Sunday, July 8, 2018

Petrified Wood Hunting

When my family started planning their first get-together in Nebraska, my husband, Rex, offered to take everyone on one of his favorite childhood hunts. He was to lead the pack on a hunt for petrified wood. Rex knew that petrified wood could be found not too far from the South Platte River.  

Petrified wood starts out as a tree or a tree like plant and eventually turns into a fossilized stone. This occurs when the wood becomes buried under sediment and is preserved by lack of oxygen when the organic wood is replaced with minerals and in time turns to stones of various colors. The colors are due to the elements in the sediment. This process can take millions of years. 

On a very hot Friday afternoon when the temperatures were soaring over 100 degrees, the family donned hats, grabbed water bottles and plastic bags in search of a likely place to search for petrified wood. Our car caravan pulled off the side of the road when this sand draw looked hopeful. 

One by one everyone took turns climbing through barbed wire in pursuit of  ancient fossil wood.  

Even my youngest granddaughter was ready to find her treasures. 

Once the first piece of petrified wood was spotted by my son-in-law, Gabe, the whole gang got into a competitive hunt looking for a bigger piece. Sometimes everyone stayed close together and other times they spread out trying to out-find the others. 

After searching for over an hour the kids decided they were pleased with their finds and wanted to head to the air-conditioned car. I was most happy to accompany them to a much cooler spot while the others kept their look-out for another 45 minutes. 

Abbi was delighted with her find. I did hear that the bigger piece "might" have been her Dad's find but Abbi was quick to claim it as her own. Everyone was hunting together so sharing is caring. 

Once back at our lodge, show and tell was a lively time. An old fashioned scale in the entryway  was brought back into service to weigh the fossil wood of the bigger pieces. The eye can be deceiving. From the day's efforts the all time winner of the largest piece was my son-in-law, Jeff. His petrified wood weighed 815 grams. His piece is the lower one on the picture below. The second place went to his daughter, my granddaughter, Maddie, with a weigh-in of 808 grams on the top of the photo below.  Maddie took the close call all in stride by declaring "it's only the difference of 7 paper clips".

To follow-up on this wonderful field trip, we all visited the Petrified Wood Gallery in Ogalalla, Nebraska. The museum displays petrified wood from all over the world including one case with petrified wood from the South Platte River which flows through Ogalalla. My husband, Rex, and his family know the twin brothers Howard and Harvey Kenfield who started their collection of petrified wood in the 1950's. In 2000 they donated it to be displayed in Ogalalla in this gallery.  Many art pieces are made from petrified wood. The Kenfield brothers have made 3 dimensional pictures of rustic cabins, barns and buildings. You can get a peek at a few of these on their Facebook photo page. I am happy to say we have one of their pieces which Rex's mother, Louise, had bought many years ago. I would love to include a picture of it here but it's currently crated in a special case for protection. When it's out again, I'll add a picture to this post.

The family gathered around the display case showing petrified wood from the local region at the gallery. It's a lovely museum not to miss if you're passing through Ogalalla on I-80.

Field trip anyone?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

School Starting Soon

It's July, 2018, and already thoughts are turning to the start of another school year. My daughter-in-law, a teacher, starts August 1st. The summers are much shorter than when I was a kid. 

As summer melts into school days and even though my own children are grown and out of school I still dabble in carpool lines with my grandkids. Just as when I was in Kindergarten, the time held tradition continues. (I'm third from the right)

When visiting my two oldest grandkids in Minnesota, Grandpa and I were always along for the ride to drop them off or pick them up. This year they are in eight and ninth grade. I remember when they were little and watching for them to find us in the carpool pick up line. Time goes by so quickly.

I always know when our local schools start because an elementary school is my backyard neighbor, I love hearing the kids' noise out on the playground and the school bells ringing. A school zone slows the traffic on my street as school buses rumble past my home.

Grandma Rita in Kindergarten! 

