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Saturday, July 31, 2004


Tuesday July 24th

We had several small showers during the night but hardly enough to wet the canvas on the camper. We got up and made short work of breakfast and clean-up. George, aunt Beulah, Becky and Patty went to the launder matt to wash dirty clothes while mom, and I wrote cards. The boys passed time flying John’s airplane and dad busied himself putting the new charms on our bracelets. When the “wash crew” got back we folded up camp and came off Mesa Verde our last time. In due respect, she is one of a kind and refuses any attempts to change. You do not conquer her… she conquers you.

It wasn’t far to Four Corners. It’s a place where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona come together. We ate a bite of lunch and took pictures at the monument. I have a couple of favorites. One of John standing on his head in the exact spot of the four corner’s (I believe that was dad’s suggestion) and one of each of the four children standing in a different State, inches apart. This would be the only place in this great country of ours that you can do that. It must have been off the beaten path because there were few tourists and it was barren and isolated more or less. An old pick-up truck was parked close by with a weathered man sitting in it. He was the only “concession stand” which consisted of an aged pop cooler with some bottles of cokes in it. He made no attempt to sell his drinks and the outrageous price kept us from buying any. We had our own, of course.

We headed southwest across an architectural wonderland of mesas, desert and every kind of spire, dome, sphere, jaw toothed, blunt, blobby, rhythmical mass of rock and mountain you could think of. The ground had ravines, washes, holes and mounds of all types. If this wasn’t awesome enough, in design, we had every color the Southwest could think of to paint. The sky, jealous of the attention below, gathered her big white clouds and had a regular temper fit across the mesa tops, spilling her tears in big black streaks to the ground. One had to look in a swivel motion to try and look at all Arizona was throwing at us, as if determined to prove she was the best of the West. A common sight during the afternoon were hogans and corrals of different sizes made with tree branches. They were crudely built and almost invisible they blended into the landscape so well.

We saw several Indians on horseback, herding sheep and one posed beautifully for us when we stopped to take a picture. We were most appreciative until he came closer to the car with his hand out and said, “MON-ey, MON-ey.” It ruined the whole concept for us but aunt Beulah and Patty fished out a little change for him before we drove away. Patty was riding with mom and dad this afternoon.

We saw several dust devils spinning across the valley floor and we stopped southwest of Tuba City to look at some dinosaur tracks. We hurried on because we were getting close to the Grand Canyon and we wanted to get there early enough to get good camping spots….and close together. We came up the mesa in a rain shower which detracted from the view but we knew it would be beautiful on a sunny day. We were pleased to get two good spots right across from each other and we went immediately to buy some groceries so we could have a good supper. It was rainy and drizzly all evening but we didn’t mind in our nice camper.

Later that evening George and the kids went to the souvenir shop to look around. When they got back, aunt Beulah, mom and the kids all went to the campfire where Rangers were gathering folks for story telling. I wanted to go but after the drizzly weather I wanted to clean the floor in the camper and get the beds ready for the night. When our little bunch got back they told us the campfire was really nice and what all was said. We talked back and forth in the dark before we fell asleep. Tomorrow would be a full day of unimaginable sights……….

Until Monday,
Essentially Esther

Friday, July 30, 2004


I’m ginned up on coffee so we’re ready to go to the top. I am one who begins to palpitate when I stand on a chair to retrieve something from my top cupboard (I’m 5’ 3” so everything is too high up for me). Anyway, you can understand that I avoid step-ladders, don’t climb trees and am terrified of airplanes. Yes, I know, I’m a wimp. But as I always say…..“wimps live and bravado dies.” I do not have a death wish.

Fortified with all the backbone I could muster we began the climb of Mesa Verde. I mentioned airplanes before. For those of you who have been there you know what I’m talking about. For those of you who haven’t…..don’t go. An airplane view is exactly what it feels like. Going up you are on the outer rim of the road. Therefore, your driver is in the comfortable position of being near the center. Riding in the front passenger seat I was privileged to see only inches of road between me and space. Attempting to lock on some sort of a landmark I kept looking through the windshield, only to see space. When I looked down I saw nothing but objects growing smaller with each curve. “Oh how scenic,” you might say. No !! That is far from the picture I was given.

If you have read anything of what I’ve written before you probably assume my imagination is fully in tact. Here is the picture that kept conjuring up in my mind. I will set the scene for you. We are going up at about a 90* angle……..oh all right…maybe that’s a little exaggerated…anyway….we are driving a pretty 4-door Plymouth sedan and our little family camper is white with a soft turquoise band around it to match the car perfectly. (I’m a matchy-matchy.) So we are going straight up and I begin thinking about ways we could do ourselves in……suddenly I had the perfect horrifying event pictured in my mind.

We had been having tire trouble on the camper last year and this year as well. Maybe the wheels weren’t quite right. If they didn’t “track” perfectly they wouldn’t follow the path of the Plymouth and since we were only inches from the edge of nowhere, one would go over the outer edge, thereby pulling us off the road with the camper. I could see us falling into space, backwards, and of course, the end is predictable. I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind. It was so real and the reality we were facing, so great, I became more frightened with each mile.

This is the part I hate. The kids imitate it so well it makes me sick. They get my intonation just right and say, “G-G-G-Geeeoooorrrrrr--gggge, get over….get over…G-g-g-geeeoooorrrrgge, ggggeeeetttt oovveerr…..GET OVER!!!!!!!! WE ARE GOING OFF THE EDGE…..” Oh yah. They are all about teasing now. Where were they when I was making my plea?? In the back seat…..in the VERY QUIET back seat. Now, to hear them tell it, I was the only wimp!!!

I make my case. In 1968 there were no guardrails, no shoulder….not even a wide road. Oh no. It was a very narrow, very treacherous road. With hundreds of tourists silly enough to go up the thing why should they care? I promised to take issues with the Colorado Transportation Department when I got down….if I made it down. After what seemed like an eternity we finally made it to the top. I began to feel less tense when I saw the Lodge with people, food and signs of normal life about. My joy was short-lived. We decided to drive around the Mesa and see everything before going to the Lodge for refreshments….after all we were a little past wanting to eat anything after our experience coming up. I, the coward, and the rest who had to listen to my naked fright on the way up…….were all drained at the moment.

I thought the rest would be a piece of cake after what I had just been through, but no!! The road around the mesa was, of course, on the edge as well…..to make the view more meaningful. Again, I was assigned the seat closest to the edge (remember: no guardrails etc;etc;) and all I could see was blue space. George finally parked the car and we got out….“this will be good” I thought…I trust my own feet and legs…not a hunk of steel and plastic that may go berserk at any time and take me where I wouldn’t want to go. But no!!! Remember what John did last year when we were looking at the Yellowstone Falls? Well, this is the same kid a year older.

We were lucky enough to get in on the tour for the Cliff Palace as it was preparing to make the rounds. A Park Ranger gathered us up and took us to an area where we could see the dwellings and that was good enough for me. I looked at the steel steps going down the edge of the mesa which hooked up with a walkway over to the dwellings. As I pondered my choices about backing out I happened to look over towards the edge of the mesa. There stood John…on the very edge…..looking at all the itty bitty specks 1500-feet below. “Look, mom, ………look how little the cars look from up here.” It was a miracle….my little blind son could see!!!!! Did I recognize the miracle? NO !!! I was on him like ugly on an ape. I jerked him back and lectured him all the way back to the group. His reassurance that he wasn’t going to fall only made me more tense. THIS coming from a kid who sounded the alarm at the White House and who almost fell into the falls at Yellowstone??? Oh yah….I’m about to turn him loose again hanging over the edge of Mesa Verde.

I made up my mind to forget going over to the dwellings when he started up again….“I can’t wait to see where the Indians lived, mama, the Ranger said there is all kinds of stuff to see over there………..I wasn’t going to fall.” I reasoned this information before I said anything. We came on this trip to show the kids some history and scenery…to educate them. How could I not let him go on the tour and how could I get out of going? Before I was decided, the tour started and down we went. Steel steps (120 of them…I counted) all going down to a walkway over to the ruins. I had a death grip on John, George was ahead of us, Becky and Patty followed and along came George Jr…….everyone was observing and listening to the Ranger go on and on about the mystery of the Cliff Dwellers, how they carved a city out of the mesa and how they just disappeared without a trace. How they had to make the trek down and back to the top to carry water and hunt for food. I could tell I did right by coming along and by letting John have the experience. He never knew how close he came to not seeing it….that is, until now.

We saw a Kiva where the men of the tribe held council and where the religious practices were performed. We looked in one 3-story house and saw pre-historic paintings on the inside wall, then picked our way around the ledge and climbed stone steps hewn out of the mesa wall and squeezed between a rock opening just big enough for one person at a time. We came to a ladder which brought us out to the top of the mesa again. Mom, dad and aunt Beulah made it without much difficulty and I wondered at their complacency about the danger of the whole affair. Maybe old people and kids just don’t get it, I, on the other hand “got it.” This was a dangerous journey….and I don’t care how much the kids want to tease me about it, I’m stickin to my story.

The high altitude made breathing difficult for us low-lander folks and we huffed and puffed a great deal as we finished our climb to the top again. We drove back to the Lodge and had pie and coffee which was wonderfully delicious and relaxing. We sat and looked out over the horizon, at last able to enjoy the view, and then walked to the Gift Shop. We bought our silver charm for a souvenir… mom and I chose an enameled shape of the State of Colorado but aunt Beulah refrained. Becky chose a mountain goat and Patty selected a pack-mule. Dad spied a silver charm designed like the ruined Kiva so mom and I bought that one as well. John selected a pocket knife and George Jr. enjoyed looking at all the possibilities. He and George Sr. were having fun picking out a charm for me that I didn’t see until later.

The ride down wasn’t nearly as bad on the nervous system as it was going up. Mainly because we were on the inside of the road most of the way down. We got back to camp and tried out a “box” dinner which was pretty good according to the opinion poll. George took the kids up the hill to shower while I did K.P. Oh yah… the charm George got me? He ended up getting me a mountain goat to remember how scared I was….REMEMBER???? You’ve got to be kidding….trying to forget is more like it. The mountain goat was a poor substitute for what he was really looking for…………..a chicken!!!

