Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ready for Spring

I would like to tell you that this was taken in our backyard this afternoon but it wasn't. It was taken back near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. some years ago during Cherry Blossom time. It's pictures like this that refresh our memories and help us through the chilly, cloudy days like we had today. It is forecast to get warmer for the weekend and we are ready for it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Family Love

This picture exemplifies how my siblings and I grew up poor but had very rich childhoods. We knew we were “short of cash”. On more than one occasion, my older sister and I took Mother’s keepsake 1887 quarter along to Church activities to spend if necessary. Her father had given it to her since it bore the year of his birth. The generosity of fellow members enabled us to keep it and I still have it to this day. Though being “poor”, we never went hungry, always had clean clothes (hand-me-downs), clean sheets on the bed, a big level yard for playing ball and a nearby creek where we would wade in the summer and  skate in the winter. We grew up with ponies and even beyond what this picture shows, an abundance of LOVE.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Front Porches & Memories

There is a lot to be said for front porches. They can be a vital component in making a house a home. This front porch was just the right height for setting on to open the mail, or for a million other uses. I remember setting on this front porch with Dad and Uncle Clarence as we were preparing to move to Washington, D. C. Uncle Clarence told me that Nebraska roots gave anyone an advantage in D.C. and that I should do well. It seems that things could be said out on the porch that wouldn’t have been proper in the house. Yet, it demanded more dignified language than the barnyard. I suspect many a maiden received a good-night kiss on a front porch, maybe even this porch and I’m thinking about my little sister. We visited this old porch yesterday as part of our tour. But like memories that fade with time, old porches need to be refurbished and refreshed. Occasionally they even need to be rebuilt and  embellished.  

Monday, March 28, 2011

Windmill & Brothers

Jerry, Don, Cindy, Chad, Tanya, Cody and Carly drove up this morning in MaryBeth’s van and I met them out at the old Vrana farm north of Garland. There is no one living in the double-wide house that sets to the west of where our house was. The only remaining landmarks are a walnut tree, elm tree and the old windmill. The creek has been straightened, the old channel filled and much of the wood lot reshaped and now farmed. Other channel work has resulted in the lowering of the creek bed several feet. It is difficult to reconcile the current setting with what we knew 60 years ago. Jerry was pleased to get back out there and show grandchildren Cody and Carly where he was born 74+ years ago. The kids got down to the creek and were about as fascinated with it as all of us were years ago.  It was flowing a nice stream of about 2 cfs this morning. We then drove up the Ridge Road, toured Garland, and, saw the farm pond where Jerry told of having submerged a boat which he suspects is still there. We went past the “Blue Ridge Farm” that Elaine and I owned at one time and stopped at the place where the folks moved when Jerry and Janice were between their sophomore and junior years in High School. The old house is in sad condition so after taking some pictures, came on in to Seward. Elaine and Julie had a good broasted chicken dinner ready which we all enjoyed. But enjoyed even more, the stories told and the memories rekindled. Jerry told of how he and Mother would butcher chickens and couldn’t keep up filling orders from people here in Seward. Don told of helping Dad take a triple level wagon box ricked full of wood to someone in Garland and getting only three dollars for it. Jerry said they got four dollars apiece for the dressed chickens. The value of a dollar changed quite a bit between the ‘30’s and the ‘50’s plus Mother was always a better sales person than Dad.  I won’t even mention Jerry’s story that involved a goat and Concordia girls dormitory. Many stories, great memories and after driving out past the family plots at the North Cemetery and other points of interest here in Seward, they headed back to Syracuse. It was a great visit.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Brothers

We had a great family gathering at Syracuse this afternoon with my brother Jerry, his wife and several members of their family were here from Wisconsin. Jerry’s health is not good and wanted to get together with the family here in the area where we all originated. Their one daughter, Tanya drove back from Denver. Much of brother Don and Gladys’ family live in the Syracuse area and a shop building of a son-in-law made an excellent facility for such an event. There were over 50 of us that enjoyed the prime rib that Jerry’s brought down from Wisconsin. The family in Syracuse did a lot of work to make it all happen but it turned great and just what Jerry wanted.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Old Vrana Farm

