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Riverton, Wyo. to Bangor, Maine

Enforcers of the law in relatively small towns and rural counties are a special breed. I’ve found two positive books, actual accounts of how LEOs (law enforcement officers) can and do take care of happenings in their areas. The articles show how talking is often the most effective procedure and use of force is definitely a last resort. I know LEOs who work this way and they are appreciated more than they will ever know. In each book the focus is on constructive ways to iron out disagreements and reach affirmative conclusions.

Of course, both writers speak of Sam Brown belts, jail cells, drunks and drunk drivers, little old ladies as well as down-and-outers. Each author speaks high praise for dispatchers and their abilities to communicate with the public and the officers. Emergency services workers — EMTs and paramedics receive accolades also. Highway patrol and other agencies circle the wagons when needed to get the job done. Neither book goes into details about red tape nor bureaucratic hassles, though it’s likely those challenges occur. Bad stops, scary arrests, medical emergencies are all in the books, but not graphic. Readers learn just how important commercial radio stations are to cops, especially when working the night shift on a slow night.

The first book is titled Routine Patrol: Memoirs of a Small-town Cop by Bart Ringer; it contains short stories about his time as a police officer, including his 37 years serving in Riverton, Wyo,, where he still lives. The book was published in 2018 and I just discovered it online last week. Throughout the book, Ringer refers to several 10-codes (radio transmission codes), then explains what they mean. Riverton is next to the Wind River Indian Reservation and the tribal police sometimes call for mutual assistance. Interagency cooperation helps all LEOs. Ringer’s humor shines through when in a typical statement he writes, “But just between you and me, it’s not a very good idea to try and run away from someone and hide in the dark when you’re wearing the latest style of LED tennis shoes.”

The Detective in the Dooryard: Reflections of a Maine Cop by Timothy Cotton, published in 2020, is the second book. Cotton has been a police officer for more than 30 years; the bulk of that time on the force in Bangor, Maine, where he continues to serve. He has an active personal Facebook page which showcases his writing talent. Cotton’s humor shows as he writes, “Hiding is an art, but most people do not practice it enough to become proficient. During a bail check, officers discovered a man, intentionally covered in dirty laundry, under a desk.”

A commonality between the two books is both policemen endeavor, mightily, to give the benefit of the doubt to the public. Contrary to some public opinion, they do not strive to fill the jail cells every shift. Their objectives — though they work 2,400 miles apart — are to make the streets safe, bring attention to vehicle problems so they can be corrected, keep the peace and help everyone that they can. ❖

Color the world

At our house we have a running joke about “off white” paint. Do you realize there are over 1,000 versions of the color called “off white?” Each tone has tiny amounts of other colors giving just a hint of variation. Much of what you see also depends on the lighting and the reflection of surrounding colors. In other words, beware if someone sends you to pick up a quart of off white paint. It is a quagmire.

Those of us who live on farms or ranches are fortunate to have points of reference that give a clear idea of colors; when someone says barn red, a specific color — and even the vision of a red barn — flashes through the mind. 4-H green is specific. The same goes for John Deere green or yellow. Of course, unless you are buying paint at a John Deere dealer the labeled paint chips will be called something different.

Think of more colors that we say which can immediately bring a specific color to mind. In the red realm you can visualize poppy red, watermelon red, rust red, Farmall red or cherry red. How about Ford tractor gray? Yellow brings to mind sunflower yellow and could include daffodil yellow, calf-scours yellow, fresh-churned butter yellow and mature wheat golden yellow.

Blue could mean FFA jacket blue, blue skies, baby blue, Infantry blue or Paul Newman’s eyes blue. Each of these words induce the mind to see the hue.

Say green grass or guacamole green or green wheat and you perceive it. The same goes for Carhart brown or UPS brown. Each color evokes a recollection of a memory, a glimpse of the color in the mind’s eye.

When you get to livestock it is more definite. Black Angus is obvious and there are Red Angus, which are solid red cattle. The cross of Herefords and black Angus yield the black white-faced cattle. These cattle, known as black baldies, are not bald at all but are black cattle that have a face that is mostly white. Herefords are red with white faces. Scotch Highlanders are solid red — but a lighter hue than Herford red — and are fairly longhaired so they are described as shaggy. If you live in cattle country it is wise to become aware of different breeds, for coffee klatch talk, if nothing else.