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, July 29, 2004


Sunday morning July 21st

We got up earlier this morning so John could go fish but he didn’t have any luck. We got breakfast over with and cleared camp, ready to travel. We are far enough out in Kansas that it’s getting very dry and hot. I suspect that’s pretty normal for this area so close to Colorado. We see enormous sprinkler systems all over which give evidence of the lack of rain here.

We came into Colorado before noon at Holly and Lamar; had lunch at Hasty (which was at a City Park with nothing but sand, tables and some playground equipment.) Poor Hasty is a barren, dirty little town and very hot. We drove on to Las Animas, La Junta, Walsenburg and then had a coke break. George used to ride the train to La Junta when he worked the mail on them so he pointed to a hotel he stayed at as we went through.

If you can make it to Walsenburg you have it made. The heat and desert turn to mountains and cooler air. We came across the North La Veta Pass and stopped at Fort Garland which was commandeered by Kit Carson in the 1800’s. George had to change a tire on the camper since he threw a piece of rubber and was afraid to trust it to go very far. After leaving Fort Garland we passed a pretty triple peak called Little Bear, Blanco and Mount Lindsey. Also saw the singing sand dunes along San Luis Valley. We are traveling the Navajo Trail now….yesterday we were on the Santa Fe Trail all day.

We tried to stop at Alamosa for the night but it was too expensive with very poor accommodations. No shade; just sand and dust so we went on to Monte Vista, Del Norte and finally beyond South Fork we were lucky to find a Federal Campground right on the South Fork of the Rio Grande River. It immediately reminded us all of Basin Creek with the pretty stream, mountains and fir trees.

We gals got supper going and John took advantage of the little daylight left to fish…but no luck yet. We enjoyed watching a little gray squirrel jump around in the trees and beg for food. It was our first cold night to sleep and we had a little lightening and a sprinkle after we went to bed.

Monday July 22nd

We had our usual pancakes for breakfast. They always go good on cool mornings with all the fresh air and hot coffee. While we were cleaning up to leave we watched chipmunks, our little squirrel and a bird that was new to me….a Canadian blue-jay. He was more feathery and had beautiful shades of dark blue with a plummey top. Then there was a yellow and black bird with a red head that was unfamiliar to me. Immediately after leaving our campground we began ascending Wolf Creek Pass which was a beautiful drive and full of sharp, steep turns which offered a good full view of everything below. When we started down, we stopped at a viewing area and enjoyed the scenery, also some cute little chipmunks playing around the area. Highest elevation of the pass was 10, 850 feet. We drove thru Pagosa Springs to Durango where we ate lunch in the park and while Dad and George went to see about a new tire for the camper, aunt Beulah, mom, the kids and I walked up town to buy some post cards. Durango was more or less jazzed up in a Western version of the frontier days type of main street with many interesting store-fronts. Unfortunately prices were geared to well-healed tourists and not to family camper trade so we looked and didn’t buy anything.

Leaving Durango we traveled over a notable scenic route lined with mountains, winding roads and through the beautiful Mancos Valley. Standing along the valley floor was our destination for the day…..fearsome, formidable and fascinating…. Mesa Verde…..towering 1500 feet into the sky, as primitive today as it must have been in 1200 A.D. when the Indians built the Cliff Dwellings. It was 5-miles up the mesa to the camping area where we were lucky enough to get two spaces close together with our usual good timing. We rested a minute, talking about the hair-raising road we had just driven up on and then decided to drive the final 22-miles to the top where the dwellings were (or at least get tickets for the next day.)

Tomorrow we find out just what that road to the top was like. First of all, I need something to calm me down to properly draw the imagery. I shall see you tomorrow, fortified with a pot of black coffee and we’ll make the trip up !!!

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


It was planned for us to meet mom, dad and aunt Beulah at Fort Scott, Kansas to begin our trip. I worked all day at the Educational Modulation Center and because Olathe was on the way to Fort Scott, George and the kids picked me up after work. After a rousing send-off by the secretarial staff we stopped at Custer’s Drive-In for burgers and fries and then drove south to meet up with our family. Becky’s friend, Patty Warren, who lived next door to us came along but we lost uncle Alfred this time. I’m sure it was hard on him last year and he’s a year older now.

We arrived in Fort Scott about 7:00pm and drove straight to the Post Office where we saw three of our favorite people sitting on the steps (the prearranged meeting place)……mom, dad and aunt Beulah. They had already scouted out a place for us to camp for the night on the north end of town. It was a nice little park and such a pleasant evening we got our lawn chairs out to sit and catch up on family news. I didn’t have a “log book” yet so George and I drove up town later to find someplace to buy a tablet. A drug store was the only place open but no tablets. As it is with small town folks the druggist wanted to accommodate our needs so he offered me one he had in the office. He insisted I take it so thanks to him I was able to record the trip.

We left Fort Scott at 9:15 am and headed due west into the heart of Kansas on Highway 54. Yesterday we traveled 100-miles from Shawnee to Fort Scott. The weather was very clear and pleasant with cool temperatures….light feathery clouds on the edge of the skyline. We stopped at a nice little roadside park to have a bite of lunch a few miles east of El Dorado. We could see a large Skelly Oil Refinery at a distance but our road went south. Clouds gathered during the day to make big cottony lumps overhead while the horizon looked hazy. It could be hot weather haze or threat of rain.

Our cool morning turned into scorching winds all afternoon. We arrived at Dodge City about 5:30 pm. We drove by the enormous Santa Fe Depot which was constructed of red brick and very old, then down the famous Front Street to see the Long Branch Saloon. We went in for a cool drink and were greeted by women dressed up like Miss Kitty…..the drinks were appropriately named, “Saspirillo, Cactus Juice,” and the like. The kids had fun ordering soft drinks with the neat sounding names all in the nature of “Gun Smoke.” We stepped into a souvenir shop next door to buy our first charms of the trip.

Boot Hill was very disappointing. It wasn’t marked by gravestones at all. Instead, painted commercial signs marked the spot where famous Western villains met their demise and were buried. Buildings were jammed all around and the old, dead Hangman’s Tree had been placed there to add a note of authenticity but was dismally inadequate. The whole effect was more like a carnival scene. There was a mock jail there and I took dad’s picture looking out from behind the bars….

We drove down the road a few miles to Cimmaron, Kansas and parked at a campground by the Arkansas River. While the fellows made camp, we gals dashed to the store to pick up supplies barely before the store closed….then back to fix supper. Becky and Patty offered to do the dishes which was a treat. John tried fishing in the river but the water was full of tree branches so he ended up tangling his hook and string more than anything else. George Jr. was content to sit with the adults and listen to grandpa’s stories. Later we went to the showers and then for a good night’s sleep. The Colorado border is only about 76-miles away so we want to be fresh when we start out in the morning. Traveling across Kansas where mile after mile rarely changes is drudgery for some but like any State, the beauty is there if you look.

The golden wheat fields waving in the breeze look almost like a sea of gold. The wind makes waves across the vast expanse of grain that pulsate and move like a living being. Across the horizon as far as you can see there is no break between land and sky except for an occasional grain elevator that stands over the plains like mute sentinels. Scenes of the areas we have covered today float through my mind while sleep comes on tiptoes……..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


In case any of you missed me yesterday I just couldn’t get to my blog writing. Our AC went out this past Friday and we called a service man. He looked it over, took it’s pulse and blood pressure….gave it an aspirin and promised to come back Saturday morning. When he ran the final test on Saturday to our dismay she died during the night. Dead at only 22-years of age, leaving an aging Coleman furnace to mourn her. Her mother and father were in shock….and went into deep depression. Funerals cost a lot of money, are always unexpected and always happen when you have spent money on some frivolous thing leaving you to face buyer’s remorse.

We were left to grieve in private until Monday morning. Our funeral arranger arrived about 9:00 am and had several plans for burial and the “hereafter.” After much soul searching we decided on a plan and are told we have everything in order for our “hereafter’s.” Completely committed and secure in our decision our new arrival is being put in place as I write and we look forward to a long and lasting relationship.

We were blessed with the coolest weather recorded in this area in July so we have not suffered in our loss. In fact, we feel blessed through the whole experience and we know that “all things happen for good”…….

All things considered, I feel it is inappropriate to write about our 1968 trip to the SouthWest until we have had proper time to digest all that has happened. When we have had another day to show our respects to the deceased I shall return tomorrow and begin anew. Your condolences are appreciated.

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, July 24, 2004


Fall came with football activities, homecoming and Scouting events. Fall always meant going on the hunt for black walnuts to bag and sell for the troop needs. It is amazing how that paid for most of the year’s expenses along with the chili supper.

Mom and dad came for Thanksgiving and brought aunt Beulah with them. Dale joined us along with Louis and Gail. Our family Christmas exchange always made the visit lots of fun and the house was filled with laughter and story telling. Dale was working on an airplane he was building which got the attention of dad, Louis and George….of course George Jr. and John were right with them. I have pictures at the kitchen table where Dale is the center of attention with his project. If he needed any suggestions I’m sure there was a lot of brain-power present to draw from.

Christmas came and went with the usual activities, banquets, gift exchanges and all the decorating. We had our “neighborhood family” and we enjoyed all of them and the festivities.

January 1968

New Year’s came with a blanket of snow and a year ahead ready and waiting. In March John received his Webelos Rank at the monthly Pack Meeting and Mr. Ferris came to present him with his Troop #185 neckerchief. John had just had his 11th birthday. At his first patrol meeting with the Scouts (later in the month) he came home with the Patrol Flag; he had been elected Flag Bearer. In April he went on his first campout with the Troop and came home smelling like smoke and worn out. He made it as far as the couch and crashed. It was always an immediate chore to wash George Sr.’s, Jr.’s and now John’s gear. Usually it wasn’t too bad but always smelled smoky; the worst was if it rained and the things were all wet and muddy…….and smoky.

