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Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Entry 110: 1973 Another Baby on the Way

             It was June when I visited Dr. Bigelow to confirm I was pregnant again.  I was so excited.  Heidi was such a beautiful baby and was now such a beautiful little girl I couldn’t wait to have another baby in our family.  I tromped out into the field carrying a surprise McDonalds lunch for Larry to give him the news.
          He was excited too.  Larry was a great daddy.  He was very involved with our kids.  I have to be honest though there were two areas he wasn’t good at and refused to practice to get good.  Dressing and changing diapers were definitely left to me.  I remember one time when Heidi was only about a year old I had gone to the grocery store and left Heidi with Larry.  As soon as I opened the door to the house Larry said, “I think she might need changing.”  Boy did she!  At least it bothered him so I know if I was held up for a long period of time he would have eventually changed her.  It always makes me wonder just why he thought changing a poopie diaper didn’t bother me!  I didn’t like it either!
          Dr. Bigelow assured me when I met with him this pregnancy should go as smoothly as when I was pregnant with Heidi.  While our first pregnancy and the loss of our twins seemed to constantly nibble at the back of my thoughts I tried only to be positive.  
          We had fun making the calls to our parents again letting them know our family, and theirs, was growing again.  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Entry 109: 1973 Our Little Flood

To be a farmer you must have a bit of “gambler blood.”  I can’t think of another profession where a person can devote a year of labor, a year of expenses, and do everything exactly as he should to ensure a good income for his family and get nothing for it. 
A farmer does not just rely on a loan from the bank and his good credit at the supply store.  A farmer must contend with something he has no control over.  A farmer must constantly be at war with the weather. 
We have had our crops minimized because our bees wouldn’t fly in the fog.  We have lost portions of crops to disease or infestation of critters.  We have been totally wiped out by a freak hailstorm.  In 1973 it rained. 
It rained a lot where we live but more importantly it rained even more in the hills.  As the water found its way to lower ground creeks and streams began to fill.  Mustang Creek overflowed its banks and headed towards us.  It is illegal to stop advancing water flow or to divert from one farm to another.  The flood began.

It started just across Sante Fe Road, about two miles from us.  The water rushed over Sunny Acres Avenue and formed a wide slow moving insult of water.  The fields have all been leveled.  Some fields were higher than others.  The water quickly found the lowest ground.  It would slowly fill up the field and when full continue on its way.  Next it headed down towards Harding Road spilling onto both sides of Sycamore Street.  When it reached Harding Road the rush of water turned west toward Vincent Rd.

At the corner of Sycamore and Harding was a pasture with several horses standing chest high in water.  The water wasn’t running with enough force to tip the horses but they had never experience anything like it before and their concern was evident.  We could see they were struggling to stay on the highest part of the pasture.

We did flood irrigate at this time so I’d seen the land under water but I’d never seen flowing water like this in the orchards and fields.

I guess Del had seen this happen before.  He knew exactly where the water would go.  He and Larry actually were walking in front of it for a while.  At the corner of Harding and Vincent Roads Emma Kroeker and her husband lived.  They had built a sun porch on the back of their house.  When the water reached her house she had no choice but to open the door and let it in.  It was two or three steps up to the main part of the house.  The water went in one door of her porch and out the other.

From Emma’s house the water continued west across the land on both sides of Harding Road.  One of the neighbors had put up levees to divert the water onto Del’s land.  Larry and Del had David tap the levee to allow the water to travel in its natural path.  We were upset the neighbor thought more of himself than he did our fields or the law!  After we broke the levee the neighbor was upset with us too. 
Dave took the bulldozer to the canal and tapped the edge causing a small dugout opening into the canal.  The moving water found the broken point and the flood was diverted into the canal.  It certainly wasn’t a flood that claimed lives or loss of buildings but it was interesting to watch progress before our eyes.
Other than twigs, branches, and other light debris nothing much was displaced.  Other than soggy pastures, destroyed levees, Emma’s porch, and the broken canal bank damage was kept to a minimum,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Entry 108: 1973 The Bear in the Backyard

