Historical Details

Lohr, Mark -

Courtesy of Family Sources, 02/01/2024


When you know a pretty story, you don’t let it go unsaid,

But you tell it to your children, as you tuck them into bed

-Larry Norman “Sweet Song of Salvation”

Andrew Christian came to Wyoming in 1889 when he was thirty-six. Initially he took the train from Adair County, Iowa to Harrison and walked some fifteen miles to the area just across the line in Wyoming that he homesteaded. He soon built a house that is struggling to stand these days. According to Grandpa Len a neighboring homesteader came over sometime late in the project to dispute the boundary line. The discussion became quite heated and the two decided to settle the matter with their fists. Still a very small boy, Grandpa remembers both men being over six feet in height and in great physical condition. He said the blows they rained on each other’s bodies sounded like a sledgehammer hitting metal. Evidently his dad was just enough stronger, or in slightly better shape, for he was still standing when the neighbor wasn’t. Grandpa said the last thing Great-Grandpa did was to pick the man up and drop him on the other side of the fence. There were no further incidents or complaints.


That is probably the earliest incident from my family’s life in Wyoming that I recall being told. It was more apt to be mealtime than bedtime when I heard the memorable stories. Grandpa used to love to have his widowed sister-in-law Nell and her brother Roy and his wife Bama over for Sunday dinners. I was very privileged to hear the accounts from the people who witnessed the settling up of this area by their parents. Great-Grandpa was the first settler in the Pleasant Ridge area, and Aunt Nell was the first settler’s child born in that area.

Most of their stories, and most of the subsequent ones that I plan to share, are not really ‘action-packed.’ I’m borrowing a trick from the movie-makers and booksellers who customarily use the most sensational scenes or passages to promote their products. I don’t have a descendant with whom to share my collection of tales, and I hate to think that my demise will also be theirs.

Most places I travel now have the same lodging chains, restaurant franchises, and national retail outlets. Differences in regional speech accents are far less pronounced than a generation ago. More to be lamented is the passing of a generation who were not so self-conscious as to be wary of being thought of as “characters.” These types still are well-represented in fiction. That is not the same as having them live on your street, on a neighboring ranch, or running some local business. Those are the people who decided to make me lend further credence to a wise old king’s observation of nearly three millennia ago.

Of the making of many books there is no end.

Solomon “Ecclesiastes“ The Bible



Writing a collection such as this is not as difficult as it might seem. No author wants to reveal his most coveted secrets, nor will I disclose mine. My schedule scarcely would allow for tedious hours in the library or on the internet; in most instances, an interview would not be possible. Consider the next few entries, and I think you will have all the insight necessary into how this process works for me.

There’s no one left alive I can ask about it.


One of our local golfers long deceased, was noted for giving the scorer a lower number on a hole than he actually shot. Determined to break him of that irritating trait, the fellow with the pencil questioned him on several different holes. Finally on the last tee the golfer said he made five on the previous hole, and the scorer said, “Look, I know you made at least six.” Undaunted the fellow replied, “You play your game, and I’ll play mine.”


Mom was recounting a story to some people, and her sister Catherine, who was eight years younger, kept questioning its accuracy. Finally, Catherine said to Grandma Flora, “Mom, make Garnet tell the story the way it was.” Grandma said, “Oh don’t worry Cath. Everyone knows Garnet always embellishes a story when she tells it.”


What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget;

It’s the laughter we will remember, whenever we remember

The way we were.

-Hamlisch “The Way We Were”


A good meal is more important to you than anyone I’ve ever known.

-Mother (about the Author)

Dad was in the old Southside Café when the building was very small-a counter and a handful of booths. Two tourists had come in and each ordered pie and coffee. This was in the ‘50’s when the total cost would probably not have been a dollar. The man, for it was a man and his wife, remarked that he thought this was the most “God-forsaken country” he had ever seen. But he didn’t let it go there. Dad said he kept using the phrase in nearly every sentence, and it was obvious the proprietor Leroy was getting more irritated by the minute. At some point the tourist asked very unpleasantly, “What do people do to make a living in this ‘God-forsaken country‘?” Shortly afterwards Leroy brought them the bill, and rather than the anticipated amount it was between seven and eight dollars. The man threw a fit, but Leroy wouldn’t back down and said, “That’s what we do to make a living in this ‘God-forsaken country.’”


Uncle Jim was leaving a cafe, and out of orneriness left one of the well-known local waitresses two pennies for a tip. Before he could make it out the door she said, “Mr. Christian, one of my many talents is the ability to tell fortunes.” Uncle Jim responded that he hadn’t realized that. She said, “Yes, I can, and I will use these two coins to tell your fortune. The first penny tells me that you are a bachelor, and the other one tells me that your father was a bachelor also.”


We were in St. Louis, Mom attending summer school and she, Dad, and I going to Cardinal ballgames in the evenings. On a day there wasn’t a game I said that I wanted to go to Trader Vic’s. Dad wasn’t very enthusiastic, but I was persistent and we headed that way. I was still a teenager but driving the rental car since those companies weren’t so persnickety about such matters then. Trader Vic’s was right before the Mississippi and we were in rush hour traffic. The worst happened, because after I made the required left turn the police officer would not allow me to make a right turn into the restaurant parking lot. So we were forced to go over the bridge to East St. Louis. There was heavy construction on the bridge, only one lane open, and a flagman. We moved inches at a time. A storm came up and lightning struck the bridge. Finally we got to East St. Louis and had to turn around and come back. Dad was not taking it in stride. The whole ordeal lasted a couple of hours, and when we got to the restaurant, we had to wait for a table. We were all very hungry. The menu was pages and pages long-easily the most complete menu that I have ever seen. It was moderately pricey, and everything was ala carte. Dad took a quick look at this encyclopedia of food and announced that there was nothing he wanted and he would be having a bowl of soup. It was very unlike him to be peevish about anything, but that night he had had his fill of everything (but food)-including most particularly me…I believe I have only eaten at a Trader Vic’s twice in all the intervening years, although the food was wonderful.


Grandpa would not answer the telephone if there was anyone else available to do it. In the years he was alive we only had one phone in the house, and it was in a short hallway outside his bedroom door. The rest of us slept downstairs. Mrs. Henry, the previous owner, had used the house as a boarding house, and there were three bedrooms downstairs as well as two on the main floor. Even if the phone rang after we had all gone to bed, Grandpa would let it ring. Mother had the duty of climbing the fourteen steps to answer.

One night it was somewhat after midnight when the phone rang. Mother came upstairs and answered it, and a voice said, “Is this Kaan’s?” Mom told him it wasn’t. She went back to bed and had just gotten to sleep when some half hour later it rang again. Once more the person asked if it was Kaan’s, and Mother assured him it wasn’t. She stayed polite but it was obvious he was calling from a bar, and she recognized the voice as that of one of our county’s legitimate drunks.

Back to bed she went, and predictably some thirty minutes later the phone rang, same caller, same question. This time Mother was not so nice. She told him it was not Kaan’s, she knew who he was and where he was, and that if he called one more time she was going to have the police come deal with him. Undaunted, and with perfect drunk logic, he said, “Well if it isn’t Kaan’s, then why in the hell do you keep answering the telephone?”


After Grandpa died and Dad began managing his ranch, we used to summer yearlings for Dan Hanson. He was a very early riser, and his phone calls to us often happened at or before five in the morning. Dad did not get up and answer the phone either, so Mom still had her job. We knew Dan very well, and Mother was not shy about telling him that he should either call the night before or wait until later in the morning. These requests really didn’t change his calling hours.

One morning he called particularly early and Mom decided she had about had it with those calls. She told him in no uncertain terms that she did not want any more of those super early calls. And he said, “Why Garnet, you’re missing the most beautiful part of the day.” And Mom shot back, “And you’re going to be missing a pasture for your cattle if you do this one more time.”

From then on, I don’t believe he ever called us a moment before six, or maybe six thirty-when we were still usually in bed.




I really used to enjoy some of the old black and white TV shows when we first got a set. One of my favorites was “Dragnet.” Each show began the same way with our being told the events were actual happenings, and “only the names had been changed to protect the innocent.”

For the last many years when from time to time I pondered whether I wanted to embark on this venture, I always questioned if I would change the names to protect the guilty. I’m not in love with political correctness, but I do care a lot for people and really have no desire to wound anyone or make remarks that might legitimately offend someone. This is a story I don’t see how I can omit, and if I launder it too much, there is really no reason to tell it.

Most of the time I was in Bible College I was in a traveling singing group. We performed gospel music in at least thirty-eight states. During the school months our college did not have Monday classes, largely to enable its students to travel to churches on the weekend-some of which were hundreds of miles away-and not have to miss class (which we would have if there had been school on Monday). On the Monday in question, we had been far away the night before, and I think it was three or four o’clock before I got to bed.

Mom was still teaching and Dad had work to do at the ranch, so they were both out of the house before eight o’clock. There are a couple of religious groups famous for door to door proselytizing, and both pound the streets of Lusk. Shortly after my folks both left, I was awakened by an insistent ringing of the door bell. I put on my robe and went up stairs, and found representatives of one of these groups asking me if they might come in. I wasn’t wide enough awake to be rude, but I told them “no” and that I had been up much of the night and had been sleeping. They didn’t exhibit much remorse.

Back to bed I went, and since I was so worn out (and still young) I quickly went back to sleep. About a half hour later there was again insistent door bell ringing. There were representatives of another group, who had pestered me to death during my years in Laramie because evidently a wrestling coach I knew who belonged to that faith had sicced them on me. When I found who it was I was disgusted and told them they couldn’t come in. Not wanting to take no for an answer, they told me if I had read, and then named one of the several extra books their church uses, I would know I should ask them in. My manners left me, and I told them that if they had read the Bible, they would know I shouldn’t.

I must have been shifted from the list of “prospects” to the list of those “hardened against the truth”-for I can’t recall that group ever coming back.


Bessie Lumsden was my first grade teacher. Bessie played records for us daily and also her accordion which she used to accompany her own singing. Mom had an old Hawaiian guitar that I began to play. Because it used the steel bar to form the various chords, I could play it even with my small hands-not needing to use my fingers to make chords like on other types of guitars. Although I was being taught to read music I always seemed to be able to learn songs by listening to them and be able to play some type of accompaniment when I wanted to sing them. I don’t know that we had something called “show and tell,” but I began bringing the guitar to school and singing a song or two in the lower grade classrooms.

A song that was on one of Bessie’s records really impressed me, and I learned it from the times we got to listen to it in class. Well, I guess I should say I almost learned it. It was the “Ballad of Davy Crockett”-the movie about him came out right about then. There was one phrase whose words I couldn’t really understand no matter how closely I listened. Rather than asking what they were I used the phrase I thought I was hearing. The actual words referred to Davy’s always “meeting the test” but in my rendition I said he “passed the meekular test.”

Miss Lumsden must have lived another four decades after I was in her class, but when I would see her, rather than her saying “hi,”, “how are you?’ or some other normal greeting, she would ask me how “the meekular test” was going.


Mom’s classroom was the on the north end of the north-south hallway while Bessie’s was on the west end of the east-west- hallway. Their doors were consequently quite close to one another, and usually they would exchange a few words at the times their kids were going to recess or coming in, or coming into the room to start the morning or afternoon. Here are a couple of the exchanges I remember.

Often the transient families of that era would have students in most of the grades, and often they had not been very well-trained or disciplined at home. On one of those occasions Bessie informed Mom that when the child who was in Bessie’s room then reached Mom’s grade, he would give her “gray hair.” Mom replied, “Not if my hairdresser can help it!”

Another time it was Mother who was lamenting about a particularly obnoxious one of those families. Actually, this happened on several occasions. Bessie’s stock reply was, “Don’t worry, Garnet. I’m praying them out of town. I’m praying them out of town.” Mom was a great believer in prayer anyway, but she said when Bessie got on their case it usually wasn’t very long until the moving van showed up.



Show me someone who can sleep the night through, and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have anything on his mind in the daytime either.

-Uncle Jim

Grandpa nearly always cooked breakfast while I was growing up. He was a good cook, and after Mom went back to teaching and Dad would be at the ranch in the daytime, he fixed lunch for Mom and me, too. I don’t remember our having any alarm clocks around our house, but we didn’t really need one with Grandpa on duty. The normal breakfast fare was pancakes. Grandpa bought both the buttermilk and buckwheat flour made and packaged at the old Toomey’s Mill in Newcastle. He added the eggs and milk, and that was why an alarm clock would have been superfluous. He used a medium size white metal pan and a huge mixing spoon with a red handle-both of which are still in my kitchen. No one banging a metal triangle let alone any bugler sounding reveille was ever more effective at awakening the troops. Grandpa didn’t particularly approve of lying in bed in the morning, and he continued the clanging and banging far longer than would have been required to have the batter well mixed. People better start emerging from the basement and he better hear water running in the downstairs bathroom or the cacophony was apt to continue. This memory is an excellent example of having mixed feelings about something. At times that racket really irritated me, but how wonderful it would be to be awakened once more with Grandpa’s culinary alarm.


The Lusk of my childhood had excellent north and south bus service. Continental Trailways had three buses going each way every day. Some of the time one of those buses came through in the middle of the night. One of those late night phone calls occurred when Joe O’Brien had been in the Ranger Hotel lobby when the bus arrived. As usual, Mom had to get up and answer.

“Missy, Let me talk to Ted.”

“Joe, why do you need to talk to Ted? Ted doesn’t like to get up in the middle of the night and talk on the telephone.”

“Well, the bus just came in, and there’s the nicest young man who got off, and he’s looking for ranch work. I thought of Ted and that maybe he might need a hired man.”

“I don’t think he does, Joe. But you have a ranch, why don’t you hire him?

“Oh, no Missy. I couldn’t do that. He’s such a nice young man, and I’m a mean old son-of -a-b---.. He deserves someone like Ted.”



“Garnet, I missed an excellent opportunity to keep my mouth shut!”

-a favorite saying of Nellie Kratzer to Mom when recounting some incident

Mom and Aunt Gladys were very close. She and Uncle Earl and my cousin Vicki lived in Upton-a little over a hundred miles away-until I was in second or third grade. Then a change in his business ventures caused them to move to Greybull-over three hundred miles from here. To this day it seems like a substantial trek to me. Mother was a great driver, but she so disliked the trip that generally Dad took us to Douglas once a summer to board the Burlington Passenger Train so Mom and I could spend a few days there. They would drive when they would come down to see Grandpa and us-but it was a long trek which ever family was making it.

My story actually happened quite a few years after my childhood, but the road hadn’t gotten any shorter or the trip more enjoyable. Gladys and Earl came down to visit, and the story that we had been hearing from the phone conversations was that Uncle Earl had finally kicked the nicotine habit. He had some health issues which the doctor told him his smoking had worsened, and that he really needed to quit. Now it used to be when he visited that he drank numerous cups of coffee each day and seldom was without a cigarette in his hand. Although I’ve never smoked, I know it is a tough habit to break, and Unc had tried unsuccessfully to do it on other occasions.

They arrived late in the afternoon, and Mom had fixed one of her normal great meals. I was either still in Bible College or had just started preaching. It was a congenial gathering. My relationship with Uncle Earl was very good. We bowled, golfed, played chess, cribbage-and as they say these days, just enjoyed hanging out with each other. Without really thinking as the meal was winding down I asked, “Was it hard for you to quit smoking?” And there was a moment of silence. This time, really not thinking, I added, “You did quit, didn’t you?
And he said, “Oh, hell no I didn’t quit.” It was not a pleasant moment, and then he added, “Well I can’t lie to the damned preacher, can I?”

Aunt Gladys was totally furious-a mixture of having thought he might not have survived his recent health problems and then knowing he had not been truthful with her. She said, “Earl Hagerman. We are going home. Not tonight, but first thing in the morning we are heading back.”

Well, you can guess how I felt. She meant it, and they did leave-although they had been planning to spend a few days with us. Enough years passed that the incident became a family story that we could tell and have a laugh when we did. But it wasn’t funny at the moment. Perhaps more than any time before or since I knew Nellie’s feeling because I really had “missed an excellent chance to keep my mouth shut.”


Now very few of the traveling musical acts have the name of their group on those mammoth buses they utilize. It was not so when my small group “Friends” was traveling in the seventies. We only had a motor home, but we wanted our name on our vehicle, too. We settled for metal letters, larger ones for the group name and smaller for “Lusk, Wyoming.” Try as we would, we could not keep “Friends” attached. Since we couldn’t, we thought we might as well remove “Lusk, Wyoming” also. We found that it was on there every bit as firmly as if some sculptor had engraved the letters in stone. Once we found that we would definitely wreck the finish if we kept trying, and we might never get them entirely off anyway, we let them stay.

This occasioned a variety of people asking us a question they might not have if they realized we were preacher boys in a gospel group. More times than I can remember at rest areas, gas stations, or parking areas at a restaurant-even a thousand plus miles away- someone would come up to us and say, “Lusk, Wyoming? That’s where the Yellow Hotel is, isn’t it?”


When Lafe Culver and Kitty began going to Arizona in the winters after he had retired, he said it was fairly common for people to ask where they were from. He said several times at various businesses someone would say, “Oh, from Lusk. Then I’ll bet you know a Mrs. Burke.”

Lafe would say, “Which Mrs. Burke would that be?”

And the questioner would say, “Well, I’m not sure. But I believe she owns a motel, doesn’t she?”

Lafe, with that special twinkle only he could muster would say, “Oh, yes, that Mrs. Burke. Yes, I believe she does own a motel.”


Connie Panno ran a flower shop for a very long while. It closed when I was fairly young. The first time she stepped off the train in Lusk, she spoke little or no English. Needing a place to stay, and finding a hotel right across the street from the depot, she went over to secure a room. It was of course the same yellow establishment already mentioned, and Connie was heartbroken when they wouldn’t rent her a room-thinking she had chosen the wrong place to come if the community was that unfriendly.

That story of course is one that I can’t totally verify for authenticity (which if you remember my earlier remarks doesn’t upset me, wouldn’t have upset Mom, and, in my opinion, shouldn’t bother you much either.) But this ‘non-hotel’ story I can. Mother had several house plants, all of which seemed to do quite well. However, she admired those friends of hers who were able to grow ivy. Every time she attempted to have a couple of plants, they quickly went to wherever plants go when they expire. Mom told us one day at breakfast that she was going to go see Connie and ask what she was doing wrong. She came home, without a new ivy to plant. We asked her why that was. She said that when she asked what she was doing wrong. Mrs. Panno had told her she needed to “bathe-a de ivy every week.” Mother said she scarcely had time to “bathe-a” herself every week. She stuck with her philodendron.


I was behind this very witty lady in the Safeway checkout line. When she paid for her groceries, the clerk said as she handed her some money, “Your change, Madam.”

“Oh, I’m not the madam,” she said. “I’m just one of the girls.”


Probably the most unusual thing about the Yellow Hotel was that it became an anachronism. Most towns used to have their bordellos, never legal, but seldom closed down. It is said that there were seven or eight all in a row here during the early boom years.

Whatever occasioned the change, openly run houses of ill repute became things of the past in most communities. To find one still functioning in a solid community like Lusk for as long as it did caught national attention. It was not unlike finding a carriage shop and horse drawn vehicles still operating on the streets. The Yellow Hotel really just finally faded out of existence-first run only seasonally and finally not at all.

I know better than to tell a story involving an attorney, but since he has told it himself so many times and since the other party involved was a dear friend of mine for whom I just recently did the memorial service, hopefully no litigation will ensue.

Dennis Meier had just become the City Attorney. Del had to be in the neighborhood of eighty by then, but Dennis decided that the Yellow Hotel should no longer be allowed to operate. Apparently his phone conversation with the mayor went like this:

“Denny, Harry Lyon here. How do you like your new job?”

“Oh, I really love my new job.”

“Denny. How would you like to keep your new job?”

“Oh, I’d really like to keep my new job!”

“Then, Denny, leave Del alone.”


Del had gone into the nursing home. Mother was very good about visiting there, and she would visit Del. One day Del said, “You know I have a place out east. I could stay there if someone would come stay with me and help look after me. I believe you could come out there and help me out.”

Mother said she wanted to say she feared there might be more involved than the preliminary job description had mentioned, but she instead used Dad and me as her excuse, saying she had to cook and clean for us and didn’t think we would appreciate her taking off to do those things for someone else.

One memorable day Mother decided to talk about faith with Del. Her television was on, and when Mother came into the room, Del told her to turn the TV off. Mom couldn’t figure out how to do that, and Del didn’t know either. So Del told her just to unplug the set, which Mom did.

After they talked a while, mom asked Del if she had ever gone to church, and Del laughed and said she had grown up in a convent.

Soon after Mom asked if Del would like her to read the Bible with her, and there really wasn’t any response. Mom said, “Del, if you would like me to I could pray with you sometimes, or I could have someone else come and do it.”

Del said, “Plug that TV back in.”


Can it be it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line?

If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me would we? Could we?

--M. Hamlisch “The Way We Were”

Stan Wasson got a lot of free work out of his friends, probably proving more by that than by the number of vehicles he sold he was a convincing salesman. If he went to another community to pick up or deliver a car, he needed someone else to drive one of them. He promised at the minimum lunch at McDonald’s, but usually did better than that. I made so many trips to Colorado with him that it got so that when he asked if I could go, I would say, “Are we going to get to play golf at Cherry Hills?” Finally I would threaten him that I wouldn’t go one more time unless we did. Imagine my surprise one day when we had that exchange and he said, “No, not Cherry Hills, but would you settle for Denver Country Club?”

Cherry Hills has hosted PGA and U.S. Open Tournaments-in fact the ‘60 Open there where Arnold Palmer charged from far back the final round to win was what vaulted him several rungs up the ladder to the legendary status he enjoys. But Denver Country Club is what those in the know call “The Old Money Club” in town and is a wonderful facility. Stan grew up in Denver and it was the long-time Cadillac dealer whom he knew that secured us our right to play and our tee time.

I remember I even broke forty on one of the nines that day, but probably what I remember even more vividly is being slowed down by a late afternoon thunder storm and finishing in the gathering twilight. We couldn’t leave the facility the way we had come in since the golf shop was closed, and we ended up carrying our clubs, wet and bedraggled as we were-having to pass through the edge of the pool/patio area where a very elite wedding reception was being held. It was hard to make Stan feel out of place, but he was almost there right then and I was all the way there-wondering if we might get kicked out as we were doing our darnedest just to get out. Yep, guess you can “Take a boy out of the country, but…”


Once back in the eighties there was a multiple car delivery to make in the Black Hills. Stan promised us dinner at the Firehouse-which was a really good restaurant in Rapid City. Dick Pfister and Brad Wasson were also on the trip.

When we arrived at the Firehouse it was absolutely packed, and we were lucky to get a table on the second floor. Stan noticed there was a piano, and since it was very slow and we were having to wait he suggested I go over and play and sing. I love to perform, but not in some fine establishment that well may not want me to. So I told Stan the only way I would is if he went to the management and got their OK. He did, but Stan being Stan, it was not a matter of my just going over to the piano and starting some music.

Stan went to a central location and asked the assembled diners if he could have their attention. Through the years Stan on many occasions used a fictional character that he had created-”Pepe LaMocha.” Stan said, “Ladies and Gentlemen. We have a famous entertainer with us this evening. Pepe LaMocha is on tour here in the United States. His last performance was in Chicago and his next one is in Las Vegas, then on to the West Coast. Even though he has a night off, Pepe loves this whole area and the people here, and he has consented to do a few songs for you gratis. Please welcome Pepe LaMocha.

Everyone went along with it, although I’m sure the sober diners, if there were any, knew it was all a line of garbage. I got a big round of applause, and I did three or four songs and was just ready to return to my table when a middle-aged lady who was not there representing the Women’s Christian Temperance Union plopped down beside me on the piano bench. She gave me several nudges with her nearer hip, asked for a song I knew, and as I played it she kept butting me until I was almost off the end of the bench. When the song was over she planted a great big smooch on me, grabbed me and gushed, “O Pepe, I absolutely love the way you play and sing.” Somehow I was sort of hoping that wasn’t my five minutes of fame that I have heard everyone is promised.

A couple of hours later when we were leaving and Stan had gone to the rest room, Dick said, “Mark, you’re driving.”

I asked how he was going to arrange that, for Stan always drove when it was his car. Dick told me just to leave it to him.

Sure enough Brad got in the front seat with me and Stan crawled in back with Dick. I was wondering how Dick had accomplished that, but I didn’t have to wonder long. It must have been the element of surprise. We were heading back through Hot Springs and I had not quite made the south city limit of Rapid City when Stan asked, “Why am I not driving my own car.”

Dick said, “Shut up, Stan.”

The first twenty times that exchange occurred, it was amusing; the next twenty, not so much. About Edgemont Stan went to sleep… Just another typical day in the life of a small-town preacher.


When someone loves golf as much as Dick Pfister does, it’s a shame he can’t play the game.

-irreverent and not totally accurate remark by one of Dick’s friends

(insert my name instead of Dick’s, and you can leave out ‘not totally accurate’)

I have had some amazing and unlikely friendships in my life. One has been with Jess Pilkington of Scottsbluff. Jess has always been a very serious and very good golfer-good enough as an amateur to have won our Open Tournament in Lusk. Years ago I began visiting with Jess when he was up here playing, and it ended up that we became friends and frequent partners in our member-guest tournament. We even won it a couple of times. Jess has a beautiful swing, a great attitude, basic humility (except for often saying after one of his shots, “The best chipper in the Valley”, which was probably “Nothing but the facts, Ma’am.”)- just an all around nice guy.

Jess spent most of his working life representing Simplot Soil Builders. He finally became an independent businessmen with similar products to provide. One day out at the course Dick Pfister was trying to introduce us to one of his acquaintances that did not know either one of us. He started out trying to do it right, and he fumbled around a bit with his words as he began with Jess. Without finishing the introduction, he shifted his attention to me, probably never even completing one sentence about me.

I’ll never really know if this is what he planned to do all along, but he finally stopped abruptly, put his hands in the air, and said, “Oh hell, they’re just a couple of fertilizer salesmen.”

Just another example of one of my friends trying to assist my mother in keeping me humble.



Grandpa Len had an unusual habit. When he would take off the trousers he had been wearing that day-which was the last thing that he did each night before getting into bed-he would shake them hard a couple of times, sometimes hard enough that they made a cracking sound like a towel similarly handled in the locker room. Then he would lay them neatly on the floor, properly creased and not folded even one time.

Evidently it was a lifetime habit, judging from this event that occurred when my mother was a little girl. Great-Grandpa had moved to California, and Grandpa and Grandma were living in the ranch house which was by that time about twenty-five years old. They were awakened one night by a puzzling roaring sound, and Grandma asked Grandpa what it was. He said he didn’t know, but he would put on his britches and go out and investigate.

When he reached down for his trousers, they were floating. A heavy rain had fallen and a draw a few feet from the house that they had never seen run water had overflowed its banks.

My cousin Carol rescued two beds from the old house many years after it had been abandoned. She refinished them, brass balls and all, and now I sleep during the winter months in the one in which Mom was born. One time Grandpa was talking to Mom and said, “You know, I had a dad who cried easily.” Mother said, “I did too.”…Darned the genetic code. You just can’t fool it.


There was a restaurant in downtown Denver called Bennett‘s, and it was not far from the Sears Hotel with was run by Frank and Mabel Bautch-old-time residents of Lusk. Since my family usually stayed there, they also liked to eat at that nearby restaurant. It was not unusual for nice establishments in the late forties and fifties to have a Hammond Organ with someone playing during the hours of operation. At Bennett’s the organist would periodically come around to the various tables and ask for requests. Of course it was the custom to tip if a song was requested. Apparently no one at the table with Grandpa made a request. But Grandpa, who had a voice that carried, said as she was walking away that he had really wanted to hear “Home on the Range.” Evidently she had heard him because when she returned to the organ bench, that was the first number she played. For some reason Grandpa was very embarrassed-thinking it might make him seem like some sort of a hick to want that song.

A few years ago I heard a fine country singer perform “Home on the Range.” I felt like it was the first time I had really ever heard it. I wasn’t even born yet that long ago night in Denver, but Granddad, that was one fine song you wanted to hear. I’m proud of your taste in music.


J.B., Sr.

Some of the special people in Lusk died before I was old enough to get to fully appreciate them. J.B. Griffith, Sr. was one of those. Mom was very good friends with his daughter Mary. She told me when she would go by the Griffith house when the two of them were going somewhere to do something together, if Mary wasn’t ready to go, J.B. would visit with her.

Mom graduated from High School just a few weeks after turning sixteen, and she said what was particularly impressive to her was that he always spoke with her as if she were an adult.

There are many great stories about J.B. and I doubt I have any to add that some people haven’t heard. However, here is a very short list. It is my understanding that his formal education ended with third grade. For those familiar only with using a computer to write something, a history lesson is needed to familiarize you with how a Linotype worked in a newspaper office. There was a machine with a keyboard, but that is where the similarities ended. The machine produced an entire line of type in a metal bar or slug. One mistake and the entire line of print had to be redone. Those familiar with the Lusk Herald affirm that when J.B. wrote something, rather than copying from a sheet of paper, he did his writing on the Linotype machine. (The trick that was played on all of us novices was for the linotype operator to ask us if we would like to pick up a line of type when it was done. I fell for it, and of course it was red hot. My trickster was Dale Bardo, a really nice guy, whose wife was my piano teacher Helen. I wonder what she would have thought if I had burned myself badly enough to miss a lesson or two. Or, maybe she needed a break from me and put him up to it.)

The other stories are ones J.B. told. After his wife Nellie died, very late in life he and Mabel Edmondson tied the knot. He said his major concern about this new marriage was that “Maggie is an Episcopalian and I am a Congregationalist, and I don’t know which faith we will raise the children in.”

His role in the political affairs of Wyoming was large and well-documented. An early thrill for me was watching him write returns on the blackboard in the Herald office on election night as the phone calls would come in. The cigar must have aided the process, for it was seldom out of his mouth. I guess remembering those things and my choice of a profession both help make this one of my all-time favorite stories of any sort. J.B. said, “I am a Congregationalist and proud of it. There are two things we never dabble in. One is politics and the other is religion.”


A bird of the air may carry your voice,

or some winged creature tell the matter.

-Solomon Ecclesiastes

The summer after I graduated from UW I went to Cincinnati Bible Seminary. Prior to my leaving I played golf several times a week with Lafe Culver, Billie Miller, and Blondie Marvin. They ranged in age from their late sixties to early eighties. It was all lots of fun.

While at the Seminary I called home weekly. Midway through the summer Mom informed me that Lafe had made a hole-in-one. I asked her who had witnessed it. She told me Bill and Blondie had. I told her, “Some witnesses. One can’t see and the other can’t hear.”

When the term ended and I went out to the course the first time to play with them, they weren’t very friendly-not at all like their normal selves. Finally, after a couple of holes, they ganged up on me. “Can’t see, eh?” said Blondie. “So, I can’t hear,” said Bill. “You don’t think I’m honest, huh?” said Lafe. And they all glared at me. I was feeling pretty small, and then they couldn’t keep it up. They started laughing and said they all agreed when Mom told them what I had said that they were going to make me squirm a bit when I got back. I did.


From the time I started playing golf Billie really couldn’t hear much of anything. The first people I played with regularly, never having picked up a club until I was seventeen, were Billie, Blondie, and Ron Thon. Ron was a tremendous golfer, right around par all the time. Billie didn’t begin playing until he was seventy-five. While Blondie had played all his life he had developed eye difficulties and said it looked like he was hitting at two balls instead of one.

Every day when we got to number seven tee box, Ron and Blondie would bet on whether or not Bill would hit the fairway with his drive. They alternated who got to pick first, and the wager was either a nickel or a dime-I’ve forgotten which. They talked in their normal voices, but Bill never heard them. One day after many weeks of this Bill sensed something was going on, and asked them what it was. They told him nothing, but he was very serious and said he wanted to know. So they laughed and told him about the little wager they made every day. Imagine all of our surprise when he took exception to the matter. At first I thought he was kidding, but then I could see he wasn’t. He said no more, but got into his cart and drove on up to the club house without finishing the round. Nothing more was ever said and he was back in a day or two playing like nothing had ever happened.


He brought nothing into this world-it is certain we can take nothing out

Paul | Timothy

Very few Protestant funerals were held anywhere other than at the mortuary as I was growing up-a pattern that has drastically altered. I did not go to many funerals, but I was at a couple that the Episcopalian Rector Theodore Foster conducted. In all the services done by the other denominations, the minister would be ushered into the chapel through the French doors by the pulpit. The Episcopal service would begin with the officiant coming down the aisle from the rear.

Sudden noises would startle Granddad. The doorbell in our house had its ringer above our kitchen table. If it rang while we were eating, Grandpa would come straight out of his seat-several inches worth of jump it seemed to me. Theodore Foster had a very deep and booming voice. Rancher that he was my grandpa called him “The Bass Bull.” When without warning Foster would start down the aisle intoning, “We brought nothing into this world…” Grandpa would elevate out of his seat just like he did when our doorbell rang. He said, “If the Bass Bull does that to me one more time, he’s going to end up with a double funeral on his hands.”


Joe O’Brien was always a great kidder with me and even more-so with Mom. He was famous for coming into the bank with a lot of bonds and cashing them in for hundred dollar bills. The next week he would come in with the wad of hundreds and reverse the process. One day Mom happened to be behind him in the teller line when he had the huge stack of hundreds. She said to him, “Joe, when you go on, why don’t you leave some of that money to me!”

Joe was already in the ninth decade of his life, but he got all serious and his eyes moistened up and he said, “Missy, I’m not going to die. I’m not going to die..”


Brevity is the soul of wit



Preach the gospel; use words if necessary

The two hundredth birthday of the United States occurred on a Sunday-

July 4, 1976. A number of churches came together for a community worship that was held at the High School Auditorium. Bob Boutwell of the Congregational Church organized the service, and had really done a masterful job of it. Across the nation bells were to be rung at noon, so it was crucial for our worship to be done by that time. Bob had estimated the time that each portion of the service would take, and he cautioned each of the three speakers that only between nine and eleven minutes were available.

I was one of the speakers-selected to do the third and final message. The first message fit precisely into the allowable parameters. However the second one reminded me of something I once heard an Australian speaker say: “Telling a preacher to be brief is akin to sending a rabbit to the green grocer for a head of lettuce.” It soon became obvious that my predecessor was not going to limit himself to the agreed time. I began to mentally calculate what parts of my message I might omit without losing the points I wanted to make. Then I began to realize that I would probably have to just make one of those points and hope to have enough time to do that. I might add that the urge to give Mr. Long-wind a good swift boot in his rear quarters was becoming stronger. Finally I realized that I was not going to be able to do my message at all and merely hoped I would have time to say “Happy and blessed Fourth” before the clock struck twelve.

My exact words I can’t recall, but I know that I only said three or four sentences-and I said them with no rancor in my voice. I don’t know if I had been the recipient of special grace for that moment or if I was just a convincing hypocrite. Since the culprit is still breathing, and since I really do like and respect the guy, I will leave him unnamed. There were at least 500 people in attendance that morning, and I believe nearly 200 told me that day and in the ensuing weeks and months how they had enjoyed what I said. Some of them said it straightforwardly, others winked when they said it, and some thanked me for showing class when my predecessor certainly hadn’t. Maybe it really “isn’t what you say, but how you say it.” Anyway, I was the hit of the program, and all I had to do was not growl and quickly sit back down.


Early in my ministry, Walt Doctor called one morning to ask me to do a funeral message. It was for someone who did not live here and I think never had. This fellow was not a member of the type of church I was preaching for. He was neither a friend or acquaintance, nor was he a friend or acquaintance of anyone I knew. For some reason he had just selected Lusk as the site of his funeral and the local cemetery as the place of his burial. So when Walt asked me if I would do the service I said that I wouldn’t. Walther did not like taking ‘no’ for an answer. He cajoled me a little bit-telling me I surely wasn’t so busy that I couldn’t do the service for him. I was adamant and said that I was not going to do that particular service.

Finally he became very insistent and more or less demanded to know why I was being so stubborn in my refusal. I said, “Well if you must know, that’s my birthday-and it seems like a lousy way to celebrate my birthday by doing a ‘John Doe’ funeral. Get someone else to do it-someone who it isn’t his birthday.”

Walt wouldn’t back off. He said that it would be a 10:00 A.M. service, it could be brief, and then I had all the rest of the day to enjoy my birthday. I really still didn’t want to, but I finally said ‘yes.’ “Good,” he said, and told me that Tim Johnson would be singing. Tim had been the vocal instructor at the school until taking over a local restaurant and was an excellent singer.

In those days when the service was ready to begin, the routine was for the minister to come through the doors, go over to the podium and push a little button under it that flashed a light in the music room to alert the organist to bring the prelude to a close and allow the minister to begin the service. Walt was highly organized, very good at his profession, and had an appropriate serious/solemn look on his face. Often when I was the singer instead of the minister, as I was being ushered out of the music room he would whisper something to me as I started down the aisle. I’m sure everybody thought he was giving me some important instructions, but in actuality most of the times he did that he was trying to see if he could crack me up.

But back to the John Doe funeral. Walt had his handle on the knob of the French door. Just as he was starting to turn it he said, “Don’t start right away when you get out there/”

“Why not? “I said as he opened the door.

He motioned me through the door and said, “Because Tim is going to sing “Happy Birthday” to you before the service gets underway.



For years I sang at as many or more funerals than I conducted. The only times I accompanied myself was when someone had requested some gospel song for which I didn’t have the music or the regular organists would say they wished I would play since they didn’t know the song. For any of the traditional hymns or other pieces, someone else played-most frequently Minerva Watson, with Edna DeCastro being a not-too-distant second.

If the service became extra long, and a few of our regular officiants at that time were frequently guilty, Minerva might start passing me notes. Because her husband Judson P. was deaf, Minerva was used to communicating that way. She always had her pad with her so that she could quickly jot down something.

In my case it would usually be just a sentence-she could have probably reused the note frequently that said, “Do you think he will ever get done?”

Occasionally, she would tell a story. One day she started chuckling silently and began writing. It took her several of the small pages, but it was worth it.

The Watsons traveled much of the world, having exquisite photos documenting their travels. The tale she wrote that day went as follows:

“We were traveling in Italy. It was a Sunday and Jud wanted to go to church. Since Italy is at least 98% Catholic you don’t have to register to receive communion. They just assume everyone there is Catholic.

“When it came time to go down front, Jud got up and was ready to go receive it. I grabbed his sleeve and hurriedly wrote, “You can’t go, Jud. You’re not Catholic.’

“He pulled away from me and said, ‘Oh, they can’t tell the sheep from the goats anyway.’ And down he went.”

As she remembered the incident she was so tickled I thought she was going to start laughing right out loud.



Winters can be fairly tough out on the Kirtley Divide. The earliest settlers named the area “Pleasant Ridge”-and that’s the name I use in my corporate name. However, it is often anything but pleasant in the many months of winter.

We rented the Art Thompson ranch in the fifties and part of the sixties. It had a livable house, but the only time Dad usually stayed out there was during the calving season,

The first few winters we did not have a four-wheel drive pickup; it was in the latter part of the decade of the fifties that they became more prevalent.

There were occasions that the snow was so bad that Dad had Les Huff fly out and drop groceries from his plane. One memorable time Dad and Roy ZumBrunnen and his son Lloyd decided they absolutely had to come to town for supplies. It took them hours to get in and a lot of hard shoveling. It was not calm either and they knew they might have to do as much shoveling to get back out.

It must have been nine o’clock when they got in. Al Davenport had been alerted and opened up the Budget so they could stock up on groceries. Mother had kept supper waiting for hours; Grandpa had already gone to bed. By the time the shopping was completed it was close to ten. Dad and Lloyd gulped their food down, but not Roy. And after he had drunk one or two cups of coffee, he had one more. Dad and Lloyd were very apprehensive about what kind of night they were going to have getting back, and Lloyd said, “Come on, Dad, we have to get going.”

Roy had a favorite expression, and little boy that I was, I can still hear him saying, “By the great guns, I’ve waited a long time for this cup of coffee, and I’m going to enjoy it.” And he did, and not hurriedly.


Roy’s father was Jake ZumBrunnen. Mr. ZumBrunnen was a very religious person and apparently imperturbable too. During the last years of his life he lived with his daughter Nell and her husband Jim (who was Grandpa’s brother). Jim said, “Jake loves to quote Scripture to me, and one of the ones he most often quotes is, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” “And,” Uncle Jim said, “what makes me mad is that the old cuss is happier than I am.”


Aunt Nell related how one morning at breakfast her dad told her she ought to put some old sheets on the bed after breakfast. When she asked why, he said he was going to die that day and didn’t want to ruin some newer and better sheets. He was not having any pronounced health problems and of course Aunt Nell tried to encourage him and tell him he wasn’t going to die.

Later in the day he passed away.



Grandpa had a hired man who informed him that the neighbor’s hired man must not ever work. Grandpa of course asked him what made him say that.

He replied, “Because every time I’m in town I see him there.”

The man’s wife also worked around the house for Grandma. A couple of stories about her survived for decades after they were no longer employed. Grandma had a number of health problems and was severely limited in what she could eat that would not worsen one of them. Grapefruit was something she could enjoy and not suffer consequences, and she liked them very much. However, when the hired lady would cut the grapefruit in two, the split was always more like sixty-forty or sixty-five-thirty five. Of course she gave herself and her husband the bigger pieces and Grandma and Grandpa the smaller.

Grandma’s health was bad enough that Mom came home every weekend from Manville where she taught and lived to be with her. One of the main jobs the hired lady had was to clean the house, but when Grandma would ask her why she wouldn’t clean during the week, she said she was waiting for the weekend so Mom could help her. Being interpreted, that was so Mom would do it. Weekends also saw her making Mom do most of the cooking. There isn’t any particular humor in this story unless you can picture the unequal grapefruit halves. Occasionally I have cut one a bit off-center, but to hear Mom describe how it was done every time on purpose-it must have been hilarious visually.



Several times during the dozen years or so we owned cows and calves while I was growing up, we marketed them at the Omaha Stock Yards. The first time I ever remember going Mom, Dad, and I all went together in a car with Roy, Eleanor, and Bob Johnson. I was barely in grade school, and Bob was younger by a couple of years than I was.

We stayed where a lot of ranchers historically stayed in Omaha-the Castle Hotel. At breakfast Mom felt her purse slipping off her lap and reached to grab it. In the process she upset her glass of orange juice. I said, “See Mom, it’s easier to do than you think it is.” (I was famous for upsetting things on the kitchen table, although Grandpa always defended me, saying Mom put things so close to the edge of the table that I couldn’t help upsetting them).

I never got old enough to be anything other than impressed by the Stock Yards. On a Monday morning there were usually thirty-five to forty thousand cattle in the yards. They were consigned through a number of different commission companies who negotiated the sale through their agents who were right there in the yards. There were huge overhead walkways connecting all areas of the yards-smaller walkways closer to the ground.

With that mass of people there on a Monday morning as we were walking to the area where our commission company, A.G. Buchanan was, we heard a man walking behind us start to laugh. He got closer and said to Mom, “See Mom, it’s easier to do than you think it is.” He said, “I said to myself, there’s a little guy that’s had his hands slapped for spilling things.” …Where was 911 in those days, in my hour of need?


In that portion of my life we didn’t take many big trips. But so many special memories surround the Omaha excursions. In later years we shipped our calves by truck, but in my younger years it was by rail. I still remember loading the cattle ourselves into empty cattle cars the Chicago and Northwestern had left on the siding. Then there was a hand jack so we could maneuver the loaded car down the track a ways. Usually several different ranchers would be there. Finally the job was completed and some time in the middle of the night the engine would come and add our cattle cars to the rest of the train. The cattle would get in sometime Sunday.

Our getting there provided many thrills. One time we hired Les Huff to fly us down in a small plane. For a year and a half or more, Frontier Air Lines flew DC 3’s from Casper to Omaha. Lusk was one of eight or nine stops. Compared to modern air transportation, much was lacking. The cabins were barely pressurized, and there was definite ear discomfort each and every landing as the elevations got increasingly lower.

When we came back the one and only time we used that mode of transportation, the pilot announced when we landed at Ainsworth that we were not going to be able to land again until Casper because of unfavorable weather conditions. Dad had our entire herd in summer pasture and was very worried if an early blizzard might have come. There was bus service at that time also, but the only bus of the day had left just a few minutes before. What was amazing was that it was the stewardess’s first flight, and she was a nervous wreck. Mother would have been the first to tell you that ZumBrunnens may have been our ranch neighbors, but the placid qualities of Jake or Roy had not rubbed off on her, and she was more than a little given to being apprehensive. We kidded her for years, but Mom was actually trying to comfort the stewardess.

In the DC 3’s, the pilot entered the plane from the rear the same way the passengers did. When he came by Mom and Dad’s seat, Mom asked him what would happen if we could not land in Casper. I’m not making this up, but he said, “Lady, every plane that has ever gone up has come down somewhere.” Thankfully, that tickled Mom.

When we flew over the Lusk airport, there was not a cloud in the sky and it was a bright moonlit night, but for reasons we could not fathom, we did not land.

Our usual mode of transportation was the Burlington passenger train. Sometimes we got on in Crawford, other times at Torrington. We each had our individual sleeping accommodations and would get in on Sunday mornings. There was no dining car, but the porter would get off in Lincoln and bring back coffee, rolls, and juice for anyone that wanted them.

My granddad had been particularly good friends with some of the Coffees from Harrison-and one of the previous generation had been one of the founders of the Omaha Stock Yards. Before that Great-Grandpa actually had to ship his cattle to the yards in Chicago. One of my bigger thrills while I was still a pre-adolescent occurred when our calves topped the market, and we were invited up to the President of the Exchange’s office. It occupied the entire top floor of the building, and I believe that was the ninth floor. The view was fantastic. At that time Harry Coffee was the President, so there were some common memories for he and my folks to share.

When I recall these things I am often struck by how I got to witness all those things and yet have been selling my cattle on the video for over twenty years.


During the war Dad got word to Mom that he was traveling on a troop train going through Cheyenne. It was going to stop there for quite a few hours, so Mom went down to see him. Dad had several really good army buddies. They had spent an incredibly long time stationed on Attu in the Aleutian Islands. Most began to exchange cards at Christmas after the war. Even after the gentlemen died their wives continued the tradition. Some of the wives outlived Mom and kept on exchanging cards with me.

Mom was anxious not only to see Dad but to also have a chance to meet these wartime friends of his. At some point in the conversation they were telling her that they had devised a color code to describe the level of faithfulness that the men in their unit had concerning their wives. Worst was black (black hearts?) while various shades of red indicated a slight to serious taint. Blue was the good color, ‘true blue’ I guess.

