Students in Mary Morris’ memoir writing class at CNCC, pictured above, shared thoughts and memories about past Fourths of July experiences and what being American means to them.

Courtesy Photos

Students in Mary Morris’ memoir writing class at CNCC, pictured above, shared thoughts and memories about past Fourths of July experiences and what being American means to them.

2012 Fourth of July and Summer Celebration

CNCC memoir writing students share thoughts, memories

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Editors note: The following pieces were written by students in Colorado Northwest Community College’s memoir writing class taught by Mary Morris as part of their “2012 Fourth of July and Summer Celebration.” The stories are presented here as they were received from Morris.

Devil’s Head 4th of July Picnic

By Charlene Scott (Sunbeam)

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Charlene Scott

When I was a teenager, folks on both sides of our family met up to picnic together at Devil’s Head out of Sedalia, Colorado on the 4th of July. Devil’s Head was the first fire station in the area, and my Granddad built it. He made the first ladder leading up to the top of a large rock there in 1912, over 100 years ago. Since then, a nice fire station has been built on that same site.

We all met at the picnic grounds and had a great feast. Then we’d walk up to the station. It is about one and a quarter miles up hill, but we all made it up and down the trail. After we got back down to the picnic grounds it was ice cream and cake time.

My family could always pull off a joke. One time, at one of our 4th of July gatherings at Devil’s Head, Mom forgot to bring a knife to cut the cake. Oh yes, one of my uncles went to his car and found a hatchet. He came back and offered to cut the cake. This really brought down a great laugh. It was such a fun gathering. I hope to go back and hike up to the fire station this summer.

Helping with the Little Britches Rodeo

By Charlene Scott (Sunbeam)

Fourth of July is Independence Day – a day free from control, rule of another. For about 30 years or so, starting in the 1970’s, our 4th of July weekend was spent working the Little Britches Rodeo in Craig. What a joy, watching the boys and girls independently working to win their events.

One event was Pole Bending, where they put up a pole and had to gallop their horses around them. Another was the Trail Course, where riders on horseback had to open gates, put mail in a mailbox, and back their horses between two barrels. A really fun event was Goat-Tail Tying for the junior riders. This worked just like it sounds, they had to tie a ribbon on the tails of goats while the goats jumped and bucked trying to get away while the kids straddled them backwards. The senor riders tied the calf’s feet together like they did on their ranches. Calf-Roping, Barrel Racing, Flag Racing, and Steer, Bull and Bronc Riding were popular, too. A really difficult event involved a rider coming out of a chute to rope a calf, jumping off their horse and holding the calf while another kid ran to the calf and grabbed the ribbon tied on its tail. The team with the fastest time won.

Kids, parents and families had lots of fun, visiting, competing and eating good food. Vern and I always enjoyed being part of the Little Britches Rodeo, too. I’m glad the Little Britches Rodeo still goes on in Craig.

Memories of World War II – Looking Back 67 Years

By Rosemary Potter (Craig)

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Rosemary Potter

During World War II, the United States of America became in practice what it had been on paper: a unified force under God, determined to stop the evil that was advancing through a part of the world I didn’t know about – somewhere called “overseas.”

As an eight-year-old girl, I never had the slightest doubt that we would win, so I was never afraid. I remember being startled one night after my sister Melinda and I had gone to bed, when I saw my Daddy run past our open bed-room door with shaving cream on his face. “What is happening?” I asked myself, as I jumped out of bed and poked my head out the door to see. In a couple of seconds I knew what Daddy was doing: he ran to turn off the light in the living room, and then dashed to do the same in the front bedroom and the whole house was in darkness. It was nine o’clock, and “Blackout” time. Every light in the city of Grand Rapids went dark. Daddy told me it was just a practice, in case the Germans or Japanese did manage to fly their planes as far as Grand Rapids, they would not know where to drop their bombs. He told me and my big brother Bill and little sister Melinda not to be afraid. It was just a practice. My Daddy knew about things like that, so I was not afraid.

