Springtime in the Rockies–15 on the 1518

Major springtime snow storm

March 7, 2020

Thirty years ago day, March 7, 1990 was a day to remember—one I remember quite well!
I was working for a law firm in downtown Denver at that time, and I was listening to the radio before leaving the house that morning.
“Light snow, today!” the forecaster stated.
When I left the house for the bus, I noticed that light snow flakes were indeed falling–a pretty sight as I headed toward downtown Denver.
My office was on the 25th floor of a downtown Denver sky scraper. As usual, the office was in turmoil upon my arrival.
“Did you throw out the salad dressing?” the head paralegal roared at me.
“What salad dressing?” I asked.
“IN THE REFRIGERATOR!” she roared.
“No, I didn’t,” I responded.
I had been there a month and already realized my mistake in accepting the job. The head paralegal was always engaged in a different battle each morning. This was her general type of greeting.
Meanwhile, my project awaited me on my desk.
I cast a quick glance through the window and noticed that the snowflakes were becoming larger. Light snow? I thought. I quickly forgot the snow and tackled the project at my desk.

***
The morning passed slowly. I turned on the radio at noon and was greeted by a list of closures.
“All afternoon and evening classes cancelled at Front Range Community College, all campuses. All afternoon and evening classes canceled at the Auraria Higher Education Center….”
What in the world?” I wondered.
My question was answered late afternoon when the office manager announced that we were closing the office at 4:00. She added, “I suggest you leave now.”
After clearing my desk, I headed out into the storm, wondering why we weren’t told about it earlier.
The 16th Street Mall was buried in snow, so shuttles to and from the bus station were not running. I found that out quickly enough when I left the building and stepped out into the mall. I had never seen so much snow! I struggled through the drifts toward the Market Street Station, where I would catch my ride home. I don’t know how many times I fell on that trip to the station. And I gasped when I finally entered the building. Long strings of lines snaked throughout the station. The bus schedules were history. People caught the next bus available. After an hour of playing inchworm, I finally climbed on “the next available bus” and dropped into the “last available seat” at the back. We were completely full with people standing in the full length of the aisle.
“Is everybody ready?” the driver boomed into the microphone.
“YES!” came a very loud response
“HANG ON!”
We didn’t get too far. We had to climb the elevated exit leading out of the bus station. Ice had already formed on the pavement, so our bus slipped forward and back.
“HANG ON!” the driver said again. “I’M GOING TO MAKE A RUN FOR IT.”
He began the slow back up, forcing the long line of buses behind us to do the same thing. I remember thinking, “I need to look for the bus number. I have a feeling this is going to be quite an adventure!” That’s when I spotted the number 1518 above the front windshield.
The tires of the bus slipped and slid as we twisted sideways and then forward before plunging into the street. A loud cheer arose inside the bus. But our journey was just beginning.
Two and two are four
Four and four are eight
Eight and eight are sixteen
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two(1)

Words of the Inchworm song came to mind as we meandered through the streets in an attempt to access I-25.
Inch worm, inch worm
Measuring the marigolds
You and your arithmetic
You’ll probably go far(2)