I'm posting the picture of me and the horses mainly to continue yesterday's discussion of the relationship of the barn and corncrib to the windmill at the old Vrana farm. The windmill doesn't show up very well but it is over the top of my head in the picture. I would guess this was taken in about 1941. The vegetation behind the horse is Gypsum weed which had large, trumpet shaped,white flowers with a very distinct odor and produced a round, stickery, seed pod. Also including the 1938 Air Photo that was used for the SCS farm plan. The gullies show up as do a couple white dots of old straw stacks.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The lower picture was taken in the late '50s with the windmill showing behind the steel bin. The upper picture was taken in 2009 from about the same direction but closer to the windmill. The large steel bins on the upper picture were added during the interim.
Elaine and I have continued our tradition on her September 3 birthday of driving out past the farms where each of us were raised. The houses have long since been removed and few of the other buildings remain but we have landmarks. The windmill towers at both places are still standing with the wheel and tower both in a state of disrepair, but they mark a spot which we must wrestle with to fit with our memory. At Elaine’s place the barn and corncrib are still there but much closer to the road than they once were. All I have left in addition to the windmill is a walnut tree and possibly an elm tree. The walnut tree is not much larger than it was many years ago and is a lot closer to the windmill. Ours was a unique farmstead with buildings on both sides of a country dirt road. The house, wash house, garage, chicken houses, cob shed and toilet all sat on the north side of the road with the barns, grainy, corn crib, and hog sheds on the south side. Some years ago the owner changed the course of the creek that ran close to the cow barn. He did a lot of dirt moving in the old woodland, orchard, and carrels to enable much of it to be farmed. This along with the buildings being removed changed the whole perspective. The questionable elm tree was right south of the house and less than 10 feet high at the time the house was remodeled in 1950. I picked up the “remains” of one of the blades of the old windmill wheel and part of an old plow lay that were at the base of the windmill when we were out there last fall. They are being added to the rocks, pictures and mostly memories that help recall the difficult but happy days of youth.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Grocery shopping Social

It was an uneventful day in Seward, Nebraska with the temperatures in the high 40’s under cloudy skies and a wind chill of 37. Golf was not on the agenda but Wednesday is Senior Citizen day at the local Pac n Save grocery store. In a small town like Seward, grocery buying is a social event. After picking out our week’s supply of Braburn apples on sale for 79 cents/pound, we meet Bernard and his wife from Bee. I hadn’t seen them for some time so had a good visit about the Bee auction this weekend and how fast time flies. I remember going to their wedding dance over 60 years ago. Then as we continued to shop for sale items and the necessities we noticed another older couple and had to look twice since we hadn’t seen them together before. The lady is Elaine’s first cousin who lost her husband some time ago after his having spent several years in a care facility. The fellow lost his wife a couple years ago following a time in a care facility and several years of his loving care for her at home. I have known him since playing town-team basketball against each other some 60 years ago. We chatted a bit about my not having seen him at the golf course yet this spring but he didn’t say why he hadn’t been out. I told him about the number of trees that had to be removed from the course and he asked about the Club management. He is a good golfer and expects to get out one of these days. They both seem to have a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eyes like I hadn’t seen in a number of years. On the way home, Elaine and I talked about how pleased we were to see old friends appearing to have “new life” after all they have been through, but we are certain that neither of us will ever be in that situation.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Soil Conservation & Old Friends

The 43rd Annual Kiwanis Ag Recognition Banquet was held last night at the Seward Ag Pavilion where the Jason Brase family were honored as the Outstanding Farm Family. Since the year 2000, the Seward Area Chamber of Commerce and the County Agricultural Society have joined with the Kiwanis event to induct members of the Seward County Hall of Agriculture Achievement. Inductees last night were Norman Gerkensmeyer and Jack Broderick. Jack has headed the Seward High School Future Farmers of America for the past 34 years and has one of the largest, most successful programs in the State. Norman has lived on the same farm since he was born in 1924. Both of the inductees have received recognition and numerous awards over the years but what caught my eye in Norman’s “story” was that he won the Seward County plow terracing contest in 1948, the State contest in Madison County, and placed 3rd in the National contest near Harlan, IA. I was well aware of all of that having begun employment with the USDA Soil Conservation Service in the spring of ’48 and went to Iowa on August 24th to see Norman compete. My folks got a new Fleetline Chevrolet on the 7th of August and My Dad, brother and I drove it to Iowa to witness the National contest. Building farm terraces with a moldboard plow was soon replaced by other machines but for a few years it was a way that farmers could “Save the Soil” with the equipment they already had on the farm.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Family Memories

By most standards, this picture should have been “deleted”. But it is an excellent example of how much interesting information can be gleaned from beyond the focus of the picture. Had this picture been cropped, it might have only been a picture of Janice who was able to walk when she was 10 months old. But a closer look into the background shows the big block of wood and a split block serving as steps into the old wash house. The pump next to the wash house was for one of 2 shallow wells that we had on the farm. I have no memory of the platform for the pump being that “rickey” nor of it being supported by rocks. The big washtub on the pump platform was used as the Saturday night bathtub. Even the scattered planks do not fit my memory of a route to the well and wash house when it was muddy. We have a remarkable ability to modify our memories for the better, and thankfully, the picture of the cute little girl was reason enough to keep the picture among our family treasurers.  