Many horse colors elude me. A tremendous resource that I appreciate is “The Color of Horses” by Dr. Ben K. Green. Darol Dickinson painted the accompanying images that also give some lessons in horse breeds. Dr. Green goes to great lengths to explain the pigment patterns and how they affect colors. My personal favorite of horses we owned was a 16-hand paint with blue eyes. Finally, we had a horse that I could identify by his color.

Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota where she can be reached through thankafarmer4food@yahoo.com. ❖

Getting the stories straight

While researching and fact checking an article written by my great-grandmother, I came to have a deeper respect for those who work with genealogy. They have to recognize when names are spelled differently, such as Van Nice and Van Nuys, that it is actually the same family. In our lineage the name Tilston became Tilottson before it was the currently used spelling of Tillotson. I haven’t had to do this tracing but family members have done it and passed on the records. When I read through the findings, I can’t help but wonder how the writers of our family tree could discern the credibility of this lineage. I imagine cross checking is the byword of such studies, yet could you ever be sure of your conclusions?

Genealogists quickly learn that census records are not infallible, sometimes due to mistakes by the enumerator. Other times because of the difficulty of reading the enumerator’s handwriting when everything was handwritten.

I found a great aunt who was listed as 8 years old in the 1880 census, though a copy of her birth certificate shows she wasn’t born until 1882. Considering that the 1880 census started on June 1, 1880, and just 30 days was allowed for completion in rural areas and two weeks for communities with over 10,000 people, it’s no wonder that mistakes happened. For the most part the census lists so much that is correct and certainly gives leads — yet brings up questions.

In our family, we know that my great-grandparents emigrated here from Story County, Iowa, in 1882. The confusion comes because the 1880 census lists them in a county in Nebraska, not in Iowa. The entry threw me off but I’ve been told people were counted where they were on the day each household was counted. From that tidbit, it is apparent that the great-grandparents were visiting in Nebraska on the census day.

It is not only surnames that are confusing. We have duplicate names throughout the family tree, and it is likely you do too. Recently I received an email from a distant cousin regarding genealogy. I happen to have the paperwork that was passed down to me, yet I am not the family genealogist. It is when these questions about specific names come up that the duplicate names bewilder me.

My great-grandfather was Ira. One of his son’s was Ira Claude and he was known as Claude. The next generation of cousins also had a Claude. To give the correct information out, one needs to know which generation is being examined. With three men named Charles, two Ferns, three Graces and two women named Gladys, among other duplicate names, attention to detail is necessary.

Although I enjoy researching local history, I don’t think I would have the patience for researching genealogy. It would be fun to add individual photos to the record of family members that is already prepared. That would be a good wintertime project. ❖

Modern conveniences meet pioneer women

Today I washed clothes, baked cookies from scratch, started a batch of yeast rolls from scratch, boiled a chicken so we can have scratch-made chicken and noodles tomorrow, made the noodles and cooked lunch for six, as I do most every weekday in summer. I felt accomplished. Then I thought about it and contrasted it to the lives of the pioneer women.

I have a rural water system flowing into my home and a water heater; she had to haul water from the creek or a well then heat it on her wood range or, if she was lucky in summer, on a fire built outside her home. I buy my clothes soap at the store; she had to make hers well in advance of needing it. The process was lengthy. She had to take wood ashes and soak them in water; the runoff water contained the lye. Tallow or fat from a butchered beef was added to the lye water in a big kettle and it was boiled together. After it thickened the liquid soap was poured into objects that would give it shape as it cooled and became solid. After it was solidified it was removed from the molds, cut into usable sized pieces and given time to further harden.

I used two different electric mixers, a rice cooker, a microwave, an electric skillet and a gas stove as I worked in my air-conditioned house. She may have used a hand crank beater or a spoon to mix her recipes. She would have been fortunate to own more than four cooking utensils and a non-temperamental wood range. It’s a sure bet her air conditioning depended on the breeze through her open windows — if she even had windows. Sometimes all they had was oilpaper over the windows to keep the flies to a minimum.

I finished the dishes in a flurry by loading the dirty ones into the dishwasher. She had to haul more water and heat it on the stove before she could wash her dishes.

Their work output was astounding. They fixed a hearty breakfast, baked all the bread for the family at least weekly and made pies if they were lucky enough to have fruit growing nearby and could beat the birds to the picking.

Though it was the accepted way of life and simply the way things were once they got to their homesteads, I truly wonder what those who lived in a proper house in a city or town before moving into a soddie with a dirt floor, thought about their way of life.

How many of my generation would have had the fortitude to live like the pioneer women? I imagine we all would have because we currently do whatever is necessary and use whatever tools are available. That was also their attitude at the time. Perhaps in another generation or two, women will look back at how we live now and think we had a difficult life but it’s pretty cushy to me.

