From Draggin’ to Welcoming the Dragon

According to the Chinese calendar, I’m a Rabbit–talented and affectionate seeker of tranquility (but don’t corner me if you don’t want a fight!) Until today, there hadn’t been much fight in me for awhile. I had what felt like a lingering “summer cold,” and it wouldn’t go away. Chinese New Year, 2/19/15, I finally felt like stacking a couple of activities back-to-back without taking a nap. So Lucia and I attended the Hawaii Palms Real Estate opening and greeted the dragon blessing friends’ business site.HIDragonBlessing Cabbage hung at the entrance, and its stuffing of money-filled red envelopes fed him HIDragonEatsCabbageafter he gyrated, HIDragonblessed each room, and danced to beating drums.HIVaBikeCar After admiring a friend’s Elf (electric three-wheeler, one-of-a-kind in Hawi) I dropped off some banana bread for St. Augustine’s monthly Community Meal and went in my own Ford Fusion to Hawaii Luxury Real Estate in time to catch their blessing. My realtor, Dave Firestone, said their business is going well (but obviously, they will take any good luck the dragon brings in this upcoming Year of the Sheep). While we had dessert and waited for the big dragon, a two-and-a-half-year-old did the best dragon dance I’ve seen while his dad beat a drum. I hadn’t asked permission to film him, so you’re left to imagine a ponytail bouncing in perfect rhythm, the dragon’s head rearing and bucking, its mouth opening when money began pouring in, and its tail flaring out behind the sturdy body that never missed a beat!  Rain began to fall, and I feared a setback with the cold and hurried home. Last weekend, I’d dragged myself to Waimea twice to take my housemate to appointments where she needed a driver. We were treated to deep bluesHIMtnRdView off scenic point around 3500′ on the mountain road. The second trip, I treated myselfHIMerrimanDessert to a decadent chocolate dessert after a Merriman’s salad while rains fell. Maybe that was the cause of my relapse!  Rains, interspersed with sunlight, HIpinefrontyardbrought on my first pines. HIpinegardenI planted these from pineapple I cut less than two years ago!   This morning dawned with a glorious sunrise, so I took a walk past the coral-property makai (toward ocean) and heard a terrible commotion. Neighbors had trapped a wild boar. Since I’d thrilled when two of the black creatures trotted across Hawi road when I made a recent trash run, I stayed clear and wished the porker well. Maybe this Rabbit’s compatibility with Sheep and Boar had something to do with it, but I felt sorry that he was probably bound for sausage casings. No more dragging, I’m ready to rejoin the hula class. HIRSVPDancersMaybe someday, I’ll be as good as these senior citizens who entertained us at a thank-you lunch for retired volunteers before the cold hit me. It was an impressive lunch–live music, great buffet, prizes for everyone (mine was chocolate-covered mac nuts), and speeches from governor’s and representatives’ offices. We saved the government $2 million by volunteering last year, we were told. I returned to assist teachers at the elementary and junior high with new vigor!

No pictures for this entry, but I’m almost finished with my first wellness checkup since moving to Kohala. Services have changed; the first nurse looked at her computer–not me. The Nurse Practitioner told me I could remove my mask (I didn’t want to spread my sneezy germs), looked me over, prodded a bit, and ordered routine lab work, and said she didn’t expect to have to call me “since I was quite healthy.” I’ve friends in the hospital, facing challenges, and taking lots of meds.  Health is our greatest gift, I’m continually reminded. I’ll be grateful to resume scooting down Pololu again as the sun rises. HIVaPololuLightHandsBring on the Year of the Sheep! I’ve another month to enjoy Hawaii, then its off to Malaysia to nanny a six-year-old for three months. In Dr. Spock’s words, “Long life and prosperity” to us as we move into this New Chinese Year!

Did Kamehameha love horses?