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ted Kooser

Ted Kooser, local poet and former U.S. poet laureate, inspired the Seward area residents during his hour with us at the Seward Memorial Library this evening. He read some passages from “Local Wonders” and “Delights & Shadows” but mostly just answered questions. He talked about the importance of the sounds of words and how this is missed in speed reading where the thought is transmitted directly. He read his poem “Alice” and that it is being made into a movie. He also read the last “story” in “Local Wonders” which he has read at weddings as well as at funerals. We are very fortunate to have Ted Kooser in our community. I am re-reading “Local Wonders” and enjoying it even more than when it first came out nearly 10 years ago. As I read about the lilac bush near their house, I remember of talking with Jackie about it since they lived many years ago where Ted and Kathleen now live north of Garland in the Bohemian Alps. The house is just across the section from where I grew up, and it has taken him to help me appreciate the beauty of the area.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Estate Auctions

Household auctions in a small town are a social event. They provide an opportunity to visit with old friends, meet new ones and even get a bargain occasionally. I have always tried to buy something at estate auctions of old friends as a way of continuing their memory each time I use the item. Scooping snow with a shovel that I have from a good friend brings back the many times we played baseball against each other and how we laid-out terraces together in our Soil Conservation work. This morning my daughter and I went to the Berger estate auction during the “viewing” period. With the temperatures in the low 40’s, we didn’t stay for the auction to begin but we did do a lot of visiting. Much of the stuff was what Mrs. Berger had collected over the years. I had the pleasure of telling the Berger daughter how much I appreciated her Dad and the inspiration he had on my learning computer skills. He was knowledgable and interested in a wide variety of subjects. He died in his late 80’s as I recall but he never grew old, he was always “Young at Heart”. A good Model.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nice Remodeling Job

This is the same little house on North 2nd street here in Seward that was shown on my earlier St. Patrick's Day post. This picture was taken last summer. The owners did a wonderful job of remodeling a house well over 100 years old.
The little girl on the picture was my Mother. Her Grandmother, Matilda (Robinson) Turner is seated. This is the little house that Christopher and Matilda lived in after they were married. He came to Seward following the Civil War and a few years back in Illinois. Christopher fought with the 99th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, Company A. His name is included on a bronze plaque in the Illinois monument at the Vicksburg, MS National Battlefield. He came to this country from the "North of Ireland" in 1851. Matulda was born in Tyron, Ireland in 1857 and came to the United States with her parents in 1858. They were married here in Seward County in 1878 at the Middle Creek school house by J. W. Montgomery, Justice of the Peace. This is my claim to Irish ancestory. My Mother was at least half Irish (There is some question as to her Father's heritage which probably included some Irish along with his German and Scotch). My Dad being 100% Czech makes me an American but on St. Patrick's Day, I'm Irish and last night I enjoyed a wonderful dinner of Corned Beef and Cabbage.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day

Grandma Vrana always was insistent the her sweet peas and potatoes be planted on St. Patrick’s Day. While this was not always possible in eastern Nebraska, we were able to plant our potatoes today. We have had exceptional results the past 2 years with them being planted on the south side of our house and hopefully it will continue. Being aware of the need for rotating crops to avoid nematodes and various insects and diseases, we know we are taking a chance. However, the stakes are not high. The 2 seed potatoes cost 39cents and it probably took as much as 10 minutes to cut them up into 17 pieces. I dug the holes and Elaine carefully placed them in the hole with the eye up. We are hopeful of having new potatoes for my birthday in late June.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Sunny Side of the Nixon White House

It was important for news coverage and public impression to have a crowd of people at the White House to help the President greet foreign dignitaries when they came to call. How better to get such a collection of people than to make quick calls to federal agencies and invite employees who already had the necessary security clearance. During the days I was involved, we were even trusted to bring along family members and other employees. Such was the situation on August 7, 1969 when German Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger came to visit President Richard M. Nixon. I was able to take 3 of our children, a niece who was visiting from Nebraska, and a young summer intern from the office. It was a “once in a lifetime” experience for young people to be up close and see the President and the visiting dignitary review the troops and make a few comments. After the ceremony, there was an opportunity to wonder around the grounds and take pictures. I’m certain that security is much tighter these days.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Smokey Bear Fans

With their Mother working for the USDA Forest Service in an office close to Rudy Wendelin (curator of Smokey Bear), it's not difficult to see the enthusiasm in the expression of these 3 young people. Their Mother heard the story of the rescue of the little bear directly from the Foresters involved and passed on the story to them as we visited Smokey Bear in the Washington Zoo. Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl memorabilia have become very collectible items on eBay.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Madness