Not only was I not afraid, I was very pleased and confident to be helping win that war! Our whole third grade class learned how to knit eight-inch squares for someone somewhere to sew together to make afghans for the wounded soldiers in the hospitals. We also collected the foil from gum wrappers and cigarette packages we found on the ground and made balls of aluminum to be sent somewhere and re-cycled into something useful in the war effort. Children who lived in the country gathered the fluff from milkweed pods to be used as filler for life jackets.

Everyone sacrificed something for the war. Gas was rationed, so people couldn’t freely travel like they used to do. Shoes were rationed - only so many shoe tokens per child. When the soles wore through and got a hole, mothers cut cardboard insoles to put inside the shoe, so the dirt couldn’t get in as easily.

Sugar was rationed. When I spilled our sugar bowl on the kitchen floor, Mom made me wipe up that spot again and again, many times, to teach me to be VERY careful with the precious limited amount we received; it had to last a long time. We didn’t have any tokens to buy more! Car manufacturing plants were converted to manufacture planes and tanks. You will never find an American car made from 1942 – 1945.

So many men volunteered, or were drafted by Uncle Sam into the fighting forces, that there was a mass exodus of women from their homes to take the places of the men in the factories. They traded their dresses for men’s work clothes, left their little ones in the care of someone else, and went to do the necessary jobs vacated by the soldiers. Being so young at the time, I did not understand what a negative impact that would have on our neighborhoods in the future. It was never the same ever again. The mothers did not go back home after the war. They had a taste of the supposed “freedom” that men enjoyed, and it became the delusion that led to the Women’s Liberation Movement a decade or so later. I did not understand then the magnitude of the effect that exodus would have on the families of America.

What I DID understand was that there was a great evil force “overseas” that must be stopped at all cost, and the price we paid was enormous. In our neighborhood on Portland Avenue in Grand Rapids, I was aware of little flags with a blue star hanging in the front windows of some of the homes, indicating that the husband or son had gone off to war. How sad I was when a blue-star flag was taken down, and a gold-star flag was hung in its place. That meant that their soldier had been killed.

My mother’s half-brother, Raymond Stout, died on the beaches at Normandy. My husband’s cousin, Virgil Van Malsen, came home on furlough, took Dale on a wild motorcycle ride, then, when furlough time was over, went back overseas. He never came home again. Every evening, Gabriel Heater came on the radio to give the war news of that day – and everyone listened. There came the sad day when Gabriel’s own son was killed, and the nation wept with him.

Everyone respected our 48-star flag, and everyone was sure that what we were doing as a nation was right. Innocent people were being slaughtered by mad men “overseas”, and we had to stop them. God was on our side, and we prayed in private and in public for His help, and we received it. I believe that is why the people who made such huge sacrifices to fight the forces of evil with the help of God are still known as THE GREATEST GENERATION.

A Memorable 4th of July: Pops, Tomato Soup and the Rain

By Patsy Magness (Craig)

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Patsy Magness

We had a very large yard around our house in Pennsylvania. I still remember as a child, the holidays as wonderful get-togethers with family during the winter months, with smaller groups of relatives. But, in the spring, summer, and fall, there were outside shin-digs, with aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends. Of course, our immediate family who lived there was Mom, Dad, Aunt Edie, Pop, Carol and myself. We played croquet, and bad mitten, and the kids loved to play tag, hide-and-go-seek and run around the big yard and its flower gardens and lots of trees to scoot around. It was so much fun. Of course, someone would fall down and skin a knee or get tagged too hard. It never got out of hand. If it did, there’d be a few butts spanked, and mine would probably be one of them. Mostly, it was no more than grass stains.

We had a large picnic table that could seat at least fourteen people. Three or four card tables were placed around the picnic table, for the kids. They loved having their own tables. Mom and Aunt Edie made all the salads, deviled eggs, hot dogs, hamburgers, and of course, fried chicken from our own brood of hens in the coop at the back of the backyard. I don’t think there were grills in those days. It was all prepared in the kitchen. Air conditioning didn’t exist, so it got mighty hot in the kitchen with only a small electric fan.

