Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Longhandled Spoon

Yesterday in my blog about slop pails I said I might tell you an old joke/story from our mother. It is on the gross-humor side of things. She told it to us when we were kids and, as you know, kids love gross humor. We thought it hugely funny.

Terry, Mother, Michelle, Gracie
c. 1943

So, here it is as I remember it from sixty-odd years ago. (If any of my sisters remember it better, feel free to correct it!)

There was a man who loved his drink. It was his habit to spend most evenings in his favorite bar, coming home late at night much the worse for all he had imbibed. Often, he would have overdone it to the extent that he would end up retching and vomiting before he made it to bed.

His wife endured this behavior night after night. In exasperation, she would tell him, "One of these nights you're going to vomit up your insides!"

There came a night when he arrived home in even worse condition than usual. His stomach heaving, he leaned over the slop pail and vomited. Unbeknownst to him, and unnoticed in his inebriated condition, his wife had cleaned a chicken for tomorrow's dinner before going to bed, leaving the entrails in the slop pail.

The man staggered to bed and gasped to his wife, "You're always warning me I'd vomit up my insides one day and, by gum, you were right. But by the grace of God and a longhandled spoon I got them all in again!"

Well, I warned you!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Slop Pail

Today I'm talking about a rather gross subject from the viewpoint of modern America--The Slop Pail.

Today's young people won't even know what a slop pail is. I know about it because of visits to my grandparents' in my childhood. I was not a country kid. My family lived in town and we had (most of the time) indoor plumbing. But country folk did not have all the modern conveniences in those days.

This doesn't have anything to do with slop pails, except they surely
had one. This is my grandmother and some of her children
standing by the old log house. Left to right: Rhoda, Rose, Elsie, Bess,
and Joe, c. 1930.
My grandmother's kitchen was equipped with a coal/wood fired kitchen range. In one side of this stove was a well for heating water. That was the only source of hot water for the household. For baths extra water was heated on the stovetop, poured into a galvanized washtub, and cooled with cold water to the right temperature. The same applied, of course, to laundry.

Because there was no running water, there was no kitchen sink and no drains. Dishes were done in dishpans, filled with water as explained above. They would be emptied by carrying them to the back door and slinging the water out into the yard. Or it might go into the slop pail.

And so enters the Slop Pail. The slop pail was a big bucket into which all the kitchen scraps from food preparation, plate scrapings, and some waste water were dumped. About once a day, or when the bucket was getting full enough to need it, the slop pail would be carried to the chicken yard and dumped. Basic recycling! The chickens would eat the scraps; if the chickens left anything the insects would benefit; anything not finished by critters would go back to the soil.

When I think about the slop pail now, it pretty much grosses me out. I would hate to have one in my kitchen; it was not a pretty thing. But it served a need in a country home without plumbing.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you an old joke from my mother about a slop pail and a long-handled spoon.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Marathon

This weekend I have had a Pride and Prejudice marathon. It started Friday when I returned to listening to the recorded version of the book.

I read the book (in fact all the Jane Austen books) about three years ago. I had seen the movie Emma in the theater some years before, and after reading the books I started collecting videos of them. Films, both theater and TV versions, have been made at different times through the years. I ended up with three different versions of Pride and Prejudice. I also taped a 1940s version that was shown on TV, but did not care as much for it so did not save it (it took too many liberties with the story, costumes in the wrong time period, actresses too old to be playing the daughters, etc.).

I enjoyed the audio book and, when it was finished, felt in the mood to watch the film. But which one?

So, I watched all three. Two are TV series made under the auspices of the BBC about ten years apart. The third is the award winning big screen film starring Kiera Knightly. They are all good, faithful to the book. What variations are made are simple ones, like having a conversation take place indoors rather than outdoors, having the clergyman cousin giving a lecture in person in one scene that was actually done by letter, etc. Nothing that materially changed the book. Most of the dialog was directly from Jane Austen, which I appreciated. Why rewrite a great writer's words?

In comparing the casts, I felt I would like to mix them up a little. One had the best Mr. Bennet, another had the best Wickham; one Jane just did not fit, and one Mr. Darcy was so wooden that even his good looks and posture couldn't make him believable.  In asking myself, regarding some characters, "What was the casting director thinking?" I had to face the fact that everyone develops his/her own mental picture of a book's characters. And, apparently, those casting directors didn't have my "perfect" understanding of what the character should look and sound like!

I know that many other versions of the Austen books have been filmed, including modern day stories that have borrowed essential plot lines from Jane Austen. There's even a Bollywood version--Bride and Prejudice--made in India. It was on TV one time and I tried to watch it, but just couldn't get into it.