The Kansas School for the Blind had Parent’s Day later in April. I took the day off and attended, it was always a festive occasion for the kids because most of them came from the far reaches of Kansas and didn’t see their parent’s often. John had befriended a kid named Joe who came from a town over by the Colorado border. He would ask several times a year to bring Joe home over the week-end, which we did. Joe always wanted hominy……I guess they didn’t serve it in the school cafeteria. He was always well mannered and appreciative.

We drove home to visit mom and dad over Easter. After spending the night we drove back to Cabool on Easter Sunday and brought grandma Strain down for dinner and to visit. Aunt Beulah came from Arkansas and uncle Alfred came also. Any time the Andersen’s got together they ended up playing some rousing card games. Becky enjoyed playing with them so she was the relief person when someone wanted to get up and stretch. The rest of us enjoyed listening to the good natured banter back and forth while we visited or did some stitching.

There was always a treasure trove of food for mom and aunt Beulah were two of the best cooks in the world and we looked forward to their efforts. The day was warm and balmy with the azalea’s blooming in the yard along with mom’s other flower offerings. Their growing season was always several weeks ahead of us at Shawnee. The wild Redbuds were blooming in April………always a desired sight when we made the trek home.

George Sr. and John went to Camp Naish in June and spent a week with our Troop. Going to camp was always a precursor to our summer vacations. Once that was out of the way we were able to plan the rest of our summer. George Jr. was working at a senior residence home, Lake View Village, with his best friend, Dennis Wade. They carried food to the tables in the dining room and removed the dishes when finished. The boys enjoyed their work and were adored by the residents. Becky applied for work in the Infirmary (lied about her age) and was hired. She had just finished the ninth grade and George would be a senior in the fall.

We made plans for the next family trip while we were home at Easter. It was agreed that we would go to Mesa Verde and Grand Canyon this year as well as several other places within the boundary’s of the main areas we wished to see. This year uncle Alfred decided not to go and Becky wanted to take her friend (Patty Warren from next door) along so we made those changes. Everything was now in place for our next trip West.

Until Monday,
Essentially Esther

Friday, July 23, 2004


Thumper was quite the bunny. We all fell in love with him. How could you not like a beautiful white rabbit with pink nose, ears and eyes? He was still pretty young so we were instructed to feed him with a doll’s baby bottle. We handled that by borrowing one from Becky’s dolls. John would hold him like a baby and feed him the bottle…he was a smart little booger and learned real quick.

When we went to the feed store to get whatever we needed for him to eat we were told to buy some pellets, I think they were alfalfa or something, I’ve forgotten. Anyway, they were small and green, Thumper loved them. He also loved his water after he grew away from the bottle feeding. The man at the feed store told us not to pick grass and clover to put in his cage because there were all kinds of bad stuff in it. We followed his instructions faithfully.

Well, Thumper wasn’t our only pet. We had Oakie whom I rescued from a mean household I sold Avon to several years before and a stray cat named Shadow. Oakie being half beagle and half cocker had a real taste for rabbits and Thumper looked like dinner on a platter.

She would eye Thumper and the look in her eye was undeniable. Given time alone with the rabbit and he would be history. In the summer we put Thumper’s hutch out in the back yard. He was pretty contented but we felt sorry for him and would let him out once in a while. Of course we had to keep Oakie in tow but for the most part it went well. Our back yard was fenced in and Thumper would hop around here and there while we watched him. It put Oakie’s nerves on high alert but with a little nudging from us she contained her desire to chase him.

Thumper began digging under his hutch one day and every time we let him out he would dig a little deeper…go in the hole and enjoy the coolness he found there. I’m not talking about a little hole, this was a long deep hole. Of course the inevitable happened. One evening we were distracted when it was time to go in and since he was out of sight in his hole….we forgot him.

Morning came and our routine was moving along when I happened to look at the hutch from the window at the kitchen sink….the cage was….EMPTY !! I yelled at the kids to come look for him and to our relief he hopped out from some bushes and joined us unceremoniously. When we put him back in his hutch we couldn’t believe our eyes. The huge hole he had dug under his home on stilts was completely filled. The dirt was all packed in and he never dug another hole. We figured he didn’t want a repeat of being left out all night again.

One time we were in the back yard and Thumper was enjoying his time on the ground. John was playing and I was working in my flowers. All of a sudden John was running and yelling and acting half crazy…he bounded over the chain-link fence screaming and it was then I saw the neighbor’s dog (a Weimaraner) with Thumper in his mouth. Thumper had crawled under the fence into their yard and the dog was waiting. John was flailing his arms and yelling at the dog simultaneously and the dog was young enough it scared him and he spit Thumper out of his mouth. Thumper scampered directly to the place under the fence he had crawled under and escaped. After it was all over we found the humor in it but John saved the day for Thumper…no joke about it.

The first winter we had Thumper I went to the garage for something in the freezer. John had been messing around out there and when I went by Thumper’s hutch he had some little tiny black marks on one side of his face and his whiskers were gone. I stopped to contemplate for a moment and then went on and forgot it. A very long time after that John told me he had held a match to the end of one of his whiskers and it burned all the way down to his cheek like a fuse and went out. It was kind of neat so he continued until they were completely gone on that side of his face. By that time common sense took over and he made himself scarce for fear I would see it and figure out what happened. He wrote his version in one of his earlier blogs and it’s a hoot. Kids !! Go figure.

John had Thumper for a long time and finally gave him to a boy up the street. He told me his friend fed him peanut butter after finding out how much Thumper loved it. Some time later when John saw him and asked how Thumper was, he told him he found him dead in his cage one morning. I’m quite sure his favorite snack did him in. Come to think of it, that’s what killed mom’s parakeet she loved so well… dead in his cage one morning from an overdose of peanut butter. Now you would have to think it wise to stay away from peanut butter or at least not feed it to your pets.

One last thing about Thumper. When we opened his door to put fresh feed and water in he would jump over to your hand and dig real fast with his front feet. It scratched like crazy and hurt. Someone told me to put one hand over his head when I made the refills and he would be quite docile until I removed my hand again. It worked. Old Thumper was quite a rabbit and we loved him dearly….hopefully he’s hopping down the big bunny trail in the sky and having the time of his life. He certainly added to ours………

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, July 22, 2004


With the trip behind us we were busy getting settled back home, catching up with yard work and the neighbors. School was almost upon us for another year and the children were all moving up another rung. John was in fifth grade at the Kansas School for the Blind, Becky was in the ninth grade at Trailridge Junior High and George was a junior at West High. George began his mail route again and as for me, I started a new job.

Before we left on vacation, Floyd Hudson asked if I would be interested in office work. (Floyd was the one in charge of my students and my route.) He and a good friend of his had received grant money from the University of Kansas to fund an Educational Modulation Center at Olathe, Kansas. They were working on their Doctorate and had an innovative idea to co-ordinate materials for kids that were having difficulties in school. Their plan was for learning difficulties, physical handicaps of all sorts or mentally disturbed children.

They wanted to promote a “hub” of materials that schools could check out for help with problem kids. I didn’t know just how this was all going to work and told Floyd that I hadn’t had any office training and hadn’t done much typing since high-school and had forgotten all of the shorthand. It didn’t matter. He was impressed with my punctual delivery of the kids each day and the kindness I had shown them. He felt I would be a dependable asset to their office.

And so it happened. I began working for them the month we got home and it was a whole new experience for me. At first I did all of the things considered mundane in an office but I didn’t mind. I was learning as I went along and interested in the program. Gary Adamson was the director and Floyd Hudson was the assistant director. They each had a secretary and there were a good number of young men and women who came in and out continually, participating in some way, and also to advance their own educational endeavors. All were affiliated with Kansas University.

I always brought my own lunch from home and ate alone while everyone went out at noon. One day Gary was slow getting out and stopped by the table where I was eating. He wanted to know if I could type and I said I was pretty rusty...he casually said, “Why don’t you practice on the girl’s typewriters when they are out to lunch?” Surprised by his request, I told him I would and for a couple of days I did. Then one day when I sat down to type there was a note left on top of paper in the roller, reading “Don’t remove this page….I‘m working on it.” I complied and each day was the same with work left in the typewriter. One day Gary stopped by and asked how the typing was coming and I told him I hadn’t been practicing and why. He thought for a moment and said, “when you go home at night….take one with you and practice at home….bring it back the next morning.”

I loved that typewriter. It was a red IBM Selectric with the round spinning ball. I was in heaven working with that typewriter. I wrote letters on it, recipes, and anything I could think of to utilize my good fortune of having it for a few hours every night. My dream was to own one myself some day but for the time being I reveled in the use of that one.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if one of the girls quit or they let her go…whatever. Out of the blue Floyd told me I was going to be his secretary. I was bowled over and feeling pretty insecure about it. However, he persisted and said I’d get the hang of it and was patient and helpful through the early days. It was the beginning of a good working relationship. I enjoyed becoming more capable all the time and the responsibility of the job. Work was an experience in learning for me as well as the college students who came through our doors.

I was highly motivated and interested in the system they were hammering out for the Material’s Lab they were creating. They had audio and visual aids along with a system of cards that could identify a deficiency of a certain subject along with whatever handicap the child had. In moments we could determine the materials needed and find it. I was fascinated with the possibilities.

The months flew by and life had picked up speed with me in a full-time job and the children in so many activities. I didn’t want to miss anything they were involved in and it kept both of us running in two different directions at times. Becky had piano lessons, John had drum lessons; they had their Scouting and Camp Fire activities. George Jr. worked on homework constantly. Becky was in Drill Team and John played drums for their practice sessions. Life was definitely on the fast track. I was asked to help with the School Carnival at John’s school so I spent that day with him and to our surprise he won the drawing for the door prize, a white baby rabbit. Just what every mother wants. John was absolutely thrilled and came carrying the box back to our seats. “Mama, can I keep him? Can I??” I returned the age old remark mother’s give…..”we’ll see.” I knew I was doomed to have yet another critter.

