss. As we go through a time of year that, for most of us, is brimming with goodwill and cheer, let us be sure to remember those mourning for their loved ones, and to pray that we, too, will be ready for that glorious reunion when death is no more, and peace reigns forever.

In Memoriam,
Noni Beth

Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
Psalm 56:8

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #3

3. You find that, in many places, the lines on the road are imaginary until spring. No worries, just follow the tracks. Right down the middle of the road.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Muroidea on the Loose!

Living out in the country, mice are common. Even for those who have lots and lots and lots of cats are likely to have a few persistent fellas who migrate in out of the fields, drawn by tales of the Great Food Rush of 18.049. (Mouse years are much shorter than ours.) Those who have cat-killing dogs have an uphill battle with mice. Not that I ever knew anyone like that.

What is not so common, far from the cities and landfills, is the large muroid, Rattus rattus: the rat. Somehow Tina, even with her plethora of cats, has acquired one in her garage. (To head off scientific corrections before they start, let me say that it is possible that her new resident is a member of Rattus norvegicus. However, in the presence of an eyewitness - however unreliable - alleging that the rodent is black, I have opted for the likelier choice of Rattus rattus.)

Now, we like rats. Growing up, we had them for pets. They were funny, intelligent, and very, very loving. They rode everywhere on our shoulders. Once I even accidentally took one with me to choir practice. There was an extra rehearsal coming up on a performance, and I totally forgot about the baby rat curled up asleep in my Special Womanpurse. That is, until my bosom began heaving quite independently right in the middle of a song.

So this new rat was more a source of curiosity than panic. Of course it did eat Grandpa's Christmas present, but people who store peanuts in a garage known to have a large rodent inside have to expect things like that to happen. Tina has even good-naturedly teased her children about having their toes nibbled in the night, ha ha.

The other morning, as Tina got up to take her shower, Laura was still fast asleep. Creeping over to the bed, Tina reached under the covers at the foot of the bed and began to pinch Laura's feet. Pinch, pinch. Pinch. Pinch, pinch, pinch, pinch. Will this child never wake up? Pinch, pinch, pinch.

At last her efforts bore fruit. Laura sprang awake with a roaring shriek.


I'd have a picture for you, if only Tina had taken one.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #4

4. Here, the good children get coal in their stockings.

Oh Shenandoah

Oh, Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
And hear your rolling river,
Oh Shenandoah,
I long to see you,
Away, I'm bound away,
Across the wide Missouri.

Today's fast fact about the above folk song: no one is sure where it came from, exactly. (And Montana may not have the Shenandoah Valley, but it has a very long stretch of the Missouri, currently frozen.) This song probably came from the riverboatment originally, though it was also sung by escaped and escaping slaves, grateful that the river would hide their scent.

As with most pictures of Devon, here he is just about to get in trouble. Again. "But Mom, there isn't any water here. It's all frozen!" "Ok, Devon Smartypants, where exactly does the water begin?" "Uh, I dunno." "EXACTLY! NOW GET OFF THE ICE!!!"

He's very fortunate to have a talented mom who can take photographs and scold at the same time.

Last week was sure busy. We were still practicing for the school Christmas program, and then on Thursday I played dinner music for the Garden Club in Plentywood. At last at long last Tina and I can find out whose houses are nominated for Best Garden each month during the summer. Why not during the winter? That's what I'd like to know. Surely there is someone willing to tackle the challenge of creating a beautiful winter garden, heavily relying on a white color scheme. No, I'm not volunteering.

The music all went well, except for one little part, when I sang Chestnuts Roasting O'er an Open Fire. Being the semi-efficient sort of person that I am, I had stopped off at the bank to make copies of it on the way there, so I wouldn't have to turn pages. (Everyone makes their copies at the bank - didn't you know that?) Of course I sang quietly so as not to disturb the bustling conversation, but by the third note they had shushed each other into silence. That way they were able to hear far too well when I got to the bottom of the first page and found that I had chopped off the bottom part of the music. Oops, and the second page, too.

In for a penny, in for a pound. I plunged courageously through, telling myself that those chords were meant to be kinda jazzy anyway. And boy, were they! For some reason I opted not to take the repeat.

Friday, the kids and I spent the whole day driving a giant loop through North Dakota and back into Montana. First was Alexander, ND. It was a whopping 15 degrees there, and we thought spring had come. That part of the trip was where we crossed the wide Missouri, stopping at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, or something like that.

There's a bunch of Lewis-and-Clark-named stuff here, as you'd expect, but nothing like Prince Edward Island. I took the kids when they were very small, and EVERYTHING there is named for some Lucy Maude Montgomery story. The Anne of Green Gables Windy Poplars Toilet Paper might have been over the top.

Speaking of Poplar, as we passed through that town, I was surprised to see an old paddleboat sitting beside the road. Once a ferry on the Missouri, it now graces the front yard of the Poplar Museum, formerly known as the Fort Peck Tribal Jail. It doesn't open till June, so until then I won't be able to see the cells, now filled with saleable Native American artwork. I read that the names of some of the prisoners are still scratched into the walls.