I’ll never forget one 4th of July around 1940. Carol and I were about seven and nine years old. Well, Mom decided to start the picnic off with a small bowl of tomato soup for everyone. All were seated and grace was said by Aunt El. We were all spooning our soup. Then, without warning, a sudden cloud-burst opened up over us. Rain started to pour. Everyone made a dash to the house and work shed. The rain lasted all of about 10 minutes, enough to make the tables a little bit messy. At least the food had been covered with lids. When the rain ceased, everyone started back to the tables, through the wet grass, most in bare feet, to the waiting food that still smelled scrumptious.

All of a sudden everyone stopped in their tracks. There was Pop, still sitting at the end of the big picnic table, in a canvas lawn chair that now was over flowing with rain water. Not only that, he was splattered with tomato soup, all over his face, white hair and shirt. A couple of the men helped him out of the water filled chair, and helped him to the house so he could change his clothes. Pop was in such a stupor, I’m sure he wasn’t sure what happened. Everything happened so fast and furious. The ladies picked up all the bowls of soup, which had been diluted with rain water. They wiped the splattered tomato soup off the oil table clothes and reset the tables so everyone could sit down again, and eat that wonderful food, minus the tomato soup.

Eventually, Pop appeared and took his place at the head of the picnic table, sitting himself in a nice dry canvas chair. He was his usual chipper self and laughed along with everyone else about the unexpected event that had happened on this now sunny 4th of July.

The Circus Came to Maybell

By Rosemary Hertzog (Maybell)

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Rosemary Hertzog

One summer back in the 1950s, when Gary, Devona, Bill, Sharon, and Wes were little, a circus finally came to Maybell. It was a one-ring circus. The kids were all excited about it. The day finally came; the circus arrived! And that day, all the children came down with chicken pox.

I put all the kids in the car and drove to the highway to show them the elephant that was tied to a post. There was a rooster at the circus, too, that ran away and came to my yard. It stayed, and lived with Irene Robert’s chickens, but that rooster would come to our house to visit, too. One day I hit it in the head and knocked it out, but that’s a different story.

Back to the circus and that elephant tied to the post. I think that was the only elephant to ever be in Maybell. Anyway, the circus gave a glorious one-ring performance to everyone, except the Hertzogs, covered with chicken pox. Imagine that, missing the only circus that came to Maybell!

Mud Pies

By Rosemary Hertzog (Maybell)

When I was a kid, I loved playing in the mud. The mud was so cool and mushy. I made all kinds of things and when the mud dried, I had mud cookies that you couldn’t eat but they looked like chocolate cookies!

Of course, when I was through playing I had to take a bath and change my clothes.

I’m an American and that's My Flag

By Ken “Howdy” Davis (Craig)

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Ken "Howdy" Davis

Our ship, the USS New Jersey, came into Bayonne, New Jersey. It was custom in the evenings to show up at the softball field and play a game against another ship. The game got under way and I got a hit and while sliding into 3rd base everyone heard a snap. I broke my leg on the hard surface. I was sent to St. Albans hospital on Long Island. Upon mending, I was then sent to Rec-stay-Brooklyn for further assignment. Because of my military status as a personnel man, I was having trouble getting transfer back to my ship. They just didn’t want to let me go. So I had to pull strings to get released. In the meantime, I found my name on a list that said I was chosen to march down 5th Avenue on the 4th of July. Oh boy - I started working out. This will be great. Not everyone ever gets to do this!