Dad’s friends all knew him as Ben, because Ted was just a nickname. When they got done describing the various colors, she asked them where Dad fit in.

“Oh, Ben isn’t even in the color scheme,” they told her.

“Why is that?” she asked.

“Oh, Ben is ‘lily-white.’” He never even looks.”


Dad was in the anti-aircraft on Attu. There were preliminary training classes, familiarizing the men with the weapons and all of the various procedures. There was a man in the class who whenever the instructor would ask at the end each session if there were any questions would ask question after question-all about things that had just been explained in detail.

One of Dad’s good friends was from Chicago-Chester Milnarski. At the last session before the test they agreed they would sit on either side of the offender. When the instructor asked about there being questions, just as the man began to speak, both Dad and Chester hit him so hard in the ribs that they knocked the wind out of him and he couldn’t speak.

When Dad told Mom that story some time later she said, “Oh Ted, what a horrible thing to do. Did the poor guy fail the test?”

Dad said, “Of course, but he would have anyway.”


Segregation was very much a reality during World War II. I remember Dick Pfister told me of commanding a black regiment himself. Dad said there was one of those on Attu also. Evidently the troops disliked their sergeant intensely, and actually went out and hanged him. The higher-ups took note that the officer had not been seen by any of them recently, and so they inquired after his whereabouts of the troops who were under him. The troops actually had the gall to tell those making the inquiry, “Sarge? Oh. he’s hanging around here somewhere.” Ultimately of course his body was discovered, but precisely who the perpetrators were never was discovered.

Dad said the punishment for that unit of men was that they were not allowed to leave Attu for the war’s duration-and paradise it wasn’t.


Dad had an incredible sense of direction; it was next to impossible to lose him in the open countryside. He loved to quote Daniel Boone who, when asked if he had ever been lost replied, “No, never. I was mighty confused once for two or three days. But never lost.”

Stringing a few of his war experiences together like this might convey a mistaken impression that Dad was a returning soldier who told lots of war stories. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth, He seldom talked at all about the war. This was perhaps my favorite of those handful of incidents he related.

Weather on Attu was rarely nice. Fog was normal, and brutal winds called ‘williwaws” could spring up at any time. Dad said when one came there was nothing to do but get down on the ground. Dad recalled the worst ones bouncing him up and down on the beach. On the day recalled in the story Dad’s platoon had hiked a ways from the camp. Visibility was not good. At some point the officer in charge gave the order, “Return to camp, men. Follow me.” Then he took off in the wrong direction. Dad said, “Is the order to return to camp?” The officer said, “The order is to return to camp. Follow me.” Dad said, “If the order is to return to camp, I will return to camp. But camp is not the way you are heading.” Evidently the rest of the men had picked up on that uncanny knack of Dad’s and said to the officer, “We are following Ben.” So they headed one way and the officer another. Dad said they were back in camp in fifteen or twenty minutes. Meanwhile, it was six or seven hours before their officer returned. Dad said he feared there might be some disciplinary action leveled against them, but nothing was ever said.


The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails-given by one Shepherd

-Solomon “Ecclesiastes”

These are certain thoughts that I have found important. Other people may have said similar things, but these are the sources from which they came my way.

The greatest gift any man can possess is the ability to know his own


-George Mill

Overconfidence will kill you every time.

-Dick Pfister

Have good, solid reasons for the decisions you make. Once you make them, live with them. Too many people spend their lives looking back and saying, “If only I had done this differently.”

-Dale Fullerton

God calls us to be faithful to the process and leave the results to Him.

-Dr. Ken Boa (‘Reflections Ministry’-Atlanta)

You may love everybody, but you have to remember not everybody loves you.

-Dick Pfister

People do pretty much whatever they really want to do.



In one of the late afternoon golf matches some while back, we had all teed off number one and gotten to the bottom of the hill to hit our approach shots. I happened to be watching Stan Wasson when he hit his, and I could tell that he had hurt his back on his shot. When he got out of the cart to go to the green, his walk and the way he couldn’t stoop over normally to retrieve his ball from the hole confirmed he was having a problem. He tried teeing off on number two, barely hit the ball, and said, “I’m all done, boys. I’m going back to the top of the hill and to town.” And he added, “I hurt my back, and it’s killing me.”

Bud Watson was in the group and he said, “You don’t need to do that Stan. I can cure you in a few seconds.”

Stan said, “You can? How are you going to do that?”

Bud told him to lay on his back on the ground and he would fix him right up. To this day I can’t imagine why Stan did, but he did. None of us had any idea what was going to happen next, but our uncertainty ended quickly. Bud came over, grabbed Stan by the ankles, and started dragging him down the fairway. Stan was yelling at Bud, getting tortured by what Bud was doing, and Bud kept trying to reassure Stan this was foolproof and pretty soon his back would be “Good as new.” He dragged him at least fifty yards.

Stan could scarcely walk for the next ten days let alone play golf. He even missed some days at work. I’m no Sherlock, but it appears our “Dr.” Watson may have been a quack.


The University announced in the fall of my senior year that our school had been selected to compete the following spring on The College Bowl. Tryouts for the team were going to be held sometime after Christmas.

The television stations that we could get in Lusk were no longer airing that show and it had been several years since I had watched it. Shortly after the announcement my parents and I traveled to Houston to watch the Cowboy football team play in what was then a brand new Astrodome. I told my folks that come Sunday afternoon that weekend we were in Houston I wanted to watch the show. I only remembered that when I was younger and had last viewed it, I didn’t know many of the answers. So we all watched that Sunday in Houston, and in the entire half hour I knew the answers to two questions.

As the tryout date approached I had friends urging me to try out, but I was not planning to, because as I explained to them, I saw no use since every time I watched the show back when and then recently, I felt like the village idiot. The night of the tryout I was in my dorm room studying, and about twenty minutes before the exam started, two of them came and told me I was going. They didn’t have knives or guns, but they said it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and they were going to avail themselves of it and I had better have something other than a lame excuse or I was going with them. I went.

The test was ridiculous. It was all multiple choice, but it might as well have been in Chinese or over quantum physics for all I knew. It didn’t take a long time, and I went back to the room and resumed my school work. I was legitimately flabbergasted when about a week later I was called and told that I was one of the eight finalists. Four would actually appear on the show, and the others would also get to make the trip to New York.

We started practicing fairly soon. Initially I thought it was hilarious that we practiced. How could we rehearse getting familiar with all the knowledge in the world? Later I began to understand the reason, because we all got very good at “ringing in” to answer the question before we actually knew precisely what we were going to say. To this day I still have those reflex responses to something I am not really sure I know when I watch a game show, and it’s amazing how often the response is correct.

Sessions lasted about three hours a couple of times a week and were very intense. When we were all pushed to the brink, coaches included, we would take a break. Sometimes we visited with one another or one of the coaches. On one memorable night the one coach told me privately he imagined I had figured out by then that I would be appearing on the show, and I told him I had thought it was likely I would. Then he asked me if I knew that I had gotten the top score on the tryout exam. I said something like, “You have to be kidding me.” Then I said, “Do you remember what I scored?” He said he did and I said, “What was it?”

And he replied, “Thirty-six per cent.”

It must have been the luckiest day I ever had taking any test, because I estimated that out of the hundred questions I probably truly “knew” the answer to somewhere between twelve and twenty.



Mother and Dad knew each other from the time they were children, and they dated each other many times through the years-but also dated others. Mother had graduated from High School at sixteen, and then went to one year at the University of Wyoming. She began teaching when she was seventeen.

It was truly a different era. Female school teachers were not to be married. When Mom and her sister Gladys, who was three years older than Mother, were nearing thirty they decided to take a trip to Yellowstone Park with the men who ended up being their husbands a few years later. However, such a trip would have been scandalous without a chaperone, so Dad’s younger married sister Iris went along as that chaperone.

One day they were at the Yellowstone plunge, and Mom and Aunty Gladys were on a large inflatable rubber raft. Uncle Earl was horsing around, and upset it. Mom was not a strong swimmer, and Aunt Gladys no swimmer at all-but Mom managed to get them both back to shallow water. Uncle Earl was ignorant of Gladys’ lack of swimming prowess, and pulled them back out into deep water. This time Mom was really struggling to save both of them, and Gladys put her hands on top of Mom’s head to keep from going under. Finally the life guard realized they were in trouble and pulled them to shore.

Mom was gagging and spitting up water. She and Gladys were very close, and when she could speak Mother said, “Glady, what were you doing?” And unemotionally Aunt Gladys said, “I thought one of us was going to drown, and I knew it wasn’t going to be me.”


For years Mother loved to tell this story on her sister. The weather had been bad for days, and the Hagerman’s had not even carried out the garbage. One day Uncle Earl decided it was time, got all bundled up and headed for the alley where the garbage cans were.

There was such a layer of snow that it wasn’t possible to see what was underneath it, and apparently Uncle strayed from the path. He stepped on a plank that had a nail protruding, and the nail went well into his foot and blood started flowing. He got back to the house, looking like he had been wounded in battle, and Aunt Gladys said to him, “Why Earl Hagerman, you have absolutely ruined your brand new overshoe.”

Mom thought it such a good story that I heard her tell it to several different people during the years.

Sometimes if we didn’t have many dishes after a meal, Mom would say “I’m just going to run these through the sink rather than put them in the dishwasher.” A lot of times she would let them drain dry. Other times I would get the towel and wipe them.

One evening for some reason I washed. There were lots of suds, and as I was washing a blue juice glass we had, it was slippery and I lost my grip on it. I managed to get it grabbed right when it hit the edge of the sink, and it broke and gashed the length of my palm. Like Dad was, I am a bleeder. Mom told me many times she didn’t want me to injure “my piano playing hands.” But the actual time I did she took a page from her sister and her first words were, “Oh Mark, you know we can’t get any more of those glasses to fill out the set.”



I’ve already mentioned Mother’s younger sister Catherine. We saw a lot of her and her husband Jimmy. Granddad wasn’t much to travel, especially at holidays. So the other girls and their husbands and kids spent many holidays with us. I don’t recall what initiated this little argument between Aunt Catherine and Uncle Jimmy, but one trip they were disputing what a certain bird was. One claimed it was a crow while the other said it was a grackle. It seemed that they returned to their little argument for two or three days running. One day Mom was wondering how far it was to a certain destination and saw her opportunity, so she asked them how far they thought it was, “as the grackle flies?”

One of my favorites that they reported to us occurred one morning when they were getting out of bed. Auntie said to Uncle, “You know, Jimmy, I just don’t know if I can face the day.” Uncle Jimmy came back with, “Remember Cath, the day has to face you, too.”



Dad came from a large family. He and his brothers were noted as being fighters. At a dance or a fair or rodeo, it was pretty common to see the Lohr boys “mixing it up.” Mother didn’t approve, and it all came to a head when Dad came to pick her up for a date one night and had two black eyes. She told him he was going to have to choose between her and fighting, and that if he ever came to pick her up again all bruised up she wouldn’t go out with him.

Perhaps that is why one of the rules that I was raised with was that I was not supposed to fight with anyone. I enjoyed the rougher games we were allowed to participate in on the playground, but I never had a real desire to fight anyway.

There was one boy in our neighborhood that was a couple of years older than me who loved to pick on me-it definitely would be called “bullying” today. He wasn’t much bigger than me, but he would sneak up behind me and knock me down. One Sunday we had gone out to eat after church, and Grandpa had gone with us. I still had my good clothes on. When we parked in the garage and all got out, Grandpa headed around the south side of the house-perhaps to look at the flowers he always planted. I went along the north side, and don’t recall why, because usually I would just have gone in the back door and changed my duds.

The offender was in hiding, waiting for me, and just as I got around the corner of the house he blindsided me and knocked me down. Grandpa had just come around the other side of the house and saw it. It made him furious, and he said to me, “Hit him in the beak, Markey. Hit him in the beak.” He could see I wasn’t going to-being the well-raised child I was (Like I said, I’ll tell this my way). So amazingly, Grandpa said, “Well if you won’t, I will.” And my seventy year old grandpa punched him in the nose and knocked this kid who was probably eight or nine to the turf. As might be expected we soon had a visit from his mother, and Mom told her she knew it wasn’t right, but maybe if the kid didn’t always pick on me it would not have happened.

A couple of days later I was at some other neighbors, playing the piano. My legs wouldn’t reach the floor from the bench on that high old upright, and once again the bully came up behind me and roughly pulled me off to the floor. I got up, and to his obvious amazement, I “hit him in the beak” and knocked him down…I retired from the ring with an undefeated record, and that particular challenger didn’t offer to trouble me again.



I don’t remember Mom ever particularly being interested in the bucking events at a rodeo, but interestingly a couple of people that she dated were more than novices at riding horses that were not yet fully broken. One summer some ten years or more before they tied the knot, Dad broke horses down at Agate. He said it was a tossup whether he broke more horses or killed more rattlesnakes that summer-for the figure neared one hundred for each. (Today at Agate rattlesnakes are supposed to be ’relocated’ rather than killed. Like most ranchers Dad always opted for the permanent relocation.)

Mother and Dan Hanson also went out a lot of times together. The Hanson family probably knows a lot more tales of Dan’s adventures with horses; I know one that always impressed me was of his choosing to ride horseback all the way from the Kaycee ranch to the one in Niobrara County-and that perhaps occurred more than once.

Why one of these stories makes it into my writing is that Dan had come over to visit Mom one afternoon, and he had decided to come horseback. The hour grew late and Grandpa said, “Dan, it’s too far for you to be riding back home tonight. Let us put you up. I’ll go put your horse in the barn and give it something to eat.”

Dan said, “All right. But be careful, Len. He’s just one of the broncs I cut out of the bunch today. He may be a little bit wild, because he’s never been ridden before.”



According to the letters that appear in the advice columns, if you purchase a place in an area that people like to visit-you’re apt to have plenty of company whether you want it or not. I have several California relatives and most relatives who have lived other places have visited them. A couple of generations back Grandpa Len’s sister Nellie was noted for her hospitality, and she was a wonderful cook, too. She certainly knew how to show her company a good time.

However one of the relatives made a visit and in spite of all the marvelous things available in Southern California did not seem to be that impressed by any of their outings. One of the last nights they were there, Uncle Monte and Aunt Nellie decided to take them down to Long Beach to watch the sunset. Aunt Nellie brought along what she called a picnic lunch, but was in reality a four or five course spread. The food was wonderful and the particular sunset that evening as it disappeared into the Pacific was unusually spectacular. Uncle Monte was determined to get some positive response out of his company and asked the gentleman point blank, “Did you ever see anything like that?” His guest replied, “Never did care much about the water.”



I’m in charge here

-Alexander Haig

Mother retired from classroom teaching in 1977. Even by that time it had gotten risky to physically discipline a student who was acting up. I remember asking Mom if she thought she could have continued to teach without being able to spank someone she thought needed it. She told me that she believed she had only spanked five kids in forty years of teaching. What she said would be far more difficult for her would to not let the kids love her-for through the years so many had displayed affection to her as they would to a family member-and she recognized how suspicious and litigious the times had become. This introduction may not seem to jive with the incident I am about to recount, but I inserted it to let you know this was what the ‘true mother’ really was like-except when the circumstances were extraordinarily unusual.

The first three years of Mom’s teaching were at the rural school near the ranch on Brush Creek. Then she was offered a position at Keeline, which she accepted. It was the fall of 1932. The position had opened for grades five through eight because the students had literally run off the man teacher of the year before.

There were some good sized eighth grade boys in those days. A look at the county records of those enrolled in school that year would show over 1,500 in the county, with a disproportionate number being in the first eight grades. Many kids did not go on to High School, but a lot did take grade eight twice. That second go-a-round was to enable the teachers to give them whatever additional preparation educationally they might use for the rest of their lives.

That first day of school there was mayhem in the classroom. Mom rang the bell, but little changed. As she told the story in later years she said she knew that if she was going to achieve any order she might as well start with the toughest case. So she walked up to the biggest of the boys, who was quite handsome. She asked him if he had heard the bell, and his answer to her was “So what if I did?”

Mom doubled up both of her fists and hit him as hard as she could in the chest and knocked him down. She said, “So this. Now would you like to take your seat?”

He said, “I believe I would.”

Mother then went to whom she estimated to be the next biggest boy and asked, “Would you like to take your seat?”

He said, “I believe I would.”

She didn’t have to go to any more students. Each quietly sat down. Mother then said, “Kids, this can be the best year you’ve ever had, or it can be the worst. But understand this, whichever kind it is, I’m going to be in charge.”

Mom said it was one of the best years. A few years ago, I was asked to do the burial service for that ‘first offender’ that found out Mom meant business. I had never known him, for he had moved away many years ago. But his widow called me over to talk to her and the first words she said were, “You know your mother taught my husband.” And I said I did know. She added, “You know she taught me, too.” And I said I suspected she had. But then came the clincher: “You know we really loved your mother, and she loved us, too.”

I would say, “There, take that Dr. Spock,” but he already admitted to ruining a generation of American kids.



My good friend Harry Lyon had been at some religious conference where one of the main speakers made a “buzz-word” out of the word moderation. He went on at some length about everything being alright as long as it was done ‘in moderation.’ Harry was a hard worker in the Episcopal church, even a lay reader, and said he truly had to restrain himself because he so wanted to get up and say, “Really, adultery in moderation, too?”



One of the traditions that was special for the first many years after I returned to Lusk to preach was the morning coffee break at the Coffee Cup Café. There was a large round table in the dining room, and as ten o’clock approached guys began showing up. Many were businessmen downtown, but there were administrators from the school, retirees, an occasional rancher, and even a couple of preachers. Saturday morning and during the summer we would also be joined by teachers and coaches. The normal crowd was ten to twelve, but sometimes there were even more.

There were some humorous moments and in general just a lot of idle chit-chat. Not surprisingly there was often a rehash of the most recent game the High School had played. There was a basketball season where the local team had started out very well-in fact had been ranked first in the State in our class. After the team surrendered a substantial third quarter lead two games in a row and went on to lose the games, the season was never the same. I was writing sports and it is still the most perplexing season I ever covered. We might beat a team by thirty or forty points, but decent teams might beat us substantially. A team we had barely scraped by while ranked first beat us by thirty on their court.

Two or three of the coffee regulars talked nearly every day about the squad and what was wrong with it. It did get tedious listening to the constant criticism and their certainty of what could be done to fix what ailed our team. We all took it pretty much in stride until one day Dale Fullerton said, “I don’t want to hear any more about it. Talk about something else.” The perpetrators of the offensive conversation looked at him as if he had come from some other planet, and one of them told him to shut up-and they resumed their diatribe.

Dale said, “I’m not kidding. I’m not listening to any more of this.” And with that he pulled his chair away from the table and did a handstand on it for several seconds. Then looking like some Olympic gymnast this 45-year old entrepreneur did a dismount and a couple of cartwheels out the door of the room.

It did get silent-for a few seconds, and then most of us had a pretty good chuckle.


For the first many years that I did stats for the sports teams as well as writing for the Lusk Herald, it was commonplace to have most of the dads as well as many of the other fans come into the locker room after the game. Sometimes it would be so crowded for the first few minutes that it was hard to get from one end of it to the other. Although there are many times of celebration that I will never forget as well as some horrible “agony of defeat” times, there are a couple of incidents that stand out for different reasons.

Before I even attended the Church of Christ let alone preach at it, there was a minister there who had a couple of very athletic sons. Orval Prather was the preacher, and the boys were Willis and Virgil. Willis established a new rushing record his senior year, and his brother Virgil who was my age and a good friend was good at both football and basketball-in fact good enough at basketball to start as a sophomore (and after they moved he went on to become all-state in Colorado.) There was a referee of that era who called fouls incredibly strictly. In today’s game I can’t imagine either team having any players left if he still officiated the same way he did then. The particular game I am thinking about he fouled our entire starting lineup out-and many of the calls were truly ridiculous. Willis and Virgil were both starters.

After the game, Mr. Prather came down to the locker room. Everyone was upset. Our Coach was Harold Whitefoot, a flaming redhead, and all the cliches anyone ever voiced about the temper of a redhead came true in Harold. We all thought Coach was angry, but when Orval Prather came into the room, we found out what angry was. He truly was so mad that he was sputtering- holding his glasses, veins standing out in his forehead, and his face about as red as Coach Whitefoot’s hair. It was the best thing that could have happened, because Coach got so tickled at Orval’s outburst that he started laughing and said, “Here, Orval, I’ll lend you my vocabulary.”


The other incident I have in mind is one where I would ordinarily not mention the person by name. But this is a little different. It involves people who were my next door neighbors. There is a friendship that goes back forever. Lex Madden is the first young person I ever hung around with when I came back to preach. He has had cattle in our pasture non-stop since he was a senior in High School. I did his wedding. I was there when he hosted the World Auctioneering Championships as the person holding the title. And, besides, he has told so many stories at my expense during golf tournaments and at various cattle auctions that he needs to know why it is said you better be careful what you say about people who have printer’s ink in their veins.

Lex was a senior in that aforementioned season when everything went from superlative to so-so. He was the point guard and set a season assist record that season that lasted for over thirty years. The opening game at State Tournament we were in the bracket against a team from the western half of the state, and one that we should have been able to handle with ease. We didn’t, and lost.

Lex’s dad came storming into the locker room. Joe had been a champion in the rodeo ranks and he was still quite a physical specimen. Shawn tried to keep him out or keep him quiet, but Joe was having none of it. I will only give the censored version, but basically his speech was, “What is going on here? I demand an explanation.” And Shawn would say something like, “Dad, “ or “Joe” and try to get him to stop, but Joe would continue, “No, (expletive deleted) I demand an explanation.”

It definitely was an unusual moment, and I’m sure very embarrassing to both Lex and Shawn. Everyone was already pretty upset in the locker room, and unlike the previous incident, I’m quite sure no one started laughing.

In retrospect, I have had many a chuckle about that incident, too. And when I see some team seriously underperform-right up to the professional ranks-many a time I have wished that I or someone I delegated could go in and do an updated version: “What is going on here? I demand
an explanation.”



Mom’s first cousin Talmage was a strong-willed person. His mother Nellie Mae was likewise strong-willed. As a kid growing up in the twenties and thirties, Tal was not in trouble in the sense of running afoul of the law, running with the wrong crowd, or ruining his life with alcohol. Apparently, though, there were many face-offs between mother and son.

Talmage was an excellent musician. He played Hawaiian guitar at times with the musical entourage accompanying the flamboyant evangelist of the era-Amy Semple McPherson. More commonly my mother and other family members heard him play the trumpet. Mother said he was a fabulous trumpet player. Consequently, Aunt Nellie liked to “show him off.” And although he had not one shy bone in his body or ever apparently nerve one when in front of the public, the fact of his mother wanting him to play in order to please her made him not want to play in order to displease her.

The “flashy” repertoire of the trumpet players included arrangements and original compositions by Herbert L. Clarke-there were still many of those left in the school music folders even in my era. Clarke’s most famous arrangement was of the timeless “Carnival of Venice.” The number that Mom particularly liked was his own composition: “Lillian.” Clarke’s pieces featured lots of triple-tonguing as well as beautiful melodies and other technical tour-de-force’s.

One day Aunt Nellie told Talmage, “Play ‘Lillian’ for Garnet.” Talmage refused. After a couple of more requests and refusals, Mom said Aunt Nellie rolled up a newspaper and started swatting Talmage with it like she was trying to housebreak a dog. Talmage proceeded to play-beautifully, according to Mom-with the tears streaming down his face and Aunt Nellie occasionally giving him yet one more “encouraging” swat with the paper.


At some point in his adolescence Aunt Nellie dispatched Talmage to Wyoming to live for a year with a first cousin of hers. They had a ranching operation near Glendo, where Talmage attended school for a year. The location of the ranch is now part of the immense amount of property that is covered by the waters of Glendo reservoir.

Talmage returned to Southern California, and he began his higher education at Pasadena College-where he still lived at home since it was the neighbor city. Ultimately he graduated from the University of Southern California and later their law college. However, one of those years he attended the University of Arizona in Tucson. I don’t know if it was desire of his to expand his horizons, another “deportation,” or a combination of both.

That experience produced an incident that Tal himself loved to tell. After he had been there about a month, the student elections were coming up and he decided to run for student body president. There were several candidates, and Talmage came in second. After the election was over, his campaign manager came up and congratulated him.

“Talmage. I think that’s fabulous. You’ve been here six weeks and you came in second. If you had only been here three weeks, you would have won!"



Great-Grandpa Andrew moved to California in 1910, and his daughter Nellie Mae wasn’t many years behind. Grandpa always said that it must not have taken her long to forget some of the realities of life on a ranch. She and her family came back for a visit sometime in the twenties or early thirties, and were asked for a meal with a ranch family Nellie was sure was far from prosperous. So she coached her son Talmage: “Talmage, these folks are poor. They are not going to have the kind of food you are used to eating. So for heaven’s sake, don’t say something to embarrass me.”

What she forgot was that in spite of their lack of cash, they raised beef and had a huge garden-and like most ranch ladies, this one was a great cook. Near the conclusion of the meal, a truly fabulous one with many different foods, Talmage couldn’t contain himself any longer. He said, “What I don’t understand is, if you folks are so poor how you can eat this way?”


Grandpa Len’s mother died when he was nine. Andrew remarried, and his second wife Eva outlived him by some twenty years. For many of those years she lived with Monte and Nellie. In the many references I ever heard Talmage make that concerned her, it was obvious the love and respect he had for her. Apparently in the latter years of her life she suffered from some dementia.

One summer she and Aunt Nellie made a visit to Wyoming to see Len, Jim, and their families. Although Grandpa still owned the divide ranch-the one that includes the original homestead which I still operate in the summer-no one lived on it any longer. Transportation was not quite as reliable as it is now, and Mom recounted also that between the ranch on Brush Creek and the one on the divide, there were thirteen gates to open and shut.

One day Aunt Nellie said, “Ma, let’s go up to the divide ranch today.” Of course that was the only ranch there was when Eva had lived in Wyoming. Eva agreed she wanted to go. Aunt Nellie said she would fix some food to take along. Eva said that wouldn’t be necessary. Aunt Nellie said, “Ma-we might get hungry. I better bring a lunch.”

And then, whether it was some dementia or just too many years in Southern California, Eva said, “Well, Nell, if we do get hungry, we can just stop somewhere and get a hamburger.”



At one time there were many more cattle buyers driving out from states such as Iowa or Illinois. They were either looking to put cattle in their own feed lots, or they were trying to purchase cattle for other feeders. Some just went to area auctions, but a number of them would go look at a variety of owners’ cattle out in the pasture.

Some time in the fifties a pair of these fellows had driven out together and wanted to look at our cattle. One had brought his car, and the other had agreed to pay for the gas. Although fuel was relatively cheap, the car had a large motor and made abominable mileage. The purchaser of the fuel made some remarks indicating he thought he had the poorer end of the deal.

As soon as they had gone a few miles on the way to our ranch, the car unexpectedly quit running. The owner was preparing to get out and look under the hood, but as he was getting ready to do that, he made the remark that something had probably gotten stuck in the fuel line. His compatriot shot back that if anything had, it must have been a jack rabbit.



It is always somewhat dangerous as a minister in a small town using any illustration featuring someone doing or saying something that would put that person in a negative light. Even if the person is not named, there is always a good chance that some of your listeners may realize who it is you are talking about.

I have to do the briefest of genealogy lessons for non-family members. My great-grandfather was named Andrew Christian and he was born in Denmark in 1852. He did not name any of his children after him. However, his brother Chris did have a son he named Andrew, born in America in 1882. To say that he seldom looked on the bright side would be a kind understatement.

How this fact and the peril of using real-life people in your illustrations tie together became clear one morning at church. We attended the Open Bible Church, and from the time I was five until midway through my Junior year in High School, the pastors were Frank and Esther Bozart. They were wonderful people and quite special to my family and me. One day in a message Frank was making a point about always being negative, and he began an illustration by saying, “There is a man in this town for whom nothing ever goes right. If it rains on everyone else’s pasture, it never rains on his.” He went on, but of course we all nudged each other because we new he could only be talking about Andy. When church was over and we were all getting ready to leave, Mom said to Dad and me, “Watch this.”

As she was getting ready to shake Frank’s hand, she said, “Well, I hope you know we won’t be coming here to church anymore.”

Frank was taken aback and asked why that was.

Mom said, “Well, I just can’t keep attending a church where the minister penly castigates my relatives.”

Frank said, “How did you know who I was talking about?”

Mom shot back, “Everyone in church knew. That’ s what I’m talking about.”

Reverend Bozart looked so crestfallen that Mom couldn’t keep it up any longer. She started to laugh and assured Frank that none of us were offended, because we had all said the same things he had said many times because we knew Andy better than he did. Once he knew Mom really wasn’t mad, he laughed harder than the rest of us.


‘THE RAIN IN SPAIN (Kirtley) STAYS MAINLY ON THE PLAIN” (the other side of the fence)

Grandpa Len got really disgusted about Andy saying it “dus never rains on my pasture.” One day Grandpa was out at the ranch when there was a downpour. Andy’s place was only two or three miles from ours and Grandpa could see the cloud was squarely over his land.

That night at supper Grandpa said, “I’m going to get the old cuss this time, because I know he had a good rain.”

Grandpa came back from town shaking his head the next day. He had said, “Andy, I know you got a good rain yesterday.” Andrew grudgingly admitted he had, but he added, “You know, it ‘dus seemed like there wasn’t much moisture in that rain.”



I was a pretty well-behaved child, so I am told. (Really, I am not saying this tongue in cheek. One of Mom’s friends told her once when I was a few years older that she thought I had always been too well-behaved-that I didn’t even do the somewhat ornery things that most kids do.) The big chink in my armor of total respectability was my stubbornness. Mom said from early on that if she told me to quit doing something, I would always do it once more just to show I could. In fact there was a point in my life where she even started calling me, “Once more Lohr.”

On the day in question I don’t remember what it was that I was doing to annoy her. I do remember she was downstairs in the laundry room. She got exasperated with me and said, “Mark Steven, if I had a stick I’d give you a swat with it.”

In those days there seemed to be quite a few wooden boxes that various things were sold in-it particularly seems to me that commodities like fresh peaches often came in such a box. I remembered that outside we had a couple of those boxes, and one of them had a couple of broken slats. So I went out, got one of those, brought it back in and said, “Here, Mommy, here’s your stick; you can spank me now.”

Mom said of course she couldn’t spank me then. Perhaps that was the earliest indication that I might have a limited future in politics.


What we have here is a failure to communicate.

“Cool Hand Luke”

When I was a Senior in High School my parents told me that they would purchase me a new car to go to the University if I had sufficient scholarships to pay for my schooling. It became evident that I did, and they were set to make good on their promise of a car.

When they asked me what I wanted I told them I wanted a Corvette Sting Ray. This was not a very popular choice with them, but I presented all my evidence for why it was a good idea. First and foremost, it had a tremendous resale value. Unbelievably at that time a Corvette was not that much more expensive than a top of the line Chevy-just a bit over a thousand dollars more. I was not a reckless driver, but I think they feared I might become one if I had a Corvette.

I kept up my campaign. One day at lunch on the Friday of a home football game I told Mom I was going to go down to Stan’s after school and order the car. She must have had her mind on something else, but she said, “OK.” I was so excited that I might as well not have gone to class that afternoon.

When I went into Stan’s office, it didn’t take long to get the order made out-I knew exactly what I wanted. It’s still somewhat amazing to me, but Stan didn’t really question whether I had my folks’ permission to do this transaction.

My Aunt Iris, Dad’s sister, ran a café right across the street from the High School-the Chat ‘n Chew. We ate there quite a bit, and that particular night we met to eat before the game. As we started eating I told my folks that I had ordered the car. Mom said, “You what?” I told them again that I had ordered it, and Mom said, “Well you can go right down tomorrow morning and un-order it.”

I told that she had said at noon it was OK, and we had a bit of a spat as to whether she had or hadn’t. Meanwhile Dad said he was getting more embarrassed by the moment-really wishing he wasn’t there with us. For me it was an awkward moment; I wouldn’t have ordered the Corvette if I had not been sure Mom had told me to go ahead. I felt like it was going to be really embarrassing to go tell Stan not to go ahead with the transaction-making me look like a kid having pulled some darned fool stunt.

So I said to Mom, “If you don’t want me to have the car, you go down and tell Stan. I ordered it in good faith and thought I had permission to. If I don’t have permission, then you’re the one that is going to have to go and tell him.” I never fought with my folks, and I knew they didn’t owe me a car let alone that particular car. But I wasn’t alright with going down to the garage and acting like I had done what I wasn’t supposed to do when I was sure I hadn’t.

Of course even then I was covering the games for the paper, so I had to get over to the field before the matter was really resolved. I don’t know to this day exactly what transpired when my folks talked it over, but they let the order stand.

It was a tremendous car, and it did hold its value incredibly well. But the thing that was the biggest surprise was that Mom really liked the car-and she even enjoyed driving it. The only mini-argument we ever had about it would be when she would say, “I think your car is cute.” And I would say, “Mom whatever else it may be, Sting Ray’s are not ‘cute.’”


You can fool all of the people some of the time…

I had to behave myself very well when I was behind the wheel of the Corvette-particularly those first few months. Any time I got anywhere near to a law enforcement vehicle I could see them paying attention to me-waiting for me to show my ‘true colors’ or something. In that time about everyone of us spent a lot of time riding around. We had a main street so “dragging main” was a popular pastime. Before long I seldom dragged main. My reasons were two-fold. First of all is the afore-mention scrutiny I encountered from the gendarmes when I did. But the other reason was that I thought it was boring to go back and forth, back and forth. Instead I would drive up and down many different streets one time only-and take an occasional run outside the city limits. I used to jokingly tell whoever was riding with me that the old-timers when they saw the kids dragging main would say, “Darned worthless kids-dragging main again.” But hopefully when they saw me (for the one and only time on their street) they would say, “There goes Mark Lohr on some errand of mercy.”



I was curious how fast the ‘Vette would go, and one clear day my friend Steve Cockreham and I decided to find out. The speedometer went to 160, but I was doubting it would go that fast, because my model was not the “souped up” larger engine. We got on this straight and level piece of road, and I had it up to 140. I think it would have gone some faster, but my common sense started kicking in-even if a little bit late.

Not many people asked to drive my car, but there was this one girl that did. She just wouldn’t let up, day in and day out. So one beautiful moonlit night after a basketball game I agreed that I would let her drive. Steve went along. That car did not have a hard console like most two-seaters do, but rather a firm cushion in between the seats-so it was possible for three people to ride a few miles in it without being really uncomfortable.

I had a plan, and in retrospect it might have not been the wisest plan, but it worked. Knowing her as I did I was fairly sure that when she got behind the wheel she would scare me to death. So I told her I would drive on the way out and she could drive back into town. On the way out I explained some unusual things about driving the car-things like how it looked like the highway was coming right through the windshield and also how there was really little sensation of how fast you were going since the car was built for high speeds. Then I demonstrated. That was the second time I drove the car 140. I didn’t show off, or do anything other than just get it up to that speed. Then I let her drive. My theory had been proved correct. When she got behind the wheel she was scared to death, and I don’t think she even got it up to sixty on the way back to town…I figured if one of us was going to be nervous when the other one drove, it wasn’t going to be me.



Lexie, Honey, if you are trying to get on Momma’s nerves, you can’t…because you’re already on them.

-Glenna (circa 1975)

Lex went on a trip with my folks and me his freshman year in college. We flew with lots of Nebraska fans down to Phoenix where Nebraska was playing Arizona State in the Fiesta Bowl. At that time ASU was in the WAC- which Wyoming also was. My family was also hoping ASU would win, but we were seated in the midst of twelve thousand rabid ‘Husker fans-so as the Bible says, “we were disciples in secret, for fear…” Not so Lex. He was on his feet, constantly cheering for the Sun Devils, who went on to win. To say he was glared at is an understatement. The “if looks could kill” cliché was not far from the truth. He was just lucky he was amid some good God-fearin’ folks from the edge of the Bible Belt. We were lucky too, because we might have been ‘collateral damage’ if he had been attacked.

(Note: in those pre-BCS days {which could accurately be shortened one letter to show what it really is} the Arizona State victory gave them a second place ranking in the nation. That was the highest a team from our conference had ever finished at that time, although BYU did end up National Champion a few years later. That high a ranking is something that could never happen for our conference in the current system-as Boise State has been demonstrating in recent seasons. I know this narrative is supposed to be humor-oriented. For those of you who need it spelled out: the BCS is the joke for this paragraph.)

After the game we went on to Los Angeles and watched an NFL playoff game between St. Louis and LA. “Watched” is not an entirely accurate word. I never saw the fog/smog combination worse than that day. We were seated about the goal line, and a “fairy-ring” of smog hovered close to field level. Whether anything funny happened that day, I don’t recall. What I do know is that I never realized how limited the parking was at the Coliseum, and it was not exactly the neighborhood for taking a safe and leisurely walk.

We ended the trip by being booked for about three or four nights in Las Vegas. In my family there is a famous story Mom liked to tell about one of my cousins when we went chokecherry picking and all of us kids were small. After quite a trek one sat down by the creek we were hiking along and announced, “I can’t walk and I won’t walk.” The protestor didn’t walk and was carried the rest of the way.

I had a difficult time finding a place to stay in Las Vegas on the holiday weekend and had booked a room off the strip in some national motel chain. It was a really bad room for a reputable chain and far enough below ground level that Mom had to stand on a chair to see out the window. She did her version of my cousin and said, “I can’t stay here and I won’t stay here. We’ll have to for tonight, but this is it.”

Once she had been scheduled for an operation in a famous clinic that when we got there appeared to be unchanged since Civil War days. She called a friend in St. Louis and got a new doctor and hospital. She loved Grandpa’s story about the drunk making a shortcut through the cemetery to get home on a rainy evening. He fell into an open grave, and due to the slippery soil found he was unable to get out. Half an hour later another drunk fell into the same grave. As he was attempting to extricate himself the first drunk said, “You might as well quit trying. You’ll never make it” “But,” Grandpa would say, “he did.” Mom had a claustrophobic attack while we were going through a captured German submarine in a Chicago museum and told Dad and me she was going to have to get out of there. Dad said she would never make it because we were walking single file and it was extremely narrow. But she insisted she would-and she did.

I told her it was probably futile to go searching for new accommodations with sixty thousand visitors in town for the weekend when I had already tried that much earlier. But we did, and we actually found some much better accommodations right on the strip.

Of course, Lex and I had a room and my folks another. We didn’t know Mom was having a struggle with pain until after the fact. She was spending a lot of each night in the bathtub to try to alleviate it. Only when we got home did she discover that she had shingles. Mother being the kidder she was told Lex that it was his fault that she had gotten the shingles-because he made her so nervous. From that time on his standard threat to Mom was, “You better behave yourself, Lohr, or I’ll give you the shingles again.” (It used to infuriate Glenna that Lex called Mom “Lohr” instead of Mrs. Lohr or even Garnet. But Lex said, “Ah, Lohr would think I didn’t love her if I called her something else.”)


Close to fifteen years later, after Dad had died, Lex called one day and wanted to talk to me about some matter concerning the ranch. Mom told him I wasn’t there, and then she said, “You know, Lex, if there was a little less age difference between us, I think I might chase you.”

A few days later, Lex called again with Mom answering. He said, “You know, Lohr, I’ve been thinking about your generous offer, and I think maybe I could go for a more mature, experienced lady. Of course, you understand that I would need to see a financial statement first.”

Mom said, “Oh skip it, Madden. Besides, I don’t think Mark would like to call you ‘Dad.’”


Probably his first or second year in college, I was at their house in Lusk and Wilma was over visiting Glenna. I think they were already playing gin. Lex said, “Come on, Rev, lets play Glenna and Wilma a few games of gin.” They agreed, and we had every card in the deck-and of course we played them flawlessly. After a few games we had them down what would have been an embarrassing amount of money, but it being my maiden voyage, I assumed we were just playing for fun. I said, “Oh Lex, I can’t take money from your Mom and Wilma.” He said, “Oh yes you can. Get out your checkbook Glenna.” She did, and my list of things that the media would be sure to find if I sought higher office had another entry.


One of my Bible College professors had told us about there being a ‘honeymoon period’ for a new preacher in a community. I certainly experienced that when I came back to Lusk to preach. It was particularly true where the young people were concerned. We had very few members from the High School, but that first couple of years I had nearly fifty different kids that at least tried us out some. One of the aspects of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ is their practice of not calling their ministers “Reverend.” Of course if there is a younger minister that is doing a lot of things with kids in High School, it is almost inevitable that the nickname of that individual will end up being “Rev“ or“ The Rev.” That was the way it was with me, and it was twenty years or more that I was seldom addressed any other way by the kids. Lex was one of the first to call me ‘The Rev’ and he took great pains to explain whey he did. “I’m not calling you ‘The Rev’ because you are a reverend. I am calling you that because there is this black shyster preacher in Harlem with a couple of Rolls Royce’s (which was true) who is shamelessly fleecing his flock, and that is his title: ‘The Rev.’ I think you’re just like him.”


There was a certain piece of land that Joe had leased for many years-but he had lost the lease on it. However, even after the lease was up, Joe continued to have cattle running there. The new lessee gathered the cattle and hauled them the few miles to the sale barn area, which belonged to Joe. However, Joe took them back. This happened at least a couple of times.

Lex called me one April afternoon-early. He was still a Senior in High School, but Joe had him taking care of the cattle. A huge storm was forecast to hit in two or three hours, and Lex said he needed my help to get the cattle in the barn on the place that Joe no longer had rented but where the cattle were. I agreed to go along, and we went out in Lex’s old blue Chevy which was a car somewhat over twenty years old. The temperature was plummeting and the snow flakes were already in the air-but somehow we got them all in. Then Lex said, “We still have a problem.”  I said, “What is that?”

He said, “We don’t have any feed for the cattle. This is going to be a bad storm and they need some hay.”

Where would we get any hay I was wondering. Lex said, “I know who has some hay, and it’s close.” When I asked who had the hay, he said it was Mel Merchen. I started to laugh in spite of myself-because Mel was the person who now had the lease and had been having to forcibly remove the offending critters of Joe’s from his leased land. But we drove over to Mel’s. His son Todd and Lex were classmates, were great friends, and I was friends with all of them. It could have been a really tense moment, but Mel was quite a guy. Lex said something about we all knew how Joe was, and Mel quite simply said, “I’ll get you some hay.” And Lex said, “We don’t have any way to haul it either.” Mel said, “I’ll take care of that.” He did, and it was a good thing, because it was no ordinary storm.

The “who has the lease?” matter was settled shortly after in court with Mel coming out the victor. It didn’t take any decision by the court for him to be awarded “Good neighbor of the year.”



Mother said that often when she was heading to the Brush Creek ranch for the weekend, George and Elsie Christian would ask her to stop in on the way by and eat with them. Mom said she welcomed those invitations because after a hard week of school even a momentary break was nice before the fairly heavy workload of the upcoming couple of days as she had so many things to take care of at the home place due to Grandma’s declining health.

One of those times Elsie said after some remark George had made, “George, would you not argue about every statement I make? Garnet will think we don’t get along at all. For once could you try agreeing when I say something?”

Mom said that several minutes later Elsie said, “Well, Garnet, I’m sorry-but this isn’t much of a meal tonight, probably not good enough to have had company in.” And George meekly said, “No truer words were ever spoke, my love.”


George and Elsie had a nice dinner party one evening, and when the guests had left and they were both getting the tables cleared and the dishes cleaned, Elsie opened the refrigerator and said, “Oh, George. Here’s my salad. I forgot to serve the salad.” George said, “Well, we owe equally as many people more as we asked tonight, so let’s just have another party tomorrow.” Elsie agreed, and the phone calls were made.

Everything went well the next evening, and in spite of two fairly intense days in a row, both were pleased-that is until Elsie went to put something away in the refrigerator and said, “George, my salad is still here. I forgot it again.”


Maybe it had something to do with living over the breaks. On an occasion after Grandpa had sold the Brush Creek ranch to Russ and Mary Jo Thompson, Mary Jo had my family out for dinner. It was a great meal, and after dessert, Mary Jo asked what kind of pie everyone thought he had just eaten.

Mother said, “It was pumpkin, wasn’t it?”

Mary Jo said, “It was supposed to be, but after I took the pies out of the oven, I saw my cans of pumpkin-still unopened-sitting on the counter.


Of course, Russ Thompson played football professionally-mostly for the Chicago Bears, but also for the Philadelphia Eagles for one season. It was a couple of years after his retirement that he purchased Granddad’s valley ranch. Sometime in the mid-forties, Mary Jo asked Mom to come with her to a football game that Russ was refereeing. There were not the numerous officials there are now, and that evening Russ was the only ref. There are many virtual giants playing the sport these days, but for his day and time Russ was a truly huge, unusually strong man.

The game was between Lusk and Gillette. The game site was in the area where the little league fields now are-but then the ground was quite rocky. There were no locker rooms at that area. When the game was over and the Lusk team had gone back to the school to shower and dress, a few of the visiting team and their coach stuck around. They had not appreciated Russ’s officiating, and they physically attacked him. Evidently the Lusk people had all left, and seven or eight people had Russ down-pounding on him. Mom said when Mary Jo realized what was going on, she got right in the middle of the fracas and took off her high heel shoes and started using the heels as a weapon.

Mom told Mary Jo to please skip inviting her the next time Russ refereed.


Russ was very witty. For a few years we pastured yearlings for him at Kirtley. Then he quit running yearlings and wanted us to run some cows and calves for him. We really didn’t want to-because our pasture is not the best to run pairs due to the positioning of the windmills and the extra pressure put on the water sources by pairs. But, we acquiesced.

What transpired was that as we reached the peak of the grazing season, when the temperatures are the warmest and the calm spells more prevalent-we found ourselves perpetually short on water and having to haul quite a bit of it. We had an arrangement where we paid for some of the costs, but after a certain amount had been spent, the rest of the bills all went to Russ.

One day he was talking to Mom on the telephone and telling her that the water expenses were getting pretty high.

Mom said, “Well if your stupid old cows wouldn’t just hug the tank all day drinking and get out there and spend a little time eating, we wouldn’t run short of water.”

Russ said, “Could you keep your voice down. My cows are very intelligent, and if they hear what you’re saying, it’s going to really hurt their feelings.”