Long story short….daddy got involved with making a hutch for him and he had a penthouse apartment in our garage. It was John’s job to feed and care for him….of course that job got old after so long. We got the right feed for him from a feed store over at Merriam and John named him, Thumper. (Pretty original, huh?) Thumper had a long and happy, sometimes puzzling life which I shall begin with tomorrow. For now, I think he should get used to being at the Strain house………

Until then,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Homeward bound. This morning is bitter-sweet. Our trip West started July 29th and we have been privileged to visit many points of interest, ending at grandma’s house for the Stricklett Reunion. Today will be the last leg of the trip for this year and we are excited about getting back in our own territory to pick up the things that make our world go round. Still, I am always sad with the “end” of things. It was instilled early in life for me. Whenever relatives came to visit or when we were the visitors, goodbyes were always the same. Everyone hugged and lingered, prolonging the inevitable until finally the car pulled away and drove out of sight.

As a little girl I knew this to be the pattern as well as the tears that everyone shared as they waved goodbye. What I didn’t know until I became the grown-up is WHY? The tears flowed because you knew you wouldn’t be seeing them for a long time again. In some cases, with older family members, there was always the fear that it might be the ‘last’ goodbye.

And so, as we load up the camper and get things ready for travel there were many family members to hug and kiss for we were the first family to leave. As we drove down the hill I saw grandma pull her apron up to her face and wipe the tears I knew would follow……..I not only carry her name but in many ways I carry her heart.

Mom and dad, uncle Alfred and we drove to Omaha in a caravan of three to pick up aunt Beulah in Omaha. She had been visiting with her sister and brother-in-law while we were at Blair…..Mildred and Ky. After a short visit with them we loaded aunt Beulah’s things and drove through Omaha to open road….we ate a hearty dinner at an A & W drive-in on the Platte River. We stopped at Nebraska City to gas up and noted a Kansas rainstorm was brewing in the distance which we would probably be running into before getting home.

We arrived at 65th Street a little after 6:00pm ……almost 3-full weeks of our leaving time on July 29th at 6:00am. We had quite a welcoming committee waiting for us. The Warren’s came from next door and Gene and Rosalie crossed the street to give us a welcome home. They caught us all up on the news and we dusted our saddles a little, then dad suggested we go out for supper. He said he felt sorry for the cooks who had been “roughing it” for three weeks. It was quite a treat and a welcome climax to the trip. The men went home after our meal but mom, aunt Beulah, Becky and I went on to the grocery store to lay in a fresh supply for the coming week. We weren’t long getting to bed once we got back and bathed.

Saturday August 19th

We got up, one by one, and congregated around the kitchen table as we ate and talked about our trip. Finally the time came for the folks to leave and it was hard to wave goodbye as they disappeared down the hill from our house. Dad’s pick-up and uncle Alfred trailing behind finally passed out of sight. In three weeks of travel we drove 5,000 miles and saw things we had only imagined before.

Looking back I couldn’t say there was any one thing that was better than the other. Each day and each mile we traveled had something to offer in it’s own way. It would be unfair to compare one to the other. Our first noticeable change in landscape began in northern Nebraska when we ran into the Sand Hills and though it wasn’t spectacular, it was different and worth seeing. It and the clean, grassy hills with cattle grazing offered a peaceful scene to watch as we drove along.

I’ll never forget the first glimpse of the Badlands…..the many colors, the ridges and gorges all cut by immeasurable time. The vastness of it. I will not forget the children’s reaction to something so different or George’s appreciation of seeing it.

The Black Hills had a different kind of beauty. A lush quality. Where the Badlands are a huge waste and barren the Black Hills have a look of plenty….hillsides covered with pine trees and life everywhere. The Indians called it sacred ground…..and it speaks of reverence and respect. Meeting Black Elk at Mount Rushmore who appeared on a path between the trees as if a spirit………aged, yet ageless……and eyes full of wisdom and great sorrow. He spoke of his father and the old days when the Red Man could live his own way…..and as the spiritual leader of the Ogallala Sioux he had the dignity to accept and a grace to forgive.

I’ll never forget the sound of the wind in the pines at Custer’s Last Stand….or how it sounded when it rustled over the sage brush and prairie grass…. and on over the hill. Like mute sentinels the markers of the fallen keep watch over their graves.

Our ride into Canada was preceded with much anticipation. It was not unwarranted. The fun of crossing a “border” into another country was special to all of us but especially to the children. Our short visit provided a lifetime of memories ….the quaint shops… crossing over the Glacier Mountains…the beauty and the fear…a paradise on high with wildflowers sprinkled over purple mountains…the bigness of it all. Then our visit to Kalispell where we were welcomed by the Delhays and the unforgettable journey to Big Mountain on the ski-lift. I can still see the rushing Salmon River and the walls of the gorge we drove between for almost a day. It was a breathtaking introduction to Idaho.

Then there was the private little camp we had at Basin Creek…I think it was my favorite campsite of the whole trip because we were all alone and had a chance to walk the hills….shinny across the creek on a log and view some of the wild, rough country at close range.

It was a pleasure to meet cousin Chris and his family…their Danish hospitality and a house filled with lots of happiness and lots of living. I’ll always remember breakfast the day we left. Everyone sitting around the table in the dinning room and cousin Chris in a soft voice made by the passing of years telling us about good Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians. He and his wife have the kind face of two people who have lived a good life and are at peace with their world. We enjoyed the bridge at Twin Falls, the Snake River that runs through cousin Chris’ farm…and the Shoshone Falls nearby.

I shall remember looking at all the brilliant wild flowers while we were waiting for the brakes to cool going down into Jackson Hole…and the mountainsides of pine. It was amazing to see how clean and grassy the floor of the forest was beneath the trees. It was there that we turned a bend in the road and looked squarely into the face of the Tetons. Stately and majestic I think they are the most dignified of the mountains. Theirs is a proud beauty, mirrored in blue…deep blue… lakes at their feet, standing like Narcissus to admire their beauty. About their shoulders were the wraps of snow looking almost like the clouds above. It seemed as if the sky and the lakes were in competition with each other to see who was bluer…and the mountains tired of the game to wear a dress of purple. We enjoyed seeing them for many miles as we traveled around them and headed north to Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is special because it was full of all the wondrous things I’d read about since childhood and I was “stage-struck” to come face to face with it all. While I’m being so honest I would have to say Old Faithful was the most special attraction for me. Her towering size and her energy…her “faithfulness” made a powerful impression on me. As night fell her beauty was intensified by illumination of the lights upon her….the mists about her force of water gave an ethereal face to her.

I shall remember the geysers puffing up into the sky along the valley…looking like teepee fires from invisible villages. The thundering falls and their rainbows shining in the mist at their feet…the canyons, bears and the paint pots. A mother moose and her baby……all so wonderful.

Leaving it all behind to travel back through Nebraska to grandma’s house we knew we would not see the likes of all we had just experienced but neither would we forget it. The last days of the trip were spent with loved ones who gathered on “the hill” to take part in the annual reunion of my mother’s family. Ones who came from near and far…watching dad whittle things for Johnny…. the little cousins playing games out under the shade trees…listening to rousing card games of the adults…or just hearing the trucks drone off into the night from our camper as we fell asleep each night.

I am grateful I still have a grandma to come to with my loved ones….on a little hill where my brother and I were born. When winter winds blow forth, and they will, I hope this little journal will help us remember it all, as it happened and as we lived it….going WEST……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Thursday August 17th

We ate our last meal in the camper at breakfast time as we’ve been having our meals with the family in grandma’s house. There have been several arrivals during the time we have been here, congregating for the yearly Stricklett reunion. It has always been held in mid-August because of aunt Mary’s birthday on the 18th and grandma’s birthday on the 20th. Three of grandma’s off-spring have stayed in Blair but three of the girls married and left to live in Missouri, Virginia and Hastings, NE., so it provides a timely way for all to be together.

The women folk were busy in the kitchen all day preparing food to take to the park. When there was a lull in the action, mom, aunt Inabelle, aunt Sally and I went down town to Klopp’s Jewelry Store to visit a good friend of aunt Inabelle’s. Of course we looked around and did a little shopping. I selected a pretty footed dish and candy jar to commemorate Nebraska’s Centennial Year….1967. Being born and raised in Nebraska it was meaningful to me. (Note: I passed them both on to George Jr. who has them on a table in his living room now.

It came time for all of us to meet at the park and what a group we were. Uncle Bud, aunt Pearl and their family; Mary Beth and husband Gary with their two children and Patricia and Wayne who were newlyweds. (Ronnie and Susan were unable to come.) Next were uncle Buster and wife, Phyllis, with their children; Roger Phillip, Julie and Joy. Aunt Sally and uncle Rod surprised us all by coming at the last minute with their five children; Coral Jean, Janet, Bruce, Joyce and Marsha. Then came aunt Inabelle and uncle Tom with Tommy and Mary; mom and dad with me, George and our three; George Jr., Becky and John….plus uncle Alfred (an Andersen.) We were 33-altogether.

Mrs. Rhodes, my old Sunday School teacher, and her son, came to the park to take group pictures (which I still have and are very precious now because most of our elders have passed on).

George was commandeered to be the hamburger chef so he was busy with his important job…..when he called “supper” everyone joined hands in a circle around the tables and uncle Bud asked the blessing. What a wonderful sight to look around the circle and see all the little guys holding hands with the big ones, young ones with old ones…….and all of us gathered together except four of the grand-children (Ronnie and family, Susan and family, Coral Jean’s family and Louis and Gail.)

We ate our meal which was bounty beyond measure….we laughed and cried….caught up with each other’s lives and aspirations….mourned the ones who were missing because of death and celebrated the new little ones just budding out on our family tree. It was a time of extreme pleasure to belong….to be loved and to love……

Later in the evening the younger cousins went bowling while mom, aunt Sally and I walked over with aunt Pearl to see their new home. It was by the edge of the park and a lovely brick ranch-style. Uncle Bud had the yard groomed to perfection and his roses were fully in bloom. He had a love of flowers and a green thumb…..the interior of the home was every bit as beautiful.

