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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Paul's Story....Addendum-Dan

Recently I asked Paul about the name of the family Shetland pony. Paul's memories produced this account. Family history is always filled with snippets of life - and this is one.......

The Story

Paul, a strapping boy of nine, listened to his Dad’s side of the conversation on the phone. He only caught some of the words and the excitement in his Dad’s voice. Horse. Mean. Booger. This weekend. Trailer.

Paul followed his Dad as he went to find Dan, his older brother, who was a grown-up eleven years old.

“Do you want to go with me this weekend to get a Shetland pony from Uncle Tommy?” his Dad asked.

Dan, the thinking brother, “Yes, I will go! When do we leave?”

“I’m thinking Saturday morning early, and then load up Booger and drive back.”

Paul’s mind reeled. It is Thursday….a Shetland pony….then he couldn’t hold back any more. “Dad, can I go with you to get the pony?”

His Dad grinned and lazily replied, “I don’t know whether you are old enough.”

Paul could see his chances slipping away….he stood tall, ”I’m almost as old as Dan!”

“But you would fall asleep just when I need you.”

“No, I wouldn’t, I promise I will stay awake.”

Finally Dad relented and softly said, “Well, if you can stay awake, I will take you.”

Paul, with same temperament as his Dad, softly spoken and easy going, was excited. A horse! A Shetland pony horse…a four footed creature that he could ride like the wind right on the Fort Dodge Road farm. He was so excited.

Paul returned to his joy, climbed the ladder and tried flying again. Dan’s fascination with cryptonite and Superman had exploded in Paul’s mind. Dan even had a cape his Mom made, s

o that when he jumped from a high place, the cape flowed behind him, just liked Superman’s cape. He could see himself giving the horse a lump of sugar, and the horse would be so tame that he would obey every command. He would ride the horse bareback.

The day began before daylight when his Dad roused him from his dreams of the horse, and awakened Dan, so they could begin their western odyssey. They arrived after a long drive to a ranch. And there Dan and Paul spied this shorter-than-a-horse horse! Black as the night.

“This here horse’s name is Booger. He'she a mean ‘un,” Uncle Tommy ‘s introduction sounded full of danger. Up to that point Paul had thought boogers resided in the nostril – and here was a four-legged Booger. He wondered why that poor pony had to live with that kind of name,not like Fury, Trigger or Silver.

“Bought this horse at an auction, bid low, and no one wanted it, so I got it for $10, because Booger is a mean ‘un,” Uncle Tommy explained. “Why he is called Booger is because he starts fights with other horses and ‘boogers’ them up, you know. Are you sure you want ‘im?”

Paul held his breath, finally his Dad answered, “We’ll take ‘im.”

On the way home insistent dreams of riding the horse persisted and he wanted to close his eyes and dream on. Paul looked at his brother who took the acquisition of the pony in stride. He was reading a book. Paul continued to day dream about Booger. His dreams were interrupted by a voice that collided with the hypnotic movement of the car and the pleasant dreams of Booger! “Are you staying awake like you promised?”

Paul jolted fully awake by indignant anger. He always kept his word, although he wanted nothing more than to retreat in slumber. The anger kept him awake the rest of the way home. He often turned and checked Booger who seemed to stare at him with baleful eyes. Paul thought,I promise I will take care of you.

When they arrived home after the lengthy ride, Paul’s eyes were burning with the strain of trying to keep the Sand Man from infiltrating before bedtime.

Dad led the horse from the trailer tied him with a rope near the garage/barn. Dan was designated to bring him water, since he is the oldest.

During the first night, since there was no fence, Booger was tied securely with a rope around his neck. Paul checked on him before he went to bed and early the next morning. Booger was not 'settled', but paced back and forth, the length of the rope. When Dad checked the next morning Booger, his neck had a rope burn that was raw. He put some ointment on it.

This ‘honor’ became difficult when Dan had to break the ice to provide water for Booger before he caught the bus to school. Paul was glad he wasn’t oldest. After school each day he learned things about Booger. Booger was a mean ‘un. He lived up to his name.

Dad bought 90 bales of hay that made a great hay mountain, and provided hay for Booger. Everyone knows a horse needs hay. It also made a great place to practice flying. Soon the 90 bales were whittled down to about 60 bales with loose strands of hay at the bottom. Paul fell off the top while he, Tim and Anna were playing. Paul fell off the stack of hay and landed on his back and a bale landed on him. He was OK, except for the asthma attack due to allergies to hay.

