Category Archives: Personal History

Curse of the Brussell Sprout (or Mystery of the Pea)

We had a huge garden growing up, an acre maybe? I just remember it being huge. When we would talk about having a rock party, it wasn’t the kind with wild blasting music, dancing, and strobe light. It was derocking the garden. Walking through with wagons and pails plucking rocks out of the dirt in the early spring so Dad could till it and get it ready for planting. And oh the weeding. Mounds and mounds of weeds were pulled. I would ride in the wagon on top of the mounds of weeds out to the compost pile where we dumped them. Dad grew a number of things in the garden. I loved walking between the rows of corn that seemed to reach way into the sky. Unfortunately the one thing that he could get to grow the best apparently was brussell sprouts. Now, I hope I don’t offend any of you brussell sprout lovers (I am so sorry for you, hee hee), but my dad did not have a sense of smell or taste and thus did not realize how truly terrible these things were. Even my mother couldn’t handle them.

I remember my dad getting upset because his garden just wasn’t producing all the vegetables he thought it should be. The peas were the worst, the plants were always bare! He could never explain it. It didn’t look like animals were getting at them, the plants were virtually untouched, just no pods. But the brussel sprouts always did well and produced like crazy.

One day dad was in the hayloft and stuffed behind some bales of hay he found two paper bags. They were chocked full, up to the brim, with empty pea pods.

We didn’t have nearly as many brussel sprouts after that and the pea plants mysteriously began to produce again . . .

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Filed under Farm Stories, Humor, Personal History

Sunrise

We started the hike at about 9:30 at night. It was a constant uphill struggle, at times the trail felt as though it were going straight up. The wind whipped around us and knocked out our knees with intense buffeting. There were moments when I feared it would rip me off of the mountain. On a particularly rough assault I would jam my walking stick into the ground and hang on for dear life. In the dark the mountain loomed above me stretching far into the sky. In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be climbing Mt. Fuji. From the moment I stepped out of the airport in Japan and my eyes fell upon that mountain for the first time, it had beckoned to me.

There were stations to stop at while we hiked and usually during the summer season they are open and you can get your walking staff stamped, but we were in the off season and passed by the solemn empty shacks, shuttered tight against the wind. As the night wore on and we slowly ascended the mountain we passed no other hikers; we were the sole trespassers on this majestic beauty. The goal was to reach the top by sunrise and watch the sun awake while sitting on top of the world.

The higher we hiked the harder the wind blew and soon my staff was not keeping me as fast on the trail. My companions would hang onto my coat to keep me from blowing away. (I do not believe I would have such a predicament now, I was such a lightweight then! hee hee). It was 2:30 in the morning when we hit the last station before the top of the mountain. By now I was exhausted, tired, and cold, having ascended from below sea level. We sat down for a rest and delved into our “lunch”. Upon opening my pop can my hand was shaking so bad that the liquid kept spilling out of the can. Waves of nausea threatened to overtake me completely. As David, my brother-in-law, looked at me with concern it was decided that I was suffering from altitude sickness (something I had never suffered before, but we decided with the extenuating circumstances it was not completely unusual) and should not continue up the mountain. I was devastated. I could see the top not even a full half mile ahead of us, but I had to agree that I was in no condition to continue. One of our companions not feeling to great either decided to stay behind with me while David and the other fellow hiked to the top.

So I huddled down against the wind and waited for the sunrise. My own personal planetarium show displayed above me. It seemed the entire galaxy was alight and I could see the swirls and the myriads of stars winking at me. The air was cold and clear and clouds in dark shadow clothed the valley below us.

Slowly the horizon began to lighten, barely a soft glow. It was like a dimmer switch and God was slowly turning on the light. As the sun rose the display was spectacular the hills and clouds below us thrown into brilliance and shadow, and a small orange ball appearing on the horizon. Wrapped in silence and splendor as the world awoke, beholding God’s art, the images locked in my heart forever. There are moments and visions beyond description and words but must only be felt and seen with the heart.

(this picture is off a postcard because my camera couldn’t do it justice, it is exactly what I saw however)

On my down the mountain in full daylight I gathered some of the lava stone. I still have my Fuji rock.