Grandpa always went to bed fairly early. One evening down on the Brush Creek ranch, he was already in bed. Grandma and Mom were having a conversation in another room, and suddenly they heard Grandpa talking. They quickly realized that he was talking in his sleep. The repetitive gist of his spiel was, “I don’t know anything about that. That’s one thing I just don’t know anything about. No sir, I don’t know a thing about that.”

Grandma said, “Honey, will you run into the bedroom and see if it really is your dad in that bed?”



A couple of years or so before his death, Jim Christian was having some very serious health problems. He was in a hospital in Denver, and in those days there really wasn’t the equivalent of the current Intensive Care Units. If the patient was serious enough, though, a nurse would be stationed with him at all times. As the shift was changing, the new nurse asked the one who was getting off duty, “What would you say Mr. Christian’s chances are?” The two were standing in the hallway outside his room, and the other one answered, “I would say they are no better than fifty-fifty.”

When the nurse coming on duty entered the room, Uncle Jim was sitting up on the side of the bed. “Give me my britches,” he said.

“Why do you want your trousers, Mr. Christian?”

“Because I’m going home.”

“But Mr. Christian, you can’t go home.”

And Uncle Jim said, “The hell I can’t. I heard the odds, and they aren’t good enough.”

He did go home and improved remarkably from what was supposed to be his final illness.



Uncle Jim had some grandkids that were substantially older than me, but there were several who were only a few years older. Consequently I was sometimes invited to one of their birthday celebrations that Aunt Nell held at their house. One day I had gone and sat on his knee and told him some Bible story that I had just learned in Sunday School. Uncle Jim got all the rest of the kids attention because he wanted them to hear the story, too. His summons? “Gather ‘round all you sinners and hear the Gospel.”


Uncle Jim had a great appreciation of music. I never heard him play the violin, but I know he did, because Mom eventually ended up with his violin-which she always said had a better tone than hers. As luck would have it one of his kids decided to visit the Church of Christ one Sunday after I had become the minister, and I had an “Uncle Jim” story in my message. I was nervous as that point in the sermon got closer-wondering if I should leave the story out. I didn’t. Uncle Jim once told Mom, “Eight kids I had, and I gave them all music lessons. But if I want to hear a tune, I have to whistle.”

Luckily Edith, for that is who was there, got as big a charge out of it as everyone else.


When Mom first started teaching in Lusk, she lived for a couple of winters in the Ranger Hotel. Uncle Jim ate downtown a lot, and he and Mom enjoyed each other’s company and shared a lot of meals. One of the closer cafes was the X-L. It had one of those old time entry ways with a transom over the front door-one of those shutter like pieces (usually mostly glass) that could remain open even when the door was closed and allow some air in. On the day in question Mom said the temperature was well below zero and yet the proprietor had the transom open. It was frigid inside, and Uncle Jim called the her over. “Annie, could you close that transom? We’re just a teensy bit cold.” Mother said the lady flew into a rage-a basically ‘the customer is always wrong’ sort of tirade-and told Uncle Jim she had her help to think about and she couldn’t let them get too hot. Mom said Uncle Jim said, “That’s OK then, Annie. We were just a teensy bit cold.”


Avoid every appearance of evil

-Paul ‘The Bible’

Mother played several different musical instruments. After she started attending the Open Bible Church, she often played the piano for their services. I’m not sure on the day she and Aunt Gladys were playing a duet for the offertory whether Mom was playing the piano, but I suspect she was playing the Hawaiian Guitar. Aunt Gladys was definitely playing the mandolin. At the Open Bible the offering was received in velvet bags with wooden handles on them. The custom was for the ushers to begin by putting those bags in front of the pianist and any musical performers that might be going to do a special number during the offering.

That is what happened on that certain day, and as the number was about to begin, Aunt Gladys let out a little whoop, put down her mandolin, and started pursuing the nearest usher. When she got there she grabbed the offering bag and started rummaging through it. Mom said she wanted to sink through the floor she was so embarrassed. The reason for the pursuit? When she was ready to start playing Aunt Gladys realized that along with her offering she had dropped her mandolin pick into the bag and could not play until she retrieved it.



Half a century ago some of the more conservative churches frowned on many social activities-and one of those was certainly dancing. A lot of those same churches now hold dances for the youth on premises. Something else that was quite different in that era in Lusk was that the Prom seemed to be as much for adults as it was for the High School students. It was a big social event which usually featured good music-an evening enjoyed by a wide cross-section of the community. Mom and Dad attended one of those proms, and the minister at that time was a photographer and had been hired to take photographs at the Prom. Of course Mom and Dad saw him pursuing his trade, and he saw them.

It was in the same era when Mom was the normal pianist for the church. However, when she arrived the next morning someone else was installed on the piano bench, and Mom was on the end of a little lecture about his not approving of his pianist being at the dance. Mother was a little put off about the matter for the fact of the obvious incongruity of it being OK for him to make money at an event of which he did not approve, but not OK for her to simply be there enjoying it as an invited guest. After the service the minister’s wife came over and said, “Garnet, why weren’t you playing this morning?” Mom told her, and the lady said, “Don’t worry. You will be playing next week.” And Mom was.



One reason I feel as comfortable as I do telling so many of these stories is that many of them were the favorite tales of the very people who did not come out looking so good in the stories. It is like the fellow out in the area where Dad was born that was definitely mentally challenged. Dad said he used to say, “I only tried to be smart twice, and I was de goat both times.”

Before either Russ Thompson or Eddie Plumb moved to this area they were in the surrounds of Ardmore, South Dakota. Before he became a cow man, Russ ran sheep. Of course there is that inexplicable but often actual disdain of the cattle person for the sheep person. Russ was going to be moving his sheep across some of Eddie’s land, and so Eddie told his kids, “Come on out and see how your Dad handles a sheepherder.”

Eddie went outside and took one look at the size and obvious toughness of Big Russ and said, “Well hello there. Would you and your men like to come inside for a bite of lunch?”


Dad only ever served on one jury that I know about. It was many years ago when the routing of the highway going west of Lusk was substantially altered to what it presently is. I was quite young and don’t remember every detail of the case, but think it was basically an attempt by several parties to get an enhanced settlement for their loss of property through a civil action. Eddie Plumb was one of the plaintiffs, with his house being close to where the road now runs. I know he had some horses because my favorite horse during my pre-teen and early teen years was a pinto we purchased from Eddie.

The piece of land was on the eastern slope of the Manville hill a couple of miles west of town-a windswept area to say the least. It was not the kind of place to have thriving deciduous trees, and it didn’t. There were some scraggly, willowy looking specimens-neither numerous or looking like they were apt to survive much longer. Eddie’s contention was that the main reason he should be getting a larger settlement had a lot to do with those trees. Dad said that Eddie practically got teary-eyed as he told the jury that his orchard was going to be destroyed-his beautiful and irreplaceable orchard that he had so lovingly nurtured. I don’t know how the case was decided, or if Eddie got his well-deserved Oscar.


Eddie was one of those legitimate characters I spoke about earlier. He had just exactly the right demeanor to make a game of cards enjoyable-and the tales he would spin were just great. One day for his birthday we all signed a card that someone had purchased for him. On the front there was the picture of a loading chute and a cowboy getting a bull that had to have weighed better than a ton loaded into a pickup with a stock rack on it. Inside the message was, “To the champion bull shipper of them all.”

Again Eddie got that solemn look on his face-like he was about ready to bawl, and said with a hurt tone in his voice, “Now why would you boys give me that card?”



Grandma had been diabetic for several years, and when Grandpa discovered that he was also, they decided to sell the Brush Creek ranch and move to town. They purchased the house on Main Street from Lena Henry, and were set to move in on a Wednesday. The Saturday before Mom brought Grandma to town, and one of the things she wanted to do was visit with Mrs. Henry about something. It was to be a brief matter and Mom was just going to wait in the car while Grandma completed her errand.

Mrs. Henry was living in the third house south of ours. Mom looked up after a couple of minutes and saw her mom still standing on the porch and suspected something was wrong. There was. Grandma was having a massive stroke. They got her to the hospital immediately, but she passed away during the night.

Obviously it was devastating for the entire family. Grandma was only 58 and her sudden passing was entirely unexpected. I had not yet been born, and Dad was away in the War. There were lots more burdens for Mom in the next few days. One of the relatives slapped her knee and announced before the funeral that she thought it was so nice that someone would die once in a while so they could all get together. Prior to the funeral other kin and friends got seriously inebriated and were dancing on the davenport in the new home in which my family had not yet gotten settled. Then to top it off, at the funeral the one intoxicated person was so far along that he kept passing out and falling over onto Mom, and she would have to push him back upright. Pretty obviously there is nothing too amusing about this whole chain of events.

A couple of days after the funeral and when everyone had gone home, Mom said she sat down to have a good cry. She had held herself together during all the stressful time and she was physically and emotionally spent. But, she said she had only got the first ‘boo’ and not even the ‘hoo’ out when the doorbell rang. Standing there was someone who had been grieving herself-having lost an adult child in the same time span. Of course, Mom invited her in, and said that such a conversation was hard to imagine. For the two hours or so she stayed, Mom said she never uttered one encouraging word. Her entire conversation was about death, the complete details of each death, the funerals and the internment, how the graves should be landscaped, what types of stones should be purchased, and if there were any other things about doom and gloom-those were included too.

Finally Mother said the lady got up, dabbed her eyes, and said, “Well, my dear. I must be going now. But I just thought I ought to stop by and cheer you up a bit.”

Mom said little did she know that she had achieved her purpose. “I barely got the door shut before I started laughing like I had lost my mind. When I thought of how the whole affair would have tickled my mother, I just couldn’t help myself.”


Always a Lady

One of the last years Mom taught she had a youngster who was prone to using foul language-and that was not so common an occurrence then for a third-grader. Mom said third grade was definitely “tattle age” and one day some of the little girls came in from recess and said, “Mrs. Lohr, Scott said that awful “f” word again.”

Scott was from a transient family and it was his first year in school in Lusk. Mom went back to his desk and said, “Scott, did you say that word?”

He said, “Yeah, I did.” Mom said, “Well, I’m a lady and I won’t tolerate your talking like that.”

Mother said that as she headed back for her desk he said in a stage whisper he intended for everyone to hear, “She thinks she’s a lady.”

Mom headed back to his desk and said, “And what do you think that I am?” This time he shrugged his shoulders and said, “I don’t know.” Mother said she never did handle kids shrugging their shoulders at her in that indifferent manner, so she grabbed him by those shoulders and gave him a shake and said, “I said, what do you think I am.” Again he replied he didn’t know. Mom shook him a little harder, same question, same answer.

By this time Mom said she had him out of his chair, down on the floor, shaking him harder and asking him what he thought she was. She said finally he started to sob, and said, “I think you’re a lady.”

She told Dad that night and he said, “Sure Garnet, you have some poor defenseless kid down on the floor, punching him out and expecting him to tell you that you’re a lady. Do you think a real lady would do that?”



Sometimes just a word or two, or a short phrase is picturesque and strikes my fancy. Here is a short sampler:

At the old Hat Creek store the family would stop in, and when they would ask Dud Fields if he had any pop, he would say:

“I do, but as I say-it’s only basement cool, only basement cool.”


Roy Johnson would stop by and ask “Mr. Len” if he wanted to go and have a cup of “Dr. Johnson’s magic soothing syrup.” (That’s coffee for the uninitiated.)


“That’ll take the little ‘tee-hee’ out of him.”

-both Dad and Uncle Jim


Roy Johnson: “Everything’s copasetic.” (It’s in the dictionary, but when I was younger, I wasn’t sure if that was one of those words you had better not come home and say at the dinner table.)



Uncle Jim had been in a facility in Denver “taking the cure.” The process was taking a little longer than anticipated, and Aunt Nell was running short on funds, which necessitated her going down to get some money from him-since she was not a signatory on the checking account. It was a bit of an awkward moment, for he wasn’t there entirely voluntarily. (This story had to come from him, since the medical personnel were the only other witnesses.) The nurse entered his room and said, “Mr. Christian, your wife is here.”

Uncle Jim said, “I suppose she wants some money.”

The nurse said, “Yes, Mrs. Christian is in need of some money.”

There was silence, and finally the nurse said, “What do you want me to tell her, Mr. Christian?”

Uncle Jim said, “Well, make her out a check.”

“How big a check, Mr. Christian?”

“You better make it a big one, because she’s a spendthrift.”


Anyone who gives someone a car is really giving him a liability.

-Grandpa Len

Cars are so well-made and sophisticated these days that it is difficult for those of us who didn’t live many decades ago to realize what our forebears had to deal with. It was in the midst of winter and both Grandpa and Uncle Jim found themselves needing to make a trip to Harrison for supplies. The roads they took from their valley ranches to get there were little more than rutted trails. On the way back they were going down the Monroe Canyon. Grandpa said it was well below zero. As they were jouncing and bouncing down the trail, Uncle Jim said to Grandpa, “That looks like something that belongs to us” as a tire went rolling on past them. Sure enough-in the extreme cold the axle had broken and the tire had come off. The ruts had been so deep they kept the side of the car from taking an abrupt drop.


Many years later my folks had joined my singing group in Memphis for a three-day singing by top-flight professional groups. (We were spectators also except for entering the talent contest for semi-professional groups.) Mom and Dad had purchased us guys a motor home to use in our touring. They bought us a new one for two reasons. First, they thought when we were done using it there would be a good resale value. Secondly, they thought a new unit would not be apt to be in need of constant and hopefully any repairs. They were right about point one, but there was always something going wrong with the motor home-in spite of it’s being a deluxe model with many positive features.

One day in Memphis we were on one of the boulevards when a car drove up beside us, honking, and motioning for us to pull over and stop. We did, and (shades of the Monroe Canyon story) he said, “I have something that belongs to you.” He had been driving behind us and witnessed the hood vent and fan covering over the stove fly off and land by the curb. He was nice enough to go to all the trouble to retrieve it and chase us down.


My group and I finally decided we were going to make a record. I had been promoting professional groups for over a year, and the first one that I had promoted was the Oak Ridge Boys. By then they had done several programs in Scottsbluff, Gering, and Casper-and they were good friends. Their lead singer Duane Allen had a recording studio in Hendersonville-a suburb of Nashville. The Oak’s Band was lined up to be our studio musicians, and we were all pretty excited.

One of the oddities of the motor home was that it had only one door-that on the passenger side. The day before we were going to record, we couldn’t get that door open. (We later found that the latching apparatus had broken off and was acting as a dead bolt.) It was Sunday, we were over a thousand miles from home, and we had no idea where we could get it fixed. Our immediate problem was how we could even get out of the vehicle. Fortunately there was a large vent that could be cranked open over the bathroom. Del was of slight enough build to crawl through it. Of course it was quite a drop to the ground, but he handled that OK.

The next step was to unlock the storage area (which had an outside lock) that was under my bed and where we had part of our sound equipment stored. Del did that, unloaded the equipment, and then Mark and I were able to crawl out.

We still had not found another alternative the next morning when we had to show up at the studio bright and early. If we were having any problems thinking we were ‘hot stuff’ (an ‘eagle problem’ one of our original singers from Oklahoma used to call it), it certainly got scraped off as Del squeezed through the roof hatch and Mark and I came horizontally out the luggage door.


I got my first experience driving when I was six years old. When we would get to one of the several gates on either ranch, both Dad and Granddad would let me drive through the gate while they opened and closed it. All of our vehicles had manual transmissions, and I don’t see how I could reach the clutch, brake, and accelerator (since I remember having trouble reaching the pedals on our neighbors old upright piano)-but I did. Before long they were allowing me to drive all the time as long as we were in one of our pastures. I was probably twelve or thirteen when they started letting me drive on the county road all the way until we reached the highway five miles from town.

It is the earlier experiences that make the better story material. Dad didn’t think too much of my driving skills in the pasture. He was a good sport, but anyone who has ever ridden a vehicle through our pastures knows it is a rough ride at best-even when you succeed at keeping the pickup tires in the ruts. Apparently I did not do that well enough to satisfy Dad, because he said one day, “I swear, Mark, the only time you are ever in the road is when you’re going across it from one side to the other.”

Grandpa actually had the bigger challenge. In our south pasture there is a huge draw. It is a significant climb, the soil is sandy, and the combination of erosion and the aftermath of a rain or snow that has just recently melted can make it a severe test. Even with four-wheel drive there are times I have had to make several attempts, sometimes barely getting to the top after putting the transfer case into low. In those earlier years we did not have any four wheel drive pickups-and Grandpa never did get one. He could have refused to let me drive through the draw, but never did as far as I can remember. However, I don’t recall getting ready to start the climb that he ever failed to say, “Give ‘er some gas, Markey” or “Give here the gun.” And if he really thought I was being too gentle in my approach he would practically scream, “Give it hell, Mark, give it hell.”



Both of the guys in my singing group were minister’s sons. Del’s father had started some new churches and had done quite a bit of traveling evangelism. Harold had contacts many places in the country and was invaluable in helping us get booked in those faraway places that knew nothing about us but were familiar with Harold. A few times he went along with us, preaching after we had opened the service with a mini-concert.

We were doing a couple of programs in southwestern Missouri. One of the larger colleges in the Christian Church is located in Joplin, and Del in fact had started his education there. His oldest sister was married to a man who was pastoring a church there, so it was natural we would have an engagement. During that time Harold was representing Revival Fires Ministries which was also headquartered there. After the program we went out to dinner with him and another minister. The other fellow was quite a large man, and he had come along because he was trying to get Harold to commit to doing a revival meeting in his church. There were a few restaurants in that era that had phones at each table. When each of the diners had decided what he or she wanted to eat, the phone was taken off the hook and the order placed. This particular restaurant had a really large dining area with seating for at least two hundred patrons.

After we had placed our order, Leon began to negotiate with Harold about a price for doing the meeting. It was totally a one-sided negotiation, because Harold said time after time that he didn’t care what he got paid. He said he had always come for whatever the church could afford and whatever method they wished to use to raise the finances. Several times Harold said that if they just took up an offering, it would be fine.

Leon would not let the matter rest there. He inquired what the least Harold had ever received for doing such a meeting. Harold said that once he had done a two-week meeting and only been given twenty-five dollars-which he gave to his song evangelist. Leon said, “Oh, that’s shabby!” Before long he asked what the most Harold had ever received was-bearing in mind that this period of his extensive traveling had been in the ‘60’s and some even in the ‘50’s. Harold told him that once he had done a week’s meeting at some church in Ohio that realized he was going to be starting a new church in Montana, and they had given him fourteen or fifteen hundred dollars. “Oh,” Leon said, “that is shabby.” This time his ‘shabby’ was obviously a lot more heartfelt.

By then it was totally obvious to me that Leon was trying to justify getting Harold for the bottom dollar, and wanted Harold to agree to some significantly reduced number. Harold was just talking from the heart-he wasn’t greedy, but he wasn’t rich either, and if a congregation were to be generous with him that was OK just like it was OK if they weren’t.

About that time the meal arrived, and Harold asked Leon to say the blessing. It was like a scene from the movies. Leon cleared his throat very

loudly several times, and I believe he even stood up. At any rate, a hush fell over the restaurant as he began what was a lengthy and grandiose prayer. I’ll never forget its beginning, “Our Heavenly Father, bless these grand and glorious plans that are being made tonight…” I nudged Mark and whispered, “yeah, grand and glorious plans to screw Harold.” I’m not sure if God honored the prayer, but I have no doubt that He heard it, along with a couple of hundred diners and probably some folks in the parking lot.



A certain gentleman purchased our calves several different times. Dad thought it would be fun to go see them in the feedlot, so in the summer of 1960 we headed for Illinois. The buyer, Glen Borneman, lived near Leaf River which was in turn close to Rockford. We flew to Chicago, took a bus to Rockford, and Glen picked us up there and gave us the tour.

One of the first things we did when we got to Chicago was to attend a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. It was quite an adventure for all of us-for none of us had ever been to a professional baseball game. The Giants were in town. We boarded the subway right outside our hotel, and once the train got away from the downtown ‘loop’ area, it came above ground and became the elevated line. There was a stop right next to Wrigley Field. We had great seats, and at that time those box seats were only $3.50 apiece.

The Giants’ pitcher in the second game was Billy O’Dell. In baseball if the pitcher gets behind in the count, he is said to be ‘in the well.’ Evidently that happened frequently that afternoon. There was a man with a pronounced speech impediment seated directly behind Mom, and every time O’Dell would fall behind he would shout “What’s the matter O’Dell, you in the well?’ He was yelling right in Mom’s ear, and after this went on for a few innings, Mom decided to turn around and see who was doing the yelling. The guy never missed a beat. He rolled up his scorecard and gave Mom a couple of whacks with it and said, “Lady, if you didn’t come to have fun, stay home.”


Another time we were at a Cardinal game in St. Louis. The box we were seated in had six seats. Our three were the closest to the aisle, and the other three were occupied by deaf mutes. They literally had a beer an inning, and of course before long they began to have to walk by us fairly frequently to go to the restroom. Every time we would look over at them they would be furiously signing away. Mom said she began to suspect they had had too much to drink because when they signed, their fingers were getting thick.


The first time we went to St. Louis we had a reservation in a downtown hotel that Aunt Gladys had stayed in several years earlier when she had been a delegate to a National Teacher’s Convention. Both the property and the area of town had deteriorated badly by the time of our trip, and we didn’t think we wanted to stay there for the couple of weeks we were planning to be in town. Mom was taking a class at Washington University, and a cab driver we had that first day told us there was a nice new motel that was relatively close to the school. He offered to drive us out there to see what we thought, and we liked the place immediately.

That first time we did not rent a car. The motel offered complimentary limousine service to the ballpark, and we used it to go to all of the games. Consequently we became quite well acquainted with the drivers-all of whom were bellmen at the motel.

The next summer we went back for Mom to take another course and also to take in more ball games. Later in the summer we made an unplanned trip there after Mother decided to shift the site of her impending surgery from western Missouri to there. It was a while after her release from the hospital before she was supposed to travel home. Dad and I went home, she stayed at the motel, and all the staff treated her wonderfully. When the limo was going someplace, they would often ask her if she would like to ride along just to get out of the room.

That fall the Cardinals qualified for the World Series for the first time in eighteen seasons-and we thought we ought to see if we could get tickets. We had gotten particularly close to one of the employees, Howard. By then he was in the process of going into business for himself. We were a little naïve about how those matters might work, but we called him and asked if he would be able to get us tickets for the first two games. He said it would be no problem for the first game, but that we might have to get them from a scalper for the second.

What we did not realize until we got to St. Louis and received the tickets from him was what he had to do to get them. He and a friend went and stood in line all night to be able to get the tickets when they went on sale the next morning-because no individual could purchase more than two to one game.

We really felt terrible that he had gone through that for us, and of course if he had told us what he was planning to do, we wouldn’t have let him.

There is not any real punch line in this story, unless this counts. Howard had been a gifted ballplayer himself, but slightly before Jackie Robinson. His experience had been limited to the Negro leagues, for Howard was a black man. Our friendship continued through the years…” the colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky; also on the faces of people going by…And I say to myself, ‘What a Wonderful World.’”



The summer after I had been in fifth grade my parents were talking about wanting to go to California. Mom and I had taken the train out before I got in school, but Dad hadn’t been there since he was stationed there temporarily during World War II. I don’t remember if my folks had firmly committed to going, or had merely been talking about it. About that time I read articles in the Denver newspapers how that later in the summer Continental Airlines was going to begin flying jets into Denver. At that time the highest class of airplanes servicing Denver were still the turbo-props.

I got it into my head that it would be a great thing if we got to fly on the first jet out of Denver-which was going to occur in the middle of August. Without telling my parents what I was doing, I wrote a letter to the airline asking if we could reserve seats on that initial flight for Dad, Mom, and me. My letter was answered by none other than the President of Continental, Robert F. Six (who was also married to Audrey Meadows). He told me that he was saving us seats. Dad’s round-trip fare was $98, Mom’s was $75, and mine was $49. I showed my folks the letter-their first clue what I had been up to. I don’t know if I have a repressed memory of their reaction that would come out under hypnosis, if childhood amnesia just took over, or my current state of approaching dementia is to blame-but I really don’t remember if they were appalled by my action and let me know about it. What I do remember is, we went.

The plane flew in from Chicago, and I remember Dad saying that he was glad he saw it land because otherwise he would never have thought it could get off the ground. It was a Boeing 707 and they did require a long runway to get airborne-especially in the thinner, drier air at Denver. Almost everyone on board was dressed really well, which was customary in airline travel those days. There was complimentary champagne all flight long, which of course didn’t matter to me at age eleven. What I do remember was that Tex Ritter had been hired to entertain, and he strolled up and down the aisle with his guitar singing and playing most of the trip.

Sixty years after the fact I can scarcely believe that I would have written that letter-or that I would have had my request honored by Mr. Six. Needless to say it was truly a magical experience-for Mom and Dad as well as me.


Would anyone like to play a friendly game of cards?

-W. C. Fields

The Lusk I returned to after my college years and days of traveling as a gospel performer seemed to feature much more card playing than there is now. With my parents and their friends we played a lot of bridge. Nearly all of my friends from the golf course played gin rummy-and there was an almost nightly game of that with a variety of participants. Of course much of it was merely a passing of time with friends-but some moments do stick out. One of the first began when the morning mail had an entry form in it addressed to me from the International Gin Rummy Tournament. I had never heard of it, and was certainly wondering why I received it. I walked on over to the daily coffee break at the Coffee Cup.

I knew something was up when County Attorney Al Taylor asked me if I had gotten my mail. I gave him a rather non-committal yes, and asked him why he asked. He specifically asked about the entry form, and I asked him how he knew about it. He told me it was because he had mailed it.

Unbeknownst to me he had conspired with the coffee drinkers, and they had agreed to pay my entry fee into the event. I would have to foot the bill for the trip, but the entry would be paid. The kicker was that they had sold shares in me-and if I won anything they were each to get a share of what I won.

I have to think that was a supreme example of us creating our own entertainment here. Even though it was sprung on me suddenly, the event was during the week rather than on a weekend, and I figured I could go and not miss my Sunday commitments. I went, and it was fun…Oh, and they should have read the prospectus, because I was a bad investment and no one had to worry what his or her share of the winnings were.


Occasionally Walt Doctor would entice a couple of us to play a few hands of gin while he was on duty at the mortuary. Sometimes there would be days at a time with no deaths and Walt was looking for some diversion to relieve the tedium. Walt really liked to wait around for gin rather than knocking when he could. Consequently he lost a fair number of hands that he would not have had he used the other tactic. It frustrated him, and often when the hand was over he would go rifling through the remaining cards-searching for his gin card. Of course that slowed down the game since we could not deal the next hand until he got done. Harry Lyon would say, “Walt, I know we’re in the mortuary, but no post-mortems-no post-mortems.”


Most of the gin games took place out at the Country Club in the late afternoon. Depending on who was participating, some would have a drink or two and others not. In an earlier era it was quite common for most people to tab the cocktails. Ever so often the treasurer would come around and tell people what their total was and the bill would be paid. This most frequently occurred on Wednesday’s, which was Men’s Night at the Club.

One Wednesday there was a game going on at the corner table. I must have gotten off the course too late to have a spot in it, but I was sitting at the next table. Harry Lyon was a participant, and he was one who as often as not did not have a drink. He loved to needle Stan if he were anywhere near, frequently mentioning, “My good friend Stan Wasson says it’s a waste of time for me to drink at all since I never have more than two.”

Harry had just bought a drink and walked over and dropped a tab into the tab box. Harry served a lengthy stint as treasurer himself, but the treasurer at that time was Evan Worley. The tab had barely touched the bottom of the box when Evan came in, removed the tabs, and came directly over to the table where Harry was sitting. He told Harry he had a tab, and Harry said he knew he did, but he was busy at the moment, and would take care of it later. Evan told him since he was there, why didn’t he take care of it then. Once more Harry said he would do it later.

Perhaps it was all those years Evan had spent teaching, coaching, and being an administrator-but he expected to be obeyed. Once more he basically told Harry that now would be when Harry paid. Harry put down his hand and said, “Listen you (supply your own expletive). If I had had any money on me, I wouldn’t have written a tab.” Evan was furious and went storming out of the room…We, the audience, felt well-entertained.



When Dad was still stationed in California during World War II, Mother (as did many other servicemen’s wives) tried to follow him around and see him when she could. It was hit-or-miss with many last minute cancellations-which was frustrating to both of them. He was stationed near San Diego, but part of the time Mom went the hundred miles or so north to stay with Aunt Nellie and Uncle Monte. Alhambra (their home) was quite near East Los Angeles, and Mom would take the train in there. One day when Aunt Nellie went to pick her up at the depot, she was not on the train.

Now LA was not nearly as big as it is now, but it was still a huge city. When Mother didn’t arrive as she was supposed to, Aunt Nellie went over to the station agent and said, “Where’s Garnet?” (Of course she didn’t know him and he didn’t know her).

He went right along with it and said, “Why, didn’t Garnet arrive on the train?”

Aunt Nellie said, “No she didn’t.”

“Where was she coming from?” he asked.

“San Diego, of course” Aunt Nellie said-implying he should have known that without asking.

“Well,” he said, “I’ll bet she missed her train and will be on the next one.”

There was a train arriving nearly hourly from San Diego. Sure enough “Garnet” had missed her train and was on the next one.


Aunt Nellie loved to go shopping. In that pre PETA era, she almost always wore a fur coat when there was a chill in the air. One day she and Mom were in a very exclusive store and the clerk was pointing out a coat she thought Auntie would enjoy having.

“I don’t know,” said Aunt Nellie. “Let me heft it.”

When the clerk walked away Mother said, “Aunt Nellie, I’m mortified. You don’t ask to ‘heft’ a mink coat. You sound like some hick from the sticks.”

They kidded one another all the time and Aunt Nellie let Mother know she thought she was being far too uppity and sensitive.

Everything was in short supply, and Mom said that when any purchase was made, after it was paid for it was apt to be handed across the counter with no packaging of any sort-even when it was some ‘personal item’ for ladies.

Mom saw her chance to get Aunt Nellie that very afternoon. She purchased some item and the clerk started to hand it to her and Mom said, “Could you put that in a poke?” Aunt Nellie gasped “Garnet.” And suddenly she was the one all in favor of sounding less countrified.



Through the years I have dropped in unannounced and played the piano and sung some songs during the lunch hour in the nursing home. Before the remodel and reopening a few years ago the old dining area was a much more satisfactory performing venue-for the current one is long sideways and short from front to back. A lot of folks are reluctant to visit the nursing home and many just won’t. It is disturbing to see so many fine folks in difficult health circumstances. If they are people you have known well, it makes it even harder.

There have been times in the nursing home where most of the residents have been quite cognizant, and other times when a fair share weren’t. Those who aren’t will sometimes make a sound over and over-I recall Mom mentioning the lady who all day long kept saying, “bong. bong, bong.” Then there are others who will say a couple of words or a phrase over and over.

When I am doing a chapel service all of my selections are specifically Christian music. On those days when I go in at noon, I mix the songs up. I know a lot of old time popular songs and do quite a few of these. Also I will sing some patriotic tunes, some old hymns, and usually a gospel song or two. I’ll never forget the day that they wheeled some gentlemen in and up to a table in the rear of the room. I just happened to be singing an old hymn at the moment, and immediately he begin saying over and over, with quite a bit of volume, “Make the son-of-a-b… stop! Make the son-of-a-b… stop.” Needless to say, he was not abbreviating. Many singers and piano players have a more impressive performing resume than I do, but I wonder how many can honestly say they have ever been heckled in the nursing home?

Unfortunately I related this incident to some of my “friends,” and when we are getting ready to do a little sing-a-long or I just sit down to play or sing a couple of numbers, I once again hear the words, “make the…..stop.”


I thank my God for my humility

-Shakespeare (Richard III)

Mom did not frequent the teacher’s lounge, but one day she happened in when the teachers were discussing a certain family that had lots of kids, and that they were all quite slow in school. When Mother learned the name of the family that was the subject of the discussion, she told them that what they were saying was really not true. Out of the ten or more kids, Mother named one she had taught who was quite sharp.

At that time my second cousin Jay Schaefer was teaching music in the system-and I was a junior in High School. When Mom made her remark about the sharp one in the family, Jay never missed a beat and said, “Well if you would have had a dozen kids, Garnet, you might have had one sharp one, too.”



Elsie Christian was a fine painter. Grandma and some of the girls decided they would like to have her paint a picture of the ranch buildings on the Brush Creek ranch if she would agree to. They wanted to give it to Grandpa as a gift, and wanted it to be a surprise. Elsie was willing, but the surprise part created some difficulty. She didn’t want to do the picture from memory or a photograph, and so the project depended on her being informed of those times that Grandpa was going to be gone for several hours so she could be at the location she chose and work on the painting.

Grandpa was quite observing, and most of the times he had left he would notice new tracks when he returned. He would ask Grandma who had been there, and she would tell him she hadn’t noticed anyone. I’m not sure how long the project took, but Grandpa became more exasperated each time he made his inquiry about who the visitor had been with Grandma insisting she hadn’t seen anyone. Finally one day he said, “Mom, if you don’t start paying closer attention, one of these days someone is going to come and haul you away.”

When he was given the picture, he was truly surprised-and very proud of it. For my entire lifetime it has been hanging above the piano in our living room. Included in the picture is the hay meadow close to the house. Russ Thompson told us once, “Either Elsie had a vivid imagination or it was an unusual year, because there has never been that much hay in the meadow any year since I owned the place.”



Elvis is cool, but Jesus is the one and only King

Lyrics to “I Want to Thank You”

“What do you want?” he asked, as he came out of the door with the number I had been told to knock on.

I was already feeling a little apprehensive, for I had stood there several minutes after I had knocked on a warm June afternoon, and cops and security were everywhere.

“My name is Mark Lohr, and I have four tickets I was told to pick up at this door.”

“All right,” he said-went back inside and shut the door after him.

When he returned, he handed me the tickets and said, “That will be sixty dollars.” I was surprised, because I had thought the tickets were going to be free, but I quickly counted out the money and took my tickets and got out of there.

Two of the gospel groups I promoted had performed regularly with Elvis Presley and functioned as his backup group when he was touring. The Imperials had also done that with Jimmy Dean and Carol Channing and were no longer appearing with Elvis. However, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps were doing it then. They had told me if I ever wanted to see Elvis in person they could get me tickets-so when “the King” was booked to open the new Civic Center in Rapid City, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slide by. I called the Stamps at their Nashville office, and they got back to me shortly and told me what to do. They asked how many tickets I wanted, and I told them four-confident that I would have no trouble getting the other three used.

Lex Madden immediately told me he wanted to go, but strange as it seems, I had a lot of trouble finding use for the other two. By then Todd Merchen was living in South Dakota, and he said he would go along, The fourth seat went unused.

When we got to the arena, our seats were on the aisle in the tenth row, right where the network TV camera was filming the concert for a later special. Elvis was no longer the slim teenager who first became famous gyrating his hips. In fact he was a fairly heavy forty-two year old, but his voice was still unmistakable as was the effect he had on the audience-particularly the female portion. Several times during the program the security people had to force the ladies away from the stage, ladies ranging in age from pre-teens to octogenarian grandmas. Definitely worth the price of admission…

About six weeks later I was doing some yard work when Dale Fullerton drove by and told me to head for the club. He said there was a big money game on tap and they needed someone to keep score. I could see why he was willing to skip a day of work-because he beat everyone like a drum with very few holes being won by anyone else. But what I remember most about that day was coming briefly into the clubhouse between rounds just in time to hear that Elvis Presley had died. It was a tremendous shock to me, and more so when I learned later that we had heard his last public performance that June evening in Rapid.


Elvis loved gospel music, and in fact it was two gospel music giants who conducted his funeral-J.D. Sumner and James Blackwood. The first professional singing Elvis had done was in Memphis with the Junior Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Even in the aftermath the Stamps always told me that he was the victim of bad publicity and was not some secret drug addict. He fought a losing battle with his weight gain, and the combination of prescription meds and genetic heart problems were his undoing (his mother had died relatively young with heart problems.)

The story I always remember was that when Elvis performed in Las Vegas his quarters were the entire top floor-the penthouse-in the Hilton. Many nights when the midnight show would end (roughly around two) he would ask the quartet to come and sing him some gospel music. They said all he wanted were the beautiful slow ballads. In fact, if they would sing several of those in a row and finally break into a fast number, he would stop them after only a few measures and say, “No, no, no. That’s not what I need to hear tonight.”



When my group and I were on our way to record our album, we stopped by the Blackwood Record Store in Memphis on our way to Nashville. We were already carrying sheet music to sell, because we found out lots of people wanted songs we were performing and in our part of the country, the music was not readily available. In our brief stop there we encountered Terry Blackwood, who was then the lead singer for the multi-award winning Imperials. His father Doyle had been an original member of the Blackwood Brothers but had retired several years before and was running the record store. I had already promoted the Imperials a few times, so we chatted briefly.

Terry left and so did we-both of our vehicles heading to Nashville (where he lived.) About midway on the trip is a town called Jackson. We were hungry and pulled off the freeway at an interchange where there were several restaurants. I don’t know which one we picked, but shortly after we got in there, we saw Terry again. He had a Mercedes sports car and was about done eating since he had obviously gotten there quicker than we could have in the motor home. When he was done, he stopped by the table. When he found out we were going to be recording our first record, he asked us to stop by his place when we got there, and he said he would give us a few tips.

Terry lived right on what was then the very famous “Music Row” in Nashville. We pulled up in front of his place, and he saw us and came right out. I guess he spent at least an hour sitting and talking, and basically just encouraging us. The one bit of wisdom I still remember is his telling us that when his group made a record, there was no way they could ever sound as good live as they did on that record. Their record company was paying for the studio time, and he said sometimes they would go over the same little part of a song twenty or thirty times until the record producer was satisfied it was just perfect. He told us that we would never be able to do more than two or possibly three takes of anything, and as a result, our record would never sound as good to us as we sounded in a live performance. He was right. Of course what all of us guys remember was how neat it was for someone that famous to take his time to be with us and treat us as musical equals-which of course we knew we weren’t. It was an undoubtedly before the fact reinforcement of a truth I have discovered often since. I was visiting in a home where the husband had died-not as their pastor but just as a good friend. I was asked if I wouldn’t sit down and play and sing a song. I did, but never knowing for sure how folks feel and will react at a time of loss, I wasn’t totally comfortable and just as glad when I completed it and was done. Except, I wasn’t done. They kept asking for more songs, and they wanted to sing along, and they did. It went on a long time-well over an hour. I finally said I thought I needed to go, and they said that was fine. But the lady said to me, “You see, it really is different when you believe.” And whether it is just a simple time of friendship and fellowship with everyday folks, or a time loaded with anticipation when someone famous helped us be better prepared to succeed, or reminding one another that “we do not sorrow as those who have no hope” as it was that memorable night with Minerva and her kids-it really is different.


“The night is dark and I am far from home-lead Thou me on”

-Cardinal Newman “Lead, Kindly Light”

It was a bitterly cold winter night, and Mom and her date were headed down the road to Harrison to go to a dance. When they were a few miles out of town passing the pull-out where the monument is, Mom suddenly said, “Pull over. There’s a car stopped there, and I think it’s my Uncle Jim’s.”

“So what?” her date asked.

“Well, if it is, he’ll be drunk and probably passed out. If he is, he is apt to freeze to death on a night like this.”

“So, let him,” was the reply.

But Mom was insistent. She told him that she would drive Uncle Jim into town, get him put to bed in the downtown hotel where he often stayed when he was on a bender, and then they would go to the dance. She said to follow them in.

Mom and Uncle Jim had a great closeness to one another-in spite of the fact that Mom was no fan of overdrinking. She said that this night he was very drunk. As they started going back to town he began to sing the famous old hymn “Lead, Kindly Light.” The second phrase in the song says, “The night is dark, and I am far from home.” Mom said when he got to that phrase, he would break down and start to sob and say, “And, Garnet, I am far from home.” This occurred several times.

misplaced, and that many times he suffered loss at their hands without probably knowing the amount…

Shakespeare wrote many plays, some comedies and some tragedies in addition to the historically based ones. Even in the most profound tragedies there are the humorous moments, those scenes which we often say provide ‘comic relief.’ There is another phrase which used to be in vogue. When someone had been undergoing too much stress, it was said he was going to take a “rest cure.” One of the best stories Saki ever wrote was called “The Un-rest Cure” where he told a tale of a lady who was living a life of such endless ease and privilege that her life became tedious-even boring-so those around her manufactured some stress to liven up her days.

My purpose for compiling these stories has been mostly to make you smile and hopefully even occasionally to laugh right out loud. I thought a lot about whether to recount the tale I just told, for on a certain level there is humor in it, but ultimately of course there is much more pathos. Blame it on the preacher in me, consider it “un-comic relief,” or take it how you will. To me, it is an incident that needs to be remembered-probably much more than many of the others I have written down.



-still in Neon lights at Union Station in Denver

Mother was an excellent driver, but as I was growing up she used public transportation frequently. I’ve already mentioned those train trips to Greybull, but we also usually took the bus to Denver, sometimes even to Cheyenne. There were a variety of vehicles that operated as buses between here and Casper. Actually most of these were little more than stretched out cars, but I remember riding in those more than once when I was small. The Chicago and Northwestern was still operating passenger trains when I was very young, and we took that to Casper and back at least once. Mother said the conductor came by on that trip and asked me how I liked the train. My candid replay was, “I think it’s really dirty.”

Of course I was too young to remember that incident, but it was recounted to me several times as I grew older. Never having had a brother or sister, I never experienced first hand the minor jostling that usually occurs between siblings. Just as Aunt Catherine took Mom to task for ‘enhancing’ the stories she told, Mom would question if Catherine could really remember as far back in her existence as she claimed she could-seemingly immune to the infamous ‘childhood amnesia.’ One day Mom said, “If this trend gets any worse, I’m going to ask Cath what it felt like being born.”

One of the earliest experiences I actually recall are bits and pieces of a train trip Mom and I took to southern California when I was five-and-a-half. We boarded the Union Pacific in Cheyenne and traveled to Los Angeles. I was wearing shorts, and during the daytime hours when our seats were not serving as the Pullman berths, they gave me a rash. I remember them being blue, and with some sort of raised pattern and a very rough material.

There are a couple of incidents I remember first hand once we were there-staying of course with Uncle Monte and Aunt Nellie as well as their adult children Talmage and Norma Jean. In that era it was much more common for manufacturers to mail free samples of their products. The Burke’s had added a room on the main floor as a guest room. I was going to shower and I was looking for one of those products we had received shortly before we left home-a tube of hair oil I really liked (back in that time of the ‘greased-down’ look.) I went into the main area of the house where everyone was visiting and asked Mom where that hair oil was. She said she hadn’t packed it, but I went back and searched some more, and found it. I returned to where the grown-ups were to report my discovery. Mom was visiting right along and barely stopped when I told her of finding it and said, “Oh did I put it in? I thought I didn’t. Well, that’s nice.” Back to visiting.

When I was done cleaning up I applied the ‘hair oil’ generously, and as I started to rub it in, I was sure something was wrong. Mom had been right. She didn’t pack the tube of hair oil. However, she did pack a tube of Mentholatum. At the moment she found out what happened, she had something in common with Queen Victoria. She was not amused.

Another incident that occurred concerned Mom taking a drink. Neither of my folks hardly ever took a drink, but when I was quite young they tried never to have one in front of me. Aunt Nellie was trying to convince Mom to have a drink with them, and Mom was telling her she didn’t want to with me around. Aunt Nellie told her to pour me a Ginger Ale while the rest of them were having a ‘highball’ and I would never be any the wiser. So that’s what occurred. Sometime during the time we were imbibing, I asked Mom what she was drinking, and much as she didn’t like to lie to me, she told me she was having Ginger Ale also. I said, “Well, it smells like whickey to me”-proving my sense of smell was more highly developed than my pronunciation was.


During quite a portion of Mother’s life, train travel was a more reliable mode of transportation than going by automobile. Some of the roads were fairly sketchy, and cars of an earlier day were not nearly as reliable as they were to become. During the year Mom and Aunt Gladys attended the University of Wyoming together, their trips to and from Laramie were by rail. It was somewhat complicated. Sometimes their folks took them to Orin Junction to board the Burlington-which would take them to Cheyenne, where they then took the Union Pacific on in to Laramie. Of course they could make the trip from Lusk to Orin on the Chicago and Northwestern, but usually the connections were not favorable.

Mom described an event that occurred during the school year of 1928-29. It was a return trip, and their train from Cheyenne arrived at Orin in the middle of the night. I don’t recall if their folks were picking them up in the morning or they were waiting for the train to take them to Lusk. No one was on duty at the Orin depot when they got off, but when they went inside to wait, they were horrified to find the place packed with hobos. All were asleep and snoring raucously. Mom and Aunt Gladys elected to wait outside. Even in that era of much less crime, they were quite spooked by the event-as were their parents, who saw to it they never had a re-run of that scene.



-spoken by Marie Antoinette when told the peasants had no bread to eat

Mother made wonderful angel food cakes. When there were funeral dinners at the Open Bible Church, where we attended all of my school years in Lusk, Mom’s contribution was almost always one of those cakes. In fact, I came home one day and found an angel food cake baked and cooling and asked Mom, “Who died?” She wondered why I asked that, and I told her that she never baked an angel food except when someone had died. Of course she feigned being indignant and hurt-but it wasn’t far from the truth, although she insisted she made many of them just for us.

One day when I was quite young she had baked one of those cakes and was taking it down to the church so it would be there either for the meal or the gathering afterwards. There was an elderly lady in the church who also often baked angel food cakes, and she had done so for this same funeral. At

that point in her life she no longer drove. Living with her was a relative that was fairly severely challenged mentally. She had commissioned him to take her cake to the church. Shortly after we got in our car to head that way, we saw him carrying her cake. Mom said, “Well, we need to stop and give him a ride down to the church.”

Mom stopped beside him, rolled down her window and asked if he wanted a lift to church. He said he did and climbed in the back seat. After we got started rolling again Mom glanced in the rear view mirror, and to her horror saw that he was seated partially on her cake. She gasped and said, “Oh, Fred, you’re sitting on my cake.”

He replied quite calmly, “Oh, that’s all right. I’m comfortable.”


Long ago Mom and Aunt Gladys were attending a teacher’s convention somewhere. They were eating, and when it was time for dessert the waitress came to the table and explained to them that they could have one of several types of pie and a piece of cake. Aunt Gladys quickly replied she would take the cake. Once again the waitress explained the choice was what sort of pie each one wanted plus they would be receiving a piece of cake. Without hesitation Aunt Gladys said she would take the cake. By this time the other teachers at the table were all laughing, Aunt Gladys could not see why they were amused, and she said to the waitress who was staring at her, “I’ll still take the cake.”