Anna wanted to ride on Booger, so Paul helped her get settled on Booger’s back. Then Booger, true to his name, walked away from everyone. Anna was frightened that she would have to ride Booger into the sunset and beyond. Dad came to her rescue and severely chastened Booger. Later, when Anna stood too close to the fence Booger managed to step on her foot. All the boys learned to step lively when they stood around Booger.

Paul remembers the trip to the Farm and Ranch store in Wright, Kansas. The feed purchased for Booger looked like chicken feed. Paul sniffed it., “I think it probably it tastes like it smells,” Paul said as he wrinkled his nose. He never ate any. He was glad Booger seemed to like it.

One day after school, Paul admonished Booger, “Other horses let their owners ride them up a mountain.” Booger just had one look, and he looked at Paul balefully and nickered. Paul took that as an agreement. He slipped the bit into Booger’s mouth, and settled the bridle and mounted Booger.

Dad warned his children about riding too far back on Booger That would make him buck. Of course, Paul, the cautious risk-taker tried and tried to get Booger to buck. But Booger just stood there. Riding double or just sit on his back was great. One day Paul jumped up on him and Booger started bucking like a wild bronc. A few minutes later Paul was sitting in the dirt, watching Booger trot away. “Wow – so that is how it feels to get bucked off a horse! Boy, that was fun!”

Paul loved to read stories of western heroes and they said “Giddap!” So Paul said “Giddap!” When Booger swung his head and stared at Paul, Paul decided that wasn’t the right word. His brother and sister, Tim and Anna were hanging in the tree watching the non-progress of the ride up the hill. Paul remembered the one story when Indians bit the ears of their ponies when they didn’t behave. Paul laid down on the back of Booger and bit his ear. It didn’t taste good and Booger was still stubborn and lazy.

Finally Paul got off and pulled Booger up the hill. Then Booger would let Paul ride down the hill. A sled would have been easier to pull up the hill. Booger’s rule was, “I let you ride only on level ground or down hill.” It took awhile and a lot of effort to learn Booger’s rule.

When did Booger leave? When did Dan, Paul, Tim and Anna lose their companion, Booger? Dad thinks Booger lost his attraction as Brownie Combs (the dog) and Chocolate, Scratchy, and other cats, and we mustn’t forget the chickens who were ruled by Tiger, the Rooster.

Yet, whenever Paul sees a horse on TV, he remembers how it felt to catch Booger, slide the bit into his mouth and buckle the bridle around his neck and how he smelled. It makes him feel young at heart.

Addendum - Verbatim from Dan!!! September 1, 2010

We got up really, really early one morning to head out to Colorado to get a horse. A real horse! Like Flicka or... yeah, like Flicka! It was still dark out when we left. We drove a really long way. I don't remember much about the drive. But then, I didn't promise to stay awake during the whole thing either.

I remember we got to Colorado. I was surprised that all of Colorado was a giant field full of farmers and combines and tractors. It must have been Fall. We stopped in the middle of one field and my dad talked to some of the guys before heading up to the house to get... the horse!

And when we got there. I gaped at this, well, I guess it was a horse. It was a Shetland Pony. No! Horses are tall and sleek and had shiny manes which rippled in the breeze. Sigh. One out of three was a start. Maybe he'd grow.

At home we tried to ride him. But as Paul so aptly remembers, Booger would never let more than one ride at a time. And only downhill. If you mounted him near the fence or by the trees, he'd try to rub you off by going as close to the branches as he could. If you kicked him in the sides and said, "Giddyup!" he would turn around and try to nip at your feet and knees. It just wasn't as much fun as on Sky King.

Finally came the inevitable "family meeting." Should we keep the horse or not. He was becoming expensive and no one was riding him - like anyone could! Everyone was so down on poor ol' Booger. But *I* knew what "get rid of" meant for this broken down old horse, er... pony. It was the glue factory for him! Or worse! Hmmm, what's worse than the glue factory? So I made an impassioned plea to stave off the inevitable. Let's keep him! I'll take care of him! And so Dad agreed that we could keep him but *I* would take care of him.

