Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The fair

The Warren County 4-H Fair.  It was THE social event of every summer.

I don't remember ever not going to the fair.  I can close my eyes and remember exactly where everything stood, and probably still does. The food building, with the aroma of chicken BBQ in the air, the long tables and photos of the 4-H fair queen candidates pinned to the bulletin board at the back of the building... the Junior Leaders ice cream stand, where if you knew someone working the booth that day, you could swindle a free cone...  the Bingo tent... the commercial building, where you always had to go through and get free stuff, whether you needed and new yard stick or not...  the livestock buildings... the midway...

When I was young, my friend Kathy and I would go around telling everyone we were sisters.  We thought we deceived everyone and found it wildly amusing.  It never occurred to us that everyone knew every family in the whole county, so the odds of actually fooling someone were slim to none.

Then came the teen years.  Weeks in advance of the fair, my friends and I carefully planned the outfits we would wear each night.  With our sites set on a whatever boys we thought interesting at the time, we would arrive at the fair looking our absolute best.  Who a person met up with during the fair was a huge deal.  That sort of socially set the table for the rest of the summer and the beginning of the next school year.  We crammed a whole summer's worth of courting into 5 precious days.

I was in 4-H for 9 years, and took all sorts of projects.  I attempted to take Zeke, our basset hound, one year for dog obedience.  Here is Zeke.  Isn't he beautiful?

I wanted to blame the one and only red ribbon I was ever awarded on Aunt Sis.  She hit Zeke with her Nova earlier that spring and his hind leg was in a splint.  I couldn't possibly work with Zeke while he was recuperating!  In reality, bassets are next to impossible to train and I was just plain lazy.  I remember dragging the poor dog around the arena, when all he wanted to do was take in all the wonderful new smells.

I won a champion ribbon for something when I was around 12 years old...  can't remember what.  But I received this lovely suitcase and umbrella as an additional prize.  I was quite the beauty, eh?  And Mrs. Award Giver looks ever so happy about the presentation.

I wasn't into the livestock stuff the way my siblings were.  I don't know why, because I was always jealous of the kids who got good ribbons for their pigs and cows, and received big bucks for them at the auction after the fair.  By the time I came along 4-H started to branch out with the project categories.  I took projects like Child Development, Photography and Personality (whatever that meant).  Much to my mother's chagrin, I never took sewing.  Side note:  my mother could sew anything.  She made me everything from holiday dresses to business suits to bathing suits.  She was incredible.  My motto:  Why should I learn how to sew when Mom can?

But my sister did.

I'm sure I will get a phone call from her about the telling of this story, because I don't remember much of it other than what I've been told.  Regardless, here it is.

Joyce is a little older than I am and was a teenager in 4-H by the time I was 5 years old or so.  I don't know who talked her into doing such a thing, but she took on the project of making us matching jumpers.  (It's killing me that I can't find the photo I have of the two of us, standing in Aunt Helen's yard, in our painstakingly stitched matching outfits!)  When you take sewing in 4-H, you have to model what you have made.  The livestock coliseum would be temporarily transformed for a fashion show, complete with wooden planks for a U-shaped runway.  The story goes that when it came time for us to take our turn at the runway, I balked.  There was no way I was walking out there.  I can only imagine how angry Joyce was, because in all honesty, I was a brat.  I was the spoiled youngest sibling that got away with murder and everybody - including me - knew it.  I'm sure Joyce was fuming when she finally had to walk out by herself.  Then right as she was about to reach the first turn, she heard an "Awe!" from the crowd.   She turned to see me, barreling down the planks to catch up with her.  I would like to thank my sister for not strangling me right then and there.  If the tables were turned, I can't say I would have shown such restraint.

At the very end of our "fair years," one of our own became royalty.  I kidded Lori a lot about this, but I was really proud and happy for her.

She went from showing pigs to being a queen.

Only at the county fair.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The splinter

Playground equipment used to be just outright dangerous.

When I was in grade school, we had things like the witch's hat.  I didn't know what it was actually called until I looked it up on line.  Go here to view the perfect photo --
With kids sitting all around it, it could be spun around and/or banged into that center pole like a bell.  What degenerate designed this for children??  Some of them didn't have that lower, inner circle of metal for "protection."  Think smashed appendages.  Think lots and lots of them.

Then there were the ridiculously high swings.

We would try to get as high as we possibly could, without going over the bar of course.  That was always a concern.  We assumed we were perfectly capable of such a stupendous stunt, but just chose not to show off.

