Thursday, September 28, 2017

Happenings around here

Every time I think of doing a blog entry about our humdrum everyday life, it all seems so boring.  At my age, boring is a good thing, because most of the excitement in my life these days is usually caused by news from a doctor... not always good news, either!  But "normal" doesn't always make for interesting stories.  However, I will plunge forward.

Cliff purchased another tractor yesterday, a Ford 5000.  He hasn't brought it home yet, but will bring it home in a couple of days.  He bought it because "it's a good buy!"  I can understand this premise, since half my Amazon purchases are in this house for the selfsame reason, but I knew he didn't have enough money in his tractor fund to buy it.  I thought about resisting the purchase, but then reasoned that since he's starting his cancer-treatment journey, it'll do him good to have something to keep his mind and body busy.  Roger Welsch once wrote a book about how working on his first tractor project helped cure what ailed him:  Old Tractors and the Men Who Love Them.  How could I refuse my husband?  So I transferred enough of our vacation fund to his tractor fund to make up for what he lacked.  

Now, on the Tractor Tales message board I used to frequent, the guys would talk about the perils of a married man buying a tractor he doesn't need; they always got around to mentioning the S.E.T., which stands for Spousal Equity Tax, based on the theory that if a man is buying a tractor, the only way he will have any peace at home is to allow his wife to buy something she's been wanting.

Shortly after I started babysitting our little princess, my hair-shedding dog Iris ran away, scared by thunder, and ended up at the house of some people who loved her and wanted her.  She still lives there... happy, groomed and well-fed.  This was a Godsend to me, because all my attention was now on the human baby, and I had been dreading the day she began to crawl, knowing she'd end up with dog hair on her body and in her mouth.  The situation worked out so well, I never looked back.  I told everybody I didn't know if I'd ever want a dog again.

Our little girl is now four years old, and not a baby.  Once I voiced these words "we don't have a baby any more," I wanted a dog.  If you look around, you might have noticed that most women refer to their dogs as "my baby".  This goes a long way in preventing the population explosion that would occur if women kept having children to satisfy the desire for more cute little babies.  Dogs, unlike my feline friends, love to be somebody's baby, so it's a match made in heaven.

During these years without a dog, I made up my mind if I ever wanted one again, I'd get a Schnauzer:  I've heard nothing but good things about the breed from people who have them, and they don't shed.  The only negative thing I've ever heard is that they are "yappy".... they bark a lot.  Well, in my experience, all smaller-breed dogs are that way.  It used to be funny to me, and I'd actually encourage my dogs to bark out the window at squirrels and such.  Cliff never found it humorous, though.  So if a newly-acquired dog barks, we'll put up with it, but I won't encourage it.  

Schnauzers are expensive, like all purebred dogs.  I watched Craigslist to no avail (except for a scam), then went to Google.  There are breeders in the Kansas City area.  I found one north of the city who has one litter ready in three weeks and one remaining from the previous litter that, at eight weeks old, is ready to go now.  However, that one cost mores, I think because of his size and coloring.  His name is Gabe, although I'm not sure if I would keep that.  I should name either the puppy or Cliff's latest tractor "Vacation", since we're using a portion of the vacation fund to get them.
Cliff has his tractor secured, and I suppose for that reason, he must feel the need to take care of his S.E.T., because he's actually prodding me to go ahead and get this puppy, even though it's another $100 more than I'd pay for one in three weeks.  I don't care about registration, I don't care about color or size, and it seems ridiculous to pay even more money than I'd have to for registration papers I don't care about.  But something tells me I had better strike while the iron is hot.  Here's the puppy at five weeks of age: 

This means I need to find a pet taxi, a collar and leash, and be prepared to give most of my monthly allowance for the next fifteen or so years to a vet for routine maintenance and to a groomer to keep this "baby" handsome.  By the way, Cliff thought we should keep looking until we found a female, saying males are harder to housebreak.  I don't agree.  Most of the terriers that passed through our lives were male dogs, and Chip, the German Shepherd we had when the kids were small, was male.  He was one of the best and smartest dogs I've ever had.  Anyhow, I've only had a problem housebreaking one dog, a female Chihuahua.  I don't expect any major troubles in that regard.  I just take them outside often, and they soon learn.

The deal isn't secured yet, but I'm in touch with the lady and told her I'd probably commit to the purchase as soon as Cliff is awake so I can discuss it with him.    Our little princess will love having a puppy here to play with, since she already has her own dog at home.  My Facebook friends will be happy to see pictures of an energetic puppy playing, instead of pictures of my cats sleeping and eating (that's all they do).  

So it isn't a done deal, but a puppy is definitely in the works.  


Thursday, September 21, 2017

What I've learned about the Instant Pot

On all the Facebook Instant Pot groups, and on all the blogs that extol their virtues, I've seen the same old song when asked, "What's the difference between an Instant Pot and a pressure cooker:  They answer, "The Instant Pot IS a pressure cooker."

Well, I've used stovetop pressure cookers all my life, so I started out thinking I knew how long certain foods would take to cook in my new electric pressure cooker.  I was so wrong.  For instance, with the old model, I soak my beans overnight and then pressure-cook them.  Once the pan gets up to pressure, they cook in 3 minutes.  THREE!!!!  According to the book that came with the Instant Pot, if you soak your beans they will take 25-30 minutes to cook (or you don't have to soak them, just cook them five minutes longer).  Pressure cooker it may be, but it's way slower than the stovetop cooker.  And that doesn't count the time it takes to get up to pressure.  

I cooked a roast in the Instant pot today.  Now here's a strange thing... you will find people in Facebook groups and on blogs saying roasts cook anywhere from thirty to ninety minutes in the Instant Pot.  That's quite a range, so how is a beginner to know?  My first roast was good, but a little chewy.  I don't recall how long I cooked it.  We ate it, although I used the latter part of it in hash.  Today when the chuck roast was unsatisfactory after cooking 45 minutes, I ended up giving it another 45.  That's what it took to make it fork-tender and perfect.  Lesson learned.

