Friday, December 20, 2013

THE NIGHT I RODE THE POLAR EXPRESS


It was early winter in Idaho and I was four years old.

Similar winter weather a few years earlier. In this photo I am the baby in my mother’s arms.
 The winter had been snowy but the plows were still able to keep a way open for travel to the farms in our community.  Then in late February a storm hit that clogged the roads, followed by an ice storm.  Not even bull dozers could break a trail.

Mom was working alone to maintain the farm, milk our two cows and care for my brother and me because Dad had taken on a winter job in Pocatello, around a hundred miles to the east.  He came home on the Union Pacific train when he could get away on weekends.

 After two weeks of isolation Dad came from the train crossing on skis to get us.

 Not the same toboggan and not my mom, but you get the idea.
He also brought a toboggan and snowshoes. The next morning I was packed on the toboggan with our luggage.  Mom put on the skis which she had only worn once before.  The snow was so crusty my seven year old brother was able to walk on top of the drifts.

Our journey was shortened to two and a half miles because we were able to travel across fields and pastures with occasional pauses to go over or through the wire fences across our path.

The plan was to meet the east bound passenger trail as it slowed to pick up mail in our small town.  Dad had flagged the train down before since that was his way of getting back and forth to work.

I don’t remember much of the trek except for the part where I had to go potty really bad.  Plus, even though I was snuggled down between our packages on the toboggan I became so cold I must have really set up a protest.

Of course my parents didn’t want us to miss the train since there was no station to wait in and probably not another one coming until the next day.  So we stopped at a neighbor’s farm on the hill above the tracks while Dad and my brother hurried ahead to flag down our ride.  I remember relieving myself in the chamber pot our neighbors kept under their bed.  Then my boots and gloves were removed and my feet and hands were warmed in a basin of water. 

I remember the sound of the whistle of the approaching train and the panic to shove on my boots. I remember the rush down the hill, Mom struggling with the skis and the waiting train in the gathering darkness of that late winter day.

I clearly recall being terrified of the titanic black steam engine hissing and panting on the tracks and how Dad helped load our toboggan in the baggage car.

A gentleman who looks very much the way I remember my new friend
There was a friendly conductor who offered me a chocolate peppermint candy.  I also remember how pleased Mom was that I politely accepted it and how she praised me later as we settled down in our seats in the passenger car knowing I really didn’t care for peppermint.

 Me with my brother the following summer.
 I specifically requested Santa to bring that cowboy hat
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MY QUEST FOR A MAGICAL CHALLIS OR SOMETHING LIKE IT

Last weekend I traveled to a town that was hosting an art walk.  Several shops were showing off their wares of hand-crafted items, art work and trinkets along with demonstrations and refreshments.  One of my favorite places had mostly second hand and repurposed pieces for sale.  The store owner was working on making yarn out of some alpaca wool so she could use it for knitting.  She was quite a character and we had a fun visit. I found a basket full of mittens made out of pieces of wool sweaters.  The mittens were lined with polar fleece and very warm. 

They were just what I needed to fit over the gloves I wear when I'm taking photographs in cold weather.  I've already tried them out and they work great.

However, mittens sometimes make me feel like doing this.

The demonstration I enjoyed the most was being done by Heron Glass. They'd already shown the group some glass blowing and now they were going to make a glass "candy cane."

The apprentice, who's name I've forgotten, began by heating up three colored glass cylinders in the furnace.

Meanwhile Ralph gathered a glob of clear glass from the other furnace.

The trick was to put the clear glass around the colored glass shafts.

Like this.

Then  Mary brought over another glob of hot glass to add to the project.

That piece went on the other end and Ralph cut it off with some big shears.

The whole thing was smoothed together using this tool on a metal table.

It already looks like candy.

Now while Ralph heats up the piece, Apprentice is preparing another hunk of hot glass.

Here's the piece red hot and ready for the next step.

Ralph sticks Apprentice's hot gob on the end.

Then in a maneuver almost like a dance Apprentice takes one end and steps back.

Gently and slowly they stretch and twist the hot glass.

...and stretch, twist...and pull...

The piece was even longer than this when it got too cool to pull any more.
They carefully laid it down and broke it into two pieces, ready to be made into something beautiful.

Speaking of beautiful...these are a selection of the items for sale in their store.

Can you imagine decorating a tree with these bobbles?  Wow.

Their work was skillful, delightful and way, way out of my price range.

I couldn't even afford a paper weight.

  Still there were globs of glass they'd cut off the end of their vases before they were finished.
  
These little trinkets had been made into colorful refrigerator magnets.  They were more within my budget so I bought a couple.  Then I decided the best strategy was to Run Away! Run Away! since all I could do after that was maybe return with a shrubbery.