After a full day we re-grouped on “the hill” and spent our last night sleeping in our camper. After George and the children were sleeping soundly I lay awake thinking of all the summer days I had spent at grandma’s house…..the leisurely time when I played with dogs and cats, made mud pies by the pump and dreamed of growing up and having my own home and family.

The younger cousins now capture “the hill” in their adventures and show or tell their discoveries. They think it is the ‘first find’ but in my heart I know my brother and I found all of their treasures years ago……when life was simpler and days were longer……there is something sad about letting your claim go to the next generation but it is a rite of passage that must come. I knew that time had come………….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, July 19, 2004

AUGUST 15TH AND 16TH....1967 

Tuesday August 15th

We had a big breakfast and cleaned everything up good….ready to roll. We left Minden mid-morning sometime….my watch stopped so I’m without correct time. It’s a bright and clear day….promising to be another hot one. Uncle Alfred has taken his place in our caravan again as “middle man” and it looks natural to see him in our rear window. Becky had a bad time with a sore foot yesterday and feels kind of punk today. Other than that we haven’t suffered any problems to speak of and we feel fortunate in that.

We drove to Fremont and ate lunch in a well shaded and very clean park. My thoughts are of aunt Mary who taught school here for most of her life. How familiar this area has been to her over the years. She has had many students grow up to be pillar’s of the community and beyond. Though she never had children of her own she had a hand in shaping the students she taught.

The highway from Fremont passes in front of grandma Stricklett’s place and we see the house and road as we make ready to turn off and drive up her lane. Arriving on “the hill” we had quite a parking problem. The Powell’s had already arrived from Virginia, aunt Mary’s car, uncle Bud’s pickup and uncle Tom’s mother, sister and sister’s friend were visiting inside. Our station wagon and camper, uncle Alfred’s pickup/camper and the folk’s camper made quite a traffic jam but we got it all straightened out and parked our little “cabin” behind the barn on a grassy knoll, looking towards the old Fremont road.

Shortly after making camp, aunt Beulah left to go to Omaha to be with her sister, Mildred, and George and I took the kids to the pool while we washed clothes at uncle Bud’s launder-mat. When we picked the kids up and got back to grandma’s we fixed supper in the camper while the rest of the family drove down to the Marina for a fish supper. We cleaned up the evening chores and got things all prepared for bedtime. When everyone came back from the Marina we went to the house and visited with Buster’s family and all the rest until about 1:00am. We finally drug ourselves around behind the barn and piled in the camper for a short night’s sleep.

Wednesday August 16th

We got up slowly and had breakfast in shifts….then the guys went down and had coffee with Buster who took a little time off from the Chevy garage where he worked. I can imagine the stories flew thick and fast as they all exchanged the highlights of the past year with each other. While they were gone mom and I spent the morning visiting with everyone and I washed my hair. We are looking for Louis and Gail to come rolling in any time as they are able to come to the Stricklett reunion this year. Anticipation builds as more and more of the family check in on ‘the hill’ to greet each other.

We are sure missing aunt Beulah who always slept in our camper in her own little area. Doesn’t seem right for her not to be here for our nightly ritual talking over the events of the day; what was the most impressive….things we each noted along the way that stuck in our minds. We would lay in the dark, each in our own bed, talking until sleep overtook us.

Tomorrow is the day for our big family reunion. It will be at the park where I used to swim as a little girl. It cost 15-cents to get in for the whole time you wanted to be there and grandma or some of the aunts would give me money so I could go…uncle Buster gave me money once or twice. I remember I had to walk around the road and it was quite a long walk….although if you looked straight from grandma’s house you would be able to see the park if it wasn’t for the high hill between. I guess you would say, “as the crow flies.”

I would go after the noon meal (I can still hear the 12:00 o’clock whistle blowing) and stay all afternoon till I hardly had legs to walk back on after playing in the water so long. The whistle was an important thing at grandma’s. She and my aunts paid close attention to it for the whistle dissected their day into scheduled blocks……it blew to start the work day, at noon and an hour after, then at six o‘clock. ”There’s the whistle” and they would all scurry to finish what they were doing so as to be ‘right’ with the time.

I grew up with three meals a day…breakfast, dinner and supper. It was never lunch and dinner…..I only heard those words in the movies or when we visited “white collar” homes. I was a “blue collar” daughter I learned from snobby friends but I was always proud that my dad worked hard for a living which seemed to be disgusting to the “white collar” friends. I remember once a young boy came up to dad (while we were visiting in their home) and said “oooh…you have dirty fingernails.” He was old enough to know better and old enough to enjoy dad’s discomfort. The “dirty nails” were from grease, fixing cars, and couldn’t be washed out. I felt sorry for dad but not ashamed.

One time coming back from the swimming pool I took the short cut over the hill instead of going around where there were sidewalks. I walked the steep path and when I topped the hill I began running. To my surprise a snake was stretched across the path about half-way to the bottom but I was running down hill and couldn’t stop. I jumped over the top of him and didn’t stop until I reached the road again. I never took the short cut again…….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, July 17, 2004

AUGUST 13TH AND 14TH, 1967..... 

We all slept late this morning again. Had flap-jacks for breakfast and took our time packing up to leave. The urgency has left us since we are homeward bound. All of our expectations lay behind us now….we stopped in Scotts Bluff to look at their museum and see what they had to offer. There was an abundance of information about early covered wagon trains from the Mormon and Oregon Trail days. After leaving there we saw Rachel Pattisons grave on the Oregon Trail and also the old landmark….Chimney Rock.

The historical road sign we stopped to read said the “chimney” used to be much taller but there were accounts of Custer and his men riding their horses around it in a foray of victorious excitement (after Indian raids) and shooting the top of it so many times it had crumbled drastically. Of course the weather after all those years had taken a toll as well. We also saw landmarks of Jail House Rock and Court House Rock, all of which were beacons to guide the wagon trains across the prairie.

We kept running into small showers when we wanted to stop for lunch but had to keep driving until 2:00pm where we pulled off the road and ate a bite at Lisco, Nebraska. Dad got to looking at our trailer tires and noticed one was bad, so he and George changed the tire before we left. Between Lewellen and Ogallala we saw the Windless Hill were the wagons were let down the steep hillside by a windless. It cut a deep gash in the hill that is still visible today.
We stopped in Ogallala to see the Sioux Indian Trading Post and I bought a Nebraska charm there….an Indian head-dress in honor of Black Elk whom we were privileged to meet on our stop in the Black Hills. We’ve been seeing corn fields again today…..a sure sign that we are entering our own domain once more and our thoughts are beginning to turn towards home.

We camped at North Platte at Cody Park and after cleaning up, went to town for supper as a treat from Aunt Beulah. After a mighty satisfying meal we drove over to Buffalo Bill Cody’s Souvenir Shop and looked around before going back to the campsite. We soon got our beds made out and everybody called it a day.

Monday, August 14th
We were up and got our chores taken care of by 9:30am and hit the trail. It’s bright and sunny and a beautiful morning. We drove to Minden to see the Pioneer Village and when we pulled into the parking lot……………..there was uncle Alfred’s pick-up. The whole family jumped out of our vehicles with big grins on our faces. It was really good to ‘hook up’ with him again. He had dancing eyes (they always spoke more than his few words ever did) and a smile for us in return.

We ate a sandwich together and bought our tickets. This was something dad had talked about many times. He and mom had been here before and dad loved looking at all of the old time farm equipment, barbed wire collections (which was news to me)…….I would have never guessed they made so many different kinds. There were displays of rope (again, I could not have imagined the varieties) all kinds of nails…….from spikes they built the railroad with to handmade four-cornered kind used for the smallest of needs.

Dad and uncle Alfred were in heaven. We went through huge garages of vehicles from the first Ford to current day……all kinds…and for all types of services. There were fire-trucks, delivery trucks, hearses….you name it…they were there. Of course dad and uncle Alfred hung on the ones they first owned as young men and we gathered around as they laughed and told stories of wild chases and races they ran against each other and anyone else they thought they could out-run. I would give a lot to see and hear them talking about those “good old days” again.

There were wagons of every kind from the wagons going west to very fancy ones that were horse-drawn for wealthy people….even some from distinguished people of the area. If you enjoy old items from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Warp’s Pioneer Village is where to go. I can imagine it is a Mecca for men like my dad and all the men who have lived and farmed off the Nebraska soil. They spent their youth doing so and lived to see great advances that made their early years laughable. I am thankful for their heritage of bringing forth the “good” and the humor of those years. They came through some unimaginably hard times and chose to remember it with fondness.

Aunt Beulah, mom and I enjoyed the dishes and furniture…..all the stuff that a woman would need to keep house with. Collections of water buckets, dippers, tubs, baskets, barrels…..the pots, pans and stoves. How those women managed to do what they did shows some real sense of purpose. Can you imagine rumbling along the prairies about to birth a child? Their only luxury was if it was safe enough to stop the wagon train for the child to be born. Many times they had to give birth in the back of the wagon while it was moving…..too dangerous to stop a whole train.

Did I mention airplanes? Yes, they were there as well. After we literally wore ourselves out walking and looking we set up camp and fixed a good supper. Later, uncle Alfred, mom, aunt Beulah and Becky worked in a game of cards and the rest of us just pushed back and relaxed each in his own way.

A big rain cloud threatened us from the west but went around with barely a sprinkle. We have been very fortunate with good weather….as the rain bypassed us we were treated to a beautiful rainbow as the storm moved easterly. Dad, George and I went up town to buy ice-cream for our daily root-beer floats. It has been the treat of choice on the whole trip. Our camping area is very nice ….grassy for a change instead of dirt and dust and providing nice showers and toilet facilities. Most of our fellow campers sat out and visited with each other and enjoyed the nice evening.

