Painting the Barn Part Two

Estacada, Oregon, USA – 06-12-21: Vintage Terry Trailer, fully restored.

Bright and early the next morning, I awoke to the sound of paint scrapers. Bill and Eleanor started early and were now on the south side of the barn working hard before the sun made it uncomfortable. I watched them a a little while, this time watching closely how they worked. Eleanor shouted down from her ladder, “Hey you want to help?”

“Sure,” I shouted. I wasn’t ever allowed to climb a ladder that high and here was my chance. I started up the ladder that Eleanor was standing on.

“No, not on the ladder, sweetie, but on the ground. There’s a small scraper over there by the tree… you can try it out down below.” This was not what I had in mind, but I had agreed to help so I picked up the scraper and started to mimic the work that they had been doing on the barn. It didn’t take long for me to get tired of this back and forth scraping. My arm was already sore after just a few minutes!

“Well, thanks, ” I hollered up to Eleanor, “but I think my mom needs my help in the house.” I quickly ran into the house and wondered why Eleanor and Bill were laughing so hard.

Then it was the weekend. The painters worked hard Saturday morning, but Sunday was a day of rest. During late afternoon I was wandering around the yard looking for something to do when Eleanor shouted out the camper window, “Hey sweetie! Do you want some lemonade?” I quickly ran over to the door of the camper and lo and behold… she invited me inside!

I carefully climbed up the steps of the little camper and sat down at a little table that was attached to the wall. Eleanor gave me a big cup of lemonade. My eyes must have been as big as a lemon because she let me explore the rest of the camper. It was everything I had imagined and more. A tiny refrigerator, a tiny table and a built in bed in the back. A very small bathroom, a radio on the kitchen counter, a tiny oven and stove top. This looked like paradise to me!

“Its not very big,” Eleanor explained, “but it works for us during painting season.” She then explained how they traveled south when it was winter time and worked in warmer climates when they could find jobs. They had a bigger house trailer somewhere down south which was close to relatives and other friends.

Finally she said, “What do you think of our little camper? ”

” I love it! I wish we had one to pull behind our car! It would be so much fun! “

She smiled and said, “Ok little one.. you probably better get back to the house before your mom misses you. See you tomorrow!”

“Thanks for the lemonade.” I headed out the door but turned around for one last look. Then I ran into the house to tell my Mom and Dad all about it.

A few days later, the barns were all finished and I sadly watched the painters load up their ladders, and hook the little camper to the truck. After a few goodbyes, we waved as they headed up the lane, disappearing in a cloud of dust just like they had arrived.

Sixty some years later, I have yet to fulfill my dream of traveling the world in a little camper. But other dreams have come true, and sometimes the memories of those old dreams are enough.

Posted in Farm Life, My Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Going after parts

I’ve put in a few miles driving to and from parts departments of farm equipment dealers. I remember one trip that lasted all day… returning time after time because they kept sending the wrong parts or not enough of something.

My very first “parts run” though, was memorable. It was just a short trip to the local John Deere Store where I needed to get some hydraulic hoses made. My husband sent me to pick up the hoses and specifically said, “I need one female end and one male end.”

I looked at him incredulously. “I’m not gonna say THAT! What are they really called?”

We hadn’t been married for too long, but I had already discovered that his labels and other people’s labels for the same item didn’t always match.

“Send someone else, ” I pleaded. “I won’t say that!”

I might have been a child of the sixties but I was also raised not to discuss anything that had to do with sex.

There was no one else to send. The hoses were needed STAT! So off I went, muttering under my breath, wondering what my mother would say. I entered the parts department and shuffled up to the counter and said my piece (waiting for the laughter to come from all the farmers in the store) I was ready to turn and run.

Instead the clerk said, “It’ll just be a few minutes and we’ll have them ready for you”. I looked around again still waiting for everyone to burst out laughing or say something like “You must be Roger’s wife… that’s what HE calls them!” But it didn’t happen and I went home with two hoses … a male and a female.

“Did you have any problems with the order?” he grinned when I handed them to him.

“No problems,” I replied, “but you should be set for awhile with hoses… I put them together in the backseat; so now we can produce our own.”

Posted in Farm Life, My Life | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Painting the Barn Part One

They arrived in a cloud of dust down the gravel-covered driveway. Mom and I peered through the front window as the battered pickup truck and pull-behind camper stopped in front of our house. It was the summer of 1955.

Visitors were rare at our farm; we lived about a quarter mile from the main road. A man and woman exited the truck.