          Heidi has always been stubborn.  Quiet and stubborn.  She would tip toe to the back door and try to get out, to find her dad, without me knowing.  I tried all types of signals.  I even tied bells onto the doorknob once so I could hear it if she opened it.  Somehow she got the bells off without me hearing and made her way outside.  Luckily, Larry had put the latch on the outside of the gate so Heidi could get no further than the yard.  That was okay with her too.  She had toys in the backyard.  What made it even more fun to escape was the fact Romeo always seemed to escape with her.

 One afternoon when we got home Reggie was sitting in our backyard with a dead bear in his truck.  He told Heidi he’d shot it on our property while we were gone!  She was both interested in the bear and scared of it.

            After Reggie’s visit Heidi was a lot easier to keep inside the house!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Entry 107: 1973 The Missing Panty Hose

            When Larry was gone to work it was just me and Heidi.  We did everything together.  We made cookies, cleaned the house, investigated bugs in the garden.  We took Larry treats in the fields, fed chickens, and picked flowers for the house. 

            I encouraged her to touch, smell, and taste new things.  I wanted to be sure she would not be too timid to get all she could out of life.

           When Heidi asked me to buy curls for her hair I bought some soft little rollers and curled it for her. 

           When she asked me to make a pink hat, I taught myself to crochet.  I loved how she thought Larry and I could do anything she asked.  Of course we couldn’t, but we tried to make her think we could for as long as possible.  

I’m all for letting children be children.  I love the magic of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.  We never had trouble separating the real meaning of such wonderful holidays with the fun silly part.  
We were at the beach when I found Heidi with a mouth full of sand.  While I was cleaning out her mouth I asked why she had eaten sand.  She simply said, “Oh mommy, I was just trying something new like you said to do.  Mommy, sand isn’t a good thing to eat so you don’t need to try.”

We were getting ready for church one Sunday morning.  I had my clothes laid out on our bed.  I went outside for a few minutes.   When I came in to get dressed I found Heidi in the living room.  She was almost ready too!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Entry 106: 1973 Texas...and Beyond

         Other than trips to Yosemite, Santa Cruz, and a short trip to Tijuana once I had never been far from home.  We set out for a great adventure to Texas.  Our furthest point from home would be Branson Missouri.
          We spent three days at Uncle Raymond’s home.  We went to one of Walt’s football games one evening and to an amusement park one day.  We had a great time.  

             We were in back of the house one afternoon talking.  The ground was hard and cracked.  I’m used to grass in everyone’s yard so I asked Uncle Raymond why he didn’t water the yard.  “I’ll show you,” he said.  He took the end of the hose to the middle of the yard, returned to the faucet, and turned it on.  As the water began running down into the cracks bugs and scorpions started crawling out.  “That’s why.”  He said laughing.
           In the evening Raymond, Larry, and I were standing in the kitchen.  Raymond said, “Don’t move!”  I froze.  He picked up a telephone book and quickly dropped it right on top of a 5-6 inch scorpion in the middle of the kitchen floor.  He warned us sometimes they come out after dark and said we should be careful if we get up in the middle of the night.
          Larry and Heidi have always had a very close relationship.  We both sang to her from the first day she was home.  We’d make up songs as we sang or sing familiar ones.  It was a short time before Heidi’s second birthday when she seemed to get a sentimental streak.  It was about the time we went to visit my Uncle Raymond and Aunt Nancy in Texas.
          For some reason any time Larry started singing You Are My Sunshine Heidi would stick her bottom lip out and begin to cry.  It was a real cry with tears and a runny nose!  When Larry quit singing she quit crying.  He could sing other songs and she’d laugh and clap along with him. 
          He tried singing the tune to You Are My Sunshine with other words and that made her cry too.  There was just something about that tune.  It bothered her for a couple of years.  Any time Larry wanted a hug all he had to do was sing, “Your are my” and she’d run to him with arms outstretched and tears in her eyes. 
          Larry and I got into the guest bed and put Heidi between us.  We figured we could keep her in the bed if she was between us but she kept trying to get up.  I refused to turn off the hall light just in case I needed up but it provided enough light for Heidi to want to get up and go find Uncle Raymond and Aunt Nancy.
          She was teetering on the edge of the bed ready to jump when I heard a familiar tune.  It was Larry.  “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.”  Heidi turned and dove into Larry’s arms.  He held up the blanket.  She crawled under and hugged him tight.  Each time she started to push the blanket down he started the song again.  She fell asleep in a matter of minutes.