The morning of the 4th I find myself on the edge of a park north of the city. We are given orders and begin to move between these very tall buildings. We round a corner that reads Fifth Avenue. Took our commands and got into step. In front of us is a very large bagpipe band. It just might have been the New York Police Bagpipe and Drum Brigade. This music alone had us all stepping a little higher and standing a lot straighter. We must have had a hundred sailors and I was on the edge of the 5th row right next to the crowd. They could see my flag, so I had to look smart. When the bagpipes would stop a large band behind us would start up with all the military hymns. This was unreal. I was wishing that I had a pair of sunglasses. I must have had tears in my eyes all the way. I’m in New York, 5th Avenue, and marching to great music. Only in America - it doesn’t get any better. My flag - My country.

Keeping Cool

By Kathy Bassett (Maybell)

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Kathy Bassett

Brown’s Park can get very hot in the summertime. When we first acquired our property at Greystone, we had no water, so we hauled water from Grand Junction where we lived at the time. We usually came to the property every other week as we were in the process of building a log cabin. We were the only ones in the area and it was extremely peaceful and beautiful.

Sometimes our grandkids would accompany us because they thought it was a very neat place. One particular weekend, not only grandkids came along, but also two sisters and all their kids, making 9 of us.

It was unusually hot that weekend, but we knew where all the cool springs were, so we decided to go swimming in our favorite place. As we drove into old Pete’s place, we noted two people standing by the old decrepit log cabin. We stopped and introduced ourselves and told them we were headed for the spring. They introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. John Watt. They were dressed to the nines and the lady had blonde hair going clear to her ankles. My granddaughter hid behind me, kept tugging at my jeans and with a loud excited whisper, kept repeating . . . “Grandmaw! Look at that lady’s HAIR!” The couple looked totally out of place in their fancy clothes. I wonder to this day what they thought when we appeared with nine people all stuck into a truck, not to mention two dogs and kids falling out all over the place with a cloud of dust following the pickup.

Mr. Watt told us it was fine for us to go swimming but they didn’t recommend it because Raftopoulos’s cows were in there and the water was all muddied up and very dirty. They told us they had just purchased the property. We decided not to go swimming in the spring, not only because of the cattle, but out of respect to the new neighbors and their property.

We drove home, poured some of our precious water into a big blue canning pot and everyone took turns dunking their heads into the pot to cool off.

4th of July in the Midwest

By Kathy Bassett (Maybell)

I was born and raised in Creston, Iowa, which was a railroad community along with farming and agriculture. The main street going through town is built from red bricks. The first 4th of July I can remember celebrating was sometime around 1947. Towns back in that era went all out for 4th of July starting with parades, picnics, games, families, visiting relatives and ending in the local park with music and fireworks on the lake.

There was always fried chicken, potato salad, watermelon and who could forget the countless apple pies.

The park was quite large and I remember getting to go there frequently with my brothers and other friends to play. They had wonderful swings, teeter-totters and fun things to do. There was a huge bandstand built of cement that arched high into the air with a stage where performances were held. I couldn’t have been much over 3 years old. I was a little curly towhead and stood out in a crowd.

After celebrating all the festivities of the day, the evening found us at the park waiting for the band to play and the fireworks to begin. I remember standing beside my parents but I also remember that I had never seen so many legs in my whole entire life. Everywhere I looked, was a sea of legs. I must have decided to explore and see how far they went. Nobody was sitting down, everyone was standing, which is probably why I felt like I was walking through a leg forest. But after a while, I grew tired of that game and decided I’d best get back over by my mommy and daddy.

I looked and looked and couldn’t find any familiar legs. I stood there and finally decided the next big thing to do was cry. Suddenly people were very interested in the “little girl who had lost her mommy and daddy.” I remember being handed to some man up on the bandstand and as he tried his best to console me while my little heart sobbed, someone picked up a box with little puppies in it. Suddenly my tears ended and I cuddled a darling puppy. I can remember the man holding me up in the air and announcing over the microphone that he had a cute little “blondie” on his stage that had somehow lost her parents and would they like to come and claim me.

I forgot that I was lost. I sat and played with the puppies when suddenly my daddy appeared. I was so happy to see him. The man asked him if he would like to take home a puppy just for me, because they had made me so happy. My daddy said “NO!”