On to Wolf Point, up to Scobey, and at last...east, south, north, west, north, east, home is best. I'm almost sure that's how the poem went.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #6

6. The houses have names. When someone asks you, "Where do you live?", you don't give them the address. You tell them, "I live in the old Johannsen place."

There, I did it! I thought of one more thing that didn't have anything to do with freezing weather! Funny, but I could come up with a lot more of those in the summertime.

Oops, I did it. I turned even this into a post about the temperature.

Troll, The Ancient Yuletide Carol

It's always so hard to pick just one, but this year a movie-imitating late-comer has scooped up this year's nomination for Yuletide Troll, 2009. I was so sure Devon was going to win, too.

We'll get to that in a bit. Wintertime in the Frozen Northland is quite an experience. Just when we were getting used to the outlandish 15-30 degree weather, (-9 to -1 for all you Celsius people), the temperature plummeted. It was bad enough when our highs weren't even getting above freezing. Now, our highs are doing good to get above zero. At all. In fact, this coming Sabbath they're predicting a high of -9 (-23C).

The other morning I went out in -24 weather that, with the wind chill factor, felt like -38. (Which, oddly enough, is -38.888888888C. I guess that's about where the two scales cross paths.) It wasn't really any worse than the other stuff. I could get used to this, eventually.

The local elves put up the Christmas decorations around town. I'm going to have to keep trying to get a good picture, since I'm finding that my camera is rather sluggish about focusing in extreme weather.

All three kids warble carols day and night. Two of them even know the words. One of Devon's favorite songs is We Wish You a Merry Christmas, and he always has such a hard time remembering the word "kin". He knows it means family, so he substitutes other words in when he needs to, which is most of the time. "Chill-dren" and "kill-dren" are his new favorites.

All three kids have also been making tiny snow angels wherever we go. Hey, there's only so much you can do with 1/2 inch of snow. And on the other blog, there's a picture of Devon making snow angels ~ in the road! ~ right before I hemmed him up. He's sure glad there was no "after" picture...

People around here really believe in their heat. I had kinda expected that, since it was so cold outside, everyone would keep their houses, oh, say about 50 degrees. Nope, everybody so far keeps it quite warm, and some downright tropical. We seem to keep our house cooler than average, being more used to the mild California winters and lower heat settings. Kinda ironic.

So, the Yuletide Troll 2009 award. It belongs to an anonymous local child. We'll call her Lindsay. Having just watched that horrible Christmas classic, A Christmas Story, she had expressed curiosity to her mother as to whether tongues will really freeze to metal in the wintertime. Lindsay's mother assured her that yes, they most definitely would, and to NOT TRY IT! It had not worked out well for her big brother, or anyone else, either.

Lindsay was still curious. Very, very, curious. She went over to visit my niece, and talked to her about it. Now they were both curious. What would happen? Would it really work? What to do, what to do? At last, they reached a decision. Scientific inquiry must be satisfied.

"Oh Little Brooooooother," my niece called.

A few minutes later, my sister-in-law was startled by her hysterical daughter screaming, "Help, help, help! Bubba's got his tongue stuck to the pole! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!"

What followed wasn't pretty. Let's just say that, even yet, the pole bears mute testimony of my little nephew's struggle against nature. You can also see why Lindsay was a shoo-in, even going up against such a formidable competitor as the Asphalt Angelmaker. My niece won Best Supporting Troll, and Devon, for the first time in his life, dropped into third place. He's going to have to get back on his game if he wants to have a chance to regain his supremacy by 2010.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Friday, December 4, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #7

7. You walk outside to leave, forgetting the windshield is icy. No problem, you push the washer button. Nothing happens. At 10 degrees, your fluid is frozen. Right. You go inside, get a large cup of cold water and pour it on the windshield. Before you can turn on the wipers, it freezes into an even thicker sheet of ice. Nice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #9

9. You try to prepay your gas and are told, "I'm sorry, but that's against our policy. You'll have to pump first."

Top 10 Reasons Why You Know You Aren't In California Any More #10

10. After potluck, you forget your crock pot full of beans in the car for three days. Instead of holding a funeral, you put them in the refrigerator to thaw.

Friday, November 27, 2009

New Blog

Little Nuggets

A little slow-moving, since the blogees often get grounded from the computer, this one belongs to the kids. They are allowed to freely share their every thought and feeling. Carefully censored, of course. (Meaning all the dirt on me gets edited.)

Feel free to offer comments or helpful advice, especially on school writing assignments.


It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Thanksgiving

November 26, 2009

As a semi-reformed procrastinator, I put off Thanksgiving prep until yesterday morning. There was a time, ok maybe even last year, or the year before, when I waited until Thanksgiving morning and then remembered all the things that should have been started at least one day in advance. So, for me, I wasn't doing too badly.

Though if anyone says anything about wiping pumpkin off the ceiling, I have no idea what they're talking about.

The only problem with my clever plan, is that almost everything in the world I needed to turn out a nice dinner was still packed. I had to haul in all the kitchen boxes from the cottage, and all the food boxes, too. It's getting too cold to leave canned food outside here, since eventually it will burst.