Rain spit threatenly on sunrise hula, June 11,HIKamParadeGift before King Kamehameha’s original statue in Kapaau.   HIKamAlone Behind my lawn chair on the hill, I  heard smatterings of onlookers’ stories about his being lost at sea (one said seven years, one insisted three months) and coming here to his birthplace because another statue had already been ordered for Hawaii’s governmental seats. Twenty-foot leis were ceremoniously laid out on the Community Center grass.HIKamLeiLift A young chantress blessed the ceremony and boys carefully raised leis to the king’s outstretched hands.HIKamleis  HIKamConchBoysBoys in loincloths and capes opened the parade ceremony, blowing conches at 7:45 a.m. Sometimes, when leis were heavy mums or kukui nuts, both the prongs on the long sticks would lose the lei and they would have to start again. Fifty-six leis required strong young arms and tall adult assistance. At least one was presented after Aunty gave a strong “Mahalo” to those bringing this count.HiKamCapes HIKamOldstersHawaiian royal descendants sang to the king, first men in red-and-gold capes, then women all in black. Aunty, announcing in red muumuu, invited us to continue buying red-and-gold tee shirts designed for the day. She lavished praise on handsome ridersHIKamHorses when they arrived from Hawi, two miles up Akone Pule. Each group bore giftsHIKamGifts HIKamCartfor the king. They were graciously accepted and placed on a platform to his left; some were dried woven boxes, most were enclosed in fresh ti leaf arrangements. HIKanMolokaiPrincessHIKamWhiteGiftThe Pa’u queen HIKamPurpleand princesses, HIKamPinkGiftHIKamPinkSkirtfollowing a protocol of lei-making, horse-handling, skirt-draping, skirt-wrapping, waved elegantly as their horses brought them into view. The horses’ leis were most elaborate; Nihau’s even incorporated shells. I watched the skirts swing,HIKamMolokaiSkirt amazed that the dozen yards of satin could stay in place with only kukio nuts wrapped in the waist fold.I recognized HIKamYellowOahu’s gold lehua blossoms and Hawaii’s proud reds. HIKamHIRedGiftEvery princess rode elegantly, as did her attendants. King Kamehameha looked over them all with far eyes, and I wondered what kind of horseman the first king became, growing beyond Pololu valley. Whether climbing out beyond ridges to Waipio or here in Kohala, his birthplace, would have required strong legs and backs–or a horse. HIKamGifts  Interspersed among the royalty representing all the islands, came local hula groups, HIKamDancersHIKamIoleChangdignitaries and officials, HIKamFlags  local representatives,HIKamCartHIKamSchlChanter and flags.   HIKamSchoolbusFlags I determined to look up whether the Spanish paniolos’ horses got here in time for Kamehameha to have his own steed. There was no doubt about the honour given him on his birthday, and much of it was on horseback.

Paradise, MT to Paradise, HI