So began my Winter of discontent. It was cold that year. Very cold. Booger was totally inept at breaking the ice in his watering bin. And the water had to be hauled from the house since a hose would freeze up. Water is heavy. It was a long way from the little shed where we kept the good smelling horse food pellets to where Booger normally ate, by the fence out back. By Spring, or maybe it didn't take that long, I was realized that some of my priorities had to be rethought and assented to Booger's removal to... well, I'd rather not think about it.

On the plus side, that little old shed still held the saddle my Dad rode on the farm. It was hitched on a wooden saw horse that didn't bite. Didn't try to rub you off on the tree branches. But wouldn't take you for a full gallop down the hill to the feed trough except in your imagination.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bearing Fruit...

Kneeling in the rich red dirt, I picked up another green onion to plant. Being a teen, I wondered why Mother made me interrupt my busy life to plant onions. The pile of onions seemed mountainous to my eyes and the task interminable. The young neighbor girl came to ask what I was doing. I chaffed under her questions. After a time she commented, "You just keep on, keepin' on."

I pondered those words as I placed one onion after another into its place. At first, the words rankled, but then they took on a life of their own. That is what life is - 'keep on, keepin' on'. The mundane tasks in life continue and they represent a monument to perseverance and a pathway to humility and servant hood.

When gardening time this year approached, my dear husband didn't have the energy to work outside. I suggested that we plant tomatoes that grow upside down. We bought two and hung them on the back porch. I pictured the luscious summer fruit hanging in clusters from the healthy green vines. I pictured myself biting into a salad or a sandwich that contained fresh tomatoes. All from the back porch.

The tomato plants grew... with leggy and anemic leaves. Ed finally devised a way to hang them in the back yard. Finally after two months of growth the overly-watched tomato plants began blooming. Excited, we watched for little green tomatoes to 'set-on'.

We have rationalized the lack of bearing tomatoes just as Elijah rationalized why Baal did not answer the prophets - "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." (I Kings 18:27) We thought that the tomato plants appeared to be shy, disoriented because they were upside down and needed counseling or a plant psychiatrist.

Now we dream of picking fresh tomatoes on the back porch as the snow flies. Dreams and visions are forever, whether reality or not.

I thought of the many seasons of gardens that were planted in my family from great grandparents on, I remembered the words the neighbor girl said, "Keep on keepin' on." The 7 foot sunflowers Dad raised one year in Clinton, the sugar cane to beat the sugar rationing during WW II that later fermented and caused an explosion in the basement, the early lettuce from our garden to the prized peaches and apples. Why does growing intrigue us so? Giving us a sense of fulfillment and joy.

We are the produce of God's Garden. Patiently He teaches, He plants the seed, He waters and disciplines us for the Final Harvest. How He rejoices to see us growing into strong plants who praise Him. How He works to protect us from evil in the form of disease and the enemies of pure spiritual growth. He prunes us to stimulate more growth. He cuts out the diseased parts always in love and mercy. We ask why we must endure. We wonder why we must "keep on keepin' on".

Do we try to grow upside down, defying God's gravity? Do we bloom and then refuse to bear fruit?

When the growing season is over and the harvest is gathered in, God provides rest for His Children. When the cold wind and the snows blow around me each winter, I know God is still there protecting His Garden of Saints. And I know the truth -- in 'keepin' on' in faith and trust -- I am safe in His Garden of Saints. Not because of what I am, but because of Who He is!

May I ever praise you,

May I ever glory

Not for what I do

But what you do in me.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Can Only Imagine....

Last Friday I streaked across Oklahoma toward Corn. Following a labyrinth of highways for almost 400 miles, through Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Memories followed me as I headed to my cousin's house. The hills, with just a few trees, stretched my eyes as I gazed toward the horizon in the distance. Clouds dotted the skies playing peek-a-boo with the sun. A family reunion, first with my cousin, Johanna and her husband, Edwin, The next day, back to Oklahoma City for a visit with more cousins, 2nd cousins and 3rd cousins. What would it be like? How have my cousins changed? Surely, I haven't changed.

What did my Grosmom Emilie Siemens think as she rode a wagon from Inman, Kansas, to Corn. The horses slowly plodded on as she thought about her new life in a new place. Did she remember coming from Russia to America? Did she wonder how she could live in such a barren place? The one thing I remember about Grosmom is her curiosity about everything about her. I can see her black eyes darting back and forth over the terrain. I know she was filled with hope and dreams for the future. Her handsome husband was gifted with words - able to 'call' a sale or preach the Word of God with proficiency. With his blue eyes, he beheld his petite Emilie and her laughing black eyes with joy for he loved her. They did manage with less and yet raised four sons and one daughter that also were filled with the joy of living and faith in God. Family - a lovely word!

