… and then there’s Dash

 Jpeg

Our man Dash came to us on November 30, 2016. He was such a frightened little spud. When we picked him up at the vet he was trembling and cowering, tail tucked low ears back; pressed up against the vet tech that was handling him. I couldn’t imagine what on earth would have scared him so much but I don’t want to even imagine some of the things these creatures go through.

We were told that he was found as a stray, severely malnourished and underweight, and had a bad case of mange. He had been at the vet for six weeks by time we got him. Knowing him now I understand why he clung so closely to the vet tech that handled him.

Jpeg

We brought Jonesy, Mercy, and Isaac to the vet to meet Dash and for the most part it went all right until Isaac decided to let him know that he was the big man on campus. A couple of snarls later and then tales were wagging. I packed our three into the B U V (Boxer Utility Vehicle) and we sent Dash home with daddy alone in the car. We felt that that was a little too much activity to have him confined in a car with dogs he didn’t know very well.

Jpeg

We brought him home and he sniffed his way around the house. Then we went outside and they romped a little bit however – he was quite hesitant. It became evident to me by the way he walks, skulking, head down, rear-end down, sagging in the middle that he probably has lived most of his life in a cage or a box. If he did lift his head up,  he hardly raises his eyes when you talk to him. And he skittered away from almost everything. If you move quickly, move a dish clatter a plate lifted a broom that dog went scurrying like the devil had been after him.

Jpeg

We foster because we love boxers. And we foster because it’s so easy to do. But we only foster with the condition that I don’t know their back stories. I can live with where they are going, but I don’t even want to imagine where they have come from.

Over time, Dash has adjusted well to his pack. He and Jonesy play like there is no tomorrow. They romp and roll, they play catch, they play bandannas, they chase each other around the yard. Isaac gets involved but he is pretty jealous over daddy so when Isaac and Dash are playing, Isaac sticks  close to daddy. Mercy on the other hand, like most girls ,sits back and watches these boys with a look on her face and says what are these crazy guys doing.

img_0028

 Dash loves his tummy rubbed. He loves if you stroke is long, long tail… yes he comes complete with a long natural tail. – Loves to sleep with his pack and he loves to play with all the puppy toys.

Jpeg

And Dash loves to on walks with Daddy and his pack.

p_20161219_161018

I don’t think Dash has had toys before. We have a toy box in the kitchen that’s full of all sorts of dog toys. Once Dash discovered that that box and that it was completely accessible to Boxers, he’s gotten into the habit of taking one toy out at a time running with it, tossing it in the air, shaking it, and then dropping it in the down on the dining room carpet. Then he goes back to the kitchen, noses through the box, chooses a toy and does the same thing with it in the dining room. He will do this for about an hour until every toy is out on the dining room rug. Then he lays down among all the toys and rolls in them and growls and plays. Soon Jonesy joins him, and that Isaac joins the mix. Mercy mostly just watches. It’s a three-ring circus sometimes but it’s a happy one, let me tell you.

 Dash Is going to stay with us as long as he needs to. We know that he will be a super pet, and the loyal companion to ever to whoever is forever family will be.

In the meantime, Dash is here with us.

We love you Dash!!   

Jpeg

 

Foster Mikka

Mikka

Jpeg

A  year has come and gone since we had Bear Bryson with us. A lot has happened in that year.

My father passed away while I was in Calgary back then. That’s when Paul had to take Bryson to meet his new parents by himself. I was sad to know that Bryson was gone, but I was also dealing with losing my dad, flying back and forth to Calgary, and starting up four new classes in the Fall semester at the college campus where I teach. It was odd to think that both my dad and Bryson had gone to much better places….

In the meantime, we have made it through two rounds of lay-offs, a skin allergy that Isaac picked up, a return trip to Calgary to finalize my dad’s things (a good 8000+ mile road trip – you may have read about it here on my blog. ;-))

We also hosted out-of-town visitors in October and April ( Yay!! We love it when that happens!)

… and we could not resist adding another Boxer to our family.

Our puppy, Jonesy.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Jpeg

You might have already read about him on my blog.