HILoadedSubaru HILoadedTruck MTSunsetJune, my container went via brother Ron’s truck and my Subaru on its way from Missoula to Kona. I left Montana July 19 in the wee hours, renting a Ford Focus and getting to the Honomakau left turn, quite jet lagged. The house greeted me in shadows. I hoped the washer still sitting in the open garage worked and that I’d not miss having a dryer.    HIHouseR  HIHouseLThe interior looked clean–Navajo Sand walls against white molding. Dave, real estate friend, brought a blow-up mattress and ipad plus four keys. Friends had left another mattress, sheets, and box stored since April. I gratefully slept. Next morning, half faint with a headache like the worst MT smoke reaction, I checked Sunshine Hardware: $16 for a mop, $36 for a step stool. I left empty-handed, with knowledge that ants don’t like aspertine sweeteners or essential oils. The bulletin board said “Garage Sale, Maliu Ridge. Takata Grocery pointed me mauka (uphill) with a  flimsy $10 mop, a banana and apple, plus peanut butter and whole-grain bread, $31.00. King’s View had $2.99 coffee and $4.95 burrito special that chased my headache off on the way to Hawi’s Farmer’s Market under the banyan. HIbcfroglanaiA whimsical frog seemed to call my name, so I bought him and a base for my HI wood slab end table. a whopping $2. Sweet potatoes, 50cents/2, went into my bag when I heard Catalina call “Virginia!” Carter, her friend is a charmer–Harry Belafonte voice and a collapsible cane. We found the sale three miles up (he explained roads better, blind, than Cat did sighted.) The Lucas’ lived in a pocket from ridge wind (it sculpts trees) HITreeFanand generously gave me more than the requested $95 worth of goods: a delightful pair of lamps, a sculpture for the front porch, HIbcmsbra queen bed like new, kitchen table with stools, baskets, towels, wastebaskets, and bedding while Pablo fed us green papaya, kalua pork, rice, and chicken. Then he hauled my furniture home and set it in place! I met their Oahu SPED daughter and determined to return the next day with a thank you note. Double canvas chairs helped relaxation on the lanai, especially with feet on my emptied suitcase. HIbclanaiseatsArranging throw pillows and making the bed took until I finished THE MASTER BUTCHER’S SINGING CLUB and began CIRCLE OF WOMEN by MT writers. Behind my house, Richard and Theresa’s adult kids drove in at 1:30 a.m. somewhat quietly. Generosity and kindness replaced my agitated doubts from 24 hours earlier. Sunday came, and I went to the “Red Door Church” nearby. Episcopal service found me fumbling for HI words and order in three books, but energy was good. Several Kohala Seniors greeted me. The priest gave a dramatic reminder to choose Mary’s better part and laughed at how Martha-like I’d driven myself upon arrival. Let come what comes!  Connie gave me dishes and real silverware, Ralf gave tools and nails. HIHouseBackI’m finding hibiscus and birds of paradise just off my lanai. Reading, trimming banana leaves (three bunches are ripening!), and a shampoo/shower started to make this house into a hopeful home. The to-do list grows, but Janet’s calling for Ron to mail my cell phone (left in MT, I missed it in Seattle airport). I got several items at Lucas’ again, and calendar is filling if I want to be busy. Next focus: car purchase, phone calls at Episcopal office to get business stuff done. By evening, I’d used library internet and checked out book club’s read, A DOG NAMED BOO. Post office had an immediate Box 96755 for me (I’d been warned about six-month waits). Interestingly, the allergy nose was almost unnoticeable for the first time in two months. HIbclivrmSoon, Daya called and brought living room furniture I’ll store for a while. Cat called with an initation to Beach 69, HIbcfishwhere I wove a fish for my door. He’ll welcome visitors often, I hope. A new Paradise!