We inched along to the entrance of the highway. Then we came to a complete stop and sat there for a very long time.
***
Meanwhile, in another part of Denver, our children Brian and Debbie left their place of employment to embark on their own adventure. At the time, they were working at that time at a place called Downtown Radio. And they were driving Howard’s great big 1974 Buick Electra, officially dubbed by me as “Beulah the Buick.” Fresh from a stint in the Army, Brian took command of the “big old battleship” (my other name for the thing) and started an adventure of their own.
I imagine Brian’s first challenge was getting out of the parking lot, where he rocked Beulah forward and back numerous times before breaking free. Each time they were stuck, Debbie would say, “Oh please, God! Oh please, God!” And when they were free, she would clap her hands and exclaim, “YIPPEE!”
Their adventure on the roads was no picnic. Brian and Beulah rocked and rolled all the way up the road to Broomfield with cheerleader Debbie in full volume.
They didn’t try for a major freeway. Brian thought his luck would be better on the regular streets.
***
And meanwhile, back on the bus, we were still sitting. Eventually we inched forward onto I-25 and began the long, slow stop and start again up the road. It took us two hours getting to the Boulder Turnpike. And once we got on that road, we came to a complete stop. The driver turned on the radio in time to for all of us to hear the following announcement: “DON’T FORGET TO STOP AT BENNIGANS FOR HAPPY HOUR!”
“Well, we’re going to miss that!” one of the passengers commented.
I can’t remember how long we sat on the turnpike before inching forward again. I sat there wondering about the kids and their adventure in getting home. And I could just see Howard looking out the front window wondering where all of us were.
***
Around 8:00 or 9:00 P.M., our bus finally pulled into a bus stop on the Turnpike. Many of the passengers got off. There was a King Soopers store in the area, and they planned to call someone and let their relatives know they hadn’t died. Fifteen passengers were left on the 1518. We began speculating about spending the night on the bus.
“There is no way I’m going to work tomorrow,” I told the person sitting next to me.
“Well, I don’t think any of us will be going to work tomorrow,” the person replied. “I’m not!”
Shortly after that we learned the Turnpike was closed all the way to Boulder. There was no way we could proceed any further.
“Okay, everyone hang on!” the driver announced. “I’m going to try something!”
He inched the great 1518 back onto the highway, and slowly maneuvered it to the divider in the center. So much snow had fallen that he managed to get the bus over the divider and onto the eastbound Turnpike. Then with a lot of slipping and sliding, we made our escape down the Federal exit to Federal Boulevard. And—
1518 came to a standstill on a hill!
No amount of coaxing could get it to move forward!
Some of the heartier people got off the bus in an effort to rock it out of its predicament. Then a large truck appeared on the scene and gave us the push we needed.
With more hills ahead of us, the driver chose a side street that was fortunately level. He needed to get us over to Wadsworth, and to the park-n’-ride where many of the cars were awaiting their owners. 1518 finally reached the road beside the park-n-ride, but there was no way we could drive in there. I grabbed ahold of a woman’s hand, and we struggled together through snow drifts to the park-n’-ride interior, where police jeeps were awaiting us.
“Is there room enough for me?” I asked as I approached one of them.
“Yes, there is,” the officer said. “You can sit up here by me!”
As we bounced along the road leading into the town, I commented, “Well, now I can tell everyone that I rode in a police jeep!!!!”
We pulled into the parking lot of Nativity Church in town. Stranded people who needed to go to Boulder would spend the night on cots there. Those who were close to home could call to let relatives know where they were. I glanced at the clock on the wall and had to blink. It was 12:30 in the morning! I left the office at 4:00 P.M., so it took me that long in getting home. Since my house is only a few blocks from that church, I elected to walk the rest of the way. The line-up for the telephone was just too long.

***
It was a struggle getting on to the main road. Third street was a similar battle. But by the time I reached Emerald, the snow plows had already been through, so I could walk down the middle of the road. The snow had stopped. The moon was shining brightly. I walked along thinking about my future and what I was going to do from this point on. Then I came to a halt when I reached the end of our street.
There sat Beulah the Buick, snarled up in a snow bank.
“Well, thank goodness the kids made it home!” I thought.
In a few short minutes, I would be home as well. And the front walk had even been shoveled. I hurried toward the front door and pushed it open!
“I’M HOME!” I yelled.
That’s when a chorus of voices greeted me from the family room in the basement.
“WHERE IN THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”

NOTES:
(1), (2) Danny Kaye Inchworm Lyrics. Available at https://lyrics.fandom.com/wiki/Danny_Kaye:Inchworm

Tribute To A Newspaper Carrier: Brian Scott Beall (1968-2016)

 

The day of Brian's graduation from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1996

The day of Brian’s graduation from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1996

 

 

Shortly after our move to Colorado in August 1980, our son Brian Scott Beall began carrying The Denver Post. We moved to a different address by November. He gave up his Post route and began carrying The Rocky Mountain News, and carried that route for approximately two years. After that, he carried not only The Rocky Mountain News, but The Denver Post and The Boulder Camera as well. I can still see him pushing his bike with the News on the front, the Post on the back, and the Camera somewhere in between. He needed to complete those routes before school. Eventually, he gave up the Rocky Mountain route to his sister. I helped her with that endeavor. But Brian continued with the other two, sometimes pushing his bike with flat tires through snow drifts.

