Friday, June 5, 2009


“Mom, can I go with you on a bike ride?” Since he is over a foot taller and his legs much longer, I wasn’t sure how this would work. But, since he was interested in spending “quality time” with his mother I agreed. I told him the route I was planning to take, and that I wouldn’t care if he passed me and went on at his own speed.

For most of the ride we maintained a single-file steady pace. He had his music in his ears so he made LOUD comments. “Awesome sunrise! Cool horses!” The hills were a challenge. He was kind enough to wait for me at the top.

He was great about staying behind me. The last mile or so was a narrow bike path and a couple of blocks of neighborhood streets. “Hey, I’m going to try and make it home before this song is over!” In my mind he was listening to, "Fat bottomed girls, they'll be riding today, so look out for those beauties, oh yeah.” I let him go. I was already on the edge of exhaustion.

But my brain said, “Hey! He’s getting ahead of us! Don’t let him do that. Faster! Faster!
Legs and Lungs: Are you insane? This is a grandma’s body!
Brain: C’mon. You can’t let him beat us!
Eyes: Narrow bridge ahead! Slow Down! SLOW DOWN!
Nose: Aaaack! Bugs! A cloud of gnats! -- NO! I’ve sucked some inside.
Eyes: There’s a bug behind our glasses. Don’t let it get us!
Nose: I’m sending these aliens down to the mouth.
Mouth: What am I supposed to do with flying bugs? Hawuuuuccck.
Brain: No spitting! Be a lady.
Mouth: Ptewwy.
Eyes: Ewwwww!
Legs and Lungs: We’re dying here!
Eyes: RAILROAD TRACK! A—rr---rrr—gh—H!!!!
The dear boy was two blocks away by now. I came to my senses and slowed to a reasonable pace. He had his helmet off and was pulling the music out of his hears when I coasted into the driveway. “Made it! The song is just finishing!”

(more off-color lyrics), then, “Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


We had lived in our house six months. Finally, after years of renting, we had a yard, a garden and mortgage payments.

June 5, 1976 was a sunny Saturday. We spent the morning outside and were contemplating what to do for lunch. About twenty miles away the Bureau of Reclamation was putting the finishing touches on the earth-filled Teton Dam. Suddenly, a neighbor came by and told DH he was needed immediately at the Civil Defense communication center. Reports were coming in that there was a leak in the dam. To be safe, I gathered up the kids, some diapers, a bottle, and went to stay in the break room of DH’s office on the hill. A soft spot had developed on the face of the dam. Before the afternoon was over, The whole thing melted like brown sugar and collapsed; sending eighty billion gallons shooting down the canyon like water from a fire hose. There were several communities and plenty of farms in the path of destruction. Fortunately, the loss of human life was small. Thousands of cattle were lost. The water shot through our town at about two in the afternoon, carrying with it mud and debris. Refugees gathered on the hill to watch store windows explode and houses lift off their foundations. Logs from the sawmill went like battering rams through building after building. I fed the kids with cookies from a vending machine and bedded them down on couch cushions. The college had empty dorm rooms that were opened to the public, and soon assistance was delivered in the form of food and supplies. DH worked round the clock relaying messages to the outside by amateur radio. The rest of us stayed at his office until Sunday morning. Then I packed up our toddler and the kids and we walked down the hill to see what had happened. The flood waters were gone, leaving puddles in low places and devastation everywhere. There was evidence of water over five feet deep at our house. A neighbor’s house had floated away and tipped over; shielding our place from the force of crashing logs and wreckage.

Nevertheless, everything in our yard was mud-covered and destroyed.

Inside, the basement still held muddy water and sodden trash. Everything downstairs, including our television and

my new washer, was totaled.
The ground floor of our house was covered with several inches of sloppy mud.

A few weeks after The Flood we went to the dam site to see what was left. The dam was almost gone

and its remains were spread several miles down the canyon.
With assistance in many forms the area has been able to recover and rebuild. Now, thirty-three years later, it is difficult to find evidence of the calamity. The high water mark on the surviving buildings has been painted over or worn away by time.

Still, there are many old trees with scars

where their bark was ripped away on the north-east side.

The town has a museum where school children and tourists can learn about the Flood of 1976. Most people who lived through it have a deep empathy for those who endure adversity throughout the world. Donations to trusted humanitarian organizations are generous.

Sunday, May 31, 2009


Wikipedia says our town is at an altitude of 4,865 feet (1,483 M) above sea level. In addition, we are just hours south of Canada. This combination of altitude and latitude gives us a very narrow window for gardening. I have seen it snow here every month of the year except August. We had a snow storm in 1993 that nearly shut down a July 4th Parade--possibly a result of high altitude ash from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo---but I digress. Killing frosts can occur as late as June, so most people don’t plant their sweet corn until the end of May. Tomatoes have to get a head start in a greenhouse or a sunny window. There are a great variety of ways to keep tomato plants warm and healthy. When I was feeding three teen-age boys I used the black plastic and old tire method. It works well, but the cold weather always seems to arrive before the crop turns red. That usually means bringing green tomatoes into the house to ripen. Canning would drag out until October.
Fresh tomatoes that can survive a truck ride to Idaho have the texture and flavor of a racquet ball. To my way of thinking, a few garden grown tomatoes are worth extra effort even if they can only be enjoyed for a few weeks in August and September.
In the middle of May I bought some gallon sized tomato plants and nestled each one into a gadget called a Wall-of-Water.
The plastic collar has vertical columns that are filled with water to hold in heat and keep out cold and wind.
They work okay, unless you don’t put them on level ground or mound dirt around the base. Then they choose to topple onto the baby plants late in the evening when you are in your high heels. Your attempts to right the situation results in ruined nylons (more about them later) and muddy party shoes.
When frost is predicted you gather the top around the plant. On sunny afternoons the collar is opened to disperse heat. (Lots of hands on stuff so don’t try this with an acre of plants).
Yesterday I noticed the plants were straining to crawl out of their little greenhouses so I went to step two.
I pulled off the Wall of Waters and stuck a stake in the dirt about three inches from each plant (you can use about any kind of 1x1 pole about five feet long).
Now I got out those ruined panty hose. I know enclosing your legs in stockings is old school. But around here we get so few chances to see sunlight that, out of courtesy, most ladies wear nylons with dresses to protect others from the glare of legs the color of mayonnaise. Anyway, I cut up the hose into two-to-three inch wide strips and used them to tie the plants to the stakes in several places.
The last part of the process (I told you this was labor intensive)
is to prune the plants so there is just one main stem. As the plants grow, new shoots form where the branches attach to the stem. These little suckers have to be pulled off when they are two-to-four inches long. I grasp them with a thumb and forefinger and pull outward and downward. New ties and pruning need to happen about every ten days. IF I can maintain this procedure and the weather co-operates I will get less tomatoes, but huge ones that are ripe long before the first frost. More later.