The last six miles south of Corn seemed to take forever. I saw wheat fields and wondered as snippets of
memory careened through my mind. Remembering the tornado that dislodged Uncle John and Aunt Liz's house from its foundations. I remembered staying with Grosmom Siemens in Corn when I was very young. I learned to say Hi-Hoopa to get a molasses cookie from the tin slide lid on the drawer in the kitchen. I remembered Grosmom picking sassfras from her driveway to make tea. The taste of cold watermelon and Rollkocka slipped through my mind. Dad always waited until watermelon was 2 Cents a pound before he would buy any. On one visit to Grosmom Siemens, Johanna and Jim, my brother, disappeared. They went on a fishing trip in the creek west of Corn armed with a 'hairpin' hook and string. Florence, at 15, took us for a ride toward Corn. I noticed she closed her eyes as she drove when a car speeded toward us. When my brothers, Jim and Gene, were old enough they worked in the wheat fields for Uncle John.

I don't remember when the 5 cent, 12 inch & 1 inch diameter peppermint sticks stopped, but we grandchildren always looked forward to the feast of pepperminted sugar at Christmas time from Grosmom. Uncle Jake and Aunt Marie moved to Fairview - Uncle Dick cut hair, farmed and raised horses; Uncle Johnny and Aunt Matilda became city folks (maybe because Uncle Johnny didn't like his ride on the 'slop barrel' on the way to feed the pigs); my Dad, Herman and Anna Daisy, after teaching school in Hooker, OK, moved to Clinton to work in the post office; Aunt Liz and Uncle John Reimer left Clinton to live in Corn. The large white church with interminable steps leading to the entrances of the Mennonite Church, is no more. In its place is a round brick building to house worshippers.

On Saturday, the reunion began at 11 am, in Oklahoma City. Soon the room was filled with about 100 of the Siemens family. Five first cousins - four were unable to attend. Then the second cousins numbered eleven. Third cousins abounded.

As the reunion progressed, I could only imagine what Jacob V and Emilie Brunn Siemens would think of their family now. Are we following their example of faithfulness to Jesus Christ even as Jacob and Emilie were? Grosmom, who was astonished at a simple hand egg beater...what would she think of the swiftness of communication, the speed of travel, the ease of our lives or the convenience of full grocery store shelves. So many changes.

Yet, there is one constant - our faith in Jesus Christ. July 22, 2008, I wrote: A family reunion here on earth is filled with memories built on unconditional love - an oasis of laughter, tears, prayer and songs of praise to our Father. Laughter of children, a welcome of each new member through weddings and their new babies enrich the family as they are nurtured. Recipes are handed down through the generations. There is a sense of belonging. And we remember the lives of great-great grandparents back through the generations with an examination of selves and the paths we choose today. No matter how we remember the past, live in the today, the future is what intrigues us and motivates us to continue on. The future belongs to our Lord.

And so it is in God's Family. Because of Jesus and his sacrifice, we can know His love here on earth. We remember what God has done for each of us as we continue on, even as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego remembered the steadfastness of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David, and were strengthened in their resolve to follow the God.

The Great Reunion is coming when Jesus comes again. The Family of God will be brought together - in the Oasis of Unconditional Love of our Lord and Master. The Family of God - what a beautiful phrase of the promise of joy.

I can only imagine

What my eyes will see

When your face

Is before me

I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel

Will I dance for you, Jesus, or in honor of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine

I Can Only Imagine


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Who Am I?

Who am I? The age-old question that we all ask in many stages of our lives. From the time we are small, we are reflected in our mother's eyes and in our father's eyes. As we grow older, we add to the question...Who are we in the 'school world'? Are we popular? I dealt with that question when I was about 12. Obviously I wasn't IN the group. I wondered why, so I asked. The answer? "Look at your fingernail, they are dirty!" I looked and they looked normal. What did fingernails have to do with being popular?

Are we an A student, or a failing student? A professor of a graduate course, anointed me as a 'B' student. Just because I didn't deal well with statistics? Then in the work world, we face the same question. Will we be 5-digit 6-digit or more, earner?

Does who we are becomes a matter of who we associate with? Live with or work with?