In 1989 while he was still in the Army and stationed in Germany, one of our neighbors wrote a Letter of Personal Character Recommendation for Brian.  Howard found it among his valuables just a few days ago. The author passed away some years ago and now with the passing of Brian, I am sharing the contents of this letter:

To Whom It May Concern

Subject: Personal Character recommendation for Brian Beall

I have known the subject young man since he was a youngster. Brian was our paper boy and the manner in which he conducted that modest first business was truly outstanding. He undertook it as a profession and carried out his duty just as effectively as if he had been a highly paid person in another job. Being a paper boy is to many people near the bottom of the list in endeavors. Brian not only made it into something professional but to my knowledge never missed. He didn’t just toss it in the bushes or into a snow bank. It was always at the top of my steps where I wanted it.

I guess when you assess character it is how much zeal you put into the little jobs. This young man has been a real joy and credit to his parents but has always been well liked in the neighborhood.

Reaching adulthood he has elected to join the military and serve his country. It is my observed personal judgment that Brian should be observed as highly recommended for any job or position that he seeks and of course one commensurate with his abilities. Having been a Naval Officer for most of my life I consider my assessment of this young man to be much more than just a routine observation

Robert E. Williams

Lieutenant Commander, US. Navy Retired

April 9, 1989

A Star Wars Glass and the U.S. Postal Service — “May The Force Be With You!”

Brian's Star Wars Glass and Little People

Brian’s Star Wars Glass

“OH BOY!”

Brian’s exclamation came from the back seat. We were returning from our weekend grocery shopping spree in a Missouri town about a half hour’s drive from our place in the country. As always, the brownies and bananas never made it home. Brian and Debbie quickly devoured those as soon as they were inside the car. And now, they were examining the cereal boxes.

“I’M GOING TO GET THIS!” Brian announced.

“What?” I asked.

“THIS!”

He passed the box up to me so I could see what he had found.

“A Star Wars thermo-glass!” I commented. “You need two box tops from two of these cereal boxes and one dollar!”

“I have the money!” Brian announced. “I’ve been saving for something big! I want this!”

“Well, okay. You have the money and one box top. Now you need another box top.”

“Can we go back to the store and get another box of cereal?”

“Brian, we are halfway home! You can wait until next weekend for that second box. And then you can send off for this.”

During the following week, Brian and Debbie both acquired a taste for that cereal. They ate it for breakfast and lunch, and they also ate it during their snack time. I am quite certain that Louie the cat and Heidi the poodle were also given treats. And the following weekend, we were back in the store acquiring the second box of cereal. Brian wasted no time in removing the box top. Then he had me fill out the order and address the envelope.

“We’re going to the library Monday,” I told him. “You can take this into town and mail it at the post office.”

“I’m going to get it ready!” he exclaimed as he ran down the hallway to his room.

When Monday morning arrived, a happy Brian bounced out to the car with a bulging envelope in his hand. When we were all in the car, I had to turn around to look at his pride and joy.

“What in the world do you have in that envelope?” I asked.

“Two box tops, the form and my money!” he responded.

“Money?”

“I have a dollar’s worth of pennies!”

“Brian, that will not make it through the post office!” I told him. “The envelope will rip open, and those pennies will drop out!”

“Oh yes, it will!”

“Why didn’t you give your pennies to your dad, and let him give you a dollar bill?”

“Because these are my pennies I saved, and I wanted to use them! Besides, I said a prayer for my envelope!”

Well, who was I to question the faith of a child?

When we pulled up in front of the library, Brian jumped out of the car and ran up the street toward the post office.