Peggy writes from the family farm in southwestern South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is always out through peggy@peggysanders.com. ❖

Rural matters

If you put 100 people in a room, chances are 80 of them had grandparents who were farmers or ranchers and maybe 30 of their parents were. (These are my “statistics” so accuracy is not guaranteed.) There would be a slim chance that even one of these 100 people is a farmer or rancher now. Each farmer raises enough to feed 166 other people annually with just 1 percent of Americans in production agriculture. Yet, there is a renewed sense of desire to get back to the land. Many people who have never set foot on a farm or ranch are getting the idea of an idyllic, easy life. Heck, on a ranch all you have to do is get up, saddle your horse, and ride. They watch too many movies.

Notice that many of the present generation, the ones farthest removed from the farms and ranches now are interested in agriculture. They are willing to lease instead of buy land, work a job or two in town, share crop, or whatever it takes to get started. Yes, they have fond memories of visiting the grandparents’ farms, but it is much more than that. This generation has realized that rural, and all that it entails, matters.

Only a country person can fully appreciate a homemade meal; not just home-cooked, but home raised. It can take at least 18 months to get that meal on the table, if you count the beef. A full summer is needed for the preparation of the sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelon that top off the meal. Maybe it’s the dirt under the fingernails that adds flavor, or the sweat from the brow; either way you look at it, anything you work for means more.

I have been corresponding with a city gal who is soon going to marry a dairy farmer. She is just beginning to get an idea of the complexities of farming. The more she learns the more questions she has for me, a recovering dairy farmer, turned farm wife. She has realized there are no eight-hour workdays on a farm and that farmers and ranchers have to be versatile. They have to be plumbers, electricians, mechanics, welders, and truck drivers. In addition, they are accountants, purchasing agents, scientists, animal specialists, and psychologists. The recitation could go on for several paragraphs. At least the constant changes keep things from getting boring. Couple the variations of the job with the fluctuations of the weather to which agriculture is so closely tied, and you have weekly, if not daily, puzzles.

This gal has seen that like any self-employed person, ranchers and farmers have to be self-starters. Some folks who punch a time clock frequently comment about how nice it must be to be self-employed, to take days off whenever the whim strikes. The truth is most self-employed people work longer and harder at their jobs than the general population, a truth my new friend is appreciating more and more.

Peggy writes at the family ranch when she is not going for parts, holding wrenches, or other versatile farmwife jobs. Comments can be directed to thankafarmer4food@yahoo.com. ❖

Letting kids go

Priorities change with the times, that’s a given. Have you reviewed your priorities lately? After you are gone, do you hope people remember you for the time you spent with your family or how immaculate you kept your house?

Back when I had nothing much else to do, I was an excellent housekeeper, cleaning the entire house twice a week. After our babies came along, I concentrated more on clean floors than dusting the tops of shelves; it wasn’t fun for them to crawl on a dirt-speckled floor and no one could see the shelf tops. The year that got me off track as far as cleaning went was a benchmark year. That was when one son got out of kindergarten at 11 a.m., I had to drive to the school to get him, and when he got home, he was ready for dinner. At noon my husband (and any seed corn dealers, equipment salesmen or bankers that had shown up about eating time) came in for dinner. Once I got the second set of meal remnants cleaned up and a load of laundry done, it was time to fetch the other son from school around 2 p.m. Natually, he needed food. Then it was off to the field to give a snack and coffee to my husband in the field. That allowed for a little family time when the older son could tell him about his school day and we could find out what chores or errands the rest of the day held for us.

None of this was earth-shaking work, just time-consuming yet totally necessary, and it allowed for little else. Day by day my housework took a hit. Instead of twice a week, Saturdays were relegated to cleaning day. Once the kids got older and Saturdays became full of school activities, 4-H, cattlework, farming and ranching, even my Saturday cleaning was sporadic.

When I was a grandma with toddlers around, I went back to a priority of squeaky clean floors. “My house is dirty enough to be happy and clean enough to be healthy,” is one way I could put it. We enjoy our home and we use it. Cleaning floors is a necessity, dusting is not. After all, what is dust but a protective coating for furniture?

At this time of year when mamas are sending their ‘babies’ off to college or vocational school for the first time, the memories flood along with the tears. The first steps, first day of kindergarten, middle school and high school pass through a mama’s mind in a review of milestones. As mamas look back, the reflections likely will mirror this.