The question was if we have three Boxers of our own, would we continue to foster??

Jpeg

The answer was…. YES!!

And here’s the reason why…..

“Isn’t is expensive with four dogs?”

It’s a matter of another cup of kibble, and another belly-rub.

“But won’t you miss the foster when they go?”

Yes, we will.

“Then why do you do it? How can you do it knowing that you are setting yourselves up for a heartache?”

We do it because we can.

How we do it is like this: We know from the get-go that this is not our cherished pet that have for a lifetime. This dog needs a place to lay his head, a home to socialize in, and a family to love him until he finds its forever home. By doing this we are not hurting ourselves, but helping another living creature.

That’s how we do it.

And because we know there are so many more waiting behind this one.

So, it is time for foster # 2.

Introducing Mikka:

Jpeg

This little girl is soooo sweet. She is estimated to be about 6 years old. She is very timid, very nervous. And very clingy. We are only boarding her until her foster-parents come back from vacation. They have had her for six weeks.

Apparently, Mikka’s owners moved away and left her in the back yard. No wonder she is clingy. And I also see that she does not like to go outside to the back yard alone to potty.

Again, no wonder.

And that is all the backstory I want.

Oh – and she is heart worm positive which means she has been infected by heart worm, is not contagious and is getting treated with the slow-kill method. That also means that she cannot get too exerted for long periods of time, especially in this Houston summer heat. LSBR however is providing Mikka with her medicine.

That’s another thing I didn’t mention yet. LSBR will also send the monthly heart worm meds that their fosters need. Also, Bear Bryson had a lesion on his lip, and the “medical mom” volunteer sent us the meds he needed to get better.

Again, they make it sooo easy to do this fostering.

So Mikka has been here with us since the end of July. She is a doll. She gets along well with all the other Boxers we have here.

Jpeg

Jpeg

She has a favorite toy ( or two)

Jpeg

Jpeg

We thought that Mercy might take issue with another female in the house, but no, not a problem.

Jpeg

.. and there is a bone she really likes….

Jpeg

…and she hangs out like a regular with daddy in his man-cave

Jpeg

… and she loves company

IMG-20160815-WA0003

Jpeg

She also likes a nip of ice cream too!

IMG-20160815-WA0004

What she doesn’t like are thunderstorms, loud noises, and to be left alone too long.

When loud noises or a thunderstorm happens, we give her a few drops of Bach’s flowers and she calms right down.

bachs

When she has to be left alone for a bit, ( Momma does have to leave the house now and then)  we give her a peanut butter kong, and she is good.

jifkong

Mikka has a few more days with us, and then her foster mom and dad will be back to take her home where they will love her and care for her until her forever home is ready.

I know Jonesy is going to miss you… you were such good playmates.

Jpeg

… and I am going to miss you too, sweet girl.

Jpeg

Bye-bye Mikka

We Love You!!

Foster Bryson

DSC04050

BRYSON — Foster # 1, April – August 2015

 

DSC04047

A few weeks after we had signed on with Lone Star Boxer Rescue (LSBR) in April 2015, we had our first match.

Before this however, we had interviews on the phone with LSBR and through emails, and then we had a home visit. The LSBR volunteer came out to check to see that we had a stable fence with reliable gate in our back yard, had adequate room in our home for the foster, and that we had the wire pen that they require for their fosters. We were informed that if we could not afford to purchase a wire crate, LSBR would loan one to us. 

Another major reason for the home visit is for the volunteer to see our animals interact with us and with each other. From this assessment the volunteer can make a fairly accurate estimate in the temperament and gender of the foster that would best suit our home. Their intention is to have successful fosters and permanent placements, so it is in everybody’s interest, especially the dogs’ interest to get as close a compatible match as possible.

The match they had for us was a Boxer/American Bulldog-mix, named Bryson. They estimated him to be about seven years old. Because I want to know as little of the fosters’  backstories as possible and more about their needs, I stopped the volunteer after she told me that the elder owners could no longer care for him. He was overweight when we got him, which is the opposite of most of the rescues they find. Bryson also had a skin condition probably from sitting too long in a cement pen. I felt sad for the fate Bryson lived before he got to us.