“Good afternoon ma’am. I’m Bill and this is my wife Eleanor. We’re here to paint the barns.” He pulled off his wide brimmed paint spattered hat as his wife came around from the passenger side. She was dressed in painter’s garb and we watched as she tightened the bandana around her hair.

“I think you must have the wrong place, we didn’t hire anyone to paint the barns.” explained my Mom. Just then Dad came from around the tool shed.

“It’s OK Marge, I forgot to tell you Harvey said they would be coming today. I just didn’t know when.”

Harvey was my great grandpa who owned the farm that we lived on.

My Dad and Bill shook hands, Bill handed Dad a piece of paper which made it all official. Bill continued, ” We’ll probably be here about a week so. Where would you like us to park our camper?”

Dad pointed the way and Bill turned the truck and trailer around and backed it into place next to a row of maple trees. He unhooked the truck from the camper and pulled down a set of steps just below the camper door. Eleanor stepped inside and opened the windows.

“We’ll start first thing in the morning,” said Bill. He and Dad talked for awhile about crops and neighbors and where they had been before they got to our farm. Dad started evening chores and Mom washed down the milk cows to be milked.

I was dying to see the inside of that camper. I had never seen a camper up close, but Mom had already led me back into the house. “You stay inside while we do chores and don’t be bothering these people.”

By the time my brother and I got up in the morning, the barn painters had set up their ladders and had started to scrape off the old loose paint. We ran out to the barn to feed the calves and do our chores and Mom reminded us again to stay out of their way so they could get their work done. I watched them scrape awhile but as the paint flakes hit the ground I got bored. I hoped they knew what they were doing because the barn was beginning to look worse… not better. They worked quickly but we had our big barn and several other smaller buildings that were to be painted so it was going to take them awhile. I was glad, because it was pretty exciting to have someone living right outside our house. The longer they stayed, the better chance I might have to see the inside of that camper.

At noon, the painters headed toward the camper for lunch. I was surprised to see them set up a small charcoal grill and a couple of well worn folding lawn chairs under the trees, along with a small card table. They didn’t light the grill but sat down on the chairs for some cold meat sandwiches and a big pitcher of lemonade. After lunch they spread out a blanket on the ground and proceeded to take a breather. Mom thought they were avoiding the heat of the day and she was right because a couple of hours later, they started in again and worked until it was too dark to see.

Since it was summer, my brother and I stayed up playing out in the yard, riding our bikes and trying to not be a nuisance to the painters. When we finally went in to bed, they were just firing up their grill and the smell of burgers wafted through our bedroom windows. I fell asleep listening to them talking and eating their late night supper and dreaming of traveling the world in my own little camper.

To be continued…

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments


Once in a while I run into a former student. I call them “former” students because “old student” somehow just makes me feel older. I live in a small community so the odds of running into former students is pretty good. I’m always surprised that those former students are all adults now because in my mind they will always be first graders or second graders or struggling high school students. They’re often difficult to recognize. They all change a lot between the ages of 7 and 57.

Most of them I remember, sometimes I need a hint (like please tell me your name) and sometimes I do not remember them at all. But I never let on. I am good at faking recognition. Quite a few years ago, I ran into one of my favorite high school English teachers and she did not remember me. Even after I told her my name and graduation date and what the topic was of my Senior English theme paper. I was wounded. I thought because she was one of my favorites that I must have been one of hers. I guess not.

Last week another former student found me. My husband and I were looking over a project which he was going to tackle soon and there, sitting on the dock of an old pond, was a man. He was fishing. In about 4 feet of water because the pond was being drained. Later I found out from him that fishing in 4 feet of water gave you pretty good odds of catching the fish that were in that 4 feet of water.

We talked a few minutes and then he recognized me. He got really excited and told me that he had been paddled at least once every year while he was in grade school. And he remembered that I had “beat the crap”out of him with a ping pong paddle and it was probably because he deserved it! By then my eyes were getting bigger and bigger and my brain was spinning because he still hadn’t told me his name. Finally he blurted it out.

I remembered him. He was a tall, good-looking youngster who I recall was pretty smart. His parents were very supportive and must have known he was a handful, because they said they would never hesitate to back me up if he needed discipline. As I recall, he never gave me a bit of trouble, except maybe on the playground where 7 year old boys tend to get a little wild. But he was a good kid and he graduated and was now fishing in a pond. And I still do not remember beating the crap out of him or any other student during my career.

I didn’t get a chance to ask him what he had been doing with his life or if he had a family or if he was happy, because my husband decided it was time to move on. But on the way home, I kept thinking about him and I could clearly picture him in my classroom. Sometimes I can even remember a student’s handwriting after so many years. Because if I taught them anything at all, it was to always put their name on their paper! He had nice handwriting.