We did achieve a new level of elation the day Joe decided it would be interesting to see how far we could kick him.  (The name has been changed to protect the innocent - and stupid.)  We swung as high as we dared and while on the back-swing, Joe would position himself directly in front of us like the center on a football team, posterior ready for impact.  Our Keds sent him sailing across the playground.  And here is the "kicker" as it were - other boys started doing it too.  Weird.

But the star to this story is The Sadist Slide from Hell.  The one and only slide on our playground was metal with wooden sides.  Let me reiterate.  It was metal with old, gray, paint-peeled-off, wooded sides.  One day, I attempted to stop my self, mid-slide.  I grasped the sides and something stabbed me in my left hand between my thumb and index finger.  When I reached the bottom, I saw what looked like a small log sticking out of my hand.

I don't remember a nurse being at that school.  She probably got frustrated with all the witch's hat injuries and quit.  I showed my teacher.  She tried to pull it out (gulp) and only the thick, log part came out.  There was obviously more still in there.  At some point later that day, I was taken to see Doc Windnagel in Pine Village.  He pulled out another 1" section.  I think I was so stunned at how long it was that I didn't notice the pain.  Some time later - a week, maybe two - I was sitting in my mom's recliner, looking at my wound and noticed what I thought was a little piece of dirt.  I pushed around on my hand and finally got hold of it.  It may have looked like a little spec of dirt from the top, but it ended up being another 1" piece of wood.  OK, that finally freaked me out.  I thought this thing went clear up my arm!  As it turned out, that was the last piece.  A 2-1/2" splinter in all.

After my incident, they put a chain across the top of the slide.  As far as my classmates were concerned, I was the one responsible for shutting down 1/4 of their playground.  They soon got over it, though.  I think Joe and his pals had a lot to do with that.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Like I said before, my Aunt Sis lived across the road from us.  I have surprisingly few photos of her, but here she is, on the right, with my cousin Janet.

I loved her with my whole heart.  I loved going over to her house, and here are a few reasons why other than the chick nursery in her garage.

We made chocolate pudding together.  I mean real pudding.  The stuff you make on the stove.

She kept a "slushy cup" in her freezer, just for me.  You could put any liquid in it and it would freeze from the sides.  My favorite was a 7-up slushy.

When I slept over - and I did that a lot - she would set up a card table and throw a quilt over it so I could have my own "house" in her living room.  Of course this was set up right in front of the TV, and she seemed to get better reception of the 3 channels that were available at the time (4 channels on a really good day).

She would let me stay up late on Friday nights and attempt to watch Sammy Terry.  Here's a photo of Sammy.  Creepy, huh?

I say attempt to watch, because Sammy was on channel 4 that broadcast from Indianapolis.  It was that 4th TV station that was semi-clear every now and then.  The weather, the moon phase and probably whatever NASA was doing at the time had to all be in sync for us to get channel 4.  Sammy Terry had the best horror movies -  everything from Dracula and Frankenstein to The Blob and The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.  The one I remember coming in the clearest was the original Little Shop of Horrors.  Made in 1960, billed as a comedy and the cast included a very young, very skinny Jack Nicholson.  It's true.  Look it up.  But I digress...  That movie freaked me out.  When the plant's flowers opened up at the end, showing all the victim's faces, I fell apart.  I jumped in Sis' bed, snuggled up next to her and it took her an hour to talk me down.

She had a wash stand with a door, and that's where she kept all my art supplies.  She got wallpaper sample books from somewhere, and I used to cut them into all kinds of stuff (probably leaving a huge mess on her living room carpet because all my artistic inspiration came from inside that card table house).  She would pronounce my artwork lovely and put it on the refrigerator.  It would mysteriously disappear by my next visit.

We played Trouble a lot.  I loved that game.  I think it was because of the pop-o-matic dice thingy in the middle.

In the spring, we went mushroom hunting.  I never ate them, but that's beside the point.

I don't know if it was her German heritage or what, but Sis always had cabbage in her fridge.  And she always had that bright, orange, French salad dressing that I could never talk Mom into buying at the grocery store.  I would sit in my card table house, watch Fat Albert on Saturday mornings and eat cabbage wedges with French dressing.  Weird, I know.

She had one of those washer/dryer combos.  The dryer was on top of the washer.  That fascinated me.

She made rosettes.  Deep fried batter with powered sugar.  They were YUM-MY.

Sis looked after Aunt Amelia.  I don't remember exactly how she was related to our family, but she was really old.  At some point, probably after Amelia passed away, Sis adopted her blue parakeet.  A bright blue bird.  That was cool.

She taught me how to play 500 Rum and Solitaire.