Teacher’s Life in Riyadh

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Antarctic Adventure-Buenos Aires

We barely made it to Buenos Aires (Good Air). Missoula in dark early morning didn’t scare up any deer, but Salt Lake’s Delta flight delayed us two hours on our tightest connection to South America’s four Antarctic legs. We landed at 7:10 pm, ran/walked B to E Concourse, took the train, and got on just ahead of a Helena couple hiking Patagonia–about 3 minutes to gate closure. The Ides of March and Water for Elephants  (Mary Lou snoozed) kept me entertained after a surprisingly tasty chicken dinner. Sleeping in snatches, we arrived at NHFlorida hotel, ate jamon y quesa (ham & cheese) and Sprite before two naps. We explored Florida’s walking street shops between snoozes.  Slim-hipped Lorena awakened us for a private city tour jam-packed with history of revolutions, district divisions, and statuary in many green areas off wide boulevards. At one point, she said, “Have you never lived in a military dictatorship?” We resided in Retiro, near city center, with a park, eating (outside) district, and obelisk nearby. Evita smiled on one half of the city and looked sternly on the other half from most floors of one skyscraper. Argentina was once flat pampas, so its many trees were planted, including huge rubber trees. One lone hill, a few feet high, was a landmark. Recoleta had many high-priced apartments (while average Argentinians make $200/month) and French or Spanish architecture.          We walked the Fransciscan cemetery with mausoleums in marble. Some are abandoned, since families pay $100/month for burials, eight-to-a-tomb. The Duarte family finally placed Evita’s remains under the stone sidewalk in front since Eva’s body was stolen and harmed before it was recovered from Milan. A guard watched us, bored. We also drove by the pink house, the president’s workplace. She’s not likely to get a third term, because of “giving too much to the poor”.  A square block-long line of folks were waiting (families spelling each other off for nine hours) for discount subway tickets under her windows. She works in the casa rosa, lives elsewhere, unlike the US White House. We also drove past the heart-tugging, park-full of Mothers of the Lost Children, hopeful family members hoping for contact after they gave up children to the last revolution (70s?). Lorena said that, after Peron (and before his return to power) was “a sad time” for their country. We stopped for soccer tees in San Telmo (patron saint of sailors) poor cobble-stoned district, now full of artists’ work, tango clubs, and side-by-side corrigated living quarters painted bright colors. The Opera House appeared grand; the spreading 250-year-old rubber tree impressed us; the harbor’s lovely bridge with silver cables and graceful silver moon-slice called “Puente de la Meijer” pointed to the future. Numerous churches stood along boulevards and businesses with a Catholic University (not the state religion, though). The Mormon Temple on the way from the airport resembled Salt Lake’s temple. Palermo, another high-rent district,  sported a large steel flower with petals closing at night under red and green lighting in one of its many green parks. Real trees included jacaranda (purple blooms), “drunk” trees (pink, above crooked thorny trunks and branches), and yellow ones (like California rain trees). Lovely medians broke up 11 lanes of traffic with three lanes on auxiliary sides. Time for 20 winks, and we boarded a bus for Gala Tango in an elegant historical home with gleaming wood sparkling chandeliers, and mirrors. The best Argentinian beef, grilled to perfection, and vegetables made a delicious entre after Muldok red wine and safe water in crystal pitchers was poured by a handsome waiter. We had polished off the hot veal empanadas to the last crumb (herbs encrusted in a delicate case of dough), and made short work of fritas, salad by midnight. Our table mates spoke only Normandy French, providing a good communication exercise as I dusted off a few lost phrases. A nearby Vancouver table didn’t have much good to say, telling of “the first time warm in two weeks” from their Antarctic cruise; we hoped for better weather, let it go and enjoyed the show. Gangster-costumed, formally clad dancers gave us tango lessons and indluged photos before the pears poached in wine claimed our attention. Flashy musicians in white tuxes arrived, a baby grand, accordian, two violins, plus a big screen and triple side ones to show Tango, then Argentinian landscapes. Then four gorgeous couples’ feet flashed in sensuous poses for two hours of music and movement punctuated by appearances of a solo man and woman, a gaucho whose staccato heels and balls on the end of ropes kept rhythm, and a guy with a mandolin-like instrument. We came to expect sultry glances, flying feet, teasing bare views below amazingly long lashes with each number.  Costumes, make up, and innate beauty reigned; we were captivated. All were near-perfect performers. All played to the crowd. The guy with the lethal, flying gaucho balls eyed Mary Lou with a question of her safety, not needing English to draw a nervous laugh. It ended with Evita renditions with revolutionary footage in moving fervor. Sleep came satisfyingly. Next morning, breakfast was scrambled eggs, ham and turkey, cheeses, cereal, breads, and my roommate’s habitual three cups of coffee (not robust in spite of three roast choices). A young dark-skinned young man slept by a green tree across from our breakfast window; a teen spread a coat over him and scavenged on along the edge of a walking street.  American jazz singer, Nora Jones, crooned from a CD during transport to a late flight with yet another really good-looking Argentinian. Next stop: Usuaiah, Tiera del Fuego and Fin del Mundo, Patagonia and the End of the World where I would meet 18-year-old Jessie for a glacier hike before boarding the boat for Antarctica. The adventure had begun well!

Two-day East Hawaii Tour

Lava Falls Beach When Nev and I planned her “Hilo-side Tour”, the lava was her must-see. We only got to smell fumes, feel grit on our faces, and see dark smoke arising from the cauldera on our second day, but she still told me it was a most wonderful time. Here’s the way activities shaped up: Over pupus at Hawi’s Bamboo happy hour, we planned carefully, agreeing to be open to options that might arise. Little did I know!

Leave 7:00 a.m. (7:30 amended), stop in Waimea Starbuck’s for coffee (restroom), drive (into full sunrise) to Waipio Valley Overlook. I counted eight sizable roofs below us near the idyllic valley’s taro fields.

Nev announced that she’d like to pop in on friends on this east side. I suggested she call them. “Good idea!” They were at doctor’s appointment, but we found their sweet place near Akaka Falls and got updated on improvements, chickens, composting, and gardening since she last was there. On to the falls, an up-down walk with the 400-foot falls and serene climbs through creaking bamboo.KIMG0148 Snack tasted good as we drove to the Hawaii Island Botanical Garden on the scenic wrinkling four-mile old road. We both ran out of camera space and simply took in much of the 1.5 mile walk through flora and fauna.