Even with all the boxes, I couldn't find my measuring spoons. Still haven't, for that matter. I had to run to town anyway, so now I'll have two sets. Eventually. What with the trip to town for Jack (note: you don't really think I would go to the store the day before Thanksgiving for MY benefit, do you?) and Damon being sick with the Whine Flu, I didn't get nearly as much done as I wanted. In fact, I nodded off on the couch trying to get him to stop fussing. Half past midnight, and I woke up enough to get the soy chicken skins in their overnight marinade before keeling over again.

First thing in the morning, I had to run to town one last time (note: ditto) before beginning my meal prep and trying to get my disaster area cleaned up so we could eat. As the day wore on...and on...and on......things began to drop off the menu, one by one. No way was I getting rid of the mashed potatoes and gravy, though.

I'm not even a little bit ashamed to admit that I always use instant mashed potatoes, whether for every day or special events. They taste better, and are faster and cleaner besides. Sounds like win win win to me! (Tina always made the real mashed potatoes for our holiday dinners.) The only reason I departed from my luscious tradition this year was a nice lady from church gave us a 5 gallon bucket filled with giant homegrown potatoes. So, for the second time in my life, I tried my hand at home-made.

If anyone blathers on about blenders and mashed potatoes, don't listen to them. I don't have any idea what they're talking about.

I boiled the potatoes, but since I was running every shorter on time, my obliging kitchen helper, Tiggy, had to help out with the mashing. She added the milk just like I told her to, and mashed her little heart out. That doesn't sound so good. Let's just say she tried real hard.

Tiggy and I had another little surprise up our sleeves. While Jack was busy frying the chicken skins, she and I sneaked down and got our kitchen table out of the shop. The long, farmhouse-style eating counter was fine for everyday, but we wanted to be able to all sit down at a table for a special dinner. Together.

The first anyone knew of it, we burst through the kitchen door, grunting, perspiring, and with difficulty maneuvering the legs around the door jamb. Voila! Instant family dinner! (Some chairs would have been nice. We made do with the piano bench, stools, and Jack's office chair.) It was a roaring success, if by success you mean slopping sparkling cider on the new tablecloth (oh wait - that was me), and swapping uncultured stories, like when Devon's pants fell down on the playground - while he was dangling from the monkey bars. Some of these stories have already been told to the pastor on his Bible study visits, I'm sorry to say. And it wasn't long before we discovered that our potatoes were mashed in name only.

It was perfect.

The only thing that could have made it better would be to have the whole family with us, too. We missed you guys!

Until next year,
Always thankful

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Do You Know the Muffit Man?

He lives on Prairie Lane!
~ Lyrics courtesy of Devon

The other night I sent Damon out to empty the kitchen trash. This is a pretty normal activity for him, since he's my #1 Trash Fella.

He came back in cackling, having startled a cat in the process of ransacking our garbage. In this case, "startled" translated into "climbing the telephone pole".

A few minutes later, he and Devon crept back out, hoping to "startle" the cat again. And so they did. I don't blame them for their excitement. For many years now, we have had a cat-killing dog. Word spread around the neighborhood feline population, and we had very few visitors. Certainly none that climbed telephone poles. (Mayer lives in a new home in California now, with his own irrigation ditch to swim in. We felt that a west coast outdoor dog would have a difficult adjustment to being a Montana outdoor dog. There's quite a difference between +30 and -60!)

The next time, the boys took Clancy. Clancy chases cats, not eats them. Maybe a nibble once in a while, but no more. Well, this time they caught larger prey than feral felines. With a bay and a lunge, Clancy took off after the deer, racing off into the night.

A few minutes later there was still no sign of him, so Damon and Devon went out to look. They were gone for quite a while, considering that one of them was scared of the dark. In fact, not realizing they were still out hunting, I turned off all the porch and entryway lights.

A few minutes later a light bobbed up the driveway. They had found their prodigal and returned home, huddled together in the sub-freezing temperatures, holding aloft a lantern like a double Diogenes.

That little story ended with a sawed-off milk carton set out full of cat food. Poor Diesel didn't have any left, and I had to buy him some more. If the neighborhood cats don't get it, the raccoons will.

November 28, 2009

Damon has been sick with a fever for several days. At first I thought he might be trying to milk out a couple extra days of vacation, but no, he was really sick. He couldn't possibly have held soap under his arms for 3 days running.

Having been asked to sing special music Thanksgiving night at the Lutheran church here in town, I made all my plans accordingly. Late in the day yesterday, I found out the program was actually in a couple of hours. All right, well I can roll with that.

When I got there, they started the program, following their bulletin to the letter. I read it repeatedly, but there was no mention of any special music at all, never mind my one little song. I stayed for most of the program, but still no music, and no sign of the person who had asked me to sing. Oh dear, oh dear. Feeling very awkward, I finally decided to duck out a few minutes before the end of the program.

The offering afforded the perfect opportunity. With all eyes turned elsewhere, I sneaked out the door, slipped outside, and began tiptoeing to the car. Just then, a side door burst open, and to my horror I saw the pastor, in full ecclesiastical garments, running to stop me. Since I had seen her moments before, alone on the platform, it wasn't hard to guess that my stealthy departure had suddenly become most conspicuous.