David later told me I never would have made it all the way to the top. The wind was so strong he was afraid they would be blown off the mountain and he was experiencing some altitude sickness by the time he got to the top. I still say I have climbed Mt. Fuji even though that last half a mile eluded me.

(also a postcard. The mountain spends much of it’s time shrouded in cloud and while I got many good looks at the mountain, again my camera couldn’t capture the majesty, so I rely on this postcard instead)

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Filed under Japan, Personal History, Youth

Blueberries

We gathered up our pails and walked out our back door, down the hill, past the barn, through the field skirting the edge of the marsh and reached our destination. Blue berries as far as my short eyes could see. I loved blueberries and I loved the bushes even more. They were magical, home of pixies and elves. Gnarled and bent they would form tunnels and huts, much like giant rabbit warrens. Berries would kaplink into my pail like in my favorite story book, “Blueberries for Sal.” I loved the sound of the berries pinging against the tin, the timbre changing with the size of the berry, a special kind of music. There were no bears here, but I would pretend there were. And they would ask me in to dine, but I was too smart for them and would fatten them up on their berries first. They’d not have me for dinner. I would have tea parties with the nymphs hiding in the bushes, you had to ask their permission to pick their berries you know. If you didn’t they would put a pox on you and each finger would swell until it was humongous, indigo, and round. Somehow my pail never got full, and I know it was the mischievous brownies pilfering my berries.

Mother asked me why my lips, teeth, and tongue were a peculiar shade of purple.

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Remedy

Weekly Anamnesis #10

If you were to stand on the road in front of our farm you would look across a large field where sheep were grazing, a yard where kids were most likely playing, and your gaze would come to rest on our home. To the right was another pasture stretching from the road back a long ways to where the dilapidated wood gate swung lazily at the entrance to the wood. In the middle of the right field was lump. A hill really, and old foundation where a barn or some other structure had once been. It looked like a large dumpling floating on a sea of waving grass. There were trees scattered around the lump and it had become a favorite place to play and battle dragons alongside King Arthur’s Knights of the round table.

At one point my sister, Heidi, owned a horse. The horse however had fallen from grace and was not liked by much of the family, being of an ill temper (my sister may disagree at this point, but I felt it had an ill temper). Having thrown me at a young age, kicked my brother in the head, and thrown my sister (breaking her arm) I was very nervous around the beast. Happily though, my dislike for the horse didn’t deter me from my much loved romps through the fields.

My brother Kimball and I were playing in the field, at what I don’t quite remember. I just remember the hoof beats. My gaze settled on the horse galloping through the pasture, headed as it seemed, right for me. I panicked.

“Kimball it’s gonna get me!”

I am sure if I were an elder brother I would not be able to pass up the marvelous opportunity either, and thus he gave the remedy, “Run! Run as fast as you can so it won’t eat you!”

Panic and desperation fueled my feet as I tore through the field aiming for the lump. I could almost feel the hot air from the horse’s nostrils breathing down my back.

“Faster J, faster!” Kimball cried. I was too busy running away from the man eating horse to notice the mischief in his eyes and the grin playing at the corners of his mouth as he ran along my side.

“Quick, climb a tree so it won’t get you!”

I heartily took his advice and launched myself into the first tree I came too. Being rather young I had not devolved the art of skillfully climbing and could not attain much height.

“Higher J, higher!”

“I can’t get any higher! Will it still eat me?” I bunched myself into a ball, probably looking much like a misshapen apple to the horse, but it decided that giant human apples were not desirable and gradually meandered away.

It was then I saw it, that grin and tomfoolery playing at his face and he burst into laughter. As mirth is the best remedy, I too collapsed into a heap of giggles and the man eating horse became a favorite object of play.

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Filed under Anamnesis, Farm Stories, Humor, Personal History, Writing

A Tail of Two Bunnies

I loved bunnies. Soft, fuzzy, cotton ball tail, cute little wiggly pink nose. I doted on them and fed them comfrey from the garden every chance I got. My big sister Lisa was in charge of them, she is a true rabbit lover and I had the honored position of assistant rabbit keeper. I helped her feed and water them, and never passed up an opportunity to play with them.