We felt grateful for the man who bought this acreage (church site) devoted years to paring back the jungle to expose, plant, name, and develop the trails through antherium and orchid gardens among palms and trees from all over the world. His wife still lives. No tour bus policy was also appreciated. Tour continued after a serene mid-day walking the gardens.We continued to Hilo and followed Banyan Drive (she remembered Nixon had planted one of the giant wonders) to Hilo Seaside. The koi pond still holds monster swimmers, but the rooms were pristine amidst Old Hawaiana charm. I last stayed there in 1986 and would willingly return (using kama’aina rate, of course). Nev wanted to walk the farmer’s market downtown before dinner with an ex-Hawi visitor to whom she was returning items of clothing–another surprise in my trunk. Other than a deafening noise level for an open restaurant, the seared ahi and salads plus a guitar and mellow pop lyrics were top-notch. I slipped down to an antique store and had the happy owner place the coat rack in my trunk.You could hear the conversation over tables and bar a block away as I returned to Pineapples eatery.

Day 2 was mostly lava, bird songs, ferns, dark clouds of vog, and underground walks through the lava tube. The Jagger Museum, peek over the cauldera, volcano history documentary, drive with windows down, stir fry at Uncle George’s, and walk beneath Thurston Lava Tube’s drips finished the most satisfying day. Next time, maybe we’ll try the 9-mile hike to see molten lava tumble into the sea. We returned under a full moon, happy tourists on our home island.KS Full Moon


Through Election, Thanksgiving, Advent 2016


I usually look for rainbows and silver linings, but talk had turned toward “Trump can’t possibly be elected!” on walks along the ocean or up mountains. I’d sensed unrest and heard folks yearning for a change across seven states and many telephone exchanges until my dismissal of importance in what I heard and saw of the man (I first disliked because his tower blocked my New York view) had faded. I played devil’s advocate, telling of Midwest relatives and the two Kohala friends’ plans to vote Republican. No one seemed to listen. Election night, seven women gathered and practiced supportive listening to one another in my living room. Before hugging good-night, someone pulled up election results. Hillary did not have enough electoral votes to pull it off, and states were showing up red as we watched. Disbelief, shock, some expletives, a few tears followed. One said, “I could use a drink, but there’s no bar…” We all laughed. Kohala pulls up its sidewalks and turns off its lights around 9 pm. All I could offer in the way of hope was a Montanan’s argument that “Things may fall apart for awhile, but they’ll start over in a better way eventually.”

Life and the process went on. New bamboo turned up in the way of Farmer’s Market drums. I helped the elementary school plant ulu another rainy Saturday.

Thanksgiving morning, we took guac, chips, olives, hummus, bread, citrus, veggies, and pie to Kapaa Park to watch for whales. Our reward was a few spouts and a lightened mood.

Also, Kahilu Theatre in Waimea had us volunteers serve food, tend bar, and do Girl/Guy-Friday jobs for their Gala. The fundraiser was a big success, ushering in the holidays. My weekly yoga, ukelele practices, preschool volunteering, gardening, mowing,  twice/monthly guitar sings with friends kept me looking at calendar. I sent off (the wrong) packages to KS and MT. Forgiving relatives re-boxed and re-sent them. A lovely group of medition sisters explored “gratitude” for the month and moved on to “accepting what is”. It all fit.

The Senior Citizens had their yearly blowout at Waikaloa Marriott, and Gino and Nino accompanied a woman from “Sons of Hawaii” in great music and musing about past Christmases. Auntie Viv did impromptu hula, not long up from a sickbed, and my friend, Sumi seemed pleased with her gift.kimg2132

Neville and I went to Hapuna Beach and didn’t brave the two-story waves. It was lovely to walk, watch, and wonder. That set the stage for the next ukelele afternoon at Kapaa, with somewhere between 5 and 15 whales spouting. A Mahukona walk the next evening found them breeching, slapping fins, and showing off their lengths at sunset. As Helena and I returned, native people were chanting in the old heiau area off the upland trail. We almost missed the full rainbow on the upland side.It was magical, powerful Solstice Eve.

Who said Christmas is for kids? It was delightful to see Hawaiian angels, Filippino Herod, Portuguese wisemen, and Japanese shepherds straight out of plantation days as they rendered a song with American Sign Language at St. Augustine’s on Sunday. Mary parked her slippah on a stool rung while Joseph’s round face stilled into worrying about what to do. The angel gave uncertain orders, and he played his role.I noticed a moment between recently-arrived father and resident-teen daughter that was also heartwarming. Life, decency toward one another, and the possibility of peace on earth endures for me. I look forward to 2017!