This year another of my grandchildren starts Kindergarten. I remember my Kindergarten days. They were fun and exciting times. One day I had the joy of driving my enthusiastic granddaughter, a Kindergartener, to her school. I think I was as excited to be in school mode as she was. It was a bit intimidating finding my way into the proper place for drop-off and then pick-up. I know all too well there are strict rules about such things. I may be a grandma but such adventures bring back lots of memories of driving my own five children to school.

I had a big, custom van that I drove my children in. I would be waiting for them in the school parking lot and not only my own but all the neighbor kids would come and pile into the van for a ride home. We didn't have to follow a seatbelt law back then so kids sat on the floor in the middle of the row of seats or crowded in however they could. I laughed because most didn't have far to walk home but they loved the social of riding with the others. Once the sliding door was closed, I often didn't even know who all was in the van so I asked for directions to the closest drop-off house. It was a fun time. 

With school starting in August, summer heat still lingers.  Today it reminded me of something I wrote in 1992 while living in Texas. It was a hot carpool day 26 years ago. I don't think the experience has changed very much when the temperatures are soaring. 

Mom's Taxi

It is so hot today!
The soles of my feet burn on the asphalt.
The top of my head smolders.
My clothes are wet and sticky.
Even my eyes burn in the intense heat.

Droplets form across my forehead and
I feel drips sliding down my neck.

I'm in my sun-scorched van
waiting in the carpool line.
School will be out soon.
When the bell rings,
I search the crowd for the little faces
I know.

From one school to the next
I travel.
Waiting at each school 
in the August heat,
in  the carpool line,
for my children.

Post updated from August 28, 2013

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Crawfish Boil

A family crawfish boil has been on my Baton Rouge-born sons' minds for years. Living in  land-locked Colorado, such a thing is rare indeed but they were determined. My boys, Paul and Andrew, checked into the possibility one Mardi Gras. The price was too high at that time so they waited. The next opportunity presented itself when we gathered the immediate family for a reunion in Lewellen, Nebraska over Father's Day weekend, 2018. 

The boys ordered 40 pounds of live crawfish from the Louisiana Crawfish Company in Natchitoches, Louisiana. They arranged to have it flown to Denver and delivered to the home of our oldest son, Paul.  Since Paul had to work he hadn't come up a few days earlier with the rest of the family so it was exciting waiting for Paul to drive up to Lewellen from Denver bringing the big Styrofoam container of live crawfish on Saturday morning. The squirming, smelly crawfish added such excitement when we all took turns peeking into the big white container carefully cradling our anticipated dinner.  

Andrew had the pot, burner, paddle and all the ingredients prepped, the corn, potatoes, onions, garlic and seasonings, ready to start the party once the crawfish were on scene. 

In go the crawfish!  Before our trip I mentioned our impending crawfish boil to local friends, I had to explain they just resemble tiny lobsters. I was hoping that would sooth their imagined disgust. As it turned out my daughter-in-law instigated a bowl of melted butter with creole seasoning added to the table to dip her delicately peeled crawfish in, pretending it really was lobster . I did try it and admit it was a good taste. Of course I like all things butter. 

Andrew stirs the crawfish, corn, potatoes, onions and garlic so they absorb the seasonings well! This boil broth turns everything to eating perfection. 

This golden broth becomes the messy juice that soaks your fingers and runs down your arms.  Even though it's drained off, it perfectly soaks the added sides to complete a most delicious meal.

40 pounds of crawfish and trimmings perfectly cooked and ready to pour onto the newspaper coated picnic table. The newspapers soak up any extra juices and makes for easy clean up of discarded shells and corn cobs. 

Steaming hot, heavy and drained Louisiana goodness brings the excited family to the table with picture opportunities of this amazing and memorable family event.  

My grandkids couldn't wait to make acquaintances with these strange crustaceans.  
My granddaughter, Morgan,  named her friend Sheila and carried her off to play. When I asked her later where Sheila was she replied "I left her under the tree."  Below Jeb is being  introduced to crawfish. 

Maddie's crawfish friend was named Gary. When the pile of crawfish dwindled, it was a time of accusation when Maddie said "Uncle Paul ate Gary". It was all in fun. Luckily no trauma ensued. 