One thing I have discovered over the years is how selective our memories are. Inevitably the students I meet remember things that I do not. Of course, the things that were important to me as a teacher were not the same things that were important to a first grader. Memories always get a little distorted as the years go by.

Come to think of it, I do sort of remember a ping pong paddle.

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , | 6 Comments


I recently joined a Farm Wives Support Group on social media. Its been enjoyable to be a part of this group and share stories, concerns, problems, and solutions. I wish this had been around fifty years ago when I was a brand new farm wife.

Many of the posts are about trying to do it all; raising children, helping on the farm, working off farm jobs, trying to keep up with household chores. A recent post brought lots of comments on working the farm with family, sharing responsibilities with family, and trying to get along.

Which leads me to a story which has been a long time coming and is long overdue. The story of my mother-in-law, Florence. Along with my own mother, Florence was my support group.

Florence was born in 1915. Her mother died not long after she was born and she was raised by her maternal grandparents. Her Father had been a soldier in WWI and carried the burdens of a soldier with him, He returned home from the war, lost his wife, and found himself with a newborn baby. What happened next? It’s hard to say. Florence’s father later remarried and had two sons. But Florence remained with her grandparents.

There are pictures of little Flo with long curls, big hair bows, and ruffled dresses. There are also pictures of her with flocks of sheep and horses. Young Florence was as smart as a whip. Her grade cards proved that and her abilities and spectacular memory helped convince everyone that this lady was smart. When she married and produced four boys (an engineer, a farm/business owner, and two attorneys) everyone said they got their smarts from their Mother..

I didn’t meet Florence until I met her third son and fell in love with him. And that’s really where this story begins.

It was the summer of 1971. My fiance and I had set a date for our wedding. Florence and her husband, Henry, were looking for a house in town so that when I married her son, he and I could live in the farmhouse and they could retire in town. Unfortunately, time was running out and they still hadn’t found a house. She took me aside one afternoon and said, “You two can move in with us after the wedding. You are more than welcome. But I wouldn’t recommend it.” Then she gave me a look that I became quite familiar with over the years. “Read between the lines” is what that look said to me.

There were 4 weeks left before the wedding and my future husband was busy… farming. So Florence and I went apartment hunting; our first adventure together. I had no clue where to look but Florence did. She had already circled several apartments for rent in the local newspaper and we began to drive around and look at the possibilities. She saved one for last; I have a feeling she had already scoped them all out before we went searching. The last one was an upstairs apartment, very small, very cheap, and the landlords were willing to sign a short term lease for as long as we needed it. It was obvious that Florence was already acquainted with the landlord because while we were signing the paperwork, they had some great conversations. Thanks to Florence, we had a place to live.

Our next adventure was furnishing the apartment. We went to yard sales and again Florence knew which neighborhoods to visit and where we could find some good deals. We picked up some odds and ends mainly for the kitchen. I still have the cut glass fruit bowl purchased for twenty-five cents and the aluminum strainer, which was a dime. We had a hand-me-down bedroom suite (the one my parents started up with) and a couch and a chair from Rogers brother and his wife, an old TV, and a wooden kitchen table and chairs which had been in the basement of the farmhouse. Roger and I went shopping that next weekend and bought a brand new refrigerator and stove and a recliner. We were good to go.

Fast forward several weeks. The wedding took place. We moved into the apartment. I started my first teaching job. And the In laws found a house. Things were starting to fall into place. On a rainy, fall afternoon I finished up at school and headed back to the apartment. I climbed the stairs slowly… it had been a long day. When I opened the door … the apartment was empty. We had moved! Everything was gone except for the kitchen table which was loaded with the contents of the refrigerator and the cupboards. Since I was not notified that we were moving I can’t really tell you how it all happened. A few years later I asked my husband about that day. “It had rained and harvest time was fast approaching. I called a couple friends and they were not busy so we got several pickup trucks and loaded everything up and move it to the farmhouse. The same thing happened on the other end of the move…. My in laws had already moved a few things into their new house and Roger and his buddies had moved some of the big items. One thing I am sure of, my mother in law was not involved in moving anything out of our apartment. If she had, she would have packed up all the food and the contents of the refrigerator and brought it to the farmhouse.

I drove out to the farm and there she was trying to make sense of everything that was happening. She didn’t get any advance notice either of the move until the trucks started to back up to her back door. The best part of the story and the story that I heard over and over again through the years was Florence explaining how they had moved her washer and dryer … both still full of clothes.

Florence in the kitchen that would become mine.