The author is unknown, and I’ve taken a liberty with the poem, this pretty much sums up a good mama’s philosophy:

Babies Don’t Keep

Cleaning and scrubbing

Can wait till tomorrow,

For babies grow up

We’ve learned to our joy.

So quiet down cobwebs,

Dust go to sleep,

I’m rocking my grand-girl,

Such babies don’t keep. ❖

Priorities and busyness

Are you too busy? I know, I know, there are the kids, the job, the house, the yard, the spouse, the grandchildren, the church, the organizations, a tiny bit of free time, and sleep. So where do your friends and extended families fit in? Or do they? Here is a litmus test to help you sort out your priorities and hopefully open your eyes. If one of these friends or extended family members died, would you have time to go to the funeral?

If the answer is yes, then you may need to re-evaluate your busyness. Decide to have the frame of mind that you would rather spend some time with a living person than a box containing a dead body — and carry through to set a time to get together.

How do we get so busy? Is it the dollar signs in our eyes? Is it the illusion that if we work ourselves to the ground when we are younger, then we will magically have all this extra time when we retire? It seems most retired people fall into one of two categories; they are either busier than ever when they retire, or they die. I just hope that those retired folks who are so busy are doing things they want to do and seeing people they want to see, and are not just putting them off, like they did when they were younger and working for a living.

I like the story of a Mexican fisherman who had a small boat, fished enough to feed his family and sell enough to meet their needs, had a daily siesta, spent a lot of time with his family and enjoyed his life. In the evenings, he went into the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. He led a full life.

One day an American business man came along and asked him why he didn’t fish for more hours in a day, sell more fish and buy a bigger boat, so he could go farther out to sea. Then he could catch more fish, buy more boats and after 20 or so years, he could have an entire fleet of boats. The businessman said then when the fisherman got to be retirement age, he could sell his big boats, buy a small one, fish just to feed his family, take siestas, spend time with his grandchildren and enjoy life. I don’t know what the Mexican replied, but it may have been Spanish for “Duh!”

Though it may sound simplistic, it might make you think about what you are accomplishing each day. Is your goal to see how much you can accumulate or is it to be available to your family? Sometimes it’s one or the other, though in production agriculture the family and the jobs are often intertwined, which is the best of both worlds. Children learn and you teach by doing farm or ranch projects and most of all, you are together.

The moral of the story is to know where you’re going in life… you may already be there! ❖

Are you thankful?

When I was 3, we lived in a big, old two-story house. I remember little from living there but I’ve been told we had running water. That is, there was a well and a windmill in the yard. There was a stock tank in the attic. Windmill water was piped into the stock tank and through gravity flow, we had running water. How’s that for ingenuity? I am thankful to live in a house with not only running water, but a choice of hot and cold at my fingertips.

The next house we lived in when I was 4 and 5 years old, had a well and a pump, but did not have an indoor bathroom. The bathtub was a galvanized people-sized tub that was filled when needed. An outhouse served as our toilet and there was a firm dirt path that led to it. I remember one time when I was 4, I had to spend the day at a neighbor’s house. The neighbors had indoor plumbing; I wasn’t familiar with the dos and don’ts so I was putting gobs of toilet paper into the toilet. Lots of TP! The woman of the house spanked me for doing it. Now our house has two bathrooms. I am thankful to live in a house with indoor plumbing and a bathtub in one bathroom and a shower in the other.

At that same house we had an up-to-date electric wringer clothes washer. (My Gram had one that had a kerosene-run motor so it had to be used outside, due to fumes.) While I was “helping” Mom wring out clothes one time, I didn’t let go of the garment as I started it through the wringer. My arm went right in, up to the elbow. Fortunately, Mom was at the ready and she shut off the machine and turned the lever to release the rollers which spread them apart. My arm slid right out and there was no damage. It was a valuable lesson about working around any sort of machinery. Now I have an automatic washing machine with no wringer, instead the machine whirls fast to rid the clothing of excess water. I am thankful I have the modern convenience of the washer and dryer.

Until I was 12, we celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve at my Grandma Wyatt’s. I recall the camaraderie of Gram and her daughters-in-law as they washed dishes in Gram’s kitchen on Christmas Eve. When they were finished and the kitchen was put ‘back to rights,’ as Gram always said, we got to open our gifts. These days, I have three grands and one son here for lunch on days my daughter-in-law works in town and the kids don’t have school. This year their “break” started in March. By the time I cook for six people, and add my cooking vessels together, there are a lot of dishes to wash. I am thankful I have an automatic dishwasher for the ease of labor and the cleanliness of the dishes.