As we walked in together, she explained that she had been just about to call for me, and when she looked up, I was gone. Since the floor didn't open up and swallow me, I went ahead and sang. I'm sure the bright glow came entirely from my beautiful crimson cashmere sweater. It went well despite everything, and several people even asked me to come back.

I promised not to sneak away again.

The next adventure has already happened,
Noni Beth


Monday, November 9, 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Damon started it. Told to leave the water hose trickling so Dad could use it in the morning, he instead left it on full blast, turning part of the driveway into an amateur skating rink. We all had a good laugh about it, little knowing the icy havoc our innocent guffaws would wreak.

Devon, being the sort of boy he is, reasoned, "If that much water was so funny, then a lot of water will be even funnier!" And, ever one to find his own drummer, he dragged out a few supplies and went to work.

The next morning, Jack got up long before sunup. As he went out the front door, an ominous hissing sounded off to the left. Imagine his surprise when he found a gnome sprinkler blasting a fine spray of water over the yard, and puddles all through the grass! Muttering, he made sure the water got turned off.

Every last drop froze into a crystalline wonderland. Quickly, too - after all, we're not in California any more. Bare branches coated in ice, icicles from our drain spout, and a rigid lake where our lawn used to be. Saddest of all was the gnome, still smiling through his glacial tears.

There's No Place Like Gnome

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

60 on the Nose - California or Bust

Not us! We are still here!

Mom and Dad took off today, and it's amazing how much faster the truck goes, even up the hills, when it's empty. I could be wrong, but I think Dad was even going a bit over 60 at times. Some people might imply that my stuff was too heavy, but that's just plain unkind. Most of it was Jack's air compressor and generator. All the boxes of canned food, the kitchen table, clothes, and oh maybe just a few boxes of books were mere trifles, I assure you.

It was hard to say good-bye, so we put it off as long as we could. I had to run an errand in Plentywood, so Mom drove me in, following Dad in the truck. A couple of times I thought I heard her muttering something about wishing and slowing down and not passing trucks and stuff, but I could've been mistaken. It was pretty faint.

We all ate lunch at a cute little diner in downtown P-wood. Unfortunately, there is a limit to how many french fries a person can consume, and all too soon the dread moment arrived. We walked them out to the truck, except for Tiggy, who hobbled. (She had dropped a humongous board on her foot last night and badly bruised her foot.)

After a sad-but-short good-bye (after all, it was 1:00 pm and they had many miles to go before bedtime), we hurried to the road to wave till they were out of sight.

That turned out to be quite a while. The main drag of Plentywood is very flat and straight, and has to be at least a mile long. At 30 mph with a stoplight, well, you do the math. Our arms grew tired as we waved and waved and waved. They disappeared around the bend at the far end of town, and we lowered our arms. All except for Devon. "I can still see them," he insisted, still waving. I finally had to remove him bodily from the sidewalk.

We are all waiting eagerly for them to come back. For now, the house is quiet, and very, very empty.

Friday, October 23, 2009

35-60: End of the Road

So they caught us. All red-eyed and bleary, they caught us. Being good sports, we did the only kind thing we could: we cleared out of the room and let them borrow our beds for a couple hours till checkout time.

What to do? What to do? Stuck in West Yellowstone for several hours. There must be something we could do. Say.............we could go to Yellowstone! Good idea!

There were no buffalo. I will just tell you now before you can ask. All the flashing buffalo signs were for the elk. (The buffalo warning signs were flashing, not the buffalo themselves. Just to be clear.) In that area, the Madison elk herd takes advantage of the valley's special characteristics to increase their species. It is one of the last places to get snowed in and lose all the luscious grass, and one of the first to thaw come spring. The thick forests along the sides of the valley, until the '88 fire, provided shelter for the new calves when they were born. Already the new growth from the replanted trees looks pretty thick and lush, but apparently no one is quite sure what the elk will ultimately decide to do. I don't know - they looked pretty comfy to me.

Steam vents rose from the river as we drove along, doubtless making some of the fly fishermen very happy on such a cold, cold day. I mean, we saw snowflakes at breakfast, and here are all these men (I didn't see any women, whether there were any or not) standing up to their hips in frigid water, whipping their poles around as if they didn't have a care in the world. I'm sure it was pretty near the ultimate in fly fishing, if you're into that sort of thing.

There wasn't time to go all the way to Old Faithful, so we contented ourselves with taking a winding little side road and walking down to a steam vent that was so close to the bank it had been fenced off. It was so odd to stand there shivering at the edge of a boiling turquoise pool. It was even odder to hobble back to the car, looking around furtively to make sure no tourists were looking, when I'm used to leaping like a gazelle. Soon, very soon, I will leap again.

Anyhoo! Arriving back at the motel, we quickly tossed the last couple things in the car and took off, following Dad. Mom was already chafing at the slow pace long before we got to the first uphill stretch, and our speed dropped from 60 on down and down and down, until we were dashing along the highway at a breathtaking 35 mph.

Going through the town of Big Sky, which is still undergoing all sorts of road construction, we saw the craziest thing. This house had been shingled with all sorts of loops and whorls. Mom and I are still arguing about whether or not it was on purpose. We did agree that it was unlike any other roof either of us had ever seen.

