Thursday, November 30, 2023


I was born in 1951, the third of four children born to Joe and Mildred. Pam was first, next was Mike, then me, and last of all was Kate. My dad was a coal miner in Southern Illinois. Times were tough and jobs scarce in that area in 1954, so shortly before Kate was born my dad drove out west in search of work, adventure, and most likely, to have a break from the growing family. I wasn’t quite four at that time so most of what I “remember” are the family memories that were not documented, other than with some pictures from our camera. My dad drove to Colorado and to Washington State looking for jobs as a miner.

For a few months my mother lived on her own with me and my siblings. She gave birth to their fourth child while Dad was out west working as a miner. A few months after Kate was born Dad drove back to Illinois to gather his wife and kids and make the return trip out west. Mike was six years old at the time and asked Dad “when are we going down west?” From that moment on we all referred to the trip out west as “down west”. I remember some of the presents he brought us when he came back from “down west”: Pam got a Terri Lee babydoll, Mike got a beaded Indian belt, and he brought me a parakeet named Pretty Boy. 

It wasn’t long before we had packed all our belongings in the old Kaiser car and left Tuscola for “down west”. After a brief stop to leave Pretty Boy with relatives in Oak Lawn, a Chicago suburb, we headed west.

On our trip west Dad told us fascinating stories about the adventures he had. One of my favorites, possibly because I played a role in it, was of the time when he first arrived out west. Exhausted from the long drive he pulled the car over to the side of a remote mountain road, in the middle of the day, to take a quick nap. After falling asleep in the back seat he was startled awake. He said he didn’t actually see anyone or anything that day as he climbed over the seat into the driver’s seat and hastily drove away. But he was convinced his safety had been at risk. His nerves had been rattled before he ever left Illinois, when, as he was saying goodbye to his wife and children, he overheard his four-year-old daughter, namely me, ask my mom “is Daddy gonna die?” He had taken it as a premonition. Apparently, when he was startled awake that day in the car, he worried my premonition was about to come true.
When we arrived in the state of Washington, my dad found work at a new uranium mine, the Midnite Mine near Wellpinit, Washington. It was located along Burma Road a couple of miles west of Turtle Lake in the Blue Creek vicinity. We lived in a 15 foot trailer in a small camping area across the road from the mine. We shared the camp with a couple of other families near a little creek, our water source. Pam and Mike were of school age and rode the school bus to the grade school in Wellpinit. I stayed at the campsite with my mom and Kate, the baby. There was no television in those days, at least it was not available to us, but our lives were rich with fun and the excitement of playing in the woods. 

My days were spent picking wildflowers and climbing trees. Many times I was warned by my mother not to climb the trees. On one particular day my mom found me high in a tree, so high it was beyond her reach. She stood at the bottom with Kate in her arms and gently tried to coax me down with promises of candy. When I finally was on the ground she put Kate down and came after me. I still have a vision of my mom chasing me through the camp and me knowing I was going to get my butt whipped. 

In the evenings we all looked forward to hearing my dad’s stories of a wicked old witch that lived in the woods. She was a danger to the children who wandered in the woods looking for beeble berries. We were all characters in his stories and each night we sat around him eager to hear the next chapter in the beeble berry picking adventure. (Dad drew his inspiration and name "beeble berry" from a Little Lulu comic book of that time.)
I have mostly fragmented memories of this period in my life; the dog we named Collie because that was his breed; the neighbor dog who tangled with a porcupine and had quills removed from his mouth using a pair of pliers; the times we were allowed to play near the creek; and a family trip to a nearby indoor hot springs. We lived on the Indian Reservation for one summer and then moved to Cobalt, Idaho. The Midnite Mine was operated from 1955, the year we moved there, until 1965. It reopened in 1968 and was permanently closed in 1981. It is now a Superfund Site undergoing environmental cleanup. Fran

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Argentina Trip 2008

Fifteen years ago this month, in November 2008, my sister Fran and I flew from Portland and Denver to Dallas where we boarded a long flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the adventure of a lifetime for us. We were meeting up with my daughter-in-law, Alejandra, and her two little ones, Lucas, 5, and Isabella, 3, who had been there in Buenos Aires for several weeks visiting Alejandra's family. Our son, Patrick, had to fly back to the States for work so Fran and I planned to stay a couple of weeks and help Alejandra with the kids, then fly home together. The next two weeks were a whirlwind of activity and excitement, not much us helping with the kids, more a personal tour of the city that Alejandra loves so much.


We were on the go every day, traveled by boat, plane, bus, and taxi. We visited a magnificent cemetery in the middle of the city, attended a Tango dance at a late night theater, shopped in a bookstore whose architecture was awe inspiring, ate delicious pastries, amazing beef dishes at outdoor restaurants, and took the kids to indoor play areas like I had never seen. Oh, and so much more.


Alejandra's brother Eduardo treated us to an authentic asado dinner in his back yard where he cooked the meat on his outdoor grille, and served it with many side dishes and excellent wine. He invited all his siblings and their families too, a heartwarming experience for us all. Fran and I fell in love with Alejandra's family that day. We also visited her mother's home and Ana took us for a walk through her neighborhood, introduced us to her neighbors and friends.





For the last part of our visit we traveled outside the city to a ranch where we stayed in a beautiful set of sunlit rooms with cool stone floors, centered around a jeweler's studio. It was situated in a rural area with horses, artwork, dancing, and several informal restaurants. There was even a museum that featured the art of Molina Campos, an Argentine artist that Bob has admired all his life.


Fran passed away this fall so there will be no more memory making for us together as sisters. I will always be thankful to Alejandra and Patrick and Bob for encouraging this 2008 adventure in Argentina that Fran and I enjoyed so much. And a huge thank you to Alejandra's family for making Fran feel welcome, a part of their family, loved.







Between the three of us we took hundreds of photos. I have chosen a few of my favorites.