I really like the perfect boiled eggs done in the Instant Pot, but I imagine most of you know you can get them perfect with no ugly green ring around the yolk just by not-boiling them.  You bring them to a boil in a pan, turn off the burner, cover them, and wait 20 minutes.  This is probably as quick as you could do it in the Instant Pot, although I will say I have a tendency to leave the stove while waiting for the eggs to start boiling on the stove.  So I usually end up with the green ring I was trying to avoid.  That's really not such a big deal, since I've been eating green-ringed boiled eggs most of my life and lived to tell about it, but I probably will be doing them in the Instant Pot. 

I'm very happy to have the option of poaching eggs in my new pressure cooker.  I don't have any other sort of egg-poaching pan, and I never mastered the method of dropping an egg in swirling water to poach it.  However, the poached egg will take ten minutes or more, total.  So you might want to keep your egg-poaching pan if you have one, because it's probably faster.  

I made some excellent macaroni and cheese in my new cooker, but we're trying to shed pounds, not gain them.  So that isn't something I'll make often.  The thing works great on steel-cut oats too, but takes about the same length of time as my double-boiler, if you count the time it takes to get up to pressure and then get rid of the pressure at the end.

Am I returning this new toy?  No way!  I can't wait to make a cheesecake in it (after we shed the pounds we gained eating my one batch of mac and cheese).  As far as time goes, I have plenty of time most days to cook meals anyhow.  I might still use the old pressure cooker for beans, though, since there is a huge difference in the time involved, 3 minutes versus 30.  And there's less things to wash when you're done.

I never was scared to use a stovetop pressure cooker, having grown up with one.  You have to stay in the house with them and keep the pressure regulated, but once you get it right, usually in the first five minutes, you don't have to touch it again.  But I still stayed in the house while it was in operation.  You CAN walk away from the Instant Pot.  You set it for however many minutes you want it to cook knowing it's safe, and it will turn itself to "low" when it's done.  

I've heard lots of people express their fear at using the Instant Pot.  Cliff and I agree that it would be almost impossible to get this thing to explode.  Safety is built in to it.  

Some of my boo-boos?  Forgetting to turn the knob on top to "pressure"; forgetting to put the ring in that goes around the bottom inside of the lid; and not having the ring all the way in place.  The last two of these are things I should have known, since I have pressure cookers.  But I get sort of nervous when I'm cooking with something new, then I get frustrated and it takes me several tries to figure out what I've done wrong.

The best thing I see about the Instant Pot is that you don't have to be afraid it's going to blow up.  Those who were terrified of the old-school pressure cookers need fear no longer.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Things that consume my time lately

Any time I can find something to prevent my doing actual work, I grab onto it, and just when I think I've discovered all the time-wasters I can ever use, along comes something else.

For instance, Words With Friends, which is an online form of Scrabble (sort of).  I've always been horrible at Scrabble for the same reason I'm awful at most games:  I don't have the patience to think out my moves and make the best possible choice.  This has made me almost an untouchable if I play any card game that requires a partner, because obviously most folks don't look at a "game" like I do:  to me, something that isn't important in the vast scheme of things. Throughout my life I've found that most card players are dead serious about their game.  My mother was one of the first people I recall having this (to me) ridiculously messed-up idea, and if she ended up as my partner, she'd go into frequent spasms of shock at my ineptitude.

So, after making a weak attempt long ago at playing Words with Friends, I got tired of feeling like a total loser and put it behind me.  Recently, though, I saw my daughter playing the game and decided to compete with her; my daughter wouldn't make fun of my lack of skills, at least not to my face. She won the first several games.  Since she was my only opponent, I had plenty of time to consider each move and started taking my time, thinking out all the various moves; finally, I won a game!  Well, winning for a change felt pretty good, so I started playing with random people suggested on the site... but at first I made sure their average word score wasn't any better than mine, which was 14 points.  I started winning about half my games.  Winning so much got sort of boring, so I began choosing competitors whose average word scores had a higher average than mine .  Lo and behold, my game improved, because I was taking more time with my moves and learning a few tricks.  Wow!  What fun!  I don't win even half the time, but I DO win some games.  

And what a time-waster.  But perhaps I'm keeping dementia from my door.  Yeah, that's as good a reason to play a game as any other.  

My latest fascination is with my new Instant Pot.  I had decided long ago not to step on that particular bandwagon because, after all, I have two sizes of pressure cookers handy and I'm not afraid to use them.  Unfortunately, they are recent models, and it came to a point where if I was going to pressure-cook anything, I had to re-screw a loose handle back on, or even sometimes call Cliff to the kitchen to help me get a lid on.  Let's just say the newer models aren't even close to being as sturdy and well-made as the old ones like my mom and aunts used.

Then the six-quart Instant Pot went on sale again, and I caved.  It arrived Thursday, and I went on an experimenting binge the likes of which would be the envy of Madame Curie.  First, I pressure-cooked water.  I think they tell you to do that just so you'll learn how everything works.  My water turned out fine.  I joined a Facebook group, "Instant Pot Community", where I could get my questions answered and find recipes and suggestions; one of the first things I laid eyes on was "perfect, easy-peel hard-boiled eggs".  I can always use boiled eggs, so that was my second trial.  Indeed, they were unbelievably perfect with no green ring around the yolk, and they peeled easily; I told Cliff, "I've purchased an eighty-dollar egg cooker!"  