You get the picture.  I am extremely blessed to have had Sis in my life.  She's been gone a long time now, but I hope she knows how special she was and still is to me.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I mentioned the annual chicken "cleaning" in my last entry, so let's just get this one over with.

Let me set the scene for you....  It is a lovely, sunny, peaceful day in the Indiana countryside - at a farmhouse tucked away on a dead-end, gravel road, at the end of a quarter mile long lane.  The only sounds are the birds singing and chirping, and the breeze moving through the trees.  My mom and my Aunt Sis are making preparations for the ensuing carnage.

Back story:  Francis Weigle was my dad's sister.  Sis never married and lived across the road from our house.  Even through I had one grandmother that lived in town and I loved her very much, Sis was like having 4 grandparents rolled into one.  She. Was. Awesome.  I'll talk much more about her later.

For the purposes of this story, Sis had chickens.  She had well over a dozen hens in a coop behind her house and I got to help gather eggs once in a while.  Apparently, when the hens got to a certain age, they didn't produce as many eggs.  That's when Mom and Sis would take matters into their own hands.  The hens would be relegated from providing protein for our breakfasts to supper's main course.

Various stations were constructed on our peaceful patio.  Chairs were arranged, boiling pots of water were brought out, other pots and pans stood at the ready.

That's the point when my memory starts skipping scenes.  Its almost like I blacked out, came to, and blacked out again, over and over through the years. I do remember lots of feather plucking, piles of lifeless, naked poultry, body parts (lots of chicken feet), and the worst of all, the unlaid eggs.

Ugh.  I'm seriously getting an upset stomach just thinking about it, so I don't know why I'm subjecting you good people to it.  I can't believe I never became a vegetarian after witnessing that.  But Mom and Sis never seemed to have a problem with it.  Farm women. DO NOT MESS with farm women.

The upside is that this scenario always had a happy ending.  Soon after the Nightmare on the Patio, Sis would let me go with her to Indianapolis to buy a box of chicks.  The fluffy little yellow cuties came in a wide, flat box with holes in the side.  In the trunk of her '72 Nova, they cheeped all the way home.  For a couple weeks, Sis' one car garage was transformed into a nursery, and I got to go over and play with them every day.

But the chicks grew quickly, and would soon sprout little white feathers.  They became less fun to play with and were soon banished to the hen house.

Circle of life, down on the farm.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I grew up in the middle of nowhere, Indiana.  I don't want to give the impression that it was a bad thing.  Far from it.  As I grew into my twenties and moved away from the Middle of Nowhere, I was surprised to find people that did not cherish their childhoods the way I did.  But then again, Opie had nothing on me.  I had Pa, Aunt Bea, and a mom.  

Maybe it is a midlife crises. Maybe it is being dislodged and moving to a new state with my husband, and our children in college in two different states.  Maybe is it a need to get things out there before I forget them.  Maybe it's cheaper than therapy.

Regardless...  I feel the need to post some of my weirder childhood memories.  Buckle up.

I was fortunate enough to grow up with a bunch of non-girly girls for friends.  We weren't tom boys, but we didn't live and breathe pepto-bismol pink either. We camped - A LOT - on each other's properties.  We spent summers outdoors.  We did really stupid things, and by the grace of God, lived to tell about them.

And like most of my friends, I grew up on a farm. Sometime during my childhood, my father had a pond dug out along a creek path that ran just below a hill in front of our house.  He had it stocked with bass and sunfish.  It was great for fishing and ice skating.  Here is a view of the house from the pond.

I  remember this view well.  From that spot, I was a heroic olympic bob sledder in the winter and a combination of Nancy Drew and Marlin Perkins in the summer.  My mom grew watercress down there, so I considered myself a hunter/gatherer sort too.  I fished once or twice by myself, but being deathly afraid of actually touching a fish, my activities were mostly limited to gathering.

At some point, we acquired a "raft."  I use the term loosely, and apologize to the person (my brother?) responsible for its construction.  It was two empty barrels, loosely attached to the bottom of some wood slats nailed together.

One day, when we were old enough to know better, my friend Kathy and I grabbed a couple oars and took the raft out onto our rather large pond.  When we almost reached the far shore, one of us - probably me - dropped an oar.  This rendered our craft extremely difficult to maneuver.  We were trying to determine our next move, when we looked up and noticed the shore was moving.  Seriously.  Moving.  We looked closer, and were horrified to learn that the movement consisted of toads.

I'm not talking about ten or twenty toads.

I'm talking hundreds, maybe thousands of toads.

Having toad orgies.