“I’ll bet we have to buy two more boxes of cereal and give him a dollar bill and do this thing all over again,” I told Howard.

Presently, a happy Brian bounced into the library.

“See? I told you! He took my letter!” he announced.

“The postmaster took your letter with all those pennies in it?”

“He put a lot of tape around it!”

“I’ll bet he did!” I responded.

The wait began. Brian raced up to the mail box each afternoon, hoping to find his package. Then about three weeks later, an excited Brian raced down the driveway with a package in his hands.

“See? I told you!” he announced.

“Is that your Star Wars glass?” I asked, completely surprised.

“Yup!”

He tore the package open and sat staring at his prized possession.

“Two things must have happened,” I told Howard later. “Either the envelope made it through the mail with all that heavy tape on it and all those pennies inside it. Or, the postmaster waited until Brian left the post office. Then he made out a new envelope and replaced all those pennies with a dollar bill!”

Brian didn’t care what happened. He was so excited to have his Star Wars glass that he kept it on his dresser instead of in the kitchen. He drank all of his beverages from it ranging from Kool-Aid to milk. Then he grew up and left home, leaving the glass in our care, custody and control.

We kept it high in the cupboard for years until I re-discovered it several years ago. Today, it holds pens and pencils on an antique wash stand in our living room.

 

The Adventure of No. 1518 and Beulah the Buick: The Big Snow

March 23, 2016 Blizzard

March 23, 2016 Metro-Denver Blizzard

 

Our blizzard yesterday caused me to reflect upon a number of past snow events this time of year. March in Colorado often generates a spectacular snow to be long remembered. March 2003 definitely stands out as “the big one.” I was teaching back then and was granted two weeks of spring break–something I did not mind at all! Neither did my students!  March 2006 is another vivid memory, but not for the depth of the snow. Howard and I decided to make a trip to Missouri over spring break that year. The weather was wet and snowy–a rain-snow mixture that plagued us most of the trip until our return home. But we enjoyed it. As I recall, this was our second trip over spring break. Our first spring break trip included our children in 1984 when we left on a road trip for California. We experienced at least three seasons then. But there is one year that stands out vividly in my mind as another March storm event. That storm involved not only me but our children Brian and Debbie as well.

It was March 7, 1990. I awoke at my usual time and got ready for my day at the office. Turning on the radio, I caught the tail end of a local weather forecast.

“Light snow today!” the announcer stated. “No accumulation; just flurries.”

“TIME TO GET UP!” I yelled down the stairway.

“Yeah! Yeah!” Brian’s sleepy voice responded.

Discharged from the Army a couple of months previously, our son Brian returned home and settled in with us. He needed a job, so his sister Debbie got him hired by her employer–a radio shop in downtown Denver. At that time, my husband and I owned a large 1974 Buick Electra I had nicknamed Beulah. Driving Beulah was like driving a huge battleship, something I refused to do. I always felt the boat was driving me! So I used a monthly bus pass while Brian and Debbie drove Beulah. Howard drove a 1974 Cadillac DeVille he acquired  at a local auction. So we all set off in our separate directions that morning.

“It’s going to snow!” I announced to the others as we left. “But I don’t think it is going to amount to much.”

…or so I thought!

I stood on the bus stop, watching light flakes descend about me. By the time I reached the park ‘n ride, the flakes had grown larger and heavier. And by the time I reached downtown, the ground was painted white. During the ride down the mall, I watched the swirling flakes outside the window.

Glad I wore my boots! I hope the kids wore theirs!

“NEXT STOP! TREMONT!”

I remember calling home when I first arrived in the office. No answer. Everyone had left.

“Can I see you for a moment?”

The office adversary’s nose penetrated the doorway of my office. I quickly forgot the snow swirling outside my office window and turned my attention to her.  Something in her voice suggested that this would be one of those days. She led me down the hallway to the refrigerator in the employee’s lounge.

“Did you toss out the salad dressing in here?” she demanded.

Surprised, I responded, “No, I did not!”