Yesterday, waiting in a dentist's office, I read about the life of Solomon Leppke Loewen. I wondered if my Great Uncle Solomon ever pondered who he was when he was a small boy. His fervor for life was extraordinary - what caused him to set his rudder in life early and pursue life straight on. Even to learning how to run a computer at the age of 90 years?

Solomon Leppke Loewen was born December 23, 1090 on a farm near Hillsboro, Kansas, to Jacob and Justina Leppke Loewen. The youngest of fourteen children. His education began in a one-room school, graduating from Tabor College in 1923 with graduate work in the University of Kansas and University of Minnesota completing a master's degree in 1928. He taught biology in the University of Minnesota, Sterling College and Tabor College for over 50 years. He received an honorary doctor of science degree in 1961 from Sterling college. Solomon became a Christian in 1916, and taught Sunday School classes for many years and sang in the church choir. He married Katherine Schellenberg June 8, 1922. They had four children. He enjoyed working on genealogy and history records. Solomon and Katherine were separated in her death in 1991. Solomon wanted to live to be 100, but died in 1993, suffering a severe accident, at the age of 97.

Solomon Loewen traveled to Central America, South America, Paraguay, visiting the Leper Station, and a trip with a Malaria team. Solomon traveled to Russia and Czechoslovakia, and in Canada. No matter where he went, he studied bugs. He has several chapters concerning Teratology, observations in Nature, behavior of Farmyard Animal.

The Introduction is..."Who Are We?" As I read what he wrote in this chapter, I began to know who my Great Uncle is. He wrote: I will start with my beginning...It was the year the Spanish-American war came to an end. William McKinley was president. It was the year that a card with a picture could be sent for one penny. It was also the year when a kite reached a record height of 12,471 feet. *I wonder whether my stork carried me that high?) The stork dropped me off here at Hillsboro, then flew to Mt. Lake, Minnesota and left my future friend at a farmer's home. That year the US Population stood at 73,949,000. (Solomon hopes they counted him). Campbell's soup became available, eggs were sold for $ .20 a dozen and milk for $ .27 per gallon. There were inventions of farm machinery and the telephone, telegraph, phonograph and automobile were in the making. A new world was dawning. Solomon's parents lived in a two-bedroom house with 13 children, later they added to it, to make more room.
Solomon loved his name, a Bible name. In I Kings 4:33, Solomon spoke of trees, beats, fowl, creeping things and fishes -- a real biologist that Solomon admired and identified with.

Solomon had a curiosity and desire to know not only God' creation, but also His God. Solomon's history contains Solomon's drawing of the wing of a horse fly - Tabanus, the second antenna of a crayfish, an extended Hydra with bud, a Stinger of a Honey Bee (Apis melliferal), a radius break (ulna) of the break in his wrist, fracture in a hip of his wife. He used his artistic ability to draw gifted chalk-talk artist - drawing pictures as he talked.

He was affectionately said to be the man who taught bug-ology.. One account was of Solomon and Katherine 'chugging' up the lane of a nephew's farm in Oklahoma. When Uncle Sol spotted the hill of enormous red ants west of the house, he pounced upon them, scooping some into a jar of 'spirits' for study. His Dad, Jacob Loewen, was also happy about the find - for this would mean excellent liniment.

At the end of life, we wonder who we are, and what has our life meant. In the last words of his account, Solomon quoted Psalm 139:14-17 - I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Then he continues - The greatest truth Scripture gives us is that God became man in his son, Jesus Christ who gave His love to us in His sacrifice on the cross, rose again triumphantly, thereby paying for our sins....It has been our prayer that all of our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren would personally receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. We have thanked for each one when they confessed Jesus as their Savior and were baptized and became a part of the church family and serve God and fellowmen. My prayer is that you may make this decision as early in your life as the Holy Spirit invites you to open your heart to accept Jesus as Savior! Amen! (He wrote this on his computer -- June 21, 1994 - the longest day of the year)

Who am I? It matters only that I am defined by Jesus Christ, and Him only. Who am I? When I hold on to God, and serve others -- then the I am of me - is one with the I AM of God. The question is really - Who is Jesus to me!

And I will continue to sing the utterly beautiful words of the praise hymn:

Who am I that You are mindful of me
That You hear me when I call
Is it true that You are thinking of me
How You love me
it's amazing
I am a friend of God -- I am a friend of God -- I am a friend of God -- He calls me friend

Comments? eacombs@eacombs@cox.netComments?