My parents had been horrified when they found me missing and were looking all over for me to no avail. Maybe they would have found me if they had gotten down on their hands and knees and followed the legs!

Searching for the Liberators

By Stefka White (Craig)

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Stefka White

Anna heard the distant rumble of machinery in the distance, coming closer and closer and terror struck in her heart. Her instincts told her to run. But where was she going to go? Which direction? Where could she hide in the heartland of Germany hundreds of miles from the western Ukraine where she lived before she was forced to come to Germany for slave labor. She was still wearing the heavy cotton white dress with roses on it and the jacket she had grabbed from the table the day the Germans had thrown some clothes on it for the slave laborers. She didn’t’ know where the clothes came from. She had worn the same clothes through the ditch digging as there was nothing else to wear. She looked like a prisoner, half starved, thin, and dirty.

For the moment she had miraculously survived for the past four years, including the latest murders at the slave labor camp. A few days ago, the Germans had given out food to the slave laborers, leading them to believe that they would not be killed, but they had been put on a bridge nearby which was then dynamited. Many were killed. Anna had been the one told to hand out extra food. A few survivors came back to tell what happened. Anna was still working in the kitchens so she had not been put on the bridge.

Only about 30 slave laborers were left in the camp, mostly kitchen workers who still labored to cook for the Germans. The anti-tank ditch digging had ended. Anna didn’t lie to herself. It was only a matter of time before the rest of the slave laborers were killed off.

She paused in drawing the buckets of water, stood still and listened. Definitely the loud rumble of tanks was coming closer. So this was it. She would not be seeing her family again. She had overheard snatches of conversation, that the Russian army was on the borders of Germany and that the Americans had landed. She was glad the Germans had been driven out of Eastern Europe and their genocide of innocent civilians had been ended by the Russians, but it was too late for her. She wondered if any of her family members had survived the war. It was maddening to be so close to surviving it all only to have to face death, yet again.

The tanks headed right for the camp and towards her. She noticed the tanks didn’t look like Russian tanks, but they didn’t look German tanks either. She said a little prayer. At least she had lived long enough to know that the Germans were going to be defeated. She tried to be brave as the men got out of the tanks, and then she became so freighted that she nearly fell into the well. Who were these men? Had they been burned? Were they perhaps demons? She had never seen a black man. The men walked up to her with smiles on their faces, flashing white teeth and handed her a chocolate bar. Anna stared at the men and the chocolate bar. She could not remember when she had candy let alone an entire chocolate bar for herself. The men were jabbering in a foreign language she didn’t understand. But she understood the word American and then she understood that she had been liberated. That is what mattered and she was grateful.

Anna’s heart kept thumping so loud in her chest she thought she was going to pass out. The rest of the slave laborers came forward to see the miracle and they all cheered and rejoiced. The next day, more Americans came and these were white. They collected the few slave laborers left at the camp and then drove to a farm where they demanded that he feed the people. He had only potatoes but even that food was welcome to the slave laborers. Every day more and more slave laborers who had been forced to work on the German farms were gathered together, then they were all driven to a barracks type structure in the forest. It had been a former German army training camp and it was to be their new home for a while. General Patton who was more worried about the Germans perhaps getting some comeuppance from their victims had decided that the people who had been prisoners for years would remain in yet another camp. But it was nothing like a German concentration camp. There was a place to wash and they were fed decent food. It was the beginning of the rest of Anna’s life and she was grateful to God and the Americans for liberating her.

Years later I wondered if I could find out which tank battalion had liberated my mother. It has been over seventy years since she was liberated in early 1945. But the men who liberated her were black. I discovered the 761st Tank battalion and read about their remarkable story. The on line blurb says this about them:

"The 761st Tank Battalion was activated on April 1, 1942, at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, and deployed to Europe, landing at Omaha Beach in France on October 10, 1944.The Battalion trained at Camp Hood, Texas, where they were rated superior by Second Army Commander Lt.Gen. Ben Lear. They landed on the Continent with high morale -- some said they were cocky.