Fast forward through a couple hundred miles of 35-60, and Mom was getting really eager to pick up speed. At last, reluctantly (on my part) we sped (on her part) off, leaving the boys to follow at their own speed. At about 11 pm we arrived home and tucked ourselves in.

Slowly but steadily, the menfolks joined us several hours later, and all grew quiet under the Big Sky.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Still Plugging Along

By sleeping in then working really hard, we managed to leave our cozy motel more than a half-hour before Dad and the boys left home, Day 1 for them.

Most people, I think, don't associate the desert with much precipitation of any sort, but Nevada has enough high desert mountains along the way, that we drove much of the time through a corridor of white-capped mountains. Right there in the desert.

Idaho went by pretty fast, though in full fall glory. Yep, we went by the Army Surplus Warehouse again, with Mom muttering something about why we needed to stop every single time to look at the pink camouflage. Although they do have a fine line of ladies' pink cammo, that isn't the main reason I always want to stop. First, it's a really cool place, and second, they have cases of hash browns for under $12. And third, it's a really cool place.

Pizza for supper, and an eclectic radio station passed the time till West Yellowstone. It was early enough we could have gone farther, but we were all tired. A rotating wifi sign caught us in its tractor beam. Damon called as we were getting tucked in to let us know they were in Elko, NV. Not bad for some fellas pulling a whole buncha stuff in a trailer and who didn't leave till 10 am. I know they couldn't go very fast up the mountains.

Then, at last, ah sweet peace and blissful slumber. Right up until the boys caught up to us while we were still in our pajamas.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

We're Just Plain Off

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

1510 Dad said a blessing, and we started off.

1511 Got partway down the driveway and stopped. Went back for money for the trip.

1512 Still waiting.

1514 Started again. Ah, Montana at last!

1514 Nope, nope, stopped again.

1517 Finally homeward bound! Nope, stopped toward the end of the driveway. False alarm, decided to keep going this time. (Mom says she was teasing, but I remain suspicious.)

1519 Choked, had to drink a whole bunch of water before I stopped coughing. This is going to be a great trip.

1520 Stopped at Burson Market. Hey, we needed the ice for our food, ok?

1523 Left market.

1524 Stopped at the Post Office.

1526 Without further ado, we left. I was comfortably reclined in front, perhaps because I was lying on a comforter. A matching flowery pillow padded my stomach. Fortunately, as it turned out, since I immediately dropped Mom's large wallet on myself. It still stung a little.

1527 Still driving - amazing!

It was rush hour when we got to Sacramento, so it really didn't take any longer to stop by the bookstore than it would have to park on the freeway. Tina called up shortly after we got back on the road, finding traffic much better than before. "You can hate me now," I told her. Of course she wanted to know why. "Because I just left our favorite bookstore, and am riding down the road munching on veggie teriyaki jerky, and holding the newest book in the series about David."

She tried to control her envy so I couldn't gloat, but I knew it was there.

Mom talked to somebody on the phone, explaining that the other group, consisting of Dad, Damon, and Devon, might be camping, but the "motel sissies" were NOT going to do any such thing. In the back, I could hear Tiggy chanting, "Gimme an M! Gimme an O!"

So we didn't get very far, but look how late we left. And left. And left. About 10:30 pm we stopped in Winnemucca and got a room with wifi. Three cheers for the internet! Now we're ready to take off again, so I'll bring this to a close before Mom pries the computer out of my protesting little fingers.

A close.

Tiggy, may I have some ice in my cup?
Great. Thanks.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Very Quick Update

After such a long time since posting, I only have time for a pathetic little update. though I have been working on a longer post.

Important highlights:

Last post - October 8 lunchtime: Frantic, boring activity trying to get everything packed and cleaned.
October 8 afternoon: All finished, turn keys over to new owner.
October 9: My surgery for adenomyosis, as it turned out to be. (They weren't entirely sure what my diagnosis was before the surgery, just Really Bad Lady Stuff.)
October 13: Released from hospital.
October 13 - present: Patient, boring recovery from surgery. I miss being able to carry stuff.

More to follow, but that's the most important part. A VERY interesting trip awaits. Good-bye California, hello Frozen Northland.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trying to Be Patient...or just a trying patient!

October 14, 2009

A month and a day since I posted, but not too much of a surprise considering how much I've gotten done during that time. Even then, I would never have finished without all the help of my loyal family. This is starting to sound like an Emmy speech.

October 31, 2009

Two weeks and four days since I started this post, but not too surprising considering everything that's happened during that time. Even then, I would not be where I am without all the help of my loyal family. This is starting to sound repetitive.

November 9, 2009

What's another 9 days at this point?

My surgery was one month ago today, having just barely vacated our house the day before. It was getting a little frantic by that point, and even in the hospital I kept having dreams that I wasn't moved out yet, the people were coming to get the keys in a couple hours, and there was JUNK EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!! I would wake up there in the hospital, in lots of pain but so relieved it was all just a dream.

Unlike previous surgeries, I didn't crack any anestheticky jokes when I first woke up, or even for a couple days after. Abdominal surgery isn't such a picnic, as it turns out. The post-surgery diagnosis was adenomyosis, if you were curious.

