Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One who has visited the old Dobson Homestead at Gilbert remarked to me that it seems like an enchanted place. It certainly is for me, but I didn’t know others could sense it. I call it enchanted because the voice of the past speaks there.

Many years ago I saw a made-for-tv Christmas movie in which a distraught woman dreams that she returns to visit her deceased mother during holiday preparations at the old family home. I only saw the movie once (showings seem to be rare), but the premise – spending time in the company of a loved one who has departed this life -- made a lasting impression on me. Through the miracle of online research I was able to identify the movie as The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story (1983). The same research also revealed that the movie was based on the novella, The Silent Stars Go By, by Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954), a worthy author included in my “women in pioneering” study.

Well, in my imagination, I like to slip back into Grandma Ina’s house, especially at holiday time. Like the departed one in the movie, Ina’s presence is remote. We don’t really communicate because, after all, Ina is a figment of my imagination. Based on what I know of her, I just love picturing the simple Christmas that brought her so much joy in the dark days of winter, and I think I enjoy this flight of fancy because I was never a part of it. I have no memory of it, so it isn’t personal.

This exploration of the past which I share here has become an important part of my holiday celebration. This year I’m celebrating “Christmas with Ina 1936.” I’ll quote family letters and also explore a December 1936 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine. Though based in the same year, these two sources are certainly not the same presentation of the holidays. For a while I struggled with that, but then I decided a contrast of Ina’s simple celebration on the farm with a more cosmopolitan celebration of the same era might be interesting. I can’t really say how this story will unfold since I mostly write as I go. You will undoubtedly see again quotes that have become familiar on this blog, and we’ll also share real-time experiences. I only wish I could give you a cup of tea and a Christmas cookie. KW

[The postcard is from Vance's collection. The picture is of the family's Christmas tree lit with candles in 1921. Any lighting of the tree was always with candles, and we still have the candle holders.]

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Our story so far: yesterday afternoon I discovered a mouse hanging out in my sewing room at the town house. Nellie couldn’t scent the mouse, so Mike and I discussed trapping options.

The story continues:
I closed the door on my sewing room and stuffed a wadded towel under the door to confine the mouse to the room. I wasn’t sure that would work. The doors in a modular home don’t fit well.

Mike returned to watching football, and sensing that she had somehow disappointed him, Nellie cuddled up near him. But suddenly she came to life, her tail indicating a quarry. She sniffed behind the tv set, the woodbox, under the sofa, back to the woodbox, behind the woodstove. Eventually she was all over the house but gave a lot of attention to Mike’s office. I let her into the sewing room where she sniffed briefly and seemed to conclude that there was no mouse in the room. She looked me in the eye as if to say, “We both know you’re a little paranoid.”

But frankly, Nellie’s sudden interest upset me even more. The mouse was supposed to be confined to the sewing room. Had it gotten out? Or were there two -- or, God forbid -- even more?

When the game was over (SMU won), Mike went to buy traps. To save time and distance, he stopped at what I call “the little store,” a neighborhood market where he bought their last pack of traps – two plastic units. He baited the traps with some peanut butter we tried and didn’t like -- Planter’s NUT-rition “Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut Energy Mix” (what were they thinking when they concocted this recipe?) and set them in the sewing room. But Nellie continued to be most interested in the office.

Then – about 4:30 – we left Nellie in the house for half an hour and went to the boat parade. Not like the old days, we reminisced. No excitement in the air. We were literally alone as we watched from Beachview Park above the Snake River. Lights are beautiful reflected on the water, but ten boats don’t make much of a showing. I took a lot of pictures -- not very successfully.

The evening wore on as Mike watched football, and we had reason to wonder if Nellie had caught a mouse while we were out and swallowed it. If so, was it the mouse? Nellie wasn’t talking – just a source of bad odor -- so we could only surmise what might have happened in our absence.

Before bed, Mike announced that the sewing room mouse had been caught. He re-set the trap behind the woodbox in the living room, and this morning – yes! – we had another. I hope that’s the end of this mouse saga, but we’ll remain alert. The work on the hillside continues, and it’s been my experience that when ground is disturbed, the rodent population is displaced. Perhaps that has something to do with this invasion.

So, today’s chore is to clean the sewing room closet and otherwise straighten the room. KW

Saturday, November 24, 2012

E-E-E-E-E-K!!! N-O-O-O-O-O!!!