Almost South of the Border and Back

az-sunsetEven in rain, New Mexico and Arizona sunsets are brilliant.A surreal one appeared through our windshield in evening traffic. We got to Carlsbad a little behind, and the Caverns closed the visitor’s center doors at 5:00. The promised ranger talk and viewing bats emerge sounded worth the wait, so we descended to the mouth of the cave’s amphitheatre, ate our deli salads, and waited for dusk.

Carlsbad Caverns’ village was built by Civilian Conservation Corps workers and still provides housing and work space at the end of a winding 7-mile canyon drive. Rock cliffs house swallows and, probably, bats like those that emerged and dipped overhead in the half-light. Many had evidently migrated toward Mexico already, because the expected swarm never came. Next morning, we went 750′ below surface and walked the loop around Salon Grande with strong columns, small angel wings, dollhouse villages, deep pools, and other formations still receiving the drip-drip-drips that patiently form and change them.carlsbad-flag-halfmastWe took the elevator up to find the flag at half-mast in honor of the ex-prime minister of Israel’s passing. Shimon Perez was 93, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Pressing on to Cousin Kalli’s retirement village, Green Valley, AZ, we went to nearby Titan II missile site and learned how it served as a secondary strike during the Cold War. Climbing down 55 steps below ground, hearing about 24-hour watchfulness behind two thick airlocked doors, and sitting in the commander’s chair to eventually turn the key to launch was sobering. I thought of the missile site we passed between Kansas City and hometown, Fredonia, KS that “blew up by accident” when these places were dismantled. We continued to Tubac, art town near the border and joined Hal Empie’s daughter at the back of his gallery to see the prints of cartoon cowboys she was cataloging. He died at 103, leaving a legacy of humor, color, and talent to delight visitors for years to come. Dinner at Elvira’s–Mexican, of course–pushed them to the top of my “best guacamole” places. I arose early to take Coco, Kalli’s dog, for a walk through gravel yards and across sands. We didn’t see any rattlesnakes, although warning sounds abound in AZ and NM.

Continuing on to Don and Lynn Horton’s home in Cottonwood, AZ, we renewed childhood friendship and read Lawrence, his  late father’s “Families and People I Have Known” (written on dot matrix after he began using computer at age 90) including, “In 1947, we moved from Houston to near Buxton, KS…where we bought a fifteen acre tract with a small house on it…we met Loren and Mary Kuykendall. The railroad cut this fifteen acres off their farm…a half mile to their house by the road. They had…Virginia…Ronnie…and had another baby Gayla. They were really good neighbors and I never knew four kids that could play together like these. In 1949 we moved…east of San Diego..during this time Kuykendalls decided to take a year off and travel. Ronnie was not in school yet, and Virginia studied and did not lose a grade. They hired a couple to move into their house and take care of their live stock and farm for a full year. With a small trailer on behind a 1938 Chevrolet, they visited all four corners of the U.S., including some time with Hortons in Alpine, CA.”

We inspected Don’s lovely wood work (with turquoise inserts, sold in galleries there),

and brought my daughter some desert cactus and honey locust for turning in KS. North to Sedona, we walked along the top of Oak Creek Canyon.

A few hours in Guymon, OK put together unknown names and places around my mother’s birth in 1919, thanks to historical records and friendly people. Farther north, we found the rural Liberal, KS view cleared of trees and just as flat as I remembered from childhood visits. Since Imbler’s lived there, the house had gained a second story, two dogs, and a pool with two decks where three sculptured palms stood above the privacy fence.imbler-sw-view I recalled Mom’s distrust of mountains and love of wide open spaces and understood  as I snapped a picture from the southeast corner of the house. The cellar and windmill frame remained, along with tin bins and quonset hut housing machinery. Gas wells pumped as farmers harvested corn as we headed toward Wichita to end an eight-day journey of connection with the past.