This is the first time in ages we haven’t been chased in by mosquitoes……and as they say in books…….the sun sank slowly in the West……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, July 16, 2004


We got up fairly early and had breakfast. Broke camp by 9:30am and were on our way out of the village when we looked back and saw Old Faithful appearing over the tree tops to wave goodbye to us. It would be unfair to choose a “favorite” in Yellowstone but I’ll always have a special spot for the Grand Old Lady of the park.

We leave Yellowstone with a great satisfaction of seeing all that it had to offer…and seeing it at it’s best. We head south for a final goodbye to the Tetons….then east towards Casper, Wyoming.

After we were out of Yellowstone and Teton parks and turned southeast at Moran Junction we traveled over some scenic roads. Togwatee Pass was very pretty and we kept in the mountains with the Tetons slipping into the background until they finally disappeared after we crossed the last high mountain. We passed a beautiful red mountain area that was full of cracks and crannies like the Badlands, then got into rolling, sandy mesa country with just the mountains on the rim of our ride now. Coming from the cool air of the mountains into the lower altitude has been hard on all of us today. We had a noon snack at Dubois…then on to Shoshone to camp for the night. It was another sandy, gravely, parking space but the showers lured us in and we lined up for a good bath. Our fist since Idaho Falls. Grampa, George and the kids went into town for root beer and ice-cream so we had root beer floats before bed-time.


We had our fist rain of the trip last night. A storm blew up and huffed and puffed against the camper with gusty wind but it didn’t last long. Just got enough rain to settle the dust. We stopped at Hells Half Acre and looked around. It looked like the Badlands…only much smaller. The folks saw large herds of prong-horned antelope between there and where we stopped for lunch. (Glenrock, Wyoming) We are in barren rolling hills with stretches of sagebrush in the flat areas….still very dry. We’re following the head-waters of the North Platte River….we met up with the river at Casper.

We stopped at Fort Laramie to see the old fort and most of the original buildings were still there. We enjoyed seeing it due to the large part it played in the taming of the West. We went on to Torrington, Wyoming and stayed right on the border for our last camp night in Wyoming. A rain threatened but went around us so we took the kids to the pool for a couple of hours and we adults sat around, relaxing and having a good visit. We camped in a nice city park with the North Platte River running close by. After evening chores we had our treat of root beer floats and turned in. We are clear out of the mountains now and the heat came back once we were in the flat land again.

I know I am always going to miss the mountains and the scenery they provided. The colors, the vastness, the pines and birch that hugged their sides, the water that they spilled down their slopes………their character. Silent sentinels under a canopy of blue sky who bid all to come… and climb…. and see. They are forever etched in my mind.
I know this trip with our own family of five, mom and dad, uncle Alfred and aunt Beulah is very special because it will never happen this way again. I am aware that the children will soon be growing beyond family trips and the older family members will not be able to travel like this for many more treks. There is a sacredness about seeing things for the first time that can never be duplicated. They say, “you can never go back” and I know that is true. Things change, times change and if you return there is a wistfulness in memory that cannot be equaled. It is always less than you remembered.

For the beauty and strength, for the gift of sight and sound and for the joy of discovery……we bid farewell.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, July 15, 2004


We slept late this morning…didn’t get up until 8:00am and it wasn’t so cold last night. We had pancakes and then got ready to see the northern part of the park. We went through a beautiful canyon area at Kingman Pass where the Golden Gate and the Rustic Falls are. Then on through a funny, big, lumpy, blobby rock area called the Silver Gate and on up to Mammoth Hot Springs. Since the earthquake that occurred here some time back most of the spring action has stopped but by the rock formations we could see how it used to be. Other things we saw along the road, were the nearby antelope, Roaring Mountain and Obsidian Cliff.

I have been happy that the children have been enthused and impressed with the things that we see every day. This is their first big trip and it has been exciting for them to see a different part of the world than they are used to. It will certainly help their geography from now on. They have been good about keeping their things together and staying in our own little group. It has taken co-operation to pick up the bedding every morning and make their beds at night. They have been pretty good little campers.

After seeing Mammoth Springs we stopped along the road and had a make-shift lunch so we could cover as much ground as possible. From there on around the northern circle we were in high country and climbed further up for a couple of hours. We enjoyed the gorge and springs as we looked down steep, jagged, canyon walls to the river below which was breath taking. Across the canyon was an antelope casually munching on grass near the edge of the rocks and we stayed to watch him for quite a while.

We drove on to Tower Falls and walked down to see them at close range. At the end of the stairs we were on a small observation point right at the place the water from the river went over……the sound was deafening. Being at close range was impressive to say the least. Leaving there we drove down the Dunraven Pass to Canyon Village to see the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone. We missed them yesterday and I’m sure glad we came back and found the way down to them as they are the most impressive falls in the park. We had steep, switch-backs to climb down with pines and wild flowers all the way. The roar of the falls kept getting louder as we went. At the bottom of the stairs, again, we were at the brink of the falls. Millions of gallons of green water thundering over a 308-foot drop into a gorge painted with orange, yellow, red, brown and sending a a white spray of mist high into the air.

It was such an inspiring display of nature’s beauty and power it makes a person feel pretty small and insignificant. We all enjoyed the experience. About a half-mile above us the river thunders down the Upper Falls that we saw yesterday on it’s way to drop over this place. The climb back up was slow and wearisome but made with the satisfaction that it was well worth it. We drove down to Lake Village where dad treated us all to an ice-cream sundae and it tasted mighty welcome after all of our walking and climbing.

We stopped at West Thumb to see the Paint Pots and walked ourselves everywhere but where we should have been to see them. Finally stumbling onto them we decided they weren’t as active as the Fountain Paint Pot we saw this morning but I was glad we came back to see them as the color was a little different. On the way back to camp we saw a mother moose and her little calf. They were quite a treat to see.

We got back to camp about 9:00pm and Old Faithful was erupting again as she had been when we left this morning. We fixed a quick bite to eat and got our beds made. There wasn’t the usual chatter after lights out……sleep overtook our little family as we settled in for our last night at Yellowstone……….

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, July 14, 2004


We got up real early and broke camp so we could hurry and get up to Yellowstone Park and find camping space. It was our coldest morning but we didn’t take time to eat breakfast as Yellowstone is usually full by 10:30am so we decided to eat after we got there. Uncle Alfred didn’t want to go on to Yellowstone due to the crowds so he left us and headed for Nebraska this morning. The rest of us headed north and saw lots of noteworthy scenery going into the park. Pine trees marched right out to the roadsides to make miles of pretty “green-lined” drives. We had our fist sight of bears today and were so excited we had to pull off to the side of the road to see them each time. They were either brown, black or kind of honey colored. We crossed the Continental Divide three times going to Old Faithful Campground where we were lucky enough to get space. We parked so we could see “Old Faithful” erupt out our camper windows and what a sight it was.

The first thing we did was fix a big breakfast as we were starved by the time we were parked and set up….we ate at 10:00am. The next order of business was to see as much as we could so we drove over to see Old Faithful first. The experience for me was something I never thought I’d ever get to see so I was in awe from the time we first talked about it. I was prepared with a new roll of film in the camera and we walked a wooden path to the observation area.

We kept an eye on our watches to see if it would erupt as predicted and when it neared the scheduled time we could hear a faint rumble down below which kept building and building until a little steam and hot water came forth. I had the camera poised and snapped a picture…..then more rumbling and more water….this kept up with me snapping pictures each time thinking it was the full height of the geyser. But no… higher..and higher…and higher. The kids still laugh at me when the subject comes up because I shot a whole roll of film on her………but what the heck. She deserved it…after all she is the most famous of geysers the world over. That should be enough to demand a whole roll of film.

I was stunned as we were watching the process which I deemed so fascinating when a woman next to me said to her lady friend…“Come on…lets go. I can tell everybody I’ve seen it now so lets get out of here.” This kind of tourist has always irritated me. Someone who only travels to these natural places of indescribable beauty to tell their friends at their next bridge game ‘they’ve seen it.’ To them I would like to say “just stay home and let those of us who have waited years to be able to see these wonders have the space.” I would imagine that woman spent more time shopping for her clothes and jewelry than she was willing to give the grand old geyser of Yellowstone. Let’s have a little respect for God’s creations…….paleeze.

After spending some time there and absorbing the sheer miracle we had just witnessed we then drove around the lower circle of the park to see other points of interest. First we saw the Geyser Basins, Cascades of the Firehole River, Gibbons Falls, Virginia Cascades, Inspiration Point, Artist’s Point, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Falls, Lee Hardy’s Rapids, Mud Volcano and Black Dragons Caldron. Then we stopped at a large lake front resort to have some ice-cream as we had stopped at a grocery store in Canyon Junction and got a few things to have a quick lunch on before we had seen the falls, and we were thirsty. We drove down to West Thumb of Yellowstone Lake and it was a beautiful drive along the shoreline….and then on to Old Faithful again. We saw lots of bears on the way back, including two baby bears in a tree. Totally fascinating.

We had a quick bite of supper and then went up to the rustic little village stores to get some souvenirs and groceries. For a proper description of the many wondrous sights we saw today I bought three books of colored pictures, which will do a far better job than my limited attempts.

It was getting close to 9:30pm and we decided to walk over and see Old Faithful erupt in the dark so we carried groceries and all over with us as we didn’t have time to get to the camper and back in time. It was getting damp and chilly and we had a little wait but it was worth it. When it spewed forth people shown flash lights on it and with all of the flash bulbs from cameras the whole thing illuminated and was breathtaking to see. We scooted back to our “little home away from home” and had our usual bed time story….then lights out……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Monday, July 12, 2004


Gone for doctor’s appointments in Springfield for the day. For those of you stopping by I will return on Wednesday. Have yourselves a good day.

Until then,
Essentially Esther


We ate dinner in the Burley City Park which was well kept and shady. We’ve been fortunate to find nice places to stop at noon. After lunch we got lost from each other going through town and had a few worried moments before re-grouping. It’s the first problem we’ve had staying together other than losing each other at Deadwood when we were just sight-seeing. I guess that isn’t so bad for three vehicles trying to stay in sight of each other over these many miles.