Next project, split-pea soup, which we love.  Never mind that we had plenty of food around without making soup, I had to try it.  Unfortunately, the turkey broth I used had been in the freezer way too long, and that was the ruination of my otherwise perfect soup.  We both ate some, but I decided to chalk it up as a learning experiment and toss it.  This reminds me I had better go to the deep freeze right now and get rid of the other couple of bags of turkey broth (but yesterday I made some nice chicken broth in my Instant Pot to replace it).  Sunday I cooked a rump roast.  It was satisfactory, but after reading a lot of articles, it seems to me that chuck roast comes out better in the Instant Pot than the dryer, blockier beef roasts.

Next I found a recipe to make in a slow-cooker and wanted to see how good a job the Instant Pot does with that.  This was the only experiment that was a total failure.  People on the Facebook group warned me that the Instant Pot doesn't really do great as a slow cooker, but did I listen?  Nope.  I ended up finishing the barely-cooked dish in the microwave.  Oh well, I have two slow cookers anyhow.  Also, one lady in the group said if the dish was similar to a casserole, you have to set it in the Instant Pot over water.  I think I'll just use my old Crockpots.  
I made a single poached egg that came out perfect.  I had a taste of it, then Cliff happily ate the rest, smiling all the time.  I had a small oven-proof dish to put the egg in, inside the cooker.  But there was only room for the one dish.  Since we both love poached eggs, I purchased a couple of trivets ($7.19 for two).  They will both fit in there at once and we'll eat poached eggs together.   There's another thing I'm learning about the Instant Pot:  It will make you buy other stuff so you can use it in various ways.  Go ahead and buy the pot on sale, but don't expect all the things that go with it to be cheap.

This morning maybe I'll make steel-cut oats, which I've been making in my double-boiler all this time.  

I think you get the picture; that's all my drivel for today.  


Monday, September 11, 2017


I found another farmstead on the steam thresher grounds that seemed to be from an earlier era, before tractors, and it drew me like a magnet.  This portion of those 210 acres dedicated to past farming methods was the most peaceful yet, and I was lost in the past.

I would love to have ridden on this thing, but I never figured out where they boarded.  

 Time for this steed to go to work.

 These guys have work to do also.

 On the other side of that team of horses, people were sitting on the ground.  After the rain of the previous day, I hesitated to join them on the grass, but a guy assured me that the sunny areas were already dried out pretty well, so I down I went.  I did have my cane-chair with me, but on hilly, uneven ground, it's a little "tippy".  I knew I wouldn't be very graceful getting up off the ground, but I always manage; and I'll never see any of these folks again, so who cares?

It was at this point I remembered I had a husband somewhere and decided to check in.  For one thing, it was getting close to noon and I was starting to get hungry.  So I decided to call him.  As I opened up my phone (yes, we still use flip-phones), I noticed it had very little battery left and felt a slight stab of panic.  It took about three tries to even get my phone to ring through, but finally he answered.  He was watching a parade of steam engines, he said, not far from where I had left him.  I had no idea where he had been when I left him; I'd just been meandering wherever my feet carried me, counting on our cell phones to keep us connected.  I tried to explain my location to him ("Remember where we got on the train yesterday?  Right across the tracks from there, at the red barn").  He was clueless, but was going to try and find me.  I was to stay right where I was.  And by the way, his phone, he noticed, didn't have much battery left either.  He'd try to find me.

Well, I was obviously stuck in the horse-and-buggy era for awhile, so I noticed another old farmhouse I hadn't yet visited.  While this one looks really old, it was actually built fifty years ago by a member using plans from over 100 years earlier. 

This handsome little boy almost managed to distract me from the fact that my husband was missing.

The "lost" situation became worse:  Apparently there's only one cell tower in the boonies of Minnesota, and the closer it got to noon, the more difficult it got to get any call to ring through.  People were trying to connect with their loved ones so they could eat together, and I was using up what little battery my phone had left in failed attempts to call Cliff.  

He finally got through one last time, and said, "Meet me where we got on the train yesterday.  Stay there.  My phone is almost...."

And that was that.  Poof.  No more cell phone conversations.

I think at that point he made his way to a tram stop, asked if they went to the train depot, and was on his way.  It felt like I waited for at least an hour on Main Street, sitting on a bench where the people were lined up for the train.  But we DID finally get together again.

I want to go again.  Honestly, we each had more fun when we were each on our own.  We've been married 51 years, but our interests aren't always the same.  Once we got together, neither of us saw as much of what we wanted to see, and we missed seeing a lot of interesting displays just wandering around.  If we do fly up there sometime and rent a car, which IS the only way to go unless you're a seasoned truck driver and love driving long, boring miles on I-29, we now know we have to set a time and place to meet, because when it gets near meal time, cell phones are useless.  We might even remember to charge our phones before we arrive.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

More pictures from the Western Minnesota Steam Show

There were a couple of flies in the ointment during our visit to the big Show:  First off, it rained on our first day.  I had checked the weather for that area and saw there was a 40% chance of showers and was hoping for the best, but when we arrived shortly after noon on Friday, we ended up walking around in the rain.  We took a trip around the grounds on the train, where we were somewhat sheltered from the drizzle; at least we didn't have to wait in line to ride, with most of the visitors long gone.  Rather than show you the pathetic little video I made of the train, I'll share this much better one I found on Youtube from seven years ago:

Most of the activities, obviously, are out in the open and had shut down, so we ventured from one sheltered area to another.  We toured one of the old two-story farm houses where the ladies were baking things in the kitchen and passing bites of under-done bread to those of us who had been brave enough to stick around and weather the rain.  I give them a pass on the under-done bread, since they were relatively young women using a wood stove.  Heaven knows I couldn't bake anything properly on a wood stove, and I'm far past "young".

We finally called it quits and went to the most wonderful hotel we've ever stayed in.  Next morning the sun shone brightly, making it a perfect day for outside activities; so we were on our way: it's a thirty-mile trip from Fargo, North Dakota, where we spent the night, to Rollag.  There's a huge camping area on the steam show grounds for people who own RV's, but the closest town with lots of hotels is Fargo.