We don't see letter sweaters much anymore but to this young man, his letter and trophy were symbolic of a great season of Junior High basketball. And, as his dad, I probably took as much pride in it as he did. While his active playing career may have reached its pinnacle at this level, he went on to be associated with basketball teams as a student manager and statistician at Wakefield HS, UN-L and Duke University. We are all Duke basketball fans today as the result of his devotion to the team. We will get home from Church this noon to see them take on North Carolina in the final of the ACC tournament.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Farm Boy's Hero

The current issue (March 14, 2011) of Sports Illustrated has a cover story of Joe DiMaggio’s record 56 game hitting streak. The article focuses on a double-header game in Washington, D.C. where DiMaggio broke the 41 consecutive game record held by George Sisler on his way to the 56 game feat. I was a young farm boy at the time who kept a daily diary and was interested in baseball. While I didn’t note his having gotten hits in his 42 consecutive game, I did enter on July 2, 1941 that “DiMaggio gets a hit in his 44th straight game”.  On July 12th I noted that “Joe DiMaggio hits safely in 50 games” and on July 16th, “DiMaggio his in 55th game”. I was probably a day behind in my entries since the 56 game streak ended on July 17th in Cleveland. DiMaggio was always my hero and I later played center field for the Garland and Seward town teams. It was a thrill  for me to see him play at Cominskey Park in Chicago on September 23, 1948 even though the White Sox beat the Yankees 4-2. We saw the Cubs play the Cardinals the day before which were the first Major League games I’d seen. Since then I’ve seen games in over 50 Major League parks, all 30 of the current ones and over 20 that are no longer in existence.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I was able to check another item off my “bucket list” after having the privilege of being at the Lied Center in Lincoln, NE last evening for the Garrison Keillor presentation. It was all I looked forward to and more. He began the evening by having the audience participate in the singing of the beautiful old hymn, “All Is Well With My Soul” and held our attention for over two hours. Now in his late 60’s, he related well to the largely senior citizen audience and yet his appeal is universal as he talked about the nurturing of his young daughter compared to his older children. At our age and setting in the upper balcony, my wife and I missed a few of his words, but as I thought about it today, it was a fantastic experience. It was made even better by having a daughter, granddaughter and her husband, pick us up and escort us to the presentation.

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Thursday, March 10, 2011


I would like to have included a picture today but can't seem to get it uploaded on to this blog page. It will load on the "Add Images" page from various sources but nothing happens when the "Add Selected" box is clicked. Does anyone have any ideas. The pictures I've had trouble getting added are those from my fines that I have taken with my own camera so there should be no reason for them not being loaded.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Benji & Friends

My sister Janice and her husband, Larry spent Monday night with us as they drove from Wisconsin to their home in California. The weather forecast was such that we thought (and were kind of hoping) they may have to stay over another day but when conditions improved yesterday, they hit the road and drove to Dalhart, Texas. Benji is a good traveler and well trained for a 6 month old puppy. He even "shakes hands" to say good-bye. We are waiting tonight for information on how far they got today. Just got word that they are in Seigman, AZ on Route 66 and plan to get home tomorrow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Family Visit

My sister Janice and husband Larry are with us tonight on their way home to California after visiting her twin brother Jerry and his family in Tomah, WI. While they are anxious to get home we would like for them to spend some more time with us and not leave tomorrow morning as they planned. We think the weather may help them decide to spend at least another day. It is always great to get together and reminisce about “old times”. It is interesting how people remember things differently; how we need to be reminded of things we had completely forgotten. As Mark Twain said, “Some of the things I remember best, never even happened”.  

Sunday, March 6, 2011

It is so easy for most of us to take for granted our City Fire Departments and the trained Volunteers that operate them.  But when you see flames coming out of the windows of a neighborhood house, and smoke coming out of the roof, you begin to really appreciate seeing firemen on the scene. This was the situation yesterday when passerby’s observed smoke and called the alarm.  While many in the town were getting ready to leave for Lincoln to see the Seward HS Girls win their 3rd consecutive Class B State basketball Championship, the firemen got the flames under control. There was no one in the house at the time and had the fire not been spotted when it was, the damage could have been even much greater.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday Tim. The weather in Nebraska this morning is much  better than the morning you were born some years ago. We only lived a few blocks from the Hospital but it was near zero, snow covered the streets, our old car sat outside and when Mother said it was time to go--the car wouldn't start. I got out the sled and was prepared to take her that way when I made a final effort to start the car. I had put a teakettle of hot water under the hood and it "fired-up". She wasn't there long before you were born. You look like a "Major League" baseball player in this picture and will always be a Major League Son.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Report Card T

Facial expression may reflect what is shown on the Report Cards but not necessarily. If my memory is correct, they were all very good. The narrow neckties seem to be coming back in style and good report cards are always in style.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Family picnic

No, the flame didn't consume anyone sitting on the picnic table. It was a safe distance on the far side of the table. However, there are other ifs, ands, and butts in the picture.