So, that's how I've spent a good deal of Friday and Saturday. It may take a little time to get my head back in the 21st century.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


The weather this time of year is so often unsettled. This morning, about the time Sunday School ended and it was time to go to the sanctuary for the worship service, my bones started aching. I took time out for some ibuprofen and figured the weather reports were right--a change of weather was on its way.

We'd had a few lovely days with temperatures in the 50s and 60s. Wonderful!

By the time we left church a cold wind was blowing. We stopped at a grocery store before coming home. The store is on a hilltop and catching the full effect of a strong, very cold wind, with little snow pellets propelled at such speed they stung the face. Brrrr!

I'm glad to be inside my own warm nest. This is what it looked like out my back windows a few minutes ago (sorry, I can't include the squeaks and rattles and moans, the bangs and thumps, caused by the force of the wind).

Oops--the camera was focused on the slush drops on the window!

Saturday, March 16, 2013


When we were children (the oldest three of the family), our parents raised rabbits for a time. They were not being kept as pets, although we were sometimes allowed to hold or pet them.
This photo was not dated. It's sometime in the mid-1940s.

They were a food source.

I know, I know. A lot of people can't think of eating something that cute. I don't want to myself these days. But our parents were both raised in the country. On a farm an animal is there for practical purposes--work or food. A cat may be a pet, but its real purpose is to keep down the mice. A dog is a wonderful companion, but it works with the sheep or cows and is an early warning system if someone other than family enters the farmstead.

When times are as hard as they were when my parents grew up, and even when they started their own family, you are grateful for affordable food sources and look at them with a practical eye.

Some of the rabbits, the breeders, became pet-like, but we had them for a food source. However, eventually they became more of a bother than a help and the rabbit-raising experiment ended.

I remember one rather comical event that came about because our parents had an idea to make the lives of the rabbits more pleasant. Instead of leaving them cooped up in the hutches, they would be provided with a large space where they could hop around and spend their time freely with each other. So a well-fenced area was constructed in the back yard and the rabbits were freed from their cages. If you know anything about rabbits you can guess what happened next. That it happened tells me that my parents really did not know a great deal about raising rabbits when they got into it.

The rabbits disappeared.

Rabbits burrow in the wild, and it took the domestic rabbits very little time to go back to their roots, dig under the fence, and head out for new adventures.

Some of the rabbits were recovered, but I think it was not long after this that the rabbit-raising experiment ended. I doubt that it had saved our parents much money.

The Easter Bunny is safe from me!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sorting the Past

Years ago, while we lived in South Dakota, I borrowed negatives of childhood-era photos from my mother and had prints made for myself. I was not terribly pleased with the results, but the copies were better than nothing. I don't know why the color is off--these were black and white negatives. Perhaps this was the result when making prints from b/w negatives on color print equipment. Perhaps it was also inferior quality ink, as it seems to me the prints are growing redder as time passes.

However, having these prints, plus the original prints from Mother's album (some of which are duplicated in the album), plus some prints I have made from my own recent scans, means that I have multiple copies of some photos, of varying quality and different sizes.

Before I put away the project before the holidays, I had scanned in quite a few of the small photos. By the time I got it out again, I'd lost track of what I had already scanned. So I put together pages of those scanned photos in small size (20 per page) and printed those proof sheets out. They are a great help in keeping track!

Then I decided to begin organizing this stage of the project by sorting out the photos to find the duplicates. Then I will organize chronologically, marking the ones I have already scanned. Then I can make prints of the ones that have those tiny originals or which can be improved by running them through the photo program. Then, finally, I'll be ready to make up the album pages.

Since I'm not really working at speed on this, I don't know when I'll finish. But just formulating a plan has already helped me feel engaged in the project again.
Starting the Sort

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back to the Project

Have you ever been involved in a project, been interrupted for quite some time, then tried to go back to it? This is, to me, the most difficult part of sticking with and completing a project.

Sometime before the holidays I had to clear all my old-photo-books-to-new-scrapbooks project off my kitchen/dining table. There was no point in getting it all out again before the holidays were over, because it would have to come right back off. After the holidays, I had a session of bronchial asthma where for a few weeks I did not feel like doing much of anything.

Now the holidays are long past, I am fine, and it is time to get back to the project and get it finished. But I've put it off and put it off, reading and reading and reading (or listening to) books. The problem in getting my head back in the project is--getting my head back in the project. Where was I? Which photos had I scanned already? Which photos do I have duplicates of? What is the best way to sort the photos chronologically when they are often mixed up in the album--and some are glued in so well that I can't peel them off to put them in the correct order? And how can I be sure of the correct chronology when so many are not labelled? (If there are kids in the photos, I make my best guess by the sizes we are.)