What are you thankful for today? ❖

Legend vs. fact

In a film clip from the movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” newspaper reporter Maxwell Scott said to Ransom Stoddard, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” (The clip can be found on YouTube.)

However, when you are working with history, the facts take precedence. It doesn’t matter what your parents, your teachers or professors told you, it is imperative to research for yourself. In the age of the Internet it’s easy to locate credible sources and that is what historians do, using primary sources whenever possible. A roll call vote of U.S. Senators qualifies as primary as it’s a matter of legal record.

In an earlier column, I mentioned the fact that Democrats had one main goal — reestablishing white supremacy. Why else would they create the Ku Klux Klax and be adamantly opposed to integration? A reader responded, “Almost all the Southern Democratic members of Congress switched parties and became Republicans.” In this case the legend is that a great many Republicans and Democrats switched parties after the Civil Rights Vote in 1965. This is a myth that Democrats like to promulgate. It is simply not true.

I did my due diligence and found the roll call vote tally of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 on May 26, 1965. The interesting facts that showed up with this information from both the National Archives and Bioguideretrocongress.gov belies what the reader said. In the latter post is a list of “statistically notable votes,” which is explained by the site as “the votes that are most surprising, or at least predictable, given how other members of each party voted.”

Bioguide lists 20 of those notable voters. With a bit of time I found that one U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina, was elected as a Democrat in 1956 and in September 1964, he switched to the Republican Party and remained in that party until he was out of Congress in 2003. One Republican, John Tower, Texas, voted against the Voting Rights Act. The other 18 notable voters were Democrats when they voted against that act and remained Democrats until they were out of Congress. Names readers might recognize in this group are: James Fulbright, Arkansas, Richard Russell, Georgia, Herman Talmadge, Georgia, Russell Long, Louisiana, Sam Ervin, North Carolina and Harry Byrd, Virginia.

Further, the reader wrote, “…many Republicans in the northeast switched parties and became Democrats.” Again, back to the facts, which were located on Congress.gov and Gov.Track.us. Using the list of Senators from the northeast who voted on the act, including the states of Connecticutt, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont and New York, not one of them changed parties after that vote. Whether Democrat or Republican, every one of them retained their party affiliation and many of them served in Congress 20 to 30 or more years.

Again, this is all a matter of historical record; it’s not opinion nor politics. As Ronald Reagan said when signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Gorbachev, “Trust but verify.” ❖

Bons mots

Collecting good words, as well as fun and meaningful phrases, is a typical activity of a writer. Many of these go out to particular friends who will recognize themselves and their situations. When these are read, then re-read, slowly and individually, may they encourage readers and give them pause to think about the messages. Head nods and smiles are encouraged.

• Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

• Adult women who wear leggings — shouldn’t. Things that tell the truth: Small children and leggings.

• You never know when it might be your last hug

• Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know. You can’t know everything.

• Be who you needed when you were younger.

• “Paris is always a good idea,” Audrey Hepburn.

• If you know you can do better… do better.

• Pay off your debts, smallest to largest; it’s all about momentum, not math.

• Decide what kind of life you want… then say no to anything that isn’t that.

• Do something for yourself today.

• Come sit on the porch with me. The drinks are cold and the friendship’s free.

• Someone said, “I don’t know how you do it.” I replied, “I wasn’t given a choice.”

• The hardest part of healing after you’ve lost someone is to recover the “you” that went away with them.

• Hospitality: Treating someone like they belong, before they belong, until they belong.

• Don’t measure your progress using someone else’s ruler.

• You can start over each morning.

• Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in coveralls and looks like work.

• You are enough.

• “A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation,” James Freeman Clarke

• If you really want to do something, you will find a way. If you don’t, you will find an excuse.

• It takes a long time to grow friends.

• It’s better to get laugh wrinkles than worry warts.

• Success is measured not by what we start but by what we finish.

• A good laugh is sunshine in a house.

• Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

• Everyone smiles in the same language.

• Leadership is action, not position.

• “Don’t you have to watch what you say? No, I just watch what I think,” Brother Dave.

• Courtesy is contagious! Start an epidemic.

• It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice.

• There’s no right way to do the wrong thing.

• The smallest good deed is better than the largest good intention.

• Patience! In time, grass becomes milk.

• “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. Marines don’t have that problem,” Ronald Reagan.

• Success is getting what you want; happiness is wanting what you get.

• The first five days after the weekend are the hardest. ❖