From Burley up to Pocatello and on to Idaho Falls was mostly on major highways and through rolling, irrigated farm lands. The Snake River is on the left of us and bare, sloping mountains on the far right. It isn’t so hot traveling today but is still very dry. We saw our first bad wreck of the trip at Massacre Rocks…a small trailer had been badly hit and belongings scattered all over the highway. We found out later no one was injured so we were glad of that.

We stayed at Idaho Falls in a camping area that provided many benefits we were in need of. We spent the evening washing clothes, washing our hair, bathing and getting organized in our campers. We felt like we had joined the human race again. It cooled off quite a bit during the night but made for good sleeping. (Note: When I read over the notes describing the campgrounds we stayed in I am amazed to think how little they provided for creature comforts….as well as how few there were and hard to find. We normally stopped wherever we found one because it might be another hundred miles before you’d see another.)

August 8th Tuesday

Very cool this morning but by the time we had hash browns, bacon, eggs and hot coffee we were warmed up good. We took time to straighten the car and get ice…fresh groceries and supplies…then head for the Tetons. Mom, aunt Beulah and I tried desperately to get our charm for our bracelets before we crossed the border into Wyoming but no luck. Becky was the only one to have one purchased in Idaho. Ours would just have to come from Wyoming.

We soon left the farm country and got back into the mountains although they are still heavily vegetated. We got our first glimpse of the Grand Tetons as we came over Pine Creek Pass, near Victor. They look as if they will resemble the Glacier’s quite a bit but are still quite a distance from us. By noon we were climbing the Teton Pass (elevation 8,429 feet) which is one of steepest to climb that we’ve been over except for Glacier. Once we reached the summit we were treated to a spectacular view of the Teton’s at close range. At the bottom of the pass-we can see Jackson Hole and it is easy to see why the town in so named. We had a few scary hairpin curves on the way down but enjoyed the largest solid patches of wild flowers that we’ve seen in any one area. The pines here are very large and greenish-black. We finally had to stop on the way down because it was so steep the brakes got hot. This happened before at the Black Hills but we were able to get down before they got too bad.

We went on to Jackson Hole where we ate lunch in a tiny park right in the middle of town. We were amazed at the large number of antlers stacked up at each rock arch and were told they were just “found” out in the hills, they weren’t from kills. That eased my mind considerably. This is the busiest “tourist” town we’ve seen so far on the trip. The town caters to visitors and has every Western gimmick imaginable to lure them in. The kids and mom, aunt Beulah and I spent a couple of hours shopping for souvenirs and found our Idaho and Wyoming charms. Prices were in the high range so it reduced our “shopping” to “window shopping” mostly. Mom and I especially enjoyed a book store and bought a couple to add to our libraries of the trip. The men were having a bad time holding a parking place so we went back to the cars and on to Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake. The Tetons made a beautiful back-drop and were indescribably majestic.

The only disappointing thing to us was the heavy tourist traffic we ran into which made it hard to “see” as we’d have liked. We had to hurry on to the Pilgrim Creek Overflow Campground as everything else was full. We found a spot, had a good hot supper and turned in early because it was so cool…..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Saturday, July 10, 2004


I had to light the stove to warm the camper this morning as it was so cold. I think it must be our coldest morning so far. We took time to wash up and clean the camper good so we didn’t leave until about 9:30am. We passed some sheep on the highway with their herders and snapped a few pictures of them. (Cousin Chris later told us the herders were called Basques and came here from Spain to work). About half way between Stanley and Hailey we climbed up the mountains again to Galena Summit (elevation 8,701feet) then the long drive down again. The Sawtooth Mountain Range has been on our right this morning….very rugged glacier type and beautiful.

The rest of the morning the mountains kept moving further and further apart until they were in the purple shadows along the horizon mark. We drove through a barren valley for miles that was covered with lava wastes and sage brush as far as you could see in any direction. It was so hot and dry we all felt powdery. A little past noon we stopped at Shoshone, Idaho and got some things for lunch at the store. Then we drove to a pretty well shaded park and ate…rested a little. It was only about 25-miles to Twin Falls where we intended seeing the Shoshone Falls before going on to Murtaugh. The Perrin Bridge coming into Twin Falls is 476-feet above the Snake River and is 1,400-feet from rim to rim. Below in the deep canyon the river is almost emerald green.

We drove over to see the Shoshone Falls but due to damming it up for irrigation purposes for the summer crops it was just a little stream of water. However, we could see the beautiful rock formations which would normally be covered with the falls so it was still very interesting to see. We drove on to the Andersen farm at Murtaugh where dad’s cousin, Christian Andersen lived. “Cousin Chris” and his wife, Margretta, had a very comfortable home with lots of pines providing shade from the heat and a wind-break in the winter. We enjoyed their Danish hospitality and pleasant manner. Cousin Chris and Margretta came over from Denmark in 1911 and had four children.

Mary, a teacher, who lives in Portland was visiting at the time and we also met a son living in adjoining property whose name was Ovie, along with a son-in-law of his and two grand-daughters. We fixed supper at the camper and invited them to come in and eat with us….then we went into their home later for cake and coffee. We spent the evening visiting and it was so pleasant to listen to their obvious Danish “brogue” that was so reminiscent of my childhood when the family would get together at grandma and grandpa Andersen’s. That night we slept in our camper under the pines and listened to them whispering as the soft wind played music through them.

August 7th…..Monday

We slept later this morning and didn’t get up until around 8:15am due to the late hour we got to bed. The Andersen’s had us in for a lovely breakfast and after eating we pushed our chairs back from the table and cousin Chris told us the story of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perse Indian Tribe. We had seen signs everywhere and noted areas on the map named after him so the children asked about it and cousin Chris gave us great information on him. The Nez Perse Tribe was so named by the French presumably because of the ornamental shells they wore on their pierced noses. They greatly inhabited much of the Pacific Northwest.

Chief Joseph did not want to fight. He was a man of peace and only fought when the cavalry forced him into battle. He tried to move his people into Canada where they stayed some of the time and where they would be safe from the soldiers. He would send someone out at night to give water to injured soldiers after battle before they moved on. He would have trees cut in some of the gorges so the military couldn’t follow them, rather than fight. He was known all over the territory to be a man of honor and peace.

The children were fascinated with the story and if asked, I’m sure could remember it well enough to draw from it. Afterwards, cousin Chris and Margretta loaded us all up in cars and we drove over on the north part of their property where the canyon and Snake River cut through their farm. It was so unbelievably scenic and hard to believe someone could actually have direct access to such beauty on their own property. We then saw the potato fields they farmed as a family business and the house where his son lived….then we went back to help with the dishes and get ready to break camp. For dad it was good to see his favorite cousin again. Dad told us stories about when Chris was young and would come visit……some of the escapades they pulled. Chris was older than dad so he was very influenced by his cousin and admired him greatly.

We hugged our hosts and dad and Chris shook hands. It would be the last time they would see each other. The two men gave each other a look of respect and dad climbed into his pick-up. We left for Burley………………..

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Friday, July 09, 2004

AUGUST 5, 1967.....SATURDAY 

We left Kalispell shortly before 8:00am and traveled the west side of Flathead Lake, on south to Polson. We stopped there for me to look through a Montana copper store and I chose pins for grandma Strain and grandma Stricklett. They had some lovely pieces but were prohibitive in price so I didn’t buy a keepsake for myself. For some time we drove down the valley with mountains on both sides of us.

We stopped at Victor (which is south of Missoula) at a little park and ate a bite of lunch. We kept driving down the valley with the Bitterroot Range on our right and the Sapphire Range on the left. The Bitterroot are larger and more rugged with snow showing on some of the higher peaks. The Sapphire are more vegetated and used for grazing lands quite a ways up to the rolling tops.

As we near the Continental Divide they both get a lot bigger and taller. The mountain ranges closed in on us all of a sudden and there was no place to go but up. As we climbed and looked across deep ravines to the facing mountain we could see where a fire had gone up the canyon wall a few years ago. Out of the blue sky with large ‘cottony’ clouds overhead there was one dark cloud that drug bottom and we were showered upon as we climbed upward. We noticed two more mountains that were badly burned with dead pine trees and stumps leaving a testament to the fact. A marker tells us it was the Saddle Mountain Fire of 1950. It is hard to believe after seventeen years it is still so scared.

At 2:00pm we are at the Divide and near the Idaho border as we descend through Lost Tail Pass (elevation 6,990-feet). All the way down on the Idaho side we saw pretty purple wild flowers blooming by the side of the road. We traveled about 10-miles down the pass and stopped to read a Lewis and Clark marker at Deep Creek. They said it was extremely difficult passing and they had to cut a road across bad rock slides with steep drop-offs to the creek. Some of the horses fell to their death or were crippled. This pass over the Continental Divide is much like the Black Hills area as the mountains are steep, all stuck in together and covered with blackish green pines. We continue down for another 10-miles (making a total of 20 so far and we still aren’t to the bottom.)

The mountains have pushed apart enough that the road is running down the valley between them now looking like giant walls on each side of us. The pine trees are thinning out to grass again….this is the last time we will see Montana on our trip. So we bid fond adieu to the beautiful ‘Big Sky Country.’

Up in the pass it was so cold we had to dig for sweaters to put on but now that we’re almost back down it is getting hot again. (It was a total of 25-miles coming down the pass.) To our right is the River of No Return….it was noted that the movie wasn’t made in this area, however. We travel through beautiful scenery as we traverse the valley between the mountains. The River of No Return turns into the Salmon River and we follow it through a rugged gorge. The big jutting rocks on the sides of the mountains are orange-red in color and the pines have disappeared altogether. The area now looks barren and like the Southwest in general. Gravel, sand and sage brush are prominent around Challis, Idaho. I see a few pines on the summits here but very few and far between. We are still following the river down the canyon wall.