Paul and I, and our then-five-year-old Boxer, Mercy, and our then-three-year old Boxer, Isaac, made the drive out to the country kennel where Bryson was being vetted.

DSC04019

Mercy, (Brindle), Isaac (White)

We all got out of the car and let our dogs run in the large fenced yard on the property. The kennel workers brought Bryson out, and it was tails-up from the word “go!”

The three of them romped, sniffed, played, batted, rolled, barked, and chased each other around the yard. The kennel workers and the LSBR volunteer felt these were all good signs and if we were in agreement, we could take Bryson home with us from there.

Apparently, Bryson was no stranger to cars. We opened the car doors to get them all in, and Bryson jumped into the front passenger seat, planted his feet and looked squarely out the windshield, waiting for the car to go. I felt a stabbing my heart thinking at some point in his life, Bryson must have ridden around with his pet-parents as a frequent companion. Xena used to ride around with me like that in the car, and Bryson looked as comfortable as Xena ever did.

Well, Bryson was a big boy, so I didn’t argue with him. I slipped into the back seat with Mercy and Isaac and the ride home was quite uneventful. When we got to the house, we ran them out to back yard where again, they ran sniffed each other, tumbled, barked, chased, and played.

DSC04022

Bryson stayed with us for four months.

We called him Bear Bryson because he was just that:DSC04029

a big old bear, gentle, lumbering, happy.

Isaac loved him and they constantly played together.

DSC04025DSC04020

Mercy could take him or leave him at first,

DSC04054

but eventually, they made a great threesome.

DSC04007

They ate at the same time….

DSC04038

Bryson had his own crate and and except for sleeping in there at night, he was always with us.

DSC04087

I took him out for walks with the other two and he managed very well – he wanted to pull a bit at first, but after a few tries, he stepped in sync with his pack.

He learned patience, and learned how to wait for treats, and how to “ask” nicely for treats. 

DSC04003

DSC03995

He loved tummy rubs…

DSC04056

…and sharing the guest bed with Isaac and Mercy..

DSC04052DSC04053

… and long naps on his favorite pillow

DSC04084

… and playing with his favorite toys…

Jolly Ball…

DSC04059

and Bubba Wubba….

DSC04112

He was even here to wish Mercy a happy 5th birthday!!

DSC04105

DSC04091DSC04093

… and he always sat beside me as I played the piano. He especially liked “Amazing Grace.”

DSC04123

 

We thought Bryson would be with us for a long time. He was seven years old, and we thought that most people would want to adopt younger dogs, and mostly puppies at that. So we got used to the idea that Bear Bryson might be with us for a long time.

We liked that idea.

At the end of July, I was called home to Calgary because my dad had been diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer. I didn’t know how long I would be gone, but the neighbors, Sharlene and Lionel graciously offered to step in and take care of the dogs while I was away and Paul maintained his daily routine at work.

I never saw Bryson after that.

I ended up staying more than a month in Calgary, and in that time, LSBR called to say they had found a forever home for Bryson.

Paul was devastated, but he went and made the meet by himself with Bryson.

He told me afterwards that the car was unbearably empty on the ride back to the house.

I often say that there is a lid for every pot, and if Bryson was the pot, then LSBR found the perfect lid for him.

According to Paul, the family that came to meet Bryson fell in love with him at first sight. Apparently, the family had recently lost an older Boxer/Bull Dog-mix to natural causes just a few months earlier, and the dad was devastated over the loss. Paul told me that when the dad got out of the truck and saw Bryson, he dropped on his knees and Bryson rolled in front of him.

The dad laid out on the ground and the two of them bear-hugged, and he said, “Oh yeah, this guy’s coming home with us right now.”

Paul said he needed Kleenex on the drive home.

After I got back from Calgary, we received a note from the adopting family with some pictures of Bryson in his new home:

IMG_1052

Nice and strong, healthy boy

 

IMG_1041

In the kitchen

Looks like he’s “moved on up…”

IMG_1051

lounging by the pool with his new Boxer sister.IMG_1048

Bye-Bye Bryson.

