Wednesday, December 5, 2007
I got so much inspiration and so many ideas after Silver Bella that I came home and after a few days of non-stop sleep went into the studio and started making. Don't you love the pink Christmas tree I picked up in Omaha? Then I covered it with my anytime clock sachet ornaments.
Posted by Doojies at 8:53 PM
After leaving Lincoln we headed south to big ol' Cook, Nebraska. Population 300 and dropping daily. It was sad, it's a dying little town. So unlike Stromsburg, Cook is like a ghost town. It was Memorial Day so all three businesses were closed except the grocery/cafe. The guys were hanging out at the hardware store, though, so we got a lot of info from them. And Mom's cousin, Richard had given Mom a lady's name and number and we went to her house but she couldn't remember much at 94. She could tell us though where Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jennie's (my grandfather's sister) house was.
Here's a photo of Mom and Ray Arnold in front of her Uncle Ralph's drug store when Mom was 4 and RA was 5.
And today in the same spot. Ray Arnold had taken his wife to the doctor in Lincoln that day but the owner of the hardware store stood in for him the day we were there.
This is the bank now but was where Uncle Ralph's drug store was. The only decent building in town and it's the BANK. I thought that was interesting. I guess the farmers in the nearby area must still be making some money 'cause didn't look like anyone in town had an extra buck to chuck in the bank.
Below is the house that was Uncle Ralph and Aunt Jennie's. It's due to be torn down soon, it's in pretty bad shape.
It took us about an hour to find the farm only about 5 miles outside of town. We got some misinformation from hardware guy and Cousin Richard didn't have the exact directions on him from the cell phone calls we were making to him every few minutes in South Carolina. Mom had never seen Fargo so she didn't quite get why I would not make any further than two turns so I would know where the main road was. Not that there are any scary folks there, they are all nice and decent, I could just picture us getting lost and not being found until spring thaw. The turn of luck was when I caught the tiniest glimpse of what looked like the tops of tombstones. Richard had said there was a cemetery across from the family farm. So we went to the cemetery and found...well I'll get to that in a minute. But we did find the farm, just as described, the house was gone but the original barns are still there. Another amazing feeling, being where my grandfather had been born, raised, and where he rode his horse back and forth to school from.
We found the family plot and this was the oldest headstone we could read easily.
We have what's written on this one below but it is, as you can tell, very old and beautiful.
I took the photo of the barn and sign below as we were leaving town. I thought it was funny especially considering that the poor town is barely there and dying more each day. It reads, "Best Small Town In America". Yikes.
Here are the "souvenirs" I collected from the family farm. It's still a working farm with lots of cows but there were a few things laying around OUTSIDE the fence that didn't look like they would be used any time soon and had been there for a while.
I popped the tractor seat onto a stool we already had.
This wreath of barbed wire needs to be put up somewhere special but it hasn't told me where yet. If I ever get that storm door installed I'd like to put the barbed wire on the door. We'll see, I'm just glad to have it.
Posted by Doojies at 5:32 PM
My great-grandparents, Carl and Hilma Smith had lived in Stromsburg since 1902 until their death. My great-grandfather had been born in Nebraska (both, actually) to parents who had immigrated from Sweden. He was born Erik Erikson then changed his name to Carl Erikson then to Carl Smith because there were so Eriksons in Stromsburg and he became the only Smith. So, armed with lots of information and photos, my mom and I showed up in Stromsburg just a couple of hours west of Omaha the day after Silver Bella ended. Fortunately and unfortunately it was the first day I had felt myself since we had left Maryland. I had gone to bed the night before about 7:30. I missed telling everyone at SB good bye and have one last evening with them but I physically could not do it. So, I was finally fresh and only had a few hours of easy-going driving to do, we were off. The weather was beautiful, in the 70's and sunny. As soon as we drove into town I knew I was home. We drove around looking for a house that looked like the one in the pictures. My mom has visited there many times in her adulthood but it had been a long time so memories weren't fresh. Her cousin goes almost every year so he knows what's what and had given her a lot of the info we had. While we were driving around I saw this man at the side of the street with his daughter. Something/Someone, a little voice, said to pull over. The man turned out to be Kyle Johansen with his daughter, Hannah, above. And Kyle turned out to be our angel. We showed him the picture and he immediately said that the house was on the south side of the street, about the same time of day as then, etc. He thought he knew which house it was but said if we'd give him 5 minutes he'd make one call and find out for sure. A town of population of 1200, he was back in 3 minutes with the facts. He'd called someone and said, "Where's Carl Smith's house?", and had the info. It was the house he'd been thinking it was and he gave us directions. Before we had time to get the car started, a truck pulls up driven by Wesley Larsen. Wesley tells us that my great-grandfather had cut his hair when he was a boy. Carl Smith was the town barber. It was one of those life moments like none other.