Mom had lots of fun with her kids in the school room, but she did expect them to pay attention and she did believe in having an orderly school room. One day during the arithmetic class she looked back and saw that one of the students obviously was doing some drawing and coloring rather than following along with the math lessons.

Mom went back to his desk and gave him a minor scolding. She told him to put away what he was doing and listen to the lesson. “Even famous artists need to know their times tables,” she told him.

When class was over, he didn’t leave when the other students did-and Mom saw him working feverishly on some project. A few minutes later he came up, and he had an intricately designed piece of artwork. Mom said that he had done it so that when he folded it-every design fit together. He said, “Mrs. Lohr, this is what I was working on when you came back to scold me. I was making you a May Basket. I didn’t have any candy to put in it, so I put a couple of marbles in it. I hope that’s OK instead.”

Mom said she felt a lump in her throat and tears in her eyes, and just couldn’t believe what a wonderful job he had done.

She said, “Honey, if I had known you were making me a May Basket, I wouldn’t have scolded you.”

He said, “Oh, that’s all right, Mrs. Lohr. Don’t think a thing about it. I never pay any attention to your scoldings anyway.”



There was a certain man that was always impatient if there were not enough players to get a poker game going. So he would go next door and tell the guys who were seated at the bar, “Come on, guys. Let’s go play poker. No one ever checked out winner at the bar.”


As it was well before my time, I am not sure if it was the same person who made the two following remarks, but Dad always assured us that the speaker was definitely telling it like it was:

“I never tell the truth if a lie will suffice.”

“When I die, someone can have my conscience. It’s good as new because it has never been used.”


There was a dance hall in Van Tassell that was on the second floor, with a rather long flight of stairs. Dad arrived late for a dance one evening just in time to be greeted by one of his friends falling down the entire length of the stairway. He got up, dusted himself off, and it was obvious he was fairly drunk-not an uncommon occurrence. Dad was standing there and the man said, “You know, Ted, there’s one step to that Charleston I never could get right.”


There was a driller that Dad knew fairly well. He had upset his car on the road to Lance Creek. Dad said he was “as bald as a billiard ball.” When the guys in pool hall asked him why he had wrecked, he told them solemnly that his hair had gotten in his eyes.

The fellow had a fairly nice car, and it was one of the first if not the very

first model that it was possible to purchase with a radio. He had the radio on when he wrecked. The impact of the rollover knocked him out, and he said when he came to the radio was still playing, and the song that was playing was “I’ll be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal, You.”


There was a community baseball game going on at Kirtley, with one of the older residents of the area having volunteered to umpire. With a one and one count on the batter, after the next pitch the umpire yelled “Two.”

The pitcher, the catcher, the batter and others said, “Two what.”

And the umpire shot back, “Too close to tell.”


Grandpa Len had more than a few instances of saying things better left unsaid. He and Dad were at the sale barn and some cows came in, and Grandpa said, “Those are some of the longest legged cows I have ever seen.” Dad gave him a nudge, because the cattle’s owner was seated directly in front of them. But Grandpa was on a roll, repeating his remark with slight variation a couple of times, and not in a soft voice. He concluded by saying, “I wonder why anyone would have cows with such long legs.” At that point the owner turned around, glared at Grandpa, and said, “My cattle have a long ways to walk to water.”


Grandpa had smoked until he was past sixty, but once he no longer did, he was a very self-righteous non-smoker. One day he was behind someone at the checkout counter in Safeway who purchased several cartons of cigarettes. When the person left, Granddad went into a lecture about the evils of tobacco that didn’t end until his groceries were totaled and paid for. It was actually Mom who witnessed the scene. Grandpa told her on the way out, “I’ll bet that checker will never start smoking.”

Mom said, “No, I’m sure she won’t. She is already a chain smoker who probably does three packs a day.”



When Lusk was still competing in the Absaraka Conference, there were some fairly long trips. Most times there weren’t many players left on the bus

for the return trips-for anyone who could usually rode home with their parents. I kept on doing the statistics and sportswriting after I was out of High School, and in those first years I often rode home with the Cockrehams, since Steve and I were good friends.

Gillette was already growing rapidly, but they were still in our class and conference. One night we had a basketball game up there, and Steve had a particularly hot hand in the early going-scoring what was then a one quarter record 17 points. We ended up taking a narrow loss, and what was more frustrating was that although Steve remained on fire, most of the rest of the game he seldom got to touch the ball. The ride home saw us all a bit upset. Hobart had one of the first Oldsmobile Tornado’s, and he drove fast anyway. But this night he was driving a little faster than normal. The portion of interstate between Moorcroft and Gillette had not been open very long. We were all used to the highway funneling us into the town of Moorcroft, and then on down to Upton, Newcastle, etc. However, the interstate of course did not go through town. Suddenly we saw a sign that said it was twelve miles to Sundance. We had missed the Moorcroft exit. Then Hobart did drive fast. It’s not an outstanding road to Upton that way (which was the way we went), but every time I got a glimpse of the speedometer it was registering around 95. No one had much experience with front wheel drive cars then, but that ride convinced me they held the road well. In fact, I talked my folks into buying one when they traded vehicles the next year.


The summer after that I worked for Hobart as Steve and I picked up bales and stacked them. Their original north ranch was some forty miles from town. I never stayed out there nor did Hobart, but Steve must have a few times. Hobart was a pilot and he had an old Piper Cub, and frequently I flew out and back with him. It was one of those planes where the seats were only wide enough for one, and the rider sat in a sort of separate cockpit behind the pilot. The planes were very stable and could fly at quite low speeds, which was good since they did not seem capable of any very high speeds. Our route generally was fairly close to Highway 85, and it was not a bit unusual for us to find the cars on the road driving faster than we were flying. I doubt if many passengers have ridden with a pilot who flew slower than he drove. Maybe Hobart drove fast because he was a frustrated slow flier.


Fred Dean passed away toward the end of my High School days. Not long afterwards Hobart purchased his place east of town from his widow Stella. Cockrehams moved out to the old ranch house on that place. Hobart said once he had always wondered why Fred and Stella never seemed to go out at night. He said after living there he knew why. None of the closets had lights in them, and he said they probably couldn’t find their good clothes after dark to get dressed up and go anywhere.



Even a couple of generations ago communication was not very sophisticated. At the valley ranch Grandpa Len owned and lived on, there was not telephone service to town. They had a system that served the neighborhood, but went no further. Uncle Jim had a line connected to Lusk so they needed to get in touch with him to call town.

There was a neighbor famous for ‘rubbering’ in on everyone’s conversation. Grandpa and another neighbor had a business deal in the offing that they had not gotten totally ironed out. While in person they agreed they could do it on the phone, but they didn’t really want the busybody to be privy to all the details. So, they decided to work out a simple code so that they would know what they meant, but no one else would. When they were on the line finalizing the deal-using their code- the man was so frustrated that he finally broke in and said, “If you want me to understand what is going on, you’re going to have to make it a little bit clearer.”


At least one memorable time Dad recalled the shoe was on the other foot for Grandpa. He was curious what price a certain neighbor had received for some cattle he had recently marketed, so he went up to him and said, “If it’s a fair question, what did you get for your yearlings?”

The man said, “It’s not a fair question.”



It never was really my intention when I started writing these stories, but most of them occurred in the earlier part of my life, or long before my life began. However only a month before I wrote this piece I heard an interesting revelation. About my favorite place to vacation is Hawaii. I had been aware for some time that Rosalie Fields lived there-her father being Dud Fields who owned the Hat Creek store. While I was still preaching in Jay Em I had married Joann and Pat Wade there, and they have been operating the old Fields’ place for some time and bought it a few years back from Rosalie. One day Joann and I were visiting and she mentioned having seen Rosalie over there and how interested she still is in Niobrara County. I said it would be fun to see her, Joann said she would see what she could do, Rosalie was willing, so in March I went to visit her at the assisted living facility where she resides.

We had not met previously, but that did not hinder our conversation. Perhaps some time in the future this piece of information will need a foot note, but it certainly wouldn’t now. Rosalie was a nurse, and she confided to me that she had been working in OB-GYN in the hospital where President Obama was born, and she was working there that night during the shift when he was born…Of course, she admitted she is a Democrat. (I add that only so those who get so fired up about the subject will still feel justified in doing so.)



A place several of us enjoyed going to eat was O’Dougherty’s in Crawford. It had been started by the man who was hospital administrator at Scottsbluff during that era, and there were some things that made it more than an ordinary dining experience. Guests could actually go down into the basement and view his wine selection and physically select a bottle. Not only did he have a piano in the establishment but there were several song books to encourage sing-a-longs. We usually made the trip to the basement and the stop around the piano and enjoyed some fine victuals in between.

Most frequently our chauffeur was Dave Cook. He had a Plymouth van that he had used to carry guests back and forth from the Phoenix airport to the Wigwam-a famous five star golf resort he worked at for several winters. Since he was used to hauling the rich and famous around, we fit right in. There were various guests on the many trips, but Dick and Suzie Price, sometimes Tom or Rich in their single days, and I were regulars. On the night of my story Warden Judy Uphoff was also along as was a man from Cheyenne she was going with.

Judy’s house was at the edge of the prison property, and when she was on one of the trips, we would drop her off first and as soon as she got inside she would call control and tell them she was back and there was no problem with an unannounced vehicle having come on the grounds. (The entrance was not guarded then). That night she either didn’t get to the phone soon enough, or control didn’t inform the officer on patrol, but as we were leaving the property an officer followed us out. Suzie worked there and told Dave to stop and let them know who we were. He refused. Suzie said, “Stop, David.” He didn’t. Suzie begged, “Please stop, Dave. I work here.”

Dave said, “If they want me to stop, they can put on the flashing red lights.” (Dave had once been a Highway Patrol officer in Colorado and figured that was the correct way stop a vehicle.) About that time the red lights did come on. Dave stopped and rolled down the window.

Suzie was crunching down as low as she could, but not low enough-for the officer on patrol’s second remark was, “Oh, Officer Price, you’re in the vehicle.” But his first remark had been, after Dave had rolled down his window, “May I help you, Sir.”

And David said, “Yeah, I’ll have a double cheeseburger and fries.”


In 1980 Dick Pfister invented a golf tournament that was an institution for some time-a once-a-year event called Whomper’s. A few of us helped him per his request in the early years, and finally we became the Whomper committee. The tournament was lots of fun for the participants and lots of work for those of us staging it-so much work that there was little time to relax and enjoy it. Consequently, we started taking a “Whomper’s Trip” before the event. The ostensible reason was to make sure we had all the many details under control-which “Dr.” Price got us lined out concerning. Much of the purpose was for us to have a fun day of golf minus the responsibilities, and a good meal at the end.

Because of his South Dakota ties, after we had played the Hot Springs course and were on our way to Crawford to O’Dougherty’s Dick wanted to show us a couple of sights that he thought were neat places. One was Cascade Falls, and the other a little spring-fed pool of water that had a gazebo beside it with room enough to sit around and have some snacks. Among his many other talents, Dave Cook could make a wide variety of hors’d’oeuvres-which he had done that day. Dick told us that why he wanted

us to stop there was so we could take off our shoes and socks and sit around the edge of the pool and enjoy the coolness of the water on a hot summer day. Cool was an understatement as it felt like the water was barely above freezing. We were all ringed around the little pool and Dave was behind us getting the groceries out for our impending consumption. Suddenly something caught the edge of my eye, but it was too late as Dave had launched himself and did an all-points belly flop landing in the pool. I think the pool emptied for a minute and I am sure all the escaped water went on each of us and our clothing. Never have I been colder in August-even if only for a moment…We didn’t kill him, and I don’t think any of us knows why we didn’t.


Although the Whomper Committee actually was always fewer than eight people, when we took our organizational trip, we always tried to have exactly eight people along so that we would have two golf foursomes. One day, before we departed, one of those planning to go had to cancel. We were already loaded up in the van ready to leave and wondering how we could get a replacement player at such short notice. Dick Pfister said, “I’ll bet Walt Doctor would go if we asked him.” This was shortly before the cell phone era began, so be drove by his house and someone went up to the door to find out if he was willing. Gladys told us that he had just left for the mortuary, and that he was riding his bicycle.

We headed for the mortuary and Walt was just arriving as we got there. To say that Dick was spontaneous and often handled things in an unexpected fashion is a supreme understatement. He rolled down his window, not so much as a “hi how are you?”, and began raking Walt over the coals. “Where the H- have you been? We’ve been looking everywhere for you. You senile old blank blank blank, can’t you remember anything?”

Walt started sputtering, saying he didn’t know what Dick was talking about, but Dick, who was known to say ‘the best defense is a good offense.’, never let up. “Don’t give me that, Walt. We told you weeks ago we were going on this golf trip. I can’t believe you would have forgotten. Can’t you remember anything?”

And I of course can’t remember everything word for word but Dick threw in a few more things about Walt’s memory and his being rude and inconsiderate and holding the rest of us up until we might not make our tee time. I think Walt was fairly sure he hadn’t forgotten, but Dick was so

insistent you could tell that there was getting to be more and more an element of doubt. What I still marvel at is that the rest of us didn’t start laughing and give it away, but we didn’t. Dick said, “Leave your bike here, get in, and we’ll take you home to get you’re clubs, You’ve slowed us up enough already.”

Several times that day Walt tried to get Dick to level with him, but Dick would just glare at him and start berating him again. Somewhere around eleven that night after we had had a great day on the course, wonderful food and beverage, and were almost back to the city limits of Lusk, one last time Walt said, “Now really, R.G,. you didn’t really tell me before, did you?” And Dick said, “You screwed up, Walt. Live with it!”



Great-Grandpa Andrew and Uncle Chris had journeyed several miles to see a man about some business proposition. When they got to his place, his wife told them that her husband was somewhere on the property, but that he would be back shortly. She told them to come in and wait for him.

The lady was mixing up some concoction she was about ready to put in the oven. As she prepared it, both men noticed that she had a huge bubble of mucus hanging from one nostril. Just when it appeared it was ready to release and drop in the dish, she would sniff it back in. This happened numerous times. As she visited she asked the men to stay for lunch, and repeated the request at intervals. Initially they told her that they had work to do at home, and were planning to leave as soon as they talked to her husband. However, as it grew later without his appearing they both began to realize he probably wasn’t going to get back in until it was lunch time.

The lady stepped out of the room for a minute, and Great-grandpa said, “What do you think Chris? Should we stay and eat?

Uncle Christ replied, “It depends on which way de drop drops.”


It’s deja vu all over again

-Yogi Berra

My folks were really good sports about all the things I put them through. One trip I remember in particular I seemed to be in rare form in that department. It was the holiday season of Christmas Break in 1973. My folks

loved gospel music as much as I did. By that time I had sponsored quite a few concerts, and the group that I had worked with most frequently was the Oak Ridge Boys. A few months before was when my group had recorded in their lead singer, Duane Allen’s studio with their band being our studio musicians. The Oaks were headlining a big sing in Mobile, Alabama and we decided to go. I had consulted my calendar that told me where all the groups were appearing on a certain night, and discovered that the day we flew in the Happy Goodman’s were going to be in Panama City Florida. We had a car rented and I told my folks I thought we should drive on over and attend that program. They asked me how far it was, and I told them it appeared it was about fifty-maybe sixty miles.

Well, we drove and drove, and I think it was about one hundred fifty miles. For the rest of their lives I think both Mom and Dad think I misrepresented the distance on purpose so they would go, but I didn’t. It was nearly nine o’clock when we arrived, and we missed the preliminary groups entirely-but saw all of the Goodman’s portion of the concert. I thought that made it worth it. But the chill in the air wasn’t all from the breeze off the Gulf on a cool December night.

It’s amazing how back then it was possible to change your plans and not get penalized some large sum of money by the airlines. A couple of days later after the concert in Mobile was over, we all thought it would be fun to fly on down to central Florida-and we did, landing at the Tampa Airport. It was a good time, and one day we even drove over to Orlando to go to Disneyworld, which was quite new at the time.

The reason for telling the story is that the night before we were to fly back I told my parents that when we got done eating I wanted to take a practice run to the airport, because I didn’t want to make a mistake the next morning that might cause us to miss our flight. The field was close to the bay that separates the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg. They agreed it would be a good idea. The restaurant hadn’t been far from the airport, and we got on the freeway via one of those rare left lane ramps. The freeway was about four lanes wide there and I no sooner got on it than the exit sign for the airport appeared, informing me the ramp was a quarter of a mile away. Of course with the traffic I couldn’t get over to it. I told the folks I would turn around at the next exit. I did, but you guessed it- the next exit was in St. Petersburg, twelve miles away across the bay. No one was in a bad mood other than me-for the memory of the miscue in St. Louis a few years before was still fresh

in my mind. I believe someone did make a remark that if the road was approaching a body of water, perhaps someone else should drive.



Harry Lyon always dressed nicely-befitting his profession of purveying clothing to both men and women. He also had a keen wit, and a sense of timing that would have served him well had he been on an old time vaudeville stage. Almost as if all the participants had an alarm to remind them of when to appear, in less than a ten minute span between nine forty-five and ten the big table would fill in the rear of the Coffee Cup Café as the coffee drinkers assembled.

One day Dick Pfister came in wearing a beautiful lime green wool sweater-beautiful except for the fact that it had a quite large hole in one elbow. Everyone noticed it, but no one commented. No one that is but Harry, who was sitting next to Dick. Looking back and forth from the hole to Dick’s face Harry said, “Gosh, Dick, I wish I was rich so I could be eccentric.”



At the local golf course there are water hazards on six of the nine holes. There was a time when almost every player also carried a ball retriever in with his clubs. Lots of us don’t anymore-with the main reason being the creeks have so much growth of grass and moss in them as the season progresses that most times it is not possible to see a ball that has gone into the water.

In the game of golf there are not only many different levels of ability represented by the players, but also many different levels of intensity. There are the so-called “serious golfers” and the ones that aren’t so much that way. My standard comeback for years when anyone would ask me if I considered myself a serious player was to say, “I take the game more seriously than it takes me.” I learned so much about how to have fun at the game from the various retired people I played with in those first years after I took golf up.

Someone who had a great sense of humor right up until the end of his ninety-nine plus years was Blondie Marvin. This incident occurred before I started playing, but is one worth remembering. One day Paul Thurmond was

one of Blondie’s playing companions. He had put a ball into the hazard on number one. On his own he couldn’t quite reach it with his retriever. In those situations someone often volunteers to grab the hand of the person trying to get back his ball-enabling him to reach a couple or three feet farther out in the water. That day Blondie volunteered to help Paul out. When Paul was as fully extended with his body as it was possible to be, Blondie let go of his hand…Yes, a big splash did ensue. It must have been a large foursome, because through the years I think at least two dozen people have sworn that they were there watching.



Mealtimes as I grew up were pleasant experiences. Mom was a good cook, and she had an appreciative audience in Dad, Grandpa, and me. We would kid about some things, but nothing too serious. Grandpa had this tendency

to want to put the various items that were passed around in a side dish-even though there was plenty of room on his main plate for several of them. Dad would say, “You know, Len, it’s all going to get mixed together inside you. There isn’t any need to keep each item separated now.”

Grandpa would usually smile, or maybe offer a word of rebuttal. But one night he suddenly started chuckling. When every thing we were having that night had been passed to him, all he had were side dishes-his large plate was totally empty.


Occasionally at the ranch something will clog up one of the underground pipes that lead from the cistern to the drinking tanks. This blockage can usually be cleaned out with some compressed air or even some sort of sewer tape. Worst case scenario is that there is a leak in the pipe and it will need to be dug up and replaced. In the third of a century I have been running the place this has only happened once, and I hired a professional with a backhoe to come solve the problem. In those years Dad or Grandpa were operating the ranch, there was very little that went wrong that they did not fix-or at least attempt to fix-themselves.

Immediately before writing this incident we were having one of those blockage problems at the old home place. Water has always been sluggish in

its flow into the tank in the corral-and this time my friend and business partner Cody Thompson reported that he found what appeared to be some bird bones in the line causing part of the problem. It jogged my memory to share this crazy incident that occurred regarding the corral tank in the decade plus after Grandpa’s death when Dad was in sole charge of the place.

Wet ground revealed to Dad that the pipe was leaking and would need to be dug up. Dad said it entered his mind that before he started the digging he should probably shut the cattle out of the corral-but he didn’t. It was quite a job to dig a big enough hole to expose the problem and allow enough room to remove and replace the leaking pipe. Dad said that he was just about finished with the excavation when the heel flies spooked the cattle in the vicinity and one six hundred plus pound steer came right down in the hole on top of him with a couple of hoofs on his back. Pop said he had always heard if you could wiggle your toes and fingers, your back wasn’t broken. He tried and could, so he figured at least he had dodged that bullet. But the

steer was in a frenzy, and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the

hole on his own-so Dad had to use all his strength and help the critter out. Amazingly the attempt was successful, and even more incredibly, Dad was scarcely hurt. He said he was fairly sore, and he had a couple of hoof imprints in the skin on his back that could be seen for several days. Dad actually would laugh when he told the story, saying he couldn’t imagine what it must have looked liked when the steer came down on top of him and both of them were struggling to get him back out of the hole. Plus, he said, knowing how curious yearling cattle are and how easily they spook-he thought both his judgment and common sense must have momentarily deserted him for this to happen.



One side of the old corral used to be a big barn. Great-Grandpa had built a huge barn-very much the kind of one in which hay was stored in Iowa. Unfortunately no good foundation material was readily available, and he used wood poles for that. When all the wood finally began rotting, there was little way to preserve the barn without going to great expense. By then its value to the operation was nil as cattle had not been run on top in the snowy months since 1919. Nevertheless, there was a big sentimental value, and

none of the family (and perhaps even the neighbors) really wanted to see it totally disappear. There was a large center section with a high roof, and then lower roofed portions on the north and south sides. The big part and the north part were the first to go, but the south side lasted for many more years. As a portion of it would get in really bad shape, Dad would dismantle it.

A year or so after the incident in the corral with the critter coming down in the hole on top of him, Dad survived another event that could have had really severe consequences. No more than several feet away from that incident, the portion of the barn that Dad was working to take down unexpectedly caved in on him. Once again he was down-there alone-this time with some heavy rubble on top of him. Again he amazingly extricated himself from the mess with nothing more than some temporary aches and pains. But I don’t believe he ever tried to take anymore of the old barn down-choosing instead to let it collapse on its own schedule without him in the middle of it.



Two roads diverged in a yellow wood-

I took the one less traveled by, and that has make all the difference.

-Robert Frost

Of course by now, “Back to the Future” is an old movie. My favorite scene in it is when the vehicle drives up to the service station. In that era there was a lot of service available, and in the movie several attendants in uniform quickly descend on the car and are checking air in the tires, washing the windshield, checking the oil and other matters under the hood, and even sweeping out the floor inside. Not only is that a scene that no longer exists at gas stations, but recently I had a rental vehicle with a low tire and pulled into a place with a convenience store and at least thirty fueling stations-but not even one air hose.

Stations all used to have free road maps. I don’t ever remember buying an atlas back then-and of course there was not such a thing as Mapquest or GPS, or personal computers. Usually it was possible to pick up a map for most states in the vicinity, and if I was going somewhere and didn’t have a map already, that would be my source.

My senior year at UW, my friend Jim Peterson was a freshman at Mesa in

Grand Junction. I decided to go visit him one weekend. Never having been in western Colorado previously, I needed a map to plan my route. I have always had a habit that used to bother my mom. If there is some alternate route to the main traveled one, I like to take it if I think it’s a good road. I got to studying this map the week of my trip, and according to it I wouldn’t have to go all the way to Rabbit Ears Pass to get to Steamboat Springs. Having always listened to the weather on KOA from Denver as I grew up, I thought avoiding that pass might be a good deal since it seemed to be perpetually crummy in the winter. Of course this was still September with beautiful weather. And it didn’t occur to me that if the major pass was a dubious road, an alternate route was apt to be even less desirable. All I knew was my map showed me that going over Buffalo Pass would be shorter, plus it showed it to be a paved road.

It was little more than a homemade sign that showed me where to turn off from the main highway. I hadn’t gone more than two or three miles when the pavement ended-but I didn’t think too much about that because there was lots of road construction equipment, and I figured it was just an improvement project. The further I went, the worse the road got, and there never was any more pavement. As I was half way up the mountain side, I was actually on a glorified logging trail, and finally I could not have turned back if I wished to, because it was one lane totally hemmed in by trees. Finally I reached the summit-where there was a clearing. The problem was that there was a rain-formed lake across the road for fifty yards or more. I could see no alternative to attempting it, so I did. The ‘Vette started spinning out just as I got to the end of the water.

Going down turned out to be the real adventure. I had a four speed, had it in second, and the descent was so steep that my car popped out of gear several times. Let me say I was mighty glad when my ‘shortcut’ was completed-a shortcut on which I averaged about twenty miles per hour. And I always did think it messed up my car somewhat, for after that I made many trips to the repair shop. Never anything major, but always something. On that occasion, where my Mom was not available to complain about my choice of routes, I wish that she had been.



One of the highlights of Mom’s life was a trip she took with Aunt Gladys on the Omnibus College in either 1932 or 1933. The drivers and most of those accompanying the tour were professors at Wichita University. The tour covered at least forty states and some Canadian provinces. Almost everywhere those on the tour camped in large tents set up by the drivers and their assistants. One of the exceptions was during the time the group was in New York City, when several nights were spent in a hotel. It was during that time in New York that this incident occurred.

Mother needed to cash a traveler’s check or two, and went in to one of the banks in Manhattan. Mom was one of these unfortunate people whose signature never looked the same any two times in a row. So when she signed the checks the second time, the teller refused to cash them-saying they did not look like the original signatures. Mom was feeling a bit distraught since she needed some money when a booming voice behind her said to the teller, “Cash the checks for her. They will be alright.”

She looked around to find a very burly New York City cop in full uniform. Without missing a beat he said to Mom, “You’re from Wyoming, aren’t

you?” Mom said she was. He said, “I thought so from listening to you talk. I was on the police force in Casper for a number of years and recognized the brogue.” Once again he turned his attention to the teller and said, “Cash the checks for her. I’ll guarantee them. There aren’t any criminals in Wyoming.”

He cashed the checks.


We traveled to Chicago in both the summers of 1960 and 1962. I believe it was the first one of those trips where this story began. We had arrived at the airport early, and Mom was killing time looking around in a gift shop. One thing she saw she really liked-it was a large pair of Hummel figurines called Umbrella Boy and Umbrella Girl. She was debating whether to get them, but about that time our flight was called and we left-without the figurines,

Months passed and Dad asked Mom if there was any special gift she would like for Christmas. Mom said the would like those Hummel figurines she saw in that airport gift shop. Dad told her he would be glad to get them for her, but had no idea how to get in touch with the establishment. Mom said she did, for she had gotten a card from the owner as she left the store. So

Dad told Mom to call the store and he would make those figurines her Christmas gift.

I believe the set was a hundred dollars, although it might have been they were a hundred dollars apiece. So Mom called the store and got to talk to the owner, asking if he still had the set. He did. Mother asked if he would be willing to wrap them and ship them. He said he would. Mom asked what the total would be, told him she would mail him a check and when it cleared he could ship the figurines. He told her just to mail the check and he would wrap and ship the figurines as soon as he got off the phone. Mom said she wouldn’t expect him to do that, but he told her he was sure she was honest. Sure enough in three or four days the package arrived. The figurines are now on top of the piano where they have been for over half a century. Several years before she died Mom saw the set valued at $5,000 in a catalog. When she told some of her friends that, they told her she shouldn’t leave something that valuable out in plain sight. Mom said she had no intention of putting them in a more secure place. She liked them where they were so she could enjoy them frequently.

For me there is an added joy. Mom was like the store owner-she trusted people. And he came from…Chicago. Amazing!


My personal “honesty” story happened in a place where one tends to think such an incident could never happen. The summer before Dad died I took a lengthy trip to the West Coast, driving and taking along a young friend who was still in High School. We did ball games, Disneyland, side excursions everyplace-more details than I can remember. On our trip back, I decided to return through the Lake Tahoe area-a place I had never been. I had no reservation, but was able to secure a room in Harrah’s in State Line. It just so happened that Barry Manilow was featured at the dinner show. He may be thought to be “elevator music” now, but that was when disco was big and he was a hot ticket. The crowd was not a sellout, but I still “played the game” and gave the Maitre’ D a few dollar bills to get a seat close with a good view.

We had been there well over an hour, were done eating, and the show had started when the gentleman came to the table and discreetly asked if he could talk to me. For some reason the first thought that came to my mind was perhaps anyone under age was not supposed to be there-although it was a family show-and maybe we were going to be asked to leave. Talk about

false anxieties. He showed me a hundred dollar bill amid the ones and said, “Sir, I doubt if you meant to give this to me, and I wanted to return it to you in case it was a mistake.” Of course it was a mistake. I always arranged my bills in order and have no idea how I had slipped that hundred in with the ones. Since I only had a couple with me, there was no doubt when I checked my wallet that I had “parted” with one inadvertently.

My gratitude was definitely heart-felt-and I still marvel that such a cool thing could have happened in that setting.



Mom really was a good driver, but she had a problem with her eyes focusing quickly, which according to her made it difficult for her to read road signs at highway speeds. Around 1960 the freeway that was to become I-25 was just starting to be constructed through Denver. The initial portion of it was called “The Valley Highway” or “The Valley Freeway.” I’m not

sure what exit we were looking for, but Mom told Dad and me to be on the

lookout and give her plenty of notice when we saw the sign. Neither one of us saw it until the last second and Mom went by the exit. Next thing we knew, to our horror she had stopped, put the car in reverse, and was backing up toward the exit she had missed. She got to the place the turnoff was, apparently oblivious to the screams of terror emanating from Dad and me, put the car in drive and exited.

It seems hard to believe with today’s traffic that such a maneuver could have resulted in anything other than an accident with probable injury and possibly death. Even then, that’s what Dad and I were envisioning. Mom was indignant with us and said it wasn’t any big deal. After all, she said, she had looked in her rearview mirror before she did it.

At least for me it came in pretty useful that she had that on her “driving record.” For all the rest of her life if she ever became critical of my driving, I would always shoot back, “Well at least I
never backed up on the Valley Highway in Denver.”



Although this event occurred in the ‘70’s, I only recently heard about it. Several of us were sitting on the deck at the Country Club and the talk turned to our High School math classes. The next night I was going to be in Laramie, and was telling about the difficulty with price and availability of motel rooms because Frontier Days was going on over the hill. Steve Kant mentioned a Lusk native I could probably stay with if necessary, and that he was a math professor at UW. I laughed and said how that when that native and I were in High School, most of the time when he was supposed to be “in” Bill Welch’s math class, he and another student were usually in the hall-booted for the day because of their antics in the classroom.

Steve confessed that he didn’t pay much attention in Bill’s classes either, and that when he got to Casper College he was finding his algebra class pretty difficult. Time came for the mid-term and he realized that if he didn’t do well on it, he might as well drop the class and start over another semester-for a poor score on the mid-term would leave him too far down the grade scale to make it up in the rest of the semester. Steve said he had

studied hard, and that when he was just getting a good start on the exam,

someone came over the top of his seat and bit him in the neck. Startled, Steve turned around just in time to see the guy fall to the floor and start jerking and flopping. It took a while for it to register that he was having a seizure. He was helped and removed from the testing area, but Steve said it was just impossible for him to get focused again. Consequently his grade was poor and he said he did drop the class. He took a remedial version of it, did well, but the grade would not transfer when he went to UW. So, he had to take it again.

I know teachers usually don’t buy that the dog ate your homework-but what if he attacked you right when the teacher was watching? This must have been one hard dude, because I don’t think I ever had a professor that would not have let a student take another test in the place of that one. I wonder if it’s too late to get the ACLU involved.

Oh, the person who helped Steve understand algebra was the same student that spent much of his high school algebra class doing hall duty-the same one who now teaches the subject, AKA-Ed DeCastro.



I was asked to perform the wedding ceremony for Lex and Jamie Madden in Torrington in late 1989. Since I had known Lex almost all of his life and we had been good friends for at least fifteen years, it never crossed my mind that I would or should get paid for doing the ceremony. Nothing was said about money at any time during the evening.

Lusk had a very good basketball team that season-and of course Lex had been a very good player for Lusk when he was in High School-setting assist records in particular. The regular season finale during that four-season era was in late January at Lingle, and Lex came to the game. The Tigers had only lost one game during the year, and beat the Doggers by nearly 20 that evening-even though Lingle would go on to win the state title. All the seating in the Lingle gym is on the east side, as is the scorer’s table. I was standing by it before the game when Lex came over and asked me how much he owed me for doing his wedding. I assured him it was a’ freebie.” Basically he said that was not the right answer, and we “discussed” the

matter for several moments. Finally he said we would flip for fifty-double or

nothing. If he won, I would get nothing. But if I won, I would get a hundred. I won. I asked him if he would please not make it too obvious we had been “gambling” in front of the stands. So he left the money with our scorer…I still have the hundred dollar bill in my billfold. (He should have written a check!)



They…demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

Paul {I Timothy 4: 3}

One of my friends had relatives in Denver and was consequently much more familiar with things to see and do there than I was. One time he suggested we eat in a restaurant off Colorado Boulevard-a place called “The Library.” This was in the ‘70’s, and the vegetarian movement was little known in the west. There were lots of diners, and initially I had not noticed the man and two women who were at a table next to us. It was difficult not

to notice him when he asked the waitress where the vegetarian items on the menu were. I don’t remember each step of their conversation, but I know he got increasingly irate and belligerent about how such a fine place as this would offend his sensibilities by not offering items that were “animal free.” Anything she would suggest he would quickly tell her why that particular item wouldn’t work.

Apparently the ladies he was with were co-workers-and I suspect they were on a business trip. After he had gotten our attention, it was rather difficult to get him out of my awareness, and more so because of the next turn the conversation took. Part of it I missed because he spoke in lower tones, but I heard enough to realize he was talking about the various extra-marital affairs he had been involved in, and was still currently involved in. His female dining companions must have been struck as we were with the incongruity of what offended him and what seemed ok. Finally one said, “Doesn’t it bother your wife all this philandering, all this ‘messing around’ on her you do?”

“It shouldn’t,” he said. “She knew I was that way when she married me.”



He can make a better business deal drunk than most people can sober.

-Cousin Blanche, about a certain relative of hers

It was one of the early years in the thirties, 1932 I think. The old car buffs could tell me if I am wrong. According to Dad it was the first year that cars had intermediate gear-or what I grew up calling “second.” Dad worked for Uncle Jim that summer, and he said that Uncle Jim would go from low to intermediate-but then never shift up to high. Dad said he often said, “Jim, the car’s got one more gear. Why won’t you shift?” And Dad said Uncle Jim would reply, “It’s going just fine right where it is.”

This was a summer where in the contest between alcohol and Uncle Jim, alcohol appeared to have the upper hand. On a day when he was particularly in a bad way, he approached Dad and told him that he had bought five hundred head of cattle from the Oh-ten-bar. He was to cut off the fifty poorer ones from a bunch of five hundred fifty. He told Dad that he thought he might need some help in doing a good job. Dad didn’t say anything but said to himself that he was sure he would need some help-probably plenty of


They agreed to meet at the place-just south of Jay Em. Dad said Jim was so far along that he was literally staggering and swaying. But, also, Dad watched him cut off the first two dozen head or so, and said he never made even one error. Dad said, “Jim, you don’t need any help. I’ll see you back at the place.” And Dad left.


It was in the thirties and Dad and another man had gone to Deadwood to play poker. It was the middle of winter and bitterly cold. When they arrived where the game was going on, they both bought a stack of chips. Dad’s friend, Barney Miller, bought fifty dollars worth. The game had a standard feature of many western poker games. If a player opened before looking at his hand, he could raise without an intervening raise when the rotation came back to him. Usually only the first player ahead of the deal could do this-sometimes the next player could also if the first player did not take his ”prerogative.” Before making that “raise of himself” it was permissible to look at your hand. Barney opened in the dark, and no one raised-but several called. Dad and Barney had not yet taken a seat and were getting their overcoats put on hangers. Without looking at his hand, Barney threw in his entire stack of chips. Obviously there were some callers since everyone knew he didn’t know what he had. But, when he looked at the cards, he had a pat seven. It was a winner-even after the others drew.


This was even a few years earlier. A friend whose name I don’t recall sent Dad a telegram.




Some of the stories Mom told were told to many people. I’m quite sure this one wasn’t. Faith was very important to her, and finding a church where she could learn more about the Bible mattered. She would not have wanted to

lessen anyone else’s beliefs. But…enough disclaimers. Mom said she guessed she had tried every church in town except one (which she named.) And she said the only reason she didn’t try that one was because its preacher at that time kept asking her out on dates. Mom was single, but he wasn’t.



Recently I was in a restaurant in Ft. Collins-buying birthday dinner for my friend Kaare. At some point in the meal he pointed out that Casey Bramlet was seated at the next table. Kaare knew him because he had done some refereeing with Casey in Casper. Although I was friends with his parents and his Uncle Bob and I were classmates, I had never met Casey-before, during, or after his great run as Wyoming’s quarterback. I had decided when we finished I would go over and introduce myself, and about then I realized the man with his back to me was his father Tom. When we went over to their table, Tom was reminding me of the time he had gone with my folks and me

to a WYO-CSU game at the Fort. So I reminded him of an incident that day and told him it was going to be in this piece of writing.

Tom was still in High School and I was at the University. It was late in the fall, and the weather forecast could not accurately say when a front would pass through-so it might be relatively pleasant or much colder at the game. Tom wore a light windbreaker, but had a substantial winter coat with him in the stands also. It turned out the “much colder” forecast was the accurate one. It was bitter cold, and Tom was actually shaking he was so cold. When I could stand it no longer I finally said, “Tom, why don’t you put on your heavier coat?”

And he said, “Because if I do and I’m still cold, what will I do then?”

Is it a similar thought process that makes our state government so reluctant to tap it’s “Rainy Day Fund?”



As anyone who visited Lusk or lived here during the past three decades knows, the ‘Yellow Hotel’ deteriorated badly, and apart from its significance in the history of Lusk had actually become the proverbial eyesore. There

had been some plans announced to restore it and make it a bed and breakfast, possibly one including a nice restaurant. It was discovered that the building was structurally so unsound as to render the project impractical and probably undoable.

Early one summer morning as I was leaving the house for the ranch, there was a horrible black cloud of smoke to the northwest. I feared there was a fire downtown. It turned out that the Yellow Hotel was being torched-on purpose-to remove it from the landscape. What a memorable sight going over the railroad overpass to see the flames shooting up from all parts of the building-a sight that gave me mixed emotions as the old landmark was disappearing. The ‘tacky’ postscript arrived later through a text message, which said, “It turns out Del did smoke after sex.”



Grandpa Len had lots of cute little stories. One was about the preacher who

presented a fiery temperance sermon. He concluded by suggesting that all of the alcohol in the world should be taken and dumped in the river. Then he asked if there was a closing hymn, and a voice from the crowd said, “Shall We Gather at the River?”

Mom and alcohol did not get along very well. According to her for much of her life even a small amount of it could make her quite sick. She told of how on that Omnibus College trip when they were in New York City a man who had worked in Wyoming in the area that included their ranch invited Aunt Gladys and her out one evening, and eventually took them to a speakeasy-as it was still during Prohibition. He was unaware of Mom’s problem, and when she didn’t order a drink he urged her to, saying it “would release her inhibitions.” I’m not sure if Mom told him or only Aunt Gladys later that “I didn’t know I had any inhibitions to release.”

Sometime later during that decade of the thirties she had several dates with a man from the Manville area. His parents were German background, and one evening he suggested to Mother that they go out to the country and see them. It was a bitterly cold evening, and people were welcoming the heat that came from the floor furnace.

The parents asked Mom if she would like a glass of wine, and she declined. But they urged her further, and her date told her it was homemade -104-

chokecherry wine and very good. So she had a glass. She was urged to have another, and when she said she thought she shouldn’t, they all told her it was very low alcohol content wine and wouldn’t hurt her. So she had the second glass.

Mom said immediately she knew she shouldn’t have-the combination of the effects of the alcohol and the heat rolling out of the floor made her feel sick and dizzy both. It was a wood floor and Mom said she told herself if she concentrated on following one of the lines she thought she could make it to the car.

Once she was in the vehicle she let the man have a piece of her mind-telling him he had gotten her tipsy and feeling poorly. When she got back to her room, she got sick. It didn’t end after the first incident but kept recurring. Mother said she finally just brought her pillow and leaned against the side of the commode with her head on it.

When morning came she said she knew she had to go to school for there were no substitutes. After the bell the little kids said, “Oh, Miss Christian, you’re sick. Just put your head down on the desk. We know what our lesson

is and we’ll be quiet and work.” Mom said she couldn’t tell the kids her problem was from drinking the night before. She said she did put her head on the desk until after recess, and then knew she would live-but said she wasn’t sure she wanted to.

The other episode that always tickled me was from later in that same era. Both Mom and Aunt Gladys wanted to go to Yellowstone Park with their boyfriends-both of whom eventually became their husbands. Dad’s married sister Iris Erlewine went along as their chaperone.

On the way up, Dad wanted to stop and visit a friend who was dealing (when one didn’t even question that ’dealing’ meant cards rather than drugs) in Dubois. He told Mom she could visit with his wife while the guys had a little chat. The lady said, “Let’s have a cocktail,” and Mom said she would. When asked what she wanted, Mom said she would have just whatever the lady had (since Mom said she didn’t really know the name of any drinks and didn’t want to appear to be a country bumpkin).

It was a warm summer afternoon, and Mom said the drink hit her hard-even though she only had one. The lady didn’t realize Mom and Dad weren’t married yet, so making conversation she asked Mom, “What did you say your maiden name was?”

Mom replied, “I can’t remember, which”… she would always laugh when

she told the story in later years…“was fairly amazing-considering I still had my maiden name.”



It was during the 1940 campaign season. Grandma was a staunch Republican. Wendell Wilkie was making a speech that was being broadcast on the radio, and Mom asked Grandma why she wasn’t listening to it. “Because, honey,” Grandma said, “If I listen to that man one more time I can’t vote for him.”


One of those many years Mother went to summer school she stayed at a boarding house. The proprietor was named Addie Miller-also a very staunch Republican. One night at dinner one of the boarders made a disparaging remark about FDR. Mrs. Miller put down her silverware and said, “We will not have that kind of talk in this house. Mr. Roosevelt is our President, and

we will treat him with respect, even if he is an old idiot.!”


For some reason I first got excited about an election in 1960. It might have had something to do with Richard Nixon being friends with some of my California kinfolk-in fact it was Uncle Monte and a couple of his friends who had convinced Nixon to enter politics after World War II. I ordered some pamphlets to hand out and some “Nixon-Lodge” bumper stickers. When we went to Omaha that year to sell our calves I took those items with me, and at the age of twelve I campaigned for Nixon in the Omaha stock yards. (For those who aren’t big on history, that is the election that Nixon lost in a very close race to John Kennedy.)

Not only were there the huge overhead walkways in the yards, there were much smaller ones on the top of the borders of the pens. The latter were scarcely wide enough for two people to pass, and had no railings. Most people politely accepted or declined my offer of material. However, in my immature and naïve state I did not take into account that there might be those I encountered who were strongly of a “different persuasion.” But when I asked one of the “bib overall” types from Iowa if he wanted the literature, he said, “Hell no!” and his brushing past me was more like a shove and I nearly fell down into one of the pens. It was my first indication

that politics can be hazardous to one’s health-but unfortunately I didn’t take the lesson to heart.



Frank Blish was already officially ‘retired’ when he did his first stint at the Congregational Church. He is one of those special people in my life for many good and serious reasons, but in keeping with the spirit of this treatise-I must share some of the amusing happenings he related to me.

He and Mrs. Blish had just begun a new pastorate in an unnamed place when a small boy came running up to their back door and banged on the screen door. Frank went to the door, and his timing was perfect in relating what next occurred. The boy was out of breath from the run and said, “My mom wonders (gasp) if you and Mrs. Blish (gasp) can come to our house (gasp) for dinner Sunday night (gasp) and then that will be over.”…

I believe that Frank said this next incident occurred in Rock Springs. The minister of the Methodist Church there had a doctorate, and apparently was

in the habit of bringing fairly scholarly and somewhat obtuse messages. Frank said one of the more prominent ladies in his congregation-in fact in the city-began attending the church where he preached more and more frequently. Frank was beginning to feel somewhat uncomfortable about it (not wanting to be accused of proselytizing) and one day said to the lady, “We’re ever so happy to be seeing you at our services, but aren’t you missing being with your own church family?” The lady was evidently somewhat caught by surprise, but the gist of what she said was, “Oh Dr. [blank}-her minister-is just so intelligent, and I would much rather listen to you.” Frank would then add it was comforting to realize he wasn’t overly intelligent…

Frank usually wore a clerical robe as he was performing his ministerial functions. He told of the time when he was performing a wedding and Madeline (Mrs. Blish) began gesturing frantically to him. He looked down and noticed that he had gotten too close to the candles and his robe had caught on fire. Frank said the volunteer fire department chief was in the second or third row and noticed what had happened-and jumped from his seat and came to the front of the sanctuary. Frank was already removing his robe, and the chief helped him finish and stomped on the robe and put the fire out then and there, and Frank said he went right ahead with the

ceremony with scarcely a pause…

There was a time that particularly stuck out in his memory. It was during the graveside part of a funeral. There had been considerable rain and there was plenty of mud around the newly dug grave. As Frank was leading the procession with the casket bearers behind, right as he reached the grave he slipped and fell partially into the hole. He was terribly embarrassed, but said there was nothing to do but go on with the ceremony. The real problem he said is that he knew he was going to have to visit the family later and offer his profound apologies. He said he could hardly bear the thought of facing them and put the visit off for a few weeks-hoping that if they were angry with him that they would have cooled down somewhat. With great trepidation he finally rang their doorbell one day and he said he was put at ease immediately, for when they opened the door and saw him standing there, they burst into uncontrollable laughter.



Dad: “I always looked on the bright side of things until it got so there wasn’t one.”

(Possibly a related thought) Phyllis Hahn: “Until I reached this age I never realized my body had so many parts.”

(Undoubtedly continuing the thought) Jerry Walsh: “We only get one body, and it doesn’t come with spare parts.”