Unlike my mom, and any of her fellow nurses when they are hospitalized, I was a model patient. Mostly. There was that one incident that was hardly worth mentioning.

See, when you have a surgery like that, they want you to get up and walk around as soon as possible, and then as much as you can stand after that. Let me assure you that if you've just been sliced open, you do not feel like walking around. At all. But it is the only way to alleviate certain difficulties that crop up after surgery. This blog is far too delicate a place to discuss them in detail, so let me just say that in the same way the big problem with sIn is the "I", the big problem with GI is also the "I". And I'm not talking about soldiers, either.

By Sunday morning, I was getting to be an old hand at that walking stuff, painful though it was. I woke up bright and early, walked myself to the lavatory without calling the nurse, and then decided I would get my walk out of the way next.

As usual, I took a left out of my room, crossed in front of the nurses' station, and made another left down the hallway leading to OB, where Mom used to work. Before even reaching the NICU, I began to feel dizzy. Hmmm. Maybe I wasn't going to make it all the way this time. I turned to go back. Suddenly, I felt a lot dizzy.

Stopping right where I was, I put my head down on the rail and tried to breathe slowly. The last thing I remembered for a while was a lady asking, "Are you ok?" and me, grudgingly shaking my head no.

Through the buzzing, I heard them all around me, pressing in. My arms made swimming motions, trying to escape the awful smell? Where was I? What kind of weird dream was this? The smell grew stronger, though I pushed it away as hard as I could. My eyes fluttered open, and lo I was indeed surrounded by a crowd. Heh. Heh. Hello, everyone. see all of you here. On the floor.

Since I was already sitting up, propped by several pairs of arms, it wasn't too hard for them to help me into a wheelchair. Luckily for them, I was immediately able to tell them where I had escaped from, and they returned me to my horrified nurse. Later I would learn that the ammonia-wielding amazon had, in fact, been one of my mom's best friends, not to mention very petite. (She had even been the nursery nurse for at least one of my kids - Devon, I think. ) Let me tell you though, looming over me, vial in hand, she had a very commanding presence. And I knew if I was bad and got out of bed when I wasn't supposed to, she and her smelling salts would find me.

Tuesday morning I was finally ready to go to my temporary home at Mom's, having already disposed of any other home in CA. The only flaw in the housing arrangements were the owls who had already taken up residence in the attic directly above my bed. Scritch, scratch, hoot, scratch, scratch, hoot, scritch. Day after day. Night after night. How privileged I was - not everyone has owls in the belfry.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Atlas Swam

Lake Camanche

Lake Camanche takes its name from the Gold Rush era town of Camanche. Originally the place was named Limerick, and in my opinion it should have been left that way. At least it would have been spelled correctly. (In case you were wondering, the correct spelling is Comanche. It was named after Camanche, IA, which is also misspelled. Sigh.)

A terrible fire in 1873 destroyed the Chinatown portion of Camanche, and now the old site is entirely underwater due to the construction of a dam. Don't worry, Tina and I both live uphill from the dam. And of course, I won't be here that much longer anyway.

So this week I took time out from my busy schedule ~ still cleaning the garage ~ to go to the lake with the whole crew. Mom, Grandpa, me, all my kids, Tina, and all her kids. When the intrepid Devon arrived, he carried a mysterious bag. It was even mysterious to me, his own mother, since he acquired it 15 miles away while I was slaving in the garage.
It turned out to be a bag of rocks.

Earlier in the day, Devon had been flat busted throwing driveway gravel at Mom's dog, Hannah. Dad came up with a brilliant deterrent: give him a bag of rocks to carry for the rest of the day, since he loved rocks sooooooo much. That was before anyone learned about the swimming trip, not that it would have mattered.

It was late afternoon by the time I saw him, and the wiry young fella had grown heartily sick of rocks by that time. "Come on, Devon," I wheedled, "are you SURE there isn't some animal, somewhere...anywhere...that you would like to throw rocks at? Come on, just one. I want to see you. Please?" He wasn't tempted, not even a little bit.

As he plunged into the shallow water, only a small ripple marked the location of his head. Obviously that wasn't going to work so well. He had to come back right by the shore, and stay where he could keep his head above water while sitting on the bottom. Every few minutes he would stop and dump the water out of his soggy encumbrance.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we walked around afterwards and picked up recycling. By the time he had his bag full of beer cans and Coke bottles, he looked as if he'd stepped right out of the pages of Pilgrim's Progress. And smelled as if he'd stepped right out of the Budweiser factory.

I was in no position to talk. Devon had asked some of the nice people along the way, if they had any recycling they were going to throw away. One helpful group donated most of what you see him carrying, plus a beer case full of cans and bottles. Guess who got to carry the beer case. Guess who had little beer dribbles running down their leg. (And in case you don't know, I never ever ever EVER drink any form of alcohol.) "This," I told Tina, "is the moment when we'll meet someone from church. Carrying our beer case and reeking of booze." The kids were in high spirits ~ I was just in spirits.

While we were gone, Mom had been talking to the nice father and son who let Grandpa share their picnic table so he wouldn't have to walk so far.