La Posta de Mesilla Lunch, not Juarez

la-posta From Johnson City (where Bryans serves the best seared salmon over spinach and jicama salad you’ll find anywhere), we continued past LBJ Ranch toward El Paso and the Mexico border. Loop 375 takes you to Los Cruces and Calle de Correo and San Albino to historic Mesilla, settled permanently by 1854, when Gadsden Purchase made it an official part of the U.S. This No Man’s Land provided Civil War troops with food, hay, and building materials and morphed into a transportation and commercial center with mining and ranching. A roaring social center with bailes (dances), bullfights, cockfights, and plays attracted its share of violence 1870-80s.People came from Chihuahua and Tuscon to the largest town between San Antonio and San Diego. Fort Fillmore protected it after 1851. Billy the Kid was tried and sentenced to hang in the southeast corner of the plaza where we parked. Jeanne and Bill Lutz, new acquaintances who visited HI one Sunday, met us for iced tea and enchilladas. Jeanne promised “No church talk” as an Episcopal minister there. My guacomole side was perfect, and we learned from lawyer Bill about personalities like Kit Carson, Pancho Villa, and Douglas MacArthur plus some present-day political practices that brought chuckles. Hospitality was as generous as our filled plates, with lots of choices in drinks and dishes. I discovered that New Mexican food is flavored a bit differently from Mexican food. Colorful birds squawked in the entry, my pink-and-turquoise restroom was marked Viejo Dames, and a purple University NM banner hung by the door. It was worth the drive to find La Posta for the atmosphere alone. An added bonus was learning that mail drop, La Posta de Mesilla restaurant opened in 1939, my birth year.

We were advised strongly by the Lutz’s not to cross the border because of drug cartels and crime rates in Juarez. I had to satisfy myself with memories of light green stones in white silver filigree jewelry set that Dad bargained down to $1 for me when we drove into Mexico 63 years ago. It stayed in my jewelry box through many moves, but the right outfit for wearing it somehow never came along. The only other jewelry I recall from my parents were a baby bracelet and a watch at eighth grade graduation, so that was a special moment.

Diary Trip: The Texas Wreck

giddings-ice-sign My January, 1949 diary tells how “15 miles north of Giddings, TX, we thought Aunt Lola had a flat tire. We slid on an icy bridge and the tan Nash turned over and landed half-way over”. I heard “Sis, stay off those brakes!” from Dad. When we crawled out in rainy weather, Aunt Lola had impaled her heel on the seat lever, Grandma Kuykendall had a cracked breast bone, and Mom sat on the back seat holding Gayla. Ronnie had ridden on a green record-player case that probably held diapers. No seatbelts, of course.  Aunt Lola’s boy, Buddy, had hitchhiked home to Guthrie, OK as we reached Little Rock, Arkansas. Today, I wonder how we ever fit in a car driven to Florida, back to Corpus Christi to visit deceased Aunt Stella’s family, and were headed to the trailer house near Oklahoma City.I probably reviewed my first sight of the Gulf of Mexico and going to a birthday party before I fell asleep between Dad and Aunt Lola.

Weather was warm as Ivan and I left Perry, OK and continued south toward Giddings. Coming upon a cement bridge on a four-lane elevated above woodsy lowlands felt a little familiar, although I didn’t recall the metal guard rails that stretched beyond the cement rails on the–then–two lanes in my memory. Since Dad hushed my crying as I sat on the roadside, I had plenty of time to observe the drop from road to wide ditch below as we waited for help to come. No cell phones then.I walked up the rise, smelled some roadkill, and noticed a fairly new creek sign. Brush and woods were thick, reaching the road height.

We’d spent a night in Giddings after Grandma and Aunt Lola Graham were cared for at a clinic. None of the storefronts or streets felt familiar like they could contain the room Dad rented where we all slept. My imagination still hears groans from the Murphy bed. I “rode all night to Guthrie” between Dad and the ambulance driver–or was it simply a van?–with Mom, Gayla, and Ron in back with Grandma and Aunt Lola on stretchers. When Grandma recovered, Dad took her back home to Fredonia, KS.

Ivan and I drove over several synthetic-rail bridges near Giddings, but none felt the same, nor had a downhill northern direction like the one I walked. Satisfied, we pushed on south, again in the present 2016 moment.