We stopped along the way to Basin Creek to snap some pictures of a scenic point called Indian Riffles….it had an interesting sign explaining how Salmon spawn that far in from the Pacific Ocean and go north up stream as far as Salmon, Idaho. The river is ice cold and so clear you can see all the rocks at the bottom.

We drove on to Basin Creek where we stayed at a lovely Federal park at the foot of the mountains and a few feet from the water which made a happy little flowing sound outside our camper. After a delicious supper we all hiked around the mountain. The guys were ahead of us and saw a mother mule deer and her two fawns but we didn’t get to see them. We hiked above the camp and looked down at the pretty setting below. We had walked up creek quite a ways and Becky and I scooted across a fallen tree to cross the creek like the men had done. Aunt Beulah and mom decided to walk back the way we had come. Didn’t take us long to close camp and get to bed as it had become chilly while we were gone.
Total mileage today….381.

Note: George Jr. was so taken with the beauty of the area he took a picture near where they saw the mule deer and fawns. Later he painted the scene in oils and did a beautiful job of capturing the color and ‘feel’ of the area.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Thursday, July 08, 2004

FRIDAY....AUGUST 4, 1967 

We all slept late this morning because aunt Beulah, George, the kids and I went into town to do laundry last night. Mom, dad and uncle Alfred stayed at camp and went to bed early. I fixed a breakfast of bacon and eggs and did some housecleaning on the camper. I feel better with things all organized again. We had planned on leaving this morning but decided to stay the day because grandma Stricklett’s relatives were telling us we needed to go up Big Mountain at Whitefish and go on the ski lift, among other local sites.

It had been real cool and threatened rain but by the time we got to Whitefish it was hot and sunny…..all clear. We drove 5-miles up Big Mountain where we came to the Chalet and ski-lift which is the third largest in the United States. What an experience and fun it was. The Chalet had piped music outside and as we were gliding along in our two seated chairs over the tree tops we could hear the music fading into the background. Soon there was just silence except for an occasional muffle as we passed over a section in the cable. Dad and uncle Alfred were two little specks down at the Chalet and soon were out of sight as we climbed over the first hump and up to the summit. On top we were treated to seeing three mountain ranges, several States, Canada and Whitefish Lake.

As you are being pulled up the clouds slip beneath you and the world becomes silent. I could imagine the scene as though I had died and was ascending into heaven….. there is a very detached feeling as the world moves on without you, down below…..for me it was a surreal experience…

Once on top we were treated to clumps of brilliant wild flowers, a mountain of pine beneath us and a lush valley floor with mountain ranges on all sides. Total climb to the summit was 2,000 feet on the lift….I don’t know how high up we were when we started. The attendant showed us a porcupine that hid under the maintenance building. We got a kick out of that as it was the first live one we had ever been close to. The ride down was very enjoyable as we feasted our eyes on the lake, valley and mountains…it seemed like a giant Ferris Wheel ride. Gradually we could hear the music again…. faintly and then louder as we came down to the Chalet where we could see dad and uncle Alfred waiting for us.

We went back to Whitefish and had some pie and coffee before going to the grocery store to pick up some needed items. We then headed back to the Delhay’s and spent a lazy afternoon visiting. Each person selected his own way of relaxing. George and I took John and Becky to the City Park and dropped them off to swim while George Jr. slept a while. After returning from the park we all sat under the trees in the shade and visited. Later, mom, aunt Beulah and I wrote cards to send back home. Ruth and Geneva came out to visit with us for a while….they have been so good to us; they are good people.

Mr. Delhay told us the reason there were so many flowers and beautiful plantings in Kalispell was because it was surrounded by mountains which kept the bad weather out. Their little valley was like an oasis in the mountains …….the flowers grew well along with the giant pines and other conifer’s. The Delhay’s themselves were owners of the Tee-Pee Lodge and their income was from the tourists. However, the local people were in one accord….come for a while but please don’t stay. They hoped their area would never be commercialized or bastardized as so many other places had been in the U.S. I can’t blame them….hoards of people usually ruin the natural beauty that nature displays. I, for one, felt privileged to see what they have protected so well….may it ever be.

George and I drove back to the park to pick up John and Becky and took quite a few pictures of the beautiful plantings at the park entrance. Hummingbirds were everywhere among the flowers and after we mailed our cards at the Post Office we went back to fix supper. George took mom and aunt Beulah to see the flowers at the park knowing how much they would love to see them. We had an extra good supper that night because of the new grocery supplies…..and our visit to a local bakery.

After supper we went back up town so mom could get a charm for her bracelet and we shopped at their “Crazy Days” sidewalk sale a while. We brought ice-cream back and Ruth had baked a cake so we had a little ‘party’ together. This concluded our Kalispell visit and we leave with warm feelings for the hospitality shown us and the memory of a pretty little valley town, nestled in the mountains. From now on we will be traveling ever Eastward…..towards home……

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


It was pretty nippy when we got up this morning but hot coffee and flap jacks warmed us up good. John took up with an old stray dog all last evening and had to tell him goodbye before leaving. We left Browning and headed for St. Mary’s where we unhitched our camper and then drove on to the Canadian Border, taking lots of pictures. It was the first time any of us had been over an International Border.

I don’t think I mentioned aunt Beulah being on this trip but she was with us and we always enjoyed her good nature. Uncle Ted (her husband, dad’s brother) died in February 1966 and since she was alone we were happy she could go with us. One of Dad’s other brother’s, uncle Alfred, also made the trip and drove his pickup truck.

Anyway it was a quite a Kodak moment at the border and I’m so glad we took a lot of pictures. This has not been a “seeing mountains in the distance” thing this morning. The mountains are very near the road and living up to their name. They have glaciers here and there in them which rise above the tree line. We are going as far as Waterton to look around (and of course, enjoy a few gift shops) then back to St. Mary’s to cross the Glacier Mountains.

We had many beautiful sights in store for us on the road up to Waterton but the small resort area was the prettiest by far. It was a little town snuggled at the feet of the glaciers which looked as if it could have been Zurich or some other famed playground at the foot of the Alps. We were treated to towering mountains with a blue, blue lake reflecting them and the puffy white clouds above. On a hill overlooking the town and lake was the Prince of Wales Inn. It was built in a Swiss Chalet style which added to the “story book” setting. We drove slowly through the town with it’s streets winding around the mountains and parked at a place where there seemed to the most gift shops.

First order of business, aunt Beulah treated us all to a nice dinner and we got quite a kick out of the little waitress. Now Canadians aren’t ‘too foreign’ I know but they are a little bit different. We enjoyed her obvious confusion in some of our ordering. When our orders came we were surprised by sweet relish on the hamburger with ‘sides’ of dill pickle and slaw which had a horseradish flavor. Also, they brought our milk-shakes in a glass along with the metal can with the rest in it. Hadn’t seen that done since I was a soda jerk in Cabool. It was quite appreciated.

After dinner we decided to split up and meet back at the car so we could each get more shopping done. The shops were very ‘English’ with imported woolens, lovely English China and things from their colonies all over the world, such as carved ivory things from India, trinkets from Hong Kong etc; Mom got a two magnificent tea cups and saucers for her collection and a teapot with sugar and creamer. I couldn’t resist an English milk pitcher and two coffee mugs. I didn’t know at the time but now they are easily identified. The pitcher and mugs were Johnson Bros. Friendly Village. John owns the pitcher and one mug….George Jr. has the other mug. I have been trying to give the children things from the trips that they appreciate now but wouldn’t have wanted when they were that young. Now it is a treasure to hang on to their memories with. I also bought a silver charm for my charm bracelet and a beer mug for George Sr. I could have spent days looking and shopping but the time came to meet back at the cars so we hurried along, got settled in, and drove back to St. Mary’s to pick up our camper. That being accomplished, we headed West over the Glacier Mountains.

Now here is the peak of the trip. If we had seen anything beautiful before, or been awed by the bigness of the mountains, it was completely forgotten about on the first turn of the road after leaving St. Mary’s entrance. We started UP on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway….our first landmark was St. Mary’s Lake and we stopped by the road to snap quite a few pictures. The road clings to the sides of rough, jagged mountains with high cliff drives around the lake. It looks like the famed pictures of the cliff shoreline at Monaco. We are busy looking at landmarks such as Goats Mountain, Cannon Mountain, Heavens Peak, O’Brien Mountain and Logan’s Pass at the highest point, (Continental Divide).

Up to this point it was breath taking to look out and see how high up we were getting and looking at all there was to see as we climbed up steep curves taking us to the top. When you start down there is no hint of the fear that is to come as you look at Bird Woman Falls, Hanging Gardens and go around still more curves. Suddenly you come around the mountain into a view that is almost too beautiful to take in. The knowledge hits you that you are on a little shelf carved out of the side of the mountain to carry traffic on with the edge crumbling away. It seems like you are at least five miles up and with other traffic trying to scale up or down the mountain I became absolutely horrified. The edge was on my side of the car with just a few little rocks to act as a guard rail……I kept thinking a camper wheel would go over the edge and pull us down with it to the bottom below. All I could see from my window was blue sky. I admit it….I was scared silly. The kids still tease me about my panic and insisting that daddy get further over from the edge of the road. I was just a limp, scared mass of cowardice.

After three lifetimes and 11-miles later we were finally at the bottom, driving along a clear mountain river which got lost in the pines. On our way out of the forest and the park we passed by a beautiful mountain lake which was fed by the river we just passed. Referring to our map we find that it is Lake McDonald. Soon we were at the West Glacier Park entrance and we all went in for pie and coffee. My stomach began coming out of shock with the food but my knees ached for quite a while from the stress I felt. I think I mashed on the floor board (for a brake) all the way down. As a memento, George bought me a Mountain Goat for my charm bracelet….only after he couldn’t find a ‘chicken’ he said. Very funny. So this was to be my Montana charm.

We had a quiet little drive on to Kalispell where we found the Tee-Pee Lodge, the Delhay’s and a haven for the night.

Until tomorrow,
Essentially Esther