          The next day we had a great time at an amusement park.  We went on a few rides and Heidi got to sit on a turtle.  Walt and Stevie went too.  They had fun on the rides with Heidi.  They both seemed to enjoy playing with her and she loved every minute of it!
         When we got home Uncle Raymond played catch with Heidi in the back yard.

        When we left Ray and Nancy’s we headed for Branson.  We stopped once in Muskogee.  We played in a park and found a quiet motel.

         While we were in Branson we saw the “Bald Nobbers” music and comedy show.  We all laughed hard and really enjoyed ourselves.  Heidi even enjoyed it.  I think part of the time she was laughing at what was happening on stage and part of the time she laughed and clapped because the entire audience was laughing and clapping.  

          Branson has grown.  When we were there it was so small we had a hard time finding a place to eat and a room for the night.  I hear now it is a big city.

         On our way home we stopped at the Grand Canyon.  I’d never been before.  I remember our first look the canyon was full of clouds so we couldn’t see anything.  We went into a little shop to kill some time and have a little refreshment.  When we went back to the canyon it was sunny and beautiful.  I was amazed at all the colors.  Between the gorgeous sky and the colorful canyon it was really a feast for my eyes.
          Although the whole trip was wonderful the thing I remember the best is Heidi got potty-trained on that trip.  She practically trained herself.  The first time I needed to use the restroom I told Larry I needed a gas station.  When we got to one I took Heidi with me. 
I took in her little portable seat, she was successful, and after that about every two hours she would announce, “I need a gas station.”  She did so well so quickly we found a store where I bought some cute little panties.  The front was just plain but the whole backside was rows of lace.  Once Heidi saw the lace she insisted on wearing them backwards! She would do anything to keep those pretty panties clean and with the lace in front so she could see it!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Entry 105: 1972 Worms in the Tomatoes and Slugs in the Strawberries

          Even in those early years when we had to watch every penny we spent somehow we had everything we needed.  Even the year of our hail catastrophe we were determined to succeed.  I set my mind to do my part in providing for our family.  Larry bought me an inexpensive little Singer sewing machine and an instruction book.  I taught myself how to sew by making a couple of really odd looking garments.  Soon I got the hang of it and kept myself and Heidi, and later Robin, in some cute outfits.

          Larry fenced off a small portion in our backyard for a garden.  We bought tomato and strawberry plants.  Every day while Heidi was playing in the yard I would weed and water my little garden.  It was fun to watch the tiny plants begin to grow.  Pretty soon our plants were loaded with blossoms and tiny fruit began to appear. 
          I was vigilant.  My mom and grandmother had given me some empty jars and pectin.  We bought the sugar and the lemon juice and waited for the strawberries to ripen. 

          I learned too much water makes the tomato plants grow too fast.  I learned when it is too hot the tomatoes get sunburned.  I learned if you irrigate and the water gets on the strawberries they rot.  Larry had made mounds for the strawberries to keep the plants dry.  I learned a lot about farming from my little garden.

I think we had about twelve tomato plants because we had the room and they kept growing and I wanted them all!  I started taking tomatoes to mom and grandma every week.  Everyone said how good they were.  My Grandpa raved about them.  One time when I was visiting he called me to the back porch where he was sitting.  He had sliced three huge tomatoes each into about five slices putting each tomato on its own little plate.  He then scooped out a huge pile of mayonnaise onto each sliced tomato and handed me a fork.  Grandma joined us with some Iced Tea.  I remember the juice running down our chins and the funny slurping noises we made trying to keep the juice in our mouths.  I was happy to announce I would be having ripe strawberries in a day or two.