I distinctly remember at the age of 3 owning a pink hippopotamus bath tub for dolls. Now, while I was a tomboy and lover of all things boyish, I still enjoyed girlish moments, and that pink hippo bathtub was one of my most coveted possessions. I washed every doll and barbie I could find in the house in that little bath tub. But, alas, washing inanimate objects wears and tires with time and I longed for something alive to dunk into my little tub.

One of my sister’s beloved rabbits had given birth to a batch of bunnies. They were pitiful little things, eyes still closed. I looked at them through their cage poking my chubby little fingers in through the holes and stroking their soft fur. I was sad, they looked so cheerless and soiled. I sighed, surely there was something I the assistant rabbit keeper could do for these glum little bunnies to bring a little jollity into their humdrum lives.

It struck me like a lightening bolt! To be clean! I know how I felt after my evening bath, warm and cozy wrapped in my fuzzy pajamas, cuddled up so tight and feeling soft and fresh and CLEAN. And, didn’t I happen to have a perfect pink hippopotamus bathtub yearning for something new to bath? It was the perfect plan!

Off I galloped with all the intensity of a 3-year-old-on-a-mission and filled up that little bathtub with water. I even put bubble bath in so they would come out smelling so sweet. I was careful, oh so careful, to get the temperature of the water just right, not too hot and not too cold, and I got a towel to gently wrap them in to dry them off.

I collected the bunnies and carefully began to dunk and bath each one. There was just one problem, in all my excitement I didn’t think to ask my big sister for her seal of approval. She sure didn’t look happy when she found me, in fact I don’t recall her ever looking so distraught and upset before this! I knew I was in for it when she hollered for mom to com quick and saw the horrified expression on my mother’s face. Ah, well, as all good tragedies end, so does this one end in death. No, worries, not mine (though Lisa may have been tempted at the time hee hee), but some of those poor little bunnies no doubt died of pneumonia. Gratefully Lisa forgave me and I never attempted to bath bunnies again . . .

(I hope I am not boring you all to tears with my farm stories, I need to get them down before they leave my head completely . . . )

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Filed under Farm Stories, Goofs, Humor, Personal History, Writing

Life Lessons

I am stuck; my brain has taken a vacation and left me here. I hope it is having a good time wherever it is. I am having a hard time coming up with something interesting to write about so for lack of anything brilliant 🙂 this story was spurred by April’s Brilliant post

I closed my eyes in absolute ecstasy as my soul soared with the music, intertwining and becoming one. It was the most glorious instrument I had ever heard.

I clutched my mother’s arm, “Mom! What is that instrument?”

“A French horn.”

“That is the instrument I am going to play when I grow up!”

I was five. The tone, mellow and enticing had captured my heart and no release was eminent. As years passed my mother feared that I had not considered other options and was thus limiting my possibilities. I was introduced to one instrument after another, but none could liberate my heart from its imprisonment. I shook my head stubbornly to each one, “I am going to play the horn.”

In 5th grade we began instruments. “I’ll have you start on the trumpet; it will make the transition to the horn easier.” My instructor tells me.

“No, I will begin with the French horn.”

I think he was too astonished to contend with me and so an instrument was provided and my love affair with the horn began. I listened to everything written for the horn I could and tortured my parents with my horrific practicing. I was living my dream.

My junior year in high school I had slaved and slaved over Richard Strauss’ horn concerto. I was intoxicated by the music and my spirit took flight every time I played. It was the logical choice for my solo ensemble competition piece. I am not fond of performance; I get extremely nervous, but usually fair well none the less. My sophomore year I had gotten rather amazing remarks and was excited to see proof of my progress in writing from the judge.

I really shouldn’t have done it. I knew it, but curiosity got the better of me. Having arrived early to listen to my friend’s horn piece I stayed to listen to the others. The boy just before me was quite incredible, but that didn’t bother me too much, I was happy for him and enjoyed listening. At the close of his piece the judge arose from his seat and approached the front of the room.

“This young man is by far the finest horn player I have heard.” He went on to describe the perfect tone, amazing air support, dynamics, and closed with, “all young musicians should aspire to play like him.”