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments


Showers of rain bring a reprieve from the hustle of harvest; a mixed blessing.

Showers are almost always welcome and at this time of the year, the harvesters are thankful for the rest that it provides after long hours of work.

Shower also brings stress. Too much rain can damage the crops or affect the yields as well as affecting the timeline on the race to finish.

Farmers are used to this. We take what comes, we relax, we stress, we worry. There may be a bountiful crop but prices are low. There may be a less than average crop and prices are high. It’s all part of the farming picture and it repeats.

What farmers do know is that harvests always end: there are good years and bad. There are many risks, just as in any life. Hope leads us to continue the process; to persevere. Because it’s a way of life, because it’s a responsibility not taken lightly to provide for the world, because it’s what the previous generations have done and what we have learned to follow.

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Do You Miss Teaching?

Who hasn’t missed something in the past year? While I am not as isolated as some, my life has been turned upside down and like everyone else I miss the way it used to be. And suddenly I have been retired for ten years after 34 years of teaching, and friends ask me if I miss my career.

The easy answer I usually give is no, I have other things to keep me busy now. But that’s not really true. There are many parts of my career that I do miss.

I miss the sense of identity. As with any job or career, your colleagues and co workers are the people you spend your day with and they share with you common goals and common experiences. I miss common identity. When you spend a school year with the same students and share those students with other teachers you miss the little things… like the eye rolls between each other when that “certain kid” does his thing in your classroom. I miss the feeling of belonging to a group of people who share daily experiences and are working to make learning relevant to every student for every lesson.

I miss answering the question, “What do you do? Where do you work?” It defined me as a person. I remember driving away from school to begin a temporary leave and thinking…. who am I? It hit me hard and put me in tears for a while,missing that feeling of belonging.

1971 My very first class

I miss many of the physical parts of teaching. Getting ready for a new school year… some new clothes, some new shoes, but mostly preparing my classroom, preparing new lessons or old lessons with a new twist. Looking through the list of students for the year, figuring out how to reach students with varying needs and how to challenge students during the year.

8th period class on my very last day of school.

I miss lunch breaks, no matter how short, to let you take a deep breath, share a few minutes with colleagues or maybe just sit alone to regain focus for the rest of the day. Some of the most hilarious and memorable moments in a school year happen in the teacher’s lunch room. I was lucky enough to have a kitchen in my Life Skills classroom equipped with microwave, refrigerator and oven. It became a place for others to store their lunches and share lunchtime together.

One male colleagues always came in with the best leftovers, lovingly made and packed by his wife every day. We all looked forward to seeing what was on his menu One day he came in with some delicious smelling pasta. In the process of reheating and eating with a 20 minute deadline, the pasta ended up on the front of his white shirt. Before I could take another bite of my lunch, he had stripped his shirt off, grabbed some detergent ( I also had a washer and dryer in my room) and started to scrub off the stain. Then he threw it in the dryer and sat back down at the table… shirtless…. to finish his pasta. At that moment, the principal and a visitor to the building walked in.

I miss those few minutes right after school with the teacher next door and the “how did your day go?” conversation.

I miss the creativity I had to muster to create new ways to teach the same old stuff.

I miss the pride in my work and the feeling of satisfaction when things worked out well for a student. I also miss the disappointments shared with colleagues and students. Accomplishments, successes, and even failures make for great relationships… being able to share and work through things.

Do I miss teaching? Yes I do. But I also realize I would not recognize teaching as it is now and especially how it has been during the pandemic. I am in awe of the teachers I read about and talk with who are still in the classroom. They adapted quickly to an almost impossible situation.

I know this month teachers are in the midst of back-to-school planning and are scrambling to get everything done. I wish them all a great school year with many successes and hope they are able to enjoy some great lunches with each other creating great memories.

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Upright Piano

Piano was my destiny.

I really believe that. From an early age, I was fascinated by the keyboard and the sounds. I was just past toddlerhood when I discovered pianos at both of my grandmother’s homes. Now that was a sign.

When I went to either Grandma’s house, I “played” and “played” some more until someone, usually my mom, said… “Enough! Quit pounding on that thing!”

I discovered that I could play by ear, sounding out Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had a little Lamb. My mom, yes the same one who told me to quit pounding, recognized that I had more than just an interest in making noise and annoying everyone around me. She began to attend auctions searching for used pianos. She found one we could afford and it was ours! It was no small task but we managed to move it into the house and parked it in the first room we came to – the dining room. I began my love affair with music.

