Saturday, May 17, 2008

Dad's "singing"

Dad couldn't carry a tune in a wheelbarrow. And, he didn't sing much. He'd sing in church, all right, and if you were next to him, you kind of had to ignore what he was doing and concentrate on getting your own notes right. But there were two songs that I remember him singing to us as kids. One was called "The Preacher and the Bear," about a preacher who went hunting on Sunday and got into a lot of trouble because of it. I think that this song appealed to his sense of humor, which tended towards puns and word play a lot. The song that I remember, though, was "The Wabash Cannonball," an old railroading song. I have no idea why Dad liked this song. Maybe it was the rhythm, "Listen to the jingle, the rumble and the roar...."Whatever, I really liked it, and I never hear it but I think of Dad singing it to me.

Monday, May 12, 2008


In Hot Springs, there was only one nice lawn in our neighborhood. Aunt Elizabeth had a lawn, it was true, but I don't remember it as thick and green. I don't even think we had a lawn, unless you count tumbleweeds. The lawn in the picture belonged to an older man who lived at the bottom of our block. The street was on a slope, but the man had built up the soil around his house so his lawn was level. We used to hunt for four-leaf clovers on his lawn. It was green and thick, and I can't imagine the time, energy, and money he must have put into that lawn. In the picture, we've been easter-egg hunting. The boy in the center with the jacket, has a bucket of easter eggs. The little guy kneeling to his right, our left, is me. Immediately to his left is our friend JoAnn Henning. I am ashamed to admit that I can't pick out my own dear sister. In the background is a 1949 Pontiac, I think, so I was nine or ten when this was taken. Possibly it was in the summer just before we went to Alaska, which would have made it 1951.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother Used to Recite "Lasca"

Click here to go to one of my other blogs to see a copy of the poem in mother's handwriting and read the entire poem.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Isn't She Tute?

This is me. I'm pretty sure this is Grandma's house in Hot Springs (now Truth or Consequences) New Mexico. I think we must have left Vancouver, Washington and gone home to stay with them while Dad was in Puerto Rico. I remember the train ride. We had a roomette, and mother said I washed my hands in the little sink all the way from Washington to New Mexico. I imagine she was glad to have something to keep me occupied. My hair was naturally curly. I imagine I was about 2 1/2.

I'll have to see if I can find the naked pose of Ron trying to get over the fence. That was in Oklahoma. Do you have the picture, Ron?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A Summer at Ojo Caliente

One summer, probably between my first and second grade? Maybe the year before, Dad was working on a highway in northern New Mexico. He built a little house trailer and away we went to camp the entire summer. We stayed near a village named Ojo Caliente, though in my memory there are lots more trees than you see in these pictures. We were probably camped among scrub pine. I have an idea that the people in the picture with dad and the dump truck were relatives who came to visit. He has

the look of being one of Anna and Gus Yarbro's sons. Maybe the one that lived with Mom and Dad when we were in Altas, Oklahoma when I was still a baby and Ronnie was just beginning to walk.

The fellow standing behind Dad (who is seated) with his hands on his hips looks very like Gus. I think he's the same fellow with the cowboy hat in his hand in front of the dump truck. As a Yarbro, he would have worn a Stetson.

Ronnie is walking right in front of the wheel of the tanker truck. That was our water supply. There was no electricity to our trailer, though there may have been a light plant down at the camp center. They built a platform so there could be dancing on special occasions.

The fellow on the bulldozer is not Dad. I think he must have been running a shovel or a dragline, because his oiler, Joe Gray was there at Ojo with us. He loved dad. He was a Mexican and called Dad Jeemy. His wife, Romelia, made flour tortillas every morning, and I always tried to be there when she was cooking them.

Back to the bulldozer. I looked at that picture, and the name Blackie came to my mind. Do you remember him, Ron?

That was a magical summer. Full of adventure and freedom. One day a truck carrying lettuce and other veggies turned over, and we all OD'd on lettuce. Mom gave us a salt shaker full of sugar, and we'd sprinkle it on the leaves, roll them up, and eat them. I can still taste it!

I can still remember the harrowing ride on a lowboy trailer to another town where the fellows were supposed to play baseball. The whole little camp community piled on the trailer and off we went on a shortcut through the mountains. It was a gravel road with hairpin turns so sharp that the truck would have to back up and jockey around to get around them. By the time we finally arrived, the game was over.

The construction company that Dad worked for was owned by Royal Skousen. I still have a picture that his wife did for my mother, a very pretty picture done in pastels on fine grade sandpaper of a path through a woods.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Picnic on the knik

Mother taught Sunday School most of the time we lived in Alaska--usually the class that Ronnie and I were in. She said it was because no one else would teach Ron. He had this infuriating habit of goofing off but ALWAYS having the right answer to the question that the teacher asked to show him that he was being inattentive.

Mother loved teaching kids, and she loved parties, so we'd get together as a Sunday School class and do fun things. This is a summer cookout at the Knik river. In my last posting (just before Ron's posting about Wally) there was a picture of Mom standing on the highway that leads to this bridge. Just across the bridge, the highway makes a 90 degree turn and runs along the base of the mountain. Pioneer Peak is its name.

At this time of year, the river is quite narrow, but in late August a lake that forms behind a glacier eats its way through the ice and the whole lake empties into the Knik and pours out to sea. The lake is called Lake George, and the phenomenon is called the Lake George Breakup. It's quite spectacular, because the river gets huge and blocks of ice float down it.

Did I spell Knik right?


This unfortunately marred picture is our older brother, Walter Eugene Shook. He died, so the family story goes, shortly before his first birthday, of pneumonia. Dad made his coffin, a family friend dug the grave, and Wally was buried the next day without being embalmed. Mom and Dad were too poor to afford a stone, so they dug Wally's grave at a 90 degree angle to the other graves in the Las Palomas graveyard. Mom and Dad had lost their first boy's grave (see an earlier post), and they didn't want to lose Wally's. Later, our aunt Elizabeth had a small bronze marker made for Wally. Wally's grave overlooks the Rio Grande.

Out behind the firehouse

This picture was taken one winter when we lived at the Bureau of Reclamation housing at Eklutna, Alaska. There was a fire station there, and Dad was the volunteer fire chief. One day he bulldozed a skating rink outside the fire station, then set up lights around it. In the evenings after school, we'd go down to the rink (just the kids mostly), use the fire hoses to water the rink, then put the hoses on racks to drain. By the time we had finished with the hoses, the water was ice and ready to skate on. In this particular picture, someone is sitting on the bank with me on one side and Tootie on the other. I think it's Dad, but can't be sure. I know he skated with us once or twice, but not too often as it was very cold.