I left Cliff looking at some of the many tractors parked in various spots around the place, told him I had my cell phone with me, and went on to more interesting things.  Don't get me wrong, I like old tractors.  But when you go to tractor shows regularly, you've pretty much seen every kind and color in existence.  I had other things to discover.

I figured this would be a change of pace.

Fat chance of me catching ANY sort of sewing virus.  I'm totally immune.

Here's a scene right out of the old Andy Griffith Show.  A lady's sewing circle.  

Here's a lady who knows how to turn wool into thread, then into fabric.

Right down Main Street from the women's activities is another of the old homes on the property.  I'm not positive, but I think this is the house that was originally on the farm.  

Others, like the 1930's home in a picture I shared yesterday, were moved here, as was this next one.  

Notice the water in the background.  Minnesota has natural lakes and ponds all over the place, caused by glaciers long ago.  

There was at least one person available in every one of the houses, and at every display, to answer questions.  The fellow at the table talked about the fact that not one window or door is the same size as the others.  I had to smile at this, because when the grandson remodeled our old house, he complained about that very fact. "But they built their houses to last!" the guy said.  

  What a peaceful scene!

That's today's random set of pictures.  Next entry I'll tell you how I lost my husband at the show... or maybe he lost me.  

Friday, September 08, 2017

It's hard to follow up an inspiring story, but life goes on.

We're doing things around here, although it's nothing inspirational, and for sure, not anything that would change the world.  Today, for instance, I went to the Dental College in Kansas City and found out what teeth I have left are too complicated for young dental students.  Oh well.  

Last weekend we went almost to Canada to go to one of the best tractor shows... THE best, really... that we've ever visited, in Rollag, Minnesota.  This was our second visit.  I'm pretty sure our first was before we had Internet.  When I call it a tractor show, I don't do the place justice:  It's sort of a living history museum where you actually see the antique tractors, as well as horse-drawn implements, being used as they were 100 years ago.  All the tractor shows attempt to do this, but they don't equal the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers.  Cliff said he'd never go again, due to the ten-hour drive.  Then I mentioned flying to Fargo and renting a car and he actually talked like that might be a possibility.  I'm not counting on it, but the cost wouldn't be prohibitive, maybe $550 round trip for the two of us.  

One special thing about the show at Rollag is the serene quiet; at most shows we attend, there are so many four-wheelers running around there's a constant racket, and they take up a lot of room, so it's hard to maneuver your way around.  Not to mention all the kids of a certain age (my late father-in-law called them "young smart-alecks) who have their dad's garden tractors to ride and think they are Andy Granatelli (I know nothing about races, but Cliff mentions that name sometimes).

So at Rollag, you enter into a different world that smells like coal, wood smoke, and steam.  And the only noises you hear are tractors putt-putting past once in awhile and the train that runs all around the grounds, bells ringing and whistle blowing.  Personal vehicles allowed on the grounds if you can prove you have a health issue that requires it, but that's the only way.  

 Although the grounds are huge, you really don't have to do a terrible amount of walking because these wagons pass by every three minutes and take people all around the edge of the grounds.  There are several convenient places to find a seat, too.

I enjoyed the 1930's farmstead because that's what most farms still looked like in the late 40's, when I was a child accompanying my mom to various farmhouses to hang wallpaper.

Any kid, old or young, could drive a tractor... with a little assistance, if it was needed.

Apparently, Blogger isn't going to allow me to post any more pictures on this entry, so I will share more tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

The rest of his career

8th and final chapter in a series

In the 1960-61 school year I left the great group of basketball players in Malta Bend, a school with 75 students, when I was hired to coach and teach in Higginsville.  When I accepted that job, I was warned the school was a "basketball coach's graveyard".  No coach had attained a winning record in over a decade, with the average wins at five each year or less.

Several good things happened that year:  Virginia and I were parents of our firstborn son, James Michael Perrine.  We were so proud!  At Christmas I found out our struggling basketball team was to be the recipient of a couple of brothers being transferred from Mercy Academy in Marshall... the Schwarzer brothers:  George was in the tenth grade and Frank in the eleventh.  With their arrival, Higginsville Huskers basketball took off and ended the year with a second-place District Basketball finish.  By this time Higginsville basketball had established a firm footing, and would begin a tradition that exists today (this was written in 2006).  

Our second son Mark was born in 1962 and our daughter Paula was born in January of 1967.  During the summers of 1959 - 1963, I worked and earned a Master's Degree in secondary administration, which I didn't use until twenty years later when I accepted an offer to be middle school principal in Higginsville.

An observation of the 1960's:  With a single salary in our family, we had to be budget minded.  Virginia took in ironing and washed clothes for coaches, and babysat for a couple of dollars a day to help make ends meet.  Occasionally our parents would reach out and help, or I would call my friendly banker to cover a small check for necessities that we absolutely needed.  We probably grumbled about these things, but I kept the old river bottoms in mind.  Virginia was a trouper I could depend on always to help raise a garden and can, or do whatever it took to allow us to "make it".

During the summer of 1967 I ran the swimming pool (or it ran me).  I spent fifteen hours a day running the pool, for $100 a week.

In 1972 Virginia returned to work at Matco in Lexington, which helped our cash flow.

During the 1970's I would continue to have success as a basketball coach, but in 1979 I resigned my position as head basketball coach to take stock of myself as a person and a family leader.  In 1980 I was again involved in athletics as the first athletic director in Higginsville high school history.  Always before, the coaches had done their own scheduling of games, officials, buses, drivers, and all; but no more.  I kept this position until 1985.  I was athletic director and middle school principal from 1983 through 1988.  I was also custodian at the First Central Bank from 1980 through 2005.