Later referred to as the Black Panther Tank Battalion, the 761st was attached to the XII Corps' 26th Infantry Division, assigned to Gen. George S. Patton Jr.'s Third Army, an army already racing eastward across France, and committed to combat on Nov. 7, 1944.

As a result of their great fighting abilities they spearheaded a number of Patton's moves into enemy territory. They forced a hole in the Siegfried Line, allowing Patton's 4th Armored Division to pour through into Germany. They fought in France, Belgium, and Germany, and were among the first American forces to link up with the Soviet Army (Ukrainians) at the River Styr in Austria.

Trained essentially as a public relations gesture to maintain the support of the black community for the war, the battalion was never intended to see battle. In fact, General Patton originally opposed their deployment, claiming African Americans couldn’t think quickly enough to operate tanks in combat conditions. But the Allies were so desperate for trained tank personnel in the summer of 1944, following heavy casualties in the fields of France, that the battalion was called up. While most combat troops fought on the front for a week or two before being rotated back, the men of the 761st served for more than six months, fighting heroically under Patton’s Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge and in the Allies’ final drive across France and Germany. Despite a casualty rate that approached 50 percent and an extreme shortage of personnel and equipment, the 761st would ultimately help liberate some thirty towns and villages, as well as the Gunskirchen Lager concentration camp.”

I wrote the Black Panther Tank Battalion, the 761st, a short letter briefly telling them that my mother had been liberated by black men who came in tanks. I gave them a very brief summary. I asked if there were many smaller labor camps which were attached to the large concentration camps. The Nice gentleman named Joe wrote back and told me that there were often dozens of smaller camps connected with the concentration camps.

The Gentleman also told me that there were small units of black men attached to the 12th army. It became clear that at this point it is probably too late to find the men who liberated my mother. However, I was thrilled to have learned the history of the 761 all black tank battalion and am never the less every bit as grateful that whoever those black men were, whether the 12th army or the 761st black battalion, who liberated my mom from certain death, I think that every single one of them deserve thanks, for liberating so many people who were the victims of Nazi brutality and genocide.

4th of July – 1938

By Maxine Howe (Sunbeam)

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Maxine Howe

We four kids were so excited! We were going to Steamboat in our horse-drawn buggy with Mom and Dad for the 4th of July! I was 10 years old; Marion was eight; Calvin, six; and Alice, three. We usually stayed home with an older sister while Mom and Dad shopped for groceries. All of us got to go to town once a year if we were lucky. This time us kids rode in the back of the uncovered spring buggy on blankets.

When we got to town Dad took the team to the livery barn, where he stayed to help the man with the horses. Mom took the rest of us to where they had a merry-go-round- and other rides. On our walk through town I looked in the door of the Ben Franklin store, and I saw a big rack of children’s books. The sign said 25 cents. Mom and Dad had given each of us a quarter, which was a lot of money. I wanted to stop, but Mom said we would come back later. We had a lot of fun looking and visiting with people we knew. I watched as the three little ones rode on the horses on the merry-go-round. I was saving my money for a book!

Later we walked back to town because there was going to be a parade. Mom stopped in front of Ben Franklin to wait for the parade. She said for me to go in and look for a book. I would choose one, then see another I liked more. I could have stayed there all day! I finally decided on one, about a little girl named Mary who lived on a ranch with a lot of animals, like me. About the time I decided to buy the book, my sister Marion, came running in and said the parade was coming. I ran out to Mom. She asked if I found a good book. Then I realized I hadn’t paid for it. I started crying, and told Mom, “They are going to put me in jail because I stole it; I forgot to give the lady my quarter.” Mom said, “You didn’t’ steal it, you just forgot to pay. We’ll go back in and tell her and you can give her you quarter.” I was so scared. I thought I would never see Mom or my family again.