"Are all those your grandchildren?" he asked Mom.

"Oh, yes," she exclaimed proudly. Or at least exclaimed.

"Wow, there sure are a lot of them." Mom nodded in agreement. "That one little boy," he went on, "the one carrying the bag...he was sure funny. He came walking right on past, kind of leaning off to one side," (here Mom almost spit out her teeth,) "and eating a piece of candy. Do you know what he told me? 'Sure is a great day for some puuuuuuuure sugar!'"

Thinking about our little human hummingbird, Mom lost the rest of her teeth and maybe tonsils, too. Oh wait, she had already lost those. Between the guffaws and wheezes, "Let me tell you about his bag......"

Usually I don't have Uncle Arthur endings. You know, "...and little Johnny learned his lesson and never disobeyed Mommy again." Usually I have the same story repeat over and over and over. This time, however, even after a week, Devon has not shown even the slightest inclination to throw rocks at animals. Or anything else, for that matter. I am beginning to hope that he has, at last, learned his lesson.

If not, I have a backpack. And some boulders. Swimming, anyone?

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crimson Lahar

I've been having adventures of a different sort lately. You can believe cleaning any garage is some kind of adventure, but now picture cleaning a garage where the stuff from a couple married 13 years and who never threw anything away, is in the same building with the stuff from a couple married more than 60 years, who never threw anything away. I really do mean anything! In a box of carefully saved receipts and papers from the 80's and 90's (quite recent compared to a lot of the stuff), Mom found one of those dumb sweepstakes things. The envelope said boldly, "DO NOT OPEN!" So they didn't. They just saved it. For decades.

Since this is my blog, I can poke fun at other people and not have to tell you even one of the horrid little pieces of junk that I stored for years. It can be my little secret.

I will confess to having made a small tactical error when I came out. In an effort to pack lightly, I actually packed too lightly. Really, I could have used just a few more clothes. Yesterday, Tiggy was surprised to see me wearing one of her shirts. It even fit, mostly. Sidling up and speaking out of the corner of her mouth, Lampwick style, she asked, "Short on shirts?"

"Shut up, little kid!"

A few minutes later, a hummingbird came to visit our feeder. The feeder was empty, and I just hadn't gotten around to refilling it. The bird tried a couple times to get food. When he couldn't, he flew right up to the front window and hovered there, looking in making tiny hummingbird frowny faces right at me.

Damon was the lucky one who got to fill the feeder. He quickly mixed up the "nectar" and went outside. As soon as he turned the feeder right-side-up, the bottom fell off and that sticky red sugar water flew everywhere!

He has very fast reflexes, and managed to save more than half of the ambrosia. This time, when he turned it upright, the bottom held. He must not have shaken it very well. Either that, or he dumped out more water than sugar when it spilled. As soon as the red water settled to the lower parts of the feeder, you could see the brightly revolting sludge oozing down from the top of the feeder in a crimson lahar.

The hummingbird didn't seem to mind. He came and sat down. And sat and sat and sat. I was beginning to wonder if he would still be able to fly when he finished. Amazingly, he could. Now he comes back every hour or two for another sip of that awful concoction.

There are certain disadvantages to being a hummingbird. Everyone else is bigger than you, lots of things want to eat you, and you can starve to death in a few hours. But I can think of one big advantage, too...

Hummingbirds don't have garages.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the Road Again - Last Stand

August 26, 2009

I'm having a last stand of my own, although trying to mostly tell about the actual famous Last Stand. The day before our Vacation Bible School started in Plentywood, I because ill with a nasty respiratory disease. After almost 3 weeks of not improving, I finally sought medical attention and was diagnosed with a likely bacterial infection. The first round of antibiotics didn't finish the job, so now I'm on my second, stronger dose...trying and trying to get well enough for the next surgery, which is being put off till the hacking, coughing, and wheezing go away.

So I have lots of sympathy for Custer at his last stand, even though politically incorrect folks, many of them, believe Custer to have been stupid. "Stupid" is most definitely not PC, and may even qualify as a Disrespectful Judgment. But whether he was stupid, or simply tactically challenged, the whole operation was one bungle from start to bloody finish.

July 24, 2009

We awoke in a teepee at our campground close to the battlefield. We hardly even noticed the gravel stabbing holes in our spines. First chance I got, I slipped off with my camera and took the patriotic panorama found at the very end of today's blog. Somehow, I also managed to squeeze in cooking breakfast and making the kids wash dishes.

Now, carefully notice this first picture. What do you notice about it? It's not ugly, exactly, but far from my most beautiful landscape, either. But this innocent-looking, boring place was where the 2-day fight first began.

From a far-distant mountain, right at the tippy top of the point, Custer and his men came on the scene of a massive encampment of numerous tribes, gathering and camping alone the far side of the river. They were so distant, in fact, that the Native guides they had hired were the only ones who could make out the village, campfire smoke, and the many horses. From the battlefield you can just see the peak off in the distance, and it's incredible that anyone could see anything.