If this were a Greek tragedy, then the chorus would get this line-but in reality the speaker always said it with evident sarcasm but not bitterness. Bill Welch: “Ah, the ‘Golden Years.‘’”


It is New Year’s Day as I am writing this tidbit. The holidays usually are the worst time of the year for those of us given to extra poundage-and so they normally are for me. However, I have been a pretty good boy (Are you

listening, Santa, and will you remember next year?) I’ve actually lost a couple of pounds since Christmas. It was doing a brief reflection on that fact that jogged my memory of another Harry Lyon tale.

If there is anything even more devastating weight-wise than the year end holidays it would have to be a cruise. Just as a wit of yesteryear once remarked that a martini is only a fashionable excuse to drink gin straight, it is my contention that a cruise is likewise mostly a justifiable reason to eat non-stop. After all, food is part of the “all-inclusive price,’’ and there is food set out nearly every hour of the day and night. And you can order some to your cabin if you can’t find any in the normal troughs.

The last vacation Harry and Gina took before her fatal bout with cancer was a cruise with other local couples. Harry had a witty way of relating the details of any story, and his verbal account of the cruise was no exception. It was not a vacation of which he was enamored, and the one remark I particularly recall was his summation of the cuisine: “Well at least the food on a cruise is supposed to be wonderful we all know. This ship’s was so bad when I returned home and weighed on my scale, I had lost five pounds.”


“I’m too big to cry, and it hurts too bad to laugh.”

-A. Lincoln

When I was twenty-eight years old I made an unsuccessful run for the State Legislature. Since this publication is about humorous matters, the only reason I bring it up is to let you know why the following incident even became a part of my life. In retrospect it seems humorous to even me that I could figure out a way to be the first candidate of my party to lose a general election for representative since the New Deal era 42 years before when I had defeated my incumbent rival in the primary and there wasn’t even a registered candidate from the other party on the ballot at primary election time. The state Republican chairman must have been a little more than embarrassed when he called me the morning after the general election to congratulate me on my “win” only to be told by me that he was calling the wrong person if he wanted to congratulate the winner.

At any rate, it seemed like a good time to leave county for a little r and r, and I had a perfect excuse to do so. UW had a good football team-the first

truly successful one we had fielded in eight seasons. We were playing at the University of Arizona on Saturday night, and a win would virtually lock up a conference championship for us. Through the years my parents and I had gone to Cowboy games practically every place they played in the conference at one time or another, but these were always well-organized trips planned long in advance. I don’t know why we decided not to fly for short notice trips weren’t generally so much more expensive in that time. Dad didn’t want to go, but Mom was in her last year of teaching and to utilize the most overworked cliché in the West-she wanted to “get out of Dodge” as much as I did. So we hopped in the car and headed for Tucson-which as any veteran snowbird can tell you is a “fir piece.”

It was a beautiful drive, and before long even the events of the past few days and weeks receded into a semblance of perspective. Besides, ranting and venting can become exhausting. Once we got to the game and in the stadium-two factors combined to make us very glad we had come.

First and foremost, UW was on their game and defeated a very talented Wildcat team in a dogfight. But secondly, there was a very drunk Arizona fan that kept us well entertained. Mom never had much patience with

drunks or their antics-or their mouths. It’s not that I do either, but compared to Mom, I was the picture of tolerance. However, that night there was a very funny drunk, and he wasn’t a potty mouth.

The Wildcat Stadium is practically straight up and down. We were up perhaps thirty rows-very good seats near midfield. Mom was always in very good physical condition and at that age I didn’t even think about such matters very often. But is was a strenuous climb to reach our seats, almost like shinnying up a rope in gym class. No sooner had we reached them than the drunk UA fan started his climb. He was vociferous the entire way up, and maybe because he had used so much air in his blabbering, when he got to our row he stopped and said, “Oxygen. Oxygen! I need some oxygen!!” Now he was perhaps forty years old maximum and really not about to have an attack, but certainly the alcohol had depleted his supply of that necessary commodity-more-so to his brain perhaps than to his mouth or legs.

Once in his seat he continued to have plenty to say-much of it amusing. Wyoming had a lot of big plays that Arizona defended unsuccessfully. Meanwhile the Pokes thwarted similar potential plays by the Wildcats. The man would get up and to say he weaved is no exaggeration. In fact he did it

so badly that it appeared his shoes must be glued down or he would have come tumbling down. But as he weaved he would exhort his team loudly and in a somewhat slurred speech, “Excite me! Excite me! I want to be…EXCITED!!!”

Probably you have been with someone on occasions where something occurred that stuck in your mind and became a sort of private joke between you for years to come. So that was with Mom and me as long as she lived. At times when games were dull or our team was underperforming, one or the other of us would say-minus the weave or air-shattering volume-”Excite me, Excite me. I want to be excited!”



Midway through the ‘80’s our paperboy was Troy Tooley. He was a nice young fellow, and I remember his stopping on more than one occasion to visit when I was working out in the yard. One day he stopped to collect. Mom had asked him in and when she returned with her purse to pay him he said, “Mrs. Lohr. This is the most unusual house I ever go in.”

“Why do you say that?” Mom asked.

“Because it’s so quiet,” Troy answered. “Everywhere else I go, people have the radio on, or the television, or they’re listening to music-sometimes all three. But when I come here, there is never anything on.

“Honey,” Mom said. “If you had taught school for forty years, you would like quiet, too.”


Aunt Gladys taught with a certain lady for the entire time she was employed by the Greybull School system. They were friends, but she was apparently one of those people that it required a strong attitude of tolerance to not terminate the friendship-for she had a very caustic tongue.

Once after they had both retired, the lady went on an excursion in the Senior bus. Everyone was laughing and joking-having a great time. One of the people noticed that Mary was not saying anything, and light-heartedly asked her why she was so quiet.

Ever the life of the party, Mary replied, “When I can improve on silence, I will say something.!”


My cousin Vicki and I were always very close, just as her mom Gladys and my mother always were. We were barely a month apart in age, and I think we started playing piano duets when we were scarcely six. Later Vicki had a double major in music and education and taught for a time in the Cody school system. But after a few years she moved to Texas with the man she was then married to.

She became involved in real estate, but then went back to college and got a degree in law. Most of us realize that there is some strange tendency inside many of us to occasionally say about the worst possible thing we could. This is different from what we hear from folks that are tactless or brutal with boring redundancy. It is something that occurs sometimes when we know there is some particular area of conversation that should cause us to use caution, but somehow that is the very area in which we utter something blatantly incorrect. I share two such moments from Vicki’s legal career. Each involved clients she was representing in a lawsuit.

In the first case her client was seeking legal redress in a drowning where he was claiming the other party’s negligence had caused the drowning to occur. Their case was not going well, and Vicki tried to brace him for the potential outcome and said, “I think we’re dead in the water.” She said when

she saw the look on her client’s face she wished she could have just evaporated.

I don’t remember what the other case was about, but her client was an oriental gentlemen. It was a similar situation where her legal expertise made her know that there was little chance their side would prevail. She said to the client, “I don’t think we have a Chinaman’s chance.”

Perhaps those two incidents helped her decide to semi-retire-for I think her only clients in the last few years were some nuns in a nearby convent. I forgot to ask her if they had taken a ’vow of silence.’


Uncle Earl (Vicki’s father) had one of those “ill-chosen words” moments of his own. It was during World War II, and he was in the Marines-on leave in San Diego. During the years I remember him, Unc was a pretty mellow guy, but probably not so much so in his younger years. With so many men being pressed into duty, it was hard sometimes for the training to keep up with the need-particularly in the case of the officers. This produced a phenomenon called “90-day Wonders”-men who went from induction to being in command in a very short space of time. Needless to say, some of

those did not handle their new-found authority with aplomb.

In this particular incident, Earl was walking down the street and the next thing he knew one of those types was in his face, yelling at him, “You didn’t salute. You didn’t salute me, and I’m an officer.”

Uncle Earl shot back, “I didn’t salute because you looked just like any other dirty-nosed kid to me.”

For his insightful statement, he got to spend a couple of days in the brig.



At the time my singing group Friends was traveling, men’s fashions were fairly flamboyant. Suits and sportscoats and dress slacks were less plain than at any other period of my life. During that time there were an increasing number of dress shoes that had elevated heels, also. I owned a couple of pairs of those.

When we finally got around to making a record we opted to get a copy of the instrumental soundtrack. Technology was much less advanced, and ours came on a tape that required a reel-to-reel player to utilize it. I happened to

have one of those. Our main purpose for getting that tape was to enable me to stand up and sing a couple of numbers with the guys so that I could be facing the audience also. Most of our performing venues had upright pianos that were positioned in such a way as to give me limited opportunities for eye contact. Ordinarily getting the few feet from the piano to the point where Mark and Del were standing was easily accomplished. However, I recall one church where both of them and the piano were on a stage about four feet above the main floor, but there was not a continuous stage between their area and mine. There was not a stair for me to walk down from where the piano was so that I could climb the stair to get to their performing point. To make matters worse, between them and me, there was a railing with a curtain on the front of the platform with barely enough room to carefully walk between it and the drop-off. Since that was really the only way to get there without a lengthy delay and detour, I opted to use it.

Dad had an old story he loved to recall. A friend of his had a date to a dance, and the lady was quite outspoken in her criticism of his dancing abilities. Dad said his friend finally said, “True, I am no Fred Astaire, but

neither are you a Ginger Rogers.” Well, as I was making my way the few

feet from the piano to the guys on the narrow walkway, I stumbled and nearly went down. I was wearing one of those fashionable pairs of shoes I mentioned, and as I was recovering my balance, someone in the crowd called out, “First pair of high heels?”…While I never mastered the art of ballet dancing (or ever even took a lesson), I really did start walking at a quite early age they tell me.



Before Al Gore decreed it should be no more, there used to be some pretty severe winters out on the Kirtley Ridge. (Come to think of it, there have been some of those even after “Thus spake Al.”) One of those “pre Al” times was during calving season while we were renting the Art Thompson place. Mom had heard on the radio that a very dangerous killer had escaped from prison in Nebraska and was reportedly in the panhandle headed for eastern Wyoming. There was so much snow it was barely possible to get around even with a team of horses-that was a bit before we had a four-wheel drive pickup. Mom called Dad up in a minor frenzy-telling him about the escapee

and how concerned she was about Dad’s welfare if the killer should come to where Dad was staying. Mom was a bit of a worrier, and I’m not sure how she took Dad’s reply at the time, although she laughed about it in later years.

“Garnet,” he said. “If he can make it out here through all this snow, let him have me.”



Mom was often troubled by awakening in the middle of the night and then having trouble going back to sleep. When she would wake up-her thoughts were not cheerful. Mother had two “Aunt Nell’s”, although she always called the California one “Aunt Nellie.” My memory is that they were quite different in personality, but that they had one definite thing in common-Mom thought the world of each.

The Wyoming “Aunt Nell” was the wife of Grandpa’s brother Jim. Like her father Jake ZumBrunnen (to whom I have already referred) she was a rather placid person. One day when Mom and Aunt Nell were visiting, Mom asked

her if she ever would wake up in the middle of the night and then have a struggle going back to sleep. I believe it somewhat surprised Mom when Aunt Nell admitted that she did have those times. So looking for something that might help her, Mom said, “What do you do when that happens?”

Aunt Nell replied, “Oh, I just lie there and think of those who have gone on.”

Mom said, “I feel bad enough in the middle of the night when I wake up without thinking about a bunch of dead people.”



The folks would come and hear my group sing every time they had a chance, but of course it was seldom anyplace really far away. One time however they did come to Memphis for the Blackwood Homecoming. We were participants only inasmuch as we entered the talent show; other than that we were just fans enjoying the professional groups ourselves.

I was always on the lookout for some unusual restaurant, and I located one in Memphis. It was in an antebellum home-and reputed to be wonderful.

That it was, but one occurrence during the meal trumps all my other memories. Dad had ordered a prime rib, and I had talked one of the other guys into sharing a tenderloin with me. In that time the dish was almost always prepared for two people, and was called ‘Chateaubriand.’ It was done up in style with a couple of special sauces and multiple vegetables and ornate mashed potatoes circling the dish-with the meat being carved tableside. (And of course, fine restaurants still do this.)

Dad always wanted 57 sauce with his prime (just as I am disappointed if I can’t have some fairly hot horseradish with prime). The waiters were hovering everywhere, but somehow Dad could never get one’s attention. So I finally did and said, “Could we have some 57 sauce, please?

If you have ever seen one of those movies that features a theatrical death scene after a character has been “gut shot,” it wouldn’t be much different than the waiter’s reaction to my request. I thought he was going to fall down, and he was absolutely incredulous as he asked “On the CHATEAU, Sir?”

I think he was still somewhat in a state of shock when I said, “No, it’s for the prime.” His look told us all that this was the kind of place that had never

had anyone do anything so crass as request some Heinz 57. However, interestingly enough, a bottle was produced in a few seconds-which was a sure indicator that we weren’t the first low-life’s to desecrate their establishment.



The motor home “Friends” traveled in had full cooking facilities-but we seldom used them. We did usually keep some items in the fridge to snack on-particularly if we were going to have a long trip between stops. This story isn’t primarily about food, but you will see that food plays a part.

In my life I have only known a handful of people who could truly be described as ‘easy-going.’ One of those is my friend Del Hamon who sang tenor for us. We had all met in college, and we were legitimate friends. Del came pretty close to being one of those people who never had a bad day. I can only recall one exception to that. Unless you have traveled with a group on the road, you have no idea how much ‘togetherness’ that entails. It’s pretty easy for each of you to start getting on one another’s nerves. On this particular day, Del was not himself. Mark and I didn’t know why then-and

I’m sure neither one of us knows why yet. Del just quit talking to us. We tried being serious with him-trying to find out what was wrong. We tried laughing and kidding him to get him out of his mood. Apparently nothing worked. He said nothing-did nothing.

Finally Mark went to the refrigerator. I was driving at the time. He went and made Del a sandwich, put it on a plate, and he said, “Here, Del, have a tuna sandwich.” When everything is OK Del has a way of giving you a totally blank look like he may have had a lobotomy when no one was looking. He gave Mark one of those looks, calmly took the sandwich off the plate, and then he threw it at Mark.

I strangely don’t remember much about what happened next. I think we were all shocked-probably Del most of all. But it wasn’t the beginning of something bad or long-lasting. And the incident surely gave us one of those ‘inside joke’ things. Because forever afterwards, if Del even somewhat looked like he wasn’t pleased with the world, one or the other of us would ask him if he’d like a tuna sandwich.


One of the professional groups that I promoted had a personnel change-

which is not a bit uncommon in the world of professional gospel music. The particular singer that had gone off the road was a very talented, smooth-singing low bass. I knew a lot of the groups quite well during that time, and when they were in whatever city I was promoting them-I would sit and visit with them on their bus or in some restaurant for hours on end. After that change had happened, I said to the tenor (who unlike many tenors was one of those who had a very high speaking voice), “I’ll bet there are times when you really miss….”

“Well,” he said, “we do. But on one of these long trips when we’re gone for three or four weeks, when you would meet him in the aisle in the bus- you never knew whether to say ‘Good Morning’ or duck“…I’d guess they weren’t offering him any tuna sandwiches.



I turned my cell phone on mid-Sunday afternoon for the first time on January 20, 2013 and found I had a short text from my friend Denis Peterson: “Stan the Man goes to the ages.” To leave this next incident out would be a mistake-although it is not “funny ha ha” but “funny peculiar.”

It is one of the things that happened in 1962 that helped make sports a big part of my life up until this present time. There is nothing very unusual for an adolescent male to develop a love of games, except in my case I was not very proficient at any of them. In particular, I wasn’t speedy-which is a big part of the team sports. Somewhere in the preceding couple of years I had become enthusiastic about baseball-one game I could actually play without being a total embarrassment. My passion for statistics found an outlet early on, for professional baseball makes its numbers readily available. I was one of those people that could rattle off batting averages of many players and usually knew on a daily basis the precise records of each team in each league. Somehow the St. Louis Cardinals became my favorite team, and not because of any of their recent successes. They had not won a pennant since 1946 and the Dodgers (for whom Grandpa Lohr rooted having grown up in Brooklyn) had enjoyed much more recent success than the Cards had.

In particular I really admired Stan Musial. By then he was in the twilight of his career but was still a great hitter. In fact in mid-summer of 1962 he was leading the National League in hitting at age 41. Equally important to me was that he was a wonderful human being-no scandals to tarnish his

reputation. Not even once had he ever even been ejected from a ball game for arguing with an umpire. There was a short interval of time in that era when Major League Baseball added a second All-Star game. That year it was going to be in Chicago and I convinced my parents we should go. I even found out which hotel the National League all-stars were going to be staying and booked rooms for us there.

The day of the game was a young boy’s dream. Practically every one of the team was eating breakfast in the hotel coffee shop. No one else that I saw was asking for autographs, and I quietly went to a couple of tables and did. When I found that no one seemed annoyed, I eventually got most of the team to sign my Baseball Register. However, I was disappointed that Musial was not in sight. However, when we went out into the lobby, there he was. I went up to him, told him how much I admired him, asked for his signature, and then wished him good luck in going for his eighth batting championship. He was more than just polite-he was really friendly and carried on quite a conversation with me. Perhaps the neatest thing that happened occurred when I wished him luck with the batting title race. He was hitting over .340 at that all-star break and the season was two-thirds over. But he smiled and said, “Mark, I won’t win it. But let me introduce

you to the man who will.” So he took me over to the hotel desk and said, “Tommy, I want to introduce you to my new friend Mark. Mark, this is Tommy Davis. He will be the batting champion this year.” It was Tommy Davis of the Dodgers-and Musial’s crystal ball was working fine. Although Stan still hit .330 as I recall, Tommy bested him by several points.

In retrospect I should not be surprised that Stan lived to be 92. He was one of the first baseball players to work out in the off-season. I had always heard the sportswriters and broadcasters talk about him as if he was an old man-and of course for professional sports, he was older than most playing. But my first shock in seeing him was how young he actually looked. I was self-conscious about perhaps bothering these great athletes, and I really didn’t want to come across as a dork with my hero. But for five minutes or more he acted like two old friends had just happened to encounter one another. I’m a long way from that adolescent having a once-in-a lifetime occurrence; but Stan really was “The Man”, and nothing has ever changed my perception.



When a restaurant I truly enjoy closes, that is also something like losing an old friend. There was probably never a Wyoming restaurant I enjoyed as much as “The Carriage Court” in the Hitching Post. Several years before the motel was torched, the business decided to close that particular one of its restaurants.

Considering it was in Cheyenne, I was still a fairly regular customer. Several times a year I would be in Colorado for some reason, and when I could would time my return trip to be able to eat dinner there before driving home. There was also an additional incentive. I developed a friendship with a musician named Michael DeGreve-even brought him to Lusk a few times-and he performed in the lobby of the Hitch. He did his first show at 5:30. The Carriage Court didn’t start serving until six-so I often had that enjoyable half hour of music to be a sort of appetizer (not that I didn’t usually order a ’real’ appetizer in the restaurant.)

Once in a while I would run into someone I knew, but not often. However on this one ill-fated afternoon, there were some folks I knew who had come to listen to Michael and were already there when I arrived. As the saying goes, they were already ’far along.” I realized this when the one scooted over next to me and struck up a conversation. It was someone I was barely

acquainted with, so I was somewhat surprised when this happened. Almost immediately I realized this was going to be something uncomfortable. By then I had already done sportswriting for Lusk for at least thirty years. It turned out this fellow had an issue with the fact that one of Lusk’s fine football teams had not been eligible for the playoffs-in spite of being undefeated. This was because the school board had told the state we would not travel to play a mandated regular season game with Buffalo. Thus the Activities Association did not let us compete in the playoffs in spite of our being undefeated-actually for two consecutive seasons.

I explained to the man that I had nothing to do with any of that-that it was a decision made by the school board. He assured me I did and that they did this because I had told them to. When I assured him that I had never even talked to the Board about that issue, he assured me he knew that I had-and that the School Board always did exactly what I told them they should. This was particularly hilarious to me, for the couple of times I had ever had occasion to speak to the Board about a matter, their decision was completely opposite of what I had requested.

There was one reason it wasn’t totally hilarious right at that moment. I

knew of a couple of occasions where my antagonist had beat up some pretty tough customers. It appeared to me that the way the conversation was progressing with his becoming more belligerent with each passing sentence-I was on track to be added to the list. Since my last pugilistic experience had been in my pre-teen era, I was confident I wouldn’t have been too tough. About that time it turned six o’clock and I got up from my chair. He told me I needed to sit down and he would buy me a drink because we needed to talk about this some more. I told him what I needed to do was go to the restaurant, eat, and get home. I did. And I think my guardian angel must have held him down in the chair while I got up and left-because I’m sure he was not planning to let me leave.



The first semester of my second year in Bible College, I roomed with my friend and singing buddy Mark Roseberry. Our repertoire was growing and we were singing more frequently in nearby churches. We had developed a rapport with Pastor Troy Allen of Scottsbluff First Assembly. The church was only a couple of blocks from our school, and we sang over there several

times. This particular night was a school night and we were having to hustle to make the engagement. Our dorm mother was also an Avon lady, and a short time before she had given the residents a wide assortment of product samples that were suitable for males or for both genders. One that Mark and I had picked up for our room was a mouthwash.

I was waiting for Mark to come back from showering since we were going over together, and I decided I would use the mouthwash-which I had already discovered was a product I liked. So I grabbed the bottle and took a big swig and actually started to gargle. It was somewhere in mid-gargle I realized I had not grabbed the right bottle. Also included in our assortment was a bottle of what was called rubdown cooler-in reality a type of liniment.

I still had my tonsils, but before I could get that stuff spit out and start rinsing and re-rinsing my mouth and throat with water-I wasn’t sure I would have any tonsils left. It must have been forty-five minutes to an hour before we actually began to sing, but my throat was raw long after I went to bed.

Somewhere in my pre-teen years we had a law officer in Lusk known to be somewhat outspoken. At that time it was quite common for people heading north on Main Street to turn east on third (the corner where the old

Wyoming Theater stood) and make a U-turn to get headed south on Main Street-this in spite of there being a conspicuous “No U-Turn” sign right there. One day I was in the car with Mom and rather than turning around right at the corner, she went halfway down the block and then turned. The officer appeared and turned on his lights and stopped her. He literally sneered at her, “Can’t you read?” Mom didn’t want a ticket (and he didn’t give her one) so she was pretty meek. But she said later she wanted to say, “Actually, I’ve always been considered a rather good reader.”

Mom had taught me to read before I started school, but as I found out that night in the Bible College dorm room, possessing the skill doesn’t do a whole lot of good if you fail to utilize it.



Mother was never a “joiner” but did thoroughly enjoy P.E.O. She appreciated the opportunity meetings offered her to see ladies whom she seldom saw otherwise. A few times she attended the State Convention. One of those occasions happened when she was nearing eighty, but for any who might not have known her, she was always in excellent physical condition.

That particular convention was held in Riverton, and she and Shelley Coffey were rooming together. When they arrived at the hotel to check in, Shelley instructed Mom to just stay in the car. Mom offered some protest-since they were splitting the cost of the room she thought it would be easier if she went in to register too. But Shelley was insistent that Mom remain in the vehicle-telling her she could get it all taken care of.

When Shelley returned, she was giggling and said, “I got it handled for us, Garnet.”

Mom asked, “Got what handled?

“I got us a room on the ground floor. We were supposed to be on the second floor, and I wanted the ground floor. So I explained to them that I was traveling with a little old lady who had a bad heart, and it was imperative that she not have to climb the stairs. And I knew, Garnet, if you came in with me they would never buy my story.”



At any stage in her life that I can remember, Mother was always engaging in various activities to help stay fit. There were a variety of exercises she performed. In colder months she additionally would jog in place inside or do a rapid walk on a repetitive circuit around the house. (Since Dad also was always one to stay fit, apparently I got the recessive gene.)

She was probably in her late fifties or early sixties when she decided she wanted to add one more exercise. We had a Montgomery Ward catalog store in town at that time-operated by Jim and Norma Shillenn. In one of the catalogs Mom found a set of five pound dumbbells and thought these would be about right-so she ordered them. When they came in, Norma called and Mom went down to pick them up.

Norma asked if she needed help in getting the package to the car, and Mom said of course not, she was parked right outside the front door of the store. Mom said she was taken aback when she grabbed the box, for it was a struggle for her to handle it. She said she thought she was not going to be able to get it in the car. And she told how on her way to the car and during the short drive home, she was really discouraged. She said to herself that she couldn’t imagine how she had let herself get in such bad shape.

The final blow to her ego was getting the box up the six stairs to the main floor of our house. She said she thought she was not going to be able to

manage to get it up on her bed. Then as she begin to open the box, she saw the labeling on the box said, “Two fifty pound dumbbells.”

Suddenly Mom didn’t feel so weak any longer. But she had to wait for Dad to get in from the ranch before she returned the weights-because she said after she found out what they really weighed, she couldn’t budge them.



Robert Burns wrote in a poem about it being desirable that a power would give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us. The same could be said about auditory matters also.

Mom told how in one of her earliest teaching assignments there was a proliferation of bad language and that she knew she had to crack down on it. She said she gave the kids lots of opportunities, but finally told them that the next one to use foul words was going to have to leave the classroom and would not be able to return until he brought a parent along with him to certify that he would not so speak in the future. I can’t recall the name of

the offender, but Mom said when it happened she felt half sick about it. I believe the boy was fifteen at least and Mom said he was good looking and a really nice young man and this was really his only flaw in the classroom. But she said she knew she had to stand behind her threat if she wanted improvement.

Less than half an hour later he returned with his father. Mom said the parent was red in the face and came in the door literally sputtering. He said he couldn’t imagine what had gotten in to the little b----d, that he sure as h-- never heard language like that at home, and that Mom could be assured if he ever spoke like that again, he would beat the-well if I had the way to use those cursing symbols that are utilized in the comics, I would. But you get the picture: Mom said the father never said a single sentence without two or three profanities, vulgarities, or blasphemies in it. She said she then realized the poor kid came by his speech patterns honestly.


If possible, this incident is even better-and particularly if you could hear it told without my self-imposed censorship. Dad had a couple working for him with a young child. They had gone somewhere on Sunday to visit relatives, and when Dad visited with the lady Monday morning he was told how disgusted she was with whatever set of relatives they had been visiting. She

said that all the time they were there, someone was trying to teach her child- the “sweet little innocent thing” she called her-naughty words. She was understandably indignant, voicing how they would never go back there again and how terrible it was when both she and her husband had tried so hard to insure the child didn’t encounter that language.

Dad said that as this conversation was taking place, the youngster in question kept crawling up on the kitchen table where they were sitting-and the Mother would shoo her back down. Finally the kid crawled over to the window and begin trying to pull the curtain off its rod. Dad said the lady gave the kid a swat and without even pausing for breath in her lecture called the child by name, and said, “You little (and used an epithet that indicated the youngster had used insufficient toilet tissue), get down from there right now.”

Dad said the pressure on him was nearly more than he could handle-the total incongruity between the lady’s subject matter and then her words so diametrically opposed to her supposed philosophy on foul talk-and his needing to keep a straight face until he could make his escape outside.



“The scariest ten words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”

-Ronald Reagan

I had only been mayor a little over four months when a very unusual occurrence happened. An ice storm in early October knocked the power out to the town and all of the county. When I learned of the magnitude of the outage and its expected duration, I decided I should call the Governor’s office. At the time I was fifty years old, and had chatted with every governor of the State since I was twelve. I always enjoyed attending the speeches the elected officials scheduled in Lusk. Our state being as it is, all of these people were always willing to talk to those who approached them. I put the call through to the governor, was asked why I was calling, and told someone would call me back later. I said, “You don’t understand. We have a huge emergency situation going on here.” Somewhat indignantly the lady replied I would have to hold. I did not ever get to speak to the governor.

A few days later a helicopter was brought up by him and I was asked to go

go along and view the damage. In a meeting after we returned to town both the governor and the state head of Emergency Management met with us and said we could apply for federal disaster aid, but they discouraged it-saying they didn’t think the impact was sufficient. At that point I bristled and said, “One hundred per cent of the county is without power. How much greater impact could there be?”

For us to even be able to apply to Washington, the governor had to designate a disaster as having occurred. He had thirty days to do so. It was either day 29 or 30 before he did.

The original request was denied. Again our state officials told us we could appeal, but it would be useless. Knowing our case was legitimate and worthy, both Ross Diercks and I said of course we would appeal. The Clinton impeachment process had been going on when the original request reached Washington-and we figured that might have affected their mood.

On the second try ours was the first request ever funded by F.E.M.A in Wyoming. There was hugely significant immediate help coming to the N.E.A. Lusk’s monetary costs had not been as large in securing emergency

generation, but a few months later the Town was eligible for a mitigation grant that mostly paid to make the town’s transmission system less vulnerable to future situations which might cause outages-which has indeed been the case.

What’s so funny about this story? Nothing, unless you consider it dark humor. I thought with all the ridiculous pork barrel measures in existence, it was mighty funny even our own state administration fought so hard to keep us from getting help.


I attended at least a couple of Annual Prayer Breakfast’s sponsored by the Governor in Cheyenne. At one of those I happened to be seated next to the head of the DEQ. Before the program got started, I asked if he minded “talking shop” and he said he didn’t. My concern was the vast amount of dust that was coming off the coal trains. I asked what the allowable limits were for that type of pollution. He said there weren’t any. I asked him if the legislature had to act for there to be such limits, and he said it didn’t-the department could create them.

The gentleman was very friendly, told me he would call me in a few days at my office. And he did. In the call as in person he presumed the pollution of my concern was being caused by diesel smoke-which I assured him was

not the case. He said he would send up some folks to assess the situation.

Those folks were sent, but I didn’t hear about it until later. They were all

nineteen and twenty year old students according to those who talked to them. The report filed indicated the pollution was caused by diesel smoke. They said the coal trains create their own ecosystem and the coal dust never gets further than ten feet from the track.

Apparently I live much closer to the track than I realized, or I am dusting diesel smoke off everything in my house. And many years ago when I had to quit walking on the golf course in the winter because it was getting my trouser legs black, that must have been diesel smoke too. But I’m thinking about two trains would travel across Maryland or Virginia before a restraining order was issued and measures were taken to curb the “diesel smoke.”


There are plenty of grants available, even in a small place like Lusk. The trouble is, most of them aren’t available for areas of greatest need-things such as street repair or redoing sewers. Occasionally a Senator or

Congressman is in town-but two or three times a year a representative from each of their offices is. They like to meet with the mayor and I always enjoyed those meetings. I had thought a lot about the matter, and told them that one thing Washington could do to help the grant situation was to make a certain amount of grant money available without specifying what specific projects that money was limited to. Then each community could write grant requests for their area of greatest need and the grants could be awarded on the basis of merit.

It was obvious the Washington mentality had struck those aides. Incredulous, they asked how I thought the communities
could possibly know what we needed. And I said what was obvious was that Washington
didn’t know what we needed.

(In the period of time of my greatest familiarity-mid-nineties on- a few million in federal grants have been allocated to the local airport and nary a penny to any of the side streets.) There is something extremely humorous about their conviction of our ignorance, but pardon me if I fail to laugh.



The other day I saw one of my flock washing the outside of her front door

as well as the doorposts. I parked the car and walked up to visit a moment. There was quite a bit of noise and she hadn’t heard or seen me approach her. When I said, “Hi” she jumped and said, “You scared the Hell out of me.” And I said, “Well that is part of my job description, you know.”


While it is never a socially acceptable topic. I would venture in the best of families the subject of flatulence comes up from time to time for obvious reasons. Once in the World War II era Ben Ghazi was in the news for days on end. Finally one day my aunt said to Mom, “What’s so unique about it? I’ve been ghazi all my life.”


Dick Pfister had an office downtown in the old creamery building. However it was not uncommon in the late ‘70’s and ‘80’s to find him out at the country club with books and papers strung out over two or three tables working away.

The attractions were many. Dick always wanted to find the perfect

spaghetti sauce, and he would usually have a pot on the stove in the kitchen-having figured out a way to tweak his experiment even further. (I can’t actually remember ever getting to sample any batch-but perhaps I did.)

His first excuse for doing bookwork out at the club was that he said the phone rang so much in his real office he couldn’t get anything done. When the club installed a Pac-man game and then later Ms. Pac-Man-that was the great motivation. Dick would put quarter after quarter in trying to beat his previous high score. (I know-I often came out to try to beat my own best and had to wait for my turn as each of us had gotten so we could make a quarter last quite a while.)

But the laugh came when the phone would ring, and whether Dick or I would answer, it was always for him. And in total, apparently perplexed exasperation he would say, “Now how in the h--- did they know to try me here?”



I believe the first Cadillac Grandpa Len ever bought was a 1950 version. He bragged constantly about what great mileage it got. Dad was a bit skeptical. They were going down to southeastern Colorado to buy some cattle, and Grandpa said they would fill up before they left and check the

mileage at the end of the 400 mile trip. Dad started out driving and when they got about to Torrington he mentioned that it didn’t seem like the car had much zip. Grandpa said he couldn’t imagine that so they stopped for Grandpa to take a look. It turns out that the emergency brake had been part way on. Grandpa said that he hoped Dad realized that wouldn’t do the mileage any good. However when they got to their destination they checked anyway, and the car had made 24 miles to the gallon-an outstanding number in that era, particularly with nearly sixty miles with the brake partly on…Dad became a grudging convert.


Grandpa traded that car off after two years, but his ’52 he kept for a long while. He seldom drove it and it was like a new car, but Stan Wasson kept badgering Grandpa to trade. Finally one day in his office, Stan said, “What are you gong to do with all that money, Len? You know you can’t take it with you.”

And Grandpa shot back, “Well, I can’t take the Cadillac with me either.”



This incident happened long before I had ever baptized anyone or been baptized myself. I had watched many people be immersed, but never saw anything other than routine occur during any of the baptisms. However, I missed this one at the Baptist Church.

Jan Krein, (McCallister then) was being baptized one Sunday morning. She was one of those people who was frightened of water. In her younger years, Jan was rather heavy. Meanwhile the Baptist preacher of the era, Pastor Jervis, was a slight built man who was quite short. It turned out to be a memorable ceremony. If the candidate will relax, a person’s natural buoyancy in water makes it quite easy for the one performing the ceremony to lower him or her under the water and easily bring the person back up. Well, Jan wasn’t relaxed. She struggled, and Pastor Jervis had quite a time doing the baptism. In fact once he did finally get her under, he almost didn’t get her back to the surface and she came up choking, gasping, and sputtering.

Shortly afterwards when she had dried off and gotten dressed in dry clothes, she encountered her mother Della, who started laughing

boisterously. Jan had a great sense of humor, but not at that particular moment. She said to her mother, “I could have drowned. How can you stand there laughing?”

Della said, “I know that. But I figured if you died while being baptized you would surely go to heaven, wouldn’t you?”


One of the things that surprised me in my ministerial training is that we were never given the chance to “practice” some baptisms on one another-just going through the motions to get the technique down. I could dig through the old records and find out who and when my first real baptism was, but this incident that I am recalling happened quite early in my ministry-before my third anniversary. At that time I was also serving the church in Jay Em on Sunday mornings. I received a call from the sponsor of a teen/young adult group in Torrington, wondering if I would do some baptisms for them. They were coming up to Jay Em for an end of the summer picnic and mini-retreat, and some of their members desired to be

baptized. I told the man I would as long as I had a chance to speak to them briefly about the significance of baptism as outlined in the Scriptures. He agreed that would be fine.

There was only one hitch in the plan. There was no baptistery in the Jay Em Church. That didn’t matter at all to them, for they all wanted to be baptized in the creek. It did matter some to me, because the Jay Em Church had always come to Lusk to use the baptistery in the Church of Christ and I had never done a baptism in a creek or pond.

As I recall originally there were a half dozen people planning to be immersed. After my little teaching session, two or three more decided they also wished to be baptized. There were around twenty in the group. I found a spot in the creek where there was a little pool, and it was perhaps four feet deep. All the original baptisms went well, as did the few extra who had announced their desire. But then several more after witnessing their friends be immersed decided they would be, too. Everything was OK until the last young lady. She was tall and she was heavy. By then the footing wasn’t very good since so many people had come down into the water there and been moving around. Sure enough when I began putting her under, my feet began to slip. Now we weren’t in any danger-but it looked like there was going to be a big splash so the solemnity factor would disappear with that splash. At the last possible moment one of my sliding feet struck a big rock which

stopped me dead still. It was tenuous, but I was able to finish lowering her and get her back up before anything happened. But memories of what I had heard about Jan’s situation were flashing through my head till I hit the rock.


Most of the stories I have been telling happened long ago; I don’t know if life seemed funnier to me back then or what the reason is for this imbalance in time. However, this one is of recent vintage. I had taken some newspapers down to the recycling trailer. In the minute or so it took me to dispose of them, a man drove up and jumped out of his car. He was someone I knew-although not extremely well. He began by asking if he could talk to me, and if he could be blunt. The first thought I had upon hearing that was that it had been some time since I had been mayor, for that sounded like the introductory remarks that would often precede someone giving me a piece of his mind. But I told him to go right ahead with what he wanted to say. My surprise was extreme when he said, “Will you baptize me?” In my four decades of being in the profession, I had never had anyone approach me like


But I talked briefly with him, after telling him basically right away that I would. He also said that his grandma was going to come watch, and he thought she wanted to be baptized, too.

By the day of the baptism I knew for sure that Grandma was also going to be immersed-in fact we decided to do hers first. The baptistery is over sixty years old, and it used to have practically straight up and down wooden steps on each side. In reality these were little more than a ladder. However, a few years ago when I was entering it on my side, one of the steps cracked when I stepped on it and put a several inch long gash in my foot. It was decided the entry had to be revamped on each side.

Now the baptistery is fairly big, but the reconstructed steps go down much more like a conventional stairway. The upshot is that there is not nearly as much usable room to baptize as there once was. We are forced to stand between the front of the steps and the forward wall. I hadn’t done a baptism for a couple of years, and I guess my muscle memory still recalled all the ones I had performed with the old setup. At any rate, I didn’t position her exactly correctly, and getting her under and back up was not as smooth as it usually is. It wasn’t her fault at all, for she didn’t struggle. But it took some extra effort to get her head under and then to return her to a standing position. She was beaming, but my joy had a sudden interruption when she

said to her grandson, “Get me my puffer, quickly please.” Apparently the length of the proceedings more than anything else had made her short on air.

After both of the baptisms were done and I had prayed and sung and we had all done our share of rejoicing, I said I had a story to tell them. Of course I told them about Jan’s problematical baptism, and I told Grandma that I was sure she was going to be alright, but if not, her eternal destination should not be in question.


“The Big Bomb”

Earlier in the year there was much shock and outrage about the government’s tracking of phone calls-although they swore they never ’listened in.’ It took me back to my College days at UW when the Viet Nam War was raging. Our dorm rooms had phones, but we had to have a special type of credit card to use them to make long distance calls from our end. I don’t recall making or receiving many calls from my parents as I was at

home nearly every weekend-playing the piano for church and covering the High School football and basketball games. However there was this one fateful occasion when Mom and I were talking. Mom was not particularly radical where political matters were concerned, but the conflict in Viet Nam certainly had her dander up. As the war kept dragging on there was much discussion about whether “the big bomb” should be dropped on North Viet Nam-meaning a nuclear weapon. So this night when our conversation turned to the war, Mom said with no warning, “Where they ought to drop ‘the big bomb’ is on Washington, D.C.’

I said, “Mom, be quiet. You know these dorm phones are undoubtedly bugged.” That was the rumor in those days which was probably true since so many campuses were hotbeds of anti-war demonstrations and even violence.

A couple of weeks later, right before the kids went to lunch, there was a knock on Mom’s schoolroom door. This man handed her his identification, told her he was from the FBI, and that he wished to speak with her. Remembering our conversation of a few nights before Mom said she felt her knees threatening to buckle in apprehension. She told the agent she would speak with him as soon as she got the kids down to the lunchroom. When she had this accomplished, she came back to the room, and by her own account she was virtually a nervous wreck-fearing the worst.

However when the FBI man began his questioning, it concerned a certain

man that he wondered if we had ever employed. It turned out we had. He asked where that man was now, and Mom truthfully told him that we had no idea. He then informed her that the man was on the FBI’s ’Most Wanted’ list.

We never heard any further details, but all of us thought how ludicrous it was that this man was apparently a dangerous criminal. Getting temporary help during calving season, which was what Dad usually did, was fairly difficult with no great qualified labor pool from which to draw. This particular man represented himself to be “McGuillicuddy from New York State. The first time Dad and he were going to ride down the S-Bar and sort off the cows about ready to calve and bring them up the hill, he asked his new hired man if he had ever ridden horseback. The man said he had ridden many times. When he went to saddle his horse he put the saddle about two inches in front of the tail. Dad asked him if he was planning to ride in the back seat that morning. So Dad finished the saddling for him.

The next day Dad asked if he thought he could saddle his own horse, and

the man replied, “Sure.” Dad said he knew he should have been watching more carefully, because the first time the horse turned to cut out a cow the saddle turned underneath and McGuillicudy was on the turf. He had made the common rookie mistake of not doing the hard final tightening and paid the price…But people such as Paul Harvey and Mike Huckabee have reminded us that most criminals are incompetent, and apparently as dangerous as he well may have been, ours was also-at least when on or attempting to stay on a horse‘s back.


None of His Business

One of the boys in her classroom near the end of Mom’s teaching career was a handful. He engaged in all kinds of bizarre behaviors and said many inappropriate things. After one particular incident on the playground, Mom decided to attempt a heart-to-heart talk with him. She said, “Michael, has it ever occurred to you that these things you do hurt me? And he said it hadn’t.

Then she asked him, “Has it ever occurred to you that these things you are doing hurt your classmates?” He shrugged his shoulders and said it hadn’t occurred to him.

“Michael, do you go to church or Sunday School?” And he said he didn’t. Finally Mom said, “Michael, does it ever occur to you these things you do

hurt God?”

“Look, Mrs. Lohr,” he said, “I already told you I don’t go to church or Sunday School, so I don’t see how what I’m doing could possibly be any of God’s business!”

The Language They Understand

Many years ago Mother had several children in her Sunday School class who were brothers, sisters, or cousins. One day one of the cousins was getting on another one’s nerves, and that one said, “If you do that again, I am going to punch you.”

Mom said, “O honey, we don’t talk like that or do things like that in Sunday School.”

Without missing a beat she said, “Mrs. Lohr, that’s the only language he understands.”


It was in that same approximate time frame that I was competing in a gin tournament in Nevada. Before the 1980’s rolled around the old International Tournament in Las Vegas that encompassed around ten hotels had gone out of existence-but individual hotels still staged their own events. Many of these were directed by the same gentleman and his wife. This particular one had an opening get together that served beverages and light refreshments. Also, the director took the microphone and gave us about a five minute rundown about the rules and format.

I realize it’s probably just me, but it tickles me how these establishments eschew the word ‘gambling’ and speak instead of ‘the gaming industry’ as though it were right up there in stature with all the other industries. At this particular welcoming party, the participants were decked out in their finery-particularly the ladies. There were lots of gorgeous gowns and enough jewelry to impress anyone. The appearance was a very genteel class of society attending an exclusive social function.

Time came that Chet, for that was our host’s name, wanted to make his remarks. He took the mic and indicated he would like everyone’s attention-but the noise didn’t dwindle even a little bit, so a smiling Chet laid down the microphone and walked away. He came back about five minutes later, tried the same thing, and got absolutely the same non-response.

Finally after another five he took the mic again, asked for quiet and

everyone’s attention. This time when nothing changed he got red in the face and positively yelled into the microphone, “Shut the F--- up” (no abbreviation though). I was expecting gasps of horror and perhaps a swooning lady or two. Instead everyone just got quiet.

Turns out we were just in a pool hall after all-a little nicer one with a clientele dressed better than normal-but a pool hall-and everyone knew the language customary in that venue.


Probably with a little bit of effort you might be able to figure out the people involved in this incident, but I am not going to supply their names-particularly since one is now an attorney. It was only a few years before Mom retired when there was a knock on her schoolroom door, and she went out into the hall to talk with the person who had knocked. Apparently she had been in mid-scold when the knock occurred, and the recipients of her

lecture were three young men who were all cousins of one another.

When she returned to the room several of the little girls called the three boys by name and said, “Mrs. Lohr, they called you a ‘bitch.’” So Mom took them aside and asked them if the accusation was true. The first two admitted that it was, but the third was very agitated and said he hadn’t. He said, “I only agreed-I only agreed.”

Apparently by third grade he was already on the fast track to the legal profession.


“Counter” Culture

In the years that Dad ran the pool hall, many people asked for a loan. Dad apparently was not averse to loaning money to those people he knew. He said that a few stiffed him, but most paid him back. I actually saw one of those people do that thirty some years after the debt was incurred. Of course Dad smiled afterwards and said since the fellow paid no interest and a lot of inflation had occurred since, he really had gotten “took,” but he still felt good to have been paid at all. One of the more unusual transactions was a man giving Dad a fairly fancy twenty-two pistol to cover the loan. He never did redeem the gun. But all of this is just introduction to the one incident I really did want to relate. With all the encoding on checks these days it

seems hard to believe that not too many years ago, every business had counter checks from most of the surrounding banks for their customer’s convenience. One night a guy wanted to get into the card game and asked Dad if he could cash a check to do so, and Dad said he could. He then asked Dad for a counter check. Dad asked him which bank, and he said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter.” And Dad said he knew it didn’t, for he was fairly sure the man didn’t have money in any of them.

The fellow lost that night, but Dad said he paid him back in the next day or two-which Dad said he was quite sure he would-or he wouldn’t have allowed him to write the “bogus” check.



There still are people who go out in the country to look at people’s cattle and buy them directly-either for themselves or others. However with both

video auctions where sellers have to provide a correct weight or be penalized for heavier cattle and regular sale barns always weighing the load lots before the cattle are sold-the practice is not nearly as prevalent as it once was. I was pretty young when we sold our calves that way to a man from northern Colorado. In that day and time the buyer just estimated what the cattle would weigh and made his price offer based on that estimate rather than any firm knowledge of the actual weight. And of course we didn’t know precisely what the calves would weigh either.

When they were weighed the weight was certainly more than the buyer, whose name was Jake, had anticipated. He was German background and had plenty of brogue in his speech. It took him forever to get the check made out, and he did plenty of lamenting and wondering how he had missed the weight so much and in general crying over the whole proposition. But the reason we all never forgot the session in our front room was because of what he said when he finally handed Dad the check. He looked at Mom, and in even a thicker than normal accent asked, “Missus, do you have a bathroom? This whole affair has made me sick of my stomach.”



