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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!



Leroy Wacker
Anne Osborn

Raleigh Emry

A Surprise Ending
By Leroy Wacker

I would rather not tell this story but will for the sake of education (Holidays 101). Anyway, you first should know that I'm a procrastinator, "always put off till tomorrow what could have been done today". It was Christmas eve of the early 70's, of course my wife had done all of the "family" shopping but I had put off buying her gift until the 24th.

Unfortunately (for me) we had an unpredicted cold night on Dec. 23rd so a large percentage of the Norfolk area woke up the morning of the 24th with 20 to 25 degrees below zero weather. Mine and most of the other cars that had to set outside wouldn't start. Any attempts to get someone out to 'jump start' them was pretty near an impossible task. Anyway my friendly service station promised to get to me as soon as he could. As the day wore on and it was getting close to 4:00 P.M., I finally received the needed 'jump start'.

My next problem was finding a store that was open, a problem because the late hour of Christmas eve and the inability for clerks to get to their jobs so a lot of the places simply closed early. I did find a store that was open and although I don't recall what I purchased, it was none-the-less a blessing that the good Lord allowed me to find some thing in that late hour to save my damaged conscience and my humble promise to never, ever wait until the last minute to do my shopping. I still procrastinate but never on those special occasions.

And so not to again fall into that dangerous predicament, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Wackers in Surprise, AZ. 


An Early Delivery from Saint Nick
 By Anne Osborn 

The December I was about 4 years old and my sister Jo was 6 years old, we moved to Ainsworth from the Long Pine area where we lived at a place called the "Bone" place which I just faintly remember as a house with not much paint on the outside and lots of sandburs. (I think Lonnie Mangus might have come from that neck of the woods, some of the names I remember were the Stechs, Weanders, Christmans and Darlingtons).

Anyway, my parents had purchased a farm and home near Ainsworth. My Dad had taken some furniture to our "new" home and my sister and I were left inside alone while he tended to some things outdoors. We explored the upstairs, the downstairs, and then opened a door to a back bedroom on the main floor. There was a table with boxes on it and we opened one and in it was the most beautiful doll I'd ever seen. It was a red riding hood doll with black curls and a red rubber cape. I don't remember much more about that Christmas except that the doll was not for me but for my sister and I got a large baby doll. My sister has no recollection of the doll and says the only thing she remembers is that she knew for sure from that time on that there wasn't a Santa Claus.


Old Friends
by Anne Osborn

After Ken graduated from NU we moved to Omaha where he took a job and I worked as a Legal Secretary for the firm I had worked for in Lincoln getting my PHT (it was before student loans and fairly common then --- "putting hubby through.")

We rented a small apartment a few blocks off the "main drag" of Omaha, Dodge Street, and I caught the bus downtown each work day. We made friends with a couple from Iowa who lived next door in the complex and did things together. In the Fall, another couple moved in across the way---and we surmised they were really "different" than us--they had distinct Southern accents and played their stereo loudly, and the wife, Nancy, a petite little blonde, we thought was really brash and forward, so we kept our "polite" distance. Soon she started riding the same bus as we did and then one day she was in the elevator of my building. She spoke out in her friendly Southern drawl, "Boy, y'all are so hard to meet" and proceeded to invite me to coffee break with her."

We soon became good friends and she introduced me to a group of legal secretaries she had already somehow met and formed a group with. Coming from a small town, I never did quite get used to her striking up conversations with complete strangers, saying outrageous putdowns to construction workers who whistled, etc. Then we all started having our first babies, quitting work (women did that in those days), and moving to the suburbs and continuing to add to our families. We continued our friendships, having showers for one another, meeting for coffees, summer picnics, etc., but some in the group moved or drifted away.