We love you!!!

 

The Fosters

small_brown_boxer_puppies_picture

From beginning…….

A while back we decided to foster Boxers. We work with Lone Star Boxer Rescue(LSBR) here in Houston. Actually we decided to do it last year, in 2015. It has taken me until now to be able to sit down and actually put pen to paper about the experience.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was nervous about fostering, for many reasons. Probably the first one is that I didn’t want to know the back-story on these dogs. Absolutely horrifying. I don’t think I could live with the knowledge of what people can do to these animals.

The second reason was the idea of getting attached to these dogs, and then having to let them go. We didn’t make the decision lightly. We thought about it, googled it, and talked to people who had already fostered animals, particularly Boxers That we were going to foster Boxers was not an issue. Ever since our own first Boxer, Xena, we have been spoiled for any other breed. We just weren’t sure if we could put ourselves through the emotional ringer of fostering.

There are so many good reasons to foster. The first one being that LSBR makes it so easy, that there really is no reason not to. There is basically no financial cost to you. All they ask of you is a few cups of kibble a day, lots of belly-rubs, a place to lay their heads at night, and a safe place for the dogs to stay. Through their volunteer force, LSBR seeks out and provides veterinarian services, medical supplies and prescriptions, kennel services, transport services, and boarding and fostering, and eventually, permanent placement for their fosters. They even provide euthanasia services if you are fostering an end-of-life Boxer.

Another reason to become involved, is that by fostering just one dog, you are removing that dog out of a caged situation. Don’t get me wrong, the rescues are in good hands, the volunteers see that they stay with boarding facilities and other veterinarian offices. However, these dogs are “rescues,” and that means just that. They are rescued from deplorable, unthinkable, inhumane circumstances and they are placed in safe hands, but many times the place of safety is merely a pen in a veterinarian’s office, or crate in a kennel location. There, the Boxers wait to become vetted, processed, and placed into either foster, or forever homes.

Additionally, by fostering dogs we are able to socialize them, and to help them out of their negative behaviors while they are on the road to becoming acceptable, forever pets, in a forever home. Many times these innocents don’t have the basic of skills such as sit, stay, down. Many of them have food-envy issues, territorial issues, fear and anxiety over noises, being left alone. They can have  confrontational issues with any variety of other living creatures which can be men, children, other dogs, other breeds of dogs, cats, etc. Many of them also have confidence and self-esteem issues where because of the way they have been treated almost all their lives or even just recently, they have an air about them that says they are not good enough. This happens all the time with humans; it happens with animals too. By spending time in a loving and safe foster environment, they can overcome some of their negative reactionary behaviors and be integrated into a permanent household.

Another outstanding aspect of the LSBR organization is that they provide you with a temporary boarding situation if necessary. For example, when you have a foster and you want to go out of town, or you need to board the dog somewhere temporarily, LSBR provides you with one of two options. You can take the foster to a boarding facility that participates with LSBR for no cost, or if you choose to take them to boarding facility of your choice, they will help defray the costs for that facility.

The other option is taking your foster to a temporary boarding foster home. There are people within the organization that provide temporary, short-term boarding for fosters. LSBR puts you in touch with people in your area where you can drop your dog off in their homes for the time you are away. This way the Boxer maintains his in-home training and socialization process.

And while the foster spends with you learning about pack rules, human rules, eating etiquette, and basic training skills, the rescue volunteers are searching for forever homes for your foster.

We have started the journey with our fosters. To date, we have only had two, but we expect to have a lot more.

Old-Boxer-Dog

… to end…

…Foster just one until there are none !!

Homeward Bound

The Last Leg: Great Falls to Houston

 Total trip miles: 7406

Great Falls is quite a pretty town and loaded with history. P_20160629_184156P_20160629_184418P_20160629_184402

Lewis and Clark sussed this place out. Apparently they saw an eagle land on an island in the Missouri river that runs through this area. They were awestruck by what became known as the Great Falls of the Missouri River. They marked it on their map to return at a future date. They named it Eagle Pass.