Of course, the saleslady was very nice, and thanked me for coming back to pay for my book. The rest of the day was so good, the parade with flags and horses, our picnic with friends and my precious book. I wore my book out reading about Mary for days and days, until the book cover came apart and the pages became brittle and broke into pieces. A special trip to town with my family, a parade, and my favorite book, the 4th of July in 1938 is one I’ll always remember.

Bass Fishing in the 40’s

By Marcia Royster (Maybell)

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Marcia Royster

My Mom and Dad spent weekends in Florida at our old Camp Blanding type cabin on Lake Susan, a beautiful, clear water sand-bottom lake, about 50 or so miles east of Gainesville, where we lived.

On Saturday morning, I would get the little box of worms my Daddy had bought and sit on the end of our dock catching brim, one after another. I was probably seven or eight years old. We would take the brim and put them under the middle seat in our old blue fishing boat. Daddy had the jugs with a line and a large hook attached to loop on the neck of the clear gallon jugs. Then we would take off to the middle of the lake, depending on how the wind was blowing. A brim was taken out of the bait box and hooked on the back so he could swim. All day we watched the jugs as they moved in the lake. When one would take off we would jump in our boat and chase the rapidly moving jug.

One time I was alone in the boat, chasing a jug that went into the lily pads near shore. I saw a glimpse of a fish and a jug that was still moving and grabbed the net. I pulled the line on the jug up. To my surprise there was a huge bass. I was so excited.

On the way home, I sat on the seat where I had placed the bass. I didn’t want him to jump out. I brought the boat in fast and Dad came out to meet me. He weighed my catch. I had a beautiful fifteen pound bass! Supper was delicious that Saturday night.

Back in the 1940’s fishing with jugs was legal, but not now.

Fishing

By Lois Stoffle (Maybell)

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Lois Stoffle

It was 1961, I had never fished before in my life and I was about to learn at the ripe old age of 19. My husband of six months was going to introduce me to the sport of bait casting. You know, baiting a fish hook and slinging the hook and line out into the lake.

Well, he had to put the worm on the hook for me – no way was I going to touch that dirty slimy, wiggling, worm. I no sooner tried to get my line into the lake when I got my hook caught in the weeds behind me, and the worm came flying at me. Ron forgot to teach me how to cast! Just like a man, he figured I’d at least know that much! So he re-baited my hook, cast the line out for me and told me to just hold the rod and wait for my bobber to “bob.” Oh, yes, I had a red and white bobber on my line. After all, I was just a beginner! Well, the bobber bobbed and I wound the line in and actually had a little fish on the hook.

Next problem was how to get the fish off the hook. Well, needless to say, Ron got very little fishing done that day as he had to keep helping me. But the next time we went, I took a pair of rubber gloves along. Best thing invented to handle dirty, slimy, wiggly, worms and slippery fish!

Old Time 4th of July

By Lois Stoffle (Maybell)

When I was growing up in Chicago, in the late 1940’s, our family always celebrated the

4th of July with a BANG! We lived on the corner of 100th and Wallace on the South side of the city. Our whole neighborhood got together to celebrate. We were a mixed bag of nationalities: Polish, German, Italian, Hungarian, Welsh, Irish, Russian extraction and probably other ethnic groups. But today, as every day in our neighborhood, we were 100% American!

The whole street was blocked off as tables, chairs, Bar-B-Que grills, bicycles and toys were moved right into the middle of our two block area. Flags were hung at nearly every house, along with other patriotic decorations and people, young and old, were out in the street visiting. We had a baseball game going by 10:00 am. We used the sewer covers at each corner of our intersection as bases and home plate. My Mom always had a big jug of lemonade with paper cups available on our front porch for the thirsty players. After the kids got tired, it was the Dads turn to get a game going!

We kids had decorated our bicycles with red, white and blue streamers and rode through the neighborhood, making sure that everyone was awake and ready to celebrate the 4th. All of the families were gathering and getting ready to cook hamburgers, hot dogs, bratwursts, steaks and kabobs to share with the huge potluck of ethnic dishes. One big picnic covering two whole city blocks!