I remember a time in the 1950’s when we went down to Mark Cox’s Angus ranch close to Cheyenne in search of a bull. Dad, with his dry sense of humor, always said, “I never need to ask which one is the most expensive. Whatever one I like best I am sure will be.” Well there was one he really liked, it was, but he bought it.

We had taken a pickup with a stock rack so we could haul one home in case we were buyers-so we loaded it up and headed our way. It was a terribly wet spring for Wyoming. It had rained so much that there was even one significant detour. Although we had done everything we could (planks cut to fit the hauling area and plenty of straw)-it was still very slippery and the poor bull had a hard time keeping his footing, particularly on the detour. For some reason we all sort of “bonded” with this particular animal. In general black bulls are not warm, cuddly, gentle beasts. You usually better watch your back.

This bull produced some of the best calves we ever had. He was a “Sunbeam” and so naturally Dad called him “Beamie.” It’s just part of the

ranching business, but after a few years even the best bulls need to be replaced. Dad was not a sentimental person, but when he loaded Beamie up to take him to the sale barn (after which he soon would be slaughtered)-the bull actually nuzzled Dad with his nose as he walked up the chute as if he were saying a last good-bye. Then he turned his head and took the last few steps. It even got to Dad.

At our house we didn’t have a bologna sandwich for a good long spell.



Whatever can go wrong will go wrong

-Murphy’s Law

The occasion was Uncle Jim hiring a new man to help during haying season. There was a particular meadow that needed mowed. It was in the era where a team of horses was used with an old fashioned sickle mower to the side. Uncle Jim told the new hand that he would mow the first round or two, because right on the edge of the field there were a number of stumps and if the mower hit one, it would break the sickle. “I know where they are,” said Uncle Jim, “so that’s why I’ll handle this first little bit.” He had gone about a hundred yards when he hit one of the stumps and broke the sickle. “Yup, there’s one of them,” he told the new man with a straight face.



I’ve been to New Orleans several times in my life, but that first time that I was there with my folks will always stand out. I was a sophomore at the University of Wyoming and the Cowboys had been selected to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl Game on New Year’s Day 1968. Lots of Wyoming fans did what we did and flew on one of the many specially chartered flights. In spite of its raining practically every minute we were there-including during the game and since that was pre Superdome and in the old Tulane Stadium, we weren’t protected from the elements-it was a thrilling experience. It was many years later that BYU was perpetually in the Holiday Bowl at San Diego. Shall we say their fans were a bit more prim and proper than the Cowboy fans were at our lone Sugar Bowl. The old joke was theirs each brought a copy of the Ten Commandments and a fifty dollar bill along with them, and never broke either one while in town. The rumor was three

hotel bars housing the Cowboy contingent ran out of booze before our event was over. The Lusk Herald ran a story naming the dozens of local people in attendance, but omitted our names. Since none of us were drinking at the time, Dad said what bothered him most about the omission was he thought we might have been the only ones who actually remembered we were there.



“Wouldst not play false, but wouldst wrongly win.”

Macbeth (Shakespeare)

Vandalism never appealed to me. To this day I can’t see what thrill or satisfaction it might bring to the perpetrator. I was never a practical joker either. Those things usually seemed more irritating to me than amusing. I suspect in most of us, at least most adolescent males, there does seem to be a certain challenge, a certain thrill to pulling off something at least a tad naughty and not getting caught. I remember how some of my friends and I would occasionally give the telephone operator Del’s number, wait until the phone was answered and quickly hang up. We’d laugh as though we had really done something. I know some of my friends occasionally pulled a fire alarm at school, and I truly can’t remember if any of them ever got caught. That was something I never did. Mom always assured me if I did something

wrong at school I shouldn’t think she would bail me out. In fact she guaranteed me I would be left hanging out to dry.

Decades after my school years in Lusk I was making my almost annual trek to the National Quartet Convention sometime during the twenty year span it was being held in Louisville, Kentucky. I was never comfortable making arrangements very far ahead of time, because some years the cattle did not leave the pasture early enough for me to attend the entire event. As more and more folks began booking even their hotel rooms an entire year in advance, I found that there was seldom space available in the closer venues that I had always stayed in-so I began to have to explore different options.

In the year in question I was staying in a brand new Holiday Inn. I remember my room was a corner one with a great view and secured at a bargain price since the new establishment was trying to attract business. Not only does the convention go on late at night, Bible studies and chapel services get going relatively early the next day. Those are some of my favorite parts of the event (Is that because they are the only things that are

free?)-so I would get down to breakfast in good order.

The staff in the restaurant did not have much experience, and some times the food did not appear quickly. On the morning I’m recalling everything I ordered had appeared, albeit after a sizeable wait, except for my English muffin. The chef was aware that most of the guests were not getting their food in a timely fashion, so he came to some of our tables and asked if everything was OK. I told him it was, except for the absence of my English Muffin. And he said he would see to it that it came out quickly.

It was probably less than a minute later when the fire alarm went off. It had been many years since I had been anywhere that a fire alarm had gone off. Let me assure you that the modern version makes it virtually impossible to shrug it off and assume it is a false alarm. It is so calibrated and so loud as to be very painful and make one feel as if one’s hearing is in jeopardy. So along with everyone else, I meekly left the building. Folks began appearing from their rooms-some in robes and slippers. When it became obvious to me that we were not going to be able to re-enter the building anytime soon, I headed for the other side to get my car and drive to the convention site.

As chance would have it I encountered the chef who had spoken to me. I made some remark about never having had to exit a large building before. He laughed and said, “Well, you know it was your English muffin that brought this about. The smoke detectors are extremely sensitive, and if one

goes off it causes the alarm system to go off also-and we can’t do anything about it. Your waitress is new and didn’t know how to warm an English muffin. She put it in the microwave instead of the toaster, set the timer for five minutes, and when she opened the door the smoke rolled out-and here we are.” I told him I hadn’t gotten to pay my bill and he said, “Just forget about it.”

It wasn’t until I was in my car driving away that I realized I had basically gotten away with activating a fire alarm, emptying a building, and was NOT going to get sent to the principal’s office.


Mother was quite bright. She was in first grade one day and the next the teacher sent her to second. The next day she was put in third. The following day the teacher was going to put her in fourth, but it was then that Grandma put her foot down. She felt that Mom would be too emotionally immature to

fit in with kids that much older. It wasn’t the matter of academics. Grandma had been a teacher and had been giving Mom a gigantic head start at home- so handling the classroom work would not have been the major issue.

Something that puzzled me was that Mom was geographically quite ignorant. She also had a poor sense of direction and thus often had difficulty finding some new location. I had always suspected that perhaps the two deficiencies were somehow related. One day she made some remark about where something was and she was something like half a planet off. So I asked her what was with that error.

Mom had such a great sense of humor that for a while I thought her response was just an attempt to get me to laugh. Apparently not. She took one year of rural high school. She said that her geography class was the first thing after lunch. Her teacher would feel tired and full then, and Mom said she would scoot the water cooler down to the end of the bench and lay down and nap until the period was over. Since it was a daily occurrence, Mom never actually had the required geography class…To think that many believe education was always good in “the good old days.”

“Will You Marry Me?”

It was a hot summer afternoon, and my group and I had just teed off

number four. As we were driving our carts up the fairway toward the creek I saw this old beater car start down the hill east of number one fairway. My intuition kicked in and I had the feeling whoever it was was coming to see me. I was right, and just as we approached the bridge he had parked on our side of the creek and walked across the fairway to get to us. He said, “Are you Mark Lohr?” I of course answered in the affirmative.

“Will you marry me?” I should mention I was playing with three young people that day, all of whom knew my questioner-but of course I didn’t. So rather than make themselves scarce after they could see it was “business” they all crowded in closer. I’m sure they had a strong idea of what was going on.

“If you mean will I do your wedding, I probably will. When are you thinking of?”


“Like I said, I probably will-but not today.”

“But Denny Meier promised me you would do my wedding.”

“I probably will, but not today.”

“Why not? It’s got to be today. I’ve been planning this for a long time.”

“Well, you didn’t tell me. I don’t marry anyone unless I have a chance to talk to both of them. I’m not going to talk to you today.”

“But it’s got to be today.”

“Why does it have to be today?”

“Because her folks are out of town today-so it has to be today.”

I also ought to mention that to begin with the kids were trying to hold it down, but they began snickering, and by the time he got to his explanation if there truly is such a thing as guffaws-I heard them then.

“Well, I’m telling you one last time-I won’t do it today.”

So a very dejected would-be-groom who thought he had beat the system trudged back to his car. But he did find someone to marry them, either that day or the next. As Paul Harvey used to say, whoever tied them together-it was a slip knot. For me, I avoided getting my wedding batting average lowered further, for in that day and time it wasn’t that good. In self-defense, none of my failures much cared whether I thought their getting hitched was a good idea, which most times I knew it wasn’t. Perhaps I don’t get bothered with this type of service as often since I have let it slip that I don’t think eloping is all that bad an idea-particularly if it saves me from being the alternative.


Catching the Rabbit

We only had one dog as I was growing up, and he adopted us. Dad had the pickup downtown getting it serviced at the filling station. His was the last of the day to be worked on, and when he came to get the vehicle, there was a dog in the back. When he asked about it he was told that the dog had been there all afternoon-and had jumped in every pickup there was. The owners would shoo him out when they came to get their pickups, and Dad’s was the only one left so he stayed in it. I don’t remember if Dad tried to get him out before coming home or if he just decided after he got home the dog would get bored with the whole affair and finally leave. Well, he got out of the pickup, but he didn’t leave. We went three or four days without feeding him, but every time we would walk out the door-there he would be. We tried to find out who his owner was, but without success. So we started giving him


He was a bob tailed shepherd, really quite a beautiful animal, and intensely loyal to Dad. We named him Curley. For the most part he was quite friendly, but he was also very territorial. The back ante way where he was allowed to sleep and the back of the pickup where he daily rode to the ranch-he evidently considered his. Through the years he bit several of my friends and even an adult or two who crossed the property line. Those I remember his biting mostly went on to log some notable accomplishments in life, so (pun intended) it might be entirely proper to say Curley had good taste in his selection of whom to sink his canines in. One morning we heard a scream, and it came from the young son of the town’s noted chiropractor who lived up the alley from us. Chucky had snuck down about six in the morning and opened the back door, which we didn’t keep locked and where Curley slept. When awakened from slumber, Curley did what any self-respecting dog would do: he bit his ’alarm clock.’ Evidently the incident did not traumatize the youngster enough to keep him from growing up to follow in his father’s footsteps as a doctor.

Another victim was our then next door neighbor Shawn Madden. Curley bit him close to his mouth. Shawn went on not only to become a fine athlete and co-owner of what many years is the nation’s largest sale barn-he even was selected as world champion auctioneer competing against his peers-so obviously Curley didn’t nip his ability to do the auction call in the bud.

Another of my young friends got nailed by the pooch. They moved not long afterwards, but Phil Roberts went on to become a noted history professor at UW and has sought state public office. Perhaps the only lasting effect of that bite was that he has run as a Democrat-so since it is Wyoming, perhaps Curley’s misdeed did affect his judgment. The main thing I can say for sure is that fortunately it was a less litigious time, or any of those incidents, plus some I haven’t mentioned, might have gotten us in a big lawsuit.

Since I want to keep this suitable reading for all, I will also omit telling of any of Curley’s peccadilloes resulting from his amorous instincts-for he was a unrepentant womanizer. One ongoing occurrence at the ranch has stayed with me after all these years. It was while we were still renting the Art Thompson place. Almost any day Dad would have a few things to do around the corral and buildings, so there would be some time spent there before heading anywhere else. Invariably Curley would locate some rabbit who

would be forced to run for his life. Dad witnessed this more often than I did, but he said that one thing that puzzled him was Curley never caught the rabbit-even though he always seemed to be gaining ground on it. Of course Dad usually just went on about his business. One day he continued to observe, and Curley almost reached his prey. The rabbit was exhausted and must have known the game was up, and he finally stopped running. And Curley stopped too. Apparently it was the dog version of catch and release, but catching would have been too messy-so Curley omitted doing that too. After all, if he hadn’t, what would there have been to do his next trip to the ranch?


As Time Goes By

Wouldn’t most of us like to think that some lofty ideal or an inspirational source shaped our behavior? I suspect often it is rather something different, maybe mundane. In my case the Surgeon General surely had less to do with my never having smoked even one cigarette than did the fact that when I was a youngster every time Dad smoked in the car it made me sick and I would heave. (According to the folks they even had to get rid of one car because they could never eliminate that odor no how many ‘cleansings’ they administered to the upholstery.) Let’s just say that when I finally got to the

point in school where we studied about Pavlov and the dogs and conditioned reflexes, I had a flash of insight that my being a smokeless Lohr might well be a result of such a process. To me, cigarette and cigar smoke equaled feeling nauseous-not a favorite feeling of mine.

Something similar has to do with determining the length of my pastoral calls. Now common sense plays a big part in my hospital calls being fairly brief. I can still hear my mom saying that if you are sick enough to be in the hospital, you’re really too sick to appreciate company and conversation other than in short spurts. Visiting in a home is something different. It is rare to find those who don’t appreciate such a call. I don’t flatter myself that it is altogether about my incredible charm or great conversational prowess. It’s just that having people dropping by to visit has almost disappeared as an occurrence in many people’s lives. It’s all phones, e-mails, and texts these days-and most people have a television on continuously, seeming to lessen their need to interact with others in person. No matter how well one of those

visits is going, how much I am enjoying it and my observation tells me those I am visiting are too-after a certain point I start getting yancy. No one is sneaking a look at what time it is, or giving subtle or not so subtle hints that there is something else they need to be doing. It stems rather from something I witnessed once too often in my childhood.

Mom and Dad and I were really fond of our pastors at the time-Frank and Esther Bozart. Actually Grandpa liked them also, but he was not a church going person. Until the last few months of his life he was quite resistant to most things spiritual. Frank felt very relaxed when he came to visit, in no hurry to go. We visited about ordinary things, but also about matters of the faith, and perhaps Grandpa didn’t want to be forced to think about those things. Frank always offered a word of prayer before leaving. I can’t tell you how many of those times, as the door was barely closing, Grandpa would say in his not very quiet voice, “Well he’s a blank blank little stayer isn’t he?” The rest of us just cringed, because we didn’t see how Frank could have kept from hearing. So when I get up and leave in spite of the protestations of those I am visiting, it probably has much less to do with any protocols suggested in a preaching manual or some pressing matter to which I need to attend. I don’t want to hear, “Well, he’s quite a stayer, isn’t he?” as the door is closing.


Where’s the Beef, the Crab-Whatever?

I watch very little TV, but occasionally there is a commercial that sticks with me for years. One of those apparently rang a chord with most of the nation-an add that had an elderly lady complaining and asking repetitively, “Where’s the beef?”

Mom said to me years ago, “Mark, I think a good meal is more important to you than anyone I’ve ever known.” I’m not a big enough hypocrite to feign total innocence-although I’m not sure I’m that
bad. But restaurants I can depend on to consistently deliver something palatable are like old friends to me. And when one of them closes for the final time, it is about the same as having an old friend die. They don’t need to be gourmet places or supper clubs. I’ll never totally reconcile to there no longer being a Fireside Inn, a Coffee Cup Café, or The Diner here in Lusk.

Having said that I still need share a tale from the Diner. I am not sure when

someone first called attention to it-but the only large table in the Diner was often overcrowded with locals not only for morning coffee but also at lunch time, and at some point one of the several who was having the vegetable beef soup pointed out that he or she had found only one piece of meat in the entire serving and asked how the others were faring. It turned out that was the plight of most, and I think at least one person did have two morsels. So it became the inside joke of the table that you were indeed a favored citizen if your bowl had two chunks, and three would be rarer than the proverbial four leaf clover. Now for those who weren’t there, you would be totally wrong to think this was done in a mean-spirited way. To this day you can find any of us telling how we miss the place and a plethora of menu items that we feel could not have been done any better. But likewise you will still hear one of us from time to time bringing up the vegetable ’where’s the beef’ soup.

I thought of this because last night I ate at a certain restaurant in a different community-one that has gone through a couple of changes in ownership in recent times. Someone recommended I give it another try, and I did. As most places do these days, you got either soup or salad and had to decide which you wanted. It is a hard choice for me. There’s never a time I don’t like a good green salad, but the older I get the more I become a true aficionado of soup. When I inquired what the soup was, I was told it was a cheesy crab chowder. Now I don’t need the carbs that the potatoes and corn were going

to contain, but the cheese and crab combination convinced me I had to go with the soup. You’ve beat me to the punch line, except that there wasn’t any crab to be found in the soup-not even one solitary morsel. There is nothing that I hate worse than witnessing someone be a jerk in a restaurant, and I pondered whether even to mention the missing main ingredient. I had already had some nice conversations with the new owner, but when she asked me how the soup was, I decided to go with total honesty. I told her the flavor was wonderful-which it was-but that there wasn’t any crab in it. She told me that when she had made it the day before there had been. (Now I wasn’t offended that it was day old soup, because many soups are better the second or third day. In fact one great restaurant on the Island of Lanai actually advertises its soup as “the soup of yesterday.”) I was pleasant about it and she was too.

That was the end of it I thought, until she emerged from the kitchen in about five minutes. “You know, you’re right,” she said. “I just spooned

through the kettle and I couldn’t find any crab either.” She told me she thought it must have just dissolved, which I doubt. I think someone in the kitchen ’high-graded’ the crab just like some people do the cashews out of a can of assorted nuts. But I know it wasn’t my waitress, unless she had an awfully convincing cover story. For when I asked her before hand how the soup was, she told me she was sure it was good because the owner made great soup. But she said that since she didn’t like seafood, she
hadn’t sampled any.


Go Placidly: A Family Desiderata

Great-Grandpa Andrew’s family was not quite half as large as was that of his brother Chris. Not only that, but the older two of the six children contracted TB at the University of Nebraska and each died at age 22. Another infant Mabel also perished, leaving only three of the six to live a more normal lifespan. Chris had thirteen children-all of whom lived to be mature adults. I got to meet and know many of them-although a couple had passed on before my tenure on the planet began. But the oldest child, a girl, I remember quite well as she lived to be ninety. Apparently nothing fazed her, which has to do with my title for this section-thinking of the piece known as the Desiderata of Happiness which tells us to ’go placidly.’

Many of Chris’s children (nine of whom were females) married and moved

far away, but the oldest married an area person and lived on a place near Glendo. Their place is now under Glendo Reservoir-but of course that project happened many years after this incident. No listing of personality traits could ever convey the outlook of the lady, Florence Christian Wormwood, better than the retelling of this incident.

Of course I am depending on the accounts told by my family, who sometimes did ’enhance’ a story-as I have already mentioned. But I am quite sure what you’re about to read is essentially what happened. Florence and Charlie were not really flush in their early years together, and like many of the old-timers lived in a sod house. Things finally got to the point where they were able to build a wood house, and of course they were thrilled when they actually got to move in. If memory serves me correctly it was very shortly after they had moved in-perhaps even the very day the move was completed-that disaster struck. Most of their sheep got into a green alfalfa meadow, and many bloated and died before they could be reached and ’de-

gasified.’ Sometime as the family was engaged in that process they chanced to look over and see the new house was on fire. All Florence was able to rescue were a few items, but that evening she made a makeshift supper and they dined in the chicken coop. As they sat down to eat she slapped her knee and let out that raucous laugh of hers that was unforgettable if ever heard and said, “Ha, ha, ha-what a day!”


The “Tom Bell” Dollar

Mark Twain affirmed that there are three classes of lies: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.” The third of those is often in evidence these days-perhaps no more so than in the government’s constant reassurance that the cost of living is holding steady and inflation is nowhere to be seen. What they try to obscure is that once some category demonstrates it is showing inflationary tendencies, they simply remove it from the items being used to construct their fallacious statistics.

Perhaps all of us remember what certain items cost long ago. What I remember even more is how the cost of those items seemed to remain unchanged for years. I know in my early grade school years a quart of milk was 24 cents, a pint of half and half was 35 cents, a loaf of white bread was 19 cents, and a carton of Camels (which Dad smoked until he quit the

summer between my third and fourth grade years) was $1.80. I believe my entire four years at the University Paul Heany sold premium gas for 40 cents a gallon (36 cents actually, because he gave a four cent a gallon discount for paying cash).

In 1904 and perhaps also 1905, Grandpa worked for Tom Bell-a well-known name in the early years of Lusk. His salary was one dollar a day. Grandpa was nearly the age I am now when I was born. In spite of Dad and his congenial relationship, one particular matter irritated Pop- Grandpa seemed to take exception to what almost everything was costing “these days.” (In that area I am beginning to show marked similarities to my grandpa. I wonder what sort of remonstrance I might witness if he were told an ordinary motel room in Wyoming even in winter was apt to cost a hundred bucks a night?) When he went on at too great a length for Dad’s liking he would say, “Len, your problem is you measure everything by that ‘Tom Bell’ dollar.”

A few days before I wrote this incident Lex Madden called and told me he had purchased the cattle for the pasture this summer-and gave me an indication of what they cost (more than two dollars a pound for steers weighing over six hundred pounds). He then asked if I wanted to buy my normal ten per cent of the herd. I reflexed back a ‘yes,’ but then I added perhaps I ought to check and see if the dollar amount for the fifty-some head was more than my total net worth.

Grandpa used to save the newspaper clippings from Omaha when he shipped cattle there, and we did also in the earlier years of my life. I remember a clipping from the early thirties when he had four year old steers that brought eight cents a pound and were at the top of the market range.

Sometime in the 1920’s Grandpa and Uncle Jim went to California and visited their sister Nellie Mae. I don’t know if this was the trip for Great-Granddad’s funeral in 1924, but if not it would have been close to that time. Both Aunt Nellie and Uncle Monte had gotten interested in real estate and in fact became licensed realtors. One of their realtor friends was representing an apartment house in a desirable area that Nellie thought her brothers might be interested in purchasing. Apparently Grandpa wasn’t even initially interested, but Uncle Jim was until he heard the price. Knowing how Aunt Nellie was about wanting to put her best foot forward, she had undoubtedly represented her brothers as “big time cattle barons” from Wyoming-and she definitely possessed the family flair for embellishing any story.

As the tale was polished for the time of its Wyoming telling, the realtor had apparently tried to impress Uncle Jim and put a bit of pressure on him to make the purchase. He said, “Mr. Christian, Mr. Christian. Do you know what eighty thousand dollars is?” And Uncle Jim, much to his sister’s chagrin said, “All I know is, it’s a damned long string of yearlings.”…It might comfort him to know it wouldn’t be nearly as long a string today, but probably the length of the ‘string’ required to purchase a similar property in that area today would be considerably longer.


“Get Me to the Church on Time”

I could always be sure that “Friends” had a place to sing wherever Frank Bozart was preaching at the moment. There was an interval where he served congregations in both Midwest and Edgerton. The Edgerton church had an

Open Bible affiliation as did the church he served here in Lusk. That was also during the time my parents were pasturing livestock for Dan Hanson. Dan spent most of his time on his place close to Kaycee, so Mom decided one of those times when we were doing a Sunday evening program for Frank and she and Dad were riding up in the motor home with us that she would let Dan know of the program and invite him to drive over. Dan was glad to receive the invitation and assured her he would be there.

Dan was one of those people who didn’t promise something unless he meant it, so we were all surprised when the program came and went without him putting in an appearance. Mom was worried that something serious might have come up-illness, accident, etc.-and she called him the next day to be sure everything was OK with him. Mom said he was obviously embarrassed and said, “Garnet, I did drive down for the program. I took my seat in the church and didn’t see the boys but assumed they would be coming out later. But when after a few songs that everyone sang the minister got up and began to preach-I knew I must be in the wrong church. Then I was too embarrassed to get up and leave, and by the time the service was over, it was too late for me to make the concert. So I just drove back home.”

Once again it was demonstrated the odds aren’t good enough when it’s a fifty-fifty chance-for there were only two churches in Edgerton. Dan picked the Baptist Church, and I know he didn’t have the same geography teacher Mom did.

“Anything for a Laugh”

There are always some people who will do anything to get a laugh. Mom was one of those folks who loved to tell a story that would get people chuckling. In fairness I can say that she was not someone to try to hurt or embarrass anyone in a tale she told, and as I’ve noted-I feel the same way. This was one of my favorite incidents that occurred eighty-five years ago-only shared with a select few through the years. Hopefully the statute of limitations is up on its ability to hurt anyone still living-because it is one of those scenes that I am sure would have them rolling in the theater aisles if it were ever filmed.

Mother only went to the University one full year before she began to teach. Aunt Gladys went two, and in the term of 1928-1929 they were on campus together. At that time Uncle Jim was representing Niobrara County in the

State Senate. The Legislature was in session in Cheyenne and he invited his two nieces over to Cheyenne for a legislative banquet. Of course they were thrilled beyond belief. They were so proud of him and that he would ask them. Mom was still only sixteen, and Gladys, nineteen. They did not have a car in Laramie, but in those days of passenger trains it was no significant hurdle that would keep them from getting to the capital.

On the appointed day they rode the train over. Union Station in Cheyenne was just a short block away from the Plains Hotel where the affair was being staged. They arrived in the banquet room shortly before the meal was to be served. As Mom told it they were just a couple of country kids with no experience in such grand affairs. They had been sure that when they arrived Uncle Jim would be there to greet them and show them where to sit. In fact they just couldn’t believe that he was no where to be seen.

Finally they found someone to inquire about his absence, and that person assured them he would be there. Not too much later he did show up. But he didn’t show up sober, and he wasn’t unaccompanied-for on either arm he had a lady of questionable reputation-each as intoxicated as he was. Mom said, “At that moment we weren’t quite so proud of Uncle Jim.”



The other day I heard a blurb on the radio that reminded me of Paul Harvey’s remark, “It’s not one world.” For years, America’s pet owners have

been admonished to clean up after their pets when they do their business in public areas or walkways, or on someone else’s property. This story told how India is launching a campaign, complete with a catchy jingle, to get not their pets but their people to quit pooping in public. Apparently more than 400 million of them do this regularly, and the drive is on to get them to use the many public restrooms provided for this very purpose. Hearing that made me decide to share this story which I have wanted to but was somewhat reluctant to do.

Grandpa was a fairly modest man, but like most ranchers he was comfortable answering nature’s call whenever he heard it-wherever he happened to be out on the prairie. Obviously he might as well have, for there were no portable facilities anywhere to be found. There weren’t any spectators either, and the livestock had already assured the prairie was no longer in pristine condition sewage or sanitation wise.

At one evening meal Grandpa shared with us how that as he was driving back from the ranch his need was so urgent that he feared he wouldn’t make it all the way home. Fortunately for him there was one house right beside the road that hadn’t been inhabited for a few years, and when he reached it he said he pulled in, got out of the pickup, leaned up against the house and took care of his problem.

Of course Dad made trips nearly every day down the same road to the place we were leasing that bordered Grandpa’s place. He had noticed something Grandpa hadn’t. He said, “Len, didn’t you know that two or three weeks ago people moved into that house and it isn’t vacant any more?”

Compared to what is allowed for humor in today’s society, I think that would pass for a ‘clean’ story. Hopefully you got a chuckle, but what I will never forget is what happened next, for I remember it all these years later even though I wasn’t ten when it happened. Grandpa was so embarrassed and felt so humiliated that it was something he had a lot of trouble trying to laugh off. Maybe that was the first time I ever realized there is a difference in laughing with someone and not at them.


“Home on the Range”-Another Tune

One thing Mom, Dad, and I just didn’t ordinarily do was take extended trips in our car. In the summer Dad was not comfortable being away for very long, so usually we flew. However in the late ‘60’s we had purchased a new

Tornado and decided we would drive to St. Louis. We started out mid-day and didn’t plan to arrive until the following day. Apparently a certain amount of naivety was ours, for we didn’t worry about reserving a room along the way, thinking we would drive until we were all tired and then stop somewhere. The ‘somewhere’ was Goodland, Kansas where we couldn’t find any room. One of the establishments suggested we proceed to Colby and try our luck there, which we did. It was literally the last place we tried that had a single room. The Motel was called “Home on the Range.” (I suspect it had been “The Bates Motel” but they had altered the sign.)

It was so seedy looking that Mom asked to see the room. It was ancient. The beds sagged, the toilet had an antiquated overhead flushing system, and there were several layers of linoleum-which we could tell since there were places it was worn down to the wood floor. It was nearly a hundred out, but surprisingly there was an air conditioner which worked but which was so

loud that ordinary conversation was scarcely possible. Mom told the clerk we would stay-which shows how tired she was. But as he left Mom asked where the key for the room was and he informed her the last one had been lost years ago-probably the last time the room had been rented judging by the dust accumulation. Mother wondered what we should do about that, and he looked at her with disdain and suggested if she was nervous she should take one of the chairs from the kitchen table and brace its top under the door handle. We did, but I don’t recall any of us sleeping much.

I believe that was the last time we ever set out anywhere without having a room reserved wherever we were going to need one. Oh give me a home…


Early Exit

One of the items that is stressed in the teaching of the independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ is the importance of the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper-or Communion as most churches call it. One of the things that keeps denominations apart (on the surface, at least) is each group is apt to stress the things that are different about them from other groups (which of course seems to justify continuing division) rather than the things we have in common, which would show the reasonableness of unity (which is, of course what the Bible stresses). At least in years past I have heard a variety of preachers and teachers say that the reason we meet on

Sunday morning is to gather around the Lord’s Table. Of course I have never been in one of our churches where the Communion service actually takes up a considerable amount of time (as it does for instance in the Mass or the Greek Orthodox service.) Like most Protestant groups the mainstay of our services is the sermon.

One peculiarity of Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and this emphasis on Communion and it being the “real reason” we get together is that many of the communicants feel that as long as they stay until that portion of the service is concluded, what they do from then on is their own business. Now of course if someone is really in a pinch for time but it means enough for them to honor Christ at the Communion table-then there is at least an argument that it is good they have come even if they leave a third of the way through the service. However, when this becomes a frequent occurrence-well you put your own construction on the matter, but if you

have never been where that happens you have no idea how disconcerting and disruptive it is to the rest of the congregation.

I made many incredible friends and treasured acquaintances some forty years ago when I traveled both with a group and as a soloist performing gospel music. Through the course of time communication dwindled and eventually ceased with almost all of those. The noted exception was with Norman and Doris Gendt, who at that time ministered in Sunbury, Ohio-which was a quite short drive to the northeast of Columbus. Norman and I bonded in about every way imaginable-including smiting the little white spheroid (if the word ‘golf’ offends you.) He told how at that church the situation of leaving after communion became pandemic. In a church that was running 400, he said that fifty, seventy-five or even more would rush out after that portion of the service. So one morning he said that right before the Communion service began, he addressed the congregation and begged their patience and indulgence. He said that it troubled him that there were all these folks he never got to greet, welcome, and shake their hands-and he didn’t want them to feel that they didn’t matter to him-so at the conclusion of Communion he was going to the rear of the sanctuary to do exactly that. He stressed that it might take him some while, for he didn’t want anyone to feel shortchanged, and since the numbers to greet were likely to be high, he asked everyone else just to relax and meditate until he returned.

He said that was the last Sunday the problem was ever severe and that he greeted many sheepish and uncomfortable people that day.

Who Said That?

I can’t leave Norman Gendt without relating perhaps the most spectacular true preacher story I know. Norman was preaching one Sunday morning about the reality of God, and he came to the point where he asked aloud, “And where is God?” He paused for effect, and just as he appeared ready to speak, a voice came loud and clear over the speakers: “Right here in Sunbury.” He said the congregation smiled and his wife smiled at him, thinking he had arranged for that to happen-for Norman was a clever person and not beyond staging something. However, when Doris looked at him, he had turned absolutely ashen-for he had not arranged for this to happen. And then, perhaps four or five seconds later the voice said again, “I said-right here in Sunbury.”

Norman said the highlight of the entire matter then occurred as the congregation rose as one to their feet and began clapping and whistling and yelling and cheering-as they realized wherever the voice was coming from, it spoke the truth. I know that CB transmissions have sometimes come in over my stereo, and Norm says that must have been what happened with their sound system. But he said there were no further words, and what an incredible coincidence for those precise words to come at that exact time. Then he winked at me and smiled said, “I don’t think it was a coincidence. What do you think?”


Not That Light a Sleeper

I believe the trumpet’s gonna sound so loud it will wake the dead

“I Believe He’s Coming Back Just Like He Said”

Somewhere along the line I have become someone who rarely sleeps all night through. Usually I spend part of the time in a chair where I often go back to sleep. Sometimes I may have a couple of hours that I am awake-whether in the bed or the chair. Uncle Jim once said, “Show me someone who can sleep the night through and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t have anything on his mind during the daytime either.” That’s what makes this story so unbelievable to me.

When I go to Hawaii I almost always have someone else along. There are years I have arrived before that person, and other years that I stayed longer. This particular year I got to Honolulu three or four days early. I

don’t remember who I had talked to in Lusk, but I heard there had been a small earthquake. When I am ready to go to sleep, I always turn off my cell phone. Of course if I have received any text messages, they will be there when I turn it back on. In the winter months there is a four hour difference in time between Hawaii and Wyoming, so even if one rises at a reasonable hour it is still getting close to noon back home.

It was the second or third morning when I read the stored text from a friend that asked me if I had felt the tsunami. I laughed because I thought he was making a joke about the Lusk earthquake having caused a tsunami all the way to Honolulu. However, it wasn’t a joke. That was the night of the big Japanese earthquake that did cause a giant tsunami. In Waikiki the beach hotels evacuated their lower eight or nine floors because of it. All through the islands there are sirens along the ocean front placed at frequent intervals

to warn all of an impending tidal wave as we used to call them. The hotel I was staying at was about three blocks from the beach, and in a city the size of Honolulu there are traffic noises and emergency vehicle sirens all the time-but to sleep through the tsunami sirens? My hotel did not need to evacuate lower floors, and there was actually very little damage done on Oahu. But on Maui where we went a few days later, the Maalea Boat Harbor which had a waterfront restaurant where I always ate at least one meal per trip had an emergency visit from the governor-for the boats in the harbor and the harbor itself had sustained fifty million dollars in damages.

I don’t know what you think, but I fear after sharing this story no one may take me very seriously when I try to convince them what a poor sleeper I am. I doubt Rip Van Winkle would have slept through a tsunami.


Natural Disaster: Take Two

Natural beauty and near perfect weather are two of the bigger draws of the Hawaiian Islands. The fact that there was a tsunami didn’t deter me from going back the next year. Many of the people I know that have gone to Hawaii tend to avoid Honolulu. For my part, I like the city-although a recent poll I happened to see rated it by the vote of the American public to have the worst traffic congestion in the fifty states. That does not seem inaccurate to me. In 2012 I opted to stay instead in Kailua which is on the wetter side of the island but only ten miles or so from the capital city. The accommodation I secured I thought was going to be a bungalow type of rental but it turned

out to be the entire upper floor of a personal residence (with totally incredible views of the ocean and beach) whose owners lived there year round. I don’t want to get too bogged down in unnecessary details, but there was no elevator (huff, puff!), there was not ample parking, and it was wet beyond belief. One thing I was looking forward to was getting to play the Marine Corps golf course on that side of the island, which Rick Luchsinger told me is memorable. His daughter Allison Betsinger is of course in the Marines and owns property on that side of the island, and was hopefully going to be my “in” for the round I hoped to play. The only problem was it had rained over fifty inches in the previous ten days and the course had to be closed for several weeks. On the street where I normally had to park, there was a puddle that was nearly a block long that didn’t appear it was going to dry up any time soon-particularly since it was getting restocked

nearly hourly. Of course we could go to the drier side of the island, and did, but that particular period of time “drier” still wasn’t very dry.

Although Hawaii is not exempt from hurricanes, they are fairly rare. Showers, and even substantial rains on the windward side of each island are not rare. But seldom have I ever witnessed any lightning or thunder. This one particular morning an hour or so before sunup I was awakened by one of the more awesome lightning displays I can remember. Initially it was not close enough to hear much thunder, but that soon changed. Then it was like being in the middle of a battle and sleep was impossible. The wind was rattling the building, not unlike during a Wyoming blizzard.

One thing that is supposedly never going to happen over there is a tornado. There are occasional waterspouts, but no tornadoes. Well, you guessed it-this phenomenon included a tornado. It went right down the line between Kailua and the neighboring town in which our house was-even tearing off some roofs although no one perished or was seriously injured. Since our accommodation was less than two blocks from the boundary it was obviously about as close as could be without hitting us.

I don’t know that there is any laugh in this story. What I do know is even as a generally non-superstitious person, like you I have heard many things seem to occur in “threes.” So in 2011 there was a tsunami, and in 2012 a tornado. I wasn’t sure what third natural disaster might also begin with a “t,” but in 2013 I skipped Hawaii and went to the Arizona and California deserts for my winter break.


A Possible Third “T”

If you have stumbled through this many pages, it must be obvious to you by now that I don’t have a master plan for this project. Except, it is going rather like I wanted it to-not necessarily chronological, or succeeding pieces having to be linked together, or every story featuring a certain individual in one specific section. It did occur to me, however, after writing the last bit that one more article in this ‘section’ might be appropriate.

Many people view going to see their loan officer at a bank much the same as folks used to view going to the principal’s office. I can think of one time that visit turned out to be fortuitous as could be. Gene Lenz was on the phone when I went into his office, and at that time I visited there fairly often

for he was running cattle in our pasture. He looked up and saw me, and I could see the wheels were turning. He said to the person on the other end, “I don’t think I could do that, but I think someone just walked into my office who might. Let me call you back”

I’ll give the super-condensed version of the tale. He was talking to Homer Scott, Jr. who that particular year was state chairman of the US Olympic fundraising effort. Homer was a banker among other things. Because Wyoming was lagging dismally behind most other states in the fundraising effort, Scotty decided to have a statewide contest. Since he knew bankers in every part of the state, he was contacting them to ask them to lead the effort in their town. There was going to be a prize to the winner: whoever raised the most funds per capita was going to get to use his condo on Kona, Hawaii for two weeks.

Gene asked me if I would do it here. I said yes. I had a golf tournament and a talent show, and I won handily (sometimes not having too much population can be OK.) Not only that, but I became friends with Scotty-one of the neatest people I have ever been privileged to know.

By that time Dad was gone. Mom had never gone to Hawaii with me on any of my several previous trips-and I wanted her to. We just didn’t know for sure who to ask to share our good fortune. We finally hit upon Norman and Doris Gendt. My parents knew them, in fact they had even stayed with them on the only long non-gospel music trip we ever used the motor home for. As I’ve mentioned, Norm and I shared the golf interest, and we all shared practically every other interest.

We were there a few days before they arrived, for they felt they couldn’t be

gone that long. I had already sampled some great golf courses and there was one in particular I was anxious for Norm to play. It was Mauna Kea, built in

the early ‘60’s and still a gem. For those not aware of the fact, Hawaii can be quite windy at times. Now where the Condo was in Kailua-Kona is one of the most perpetually calm spots on any of the islands. But thirty miles north where Mauna Kea is can be extremely windy. My previous round there was relatively calm, but the day all four of us went there was different. In fact the lady said she was only going to charge us for nine holes, due to the wind, but we could play as many as we wished. Then she said a couple of things that I secretly laughed at. “Don’t get too near the edge of any cliffs or other drop-offs,” she warned, “or a gust may push you over the edge. Also, be careful of standing too near to any tree in case the wind topples it

over on you.” I know I was thinking, “Lady, I live in Wyoming. You don’t know what wind is.”

The first few holes are close to the ocean, and the wind was coming from the other way. They were not that bad. Then as we climbed to the higher elevations it hit us full force. After I had a routine chip shot on a flat green get to the hole and then blow back past where I had hit it from, we started only playing the holes that weren’t into the wind. There was a point where Mom saw something particularly scenic and called to Doris to come take a look. Mom was standing a few feet from a five or six foot drop-off, and right when Doris got beside her a gust pushed Mom toward the edge. Had Doris not caught her, she would have taken a tumble. Although it would not have been a fatal one, I made the most of the situation and told Doris, “Thanks a lot. I was that close to getting my inheritance, and you had to go and ruin it.”

But what absolutely floored all of us was that on the last hole there were four or five palm trees that were at least thirty feet tall that had been uprooted and were lying beside where they had been growing. In all fairness they do not have a deep root system, and there isn’t all that much topsoil on top of the volcanic rock-but it certainly let us see the lady in the pro shop was not exaggerating.

My point? Trees start with a “t”, as do tsunamis and tornados. Maybe I skipped a year for nothing as I had already witnessed my trio of “t” natural disasters.



Accurate information is harder to come by in most areas as increasingly it seems we are being propagandized-not unlike the citizens of the USSR were throughout most of their history. Something that particularly rankles me is the way the inflation statistics are now handled. Once something is actually inflationary, the government statisticians remove it from the list of things used in the calculation of the annual inflation rate.

Dad had an acquaintance who used to love to say to him, “Ted, why should you feel poor when for $2.75 you can feel like a millionaire?” He was referring to the cost of a fifth of good whiskey. I doubt the bean counters are including that commodity in how pricey it’s gotten to avoid feeling poor.


A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

-Old Saying

I never enjoy getting a vehicle stuck. Speaking only for myself, almost any time I can remember that happening, it has had more to do with my stupidity than any other factor. Usually it is in ice and snow. Since I am seldom at the ranch when those two things are prevalent, there have only been a couple of times out there that snow brought me to a halt. However, occasionally I have run off in something that I can’t extricate myself from without assistance. Usually it is some rut or hole that has been concealed by the grass. However, this summer I got stuck because of mud. It was an unusually wet summer, as several of the recent ones have been. I was just driving in one of the roads between windmills, but the ruts had gotten deeper and deeper. I avoided splitting the trail because there were several extra rough spots if I did. But on the fateful morning when I started having problems and put it in four-wheel drive-I still wasn’t moving. So I put it in low transfer, but of course that requires stopping and putting the truck in neutral before it can be put in low range. I still couldn’t get unstuck because I was high centered. Nothing I had with me could remedy the situation, so I had to walk.

In the days of the old-fashioned bag phones, I had cell service most everywhere, but not so once analog was abandoned. Often I can still get a text out in places. Indeed I did that day, but the phone said I hadn’t

succeeded. So I ended up with something like a four mile walk. Some of it was harder than it used to be. The shorter way I used to always drive across was padlocked to my access by a less than friendly neighbor for a few summers, and even though it now isn’t (since the property changed hands again), I seldom go that way. Much of the former road is hard to see, and there were places the clover was over waist high.

Although the day was warm, there was a nice breeze-but I was still mighty tired by the time I reached the Kirtley cemetery. There are ample trees around the Christian family plot, and an iron enclosure suitable for seating for a weary foot soldier which my grandpa Len put in many years ago around his mom and three of his siblings’ grave site. As I stopped to rest, I remembered my friend Bill Welch’s vent long ago. He said, “When I think of how much money that old Walt Doctor is going to make when I die, if I

could I would dig a hole and just fall in it.” I thought, “If I am to have the big one, this would be a good place for it to happen. I’m with relatives on both sides (Grandpa and Grandma Lohr are buried there as well as many other kinfolk).” But I survived and made the walk on in to Mel and Lola ZumBrunnen’s. Their phone wasn’t working, I still didn’t have cell service, and they were gone. But Jason showed up within a few minutes, gave me a ride back to the pickup, and successfully pulled me out.

I’m not thinking any of the above really justifies this mishap being included, but maybe the next will. I had been back to the place a couple of times already and was splitting the trail as I should have previously. We were shipping a heavier load of cattle before the end of July-and I had not been able to get anything like an accurate count. Although I never can get a count in the bigger pasture, often I successfully can in the south end. That day lots of cattle were right along the trail road and I was counting to my heart’s content. I was still in the deeper trail. It wasn’t that I had forgotten about my mishap, just that I thought it was still a couple of hundred yards further on. If there is any defense, the cattle were so thick that I really couldn’t see the road very well. About that time I went ‘thunk’ and I knew the impossible had happened. I was stuck the exact same place for the second time in a week. We, like Queen Victoria, were not amused. It was a drier day, and this time in low transfer I made it out-but just barely. It was not that famous ‘piece of cake.’

I remember Mom as she aged asking me specifically when I rode with her to be observing and see if I thought she was still driving OK. There are quite

a few other seniors who I know have done the same thing with their kids or even sometimes their friends. Of course I don’t have any children to ask. But let me say that anymore when we are at one of those golf courses where the attendants put the clubs on the cart, my ’good’ friend Kaare switches his to the driver’s side when mine have been placed there, and usually has some well chosen words. If I get to a course first when we are in separate vehicles, I now automatically put mine on the rider’s side. The truth can hurt even when there isn’t a four mile walk ahead.



When they first started teaching, Mom and Aunt Gladys owned a car

jointly. The first car I can remember my family having when I was a child shared a feature of that early one-in the interior the covering of the top of the car was a soft sort of cloth. Mom and Dad dated each other intermittently for many years before they finally got married. On one of those dates Mom was complaining how one of the sun visors kept slipping and needed tightening, but the screw was in an awkward position. Dad said he would get a screwdriver and tighten it for her. Mom said, “Ted, you’re as clumsy as I am. The first thing that will happen is the screwdriver will slip, you’ll tear the cloth upholstery, and Gladys will be mad at me.” Dad assured her he knew what he was doing, but probably less than ten seconds into the procedure exactly what Mom had prophesied occurred. She was more than a little irritated and told Dad, “When Gladys sees this she will be furious with me.” Dad said, “She’ll never know what caused the hole. When she sees it she’ll think that grasshoppers did it.”

“Now, Ted,” Mom said. “Gladys is smarter than that. She’s going to ask me what happened, and I’m not going to lie to her.”

A couple of days later Aunt Gladys got in the car with Mom. She quickly noticed the tear and promptly said, “Oh, Garney, look at what those darned grasshoppers did.!”


Almost “Number One”

While I remember what the first wedding I actually performed was-partially because it was on an Easter weekend and there was a horrible

blizzard and freak cold spell, I much more vividly remember what was almost my first experience tying the knot. The local congregation was without a minister, and I phoned my application in by way of Mom from a thousand plus miles away where I was on a singing tour. Although I had performing commitments for a few more weeks, I was told the job was mine. I had scarcely arrived home when I was requested to officiate at a wedding. Since I had not assumed my duties and had not been ordained, I was not sure if I legally could-which I told the person making the request.

Al Taylor was the County Attorney and I went down to his office and asked whether I was legally empowered to perform weddings. He checked the statutes and concluded because I was what was termed a ‘recognized minister’ I could-for I had preached numbers of times during the past three years on the gospel concert tours. Al said, “Now since I’ve given you all this

free legal advice, tell me who it is that wants you to do her wedding.” I told him and he said, “Oh, her,” I’m handling her divorce, and it’s not final.”