I don’t know if I’d never had cherry tomatoes before or not but we had a few plants of them.  When they got ripe I would stand and eat them straight from the vines.  I loved them.  When grandpa saw them his eyes lit up.  He called them, “Tommy toes.”  I can’t eat cherry tomatoes without thinking about my grandpa.
I was so excited to make jam for my family.  It was Saturday.  Larry had figured Monday the berries would be perfect for picking.  I had the jars and lids ready and waiting on the kitchen counter.  

When evening came I put Heidi in her swing and went into give my berries one last irrigation before their harvest.  I wanted them as plump and sweet as I could get them.  I set the hose running in one of the furrows and began picking the ripest tomatoes for the day.  I found my first tomato worm!  Those are really ugly little creatures.  I grabbed an old pickle jar and put the worm in it.  I put the jar on the picnic table so Heidi could watch it.  I had placed a couple tomato leaves in the jar and that worm just kept eating like he didn’t know he was even caught.
When Larry came out and saw the worm he got kind of a worried look and headed into the garden.  I followed right behind and heard him say, “There is no such thing as a single worm.”  He was right; he began looking under leaves and stems and started finding lots of worms.  They were so well camouflaged I hadn’t noticed.  It was like they appeared overnight.  We found damage to a few tomatoes and we found several stems with no leaves left.  We stayed in the garden picking worms for at least an hour.  When we were finished Larry sprinkled the whole garden with Seven Dust.
I was double upset by the time we finished.  Not only had my garden been invaded by worms, but I’d not paid attention to my irrigation and the water was touching my strawberries. 

 Monday morning I took three big bowls out to pick my strawberries.  The very first strawberry I reached for was a huge red juicy one.  As I lifted it from the ground it felt damp on the bottom.  Sure enough, the bottom of that beautiful berry was rotten.  To make matters worse I found when a berry rots like that it is a magnet for slugs.  I picked four huge bowls of berries but about a third of them had to be thrown out or have a section cut and discarded. 
Even so, I managed to have a successful first canning session.  I remember what great pleasure I felt each time a jar seal would pop signifying it was successfully sealed.  I remember lining up rows of jars according to their size.  I had quart jars and pint jars.  I even filled empty baby food jars with jelly and sealed those with paraffin wax.  That summer I supplied my family, my grandparents, and my mom and dad with enough strawberry jelly to last us until the following year.  What a great feeling!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Entry 104: 1972 Hail

        It was a gorgeous day.  The sky was filled with clouds of all colors.  There were grey, white, black, and yellowish colored clouds all mixed in patches of blue sky.  It was afternoon.  Larry was in Hughson picking up a project from the welder, Heidi was napping, and I was in the kitchen.  It began to rain.

At that time we had a carport in our backyard with an aluminum roof.  As the rain came down harder I could hear it from my kitchen.  It got louder and louder.  It became so loud I knew it could not be just rain.  Sure enough, when I looked out the kitchen window I could see hail bounding on the grass and sidewalk.  I ran outside to get a closer look.  It was huge, the biggest I ever did see. 

Larry wasn’t home.  I was so excited about the hail I wanted to be able to share it with him when he did get home and I wanted to show him.  I hurried back to the kitchen and grabbed by biggest bowls.  

When I got back outside the hail on the grass was about 6 inches deep.  I didn’t need to gather hail all I need to do was scoop it into the bowls.   I put two huge bowls full of hail into our chest freezer in our little red shed.
          I sat on the hood of the car watching and listening to the hail.  It lasted for about ten minutes.  When I returned to the kitchen I called my dad to tell him what had happened.  I told him it was about 8 inches deep and everywhere.
I woke Heidi and took her outside to see the hail.  It was spring but I put a sweater and gloves on her.  She loved it.  We threw it at one another.  We were having a great time when Larry drove in.
          By the look on his face when he saw me I thought something awful must have happened in Hughson.  I was laughing and playing when I stood to greet him.  “Look, isn’t this great, I’ve never seen anything like this before.  I saved some in the freezer for you to see in case this all melted before you got back!”  