The year was 1959 and the piano was an old upright piano that weighed a ton. It was not the most attractive piece of furniture in our home. It was covered with scratches and dings. The piano stool was a round one-seater style that would spin around pretty fast if you got it going. After about three mishaps with me flying off the stool and landing at the feet of my mom, it was replaced with a piano bench, with a heavy lid that revealed storage for sheet music and lesson books. It seemed like a bad design to me. That heavy lid smashed my fingers several times before I got that hang of it; the very fingers that I needed to make music!

The keyboard also left a lot to be desired. There were several ivory key covers missing and many were chipped. The key cover to Middle C was missing completely but that defect helped me locate my hand positions when I began to take lessons. F sharp was a clinker from the very start… I can still hear the twangy, awful sound that came from deep within the piano when I hit that note and I believe that the F sharp key on that old piano gave me an aversion to playing anything with sharps in the key signature.

The well worn pedals were difficult to push, especially when your legs weren’t long enough to reach, and they squeaked. There were a few keys in the bass area that didn’t play at all, in fact when you pushed them down, they stayed down until you pried them back up. As far as pianos went, it had definitely seen better days. But it was mine. A piano of my very own.

Mom quickly set me up with piano lessons in our little town with Miss Monce, who had quite a reputation as a great pianist and community member. She had already taught many willing and unwilling school age children to play the piano and was well respected by all. She provided me with a John W. Schaum keyboard chart that slipped behind the black keys on the piano. I caught on quickly and practiced until my fingers ached.

I progressed rapidly in my efforts and by the time I was twelve or thirteen I accompanied the Youth Choir at church, and played Pomp and Circumstance for the Eighth Grade Graduation ceremony. I moved on to accompany soloists (voice and instrumental) at High School Concerts and Contests and whenever I joined an organization that needed a musician, I took that office.

In the meantime, my Mom went to work at a local factory and found that she had a little more disposable income than she had ever had in her life. When I became a freshman in high school we took a trip to a music store and purchased a new spinet piano. It wasn’t brand new but had been used in the store to teach lessons for a few years so it was a bargain. Cherry wood, no missing key covers, no sticky keys, and it was in tune! The pedals worked perfectly and F sharp sounded like the voice of an angel. I was more than happy.

The old upright piano had been replaced. I don’t remember what happened to it. I missed it for awhile because that was where my love of music began.

Posted in My Life | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Will I Ever Be At Ease Again?

For most of you out there in the world, staying in and staying confined during the pandemic was difficult. It was for me! I had friends that didn’t change their lifestyles much at all. They had Christmas and all the other holidays with their families and had no ill effects. And then there were those who disregarded many of the orders from the CDC and paid dearly for it.

I felt like I was in the middle… I sanitized, wore masks, stayed home a lot but I also went to Walmart and ordered carry out. I cancelled our family get together because of my age and my husband’s age and our “underlying health issues”. I felt guilty and felt a little betrayed and even indignant when friends and other family members were not as careful as I was or didn’t share my fears and decisions.

I missed weekly activities with my two best friends. But we all have health issues and are all “of a certain age”. I still feel the need to justify my behavior, though I followed “the science”.

Yes, It had been hard staying in during the pandemic. But I didn’t realize how hard it would be to once again “go out”.

We’ve gone out for a meal a few times. The first time, I went home with my stomach in knots, sure that I had been infected by someone in the restaurant. I forgot how to interact with the server. I felt the urge to jump out of the booth and run back out to the car where it was safer. It was easier the second time but there was still the anxiety. I was angry because going out to dinner was supposed to be a fun and relaxing activity.. and it wasn’t.

I went to Walmart for the first time without a mask. I felt as if everyone there was judging me, whether they wore a mask or not. At checkout this sweet elderly lady ahead of me said to me, “It’s OK dear, you know you don’t have to stand that far back anymore.” I couldn’t move even with her permission.

Posted in My Life | 5 Comments

Sunflower House

Retired Ruth

A couple of summers ago I discovered an idea for a sunflower house.

To begin, a rototiller and able bodied operator are very helpful.

Three sides are enough, because you need to have an entrance!

A few weeks later, the sunflowers are growing, interspersed with some morning glories (for color contrast)

Keep growing! It needs to be a little taller so the grandkids can hide better!

Add a table and chairs for some fun!

Looking good! A great place for Grandma to hide on a breezy summer day.

Summer ends and frost comes and all good things come to an end.

Note:  I added some tall plastic garden stakes for the morning glories to climb.  Next time I will make it a bit wider.  When the sunflowers and the morning glories grew, they took up more space than I had anticipated making the sunflower house a little narrower than I…

View original post 48 more words

Posted in My Life | 2 Comments