Until 15 minutes ago, the title for this post was to be “A Flurry of Finishes” to celebrate all the items I made for the P.E.O. silent auction fundraiser. You can see them in the pictures here: four American Girl holiday dresses; two bibs; and a little pink shirt embroidered with, “I am the PRINCESS of the palace.” The pillowcase was made at embroidery club and will go to granddaughter Emmy as a gift of Grandma Kathy’s advent program.

This morning I machine embroidered a couple of towels. I was just stepping back into the room to line out the afternoon's work when I saw it – a dark shadow skittering across the floor and under the sofa. My spontaneous outburst was not a dignified “Eeeeeek!” but more of a Charlie Brown “Arrrrgh!” followed by “Mi-i-i-ke! – There’s a mouse in my sewing room!”

This is bad news! The little sewing room is cramped with my sewing table, the sofa, and the ironing board. Add to that boxes of sewing supplies, a doll, pillows, odds and ends – you know, stuff that doesn’t matter in a sewing room until you’ve discovered a rodent in your midst.Then suddenly I see the room for what it is -- a mess!

Mike paused the football game he was watching – SMU vs. Tulsa – and came back to the room with Nellie in tow. We stacked up my stuff and were in the process of taking the cushions off the hide-a-bed in order to open it, when suddenly the mouse streaked back across the floor and (horror of horrors!) under the closet door. I’ve cleaned out one side of the closet, which is nice and neat, but the other side stores yarn and batting and such stuff as mice love, still in disarray. “We’ll never find it in here,” said Mike in a tone of frustration. And Nellie! Useless dog! She simply couldn’t catch our drift with regard to that mouse – and apparently not the scent either. I suspect Mrs. Claus’ workshop was too intimidating to this well-mannered dog who knows better than to mess with Kathy’s stuff.

“We’ll have to trap it,” Mike said. But we don’t have traps here in town – not that either of us can remember anyway-- so that’s a trip someplace to buy them this afternoon because I’m not putting this off.

“They won’t hurt you,” said Mike as I quaked in the corner and declared that there went my plans to sew this afternoon. “They’re just furry little rodents that . . . blah blah blah.” Well, I don’t like being startled by the mouse any more than she likes being startled by me.

“How did that mouse get in here anyway?” I asked.

“Maybe you carried it in with a box from the garage,” he suggested. But I haven’t brought in any boxes.

“I don’t think I could have carried one in with the wood,” he said. Aha! He did, too, I’ll bet.

As my thoughts begin to ponder the advent season, the little critter seems somewhat apropos – you know, “not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” But I’m going for the “not even” part – elimination.

Come to think of it, I remember hearing a rustling as I sewed the other day and thinking that if I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a mouse. Hmmmm. It was a mouse. KW

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Our Dr. Pepper salad is setting up in the refrigerator. I'm still undecided about what kind of pie I'll bake. Others are bringing pumpkin and apple pie to our extended family gathering, which begs the question -- Do we even need another pie? Hmmmmm. Before we leave the house for our early afternoon feast, I will set a turkey breast to roast in the crockpot so that we can enjoy our favorite -- roast turkey sandwiches. I'm trying something new to me and sprinkling a packet of turkey gravy powder over the breast prior to roasting. I hear it's delicious.

Monday, November 19, 2012


This is Grandpa Julian's second response to the round robin letter. Note that the first letters are still at June's, awaiting his response.

Orofino, Idaho
Nov. 8, 1940

Dear Cousins,

I got our second round robin letter yesterday. I got the first round robin letter about the tenth of Oct. ’38 and answered it Jan. 17, 1939. The first round robin letters are at June’s waiting for him to answer it.

Glad to get to read all of the letters. I visited Emma Smith at Salem, Oregon, in February 1911 and went from there and visited Uncle Ben and Aunt Teen. I stayed all night at Matter Keith’s in Toledo, Oregon, and he and I crossed the bay next morning and went to Uncle Ben’s. I stayed at Uncle’s about one week, and we stayed up every night til late talking over old times. When I came out from uncle’s, I visited Irwin Keith’s overnight. Uncle and Aunt lived in a log cabin with a puncheon floor. Their granddaughter lived with them. June and I are still farming and had good crops this year. We will be 76 years old the 9 of next April. So I will close for all good wishes to my cousins.