Well, it's easier to just read another book!

But I am taking myself in hand, and I have begun again. One of the first of the little bitty prints I scanned and put through the auto program for improving, was of such poor quality that it seemed rather like a lost cause and a useless exercise to try to save. However, I could see that it was of a fairly large gathering of some of my mother's family--just the sort of photo I do want to save. Someone with real photoshopping skills might be able to get a little more from it, but you do have to have something to work with first. The group is standing on the south side of the Rooney House (as we called it, after the landlady's name). How small this house looks to me now--we lived there from the time I was two until I was nine, and it was much larger then!

For those of you who are family:  Back row--Grandpa and Grandma Mackey holding McLaughlin twins; 
Rose; Red, top of head just showing in back; In front--Dorothy with Michelle; Vera holding Kerry and hand
on Grace's shoulder; Jessie holding Jerry; Terry; Glen, Gary Gilbert, Larry, and Glen (Junior) Rogers.
(Wish I knew who took the photo (Bob?) and where Bobbie is--she should have been there.)
Anyway, here is how it turned out. Not good, but I was able to identify the people in it and make a pretty good guesstimate of the year, which I believe is 1947. Perhaps I am over-obsessed with trying to preserve some of these things. But I see not only an era that is passing, but one that has already passed. And yet that time is part of the history of my sisters and myself. Memories and old photos are links to that past that we lived and that helped form us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Finally Finished

Today I finished listening to the recorded book Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow. I know I have blogged about this book before.

The book, in hardback print form, is 817 pages long. This does not include the Acknowledgments and Notes! After purchasing the book, I found it very difficult for me to read. The print is small and the volume is heavy. My usual compensation for my visual problems when dealing with small print is to close my central-vision-damaged left eye and hold the book quite close to my right eye. This works except in the case of a heavy book--my hands get very tired trying to hold the book in position.

But it was an interesting, well-written book.

So I purchased the Audible version for my Kindle Fire. The recording is 42 hours long; therefore, I listened to it in bits and pieces. It took a long time (I read and/or listened to many other books during that period also), but today I finished it!

Despite the fact that it happened over 200 years ago and I knew about it already, I found myself feeling very sad and very frustrated as I read about George Washington's final illness. He was 67, still strong and very active. With today's medicine he'd have been given a good round of antibiotics and been up and about in no time. Unfortunately, medicine was still in a very primitive state in Washington's day, and many of the common practices were based on ignorance and superstition. Washington was bled so much that it is estimated he was drained of half his entire blood supply. His doctors simply did not know what else to do, so they kept doing the wrong thing over and over. And so he died. Listening to it, I wanted to reach through time and yank those doctors away from him, with their gory bloodletting tools and basins!

There is such a vast amount of information in this book that I'm sure it could be read/listened to several times to absorb most of it. But, I will admit, that, as interesting as it was, I will probably wait awhile before delving into it again!

Now that I have finished the book, I would still highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Bruised Reed

This morning I read a bit from The Story from The Book. This is a condensed version of a paraphrased, easy English, version of the Bible. It is a great book for the novice Bible reader, or anyone who has a hard time getting through the "begats," the detailed laws about sacrifices and religious observances in the Old Testament, or the geographical divisions descriptions in Joshua. It pares the Bible down to the essential accounts of history, prophecy, and poetry. It makes clear the flow of the story of the Bible, of the interaction of God and Mankind, and the plan for the future in His own time.

I recommend it.

This morning one phrase I read really struck me. It comes from the book of Isaiah (you can check the Notes section in the back of the book, if you wonder specifically where the various parts used come from).

This is what jumped out at me--it is part of a Messianic prophecy:

He will not break the bruised reed, nor quench the dimly burning flame.

What a perfect description this is of our human condition. I am bruised, my flame so often burns dimly. What a comfort to know the Chosen One will not see me as so flawed as to be useless, worthy only to be discarded. I am bruised, but He will not break. I burn dimly, but He will not blow out my spark. He has healing and use for me yet! He has comfort, not scorn!

For all of us Bruised Reeds, there is hope and comfort to be found.

(This passage can be found on page 233 in the paperback copy of the book. I did check the references and found that in the complete Bible it is Isaiah 42:3. Isaiah has prophecies both beautiful and dire, for both his time and all the way to the end of time. He writes much about God's Chosen One. And it is all so beautifully written. It is not only prophecy from God, it is great literature.)