Nancy shared with me that her father had abandoned her as a baby and her Mother gave her up to a Foster family. They were not very nice to her and she was required to scrub the kitchen floor every morning before going to school. I was sad when I learned what a really tough time she'd had as a child and wondered at how she turned out to be so friendly, outgoing, and forgiving. One day they moved back to Dallas, but we kept in touch with Christmas greetings. After moving to Oklahoma, we once attended the Cotton Bowl football game and met them for dinner.

Over the years, finally, she was the only one from the "group" that I heard from faithfully each Christmas. I looked forward to her annual breezy newsletter and the pictures and hearing about her son and daughter, who must have inherited her wonderful personality and free spirit, as they were outstanding in school, her son was President of the Senior class at Mesquite and the Quarterback on the football team, and her daughter a pretty blonde cheerleader. Then, sadly, one Christmas a few years back, she wrote that her husband had died of a heart attack. Then, in a later Christmas letter, she said her son had decided to be a Presbyterian minister and his first act after his ordination, was to perform the marriage ceremony for her and the wonderful man she had met and decided to marry.

The past two Christmases I didn't hear from her and wondered. But this week in the mail I saw the familiar handwriting. I opened her Christmas card and read her familiar cheery newsletter with the heading "I'M A SURVIVOR" relating that she had cancer and surgery and chemo and is now cancer free. She writes her son is the Minister in a church near Tulsa and his wife teaches in Tulsa. Her daughter is a "computer person" like my son in Dallas. So the next time we go to Dallas, we plan to get together for a visit--it should be a blast from the past to catch up--and I'm reminded that old friends can be the best friends.


A Gift from Grandpa
by Raleigh Emry

My Grandfather, Jess Emry, was special to me. I loved my other grandparents too, but Grandpa and Grandma Emry lived just a mile up-river and so we crossed paths more often. Grandpa Emry didn't have much when it came to material things, but he was generous with what he had and he was filled to the brim with good humor.

It was in the early '50s on the Niobrara River and my seventh or eighth Christmas season had arrived. My parents planned a shopping trip to Ainsworth to buy the supplies we needed and the few gifts they could afford. Grandma Emry wanted to go shopping too. So we drove up the river bottom, on the trail road along the edge of our fields, to Grandpa and Grandma Emry's house. I would give up my seat in the car to Grandma and stay with Grandpa while everyone else went to town.

Grandpa Emry was an average-sized man with no teeth (including store-bought), twinkly eyes, a kind and friendly face, slightly pointed elf-like ears, and a mischievous smile. Picture a man who almost always dressed in bib-overalls. In the summer months he wore a "soap-weed" straw hat, with the brim turned down. On special occasions, he wore a felt dress-hat and sometimes, under his bib-overalls, he wore a white shirt, with arm garters to adjust the length of the sleeves, and a tie. In the winter, as did most farmers or ranchers at that time, Granddad wore a wool cap with ear-flaps, a wool work-coat, five-buckle overshoes, and flannel or wool work-gloves.

Do you remember those work-gloves that had two thumbs? Can you still buy them? One thumb was tucked outside-in, like a pocket, on the back of your hand. When you had worn holes through the fingers or palm, you could turn the hidden thumb right-side-out, turn the glove over and wear out the other side. It seemed that most folks didn't fiddle with tucking the unused thumbs out of the way. The non-used thumb often just flopped around on the back of their hands. Grandpa Emry most often wore his work-gloves with the extra thumb flopping.

It was a cold Winter day, so Grandpa was dressed in the costume I described... five-buckle overshoes, wool coat and cap and floppy-thumbed work-gloves.

During those post-Depression years on the river, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents and cousins all drew names out of a hat on Thanksgiving Day. Each of us gave a Christmas gift to the name we drew. Money was hard to come by, so by drawing names, everyone in the extended family would get one decent Christmas gift in addition to the few small gifts from Santa Claus.

Grandpa had asked my mom and grandmother to buy a gift for the person whose name he drew. I had learned that Grandpa had picked my name. Just knowing that little secret was a gift in itself.