Julian Dobson

P.S. Ina says I had better tell where all the children are. Pearl is in Alberta, Canada, on a big farm. Myrtle in Portland, Oregon, working in a studio. Earle teaching school in Idaho Falls. Vance, in Raymond, Wash., teaching music, and Ethel in New York. Her husband is a federal officer. Shirley left in September for Seattle. Her husband is working in Boeing Aircraft Co. This leaves us all alone but live only a quarter of a mile from June’s. (Julian)

[In the first photo, Bertha Dobson (left) stands behind her husband, Junius, while Ina stands behind Julian. Date unknown -- probably the '30s.

The second photo was taken in 1939 in the same time frame as Julian's letter to the cousins. From left: Myrtle Dobson; Bernice Dryden Dobson (Earle's wife); Julian; Ina; Shirley Dobson Shockley; Vance and Earle Dobson. On the back, Myrtle has written to Vance: "Very poor print and just for the laugh you will get out of it. You remember he [Earle] took two just to be sure and a good thing!" I'm not sure I have the better print.] KW

Thursday, November 15, 2012


It starts early –about 5:30 a.m. It’s only a slight disturbance, but it awakens me. I can hear voices, motors running quietly. They’re waiting patiently for 7:00, which seems to be the hour when we agree that noise is fair. And at 7:00, they begin to make noise.

As the crow flies, the work is just across the street from us. They’re whittling away at the hillside, dozing the earth and rock to the bottom and loading it into six trucks or so which carry that earth someplace south of here and then return to do it again.

And it’s noisy – very noisy. And it’s not just the noise. It’s the unexpected crash and bang, the incessant back-up beeper, the unnerving sound of big motors revving and ebbing, the scraping of big blades against the ground – all of it right “next door,” as it were. Nellie doesn’t like loud crashes and bangs. Neither do I. It makes us nervous.

As a human, I understand the noise and tolerate it. I tune it out and go about my business, but at some point I find myself ready to climb the wall, and when I analyze why I feel that way, I realize I’ve had enough of this noise invading my home -- and my quietude – and my ability to concentrate. There’s no turning it off. The only way to escape it during work hours is to leave.

We wonder what they’re doing anyway. Is there a plan in this process? Are they eroding the stability of that hillside? Are we going to leave it scarred and ugly? You might think they know what they’re doing, but certain hillsides in this community have been eroded and are not stable. The Elks’ Club sits on one of those.

And then – about 3:00 p.m. – suddenly all is quiet again. At first, I don’t notice. “What’s wrong – what’s missing?” I ask myself. Then I realize that they’ve stopped working and once again peace is restored to the neighborhood. But – they’ll be back. It will start again – quietly – at 5:30 tomorrow morning. First, the voices, then the motors . . . 

[All of these pictures were taken from our front porch at the town house. Although we call it town, this area is really a rural housing development. The first picture shows the area in question before the work began. The other pictures show what's happening now. Although this isn't a beautiful area -- a desert-type landscape -- the hillside can be beautiful when it reflects the sun, especially morning and evening.] KW

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It was just about three weeks ago that we left the farm in order to prepare for “The Great Pumpkin Excursion” to Denver. 

It’s a whole different world at Gilbert now.

Yesterday, Mike suggested we run to the farm today just to check on things. Okay, I said. This morning he asked if I would prefer to spend a couple of days. Well, it seemed silly to do that in this cold spell unless we planned a longer stay. (It takes a day just to heat the house when it’s cold.) We then considered abandoning the day trip and going later in the week when it’s a little warmer. And then we returned to the original plan – make a short trip today for peace of mind. That’s what we did. I’m so glad we can still think and make our own decisions! We arrived at the farm about 10:15 and stayed until after lunch.

I had a few things to do. I packed up my Sunbeam/Oster Kitchen Center and set in its place my red KitchenAid. I love it there! And the fact that the KitchenAid stands a little tall is not an issue on that counter. Actually, my plan was to use it in the farm kitchen anyway, so it’s finally where it belongs. And while I was working in the kitchen, I traded out the apple plates for the Christmas plates. I put the Halloween books back on the shelf and checked out some vintage cookbooks with holiday ideas. Soon I was packed for the return trip.
Mike had planned to cut some kindling but it just wasn’t the right day. He said he wasn’t feeling energetic. (Three days of hunting in a row and a sleepless night will do that.) And besides, the temp hovered at freezing and he made frequent trips to the wall furnace to warm his hands. He folded the clothesline and tied it for the winter, checked out the barn, and brought furniture in off the porch.  He also disposed of three mice and re-set the traps.
After a hot lunch of leftovers, we packed up and returned to town. The sky was dark and we saw a few snowflakes. Can’t say if it will amount to much. KW