Diary Trip Through Oklahoma

In 1949, my diary deals with family names–Ruth Ellen and Daryl and baby Dwight “Pooter Dooter”, Aunt Lola and son Buddy in Guthrie, Aunt Hazel and Uncle Buck near Oklahoma City. Ivan and I rode in sister Gayla’s pickup 9/27/2016 after a Perry, OK evening and home-made vegetable soup, to visit Pawnee “where the West remains”. We speculated about whether Grandpa George Kuykendall had known Pawnees, a 10,000-member tribe from the North Platt River in Nebraska.Their history spans 700 years, numbering 3,247 today in OK. The annual homecoming around July 4th claims to be the largest free Powwow and ceremony to honor military veterans of the Pawnee Nation.We drove up what felt like a small hill to Hawk Peak and entered Pawnee Bill’s ranch, museum, and house.

We saw museum pictures of his 1000-person show with sharpshooters like his wife May, who finished her act after losing two fingers and telling Bill “This is my last show.” Her French decor and Steinway (Gayla and I did “Chopsticks” on it) did not preclude sadness during her short life. She lost a baby and their adopted Billy, who died in an act that involved a windmill, his memorial by the entry. Gordon “Pawnee Bill” Lillie brought half his troop from the Far East, partnered with Buffalo Bill for a time, and the ranch still has Clydesdales, buffalo, longhorns, with blacksmithing demos, gunfights, medicine shows, and live music on the grounds. Petunias and greenery in an early cream separator welcomed butterflies in the sun.butterfly

Ivan ate chicken fried steak and we munched on salads before walking past the Pawnee County courthouse to the Dick Tracy storefront museum. Alley Oop comics and other memorabilia were passed by for maps of No Man’s Land and the Land Rush, where we speculated about Grandpa Kuykendall’s futile attempt to claim land  and Grandpa Imbler’s farm activities in the OK panhandle when Mom was born in 1919.


Southeast KS, Part II Blast From the Past

It is 44 degrees north of Wichita, looking out my daughter’s window. Youngest grandson in this household just made himself several sausages, topped off with cold cereal to celebrate a no-school day at Towanda Consolidated High. I’ve just shampooed away all the dust from Old Iron Days in hometown, Fredonia, KS (“always last) Saturday (in September”).

Ivan and I drove past the traffic circle toward Altoona, KS and parked on a newly-mown pasture for a $5 donation, his sister and husband close behind. Tractors–gigantic and miniature–lined after a restored locomotive along highway 400 to the east. Buildings shaded antique machinery, saw mill, threshers, church pews, quilts, washing machines, sewing machines, collections, wooden nickels at teller windows, and cook shacks.ks-rock-crusher We tossed a big piece of KS limestone into a rock crusher and out came gravel. Ice cream freezers were grinding out homemade vanilla and chocolate. A smoker offered up the best brisket I’d eaten in a long while, but you could also opt for a “taco (ground beef and salsa) in a (Frito) bag” and get a sun tan at a cement picnic table after washing your hands at one of two stations set up with hand soap and water lines. The 4-H building provided aroma of livestock–cow, goats, rabbit, chickens–near our shady table. There was also a pavillion with cast iron cookery where rabbit stew, cowboy stew, and chili were the menu items. We walked into the extensive barbed wire exhibit and heard how lawyerly Mr. Glidden used his wife’s bobby pins to make fence to keep cows out of her garden.ks-barbed-wire-historian Corn husk dolls, corn sheller-collections, handiwork demonstrations, rope-making, and a lot of visiting filled the time until the Parade of Power, old/new/restored iron, caught our attention. Years had added grey mustaches or pounds to names that came back to me when I finally got introductions to folks in jeans and overalls. I’d forgotten how SE KS folks use a jokey pattern to approach one another, shake hands, and make you guess who they are. More than one man referred to his wife as “the boss” and Ivan’s brother, Jim, only said “you guessed it (second name I offered)!” as if I’d won the cookshack meal ticket he’d just handed me for lunch and unsweetened iced tea that tasted just like Mom’s.

Jim’s rebuilt long-bed truck was the last thing in the parade, probably because of the flag attached. We stayed to hear Clint Gilbert, son of late Sonny Worrel–rodeo guy in my childhood days–sing  country songs about Busby, Howard, Elk County, Southeast KS girls, and Fredonia’s rival–Neodesha. I texted my son, who named his Road 31 pinot noir for the county road running through Elk County not far from where my parents made sorghum with an antique mill, “You ought to write a song about Road 31!”

We didn’t stay for the $100 prize tractor pull. Watching the debates in Perry, OK with my sister and husband tonight as we begin the seven-state leg of my diary trips will probably provide enough power plays for me.