          Larry looked like someone had punched him.  He looked me square in the eye and said, “Good, I hope you are enjoying it.  It just cost us our whole crop!”  With that being said he stormed into the house and grabbed the phone.
          I followed him in disbelief.  I stood at the door with Heidi in my arms.  Her gloves and sweater had big balls of hail stuck to them.  I started picking the hail off Heidi and putting it into the sink as I listened to Larry talking to his dad on the phone.
          “It got everything dad.  It got from our road to Lombardy.  It’s all gone!”  He started calling out familiar names of different families who live on our road.  He would say the name and it got them or it didn’t get them.  He looked sicker and sicker as he talked.  The storm had dropped hail only on our ranch and two or three others.  It had bypassed neighbors and jumped farms.  It reminded me of how tornadoes hit and miss in a neighborhood.  It had taken some of a few orchards but it had taken all of ours!
          Larry said as he drove through the storm to see our orchards the hail was coming down so hard it stalled our car by filling in the drain and drowning the engine.    
There was a big write up about the hail storm and the path it took in the Turlock Journal.  Anytime we get hail here it is no larger than a BB or a pea.  It is usually so soft it melts immediately when you touch it.  This storm had dropped hail the size of a fifty cent piece and even bigger and they were hard like chunks of ice.  

Before the hail hit our trees had the biggest bumper crop we’d ever had.  When the storm was over we had nothing.  Our crop was gone!  We were devastated!    Gone was an entire year of Larry working, of hired workers, of pruning, irrigating, renting bees, weed control, and fertilizing.  Our crop loan money had been spent for the year.  We were counting on harvest to repay the bank but we had no harvest.   
The hail storm was a wake up call for me about what it means to be a farm wife!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book Entry 103: 1972 Moving to Harding Road

Our First Little Home Before the Lawn Was Planted

Our Home On Harding Road

Heidi was just two years old.  Del and Alpha decided to put a modular home up on the Linwood ranch.  They offered us their home.  It was the smart thing to move to their house.  It was by the sheds of machinery, the gas tanks, and the almond huller.  It was a bigger house than ours with about 1200 square feet.  We were all excited about the move although when we left I left a piece of my heart and my new bride memories on Lombardy Rd.
We had taken a camping trip to Santa Cruz. As the moving day approached I began feeling ill.  Everyday I felt worse.  Everyone was saying I was sick because I was scared to move.  Each time I heard that I packed faster and worked harder to be sure our things were ready to move on schedule. 
As it happened John Hoino and his wife, friends of ours, moved into our house the day we moved into the home place.  Del and Alpha moved out of the home place and into their new home the same day.  People were going in and out of both of my houses!
I remember putting Heidi’s playpen outside the front door and emptying all our dresser drawers, kitchen drawers, blankets, pillows, and bedding into it and Larry and John carrying it to the pickup.  John showed up with a load of boxed things.  He emptied the boxes into one of our bedrooms and we loaded the same boxes up in the other bedroom and took them to our new place.  When we got there we unloaded them in the living room and Alpha loaded them again in the bedroom with her stuff.  We all helped one another when we could and we all completed the move and slept in our new homes that same night.
About three days later I finally gave in and went to the doctor.  When I had gotten up my eyeballs were yellow, my skin was clammy and itchy, I couldn’t keep anything in my tummy and I was peeing the color of an orange color crayon.  
I had Hepatitis A!  Dr. Bigelow said I had gotten it in Santa Cruz eating in a restaurant that was not clean.  We took note of where we had eaten and didn’t ever eat in any of those places again.  There is no treatment for Hepatitis but rest.  Working as I had with all the packing and moving and taking care of Heidi was absolutely the worst thing I could have been doing.
Alpha had taken me to the doctor's office.  Our orders were to move Heidi from our house to Alphas for at least a week and to buy some hard candy on our way home.  I was to stay in bed and suck on candy until I could keep some food down. 
I’d never been separated from Heidi before. Alpha brought her two or three times a day to visit.  Each visit started with her crying when she’d see me.  She’d get on the bed with me and we’d play and hug.  Each visit would end with Heidi, Me, and Alpha all crying.  I really don’t know which of the three of us had a harder time.  We were quite a sight!