P_20160629_200855 - Copy

P_20160629_200914 - Copy

In the meantime, mining, trapping, and railroad companies discovered the wealth to be had in the region, and eventually dammed each of the five falls and harnessed hydroelectric power. Today the Nickname,” Electric City” still holds.

We had a superb meal at a local place called Eddie’s Supper Club. Bar none – this has to have been the BEST steak we have eaten anywhere – and I mean anywhere. Plastic table cloths, good-ole-gal waitresses, and a table by the kitchen notwithstanding, this meal topped any 5-star restaurant anywhere. The only way I can describe the steak is velvet.

eddies

After a good sleep, we set off early to make Cheyenne, Wyoming by supper time.

I swear there in NOTHING between Great Falls and Billings.

P_20160630_085824 - Copy

P_20160630_115544 - CopyP_20160630_125556

It is beautiful, but there is not a meaningful gas station, town, or road side venue for two-hundred-some-odd miles. That normally would not be a big deal since Paul and I have often pulled 18-hour stints driving this route between Calgary and Houston. But today we made the error of leaving the hotel without breakfast or even coffee thinking we would find it somewhere along the route, even though breakfast was included with the room.

What were we thinking???

Scant roadside services aside, this area is loaded with Native American history, and more specifically, Custer’s Last Stand at Little Big Horn. I qualify that statement of history with “native” because it always chaps me that we remember the Americans who lost their lives in the battles for the conquering of the West and the decimation of the Native populations. I try as much as possible to remember the Natives who fought defending their land, as viciously and as determined as the Patriots sought to throw off the Brits in a land they had taken from Natives. I still don’t know why the American Calvary and the settlers at large were surprised when the Natives fought back.

custer

Again, photo off the internet. We did not go there this time.

We continued on to Cheyenne, snapping a few photos along the way.

welcome-wyoming

My picture turned out lousy, so I got this off the internet.

We landed in Cheyenne about six-thirty in the evening. The temperature read 60 degrees, and there was a cool wind blowing. I actually felt cold when I got out of the car. When we approached the desk, the clerk looked at me with my jacket on and scarf around my neck and smiled,

“You’re not from here, are you?”

When we told her were are from Texas she hooted and said, “Texas!? The snow up here just melted last week!”

I said, “It’s July 1st for God’s sake.”

She nodded her head, “Yep. It is.”

I remembered back to long, cold winters in Calgary.

She recommended a steakhouse for dinner, and while we had just had the perfect steak last night in Great Falls, we went anyway. I swear I was still full from that meal yesterday.

P_20160630_180545

The local Haunt is T-Joes, and it is local indeed.

The legend goes that back in the sixties, a renowned rodeo rider by the name of Bill Linderman was flying to speak in a convention in Spokane, Washington, via Denver, Colorado. He allegedly stopped and had a drink in a bar in Denver, and when he was done, he paid with a check. The owner asked Linderman for an address, and he wrote down one word on the check: heaven. Later that day, Linderman died in a plane crash near Salt Lake City and forty-one passengers perished. Cowboy legend has it that Linderman escaped the flames but perished when he went back in to help with the rescue.

bill

The steaks looked to die for but we wanted something lighter. We both ended up with chicken strips, no beer, lots of water, and an early night. We know we have a long drive tomorrow – We want to make it to Amarillo via Denver.

We’re going to visit Rita.

I met Rita several years ago. She was my piano teacher. I came to the piano later in life – Paul gave me an electric piano as a graduation gift when I finished my master’s work at Sam Houston State University. I had never played the piano but I wanted to learn.  Rita and I connected immediately but we soon learned that we were better beer-drinkers than we were teacher/student. We ended the tutorials and began a remarkable friendship.

Rita now lives in Colorado teaching piano and drums to younger kids. She is magic with them and I have seen her work miracles with special-needs kids.

We went for lunch at a grill called Chuburger and then back to the studio for a recital her Summer Rock Camp kids performed.