I didn't seek the job of middle school principal, but it was offered, and for $3,000 more, I found it hard to turn down.  I did both jobs for three years, then from 1986-88, principal only.  I retired from education in 1988 and can truthfully say I haven't missed it, with the exception of basketball, which I have helped with eight or nine times since, when young coaches asked me for help.

I am proud to say I was an educator.  I hope I influenced my students as positively as my teachers influenced me.  Upon our retirement my wife and I both became more involved in our church obligations at Grace United Methodist Church.

My longest friendship was with Dick Renno, for over sixty years.  My most loyal fan was Delbert "Jim" Hough, who was a friend from high school until his death.  Both Dick and Jim died of diabetic complications.  I take flowers to each of their graves every Memorial Day.  I miss them both a lot.

In looking back on my journey, I have clearly reported my life story as events transpired.  I have attempted to give any reader an open and accurate anecdotal look at a life lived plainly but proudly, attempting to be a positive influence on those I've encountered along the way.  I have tried to remember where and what I came from as a member of my family.  I wouldn't change any part of my life; I am proud to leave it as it has passed along these years, just as the old Missouri River is still rolling along in the Waterloo bottoms, unfazed by the levies that try to contain it these days.  

A word from Donna here

I have omitted some details of these stories for brevity's sake, all the while hoping I didn't do anything that would take away from the actual author's intentions when he wrote these stories, written for the eyes of his family.  I've saved one thing for last:  Let me use Jim's words one more time for this final story.

"In 1985 our daughter Paula began her struggle to cast out the rare cancer that afflicted her.  That struggle ended in her death on March 25, 1986.  I couldn't imagine this happening to our daughter who had so much to live for and who tried so courageously to live, only to succumb at last.

To describe her:  She had many friends, some closer than others.  She enjoyed sports, and was successful in basketball.  She was a great competitor with deep feelings for those less fortunate.  Had she lived, she would have been involved with children in some way, for she loved children.  I could write a book on a daughter we no longer have except as a memory, but it is so dreadfully painful, I will resist.  The pain is still there." 

I personally remember Paula as a younger child, visiting her cousins next door and playing with them. I didn't really know her, but I remember she was a beautiful girl.  I recall her Grandma Marie saying to me after her death, "We're not supposed to outlive a grandchild." 

It's been a privilege sharing these stories with readers near and far.  I want to dedicate 
every stroke of the keyboard I've put into this project to the memory of 
Paula Perrine, who had so much to offer the world, but was taken before 
she could fulfill her role. 

Thank you, Mr. Jim Perrine, for allowing me to share your story.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

More about the first year as a teacher

7th of a series

Coaching in Henrietta ended with a 15-11 record.  Not bad for a first-year coach, and what I learned from that first year's experience is still with me today.  My gym was a small structure that looked much like the bowling ball runway, it was so narrow: a long shot could be made from the free throw line on the other end of the court!  I had three basketballs to practice with, and nineteen boys to produce the JV and varsity.  One of the boys I invited to play was a polio victim who had one foot that "dragged" when he walked.  I encouraged him to join the team.  Two of my eighteen-year-old kids were fathers of infants, and each of them drove himself to games with wife and child accompanying.  This was the last year for Henrietta to have a high school.  I have gone back several times to reunions to revisit old times.

Before all that, though, during one of my frequent trips to Lexington, I spied a beautiful young lady walking from the Mattingly Store to the bank.  I remember her long hair that struck her about mid-back, bouncing with each step.  This was just an observation by a red-blooded American boy, and I didn't pursue this any further at that time.  Later I was in a friend's wedding in Wellington.  As I brought in a gift that evening, who should be handling the receiving of gifts but that beautiful young girl!  I said nothing to her at the time, but I did go to a mutual friend and inquire about her.  Later we were introduced and I asked her out.  So began our relationship in 1956.  We married May 23, 1959.

She was of Italian descent; their family was "run" by her dad, Dominic Pessetto.  Watching her dad talk to the neighbors in Italian was an experience for me.  The wine and home brew he made wasn't my favorite thing, but I obliged.  As time went on, I got so I could tolerate it.

In 1957, after my first year of teaching, I joined the U.S. Army Reserves in Lexington:  I served six months of active and five-and-a-half years of ready-reserve duty.  I belonged to a 105 Howitzer Battalion, but since I could type, I spent my time as a payroll clerk.  For my six months of active duty I served in Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Smith, Arkansas.  

I met a lot of good people at this time, some with college educations like me, but many of them had limited education. A black kid in my barracks from Mississippi would come to me and ask me to read his mail from back home.  These letters came from his relatives and his girl friend.  He found reading very difficult at best, so I would read the letters aloud to him in private.  Sometimes I'd write back to his family for him.  This was an eye-opener for me as I learned about the south and the obvious disadvantage offered black people of the 50's.  

At Malta Bend, I taught Social Studies, and coached sports that included softball, basketball, and track from 1958 through 1960.  Girls were also included in sports there, and I learned very quickly the difference in coaching girls:  I found I had to speak softer and more calmly, because at the end of our first basketball practice, there were a lot of tears and sniffling going on.  So my learning process continued.

My coaching was successful in both girls' and boys' basketball.  Both years I was there, we lost girls due to pregnancies, which was sort of sad for several reasons.  The second year I was there the boys had 27 wins, 3 losses;  the girls had 8 wins, 8 losses. 

This was the school year Virginia and I were married, and we purchased a 55' trailer that we parked in the Superintendent-of-Schools' back yard.

Click HERE for the next and final chapter of this inspiring story:  The Rest of his Career.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Back to Jim's story: college years

Sixth in a series
Jim Perrine

Attending college (University of Central Missouri... CSMU) was quite an experience for an old country boy.  At first I felt like I was perhaps out of place, but soon learned I could make it very well, academically as well as socially.  I majored in Physical Education and minored in Social Studies.  During those years, I was able to find summer jobs that paid well.