Finally time to dig in! Twist, pull, peel and eat! No forks, spoons or knives, just plenty of paper towels, napkins and messy fingers. To add to the ambiance we even had Cajun music playing to tap our toes to while we slurped the flavorful juices and tender meat. 

Participating in this ultimate outdoor bash, sitting or standing elbow to elbow with our family the spice level on this boil considered that kids would be eating with us. All the same spice is a special flare to enjoy;  beer is the recommended beverage. Note the koozie from our wonderful supplier of the fresh and live crawfish. 

Finally, here's a picture of the happy crawfish eating gang. Notice our family T-shirts designed by my son, Matt.  

Monday, July 2, 2018

Ham Radio General License KE0EUS

After getting my Technician License in May, 2015, I started thinking about getting the next license, a General License. I bought the book and started to study. I hadn't gotten past chapter 5 out of 7 chapters before I had to have shoulder replacement surgery and a follow up repair.  By the time my head was clear enough to consider studying again, the book I was studying from had expired. The questions for the test and the books are changed every 5 years. I told myself I had no interest in chapters 6 and 7 anyway so I gave up the idea. 

As time passed I joined the Denver Radio Club and pursed my VHF and UHF contacts along the Front Range of Colorado. I was plenty happy with that using my Yaesu RT-60. One day while playing around on, a call sign data base, I decided to look up the town in Minnesota where my daughter lives to see if any licensed hams lived near by. I thought it would be good to have a contact in case I needed someone to check in on her and her family. Going through the 125 names listed, I found Eric, K0EAP, whose address sounded like it could be somewhere near my daughter. He had pictures of his antennas and lots of info on his call sign page so I sent him an e-mail. He immediately wrote me back and said he could see my daughter's house from his house, they were about 500 feet apart. 

I should have known I was starting to branch out beyond my Front Range contacts with a new Minnesota email friend. It didn't take long for Eric to tell me how fun it is to have an advanced license and I should go for my General. That same week one of my local ham friends from our Denver Radio Club told me I needed to get my General license. So the idea grew on me. I got a new book, signed up for a cram class given by the Patriot VE testing at the Red Cross Center and studied for the two weeks before my test. Study I did too. I was intimidated by the math and parts that I really had no interest in. I told a few people what I was doing and to please pray I can pass this test .During the classes I felt confident that I knew quite a few answers and that I had a chance to pass fairly well. 

The General test was given the same day as our second class. I was ready, so I thought. Looking at the test before me, I wondered where did these questions even come from. Even the equations I memorized in the book did not have the answer in the multiple choice to choose from. It was like I was working my way through a foreign language exam. I handed in my test sheets and just shook my head I was sure I hadn't passed. I was feeling embarrassed and deflated.

The 7 of us taking the exam waited in the lobby for our results. We compared questions that were on our individual tests and what answers we had chosen. I realized then that I had been given one of the harder tests. Some of the people had easy questions with basic answers. I had none of those.  As we waited, the examiner came into the lobby and called out one name at a time, congratulating them. It was hard waiting for the examiner to return again and again wondering each time if this was news for me. Finally I saw the examiner heading towards me. My heart truly dropped as he had an expression that I thought wasn't carrying good news. Guys before me had received perfect scores and the level of elation in the room was high. I was feeling quite devastated. When the examiner got to me his words of Congratulations almost dropped me to my knees. I was shaking and in total disbelief. It felt like an act of God's Mercy. As the examiner returned to get my paper work to sign, I tried to clear my head and even wondered if he made a mistake. I decided if he did come back with my temporary license, I would sign the paper and leave as soon as possible before he changed his mind.

I'm happy to say it all went through. However, I did find out I most likely did have heavenly intervention. The success wasn't all mine. I called my dear Mother who I had been praying for me and told her the joyful news. It was then I learned how this all happened. My dear 88 year old Mother told me what she prayed. She said "I asked God and Daddy to be with you. If you wrote down a wrong answer, I asked them to change it to the right answer." You know, I truly believe that's how I passed my General License. It keeps me humble as I had heavenly help. I don't know what happened to my test after I turned it in but I believe it received some blessed attention.   Thank you, Mama, God and Daddy for your help!