P_20160701_125706

P_20160701_131200

After that we went to see where she lives, a gorgeous apartment complex with a great view of the mountains and the plans. We also wanted to visit with Rita’s rescue dog, Little Bones.

P_20160701_142531

We had to leave early afternoon because we were heading for Amarillo that night, so we said our goodbyes with promises of seeing each other when she comes to Houston this Christmas.

P_20160701_134016

Bye Rita! See you soon….

 We refused to tackle I-25 out of Denver, (we remembered I-5 in Oregon – and this looked worse!)

P_20160702_141227

…so we took an alternate route down highway 385/287 to Lamar and Springfield, to Boise City, Oklahoma, and then Amarillo.

colorado_east

The weather cooperated with us until about an hour out of Denver. Then the clear and sunny skies turned to hell, and around Lamar, we were toast.

You know the area… the one that is west of Kansas, and north of Oklahoma… otherwise recognized as….

tornado

I am not saying this was a tornado, but I have never experienced the like of this storm. I call it the Toilet Bowl Storm. As we drove south we noticed some grey clouds off in the distance. We remarked that somebody, somewhere is getting one hell of a rain storm.

P_20160701_153600

So there we were….

P_20160701_153610

… all full of oohs and ahhhs…

P_20160701_161304

…over the rain that somebody, somewhere else was getting….

Little did we know we were headed right for it.

P_20160701_161117

Imagine this: A bowl turned upside down over you. Rain is hammering down so hard that it sounds like hail. It falls so hard that it bounces off the car like little bullets and fills up the sides of the roads and ditches so fast you get the cold ice in your belly that tells you if you stop to wait it out, you’ll be up to your knees in water in no time. And you don’t want to be the ones on the news, clinging to the roof of the car waving your other hand in panic as the choppers swoop by for a good shot, and all the folks at home say, “Why the hell did those fools go out in this weather?!” Except that we didn’t go out in it. We were already out when it happened.

After all the years I’ve lived in Houston, I finally understand the meaning of flash floods.

Water swirls all around you. So much that you cannot see around it or past it. And it’s dark. As night. Like someone turned out the lights.  In between wiper slashes, you can see the edge of the bowl just there, close as fingertips, but by God you can’t get there.

Until it comes down so hard you have zero visibility.

P_20160701_160341

This was our view out our front windshield for far too many miles.

You can’t stop for fear of water filling the car. You can’t move fast because you cannot see. Fear stinks up the car.

We alternated between slips of vision and zero visibility until we reached the edge of that bowl. As the crow flies, it is 214 hours from Lamar to Amarillo. It took almost six hours to make that stretch of highway.

P_20160701_161301

But then, almost as soon as we were in the storm, we were out of it.

Like it never happened.

P_20160702_132926

P_20160702_132549

By the time we got to Amarillo, our nerves were strung, our butts were glued to the seats, and our gas tank was on empty. The storms I can handle, but the empty light on?? We nearly got divorced over that.

We overnighted in strained silence in a very luxurious suite at the Marriott downtown. An early start the next day – we’ll be home by nightfall.

Jpeg

Houston never looked so good!!

P_20160702_135914

You know you’re back in Texas when……

After….

What a weekend. What a week. What a trip!!

On Sunday morning, our cousins from British Columbia came by to visit mom, and although they were at the reunion, it was so nice to have some quiet conversation and to catch up with each other. They stayed for most of the morning and then made way to the airport and points beyond.

DSC01471

This is not a current picture. It from 2014 when we went to visit in Victoria. I didn’t get a picture while they were at mom’s this time.

I grew up with these cousins. They lived for a long time in Calgary and then moved to B.C. when their dad retired. Like most of my aunties and cousins, they have never not been in my life. Funny – just thinking about it now, I don’t have any uncles anymore, and with dad gone, many more cousins no longer have an uncle.

The numbers are dwindling…

After the B.C. bunch left, we had some downtime for a few days. Paul and I went to see our friends in the Cochrane area. They live out on 20 acres, and let me tell you, it was heaven after all the comings and goings. Lots of friendly conversation, walks in the woods, good meals, great whiskey, wonderful cool nights, and friendly pups. We sure miss our canine crew after seeing these two romp and play.