The scouts said most firmly that the Natives were too large a body to attack successfully, and wanted to go get reinforcements before engaging them. Well, Custer had received word that hostile Indians had discovered the presence of his men, and he had to decide whether to wait, or attack immediately. General George Armstrong Custer, ultimately in charge of his troops, made the fateful choice to press on, sure he would gain the victory.

We all know how that worked out for him. Ditto for his brother, nephew, and brother-in-law. Ditto lots of other people.

It wasn't even all his fault, if we're going to be fair. Keeping in mind that this was in the days with no radio, TV, or even internet, information was a bit slow getting around. The US government had told Custer that there were about 800 "hostiles", they called them, that he would be facing. And that was correct...until a few weeks earlier when thousands of Native Americans just up and walked off the reservation to join Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Yes, thousands.

The agents on the reservations didn't bother to send emails letting people know that they were short a few Indians. Quite a few Indians. They didn't even Twitter. As a result, no one (except Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse) knew what a gargantuan force Custer would come up against. See that great big plain beyond the line of trees? That's where the village stood, and thousands of horses grazed that bright June morning.

Major Reno was the first to engage. He and his men crossed the river, sneaking along the tree-line by the river. The same trees and brush that hid them from the village, also hid the village from them. One can only imagine what they thought when they popped out of hiding and opened fire on what turned out to be a behemoth.

In short order the braves had Reno and his men pinned down in the brush, even setting fires in places to try and drive them out. Coming to his own conclusions about the better part of valor, Reno hollered that anyone who wanted to escape had better follow him, and quick!

They straggled and stumbled up the gorge toward what is now called Reno hill, in such disarray that the native warriors were still laughing about it decades later.

At the top of the hill, they must have been much cheered to have Captain Benteen and a whole bunch of soldier fellas join them right then. The whole batch of them fell to digging rifle pits, which you can still see today. Of the whole group of us, Devon and I were the only ones who saw them. He was being naughty (shhh, don't tell anyone), so he was my trail buddy. Lucky for me he was too young to realize his good fortune, and thought it was an awful punishment, walking with Mom up to Reno's Hill.

Typically in war, the elevated position is the most desirable. This certainly proved true with Reno. Though there were a few close calls, he and his men were able to hold off the warriors until help arrived. They had the additional advantage of guns up on nearby Sniper Hill, as well.

They could hear shooting off to the north, and in disobedience to their orders, some of the men left to try and reach Custer. They could see Indian warriors shooting...something...on the ground, but couldn't see what. Then the warriors from the encampment drove the soldiers back to Reno Hill, where they remained until the next day.

Custer and his men, once they made contact with their opponents, engaged in a running battle strung out across rolling hills, and through little gorges known as coulees, before becoming pinned down at Last Stand Hill. Captain Keogh and his men, apparently trying to join Custer, were taken on by Crazy Horse. At first the men tried to make a stand, and you can still see the sad little cluster of markers where they fought so desperately.

The last few survivors tried to make a run for it, and were picked off one by one, all in a row. The farthest made it perhaps a quarter of a mile from the main body.

Last Stand Hill hardly even qualifies for the name. It's more of a funny little bump in the ground. Though it technically qualifies as elevated ground, there wasn't much advantage to be found there. Not if you were with Custer.

As I stood on the hill and surveyed the landscape, I could see why it was such a hard place to defend. The wide, gently sloping sides grew just a bit steeper right before the top, so instead of sheltering the attackers-turned-defenders, it had a big blind area. If the warriors kept low, they wouldn't see them till they were right on top of their position.

Seeing the seriousness of their situation, the soldiers shot their horses to provide battlements. With the men running low on ammunition and all help either dead on the surrounding hillsides, or pinned down far out of sight, they had to know their chances of survival were slim to none. (None, as it turned out.) The siege couldn't last very long.

Finally, in one sweeping charge, the Native Americans swarmed over the hill, leaving no one alive. The slain from both groups dotted the hillsides over several square miles.

The Indians, for the most part, gathered their dead for burial elsewhere, though markers show the spots where some of them died, and a large memorial commemorates their bravery. The US troops were simply buried where they fell. Later the troops were reinterred atop Last Stand Hill, and the officers buried all over the place. General Custer took up a very permanent residency at West Point.

A large trench was dug for the mass burial of the horses. Later excavations showed they were still contained in the wooden-sided pit, and they even have their own special marker.

At first, Americans in general were terribly outraged by the massacre. In later generations, as the strong feelings became diluted by time, it became possible for most people to accept that this attack, while tragic, was not exactly unprovoked. The native peoples had certainly suffered their share of heartache, loss, and even starvation.

It is certainly not my intention to try and divide up the blame for something that happened back in 1876. It's hard enough to divide the blame amongst my own kids when they get in trouble. (Why sort it out? Consequences for everybody!) Suffice it to say that plenty of bad things happened to both sides, and in this worldwide famous Battle of Greasy Grass Creek, as the Native Americans call it, there was courage aplenty on both sides.

How inspiring it was to visit that quiet, somber place and think of all the brave men who gave their lives, fighting for what they believed in.

A national cemetery now spreads its way down the slope from Last Stand Hill. The brave and honored dead of many wars joined in with Custer's men for one last stand. Frozen in time, there they all wait...together.