I was immobile. I had to play after that? My work no longer mattered, how I performed was a mere drop in a vast uncrossable ocean. Shaking from head to toe I took my seat and forgot to breathe. To play a French horn with out air is to sing with your mouth taped shut. To say it was terrible is generous. The judge once again rose from his seat and approached the front of the room.

“Were you nervous?” he asks.
Fuming and willing the tears not to come I nod my head.
“You did not breathe.”
I shook my head again.
“To increase your lung capacity you should go out to a field where no one can hear you and scream until you pass out.”
He then took his leave and returned to his seat.

I numbly stood and began my walk of shame out of the room. I could feel every eye on me. The boy caught my eye. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed and looked as embarrassed as I felt. My band director was furious. My friends were scathed. I learned an important lesson.

To play for someone else is futile. I can but play for love and joy. I revel in it, and hope that someone else will too.

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Filed under Memory, Music, Personal History, Philosophy, Writing, Youth

Conclusion

Weekly Anamnesis #9

“Self, why are you hopping around doing a crazy flamingo dance?”
“Huh?” I asked myself back.
“You’re holding your foot doing the most ridiculous boogie I have ever seen!”
I looked down, so I was. What had happened? I fought through the tangled chaos in my brain. I took in the lawn mover stopped at the back of our yard on the edge of the garden.
“I was mowing, wasn’t I?”
“Yes self, you were mowing, and then there was a loud cachunk.”
“A cachunk?”
“You were trying to edge along the garden, you hit a big bump, and there was a loud cachunk.”
“Oh, did I swear?”
”Yup, think you did.”
”Uh-oh, that was bad then,” I told myself looking down at my foot. I cringed taking in the sliced shoe.
“Did I do what I think I did?”
“You’d better check.”
I reached down and lifted the end of my shoe. I recoiled abruptly; clamping my hands forcefully around my foot once more.
“Oh, crud, it’s gone!”
“What’s gone?”
“The end of my toe is gone! What do I do?”
“Umm, self, why don’t you look for it? They always say to find the missing digit.”
I franticly looked around but alas I found no forlorn half toe laying anywhere.
“Can’t find it, now what?”
“Getting help would be good.”
“Help? Yeah help. Umm, I could yell.”
”Mom, won’t hear you, she’s teaching piano and the patio door is shut.”
“I guess I’ll have to hop.”
”Hop? Ahh, you make me laugh. Just don’t kill yourself on the way.”

I surveyed the yard. We were on a double lot and had a very large yard. I was at the very back and the quickest way to the house was across the lawn and down the rickety stairs that I don’t use even when I have two feet. I’ve had ghastly experiences with those stairs, they are evil. But I took off none the less, flamingoing across the lawn, down the stairs, across the deck and into the house.

“Mom! Mom! I cut off my toe!”

There is silence, a snicker, more silence, and then, *gasp*, “You’re not kidding are you?!”

My mom abandons the poor impressionable 7 year old boy, who will probably never touch a mower again in his life, and races over. She lifts the end of my shoe surveying the situation analytically. My hand is still wrapped unyieldingly around my foot, the constant pressure keeping it from bleeding much.

“I don’t think you got the bone, we’ll take you to the doctor first. Let go and let me wrap this around your foot,” she held out an ACE bandage. The instant I released my foot there was a flood as blood surged over my hands. Mom frantically wrapped the bandage around as tight as she could and my hands snapped back into position around my foot. She called for a sitter for her student and called the student’s mom. I hopped to the car and we sped two minutes to the doctor’s office.

I had to have a tetanus shot. I eyed the nurse, “this is going to hurt, isn’t it?”

The nurse just looked at me like I was nuts. I was baffled, and then I scoffed at my self.

“I guess that was a pretty stupid question!” I laugh and the nurse chuckles, shaking her head.

The doctor comes in, “How did this happen?” I shrug my shoulders.

“I don’t remember,” I say. “The only conclusion I can come to is that I slipped and my foot went under the mower.

He wraps a bandage around my toe, instructing me not to remove it until Wednesday (it was Monday) so it would have a chance to clot and to come back then. He also informs me that he won’t prescribe any pain medicine yet because he doesn’t know how I will react to the pain. I am instructed to take some Tylenol and to call in the morning if the pain is too great.