Here's Wesley; he doesn't look old enough for my great-grandfather to have cut his hair, does he?
So here's the picture we had of the house with my great-grandparents and my grandmother in front and...
...here's the house today. The town of Stromsburg has been almost totally preserved. It's a beautiful, pristine, time-frozen town. Perfection. I had to get out of the car and sit across the street for a while and try to soak in as much as I could. Imagining my grandmother and her brother running around the yard, then my mom and her sister as children visiting their grandparents running around the yard. The second story right window was the one to my grandmother's room. Mom didn't want to knock on the door so I respected that one decision but it was hard.
Sadly the barber shop is no longer there but here's where it was, now a vacant lot.
This is the house across the street from the 'rents and is our future home. Doesn't it scream Doojie? Paul is not wearing down at all so far and it's been almost a month. I was honest enough with him to let him know that I really had wanted to pull a "California" on him. If you want to review "30 Year Legacy Comes to an End" post you'll know or I can give you the cliff notes here that after I went to California "just for the summer", the first time I went to Big Sur I went home and wrote to my parents and told them I wasn't coming home. Same deal here except over the phone and I'm not 19 and single with no kids anymore ergo not the same results.
Dragging me away from Stromsburg kicking and screaming, we headed a few miles out of town to Swede Home where there used to be a small community but only a few houses are there, lots of huge farms, but also the original church where my great-grandparents and grandmother attended and across the street the cemetery where we go back several generations.
I won't bore you all 578 photos of the dead relatives but here's the Smith area. The originally named family was there too, the ones who came directly from Sweden. We spent that night in York where my great-grandfather was born. The next day we drove through Lincoln where my grandmother attended the University of Nebraska and was a Kappa Delta.
We went to the Kappa Delta house and went in but we knew it didn't look much like it had inside when she was there but the outside is the same. I realized, fully, that Matt being a Cornhusker was the perfect compromise between Texas A & M and Penn State. Paul's still not impressed...YET.
Posted by Doojies at 12:03 PM
Okay turning 50 two days before leaving to drive from Maryland to Omaha in two days should have been the tiniest hint that I wasn't 19 anymore and perhaps this kind of idea was a little lofty for my age. I had only been in two of the seven states we went through so it was all so worth it. I love seeing new places and not from 20,000 feet. But what I hadn't expected was being totally worn to a frazzle by the time we got there. I was completely under rested and overwhelmed the whole time, not at all myself. Could be how I got through Silver Bella and meeting all of these fabulous folks and artists and walked away without a single restraining order. What a beautiful, clean, clean city Omaha is. Mom and I drove in at 5:20 p.m. and as soon as we checked in I found out that the meet and greet was at 6:00 instead of what I thought was 7:00. So I had about 15 minutes to get our things in the room, change clothes, spray the smell of car travel off, and get to the bus to the antiques store. I hadn't driven like a mad woman for two days to miss it so I did it!
Second Chance was where the first event, the meet and greet was held. Closed to the public and open just for the Bellas, we all went crazy. The prices were unbelievable compared to what most of us were used to. I got a big bag of fun make-dos to bring home.
Hardly room to move but just enough to dig and find treasures. So fun.
Then back to the hotel for bar snacks and drinks.
As Amy said we have to go all the way to Omaha to all get together. It had obviously been too long since Mellie and I had spent quality time together.
Fab Pam Garrison...
...I forgot to get my photo with her during class so I interrupted her next class to get one of these "do it yourself" photos.
Hope and Mellie with Maija. Finally getting to meet so many ladies in person who we had previously only know via computer.
More in-person-finally friendships formed.
The big-deal-fancy luncheon, that's fab Tammy Gilley bottom left working on her last-minute swap items.
Rebecca Sower class...
... Rebecca and me...
...my first class of the workshop and all five of us at our table were Texans!!
Jenny and Aaron. Aaron says that's his "normal" face because he played football in high school and that's a permanent psyche-out face that got stuck. They are too cute.
Our wonderful hostess, Teresa. Vendor night was not at all about restraint and here's the proof.
Posted by Doojies at 11:12 AM