1952, summer:  Goodyear Rubber Tire warehouse in the Kansas City west bottoms, $1.40 per hour.
1953 summer:  Goodyear, $1.40 per hour.  We shipped tires everywhere from our building.
1954 summer:  Construction laborer at Lake City Arsenal building powder-houses, $2.00 per hour.  I was on a shovel handling creosote lumber for the buildings and carpenters.  Don't ever let raw creosote get on you in 100 degree weather.  That summer set heat records for Kansas City.
1955 summer:  Construction laborer at Wellington School, $1.90 per hour, but it was right near home.

These jobs allowed me to save enough to successfully complete my college expenses on my own.  I owed no money when I was through with college.

I wasn't a socialite in college, but still found that my friends and I could find good times.  Shooting pool, playing basketball, and going home with friends pretty much summarizes my social scene.  I did join fraternity my junior year (Sigma Tau Gamma).

During my freshman year, I lived in a place called the Annex.  It cost about $35 per quarter to live there with about 30 freshman boys and a senior mentor... boy, did HE have a job!

During my Sophomore year I lived in an eight-man room; what an experience!  Through my junior year, I lived in a brand new dorm, in a three-man room with Dick Renno.  He would get married the next year, so I lost my longtime running buddy.

During my senior year I lived in the old Frat House on Ming Street.  I made a lot of good friends and enjoyed the social life.  It would not be generally true to say I enjoyed classes, since I didn't see them as a necessity in my efforts to become a coach and teacher.  I student-taught during my senior year at Warrensburg Public High School, only the second student in CMSU history to not do student teaching in College High School Lab school.  John Titus was my supervising teacher, a good guy!  I learned a lot.  

I graduated in May of 1956, ready to teach at Henrietta High School, with all of thirty-five students; Mr. Hicks, my old junior high science teacher and coach, was my superintendent.  

When I went to be interviewed, Mr. Hicks showed me around the very small school building.  It happened to be board meeting night, where it was mentioned that Mr. Hicks had taught for many years, and it was "home town" for him.  I will never forget what he said to me that evening as we looked in briefly on the school board:  He said, "Jim, peek in this door and take a look at them."  I did, and as we ambled on down the hall, he said to me, "Jim, always be nice to the dumb kids in your classroom, because they will invariably grow up to be school board members.  The folks you saw in that room are living proof!"

I laughed with Mr. Hicks when he said that, but maybe he was partly correct in his tongue-in-cheek comment.

Next Chapter HERE:  More about the first year as a teacher

Jim Perrine's story from my viewpoint

Donna Wood

I've been away for three days, and intend to get back to Jim Perrine's story, but I'd like to use this entry to tell you about my small connection with his family.  It may not be as interesting as the story he tells, but you need to know how he has opened up the past to shed a new light on some of my former neighbors.

When we moved to rural Wellington in 1975, our nearest neighbors were Bonita and Ronnie Pitts; Bonnie was Jim's sister. about whom he writes at one point in his narrative:

"My sister Bonita has not been mentioned thus far, so I will tell you about her now:  She was born when we were living on the river bottoms on June 9, 1940.  She experienced the things I have talked about in my writings.  When Bonnie was an infant, she contracted what amounted to pneumonia and almost died.  My folks took her to a chiropractic physician, Dr. Gross, after being told by an MD that he couldn't help her.  What Dr. Gross did for my sister allowed her to overcome the illness, and he became our "family doctor" after that.  His office was in Levasy, Missouri.  Bonnie graduated Wellington school in 1958.  She married Ron Pitts in 1960 and bore three children:  Don, Ronda, and Kevin."  (After reading this entry, Ronda told me her mom (Bonita) only weighed two pounds when she was born, and could fit in a cracker box.) 
Bonita came over and introduced herself within the first week of our living here.  She and Ronnie had three kids, two of them older than my children and one younger.  I've never been an easy person to get close to:  I'm often a loner, and I march (or meander) to my own drummer, so I don't make the best neighbor for anyone; but Bonnie and the kids never seemed to let that bother them or scare them away.  They were a major part of my life when the children were growing up, in large part because of their musical ability.  They loved country music and were all quite talented.  I had many good times singing with Donnie and Ronda, and once bought an old, junk piano so when they came over to sing, Donnie could play piano to accompany our singing.  I miss those times.

Living on the other side of the Pitts family were Marie and Oliver Perrine, Jim Perrine's parents.  Marie was as sweet a neighbor you could ever ask for.  At Christmas she brought us peanut brittle.  In summer she shared her pickled green tomatoes with us.  Oliver and Marie kept a sharp eye on the neighborhood, and nothing got past them.  Cliff's cousin once had some furniture temporarily stored in out garage.  We were both at work the day the cousin came to pick up his belongings, and Marie called Cliff at work to let him know somebody was taking things from our garage.

So you can imagine how fascinated I've been to read about the hard times Bonnie and Marie went through in the past.  My parents were poor when I growing up, but I've never gone through the sort of traumatic experiences the Perrine family had while living on the river bottoms.  

One thing my parents had in common with Marie and Oliver, though, was this:  They paid their bills. 

I intend to get back to Jim's story today or tomorrow.    

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Stories from 1947 and 1948

by Jim Perrine
(Fourth in a series)

In 1947 my parents bought a home on the courthouse steps for taxes owed.  People submitted secret bids, and I believe my folks bid $600.  Theirs turned out to be the high bid.  This house was located right over Waterloo Hill, down on what is now Coal Mine Road.

We moved into the house after Mom had fumigated it with smoke bombs to kill the embedded bedbugs that climbed out of the walls, ceiling, and floors.  She had to paint and paper the house to make it livable inside.  The end result was that for the first time in my life we had electricity for lights, a refrigerator, running water... and after a few more years, an inside toilet!  I still remember hand-digging the hole and laterals for the septic system in 1954.  Another advantage we gained was a coal-fired furnace that drove hot air through vents to heat our home.  We even had a phone for the first time ever.  In 1951, we purchased our first Zenith TV.  How good we had it!