When I visited with her shortly afterwards, I found there were several other “impediments,” perhaps chief of which is that although she wanted a church wedding, it was to please others since she didn’t even really believe in God.

It was my first realization that being a small-town parson isn’t as dull as many people might think it is.


What We Can “Afford”

Still very early in my preaching career, the evening meal with Mom and Dad was interrupted by a phone call. I did not know the gentleman calling or recognize his name. He simply told me that there were two people with him who had a valid marriage license. They were not local residents, but they did have a Wyoming license, wanted to get hitched that night, and wondered if I would do it. I agreed, telling them I needed a half hour or so to finish supper and get over to the church.

There was nothing particularly memorable about the evening until the brief ceremony was concluded. The folks were from Gillette and were nice enough acting. When I was done and the papers were signed and witnessed, they apologized for not having enough money to pay me then-but assured me they would send a check once they got home. However, they said that if I would follow them down to the Pub-which it turned out my caller owned-they would treat me to a few drinks. They were planning to buy several

rounds in celebration…Obviously I was a victim of “selective poverty.” As for the mail service, I guess it’s been bad for a long time, ‘cause their check never arrived.


“I Remember it a Different Way”

i. The Reason for the Title

The 1998 National League of Cities meeting was in Kansas City. It was the first one I attended, and it was also the first one in the seventy-plus year history of the convention that had an optional prayer breakfast. The speaker was an elderly black man who had traveled most of the night by car to be

there for the seven o’clock function. His presentation was tremendous and much of it still remains in my mind.

At one point he talked about how he and his family had been threatened during the time of racial unrest in the sixties-including the threat to burn down his residence. Almost seamlessly he shifted to a story of a man he had known for fifty years, and how as younger people they had gotten into a fight. His adversary had a ring on, and one of his blows left a scar above the eye that was still visible. He said he noticed it every morning in the mirror as he was shaving. He spoke of being with the man a short time before; they were lifelong friends. He said, “Do I still remember that day he hit me?” And he said, “Of course, I can never forget it. Do I still remember my family and my residence being threatened with the destruction? Of course, I will never forget it. But God calls on me to remember it in a different way-without animosity or hatred, with love and forgiveness. And, I do.” I think there wasn’t a dry eye when he said those words, and mine are blurring as I recollect and record them. But the thought expressed is why I am writing a story I thought I would not include. I can write it so you won’t know who the parties involved were, but if some of the involved read this-they will know. If I hurt them, I will have failed. But at the end I will tell you why I “remember it a different way.”

ii. The Incident

In the pre-cell phone era, I’ve told how Dick Pfister often took his books out to the golf course and spread them out over several tables. When he wanted a break he would take a quarter and go play Pac Man. Inevitably the phone would ring and it would be for him. When the call was over he would voice some mild profanity and say, “How do they know I’m here? I came out here to get away from that blankety-blank telephone.”

In the earlier years of my ministry, if Mom didn’t know where I was, she would call Dick Price at the pro shop to see if I was out on the course. Unlike Dick Pfister, I was pretty sure she knew why to call there. This one day he relayed the message that Mom wanted me to call when I finished my nine. Mom said there had been a call and a certain person wanted me to perform his wedding in one of the local bars. Mom said she was fairly sure I wouldn’t do that, but he insisted I call him back, and told her the bar was going to be closed. Before I called him I mulled it over a bit and figured if

things were going to be shut down for the wedding, perhaps I would honor his request. It’s been a whole lot of years and I don’t remember our conversation word for word, but I remember enough.

“Mom said that the bar is going to be closed. Is that right?”

“Well, we’re going to tell them to hold it down for a few minutes.”

“That won’t work for me if it is still going to be open.”

“Would you marry me on the sidewalk outside the bar then?”

I don’t think I said, but know I was thinking and maybe did say, “I’d rather do the wedding inside where at least everyone in town didn’t know this was happening.” But I know I did say, “ I can marry you at the church, my place, your place, someplace outdoors, but not those two places. Why does it have to be in the bar or right outside?”

“Because my best man, (whom he named), is on duty tending bar then and can’t get off.”

Later I found out that he had asked a mutual friend what he knew about a certain person. Shall we say he gave about the most 180 degree opposite from a sterling character reference that could be given, and then said, “Why do you want to know.?”

“Because I think I’m going to marry her. Don’t you think she’ll change?”

And the answer was an emphatic NO.

The wedding did happen at a different venue-I was the officiant-it was one of those ’slip knots’ that did not help my batting average.


iii. The Commercial

Some years went by. I really was not in close contact with either of the people that I had married and don’t even remember that either or both were actually in the community all the time. And this didn’t happen at the same time, but one of them began coming to church. Before long there was the decision for Christ and a baptism I performed. That person did leave the community but continued in the new life. Then unbelievably the other party involved also began attending church with the same result-a commitment and a baptism.

Of course I still remember that long ago wedding which was virtually doomed before the ceremony was over-but I do remember it in a different way. As I have heard it said in the vernacular, “God doesn’t make any junk.” That’s the reason I don’t quit my ‘day job.’ There’s nothing better than being

privileged to have even a small part in a reclamation project. Nothing. Absolutely nothing…Praise God!


The Proper Dosage

“A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”

--Mary Poppins

Grandpa Len was not only not ‘doctor oriented’ but really not medicine oriented either. If he actually went to a doctor and a prescription was issued he often would not get it filled, or if he were to fill the prescription, he might not even take a single dose. Or occasionally he would take a far larger dose than the prescription called for, evidently reasoning that if some was good, more would be better.

I’m not sure all of this would still be so vivid to me these many years later except for the time Grandpa was constipated-apparently a fairly rare occurrence for him. He decided to buy some castor oil, for he had heard that would solve his problem. Whatever the suggested dosage was, he either tripled or quadrupled it. I can’t remember if he did that all at once, or if every few minutes when he had not yet had results he would take another spoonful. All I do know, by Grandpa’s own rare admission of having erred, the ‘cure’ was much more uncomfortable than the ‘disease’ had been.


Sprinkler Systems vs. Hand Watering

In my younger years there were almost no properties that had lawn sprinkler systems, and the few that did were without any degree of sophistication like today’s versions possess. That really posed no problem for us, because Grandpa truly enjoyed watering the lawn-consistently covering the entire area with just a hose and nozzle. Occasionally Grandpa would use an outdoor chair or sit on the porch steps to do a portion of the lawn, but often he just stood. In the years after Grandpa’s death Dad took over the duties and also mostly did it by hand. After he died Mother did most of the watering, but quite a bit of the time she used various types of sprinklers depending on which part of the lawn she was watering. Of course I increasingly helped some, but she was still the primary irrigator.

The last summer she lived I realized that watering was a task I almost

never had time to perform adequately. Our lawn is not particularly large; we are nearly totally lacking in a back yard because most of that space is the semi-graveled entrance to our three car garage. Nevertheless I calculated I had to move the hose either eighteen or nineteen times to get the task accomplished. I just wasn’t home at long enough intervals for that to work, so I had a sprinkler system installed the year after Mom passed. The subject is on my mind as I write this piece because one zone is not working at the moment and the repair man has not put in an appearance. We have not been getting any recent rains, it’s hot, and we’ve had plenty of drying winds. So I am back to the pain of trying to get hoses with sprinklers attached moved and operating often enough to keep the lawn alive. It’s not working real well.

Probably an unnecessary amount of introduction for the point I wanted to include, but it got me to reminiscing about a time in the late 1950’s when Joe and Glenna Madden lived next door. In contrast to ours, that property has a rather spacious back yard-one in which Glenna was known to sunbathe fairly frequently. The portion of our property that bordered their back yard is quite minimal-really just a strip of grass no bigger than those in front between the sidewalk and the street. One night at supper Mom told Grandpa and Dad that there was at least one portion of the lawn she never had to worry that it might dry up and die. She said they were giving it so much attention with their hand sprinkling that she feared if Glenna didn’t cut back on her tanning schedule-our basement might flood.


“The Sting”

“It is never correct to play ragtime fast.” -Scott Joplin

When my singing group was going full tilt, there was a period of time where nearly every night one or more people would come up to me and ask if I could play “The Sting.” Initially I would just say I couldn’t, but I really didn’t know what they were talking about. Finally one night I asked my questioner what it actually was, and he told me it was just a movie with some cool music. During that era of my life I usually saw several movies every year, but when we were on the road as much as we were, there wasn’t much time and I actually had not heard of that movie. One night when I was asked the same question, I inquired what kind of music it was and was told,

“Oh, it’s ragtime-Scott Joplin ragtime.”

That was a different matter. I can’t imagine loving to play the piano as I do and not enjoying playing ragtime. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I would often sit down at a piano in the High School music room during spare moments and play some of it. I still recall one of our outstanding musicians and performers who was a couple of years older than me giving me a lecture one day. He told me to quit playing “that garbage,” and virtually threatened me if I didn’t. So what a thrill to find out a few years later that I had just been ahead of my time, and could now come “out of the closet” and resume playing ragtime openly. I had long played “The Maple Leaf Rag’-arguably the most well-known of all Joplin’s compositions. But after finally getting to see the movie, I learned one of the pieces most associated with it-”The Entertainer.” For quite a few years I played that many times per request. It also astonished me to realize that my gospel playing included many ragtime features. To illustrate the truth of that, I put together an arrangement that was part “Maple Leaf Rag” and part “I’ll Fly Away”-the gospel classic by Albert E. Brumley.

Things were much different for the athletic teams I traveled with in High School. Now it is a rarity for the school to feed them, but back then we always ate after the games, and before also if it was a long trip. Fast food was virtually an unknown, and we always ate at a regular restaurant-a sit-down meal with waiters or waitresses. Almost every one of those places had a piano, and it just became a tradition that while we were waiting to get the food I would play and sometimes sing a few songs. The most popular numbers were the instrumental “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright,” and “Sweet Georgia Brown” which the Harlem

Globetrotters stole from me, (or was it the other way around?)

One incident that sticks in my mind occurred in Buffalo. There we perpetually ate in the Legion Club. When I was done playing, the proprietor offered me a job playing on weekends. At first I was sure he was kidding, and reminded him that I lived over 200 miles away. He said he understood that, but that he would pay me mileage as well as to perform. I told him the biggest reason I couldn’t honor his request was that I traveled with the team every weekend, and besides, I was still in High School.

Later I had another job offer I couldn’t honor. Out at the golf course there was an old upright piano I used to like to play. For a time there had even been tacks put in the hammers to give it that “ricky-tick” sound. Dave Cook

who started the Pub and was still operating it asked me if I wouldn’t come down and play ragtime piano there on weekend nights. I told him that I didn’t think it was exactly compatible with my real job-being a preacher. But Cookie gave up hard, and as long as he owned the business, he’d renew his request from time to time.

Perhaps I should have followed Bill Huey’s long ago advice to give it up as far as ragtime went. But I am still pulling my shades and locking the doors and keeping up my Scott Joplin repertoire, and hoping my next request to perform comes from Carnegie Hall and not one of the neighborhood watering holes near it.

Lex and Mark’s Excellent (?) Adventure

It was the summer of 1975 and Lex Madden had recently graduated from High School. His dad Joe was having him deliver some trailers for him which he mostly kept at his property a few miles outside Wheatland. Lex had already experienced a mishap when some heavy wind upset one a few miles south of Wheatland. That’s the place they now have a wind sock on the interstate and a sign that warns there may be extreme winds. Joe had sold another trailer that needed to be delivered and set up in Manila, Utah, and Lex called and asked if I would like to go along.

We didn’t get a very early start and it was early afternoon before we got on the road. It was necessary to take the long route through Cheyenne since it wasn’t allowed to pull what we were pulling through the Bosler Canyon cutoff. When we reached the point where Lex had the problem, he pulled off to the shoulder. He was understandably nervous. It wasn’t calm, but I doubt

it has ever been totally calm there since the day of creation. After ten or fifteen minutes I told Lex we better either go on or go back, because I was sure it would never be much calmer. So on we went.

Joe didn’t really have a tractor adequate for the job and much of the time we were lucky to be doing any more than thirty-five miles an hour. After we got headed west at Laramie, we got stopped for some reason. I know that Lex didn’t have the proper paperwork let alone the class of driver’s license he should have. I didn’t hear the session with the patrolman, but apparently Lex said the right things for we were allowed to proceed.

Of course we had lost a lot of time, and another “no-no” was pulling one of those units after dark. We had hoped to make it to Rawlins but it was

obvious we were not going to be able to do that. There was an abandoned service station near the Elk Mountain turnoff and Lex decided we would park there. Before we did we pulled down into Elk Mountain in hope of finding some food, but as I recall the only potential source was a bar that was all out of any snacks. So we got parked and Lex said we would sleep in the trailer and that “no one will bother us.” Wrong!!! I don’t think there was half an hour the entire night that someone didn’t stop and snoop around the trailer. Lex got up every time, but I finally adapted the “if they want me they can have me philosophy” and tried to get at least a little sleep, because I was worn out.

It was the time of the year when the daylight hours are at the maximum, and I think we got started around four in the morning. Nothing really eventful occurred until we got to the place we were to deliver the trailer. The man who had purchased it was an acquaintance of Joe, and he assumed we knew what we were doing in setting one up. I knew nothing, and Lex was little more than a novice himself. As we were trying to get it set up, one of the worst lightning storms I have ever encountered occurred. We were in a mountain meadow and the sky seemed close enough to reach out and touch. The big problem Lex was having was that no matter what adjustment he made, the trailer wasn’t level. Finally after a couple of hours he said to me when the man couldn’t hear-”Wouldn’t you know, Joe sold him a warped trailer.” He said he knew we couldn’t ever get it right and hopefully if the man ever discovered it wasn’t he would take it out on Joe, because we would be long gone.

Of course that was plenty of adventure, but it wasn’t over. We were to return by way of Riverton and pick up a wrecked half of a double-wide that

Joe had purchased and been paying storage on for at least a year. We limped into Riverton after dark and could only find one flea bag motel that had any rooms left. It wasn’t good, and Lex spent much of the night in the truck’s sleeper-worried that someone might molest it. (By that time I was convinced even the most malicious vandal couldn’t do anything to harm that piece of junk.)

It was quite an involved procedure getting our new load attached. Lex and the owner of the place it was stored had to go to Shoshoni to get a proper hitch. It took several hundred dollars to pay the storage fees, and we didn’t make it two miles out of town before the truck stalled. A tow truck had to come out and take us back to a Riverton garage which got us up and

running, but of course once again we had lost much time. By the time we got to Casper it was dark. We pulled off where the several motels just off the interstate by the Platte River are located. This time, we had no luck. Finally at the Showboat I told them that I understood every motel kept back a room to be rented only in an emergency situation. I told them if they did that, this was one of those situations and we would like that room. They did have such a room and I finally thought the series of misadventures was at an end.

Why I remain an optimist I’ll never know. Everything went fine the next morning until we took the first Wheatland exit. Before we got to the point to turn onto the country road that would take us to Joe’s place, the truck abruptly quit running. It was long before cell phones, but Lex found a phone and Joe sent a tractor in to pull us on out. In the meantime we were causing quite a stir because this big trailer was totally blocking one lane. When the tractor arrived someone just gave me a ride out so I could retrieve my car from Joe’s place, because by now we were in day four of the adventure and I desperately needed to get home and get ready for Sunday.

It was a few days before I got to talk to Lex again to find why the truck had stalled. It was out of gas, and by his calculations for that to have happened it made under two miles a gallon on the trip back from Riverton.


Give it a Crank

In the sixties when we used to go to St. Louis most summers for Mom to get continuing education (which mysteriously always coincided with a long Cardinal homestand), we sometimes took in a movie. I recall going to see “It’s a Mad, Mad, World” in the Cinerama venue. Compared to now, the

technology was primitive, but of course it was state of the art for then. Our black friend Howard went with us that night. A lot of the movie features slapstick types of humor, something that our family was usually not that fond of. However, that night was different, and I think part of it was that Howard got so tickled. At one point he literally got to laughing so hard that he rolled out of the reclining seat onto the floor. The plot that held the movie together is that a whole lot of people were trying to find a hidden treasure, and using whatever means of transportation they could find to be the first to arrive at where each thought the treasure to be.

The scene that ‘dumped’ Howard and was my favorite was when some of the treasure hunters rented an ancient bi-plane. It was the wife that got the

scene going. She looked like she had stepped right out of the famous painting “American Gothic.” She had to crank the plane to get it started, and made a big point of crossing herself, as if she knew this would be it’s final voyage. It was sputtering badly, but her husband got it a few feet into the air. Each time he did the engine would die, but when the plane hit the runway with a thud it would start the motor running again. This happened several times until they finally went sputtering off towards the horizon. Words can’t do the scene justice.

Probably only a couple of years later I had a mishap not of my own making at one of the dorm parking lots on the UW campus. Because it was well known I went home most weekends since I continued to do sportswriting in Lusk and play piano on Sundays at church, I transported lots of ‘care’ packages to various students. This particular time I had hoped to make my brief stop in the parking lot in front of the dorm-one much closer but with not too many spaces. When I got into the lot, I found it to be full. I was about ready to leave when another would-be parker made the same discovery. He was much less calm about it, and threw his car in reverse and started backing up towards me at a high rate of speed. I laid on my horn, but he hit me. I still had a Corvette, and it had a fiberglass body which crumpled on impact much like a cardboard box.

I had games I felt I needed to cover that weekend, and the body shop couldn’t get it fixed quite that quickly. Dad could bring me back, but for some reason couldn’t come and get me. However, for a few months there was a Cherokee Six that flew between several southeastern Wyoming counties-mostly to haul small freight items but with room for passengers also. I made arrangements to ride to Lusk that Friday morning.

My roommate Ralph Dickinson hauled me to Brees Field bright and early, and there wasn’t a soul in sight. We waited a bit, but then headed back to town. Enroute we met a Volkswagen Bug careening wildly down the road-barely keeping it between the ditches. I said to Ralph, “I bet that’s my pilot. Let’s go back.”

It was. It also was a bitterly cold morning, with the temperature in the range of minus twenty-five. We were in the plane shortly, but I wasn’t in it for long. The pilot looked at me sheepishly and said, “Look, I hate to ask you this, but I need you to go out and crank one of the propellers. I can’t because I have to be at the controls when it is done. You only need to give it a quarter turn, but if you don’t, we won’t be going anywhere-because it’s so

cold this will never start on its own.”

Of course, I’m not Catholic-but with that scene from the Mad World playing in my head, I wondered if I should cross myself just in case.

There was no incident. The plane started. It was exceptionally rough air over Sybille Canyon. The pilot was afraid I would get sick. My only worry, which I told him, was that when one of those severe down drafts hit us, I was going to hit my head on the roof. I had my seat belt as tight as I could get it, and I was still less than an inch from conking myself.

The airports had an arrangement that if the plane needed to land, they would have a flag on display at a certain place. Wheatland, our potential first stop, did not have the flag out, so we circled and headed to Torrington. It didn’t have the flag out either, but the pilot informed me we were landing, because “the lady makes the greatest cinnamon rolls you can imagine.”

We then went on to Lusk-no further incidents. I don’t think I ever had so much fun, at least not for twenty dollars, which was all it cost me.



I do not remember if I was initially insured by Farm Bureau on my first Corvette. What I do remember is that at the time of the above incident in the UW dorm parking lot, I was. Mom’s first cousin Blanche Schaefer was the local agent and wrote the policy. I also remember it was quite reasonably priced. State headquarters for Farm Bureau Insurance was in Laramie, and the office at that time was only about a block away from the main dorm area. I knew that, and I still remember going into the office shortly after the accident. A man asked me if he could help me, and I told him that I was one

of their insured and that my vehicle had been hit by another driver. I don’t remember if I got any further than that before he asked me what kind of car I was driving. I told him it was a Corvette Sting Ray, and all these years later I can still see the smug look that came to his face as he said condescendingly, “Oh, no, we don’t insure any Corvettes.” I said they were my insurers, and he assured me there had to be some mistake, because they absolutely did not insure any Corvettes. I said, “Look, the accident wasn’t my fault, but you do have my insurance.” I don’t recall if I had the policy number, because I am not thinking in those days we got those proof of insurance cards each time we renewed our policy, but I told him my name and my agent and that if he would check their files, he would find I was

telling him the truth.

He made that check, and I definitely ruined his day. When he came back he was pale-looking as if some doctor told him his time on earth was short. I would like to tell you his attitude did an about-face, but it was still obvious to me that he was being forced to deal with something extremely distasteful to him…So I guess that was my ‘silver lining.’ Pompous (you supply the next, possibly un-preacherlike word.)


New Vehicle Not Needed

Until the ‘77 Chevy pickup got needle grass trapped under it, caught fire, and was totaled by the insurance company-I had continued to use it until that July day in 2014 when the fire happened. In many ways being able to operate the same vehicle for thirty-seven years speaks well of its reliability. But truthfully (sorry, JD Powers) it was a pickup that had to have lots of work done on it throughout its lifetime. As the years were mounting up and with them the vehicle’s age, Stan Wasson began to be more insistent that Mom needed to buy a new pickup. Finally one day she said to him, “Why should I? Every part on this one has been replaced at least once!”


Squeaky Clean

In my childhood when we were leasing the Art Thompson ranch, we did not ordinarily hire extra help in the summer. But as summer was getting

well underway, Dad had his gallbladder removed. He had some complications afterwards with the drainage tube getting clogged. Consequently he definitely needed help in the haying operation. We hired Jerome Kane, and at least part of the time one of his brothers worked also. They were Catholic, and in that era throughout the year Catholics were not supposed to eat meat on Friday. On a certain Friday Mom was prepared to served tuna noodle for supper. She did not fancy herself to be a great cooker of casserole dishes-but she made an excellent tuna noodle.

When she heard the pickup pulling up with Dad and the hired men, she went to the oven and got her largest cooking pan which contained the tuna noodle. She was heading for the table which had the serving dish on it. She

had always had problems with the handle on this particular large pan, and before she got half-way across the kitchen, the handle turned and all the casserole went to the floor. Her first move (after a mild profanity) was to dash to the window and make sure Dad and the Kane’s weren’t about to walk in the back door. They weren’t, so Mom hurriedly gathered up the tuna noodle-spooning it into the serving dish from the floor. Then she quickly cleaned up the evidence. Supper was on time, and no one else the wiser.

It was some time before she confessed what had happened. She said she thought, “I mopped the floor just this morning, and I don’t have another thing to serve.” Thus, two old sayings were confirmed. The first which says, “the floor was always clean enough to eat off.” Another was one I heard Mom say many times: “There’s a little larceny in the best of us.”


A Big Loss?

In a hundred mile radius of Lusk there are at least half a dozen restaurants that readily come to mind that to get to the dining area it is necessary to walk right by the bar. In some of these you practically have to brush up against any patrons seated at the bar to get by. This little story is going to be very vague on purpose, for I have a feeling if the person in the incident has surviving relatives, they might be of the litigious variety.

When my mom was living, she was fond of a couple of the aforementioned places, and one might even have been her favorite place to go for a special meal. For years whenever we went to that place a certain person I recognized by sight even though I was not well acquainted with was

perpetually seated at the bar. He was hard to miss for several reasons, but one was that this was a place where people usually went to eat rather than to drink, and many times he would be the only person at the bar. If this was a joke it would be one that I remembered the punch line but not everything leading up to it. Apparently one night the customer and the owner had some heated words. The customer told the owner he better apologize or he the customer might just take his business somewhere else. And the owner informed him very sarcastically that it would be some loss if he did, for at that moment his unpaid bar tab was in the neighborhood of $25,000.


“I Don’t Know What Came Over Me”

This was a story I heard Stan Wasson tell many times. Although it didn’t happen here, it is another one that if I gave specific names and places I would probably regret it. A man came into a certain bar that was fairly busy. He spent a little time visiting with the bartender and some of the customers near him. At that point he told the bartender that he would like to buy everyone in the place a drink-a so called “round for the house.” By the time everyone got served, the buyer had finished his drink. The bartender came over and told the man how much he owed, and the man said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t have any money.” This happened in an era before people routinely had credit cards. Well, the bartender was furious, and he came around the bar and grabbed the man. He more or less dragged him to the door, and gave him a heave so that he hit the ground in a heap.

About ten minutes later, the man returned to the bar, disheveled to say the least. He told the bartender he would really appreciate it if he would allow him to go to the men’s room and get tidied up a bit. The bartender was still sore, but his wrath had subsided a bit, and he said he supposed that would be all right. When the man came out, looking quite a little better, he apologized to the bartender. He said, “I don’t know what came over me, I’ve never done anything like that before. And to show you how sorry I am about it, now I would like to buy everyone a drink.”

So, for the second time, the bartender set one up for everyone who was there. He came back and told the man what the bill was now. And the man said, “You know, I still don’t have any money.”


At the Appointed Time

“Fool Me Once, Shame On You; Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me”

Probably nothing comes closer to making me disavow my intention never to hurt anyone no matter how unintentionally in one of these stories than some of the impromptu weddings I have agreed to perform. Very few of them have ever gone anything like they were supposed to. I must be as slow to pick up on that as Charlie Brown when every fall Lucy swears she will not pull back the football when he comes to kick it, but she always does. Dad used to tell of a man out in the area where he grew up who was quite slow mentally and realized he was. I told he said, “I only tried to be smart twice, and I was de goat both times.” I could honestly tell him, “It’s been

many more times than that for me, Carl,” for that was his name.

A couple of days before it was scheduled to happen I was asked to do an outdoor wedding. It was during the summer, and after a couple of questions, I agreed to do it. When asked what I would charge, I quoted quite a modest rate, because from what they had told me there would be no rehearsal and the ceremony would be brief. It was going to be an early Sunday evening affair, the worst day for a preacher to do something extra. When I got to the site, perhaps fifteen minutes early, it was obvious there was no way this would happen on schedule. In fact, I was told that it wasn’t supposed to happen until a half hour later than I had been informed. I gritted my teeth, and found a way to kill some time. Meanwhile I was thinking I was perhaps getting my comeuppance for a mistake I had made a few years before. The only time I had ever been scheduled to do a wedding in that locality, I had agreed to do it so many months in advance, that even though I had written it down on my calendar, I missed the rehearsal. I had played golf that afternoon and decided to go down the road to dinner, and totally spaced out the rehearsal. I hadn’t looked at my calendar for weeks-trusting my memory. All the messages awaiting me on my home phone ‘alerted’ me to my mistake. Happily that one went off on schedule the next night.

Well this one wasn’t even close to happening half an hour late; none of the party was on site. They finally appeared, with no obvious sense of urgency. I finally told those involved that I would sign the papers, but unless they were ready in twenty minutes, I wasn’t going to stick around and do an actual ceremony. It was an hour and ten minutes late when we got started.

When we got to the point where the rings were to be exchanged, the bride

did an OMG and said she had left the ring in her purse inside in the building. The soon to be mother-in-law went sprinting off to retrieve it. She returned with the purse. The bride said she could have just brought the ring, and the mother-in-law to be said she didn’t go through someone else’s purse. When she got the bride her purse, it took the lady a while to find the ring in her own purse. But as I often tell couples, I don’t remember any wedding that has ever gone exactly according to plan, but I don’t recall even one where the couple wasn’t actually legally married when the ceremony was over. And so it was that day. But if you want to know what happened when I said, “You may kiss the bride,” you’re going to have to ask me in person-I’m trying to keep the book with at least a PG rating. And one more thing, on the way up I had told myself I wasn’t going to accept any money

for doing this one. When I was done, I took the money and was thinking of adding a surcharge.


“When You’re Good at It”

As a preacher, I am always somewhat uncomfortable when the family requests that during the memorial service there be an opportunity given for anyone who wishes to get up and say a few words about the deceased. It has never become customary in services here, and I am glad. I’ll never forget a story Judy Uphoff told me that occurred before Wyoming Women’s Center opened in Lusk and the women were incarcerated in a wing of the State Hospital at Evanston. That area of the state is predominately Mormon, and according to Judy it is not only customary but expected that folks in attendance will get up and make remarks. Judy was at one of those services for someone related to one of her staff. Apparently no one really had anything he or she wished to contribute-largely because no one could think of anything very positive to say. The situation was getting tense and embarrassing when one gentleman finally stood up and said, “I’ve known Frank all of my life, and boy, could he smoke. I’ve never known anyone who could smoke like old Frank did.”


No Good

Only for the old time Wyoming Cowboy fans will this story resonate. Wyoming had some tremendous basketball and football teams in the middle of the last century-with the football squad having some memorable bowl appearances and victories and the basketball team even winning the NCAA and NIT in the same season. At some point the radio “Voice of the Cowboys” became Larry Birleffi who was originally from nearby Hartville. No one could question his genuine interest or level of enthusiasm and dedication to the Pokes. At times his enthusiasm and tendency to get excited made his play-by-play in need of an interpreter. Judy Uphoff told me a story from when she was quite young. She grew up in Cheyenne where her parents-her dad Larry in particular-were avid Cowboy supporters as Judy herself became. She said if he couldn’t be at the game, her dad never missed

a Cowboy broadcast. Those who never heard Larry Birleffi on the radio probably never heard the great Dodger broadcaster Vin Scully either. Let’s just say they were at the opposite ends of the spectrum in many ways. Scully never feared moments of silence, and Larry seemingly feared ever letting

the airwaves go dead for even a mili-second. Judy recalls that she would often start to cry during a game and her dad couldn’t figure why. It was because a classic way Birleffi would describe an unsuccessful shot at the basket would be, “Up-off-no good.” Well, Judy knew her name was Uphoff, and after hearing several times in succession, “Up, off, no good,”-she thought he was talking about them, her family and her. As a young child she said it was hard for her dad to convince her what Birleffi really meant.


The Gin Game

For many years there was a nightly gin game at the table in the northwest corner of the Country Club. Dick Pfister was a regular. Virtually no place was non-smoking, and the Club certainly wasn’t. Dick had a habit of lighting one up, taking a puff, and then leaving it smoking in the ashtray as he studied the hand. I’m not sure the term “second-hand smoke” had come into the vocabulary yet either, but the rest of us got plenty of it.

One afternoon Harry Lyon reached over and put the cigarette out. A bit later Dick lit up again, and a couple of minutes later Harry put that one out also. I don’t know how many times that sequence was repeated-seven or eight times I think. Finally Dick came to and looked down and saw an ashtray full of virtually unsmoked cigarettes. He looked at Harry, and Harry didn’t look quite innocent enough, so he heard a tongue lashing from Dick.

Something that happened more than once happened when some of the participants were having a cocktail or two. Dick wasn’t much of a drinker, and he tended to have only taken a sip or two when the next drink would arrive. After there were two or three nearly full drinks with the ice slowly melting, whoever bought next would often not bring Dick one. He would act insulted and ask why that person hadn’t brought him one. Usually a mini bashing and the offender would explain he hadn’t drunk any of the others yet. Dick would ask what that had to do with it-he wanted a drink. So it would be added to the collection of the rapidly diluting other ones.

Actually Dick really seldom joined in when other people were being

criticized. He had a brief phrase I’ve often heard him say. “Quite a citizen.” My friend was truly quite a citizen.


A Solid Grade

As I write this, the school year has just ended. Perhaps that’s what put me in mind of a couple of personal incidents. Since I’ve been out of school quite a while, I don’t know if the word “solid” is still used when speaking of grades. It used to be common for a teacher to tell a student when he asked how he was doing, “You have a good solid A, or B, etc.”

At the University of Wyoming, everyone was required to take one semester of Political Science. I enjoy that subject, so a year or two later I took the second semester of the class which was not required. My professor had been an ex-legislator who didn’t go back and get his masters until he was in his late fifties. He was not a good teacher, but my original intent was to grin and bear him. About a month into the class we were assigned a paper to write-an essay. As an English major this was not a daunting assignment. When my Poly Sci paper came back, I had B minus. I was irritated but thought I’d be fine once I took the mid-term. It was an easy test-straight out of the book. It also was in essay form. When it came back I had received a C or C minus. On one question he wrote in the margin in red ink the eight points I should have included in my answer. Not only had I written those eight points but in the exact order he wrote them, for the answer was straight from the book. I was pretty sure that I had a “solid C” in his class, but I went and dropped it while I still had a passing grade.

The other incident is still a sad memory, but thankfully not a bitter one which it well could have become. My singing group had gotten going quite well but only sang occasional dates in area churches. We were still a quartet and our founding member lived in Oklahoma City and had much more knowledge of gospel music than the rest of us did. During the summer he contacted us and said he thought he could arrange a week of singing in that area early in September, and we told him to do it. There was no staff on campus during the summer, but it never even occurred to us we might be doing something displeasing to the administration. Our college didn’t even have Monday classes so students could go out and not have to make late night Sunday returns. Every professor routinely would miss time doing

meetings, revivals, camps. In fact that very semester in one of the classes I had signed up for, shortly after it began the prof had a chance to go to Australia and he did, for the rest of the semester. So suddenly it was independent study.

For some reason our proposed tour really upset the school. They basically ordered us to cancel it or face the consequences. This was within about a week of the first date. I explained all the churches had the publicity and had promoted the date. We were serious about our musical ministry and thought it would be a bad idea to back out on short notice and make churches wary of scheduling us in the future. Since this is a humor book I’ll omit lots of the unpleasantness, but basically we were told our grades would be lowered if we went.

It was a small school and I had one teacher for all of my classes that semester. I had straight one hundred per cents in every one of them and he gave me all ‘B’s. It was probably the most SOLID grades I ever received.


Speed Penalized

In spite of my love of High School sports and all the years I covered games for the Lusk Herald and did statistics for football and basketball, there are few stories I have included pertaining to that subject. I had lots of fun and made many friends but didn’t really gain much material for this publication. Some of what I might include could possibly embarrass some of the athletes, and that’s not my desire.

One incident did come to mind recently that I had not thought about for years. When I was in High School, we always considered Torrington our major football rival. The school was probably triple our size and through the years we did not have a very good record against them. In fact when Francis Rose came to coach in 1959 while I was still in grade school, Lusk had not defeated either Torrington or Douglas for ten consecutive years. He practically promised the fans and the team we would, and that first year we did beat both of them. However, the next two seasons we weren’t as successful. In my eighth grade year a loss at Torrington was the only Tiger loss of the season.

In the fall of 1962 it appeared we were going to have an awesome team, and we did. We were not even scored on the first half of the season. We hosted Torrington in game six. I suppose I knew then who was responsible

for watering the field, but I don’t recall right now. Anyway, a night or maybe two before the field was soaked far more than it should have been. We won the game by two touchdowns, but the visitors were sore losers, and insisted

that we had soaked the field on purpose to slow down their speedy backs. It was hilarious to me particularly as that was the first season I ever kept statistics for a High School team. We had a T backfield. Jim Hollon was the quarterback, Rog Rogers one of the halfbacks and Tom Thompson the fullback. Each was formidable and there was plenty of speed there. But our other halfback was Bob Huey. He averaged right at eight yards a carry in spite of being less than 150 pounds. Oh, and when state track meet came around, in those pre-metric days he was the state champion in the 100 yard dash, the 220, and the 440. I rest my case about which team had more to lose if the field was wet enough to significantly slow runners down.


“We Have a Problem”

Back in the days of my gospel trio “Friends” we would occasionally have a couple of days without a date and a lot of driving required to reach the next concert. On one of those occasions we were going from Tennessee down to Texas. (We sang frequently in both South Louisiana and Texas.) Somewhere in the middle of the trip when I reached the outskirts of a town and attempted to slow down, I couldn’t. I finally had to slip the automatic transmission into neutral and use the brake to slow down. When I wanted to get back up to highway speed I put it back into drive, and since the engine was still revving pretty fast there was quite a jerk.

As I recall this only happened part of the time, but often enough for it to be quite unnerving. We were going to stay a night at my Uncle Bob’s on a lake north of Dallas before our first Texas engagement. We told him about our situation, and he said he knew an old boy in a neighboring town that could ‘fix anything,’ and we were in luck because he was open Saturday morning. So we limped over there, and in about half an hour he came out and told us he had discovered what our problem was. The cruise control, which we seldom used, would engage on its own and there was then no way to cancel it. He said he couldn’t fix it, but he took the offending cable and connection off.

It was perhaps two weeks later when I was back home that there was a

Special Delivery (even though we did not have regular home delivery) which brought a large manila envelope with red on all its borders and all kinds of words like “WARNING” and “EXTREME DANGER” written all over that envelope plus OPEN AT ONCE!!! The message inside said that the motor home company had discovered there was a malfunction in the cruise control system that was extremely dangerous, that it needed to be fixed immediately, and that the replacement part was in the envelope.

No kidding. I probably still have the envelope and the part some place in the house, because the other guys felt the same as I did: We were not going to give that maniacal cruise control a second opportunity to remove us from the planet.


Wrong Priorities

These days the annual meetings at the Country Club are generally short and quite routine. There have been some of the other type in days gone by. Probably my favorite had to do with a little pep talk a long ago president included in his remarks. For the non-golfers, Cherry Hills is a very famous golf course in Denver that has hosted both the United States Open and the PGA tournament. But, on to the speech, which was undoubtedly not delivered sober: “We could have a Cherry Hills here if you wanted it, but the trouble is some of you guys love your wives and families more than you love this golf course.”


Earlier this summer as I was leaving the pasture and had stepped out of the pickup to open the final gate, I heard a suspicious sound. I thought, “Could it be?” It was. There was a fairly small (two feet long or less) snake barely inside the neighbor’s side of the fence-and he had “rattled” at me. Since I have been going to the ranch throughout my life, and that neighboring ranch which we leased for fifteen years, that was only the third time I have ever seen (and heard) a rattlesnake. This certainly is a confirmation of what both Dad and Granddad had observed: that there just are very few rattlers to be seen on our part of the divide.

A few years ago I was conducting a revival for a friend in northwestern Missouri. Perhaps I had mentioned how bizarre many of us think it was to ‘reintroduce’ wolves to the area-wondering if any of those advocates would have been so enthusiastic if they could have heard stories I heard from Grandpa and others about the atrocities those critters had committed against their cattle and horses. I remembered seeing in the Lusk Herald archives a picture of what was thought to be the final wolf killed in Niobrara County sometime in the early 1930’s, and the celebration being not unlike the one that accompanied development of the successful polio vaccine in my childhood. Anyway, I know I digress, and realize none of those things would have probably changed the pro-wolf people’s agenda. Idealogues are not easily swayed by facts.

My Missouri pastor host and friend topped my story. A couple of dozen miles from his town there is a state park-frequented by many visitors. Authorities had conducted a survey, and found that the rattlesnake population in the park had significantly diminished. So in their infinite wisdom they decided to overcome this tragic decline and brought in a great abundance of the snakes and released them in the park. I’m sure all the hikers and campers felt a great sense of relief and fulfillment.

What this all is leading up to is a true story from Dad’s experiences. In the summer of 1931 he broke horses at Agate-which is on the Niobrara River twenty-some miles south of Harrison, Nebraska. Of course this pre-dated considerably the formal establishment of the Agate National Fossil Beds, but did not pre-date the presence of innumerable rattlesnakes in that area. My understanding is now that the official policy in the Park is that rattlers are not to be killed-merely ’relocated.’

Dad said he actually lost count of how many horses he broke to ride that summer, but the number approached one hundred. Interestingly enough he said the number was almost exactly the same as the number of rattlesnakes he encountered, and ’relocated’ -to their eternal home.


“What Shall We Do, Dave?”

At moments of acute crisis it is often difficult to find anything humorous. Occasionally there are exceptions. After Dave Cook sold the house he and Esther had owned, he moved into a smaller rental house owned at the outset by Cecil Kaan. At the beginning Dave was still in good physical condition-

in fact he was still driving a school bus route as well as an activity bus. But he began to have more mobility issues, brought on mostly by the development of a condition identified as “diabetic ankle” in which his ankle was more or less turning to mush. I always enjoyed visiting with Dave and was no stranger at his place. He always told me if the door was unlocked it meant he was still up. If locked, he had retired for the evening. Nevertheless I always knocked and waited to see if he responded.

One fateful late Sunday afternoon I knocked and he hollered, “Come in,” as he usually did. I opened the door and he was on the floor near the kitchen table. Rather in shock I said, “Dave, how long have you been there?” “Three days,” he said. He had fallen, couldn’t get up, and hadn’t successfully been able to get to his telephone. I said, “Well, I’m calling an ambulance.”

“You ain’t calling any blankety blank ambulance,” he said. “I can’t afford one of those blankety blank things.”

“Well then what do you want me to do?” I asked. I was afraid to try to move him if he had broken a bone, and besides he was far too heavy for me to manage.

“I don’t know,” he said, “But we’re not calling an ambulance.”

Dave and Dick Pfister had been good buddies-even played in some golf tournaments as a team. So I decided to call Bob-hoping that he might bring Brenda over and that she as a nurse might get Cookie to change his mind. Bob came, but Brenda was unable to, and I don’t recall why. Bob tried to reason with Dave, which at times could be difficult. I recall Tom Price telling me once that Dave was in his “the sky is blue mood.” When I asked Tom what he meant by that, he said, “Oh right now he’ll argue about anything. If you say, ‘the sky is blue,’ he’ll say, ‘no it isn’t.’”

Finally Bob was standing astride Dave, looking down at him-having exhausted every line of reasoning even his logical, well-trained legal mind could advance. He shook his head and said, “Well, Dave, what do you think we should do?” Cookie gave him that impish look which he was so good at and said, “Call an ambulance.”

We did, and after a short hospitalization in Casper and a few days in rehab he was able to return home and continue living alone, for another two or three years.


Strange Meeting

A few months after Dad’s death in August of 1979, Mother and I took what would be the first of our many trips without him. Our destination was San Diego. Although Wyoming was playing San Diego State on Saturday that week, we weren’t sure we were going. The last trip Dad had been with us was at the beginning of the year-a trip that included going to the Rose Bowl. In fact we really weren’t sure what we were going to do other than just get away.

The first day we were there I purchased a newspaper and found out that there was going to be a concert the next day headlined by Mere Haggard. When I was in college I had heard “Okie from Muskogee” practically every night when my roommate and I shot a game of pool after supper, and I suggested to Mom we go to the program. She was agreeable.

When we arrived, a comfortable amount of time before the scheduled start, the usher showed us our seats. Within about five minutes she came by and apologized and told us she had seated us as well as the couple next to us in the wrong seats. So she moved us all. After a few minutes she came by again, and was really apologetic, and said she had still been wrong and moved us to four other seats. By then we were chatting with these folks we had never seen before. Unbelievably the usher appeared the third time, positively red-faced, and moved us back to the very first seats we had occupied. By then it was as if we had known our fellow movers forever.

They had learned we were from Wyoming and said that they supposed we were there for the football game. We said we might go but weren’t sure yet. They were season ticket holders and said if we did decide to go and buy tickets we could come by their place and ride with them. About five minutes later they said they didn’t think their two kids were that interested in going and we could just use their tickets and sit with them.

So as we were driving over to their place I said to Mom, who was as fond of mysteries in books and on TV as I was, “Do you suppose we will disappear, never to be heard of again?” Here we were voluntarily driving to meet some people we had not known in a huge city-all because of a chance meeting.

We needn’t have worried. It was the beginning of a great friendship. The wife was Greek and she and all her friends and relatives loved to cook. Need I say more? He was a fascinating individual who was retired Navy and worked with troubled kids in school and also part time with the Border Patrol. They even hosted us at the Officer’s Club as well as numerous times at their home. Their last name was Cormier, which if you have ever traveled in Louisiana, is not an uncommon name for those of French ancestry. And as such, the second syllable more or less rhymes with ‘May.’ But Warren would always remind us, “That’s Cor-mier-rhymes with ‘warm beer.’


“You Killed My Kid”

It’s Christmas morning-almost noon. This will be the tenth Christmas that I have dinner with one of my greatest friends ever, his folks, his two sisters and their kids and husbands. There is some horsing around, but the parents and grandparents both have discipline, and they’re good kids anyway.

I’m thinking of some long ago scenes, memories of which are aided because older family members kept reminding me of them. It must have been when I first got my tricycle-it may have even been a Christmas present. It was Grandpa’s house and he was no fan of out of control kids. So I don’t know if we really were little angels or we just didn’t have any choice. However, it was a bit rambunctious that morning. My cousin Vicki was riding my tricycle inside and I think I was trying to be a passenger. She made a sharp turn into the bedroom doorway that was flanked by the piano on one side and on the other a little cabinet originally designed for tobacco storage that had an authentic shell lamp on it. The tricycle caught one leg of the table which caused the lamp to come off and cold cock me. As I was coming to I heard Mom screaming at Aunt Gladys, “Your kid killed my kid.” I couldn’t tell from her tone of voice if she was upset-or hopeful that she was right in her diagnosis…

One gift that almost enabled me to do myself in was one of my all time favorites. It was a small merry-go-round which fit perfectly on our porch, and was usually there during the warmer months. It was a two-seater and the going round was caused by the passengers pumping handles. Of course the harder the pumping the faster it went and my fellow passengers and I were always trying to see how fast we could get it moving.

The indelicate aspect of this tale is that I was very subject to getting car-sick, a malady that was worsened by Dad’s smoking in those cars. I told you my parents swear that I upchucked so frequently in an early Chevy that they were forced to trade it in quite early because they were unable to eradicate the lingering odor. So the merry-go-round produced vertigo which for me resulted in throwing up. But apparently as soon as the episode was ended I

would hurry back out and climb aboard and resume seeing how fast I (or we) could go. And while it may not be scientifically verifiable-my folks always thought that helped cure my problem. Probably getting nauseous in an automobile is not a problem many adults suffer, but rough flights on airplanes do bother many. I discovered that even the most turbulent of flights does not seem to bother me in that way. I’m not sure I would recommend my cure for your kids or grandkids-but the merry-go-round is still stored somewhere in the upper part of my garage.


To The Nines

I have a photograph-preserve your memories-they’re all that’s left you

-Paul Simon

I’m not sure quite where it is, but there’s a picture somewhere around the house that was taken in the late 1930’s when Dad owned the Smoke House. He lined up his employees-and bear in mind this was a pool hall with several gambling games available-and took their photograph. He lined them up along the bar in the establishment next to his to take it. What I remember was to the last man everyone had a coat and tie on, and they hadn’t dressed up especially for the photo.

In 1959 when we took that first jet out of Denver to Los Angeles, everyone was dressed up also. Perhaps that was not as surprising as it was an inaugural flight with champagne and entertainment. But my memory of all those early day jet flights is that most all the men always had coats and ties.