I wish I were kidding, but the image of CLUMPS of toads, doing all sorts of dirty toady things, is burned into the photo album in my head forever.  EWWWW!!  They were so thick, we didn't trust finding a bare patch of shore to land on if we jumped.  And like every day between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next, we were both barefoot.  Ugh.  This was by far the grossest thing I had seen up to that point in my life.  Well, I take that back.  My mother and Aunt Sis "cleaning" chickens was like a Wes Craven movie unfolding before my eyes on our patio - but that's a story for another day.  

Since I sit here today, I assume we made it safely back to the near shore, physically but not mentally unscathed.  I can't remember telling my mother what happened when we finally reached the safety and security of the house, or her reaction.  But knowing my mom, I like to think she had trouble keeping a straight face.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

New personal record

I quit.

After working all day Saturday - for 9 hours and 20 minutes, without a break and without even sitting down - I called the owner of the store today and quit.  Why muddy the waters with discussing part time with the holiday season right around the corner?  Part time during December = full time.  And full or part time in retail = working weekends.  I knew weekends would be an issue going in, but with full time, I thought he would at least give me some weekends off.  Uh, no.  And any time off is hashed out among co-workers.  Easy task?  I'm thinking... no.

I must have been blinded by hope that this would be a really fun thing to do.  I would get to talk to other "foodies" and possibly make a friend or two in the regulars.  People are always so friendly and happy in those stores!  Perhaps I'm misreading them and the smiles are really grimaces from the pain of being on their feet all day.

I'm sure working with no one but the owner all day didn't help.  I heard his "script" for customers over a hundred times.  He made the same little joke to every customer after he completed a sale.  It was great for the customers and it was good to see how passionate he is about his store - but it wore me down.

Late in the afternoon, we started talking about religion.  Even though we are both Christians, we didn't agree on much.  Maybe it was at that point that I knew this really wasn't going to work, because I got some insight into his value of women.  I'll save that topic for another time...

When I got home at almost 8:00, John had a martini and dinner waiting for me.  After I told him what I would make an hour and what my back and feet were going to endure on that hard, tile floor, he simply said, "You're done."  Have I told you lately that I love you, Honey?

So, my quest for a job continues.  Next job, I hope I make it to a full week.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The grass is always greener...

You would think a job at an olive and vinegar store would be the mecca for a "foodie" person.  I was sure it would be.  And I'm sure it can be.  But at the ridiculous pay and being on your feet for 8-9 a day, maybe not.

I spent 9 hours at the store today.  I was too enthusiastic, because I led the owner to believe that I really liked the job and and I wanted full time.  Now, I don't.  It looks SO cool from the customer side of things - and I'm sure it is for an owner who is vested in the store.  But saying the same "script" to every customer that walks in the door is not my idea of a good time.  I could learn to like it if they paid double what they offered.

So, I'm discouraged.  I thought this would be really, really fun - regardless of pay, but then again, I thought the pay would be in my ballpark.  I'll talk to the owner.  Maybe part time,  just to get the samples to take home and experiment with.

Too tired to think of anything more tonight.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Oil and Vinegar


Hannah and Marina (our other daughter) came down for Labor Day weekend.  We went shopping on Sunday and HALLELUJAH, found an olive oil and vinegar store!  Finding this and the spice store down the street was like finding a treasure chest full of gold.

Or good food.


Anyway,  I love cooking, and Central Illinois has nothing like these places.

As we climbed the stairs to the store, we saw this written on a chalkboard outside the door:

Help wanted, full or part time
Insultingly low pay
Jerky boss
Inconvenient hours
Apply within!

Sarcasm right off the bat.  This sounds like my kind of place!!  Well, I'm assuming it's sarcasm.  Probably not about the pay.

Hannah declared that she is tired of listening to me gripe about my past jobs, marched me up to the counter and told them to hire me.  I chatted with the ladies behind the counter (who seemed lovely and spoke very highly of the owner) and they gave me an application.  They are looking for someone for Tuesdays and Wednesdays and if I am a "foody" I would love it.

To get this before getting a "real" job would be just off-the-charts fun.

So I interviewed today for the job.  The owner seems extremely nice and outgoing.  It seems like a beautiful fit for me.  The downside is that when he asked me if was interested in full time, I automatically said yes - without thinking of weekends.  During the interview, the owner had to tend to a customer.  I got drawn into their conversation and by the time she purchased her oil and vinegar, we had exchanged phone numbers because we where both central Illinois transplants, and promised to do coffee soon.  Weird interview, but it was really cool and the owner was impressed.

So I am supposed to go in Saturday and "work" the store to see if I really like it and if they really like me.  It's exciting, only because this could be really fun.

I'll keep you posted.