P1000308

This is Harley waiting for Paul to throw the ball.

P1000312

This is Harley bringing the ball back to Paul.

P1000314

My friend Karen, me, her husband Daryl, Harley and Joey.

It was so peaceful – we will have to make that a destination some time and spend more timeout there. I am so grateful that they had us stay over.

In the remaining days, Paul and I just sort of de-compressed. We stayed with mom after we got back from Cochrane. We went out our favorite restaurants with mom, snooped around in her basement for old pictures and other treasures. We watched some bad T.V, snacked, giggled, went to bed late, and slept in.

One thing I like to do every time I go visit mom is take a look at my Arbor Day Tree.  In grade school, we were given a sapling on Arbor day to bring home and plant in our yards. My sapling was a Blue Spruce. Dad and I went to the farthest fence in the back yard. We got down in the dirt and dad showed me how to dig the hole, unwrap the sapling, and place the root base in the hole. The aroma of the earth was damp and sweet. I noticed the dirt under our nails. After we covered the hole, we got the hose and ran water in the fresh earth until the water bubbled from below. Dad told me to watch that tree, protect it, and care for its roots. It was my tree he said, and it would grow big and strong, just like I would. I was seven years old.

P1000321

This is my Arbor Day tree – 53 years later.

P1000319

Like dad said, it grew big from strong roots.

Arbour Day was first observed in 1872 in Nebraska, when a new pioneer, Sterling Morton, and his wife beautified their home site with trees. Fellow pioneers realized not only the esthetic value but the practical value of trees for windbreaks out in the plains, and eventually timber for building.  Through this push, over a million trees were planted. Arbor Day is now observed around the world.

tree

This is the canopy the tree provides if you stand under it and look up into the sky. My Beautiful tree!

In Calgary, the first Arbor day was celebrated in 1905. It was such a big deal in the early days, that they declared it a bank holiday and business closed. Folks got the day off work to join with their families and neighbors to beautify their yards and the city. Perhaps the most striking thing about Arbor Day in Calgary was when they planted trees along a road called Memorial Drive, to honor the fallen heroes of World War One.

It was time to go.

We are taking the Gumboot Trail home though. No more sight-seeing. No more roadside stops. No more photo ops. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado,with a stop to see our lovely Rita, Oklahoma, and then Texas.

Twelve-hour-days. Three days to get home. We have done this route before so we know what we are up against.

We stopped in Lethbridge on our way to Great Falls to visit with uncle John and auntie Vickie. John is mom’s oldest and only surviving brother. Out of five siblings, only two remain.

P1000329

John is 92 and Vickie is 90. He and Vickie have been married for seventy years. Seventy Years. I asked uncle John once what their secret was for staying married that long. . He said, “We act like we are married.” He continued by saying that people get married today but don’t act that way. They still want to be single after they get married. “Marriage,” he said, “is a partnership. Either you are in it or you are not.” Such a simple, yet complete answer.

After we had the tour of their news digs, (they just moved out of their own house this year) we had coffee and cookies with them in the dining hall of their senior’s residence where they now reside. We reminisced about a lot of things, and then caught up on all the news from that side of the family. Then it was time to go. Auntie Vickie, as usual, said she wished we didn’t have to go, couldn’t we stay just another hour?

P1000332

We know the road we have ahead of us and delaying it any doesn’t make it shorter.

We hugged and kissed good bye and with promises of phone calls soon, and return visits next year, we made off for Great Falls, Montana.

P1000328

DOT at its best…. long lines of traffic just outside of Lethbridge.

P1000327

Nobody really working, but lots of cones to make sure we get out of the way

The Canadian leg of the journey is over. We crossed over into Montana about six in the evening.

P1000339

P1000333

 

P1000326

This is mom’s old bike. She used to deliver newspapers on it when she was ten. It sits in her backyard. She hasn’t the heart to get rid of it. For me, it’s a permanent fixture. It has just always been there.