I leave with a grin! I am super woman, hear me roar! I can cut off my toe and not need any pain meds. I am the bomb! So cool! I was very proud of myself, until . . .

The shock began to wear off about 9:00 in the evening. I would be hit with jabs of pain as though some one was shoving a knife into my foot and twisting it around.

“Okay, maybe I’m not quite so tough,” I tell my self.

All night long I suffered through waves of nausea and intense pain. Finally morning came and my mother brought in my breakfast. I was shaking so bad I couldn’t eat and she promptly called for the pain medication. A wimp after all. Things went well until Wednesday arrived.

“I’m going to soak the bandage off with saline solution, shouldn’t hurt a bit,” the doctor says. He begins the procedure. After about 5 minutes I could tell he wasn’t making much progress. He looks at me pityingly and explains, “I don’t have any choice. The bandage will not soak off, I am going to have to cut and tear. Hang on to the bench and feel free to scream.”

I think I just stared at him my jaw hanging slack. I gripped the bench, knuckles white and held my breath. I closed my eyes and nodded for him to begin. I don’t think I have ever felt anything that painful, and all I could do was sit there and say “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!” and then again, “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!” The doctor was amazed, “I would have been screaming bloody murder!”

“Just come a little closer, and you will be,” I think in to myself.

That was the end of my senior year in high school; in fact I had to attend graduation with a cane because I still had trouble with pain when I put full weight on it. It is healed now, I just have stabs of pain from time to time, and if anyone steps on it I am liable to strangle them on grounds of insanity from torture. We never did find the toe; we figure it either became great fertilizer or dog food. Hee hee. I never did remember how it happened; my conclusion was the only explanation we ever came up with.
(I still get this nervous twitch in my toe when ever spring hits and the lawn mowers start up . . . hee hee hee)

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“Oklahoma!”

Signs were posted all over the halls for the school musical, “Oklahoma!” Many of my friends had auditioned and found parts in the musical; I preferred to remain behind the scenes and stayed in the pit orchestra. We worked long and hard, rehearsing parts, building props, and practicing. The night of performances arrived. We were so nervous and excited, but we knew it was good. Two weeks, 5 nights, of performances. The final night was the best, it always is. Some one put a “dino-roar” in the butter churn and it was roaring every time Aunt Eller pushed down. I can’t even remember half of the jokes we played. That was 13 years ago; I was a junior in high school.

I sighed into my chair this evening, finally having battle the last child to sleep and finding poor little Jacob had fallen asleep in his highchair while munching on the last of his cheerios. Needing some time to vegetate I turned on the television. Nothing looked even remotely interesting so I began to hop channels.

You expect to find a number of things on TV, but I never expected to find this. There right in front of my eyes on some obscure channel was my best friend dancing across the stage! It was as if she’d never left high school. Wait! She was in high school! For some odd reason someone was airing our high school musical, “Oklahoma!”

“Were we really that out of tune?” I ask myself, laughing and cringing as the French horn blares off key. I evaporate into laughter, transported back into time. The camera job is out of focus in places, the acting is anything but great, and the singers never would have made it onto “American Idol”, but I find myself enjoying it more and more, submersed in memories, watching friends I had almost forgotten. A sort of comedy of errors, I enjoy every out of tune note.

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Filed under Memory, Music, Personal History, Youth

Phenomenon

Glug! Glug! Glug! I think I should refer to my kids as swimmers this year instead of walkers. The rain just keeps on coming, and so I thought another rain blog would be suitable. I figured I’d share the story I referred to in a comment I made on the “Thunderstorm” blog.

I was visiting my sister in Japan (it rains a lot there too, hee hee) when the letter arrived. I excitedly ripped into it as the family gathered around and we called our parents in the states. “You have been called,” I read, “to serve in the Antofagasta, Chile Mission.” Squeals of excitement exploded and I realized that my two years of French in high school were really not going to do me much good. Dad was excited and immediately located as much information on the area he could find and mailed it to me. One thing stuck out the most: my entire mission was located in the northern region of Chile in the middle of the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. Driest desert in the world? Oregon girl, lover of the rain, going to a place where it doesn’t rain for years and decades on end.