When Heidi did get to come home my grandma Stevens came a few times in the daytime to help.  Larry pitched in all he could too but he was working so many hours a lot of his watching Heidi was done from the couch with his eyes closed.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Book Entry 102: 1971 The Accidental Trap

          I’m finding it amusing how many of my little “peeks” involve chickens.  We did live pretty far from town.  We only drove into town on Sundays or if there was a real need.  Our lives revolved around one another, our home, our farm, and our animals.  That’s farm life!
          Behind Larry’s little shop there was more shed.  I remember at least two sections.  Each section had a garage door so implements could be easily stored.  During the day often our chickens would roam freely through the area around the sheds.  They didn’t go far but they were curious and did like to investigate new places to look for bugs.
          Larry and I had been in one of the sheds looking for a tool or a car piece.  When we found what we wanted we left closing the door behind us. In the evening the chickens would all go back into the coop and we’d close the door.  We didn’t count the chickens to be sure they were all in.  Counting chickens would be like trying to count bubbles.  They move around so quickly it would be very difficult if not impossible. 
          We didn’t know when we’d been in the shed earlier one of our hens had followed us.  She had been busy looking for bugs when we left and we had locked her in the shed.  We didn’t miss her when we closed the coop for the night.

We didn’t miss her the next day either.  We never missed her.  It was about ten days later when we were out by the shop we heard an odd sound.  We turned all machines off and walked next to the shed doors.  Larry slid the big door open.  A very faint “peeping” was coming from the back of the shed.  We entered the left side of the doorway very slowly and quietly. A chicken slowly walked from the darkness in back of the garage to the light of the doorway.  Once outside she sprinted toward the chicken coop.
We investigated the back of the shed.  There was a small dirt nest the chicken had scratched and carved with her feet and beak.  It was really just a small indention in the soft dirt.  In the nest were ten eggs.  My first instinct was to gather them for use.  Larry stopped me by saying, “That chicken has been locked in here for ten days.  Some of those eggs are old.  We don’t want to gather them.”
I started picking the eggs up and putting them in my apron.  I was going to dispose of them.  As I picked them up I noticed they were all different sizes.  Of the ten eggs two were normal size.  The remaining eight were all smaller.  Of the smaller eggs, some were even smaller than the others.  We lined the eggs up on Larry’s workbench from biggest to smallest.  The ten eggs made a perfect stair step in size.  The biggest ones on the left end were large.  They had nice hard shells.  The ones in the middle of the row each got smaller.  The three on the far right were only about a third of the size as the big ones.  Their shells were thin and pliable.  The one on the far right was the tiniest of all.  Its shell was paper thin.
We felt horrible for our chicken.  She had been locked in that shed for at least ten days.  She had no food, no water, and no light.  Although it was not her choice to do so, she continued to lay an egg a day.  It was easy to see how hard the egg laying had been on her.  When we got to the coop she was easy to find in the flock of chickens. 
The other chickens all stayed away from her because she had lost her familiar smell and now seemed a foreigner to them.  Her head and legs were the same as the others but her body was about half the size as of the other chickens.  

By the next morning all the chickens were eating together and clucking away.  The lost one was again part of the group.  Every time I saw her for the next two or three days she was at the feeder or drinking water.  She regained her body weight quickly and soon I couldn’t tell her from the others.