Living in 1947 in our new (to us) abode put us closer to Dad's river bottoms.  He only had to drive his horses or tractor about a mile to his bottomland farm.  We still had no cash flow, as such.  To make "extra" needed money, my dad would work on the railroad that passed by our home.  He made 75 cents to a dollar an hour to work with the hand-car crew that picked him up each morning to go to work.  I worked in the Levasy bottoms picking potatoes for 10 cents per hundred-pound sack during my seventh- and eighth-grade years.  A good day would net me six to seven dollars, which I used to buy school supplies, jeans, shirts, shoes, and so forth for the upcoming school year.  

Old Man River was still impacting our economic life.  It flooded several times from 1948 to 1953, the worst being the flood of 1951.  Again, Lake City Arsenal and the railroad winter jobs got us through.  I remember my dad borrowing seed money from Napoleon Bank with a promise to pay when we got a crop.  He always paid his bills!

The Waterloo Store was our savior in that the owners allowed our family to run a "ticket", a bill for groceries with a promise to pay when we sold crops.  My folks never failed to pay off their debts.  This made an impression on my young mind of what right and wrong were.  We ate a lot of lunch meat and cheese and navy beans with "light bread", as we called our homemade bread.  Beans-and-bread is still one of my favorite meals, and hearkens me back to those early childhood days when it was all we had.

I do not complain about our hard times, for they made me understand what it means to be poor and at the mercy of other people.  I can't express enough the fact that I never felt deprived in any way, due to the love that was shown to me by my parents as I grew to be a responsible adult.  

During this time I lived what seems to me now to be a Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn childhood.  I fished in a slough, walked the rails to Waterloo Store, and was barefoot every day.  The old coal mine used to pour water out onto the road where I walked.  While splashing through the water one day I felt something wriggling under my foot:  it was in the midst of baby snakes that had been pumped out of the mine!  I don't believe my feet touched anything again until I was on dry dirt.

It was during this time of my life I really became interested in basketball, and I've been caught up in it ever since.  I never owned a basketball nor had a goal at home; what I had was a coffee can nailed to the wash-house wall:  I shot tennis balls or rubber sponge-type balls to practice.

Farming as an occupation never occurred to me, even though I had been raised on a farm.  I never had the appetite for watching our seed taken down the river by flood waters.  I never liked hand-picking our fields of corn with a double-side board wagon and two mules that had minds of their own.  They couldn't tell "giddy up" from "whoa".  For a long time, as a youngster following them in the corn field with heavy gumbo clinging to my boots making them impossibly heavy and cockleburs irritating me, I was sure their names were Son of a B__ch and B-----d.  At least these were the names my father had for them when they acted stupid!  Later I found out they were Peter and Jack.  

While planting, it was my job to operate the planter and watch the seed holders to make sure there was corn there.  I must admit sometimes I would daydream and forget to engage the planter; weeks later my dad would inform me that some of that darned seed must have been bad, because it didn't come up.

I really didn't know what I wanted to be, or do, when I "grew up", but it definitely wasn't farming on a tenant farm!

Click HERE for the next chapter:  The College Years.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Tales from Waterloo Hill: School Days

I originally thought I might condense this portion of Jim's recollections and perhaps leave out some names.  But after publishing the first segment, I saw these entries were being passed around locally by folks who would remember some of the people he talks about.  So I've left it in it's entirety for the benefit of long-time Wellington folks.  If it seems tedious to my far-away readers, just bear with me.  I like the idea of helping keep local history alive, and these stories are priceless.  

To read the previous chapter:  click HERE

Third in a series
1940-1948, first through eighth grade

1940-1942  Teacher- Ms Webb (a super lady)

The young Ms Webb taught me to be an excellent reader.  I thought she was fabulous.  We were taught health in her class every morning:  Each student went to her desk to have his teeth, ears, hands, and nails inspected for cleanliness.  What a valuable lesson for all of us.  

World War II broke out during our time with Ms Webb.  Saving bonds or Victory bonds were sold each morning for all who remembered, and could find, a dime for a stamp in the booklets she kept for each of us.  I saved enough over a two year period to fill three $18.75 stamp books, which I kept until entering college in 1952; they were worth $25 each.  Ms Webb, while being a very nice person, also demanded our respect for herself and for our fellow students.  The price for not obeying her was this:  a box of a hundred thumb tacks was thrown against the chalk board.  The culprit had to pick them up within one minute or a swat was administered, and the sequence continued until all were picked up.  This rule applied to girls as well as boys.  I made sure I wasn't caught doing wrong!

My best friend was Don Moore, the best artist in the class as well as the best math student!  He quit school in the ninth grade and later drove a truck for his livelihood.  I've often thought of Don's wasted talent.

Grades three and four:  1942-1944

Miss Margaret Nadler was my teacher, another great one.  I was blessed!  She always said I was the best reader she ever had, even many years later when I would see her.  It was in third and fourth grade I began to notice my math aptitude was barely "normal".  Making change at the improvised country store was a chore for me.  I always blamed it on the lack of cash flow in our home, but who knows.  I read every book available in the library.  Bless those encouraging, super teachers I had in the early grades.  

During this time World War II was in full swing, and the schools were invited to do our part.  Our job was to collect scrap iron, and did we ever pile it up!  We went to farms on wagons and trucks, loading up every piece of scrap metal for use in the war effort to whip those Japs and Germans.  We were really proud of this effort.  As a youngster, I began to think that war would last forever.

Grades 5 and 6:  1944-1946

The war was still going on, so we still had scrap metal drives.