At nightfall, there would be fireworks of all sorts, the men turning the sky into wonderful lightning colors with images of stars, pinwheels and flashes. All of the onlookers would be ready with “Ooohs” and “Ahhs” as each firework took to the sky. Then we kids would enjoy our sparklers, twirling, jumping around and striking poses as the Statue of Liberty. What happy memories I have of our neighborhood commemorating our Country’s freedom!

Dill Pickles

By Nancy O’Conor (Maybell)

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Nancy O'Conor

My Aunt Lydia used to make the best dill pickles. She chose the right size of cucumber and put them in a jar with vinegar water, salt, dill and garlic. Next she added hot water for a few minutes. After they cooled off she put them away for a few weeks. They always had the right crunch, pucker and garlic. Today, there are no pickles like my Aunt Lydia’s - I wish she was here to make them.

4th of July on the Ranch

By Barb Lawton (Maybell)

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Barb Lawton

As far back as I can remember, my sisters and Mom and Dad had a 4th of July dinner for my aunts and uncles and their kids. My mother had two sisters and a brother. Dad was an only child.

Anyway, the aunts, uncles and cousins would come to our ranch for 4th of July. Mom would fry our chickens, which were delicious, and make mashed potatoes, gravy, and pies. The aunts would bring watermelon and ice to make home-made ice cream. The cousins thought Mom’s chicken was a real treat and ice cream and watermelon was a treat for us. It took forever to churn the ice cream until it was ready to eat.

It was a fun day with lots to eat, and we didn’t have to put up hay!

Cousins Summer Visit

By Barb Lawton

I moved from Cotton Creek, Wyoming when I was two years old. By that time I was already riding horses. We sold our ranch there and moved to another ranch in Kiowa, Colorado. We had horses there, too. We worked hard to do all the chores. And then the Cousins from my Mom’s side of the family would come to visit. We had to saddle the horses and help them get up on them, too. We were supposed to make sure the Cousins enjoyed their vacation. To be honest, this irritated us and we figured out how to get even.

When we adjusted their saddles we left them loose enough so that when the horse got to the bottom of a hill and stopped to drink the saddle would roll and they would fall off.

My Special 4th of July Treat

By Phyllis Bingham (Craig)

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Phyllis Bingham

It was so very many years ago. I was about three or four years old then, and I am a Great-Grandma now. Mom and dad wanted me to have a special treat and took me to the Wisconsin State Fair Park to the fireworks display. Their excitement took hold of me and I too, became excited, although I had no idea of what they were talking about.

The evening arrived and here we were sitting in the stands, waiting for this special time to get here. All of a sudden, it sounded as if the sky broke open and all of this colored “stuff” started falling from it. It scared the daylights out of me. When it kept happening, I put my hands over my ears and shut my eyes as tight as I could. This is how I spent the rest of my first, special, Fourth of July “treat.”

Summer Night

By Phyllis Bingham (Craig)

It was a hot summer night. We had worked long and hard on our front lawn, and it finally was looking really good. Vince had the sprinklers going, and it was starting to get dark.

Dan was the only one of our family that was still home. He had graduated and had been working. He had just gotten home, and was having his dinner. Vince and I were sitting with him, talking about the day. It was a really warm night and we had the doors open. All of a sudden, I saw flashing lights in our driveway.

Of course, all three of us went to see what in the world was going on. The officer was out of his squad car, and he was looking toward our lawn. We looked and couldn’t believe our eyes. There was the largest bull I have ever seen, straddling the sprinkler. You could almost imagine him sighing with the cold water spraying on him.

Dan called his friend Kenny, who lived in the neighborhood, and they assisted the officer in putting a rope around the bull’s neck, and escorting him to a pasture below our place where he could be locked in until they found his owner. We never did learn who called the police.

Now if your think this is a lot of bull, you are right. He was. But my story is really true, every word of it.

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