I remember stepping off the plane in Antofagasta and seeing nothing but brown as far as the eye can see. It wasn’t pretty shades of red like Arizona, it was just plain brown. How many shades of dirt can you get? Nothing grew unless they forced it. I came to love that area and it became beautiful in a fascinating ugly sort of way. (even the Chileans agree that it is ugly) 🙂

This story takes place after I had been in Chile for over a year. I was serving in the southern end of the mission, don’t be fooled it was still in the middle of the desert, in a town called Copiapo. In my mission we lived with families and we called the parents our “papitos.” Houses were small and crowded but the people were happy, loving and kind. We had a small room in the back of the house. The bathroom belonged to the family and we ate all our meals with the family.

It seemed like I had just barely drifted off to sleep when voices and shouts invaded my dreams. One of the sisters ran into our room, “Hermana! Hermana! Esta lluviendo!” “Sister, Sister, it is raining!”

“Yeah right,” I say, “you are playing a joke on me.” and I try to roll over to sleep, when another sister runs in, “come see the rain!” Now I am convinced and my companion and I run out to see this strange phenomenon. The rain is coming down in droves. I run out, being from Oregon, and do my “excited to see the rain for the first time in over a year” dance.
“This is the first rain in over 30 years,” they tell me and I am amazed.

A number of hours later we are awakened again by voices. This time they are unsure, frantic voices. We rappidly emerge from our room and begin to help the family mop up water flooding into the home. Papito is outside with his army buddies digging a trench so the rain will have a place to go. It is still dark and we can not see the street, but we can hear the water.

Morning comes and it is still raining. The street out front is a wild rushing river. There are no drains, there is no need for it never rains. The water has but one course as it rushes toward downtown. We leave to visit people we know may be having a hard time, our feet slugging through the muck. Many homes have leaks in their roofs and we help them set out pots to catch the drips. Children are mystified, they have never seen the likes of this before. The rain finally stops after it is dark again. We fall asleep to the sound of a rushing river.

We emerge the next morning to find the sun glaring down once more and mud everywhere. We are called to meet at the church to be sent to places where we can help. First we dig an adobe house out of the mud so it won’t collapse, then we build small houses for those who lost theirs. They don’t seem like much, but they are nicer than what they had in the first place.

We go downtown to help clean up garbage and debris. With no place to go the water completely wiped out the streets. Just small pillars remain where the man holes were. We can sit with our legs dangling down into where the street should have been. We also work in the destroyed cemetaries; repairing sepulcures and cleaning off mud.

A week later there is another amazing phenomenon. You are considered lucky if you see it; after all it only happens once every 30-50 years or so. It is called, “El Desierto Florido”, the “Blooming Desert”. Seeds from all over are carried to the desert but never take root because there is no rain, but with the rain they take root. The desert thrives and becomes a blooming thriving thing.

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Filed under Chile, Personal History, Religion, Youth

Thunderstorm

It has been raining all day today again. I don’t mind the Oregon rain, but I miss the thunderstorms I remember as a child in Pennsylvania. I can still remember distinctly . . .

A burst of thunder announces the rain before it even arrives and lightning splits open the sky. With a squeal of delight I dash outside to our front porch. Rain falls to the earth in sheets. Darting into the rain I fling my arms wide spinning in giddy circles. I turn my face to the rain and let the raindrops splash against my tongue.

“Hurry back up here to the porch before you get fried!” mother playfully calls at the second roll of thunder and strike of lightning. I settle myself into my favorite spot to watch the show, under the old table on the porch. As the rain pounds the earth incessantly, the intoxicating scent of damp earth washes over me. I enjoy nature’s fireworks accompanied by astounding sound effects.

Too soon it ends and steals away as quickly is it came; torrents fading into drips. The sun forces its way through the clouds and the only remnants of the storm to be found are giant puddles in the fields. We bound through the fields from puddle to puddle. They become wading pools as we splash and play in the summer sun the water lapping at our waists. Too soon the life is sucked out of them and we wait, anxious for our next thunderstorm romp.

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Filed under Farm Stories, Memory, Personal History, Writing