When I was smaller, I had logged many happy times sitting on Grandpa's lap. He carried a "Rainbow Tablet" (a small multicolored memo pad) in the snap pocket of the bib of his overalls and a pencil whittled down to a one-inch stub. He kept count of his livestock and other farm facts in the pages of the tablet. In another pocket he carried a small leather coin-purse that hinged shut at the top. The few coins in that purse and in Grandma's sugar-bowl were possibly their life's-savings. Sometimes Grandpa let me fiddle with the leather purse or he would let me doodle on a page of his tablet while he told stories or sang songs.

One of our 78 rpm records that we played over and over on our old wind-up Victorola (we had no electricity, indoor plumbing or telephone) was "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" by Gene Autry. One day I sat on Grandpa's lap while he sang "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine". When he finished I said, "Turn it over and play the other side." He laughed and laughed. I made Grandpa Emry laugh a lot and I knew that I was as special to him as he was to me.

On that winter morning, Grandma Emry squeezed into our old sedan while Grandpa and I stood in the barnyard. We waited and listened to the car, loaded with shoppers, grind up the snow-covered road and out of the canyon. When we heard the car stop at the gate beyond the steep pitch, Grandpa knew that he wouldn't need to get the team of horses to pull them to the top. So we went into the woods north of the barn and toward the river where the men had cut down some trees. It was time to chop firewood. He selected his favorite axe and he let me carry an axe too.

While we walked to the wood-pile he told me a story. He said that when he was about my size he discovered how dangerous an axe was. When he was chopping kindling, he swung carelessly and the axe glanced off of the chopping block and imbedded itself in the front of his shoe almost up to where the laces start. He felt blood gushing inside his shoe and was sure that he had cut off at least one toe. Afraid to look, he limped to the house where his mama helped him remove his shoe. He stopped talking and looked at me.

With those words, he had my wide-eyed attention.

He continued, "When Mama removed my shoe I found that the axe had gone right between my big toe and the one next to it and I didn't have a scratch." The gushing blood and severed toes were just in his imagination. He said that it was a good lesson for him. He sure didn't handle an axe carelessly after that! I swore I wouldn't either.

We arrived at the woodpile and Grandpa split log after log into stove-wood suitable for Grandma's kitchen-range and for the big, black heating-stove with mica windows in the living room. While Grandpa swung his axe with machine-like precision, I practiced very careful swings on logs of my own. I made sure that my toes were well out of range of any errant swings.

We had worked up a ravenous appetite and so we went to the house where Grandpa made us lunch. It is my first memory of Campbell's vegetable-beef soup. It was fun to help Grandpa stoke the kitchen range, mix the contents of the can of store-bought soup with some water, and heat it when the fire came to life.

We stood close to the stove so we could warm our faces after our time in the freezing air outside. When Grandpa found some crackers and split the can of soup with me it truly hit the spot. Campbell's vegetable-beef soup has been my favorite canned soup since that day.

Christmas came that year and it was time to open the gifts. Someone presented me with the package from Grandpa Emry and I opened it. It contained a pair of suede, fleece-lined moccasins and a coin-purse just like his. I was happy that I now had warm house-slippers. I was also proud to have a coin-purse like Grandpa's ... and I still have it. I tried on the slippers and went over to Grandpa and thanked him for the gifts. He pulled me close and smiled and whispered, "I asked your mama to buy you a hatchet instead of those moccasins." Grandpa squeezed my shoulder and let me know that my mama always knew best.

I recalled that my brother, when he was about my age, had taken a meat-tenderizing hammer to the wash-stand that held our wash-basin and water bucket. He must have thought the resulting dimpled scars added beauty to the woodwork. I could understand Mom's reluctance to arm his younger brother with a hatchet!

Although I didn't get the gift he wished for me, I do have the memory of chopping wood and sharing a can of soup with my Grandpa that has lasted all these years. It has been a lasting gift that no material possession could ever match.

Merry Christmas!

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