Ms Rose Mary Kumpf was our teacher, and again, we felt we had the best.  When you feel that way, you learn more readily.  One of the boys' fears was of Mr. McKessick, the principal of the school.  We felt that his whole life revolved around mashing someone's rear with the paddle he seemed to always have with him.  When he came to the door of our classrooms after recess, we could be assured it wasn't to kill time.  All heads would go down to our books while he wandered around and picked out the poor guy who had been a "sh-t head" on the playground at recess.  

One of our teachers, Mr. Kincaid (later to be superintendent of our school) came down and bid us all goodbye because he had been drafted into the Navy.  A lot of seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds were drafted right out of high school and given their diplomas early, in 1944 and 1945.  Sad, but true.  They had to go fight.

One of the funniest things I remember was the time our fifth-and-sixth grade class was walking past the seventh-and-eighth grade room on the way to rhythm band; as usual, we were gawking at the big kids in that room.  Mrs. Jingles, the teacher in that room, told Tuffy Deubbent to shut up; Tuffy continued to talk.  Well, Mrs. Jingle was going to smack Tuffy in the mouth, but he ducked his head and she smacked poor G.W. Wessendor, who had the misfortune of being behind Tuffy, right in the mouth!  I still chuckle over that today.  Our rhythm band was made up of drums, cymbals, a metal triangle, and sticks.  Not much, huh?

Grades 7 and 8, 1946-1948

Mrs. Swaney was our English and Math teacher.  The thing I remember about her is that she smoked at noon in her classroom and then sprayed perfume that didn't hide the smell.  Another thing I remember is the fact that her son Jim drowned while serving in the Army off the coast of Lebanon.  What a tragedy for us all.  We felt sorry for Mrs. Swaney in her grief and loss.  I remember she told me if my writing didn't get larger she was going to swat my rear, so my writing immediately got larger.  She also told me I was the most impatient young man she ever knew.

Mr. Hicks was my seventh/eighth grade science teacher, as well as my science teacher and basketball coach.  Every morning when I entered his room he would be whistling the Notre Dame fight song.  I truly respected Mr. Hicks.  Later on he would be my superintendent of school at the Henrietta High School, my first year to teach (1956-57).

High school years

I attended Wellington High School, and graduated in 1952 at age seventeen.  Only one student was driving his own car then.  Quite a difference from the full parking lot you will see these days.  I ranked third in a class of 16 students.  In my senior year I was class president.  

I participated in the sports that were offered:  Softball and basketball, which had an indoor and outdoor season.  I was good enough to letter all four years in fast pitch softball, playing outfield and third base.  We had an undefeated season during my junior year, 1951, when we won the Lafayette County Softball Tourney.  

My basketball career began with me as a starter on the ninth-grade team.  I liked my coach, Bill Frerking, but boy, could he chew on us!  I was disappointed when I didn't get a varsity uniform; that went to a senior who couldn't dribble and chew gum at the same time.  I made varsity as a sophomore, but playing time was limited because of a good senior glass that was ahead of me.  As a junior and senior I found a great need in my life satisfied by belonging to a team.  Our best year was my junior year, with a record of 25-8.  Frank Leet was my coach, and I thought he was the greatest guy in the world.  I can probably blame him for my wanting to be a coach and teacher.  I'm thankful I had many good teachers who built my self-esteem in such a way as to prepare me to face the world of that time.

I participated in class plays, was in charge of library during study hall (with none other than Dickie Renno).  I read every book in the small library that even approached my interest. 

My friends in our small high school of 75 to 80 students consisted of probably every kid that attended the school, since we were so small in number.  Peer pressure was evident, but I was pretty much my own person.  So while some good friends smoked and drank, I can truthfully say that except for one incident at Dickie's, I never imbibed.

Mr. Joe Kincaid, taught industrial arts and algebra... well, let's say he tried.  As a ninth grade industrial art student in his class, while all the other guys were making electric lamps, bobsleds, and other nice projects, my only project was a piece of wood about six inches long, and two pieces of glass:  a picture holder!  I helped my friends with their projects and walked around sanding my "picture holder", which was very slick due to much sanding over a quarter of school time.  Mr. Kincaid had seen me working on projects, but they were always someone else's.  He finally told me since I wasn't doing anything in class to sit in his Superintendent office and answer the phone.  He didn't have a secretary.

Mr. Kincaid was one of my best mentors and friends as a student, and later, as a teacher:  He took me after graduation to enroll at MSU in 1952. 

I found a job the summer of 1950 at the Safeway store in Lexington.  Being 15 years old, I had to lie about my age; 16 was the required age to work there.  I made 75 cents per hour (minimum wage) working Saturdays 8 AM to 10 PM.  I usually got paid for a 10-hour day with an hour for lunch (Maid Rites/malts).  From 9 PM to 10 PM was cleanup time, for which we were not paid.  So we hustled our tails off to get out of that store!  After work I'd either catch the Greyhound bus home to Wellington or go down to the Main Street movie house and beg the young ticket taker to turn her head so I could get in free; she usually would do that for me and my friends who worked at Safeway.  After the movie I would walk up main street and stand in the shadows across the street from Block 42, a famous block of nothing but taverns.  I'd lurk and watch the fights brea out at closing time.  What a sight for a 15-year-old to behold, three or four fights in the streets.  Lexington had a far-flung reputation for such.  Finally I would walk to the Madonna of the Trail statue and hitch a ride to Wellington.  I generally caught a ride quickly, usually with people who had been in the bars.  Whew!

I'd have them let me out at the all-night station/restaurant on top of Waterloo Hill so I didn't have to get out in a dark place to walk.  From there I would walk about two miles in the dark woods to my house.  I don't know why I wasn't afraid to walk through the almost total darkness in the woods.  Youth and stupidity, I guess. 

For the next chapter, click HERE.