In 2017 I spent a few nights in the Palm Desert area of California. One of the guys with whom I became friends as he was growing up in Lusk-Jason Walsh-played a couple of rounds of golf with me. We both drove in late one afternoon, and after checking in to our hotel I had him get on his smart phone and locate a restaurant near by with a good reputation. He found one-Italian-and we went there and had a great meal. In January 2018 after finishing a public power conference in San Diego I spent several days in Palm Desert again and decided I wanted another dining experience at the same wonderful place. I was alone this time, but I had packed one suit coat and a couple of ties and decided I was going to dress up, sort of my tribute to the quality of the establishment.

When the host was taking me to my table, a gentleman stopped me and said, “I want to compliment you for wearing a coat and tie. This is Southern California and almost no one does that here. You must not be from here. Where do you come from?” I told him Wyoming, and as I looked around, sure enough not even one other man had either coat or tie. He wasn’t being sarcastic, because he wished me well and thanked me once again for dressing up.

The cliché goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby.” We certainly have. Which way would you say it is we’ve come?


Bad Moon Rising

“I see a bad moon rising”

-Credence Clearwater Revival

When I reflect it is still hard for me to believe my extreme good fortune in bringing top gospel groups to the area when I was only in my mid-twenties. I got to know so many people quite well personally-people who were the most talented folks in the profession. While there were written contracts or agreements, this in no way lessened the out and out fun of the experience. Their faith was real, their performances amazing, and the quality of inspiration and entertainment profound.

Most of the concerts were staged in Scottsbluff/Gering or Casper. When I knew it was about time for the group to be arriving in town, I began scouting out the local motels. While the groups slept in their buses, they would always rent a room or two to shower and get presentable for the evening performance. When I discovered which inn that was, I would stop there and head for the coffee shop. There was always sure to be one or more of them in there, and we would chat and clarify any matters that needed to be concerning the upcoming performance.

The very first group I ever had the opportunity to present was the Oak Ridge Boys-who throughout the first many years of their existence were 100% a gospel group. At the time they were all in their twenties also. Many people who have heard me tell this story insist it needs to be included, and the only reason I hesitate is I don’t want anyone to take offense or get the wrong idea about their sincerity. But enough of the disclaimers.

One time when they were appearing in Casper I had discovered the motel they were using in my reconnaissance. I parked next to their bus and as I got out of my car just happened to glance up at the motel. At that very moment one of the group parted the curtains and stuck his head through to look outside. It was a very wet head and it was obvious he had just emerged from his shower. He saw me, acknowledged me, and quickly pulled his head back in. But that was just for a second. Moments later the curtains flew open, he removed the towel he had wrapped around him, and gave me a ‘shot.’

I guess there are various ways of estimating whether or not one has ‘arrived.” I figured when I had been mooned by the Oaks, I had.


The First Family (in my book. too)

Often we’re thinking of who is occupying the White House when we mention the ‘first family.’ For many years in gospel music that term referred to the Speer Family from Nashville. I was blessed to know Brock Speer quite well as well as getting to host the group in several different venues, including here in Lusk. The first of those occasions was memorable. The guys and I were traveling all over the country with our own group and we were going to open a concert with the Speer Family at the High School Auditorium in Lusk. A couple of months before we had recorded for the first time and we were really anxious to be able to have the record available to sell on our home turf. As the time drew near we still didn’t have it. It was being produced in Nashville where we recorded it and where the Speers lived, and they had said they would swing by the studio and pick up a couple of boxes of our product.

That would have been kind enough but they had some bus trouble plus Brock and Ben had some business dealings and they ended up having to fly and meet the bus somewhere enroute. For us to get our record each of them ended up “carrying on” a box of our records and having it in between their feet on that flight. Whatever the ‘call of duty’ is and going ‘beyond it’ is, that surely qualified in my book.

What actually got me thinking to this long ago incident was seeing two of their great female “adopted family’ members of the Speers at the Quartet Convention this year (2018). One was Sue Chenault (now Dodge) and the other Jeannie Johnson. Both were on stage at the Gaither Homecoming showcase and Jeannie was even a featured soloist. Sue had been a beauty queen in Arkansas and had an incredibly powerful and beautiful voice. The afternoon they were in town in 1973 they wanted to see the sights of Lusk.

My car was a two-seater at that time, a Corvette, so one of them had to ride on the padded console for the tour. Oh the trials of being a concert promoter and being forced to transport stars and beauty queens around town.


An Unexpected Career

I did statistics and student training for the football team my first two years in High School. We only had one tie to mar an otherwise perfect record. The playoffs had been suspended a couple of years before that, so there was no chance to compete for an actual state championship. After that second campaign was over, Francis Rose (the head coach) and Orval Borgialli (assistant football and head wrestling coach) told me they would like me to become the sportswriter for all the school sports, beginning with the soon to start wrestling and basketball seasons. I told them the major problem that I could see with their request was that Jim Griffith wrote the sports, he owned the newspaper, and he loved sports. They more or less dismissed my objections and told me to leave everything up to them.

To my great surprise I got a call from Jim Griffith only a few days later asking me if I would do what they had asked me to do. I told him I would. He said when the next fall came around he would still write football. He said he had played football and felt he understood the game pretty well.

I quickly got into the rhythm of writing and enjoyed it a lot. Since I traveled with the basketball team I didn’t get to see too much wrestling. But we hosted the Eastern Wyoming regional wrestling championships for the second year in a row. I took some film of it and got to see Tom Thompson at the end of a stellar heavyweight career which saw him be undefeated for the final three seasons and win every match by a pin except one. Our basketball team qualified for state for the first time in several seasons-with one of the season highlights being Rich Pfister’s setting a new single game scoring record for the time (39 points) which lasted for many years.

The next fall Jim called me and asked if I could cover the first football game for him since he had to be gone that week. I said I would, and he said he would resume the coverage himself the next week. My phone rang about four o’clock the next Friday afternoon. It was Jim. He said, “Mark, you do football from now on, also.”

This is another non-humorous but “funny peculiar” story. When I wrote that first story a week shy of my sixteenth birthday in 1963 I never dreamed that would become a steady feature of my life for most of the next forty-five years.


Answering the Call

It was around three years before I graduated from UW that I decided I wanted to go to Bible College and become a minister. My folks supported my decision but urged me to use the undergraduate scholarships I had and graduate from Wyoming first. I remember Mom in particular saying I would never regret doing that, and of course the years have proved her right.

The summer term I attended at Cincinnati Bible Seminary was very enjoyable, but the fall term at Scottsbluff was not. In fact I found it quite discouraging and my questioning whether I had pointed my life in the right direction. I had begun occasionally rehearsing with a male quartet, dong the piano accompaniments when the music professor couldn’t, but not really thinking that was going to be any big deal. Probably the most exciting thing those first few months was that group’s lead singer telling us that a very famous professional group was going to be performing at Gering High School Auditorium. The group was the Blackwood Brothers. We all went, and my folks even came down for the concert. It was a December evening, pre ‘fast-food’ in the area, and afterwards the guys and I went to a local pizza place, and found the Blackwood Brothers there also. There were lots of eaters, not very quick service, and lots of time to talk to the performers. I really bonded with them, probably Billie most of all, but also with James.

As I mentioned earlier. we had three day weekends every weekend. No Monday classes were scheduled so that students or professors could go to area churches and not have to worry about being in a classroom Monday at 7 AM, for that was when the first class was each school day. I always went home for those three days.

There used to be a Saturday afternoon poker game downstairs at one of the watering holes with an old time pool hall upstairs. Some Saturdays I played, and on the January afternoon in question I had. When I got home for supper my folks asked me where I had been, and I told them. Dad said he had suspected I might have been there, but when the folks called, they were told

I wasn’t there. This didn’t surprise Dad because he knew such establishments often did that, ‘protecting’ their clientele. My folks had tried to reach me because my Bible College friends called and needed me to play for them the next day on a weekend trip the school had planned. There were several singers going, including the group with which I often rehearsed, but not even one potential pianist-and that was before there were recorded accompaniment tracks. I wasn’t too excited, because it was already nearly six o’clock and the morning church service was in Burlington, Colorado-a long way down the line. But they begged, and I agreed, and headed my car for Scottsbluff.

I’ll spare the details, but before the trip was over, I was hooked. One reason I had not wanted to major in music is I didn’t want to either teach it or travel doing it. If I was trying to preserve whatever positive reputation I might have, I would not include this story. But the sports writing gig-important as it has been-pales in comparison to this. That was the weekend that changed my life, and even as we drove back that evening I think I suspected it was going to.

I’m very sure that Saul of Tarsus wasn’t proud that he was on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus when the Lord called him, but it didn’t keep him from telling the story. It’s remembering that and in that spirit I recount this. If God has something in mind for you, He’ll grab you where you are and get the adventure started. I’ve little doubt that’s why those few hours in my life happened.


Someone Else Answers the Call

Billie Graham had a revival in the Los Angeles area late in the 1940’s, and someone that walked the ‘sawdust trail’ one of those nights was a secular entertainer named Stuart Hamblen. After that time he wrote many classic gospel songs, a whole lot of which were regularly played on ordinary radio. I don’t think there really was Christian Radio in that era.

Harold Hamon was representing Revival Fires during much of the time Friends were traveling and singing. Harold had started a church in Great Falls, Montana which he pastored for several years, and was well acquainted with Cecil Todd (Revival Fires founder and director) before he moved to Joplin, Missouri to travel for them. He had convinced Cecil to have a big rally in a High School auditorium in Great Falls. Friends were scheduled to sing at it and Cecil to preach. I don’t recall if we knew beforehand that Stuart Hamblen would be appearing with Cecil, but we probably did. What I did not know was that Stuart would be traveling without a professional accompanist.

No more than five or ten minutes before the program began, one of Cecil’s staff came behind stage and announced that Hamblen would be needing someone to play the piano for him. I was the only pianist on the program, so Stuart was sent to talk to me. He was a rough looking character-but that was part of his charm. He asked me if I knew a couple of his compositions-”This Ole House” and “Until Then.” I did know both of them. So I asked him, “What key do you want me to play them in?” His answer? “It really doesn’t matter.” And it didn’t, because he was a ‘song stylist” rather than a smooth vocalist. Neither did he require a trial run through.

“Until Then” is a serious, not too fast song-and I was playing it in an appropriate tempo. But part of his act must have been what came next although he hadn’t warned me. In mid phrase he stopped and said, “No, no, no. Slow down! You’re playing that like a happy Baptist and I’m a sedate Presbyterian.”

He got the expected laugh, I started up playing again-exact same tempo as before-and we finished the number with no further ’incident.’

Many years later I learned that Hamblen and John Wayne had been really good friends and in fact lived very close to one another. One night when they had been out to dinner together, Hamblen had been sharing his faith as they were in Stuart’s driveway before each went into his own home. Stuart said, “You know, John, it really is no secret what God can do.” When he walked into his office the clock on the mantel struck midnight, and he sat down and penned “It is No Secret:” with its famous beginning:

The chimes of time ring out the news, another day is through,

Someone slipped and fell; Was that someone you?

You may have longed for added strength your courage to renew;

Do not be disheartened, for I have news for you:

It is no secret, what God can do-

What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you

With arms wide open, He’ll pardon you.

It is no secret, what God can do.


Theatrically Speaking

In the years before television the local movie theaters played a bigger role than most not living then can imagine. In the 1930’s, on the east side of Main Street the Wyoming Theater was housed in a building that had other tenants also on the plot of ground where the park with the caboose now is. The main feature changed nearly daily with it not being uncommon to have five or six different shows each week. Tickets were cheap, business was brisk, and a coke and popcorn priced so one didn’t need to dip into his life savings.

The proprietor in that era was named Sam Feinstein. Dad’s pool hall was on the other end of the block where business was usually brisk also. Dad remembers one afternoon Sam’s asking him, “Well, Ted, how were things in Chicago?” Dad said, “Chicago? What makes you think I was in Chicago?” “Well,” Sam said, “I figured you had to be somewhere far away, for you d--d sure haven’t been at the picture show this week.” And Dad said in spite of his operating a business that had lots of evening clientele too, he knew if he missed too many shows in a row he would be getting asked again about the state of affairs in the Windy City.

I’m not sure if proprietors had changed when this next incident occurred. Mom always said she could never remember winning any drawing, any prize, any gift, anytime, anywhere. Dad was not much to correct her on any of her stories, but I remember he did on this one. He said, “Don’t you remember that night at the theater?” I don’t remember her exact words, but they were something to the effect she didn’t think that should count. One night around Thanksgiving they had a drawing for a turkey, and Mom did win. But, it turned out it was a live turkey-some ’dis-assembly’ required. I believe Mom quickly passed on her ‘good fortune’ to some other movie patron.

When the 1950’s rolled around, a drive-in theater opened west of town. Pete Meier owned the Wyoming Theater at the time and was responsible for starting up the drive-in. His son Dennis was a classmate of mine as well as a friend-and remembers well the incident I’m relating.

Dennis and another classmate Dennis Tryon had driven though the entrance-wearing letter jackets as he recalls. They were met by his dad who informed them that several of their buddies, dressed just like they were, had blown up the toilet in the men’s room. Several of my class had snuck into the show that evening-riding out in another classmate’s car and waiting to crawl over the fence when darkness set in. One of them was the proud possessor of a cherry bomb and all of them had decided it would be oh so cool to ignite that bomb in one of the toilets housed in the concession stand. I think they envisioned lots of noise and water flying everywhere. What apparently had not crossed their collective minds was the amount of damage the stunt would cause.

The deed was done, the toilet blown to smithereens, and the picture show came to a halt. Pete got on the microphone and all who had their individual speakers in their car windows heard a very unhappy proprietor tell them that the movie would not start up until it was discovered who had done the dastardly deed.

When he told the two Dennis’s about the incident, they went looking for their classmates, who informed them they were innocent, and the two went back and reported to Pete. One of the things Pete almost perpetually did was man the ticket booth that every car had to pass to enter the viewing area. Something was mentioned about which classmates were in attendance, and Pete said he knew the ones mentioned weren’t there because except for one, none had purchased a ticket at his ticket window. When he found out they indeed were there he was furious and summoned the offenders into his presence. For the moment his ire at the damage the cherry bomb had done was replaced by his indignation that some of his son’s closest friends had decided to forego paying admission. He admonished them about how they had all been at his house and eaten at his table and now they were “taking bread from my table.” The perpetrators all recall that “bread from my table phrase” being employed multiple times in the truly impassioned speech.

So when that understandable rant ended there were a few moments of uncomfortable silence, and one of the group said, “That’s not all, Pete. We’re the ones who blew up your toilet.”

Amazingly Pete took that confession pretty much in stride and mellowed immediately, having been more upset about the several avoided admissions. For my part I was not one of the perps or even at the drive-in that night. Yet if one of those guys was at my home and asked to use the restroom, I would feel a bit nervous. I heard there was another cherry bomb in case the first one failed to function. Do you suppose a fifty year old cherry bomb would still go off?

This Dog Had His Day

There were a couple of different places in Lusk to bowl in my grade school days. However, it wasn’t until my freshman year in High School that we had a truly modern establishment complete with fully automatic pinsetters. Pete Meier had the alley constructed and started up and managed the business. I was no threat at any game requiring foot speed, but my hand-eye coordination was satisfactory. Early on when I was struggling to improve Francis Rose had worked with me on “hitting the spot” and figuring which spot I needed to aim for on the various leaves. I begin scoring much better.

On Easter Sunday afternoon in my junior year, my friend Rick Kaan and I were bowling for fun. We had bowled four games and I was off my game. As we neared the end of that fourth game I said I was ready to call it a day. He urged me to bowl just one more line and try to help him see what he was doing wrong and how to correct it. I agreed.

I spared the first frame, but every frame I tried to highlight something that I thought would help Rick-mentioning things he was not doing correctly. Almost immediately it would occur to me that I wasn’t doing that particular thing right either. The strikes started coming for me and nothing but strikes. After about three or four I started joking and telling everyone within earshot that I was going to bowl 290. We all knew our High School math teacher Bill Welch had the local record of 289. Bill was a great athlete and had owned one of those earlier bowling alleys.

The tenth frame came and I had all strikes except that first spare. Amazingly almost every ball had appeared to be where it should have-almost no ‘lucky’ ones. I did get the three required strikes in the tenth for the 290-eleven strikes in a row.

In that era we almost always took a “practice frame’ every game before starting in earnest-just like at the golf course we took an automatic mulligan on hole one in our friendly games. I had not taken that practice frame and I told Rick I would always wonder, so I threw one more ball-and it was a strike. I do not believe anyone ever had better than my game locally, and since there is no longer a bowling alley, I guess the ‘mark’ will stand. I wasn’t particularly nervous during the game, but I remember when it was over I suddenly felt very weak-kneed. I had just gotten started writing about the real athletes’ accomplishments and keeping statistics for them-but my one brief moment of glory surely was fun.


Some people leave us far too soon, and one of those was Jan (McAllister) Krein. My earliest memories of her are her riding floats and playing ‘ricky-tick’ piano. She did that with enthusiam and much talent. She was good-spirited and fantastically witty, seemingly never without a funny comeback. For many years she was one of the town’s superb waitresses. During those years I rode the team buses, several of us would often stop in at the Southside when we arrived home-even if the school had fed us something. Jan was our perpetual waitress, and I think several of us guys went there more for her give and take than the food.

Later Jan became a hairdresser, and she worked at the establishment Mom frequented. I seldom remember Mom coming home after an appointment with her without something to tell me that Jan had said. The one incident that I want to share actually stretched over several appointments, and it may be one of the few times that Mom (or anyone for that matter) held their own. Jan started bugging her about her needing to go on a cruise, and always adding that Mom should take her along. Finally one week Mom asked, “And why should I take you along?”

Jan quickly shot back, “Because anybody who is somebody takes her own personal hairdresser along on a cruise.”

And Mom said, “And the minute you opened your big mouth everybody would know I wasn’t anybody.”


Anatomical Mantras

Since everyone who reads this isn’t blessed/cursed to be a golfer, a bit of background information is needed. On golf courses, foursomes have priority. Single players really have no rights and can’t expect to be automatically allowed to play through-often an agonizingly slow procedure that does no favor to the scores of either the one playing through or the group allowing this to happen. Nevertheless, on courses such as ours that are seldom crowded, most larger groups often let singles or duos through.

One day I was riding with Dick Pfister and a player not known for his etiquette or much of anything else positive came up behind us and followed us closely for a couple of holes. Dick acted unaware of the fact that this was happening, so I finally said to him, “Don’t you think we should ask, and I called the man by name, to either join us or play through?”

Dick gave me that look that he was a master of and said. “Sure. just because he’s a rectum doesn’t mean we have to be one too.”


A Laugh from the Senator

During that time when Warden Judy Uphoff and I were seeing a lot of each other, Alan Simpson was the speaker at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. It was a cold January evening with light snow falling. Judy had gotten well acquainted with Alan from those years he was serving in Cheyenne. His wife Ann was with him and when the festivities were over we chatted a bit. Alan told us he was having problems with his plane and his pilot had flown over to Casper to get it looked at, but as soon as he got back they were flying to Washington. Judy said if there was a delay he and Ann were welcome to pass the time at her place.

We had no sooner gotten back to the warden’s residence when Mary Burke, who was chauffeuring the dignitaries around, showed up with Alan and Ann in tow. It proved to be a delightful time, for Alan is a great conversationalist and has a tremendous sense of humor. Although he may have published this tale somewhere, I want to share my memory of it.

It was early in the 1930’s and his father Milward was practicing law in Thermopolis. Prohibition was still the law of the land, and the Wyoming legislature apparently had passed some anti-bootlegging law that the senior Simpson thought was a horribly written piece of legislation-so horrible in fact that he let it be known that any bootlegger prosecuted under the new law was welcome to come to him for legal representation, and that representation would be gratis if he failed to get them off. In a few weeks one of the locals was charged under the new law and came to Milward. Milward successfully got his client off the hook.

A few days later the man came to Simpson’s office, which in those days was on the second story of a Thermopolis building that housed a variety of offices. Down the hall from Milward’s was a dentist. The recently acquitted bootlegger asked Milward how much he owed him, and Alan said his dad screwed up his courage-bearing in mind it was long ago and the depression was still going on, and said “two hundred dollars.” The client pulled out his money and was counting out the two hundred when from down the hall in the dentist’s office there came a blood-curdling scream. Without missing a beat the man said, “There must be another lawyer down the hall.”


There’s something else that makes me recall that evening. Alan was a Wyoming native, and I found myself wondering as such why he would feel inclined to take what seemed to me the unnecessary risk of flying in a small plane on such a wintry evening. It wasn’t a blizzard, but it wasn’t nice. Suddenly he said, “I bet you wonder why we’re flying back tonight. We have to, because we’re going out tomorrow night with the President.”

He went on to tell how they had reserved the presidential box for an upcoming performance at the Kennedy Center-something which can be done with the understanding always in place that if someone higher ranking wishes to use it the same evening, you will be bumped. Alan got the apologetic call that he and Ann had been bumped, and he asked, “Who bumped us?” He was told that it was the President himself.

About half an hour later his phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Alan, this is George Bush. I understand we bumped you and Ann, and Barbara and I wonder if you can be our guests at the performance?” So Alan said, “You see we have to get back. We’ve got a date with the President.”

It struck me right then what a unique thing it is to live in Wyoming, and to have been conversing with one of the power brokers one evening and find he is going to be doing the same with the President of the United States the next day. It took longer for the real lesson to hit me. What a thing it is to be so privileged to live in this country-like none ever has been. And my friends, that is no laughing matter. Thank You, Lord.


Not a Recent Development

”They can say I’m getting senile, but I’ve been this way my entire life.”

-Dick Pfister on Stan Wasson’s habit of calling him ‘Seeni”

One of the many things we did after we took that maiden jet flight to California when I was eleven was to go to Tijuana for a few hours. There I purchased a handmade leather billfold with money my folks had given me, and the remainder I kept in that billfold until we returned home. At age eleven I was not in the habit of carrying a billfold, and I didn’t after I got home. Several days, or maybe weeks, later I looked for the billfold and I couldn’t find it. I thought I knew where I had put it, but it wasn’t there. Finally I told Mom the billfold was missing, and I think it had some thirty dollars in it. She searched for it also and couldn’t locate it. The saddest thing was that we were suspicious of someone who was in our house at regular intervals that we didn’t think was dishonest, but there didn’t seem to be a very good explanation for how else the money and billfold could have vanished.

I believe it was about a year later when we were at the kitchen table, where we ate all our meals except the “company” ones. In mid-bite I said, “I know where my billfold is.” Mom always had a tablecloth on the table-not a linen one-and it draped down a ways on all sides of the table. It was a very old table that a few inches into the underneath interior had a drawer designed to keep the silverware. We never used the drawer, but suddenly I had an epiphany (although I had never heard of that word at that stage in may life.) Before I ever opened that drawer I told my parents and granddad, “I remember I put the billfold in this drawer to keep it safe.” Confidently I pulled out the drawer, and there-safe indeed-was the billfold.


Recovering My Suitcase

I can’t imagine anyone who flies commercial airlines has not arrived at his destination a few times that his luggage didn’t. One particular time is very memorable to me. Since the first National Quartet Convention I attended in Nashville in 1971, I have missed going only a few times to the annual event. For around twenty years in a row the singing was held at Freedom Hall in Louisville-and I wish it still was. The Louisville airport is right on the south side of the freeway with the concert venue immediately on its north side. There are endless accommodations all around and ample parking at the hall itself. But for the first several of those Louisville years there were no direct flights from Denver, and that fact is why I have a story.

One year my connecting flight left shortly after my arrival (at Detroit, I think). It was no real surprise that my bag did not make it. I went to the baggage service and filed my report, and they assured me I would have my suitcase by the next morning. In the process of my waiting in line to file the report and noticing what did not seem to me to be a very organized or conscientious handling of mine or the other customer’s reports-I could not help but feeling a certain amount of apprehension. I left the program later that evening around eleven and when I got to my car, just on a hunch I decided to drive back to the airport and check my suitcase’s fate. The Louisville airport is not a hub and not a really big one, and was almost deserted. When I went to the baggage area the baggage service office was closed, but the luggage carousel was still making endless revolutions-and there by itself on that slow moving merry-go-round was my suitcase. So I grabbed it, happy I had taken time to get it and actually had it. My hotel that year was one of the two squeezed in between the freeway and Freedom Hall, so I had about a two minute drive back to my room.

I had purposed to call the baggage service when I got up the next morning and let them know I had retrieved my bag. But when I tried, I kept getting a busy signal. So I decided to go down and get some breakfast and try later. When I reached the lobby there were two televisions set up with people gathered around. It appeared that some sci-fi movie was playing, and I got there just a few seconds before a plane flew into a skyscraper.

You guessed it. It was no movie. It was 9-11 and the sckyscraper was the second of the twin towers getting hit. I knew then why my call didn’t get through, and so after breakfast I thought I would go back to the airport and let them know in person. When I got there I discovered at least a hundred police and patrol cars with lights and sirens and all access to the terminal blocked.

The Convention directors decided to go ahead with the programs, and you can imagine it was a solemn and very prayerful week. Personally I was not sure if I was going to have to drive my rental car back all the way to Denver since flights had all been suspended and the rental car companies were going to allow that to happen. However by Saturday (9-11 was on a Tuesday) there were limited flights. Mine went and amazingly my connecting flight from Chicago also flew. It was the only one in about twenty gates in a row that had not been cancelled. On it were forty to fifty uniformed airline pilots, stewardesses, and others whose original plans had altered as all were forced to the ground shortly after the attacks. They obviously were thinking like most all of us passengers were-we could have been on one of those doomed flights and we were glad to be alive.

It was probably three weeks before the airline called and I got to tell them I had my missing suitcase. If I hadn’t have gotten it, it would not have seemed nearly as serious after what happened as when it went temporarily missing. But if I ever need a reminder of one of the two saddest days for America in my life span-that suitcase is it. I don’t need any reminder of the other day: November 22, 1963-Dallas-John F. Kennedy. Some days there is no silver lining-no laughter.


Correctly Inferred

“What was often thought before, but ne’er so well expressed”

-Alexander Pope

Mom’s comment about a good meal being more important to me than anyone she had ever known is hard to refute if you were to monitor my monthly credit card receipts-many of which are for expenditures in first class eateries, In recent years one of the best of these that I have ever patronized is also closer to home than the others have been. It is located in Hartville, which bills itself as Wyoming’s oldest incorporated town. The place, Miners and Stockman’s, also has the oldest bar in the state. Their back bar dates to the middle of the nineteenth century and was originally brought to this country from Europe. They serve prime grade beef, but it is not only their steaks but also every other aspect of the meal that shines. Also, their staff is like family to me, and trips down there are the highlights of my week.

There almost never is a rowdy atmosphere, but once in a while there is a table where the occupants may have imbibed a little too much as they celebrated whatever the particular occasion is that caused them to gather. The other evening was one of those times, and the wife in the couple that own the place came and sat at my table to chat for a moment. She said she knew it wasn’t right for her to say this, but she noticed that when over imbibing had occurred, the females were more apt than the males to noticeably increase their decibel level. Then she voiced the observation that caused me to write this particular story. “We call it the ‘three martini cackle,’” Christine said. (I might have voted for four, or even five.)



When Dad was a young man he occasionally would be involved in the roundup at the VanTassell Ranch. Now there are very few people who even run two-year old steers, but in that era cattle were usually not shipped and sold until they were four years old. Dad had a good eye for cattle, but he said there really was not much in their appearance to make it readily obvious whether a critter was three or four. The main thing he mentioned was the four year old’s tale was a bit longer and perhaps bushier. On a certain day when the cattle had been sorted and were ready to be shipped, Colonel VanTassell spied a three year old that had not been sorted off. Dad said he turned to the foreman and said, “What are you doing with that baby in there?” And then Dad said, he fired the foreman on the spot.


The Appropriate Moment

While Dad was a very young man, VanTassell wasn’t. Dad said that he would not just be in the corrals but usually right by the gate and often serving as the gate man as the cattle were being sorted off. One day he fell, and made several efforts to get up, but could not. It’s a story that tells something not only about the time in which this occurred but also the type of person the colonel was. Dad said not one person made a move toward him or an effort to help him up, because Dad said they all realized they dared not do that. Finally Van called out one of the men’s name standing nearby and said, “Would you give me a hand in getting up?” Dad said the man did, because then it was all right. The tense moment was at an end, and the sort resumed.


You Think You Get No Respect

Although I most frequently eat by myself, I enjoy having dining companions. One of my younger friends Drew Hester lives around twenty miles west of town, and when we go to Hartville I pick him up either at Manville or the Meadowdale turnoff. It has been the wettest spring and summer to this point I can recall. One Thursday when we had arranged to meet, I had stopped briefly at the golf course clubhouse, and just as I was leaving a torrential downpour began. I delayed leaving for several minutes, but didn’t want to be too late. I was fine when I hugged the east side of the building, but I had to go a couple of cars down on the building’s south side to get to mine. Although I have never been sprayed with a fire hose, that wind driven downpour was a reasonable equivalent. I mentioned how it had been when I picked up Drew, but more than half an hour later when we arrived at the restaurant, I was still wet as could be. I said, “Drew, I really didn’t wet my pants.” And he said, in that condescending tone of voice, “That’s OK. When you get back to the home, they’ll change you into some clean, dry ones.”

Why do they even bother with elder abuse statutes?


And, By the Way

“What we have here is a failure to communicate”-Cool Hand Luke

I turned seventy-two a couple of days before I wrote this articicle, and most of those seventy-two years I have managed to avoid doctors and doctoring. Even after it got so I took some ‘maitenance meds’ I was able for a number of years to avoid those annual visits to some physician one is supposed to have to make to get his prescriptions renewed. In recent years we have had a physician here in town that I enjoy seeing-a lady with a perfect blend of medical knowledge and people skills it seems to me. My annual visit to her and my birthday are usually only a couple of days apart. Since I find humor even in some of the grimmer facts of life, I find it amusing that the closer to death I get actuarially the better almost all of my test results are each blood draw. Except for one, and my prostate doesn’t seem to like me. This year Dr. Falkenburg said she thought I really should see a urologist, listen to his assessment and recommendations, and then decide what if anything I wished to do. Since I had an early-year trip to the desert already booked, I asked what she thought about scheduling an appointment at the Arizona version of the Mayo Clinic. She thought it was a good enough idea, and phoned down there to refer me.

When I got home that evening I had a voice mail from the clinic, telling me the number to call and the hours I would be able to reach someone-so in the morning I made the call. I was visiting with a real person within seconds. She verified who I was and my reason for wishing an appointment. Since I had never been a patient there, we spent a lot of time with my giving her nearly every imaginable bit of information there is about me. Jesus said even the hairs of our head are numbered, and I think that’s about the only personal fact about which she failed to inquire.. Of course for my part I was patiently waiting to get to the point where I hoped I would be able to schedule an appointment the second Monday in January. I thought we were getting close when she explained that the portion of a bill that Medicare paid for was not as much as they required, and that unless my secondary insurance would cover that amount I would be responsible for an amount approximately fifteen per cent of that part of the bill. I said that would be fine. Then, thirty minutes into the call she explained that their urology department in Arizona was not very large, and that they did not accept government pay. So, consequently, she said she wouldn’t be able to schedule me an appointment at all. I don’t know if I really am that polite or was just in total shock, but I didn’t scream and say, “Then what were the last twenty-nine minutes of conversation all about and why did we have them?”

But then she mentioned how their facility in Rochester, Minnesota was much larger and perhaps I would like to get in touch with them and schedule my appointment there. I said Rochester wasn’t far enough north for me in January, but if they had a branch in Nome, Alaska…No, I didn’t say that either, but I did think it.


“Unfill ’Er Up

The Lusk of my school years had around a dozen gas stations, all with several employees, because there was no self-service in those days. Some of my classmates worked for different ones of these stations, all of which were locally owned. One of my good friends worked at the Chevron station, around a block south of my house, while another worked at the Standard station, a little more than a block the other way. According to Bob Norris, the Chevron employee, in many states a Chevron credit card would work at either a Chevron or a Standard station, but not in Wyoming. The other friend at Standard had filled up a tourist’s car with gas when the man gave him a Chevron card to pay for the tank. That friend, Dennis Tryon, explained that he was not able to take the Chevron card in payment. The motorist did not take the news well, saying that he only had a limited amount of cash with him and it was necessary for him to pay for the fillup with that credit card. Dennis said he still couldn’t take the card, and the man got beligerent and told him if that was the case he was just going to have to take the gas back out of the tank. Dennis said he couldn’t do that either, but that his boss, Bus Gautschi, was soon to return and he would take care of the situation. As if on cue Bus did show up and the man firmly reiterated his demand to have the gas removed if Bus wouldn’t accept the card. So Bus told him he would take the gas out of the tank, but the motorist was going to have to allow him to put the car on the lift in the service bay. The motorist agreed and Bus raised the car as far up as the hoist would go. Then he turned to the motorist and said, “That’s where your car is going to stay until you get the cash out of your pocket and pay for the gas.”…Bus got paid, and then lowered the car.


I’m not sure why Bus was out of the station that day, but I know why he was lots of the time. He served as president at the golf club for years. When I first started to play the course was not irrigated and had sand greens. There was no paid maintenance staff and Bus spent lots of hours on a tractor with a mower attached. For many years his father Hans actually owned the station. Apparently, Bus’s ‘unofficial job’ at the Country Club got on Hans’s nerves, for one day when someone came by the station asking for Bus, Hans shot back, “Why in the world would you look for him here?”


Tour Guide

I had left my normal traveling mug in the pickup, so I went into the pantry this morning to get a substitute to put my hot tea in. I eyed the nicest one of those I have ever owned, and it reminded me of another story I want to include.

The Wyoming Cowboys went through nearly a decade of dismal football after the Black 14 incident of my senior year. In the late ‘80’s Paul Roach assumed the head coaching job and we had another couple of consecutive ‘glory years.’ Twice we played in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, and

Mom and I attended both. It was during the time that Warden Judy Uphoff and I were seeing lots of one another. Her folks owned and operated a very up and coming travel agency in Cheyenne, and for the second of those games we decided to participate in the Bowl tour they had organized. They had reserved rooms in the hotel my mug advertises, but one of the official Wyoming fan groups had talked the hotels into giving them priority over private travel groups. So we were put up in a brand new hotel, and when we entered our room we found these two beautiful mugs which the hotel that had stiffed us gave each of our tour group as a sign of penance. Our replacement rooms were nice, but the hotel was on the edge of skid row, the mission district, or whatever euphemism San Diego uses. If you decided to go out of any of the hotel doors except the elevator door to their parking garage, you were apt to trip over a collection of dozing winos.

For some reason I decided we would ride on the group bus to the game. I was very familiar with San Diego, we had a rental car, and their stadium access via the various freeways was exceptionally good for any metropolitan area. As we left for the game, our bus driver took a very circuitous route down various side streets that left me scratching my head.

Unlike the previous year, this game was a disaster. Mom and I went to the bus around the start of the fourth quarter when we were already several touchdowns behind. But did we have a wait-in fact we were practically the last bus to leave the parking area. Mom and I sat near the rear of the bus, and our return route was dubious also. Finally, I looked up and saw we were driving further south than the Coronado Bay Bridge, an impossible landmark to miss. As our hotel was north of it and we were speeding on southward, I said to Mom, “We’re heading for Mexico, and if we don’t turn around soon we’re going to be in Tijuana. Finally, I told her that I was going up front and talk to the bus driver. Until I got to the front of the bus I did not realize that Judy’s Dad Larry was kneeling at the front of the bus. I said, “Larry. What’s going on? We’re going the wrong way to get back to the hotel.” The driver heard us and made some sarcastic remark about where did I think we were. I told him as soon as I saw a street sign I’d tell him. When I did I told him he needed to be going the opposite direction on the road we were on.

I couldn’t imagine a professional bus driver from San Diego being so mixed up. Then the truth came out-San Diego didn’t have enough drivers to cover the Holiday Bowl, so they brought in several dozen from Los Angeles, and compared to them, I was a San Diego native. To my knowledge, history has not recorded my successful rescue of a bus load of Cowboy fans. But, “Aw shucks, Ma’am. It was really nothing.”



“Of making many books there is no end…here is the conclusion of the matter.” Solomon-Ecclesiastes

“Our revels now are ended; We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” Shakespeare-The Tempest

I usually don’t make a reservation when I go to Hartville unless someone is joining me. Last Saturday when I arrived it didn’t appear there were an extra amount of cars. But the fall has featured almost summer-like temperatures, and nearly half the diners have been opting to eat outside. Saturday it wasn’t warm enough to eat outside. As I was maneuvering to get in a small spot right in front I was having some problem, mostly because the curb is on a curve in that area. It’s hard to do a perfect job of getting close to it.

When I finished, the head waitress Melissa was tapping on my windshield. She said she had been trying to help me park. Then she said there weren’t any tables at the moment; I was welcome to come inside and stand, but other patrons waiting for their tables were standing in most of the available waiting area. What actually prompted her to come out was to tell me that I could wait in the comfort of my car, she would bring out my favorite beverage, and she would come and get me when my table was ready. That’s how it played out, and I was very appreciative.

The next night when I made the drive down that way again, it was a truly beautiful evening. It’s mighty scenic anyway the closer one gets, complete with some great views of Laramie Peak. It’s been the hardest year health-wise I have ever had. I had just had confirmed that my rising PSA does indeed indicate the presence of prostate cancer. Lots of people are praying for me and I truly do trust the Lord is going to work for good through all of this. But for the first time in my life I found myself wondering if maybe it’s getting close to being over for me down here. Before many thoughts not exactly appropriate for a humor book could flood my mind, memories of the night before took over. I don’t need to worry. Everything will be kept OK and better while I’m waiting. I’ll be ushered in when my table is ready. It’s a meal that will outshine even Miner’s. It’s called the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. I’ve called ahead. I have my reservation. You have too, I trust!

INDEX (By copying "The Book" to the database pagination was lost, please "search" or "find in page" for the indexed items below)

Page Article Description

1 The Boundary Dispute

1 Legitimate Characters

2 “You Play You’re Game-I’ll Play Mine”

2 Mom ‘Embellishes” a Story

3 Making a Living in This “God-Forsaken Country”

3 Uncle Jim’s Fortune

3 Trader Vic’s

4 “Why Are You Answering?”

5 Dan Hanson-”Missing Some Pasture”

5 Called on by Cults

6 “The “Meekular Test”

7 Bessie Lumsden Stories: “Gray Hairs” and “Praying”

7 Grandpa Makes Breakfast

8 Joe O’Brian Wants Dad to Hire a Man

8 Uncle Earl Quits Smoking

10 “Home” of Yellow Hotel

10 Del Owns a Motel

10 Bathing the Ivy

11 Just One of the Girls

11 Denny Shuts Down Del

12 “Plug in that TV”

12 Playing Denver Country Club

13 “Pepe Lamocha”

14 Fertilizer Salesmen

15 Floating Trousers

15 “Home on the Range”

16 J.B. Griffith, Sr. stories

17 Lafe’s Hole-In-One

18 Bill Miller Objects to Gambling

18 The “Bass Bull”

19 Joe O’Brian-”I’m Not Gonna Die”

19 Greatest Sermon Never Preached

20 Happy Birthday at the Mortuary

21 Telling Sheep from Goats

22 Long-Awaited Cup of Coffee

23 Jake ZumBrunnen and Contentment

23 Jake Dies

24 Stories of a Hired Couple

24 “Easier Than You Think”

25 Shipping to Omaha

26 “Lilly-White”

27 Failing the Test

27 “Hanging Around Somewhere”

28 Sense of Direction on Attu

28 Sayings that Nail It

29 Bud ‘Cures’ Stan

30 The College Bowl

31 “Knew It Wasn’t Going to Be Me”

32 Stories of Compassion- Earl and Overshoe; Mark & Juice Glass

33 Aunt Cath and Uncle Jimmy

34 Mark the Pugilist

34 Dan Hanson Rides a Bronc

35 “Never Cared for the Water”

35 “Take Your Seat”

37 Adultery in Moderation

37 Handstand by the Round Table

38 Orval Prather’s Vocabulary

39 Joe Madden Demands an Explanation

40 Talmage Plays the Trumpet

41 Tal Runs for President at U of A

41 Talmage Eats Well

42 Grandma Grabs a Hamburger

42 The Jackrabbit in the Fuel Line

43 Frank Bozart Preaches About a Relative

44 The Rain Short on Moisture

44 “Spank Me”

45 Ordering the Sting Ray

46 “Errand of Mercy”

47 Young Lady Drives Sting Ray

47 Vintage Madden Stories with some Family Ones Thrown In

50 Fleecing Glenna and Wilma

50 “The Rev”

51 Mel’s Lease

51 “No Truer Words”

51 Elsie’s Salad

51` Pumpkin Pie

52 Russ Thompson Referees

54 “Is That Your Dad?”

54 Poor Odds

54 Uncle Jim Has Me Preach the Gospel

55 “Want Music? Whistle

55 “Teensy” Bit Cold

55 Robbing the Offering

56 Mom “Banned” from Piano

57 Eddie Plumb and the “Sheepherder”

57 Eddie’s Orchard

58 The Bull Shipper

58 Mom Gets Cheered Up

59 Always a Lady

60 Special Phrases

60 Aunt Nell Needs Money

61 An Axle in Monroe Canyon

61 Retrieving ‘Parts’ in Memphis

62 “Friends” Record

62 I Start Driving

63 Leon Says Grace

65 O’Dell in the Well

65 Thick Fingers

66 World Series Tickets

67 Maiden Jet Flight

68 International Gin Tourney

69 “Post Mortems”

69 Collecting Tabs

70 Mom Misses the Train

70 ‘Poke” and ‘Heft’

71 Heckled in the Nursing Home

71 Put in My Place by Jay Dee

72 Elsie Paints the Valley Ranch

73 Seeing Elvis

74 Elvis’ Taste in Music

74 Terry Blackwood

76 “Far From Home”

77 Long Ago Train Trips-including First to California

79 Hoboes at Orin

79 The Cake is Comfortable

80 Aunt Gladys Takes the Cake

80 The May Day Marble

81 No One Checks out ‘Winner’ at the Bar

81 A Lie Will Suffice

81 Van Tassell Charleston Story

81 “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You”

82 “Too Close to Tell”

82 Long Walk to Water

82 Grandpa Crusades Against Smoking

82 Hobart Misses the Turn

83 Flying with Hobart

84 Light in the Closet

84 “Could You Make That Clearer?”

84 “If It’s a Fair Question”

84 Obama is Born

85 A Burger and Fries

86 Cookie Splashes Us

87 Walt “Forgets” Whomper Trip

88 The “Snot Bubble”

88 A Concert in Panama City

90 Dick’s “Holey” Sweater

90 Blondie Dumps Paul

91 Grandpa’s ‘Side Dishes’

91 Steer Comes Down on Top of Dad

92 The Old Barn Falls on Dad

93 “Buffalo Pass”

94 A New York Cop

95 The Hummel Story

95 A Hundred Dollar Tip

97 ‘Backing Up’ on the Valley Highway

98 Making Steve’s Test Harder

99 Lex Pays for His Wedding

99 A Vegan’s Indignation

100 Cattle Purchase at the Oh Ten Bar

101 Poker “Short Takes’

101 Preacher Asks Mom Out

102 Tom Gets Cold at CSU

102 Smoking After Sex

103 Mom and Chokecherry Wine

105 Politics: Wilkie and FDR

106 Frank Blish Specials: “So Intelligent,” “Robe on Fire,” “Grave Fall”

107 More Memorable Sayings

107 Another Diet

108 The Tucson Football Trip and Game

110 Our Paper Boy Questions Silence

110 Someone Else Values Silence

111 Cousin Vicki’s Faux Paus

111 Uncle Earl Lands in the Brig

112 The First High Heels

113 The Killer Can Have Me

114 “On the Chateau?”

115 A Tuna Sandwich

115 A Temperamental Bass

116 I Meet “The Man”

117 Unwilling Pugilist

119 An Ill-Advised Gargle

119 “Can’t You Read?”

120 Little Old Lady with a Bad Heart

120 Fifty Pound Barbells

121 Swearing in Class

122 Further Profanity

123 Political Foibles

125 Various Quick Takes

126 Cadillac Stories

127 Three Baptism Incidents

129 The “Big Bomb”

131 None of His Business

131 The Language They Understand

132 “I Only Agreed”

133 Counter Culture

133 Order Buying

134 “Beamie”

135 Trying to Avoid a Mishap

135 I Thought I Was There

136 Without Getting in Trouble

137 It’s Where?

138 “Will You Marry Me?”

139 Catching the Rabbit

141 As Time Goes By

142 Where’s the Beef, Crab, Whatever?

144 Go Placidly: A Family Desiderata

145 The “Tom Bell” Dollar

146 “Get Me to the Church on Time”

147 “Anything for a Laugh

148 Does Anyone Have a Pooper Scooper?

149 “Home on the Range”-Another Tune

150 Early Exit

151 Who Said That?

152 Not That Light a Sleeper

153 Natural Disasters: Take Two

154 A Possible Third “T”

156 Inflation

157 Repeat

158 Grasshoppers

159 Almost “Number One”

160 What We Can “Afford”

160 I Remember it a Different Way

163 The Proper Dosage

163 Sprinkler Systems vs. Hand Watering

164 Lex and Mark’s “Excellent” (?) Adventure

168 Give it a Crank

170 Postscript

171 New Vehicle Not Needed

171 Squeaky Clean

172 A Big Loss?

173 “I Don’t Know What Came Over Me”

173 At the Appointed Time

175 When You’re Good At It

175 No Good

176 The Gin Game

177 A Solid Grade

179 Speed Penalized

179 “We Have a Problem”

180 Wrong Priorities

180 ‘Relocated’

181 “What Shall We Do, Dave?”

182 Strange Meeting

184 “You Killed My Kid”

185 To the Nines

186 Bad Moon Rising

187 The First Family

188 An Unexpected Career

189 I Answer the Call

190 Someone Else Answers the Call

192 Theatrically Speaking

194 This Dog Had His Day

195 Somebody?

195 Anatomical Mantras

196 A Laugh from the Senator

197 Not a Recent Development

198 Retrieving My Suitcase

200 Correctly Inferred

201 Busted

201 The Appropriate Moment

201 You Think You Get No Respect

203 And By the Way

203 Unfill ‘Er Up

204 Tour Guide

206 Finally


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Record Type Name
Obituary Lohr, Mark (12/04/1947 - 10/11/2023) View Record