Monday, March 4, 2013


The weather warning is out--we may be facing a mini-blizzard later today.

The wind has already arrived. Last night the front hit with a bang--literally. The house shook with the impact. Even though I have good, and tight, windows, cold air was forced around them. Then there was a long rattle and roar of thunder.

Through the night the wind continued, and it was still blowing hard, whining around the house, making a continual high clanging from my little wind chime on the deck, shoving the deck chairs across the deck until they were stopped by the railing, tearing at the rolled up awning, and tumbling anything loose before it, when I awoke this morning.

The weather warning this morning says we may have snow driven by the wind later today. However, the prediction is for only one to two inches. The danger is not from the amount of snow, but the blinding effect of the wind driving it.

We have had several blizzard warnings this winter. So far no blizzard has materialized. The big storms have always just missed us. Our snow levels for this winter are below normal. Not good news after last summer's drought.

I hate blizzards, having seen many in my lifetime. They are dangerous. They cause great damage to livestock and wildlife. People caught out in them have died.

The amount of snow predicted for today and tonight is really negligible. Not enough to qualify as a real blizzard. If the pattern of the last few predictions holds true we will get wind, but no appreciable moisture.

I'd love for us to get a good snow (rain would be even better!); a blizzard--not so much!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Our Day, Yesterday

Yesterday my daughter and I made a quick trip to Rapid City. It was time for my 6-month checkup at the Eye Institute. The roads were clear, the sun was shining, and we talked all the way there.
Black Hills Regional Eye Institute (from their website)

We arrived at the Institute a half hour early, so Anne Marie used the time to make a call to the surgeon's office in the next step in seeking a solution to the illness that has melted 20 pounds from my granddaughter in less than two months time (and she did not need to lose any weight). Because Megan's gall bladder function test was abnormal, the scheduler set appointments for both the initial interview with the surgeon, and for the surgery itself. This is the same surgeon who removed Anne Marie's gall bladder in December. Megan is so ill that we are very grateful the surgery can be done so soon.

I have only the highest praise for the personnel at the Eye Institute. After the initial pressure test and dilation drops, it was time for a test of visual fields, which helps determine any changes in the damage to my eyes. After that test I was seen by Dr. Nixon. Last August I was very pleased with the results of my checkup, as there was no change and my eye pressures were good. This time the news was not so good. While I don't yet show progression of the glaucoma, the pressure was up in my right eye. Dr. Nixon added a second medication for that eye, to be administered by drops twice a day. I'll go back in about a month to see if it is having any effect. So, the fight continues to save my eyesight.

When we left the Institute, with me in a rather blurry condition due to the dilation making it impossible to focus, we were both ready for lunch. We headed for the Golden Corral. Because of the wide variety of foods offered at their buffet, and their large salad selections, it is a good place for Anne Marie. She can always find foods that work with her need for a gluten-free meal.

When we went into the restaurant the sun was shining. I left my coat in the car, as the temperature was mild and no wind was blowing. When we came out of the restaurant, the sky was overcast, the temperature had dropped, the wind was blowing, and it was starting to snow! Though it was just a short distance to the car, I was wishing for my coat before I got there!

We had one more stop to make before heading home. Hobby Lobby! Anne Marie had things to get for both Chad and Megan. I did not need anything, but it's always fun to roam around that store. I am continually amazed by the sheer number of strange, interesting, fun, lovely, and even useful things they have. While we were roaming, we found they had their spring garden art objects out. Actually, Anne Marie spotted it and pointed it out to me. I was still seeing things in a blur from a little distance. And, of course, that is where I found things that I did not need, but did want. I had Christmas gift money I had not yet spent, so I splurged.

If you know me, you know that these days my gardening is confined to a large number of flower pots framing my second-story deck. Starting with gift garden figurines, I have collected a variety of decorative objects to place among the flowers. And I added two more to my collection yesterday. I also found a large piece I like that will hang on the side of the house. It may still look like winter outside, but spring is coming--and in the meantime the things I bought will live in my house.

Though cloudy, the trip home went smoothly. We listened to a book on tape by a favorite author, and the roads were dry. We watched snow squalls blow across the hilltops in the distance. Sundance Mountain was almost obscured, but by the time we got there the squall had moved on. Though most of the countryside on the trip had just remnants of snow here and there, Sundance was white. It sticks up higher than the surrounding countryside and catches everything.
Snow squalls moving along the tops of the hills.

We were glad to get home.