Friday, December 02, 2016

Just tell me your story and I'll remember you forever

When we moved to Wellington in 1975, several acquaintances informed us that we wouldn't like the area because "those old Germans are clannish" or "these old Germans don't like outsiders."

In the first place, I'm an introvert.  So I have never been the kind of neighbor who greets new folks in the area with cookies or pies.  Cliff is more outgoing, but I'm afraid I've rubbed off on him over the years until he just doesn't think about ways to get better acquainted with people.  

I have attended all the local churches over the years at least once, so I've met a lot of these wonderful people.  There is a strong German presence in this community.  St. Luke's Evangelical Free Church is often referred to as "the old German Church".  Their services were in German, I believe, until World War I convinced them to switch to English so they wouldn't be conducting services in the language of the enemy (I may have this detail wrong, so don't quote me.  If any readers know the exact details, I'd be glad to know).  If they were "hard to get to know", the fault lay with me, because I found most of the population of this community to be kind-hearted and willing to help others.  

One of the most memorable of these is Dorothy Kolkmeyer, who passed away last week.  Here's how I got to know her:  Years ago St. Luke's had a series of small home group meetings to prepare the people for Lent, and a neighbor invited me to attend these with her.  The meetings were held in various homes.  One evening we met at Dorothy and Omer's house.  There was a prepared lesson we talked about, followed by discussions from the group of eight or ten people about what we had learned.  

Except for Diane, the neighbor who invited me, I really knew very little about any of these people.  But in the course of that evening, Dorothy shared some of her life stories with us that made her unforgettable.  

I ran most of these past her son to make sure I had the facts correct.

Story number one:  When Dorothy was a little girl living on Bone Hill Road,  she acquired some chicks with her dad's help.  When the hens began laying eggs, she sold them and saved the money that was left after buying feed.  When she had enough money, she bought herself a red bicycle, which she rode to her weekly (I think) confirmation classes down the hill at Levasy.  It's a simple little story, but she was a such a good story-teller, it made me sit up and pay attention.  That work ethic followed her throughout her life, illustrated by a humorous exchange between her and her husband about the Sunday afternoon naps he enjoyed.  She simply could not understand why a healthy adult would take a nap in broad daylight.  Omer just smiled, and I knew right then I was looking at an example of true love between two people.  

Story number two:  Something in the week's lesson asked people to relate their salvation experiences.  I recall one lady saying, "I took my confirmation very seriously."

Then Dorothy told her story.  When her son was a teenager he and other local young people went to Youth For Christ regularly.  During that time, he approached his parents and asked them, "Have you ever asked Jesus into your heart?"

Of course they had both been through confirmation.  Dorothy's eyes welled up with tears as she related this.  She and Omer then accepted Jesus, although I have a feeling they were in good standing with Jesus already.  But watching her relate this with such feeling touched me deeply.

Story number three:  This one is not as clear in my mind but I believe I have it right.  She and Omer owned the local propane company.  They purchased it 1955 (I wouldn't recall the year, it was in the obituary), but they did so with the help of an uncle who loaned them enough to make the initial purchase.  She said without that help, they would never have been able to make such a big investment.  I mention this because many people would not have shared that detail.  We tend to forget the people who helped us make it through life, don't we?  I could almost hear her saying "thank you" to that relative as she related this. 

Other than what you read here, I had few dealings with Dorothy.  And yet, she made a big impression on me, and she managed to do all of that in about half-an-hour of story-telling.

Some time later, Dorothy called me on the phone.  A granddaughter had died from a congenital condition.  She had searched diligently for some poem that might be fitting for the girl's funeral, but none of the ones she found were really appropriate.  Knowing I wrote poems sometimes, she asked if I could write one for her grandchild.  I have no copy of the poem these days, so I can't share it with my readers; but when I called Dorothy and read the first draft to her, she tearfully thanked me and said it was what she had in mind.  I had Cliff take me by the funeral home, because now I felt connected to this child.  The poem was right there beside the casket, framed.

You see, there are people you can connect with even though you don't socialize or hang out with them.  I loved this lady simply because she chose to share a few stories that gave me a peek into her heart.  And what a heart it was!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We moved the calves

The only bit of decent pasture we have left is a plot behind the house.  Horses are really hard on pasture, and this is the only place they've not been grazing on.  A lot of the grass there is still green, even as we are getting ready to move on into December.

The calves are about five weeks old, maybe six.  It's really funny that these are the first calves I've ever purchased whose arrival date I didn't write down somewhere.  But the first pictures I put on Facebook were taken October 21.  They're growing well, still taking milk replacer and eating probably four or five pounds of calf starter (grain) between them every day.

Yesterday I suggested to Cliff that we move the calves behind our house instead of in the little barn lot in front.  "They are trying to pick at the dry, brown weeds in the little lot," I told him, "and there can't be any food value there.  There is still good grass behind the house."

"How are we going to get two calves through the yard, around the house, to the back?" Cliff asked.  

"Easy.  I'll mix up some milk replacer, and put it in the bottles; they'll follow us anywhere."

He seemed skeptical, but decided to go put electric fence across the plot of grass to keep the calves close to the house at the start and see what happened.  Cliff had put up a small stretch of electric fence in the barn lot when we first got them so they'd be trained and know what it was whenever we turned them out to pasture.   This always works well, although if calves realize they are free from their original pen they sometimes take off running.  In that case, they are liable run right through the electric fence before they even see it the first time; after that, they usually pay attention and stay away from it.  

I half-filled two calf bottles with milk replacer.  Both Cliff and I had a bottle, and everything went as planned.  They each followed us through the gate of the lot, around the house, and through the gate into their new home.  Cliff had already moved the calf hutches back there, side by side.  That area is unprotected from the north wind, so they had to have some place of refuge.

They finished their bottles, saw the feed boxes with grain in it and immediately dived in for a brief bite, and then discovered the green grass at their feet and started grazing.  One of them wandered near the electric fence out of curiosity and got shocked, then went back to grazing.  

I can still look out the north windows and see them nearby, which is almost a necessity these days.  I am just not as vigilant as I once was, and I need every trick in the book to keep me attentive to their needs.  

As I create this entry, Cliff is out doing the rest of the preparation for the calves' winter home.
He's bedding them down with plenty of straw, securing the hutches so they won't blow away, and doing all the other mundane things that are necessary.  From there on, it's my project again.

I made the mistake of telling Cora we were going to eat the calves when they are big.  "You're going to eat my calves?"  (I never told her they were hers, but she figures everything around this place is hers.)

"Yes, when they're big," I answered.  

"I don't want you to do that."

"Oh.  Well, what if we just sell them?"

That, she decided, would be fine with her.  Keep in mind that I did not say we WOULD sell them.  But I will choose my words wisely when the time comes to take them to the butcher shop.