 

 

 

The Reunion

 After the memorial in Calgary we all made our way to Camp Cadicasu  in the Kananaskis mountains, just at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

P1000228P1000231 - Copy - Copy

I went to this camp as a kid in the summer one time. It wasn’t common for us to do things like that when we were growing up. We never had the money for this sort of thing. I won the week pass for the camp at an event in middle school. I missed the first day  of camp though because I wanted to watch the moon landing. My mom was pissed, but dad, well he thought that was just fine.

P1000264 - Copy - Copy

The scenery around the camp is quite beautiful. Paul and I wandered off a bit and found a river

P1000267 - Copy - Copy

P1000272

If you look closely in the center you will see a little pile of purposely-placed rocks. Paul and I made an Inuksuk to point the way. An Inuksuk is a stone or a landmark the Inuit people use to guide travelers to safe port. We have seen them often on our travels, and so when we are in the woods or some other natural setting, we make a point of placing on for the travelers that follow.

Elizabeth and our second-cousin, Annette, arranged all of the details, the emails, the money-collecting, the booking of the camp, and the food. It was quite a feat to get it all together in this still very large family.

When our family was at its peak, meaning when grandma and all twelve siblings were alive, along with their children and all the second and third cousins, and spouses, we counted over five hundred people at a family reunion in the 1970s. When we started to plan the reunion for this year, were hoping for forty, maybe fifty relatives to come.

One hundred and thirty-five showed up. The youngest was three months old, and the oldest was ninety.  We counted six generations from grandma.

P1000287 - CopyP1000290 - Copy - Copy

This is the family quilt Auntie Estelle started to stitch several years ago. It circulates around the family members so that everyone has the pleasure of having it in their home for a while. There is no set schedule for who has it or when, but it always appears at these functions, and we all admire it.

P1000277 - Copy - Copy

P1000280P1000279

 

P1000281

This part in the bottom right stitched in navy blue, is my immediate family spoke of the wheel.

P1000282

Auntie had to stop  stitching at the 4th generation– it became too much – she is in her mid-eighties, and she is still very active in here ministry with travel, conferences, and study. We all speculate who will be the one to pick up the needle and carry on the tradition

We spent the weekend hugging and laughing, reminiscing and singing. We ate heartily all the foods that Annette and her “reunion crew” gathered from funds collected. Three squares a day, coffee and baked goods and sweet snacks all day long. Casseroles, vats of soup, trays of meats and cheeses, rolls and crackers, hamburgers, hotdogs cole slaw, macaroni salads, pancakes, eggs and sausages, fruit and orange juice magically appeared throughout the day. We were never short on appetites or food, and we all took turns gathering plates and kitchen duty.

P1000285 - Copy - Copy

The long porch of the main cook-house served as our gathering place for music and sing-alongs.

P1000296P1000295P1000299

My cousin Antony and I picked up the guitars, and while I am very rusty I found that I could play chords alongside Antony’s brilliant jazz and blues riffs. Our aunties called out the old ones, like You Are My Sunshine, and Five- Foot Two, while our generation belted out anything from country tunes, to sixties hits and folk ballads.

P1000299 (2)

Those of us that did not try the guitar picked up sets of spoons and thumped out rhythmic clacking as the music moved them. Our eldest attending auntie led us not once, but twice in spirited rounds of the French-Canadian favorite “Allouette.”

P1000302P1000305

The teenagers were bored with our concert and they ran off to explore the woods or play a pick-up game of softball or bocci. We knew they rolled their eyes when we asked them to join us; we did the same thing when we were their age, and it was our parents singing and laughing the hours away. We didn’t quite understand the significance of them gathering and singing old songs but we sure knew they were happy. It was nice to see the generations carry on.

We set out a table with the urn that Paul made, the enormous bouquet of flowers the CPS provided and the picture of dad that was at his memorial for the folks that could not make it could see. We had a short remembrance of dad, but the mood was light and festive. We really did celebrate his life.

P1000224

The merriment continued until Sunday afternoon when people started to make their way to their homes. Most had traveled very far; us from Houston, an auntie from Philadelphia, many from Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

I know dad would have loved the gathering in his honor.

DSC04154