Monday, August 27, 2012

Sister Retreat

There’s six of us. Mom and Dad had one boy and then kept having girl after girl. There’s a twelve year spread between the oldest and the youngest (that’s me). We try to get away once a year without our families. This year we chose to gather at Dad’s. Our nephew turned up as well, so it was a “dad-nephew-sister” retreat. We slept on the couch and floor and filled the bedrooms.

This retreat was mostly about visiting and eating. Okay, so all our retreats are mostly about visiting and eating. Mom is gone, but her kitchen is as familiar as ever. The cast iron frying pans still reside on the stove top or in the oven, the potatoes are under the sink, the cereal and crackers around the corner. We work together to create meals and then clean up in a jiffy. It all comes back - visiting over the same sink, stepping over each other to dry dishes, wiping off counters and carrying scraps outside to dump over the fence into Wally’s alfalfa field.

Three of us are on ranches, one in the recycling business, one in real estate and one a nurse. We’ve waited tables, counted money, doctored animals and people, nurtured children and sailed oceans. We’ve managed employees, given up on marriages, stuck with marriages, and welcomed grandchildren. We’ve all had disappointments and triumphs.

During our three day stay, and following a recent death in our extended family, we spent some time sorting and cleaning a now vacant house. One evening we thumbed through the contents of a long forgotten trunk, a heartbreaking look into the life of a girl who died at seventeen in the 1940s. Here were her school papers, her baby book, even the newspaper write up of the tragic accident that took her life. She was our dad's cousin and no one is left to tell her story. Not knowing what to do with the contents, we laid the items back and closed the lid. We stepped outside as dark descended. The yard is wild and expansive and the butter-colored primroses were opening for their one-night stand. One by one they blossomed in perfect form, shouldering aside the spent and shriveled blooms that were new only last night.  

As we sisters age and watch our parents fade, we cling to each other. I just finished reading a book, About My Sisters, by Debra Ginsberg. These siblings were very different from us, loud and argumentative, with only one child and no marriages between the four of them. But the author spoke for us when she said, “each one of us carries some part of her sisters with her. I can’t imagine my life without any one of them. Nor do I want to try.”   


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Distinguished Visitors

Every day smoke hangs in the sky. The sun comes up red and goes down red. The hot, dry weather continues, but it's been cooling off at night and feels wonderful. Gotta love Idaho.

I canned green beans yesterday. The beans are purple hanging on the vine and then turn green when heated. The jars look so lovely lined up on the counter, that I hate to take them down to the storeroom.  We’re about to get an onslaught of cucumbers. Got a good pickle recipe?

Second crop alfalfa is being baled as I write. Hauling starts tomorrow.

We’ve had a fun week. Seth and his whole FFA officer team showed up for a few days between commitments. They mostly rested and worked at their laptops, but they did get in some swimming, horseback riding, and watching the dancing at the Sho-Ban Pow-Wow. They enjoyed being incognito, except for my family reunion where they were introduced to the crowd by my cousin Kent, a big FFA supporter. 

The team comes from all parts of the nation - Wisconsin, New Mexico, New York, Minnesota and Georgia. I love the southern and midwestern dialects.  I also like being called “ma’am” and "Mama Pratt." One special night we played “bug” with Seth’s 93-year-old great grandma Bonnie. It’s a game she played with the kids when they were little. Pretty simple, only requires a pencil and paper and one dice. Whoever rolls the right numbers (3-antennaes, 6-legs, etc.) and makes a bug first wins. Seth was the winner, I was second and Bonnie third. They suspected a conspiracy; we told them it’s all in the wrist.

I think what impressed me most about the young people was how well they got along. Yes they're all agriculture enthusiasts, but they still see the world differently. They spar a little and then joke it off.  As the song says, they’ve slayed dragons together. Their loyalty to one another runs deep in this year of firsts - of all for one and one for all. They’re in Kentucky today being the face of the FFA at a meeting with Toyota.

Then Anna took off for college bright and early this morning. As her Honda headed out the lane a great silence descended on the house. 

another smokey sunrise

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Little Buckaroos

The Little Buckaroo Rodeo has come and gone again. Mark has been the announcer since before we were married. I’m up in the announcer’s stand with him, keeping track of kids and numbers. He has a co-announcer, our friend Wayne, and they have a great time bantering back and forth. The rodeo and Mark are both 47 this year; his grandpa Eldro was one of the founders. Gary was the clown for umpteen years and still provides the calves, so it’s a family affair.

Mark taught school in Firth for a dozen years, and the rodeo, Firth’s claim to fame, is a good place to see his old students who enter their kids in the rodeo.  Events include stick-horse barrel racing, ribbon-tie and ribbon-pull on goats, sheep dressing (don’t ask), a pig scramble, barrel “racing” on a horse, calf and sheep riding, and the culminating event - the chicken scramble.

The kid rodeo is a big event in Firth with a community breakfast and parade to round out the festivities. Some families plan their vacation around the rodeo. The kids show up in their best western clothing - hats, boots, fringed chaps, many with stick horses.

My favorite event is the chicken scramble. All kids five and under enter the arena (no parents allowed) to try to catch a chicken. It’s complete mayhem, kids crying running here and there, chickens scooching under the fence to freedom. Good clean fun. Mark always tells the kids over the loud speaker, “no matter what Mom says, your bedroom is the best place to keep your chicken!” And this one, “parents, if you don’t want to keep the chicken – too bad!”

When Seth was five he determined he wouldn’t just grab a chicken, he would rope it. We laughed knowing what the outcome would be, but he proved us wrong, he caught a chicken in a clean loop! Seth uses this story from time to time to encourage FFA kids to dream big.

All rodeo proceeds go to the Firth FFA program, which is great, but the best outcome is that it gives children a chance to interact with animals, a rare event in today’s world.  

My nephew and his son discussing the ribbon-pull event

getting it done!

one proud boy

Friday, August 3, 2012

East Coast Wanderings

We’ve been tripping. First to Washington DC for the FFA State President’s Conference, then on to New York City to spend a few days with Callie. We were all together in New York and had a wonderful time.

We negotiated the metro, night toured the monuments in DC, walked Central Park and Times Square, sat on Washington’s veranda overlooking the Potomac, and ferried to Staten Island. A highlight was supping at Callie’s restaurant in Manhattan with her as a guest instead of a server. The staff treated us royally, with complementary wine and scrumptious dishes added to each course.

Callie lives in a Brooklyn brownstone and Seth and Anna stayed with her. It’s pretty quiet on her street. She found Mark and me an apartment above storefronts a few blocks from her room. Quiet, it wasn’t, but with earplugs we slept pretty well. What an experience to soak up a totally different way of life. We saw the real New York, the touristy sections yes, but also the residential areas and the families that live their lives there.  

I never really got used to using the subway. Well, I can ride it, but I never quite accepted the lack of congeniality among the passengers. Unfortunately the only conversation I had was a hostile one. A man with lots of anger chose me as a scapegoat. I was pretty shaken for some time and mad that he would have that effect on me. It took me a few days to see others of his type in a positive light. I know he’s an isolated case. I know the majority of people are kind if given the chance, but the “straight ahead don’t bother me look” is pervasive.

We came home to a blackened skyline out our front window. The fires are getting pretty close. 
I stood outside last night, looked at the stars and listened to a mourning dove. There was a gorgeous full moon. It’s good to be home.

FFA kids at the changing of the guard
Arlington Cemetery

New York's charm, alone (but happy) people in Washington Square Park

Central Park

sisters on the roof of  "The Met"
Metropolitan Musem of Art

the Brooklyn Bridge looking towards Manhattan