“Well, someone threw it away! It’s not here now!”

“It wasn’t me!” I told her. “I don’t use the refrigerator.”

I watched her storming down the hallway in search of another victim. As for me, I returned to my office where a pile of correspondence awaited me on my desk–blessings from the adversary with a note:

You are to read through this correspondence, circle important matters, copy the correspondence and put it on the proper desk.

That project engaged me most of the morning. The noon hour found me in the employee’s lounge where the adversary was complaining about missing salad dressing to her thirty-fourth victim that morning. I elected to return to my office to eat my lunch, where I turned on the radio. The list of closures caught my attention immediately.

“All local colleges! All local schools! All government offices! All public libraries…”

Is it that bad?

A sheet of white draped the window, preventing me from viewing the extent of the storm.  I returned to my desk where another project awaited my attention. And then at 4:00, the office manager arrived.

“Barbara, we are closing the office. You should go home now. We want to make sure all our employees get home safely.”

At 4:00? I thought.

Other places had closed hours ago. But I wasn’t about to argue the situation. Before leaving, I called home. Hopefully, Howard, Brian and Debbie were there.

“I just got home!” Howard told me. “It’s terrible out there!”

“What about Brian and Debbie?” I asked.

“They aren’t here. I called the radio shop, and they have already closed. So hopefully, they will get here soon!”

“I’m leaving now. I should be home in an hour or two.”

Then I locked up my office for the evening and headed out into the storm.

Stepping out onto the street was like stepping out into the Ice Age. Huge snow drifts blanketed the streets and sidewalks making movement impossible.  The shuttles had ceased running. I would have to trudge to the bus terminal on foot–an endeavor that proved quite challenging. I don’t know how many times I fell during the process. Finally, the bus terminal came into sight.

And look at the lines!

It took a long time for me to make my way through the bus terminal, following the line for the Boulder bus. About an hour later, I actually mounted the steps of the bus and dropped upon the last seat available. When standing-room-only filled the aisle to the emergency line up front, the door closed, and the driver put the bus in reverse. This was not a small bus. Regional and express buses in this area are the size of Greyhound or old Trailways buses.

BZZZRRRRRRZZZZZBRRRRZZZ!

Snow and ice had filled the exit of the bus terminal. As soon as the tires struck the obstruction, they could only spin. The driver threw the bus into reverse and charged again to no avail. Finally, with chants of “Go! Go! Go!” from the passengers, the great bus overcame the barrier and lunged out to the street.

What is the number of this bus? I wondered, peering at the overhead sign at the front. 1518! I need to remember this. I think this is going to be a long ride!

I no longer remember how long it took for the bus to attain I-25, but it was a long time of tire-spinning, getting stuck and unstuck, stopping and starting. And the trek up I-25 was no better. That portion of the trip was an inch-by- inch enterprise.

“I don’t think we’re going to make the 5:30 connection at the park-n-ride!” one man commented.

The driver turned on the radio so we could listen to music.

“Don’t forget Happy Hour at Benigans!” the radio announcer stated.

“I don’t think we’re going to make that either!” another man quipped.

We were standing still at the entrance to the Boulder Turnpike. As we sat there in the darkness, listening to the howling wind outside, I settled back in my seat, wondering about the kids.

***

Presumably, the radio shop closed earlier in the afternoon. I do not know the time Brian and Debbie were actually set free. I’m certain the trek across the parking lot was a challenge and the fight getting Beulah out of the parking lot was profound. I-25 was jammed; the kids knew that.  I believe Brian may have opted for Wadsworth. Wadsworth is one of the major snow routes in the area that is supposed to be plowed and ready for action. However,  in a situation like this, the plowing was undoubtedly one swipe. Brian spent more time spinning his tires and freeing himself from snow banks than he did in achieving progress up the road. Debbie acted as cheerleader during the ordeal. When Beulah was stuck in a drift:

“Oh, please, God! Oh, please, God! Oh, please, God!”

And when Beulah sprang free:

“YIPPPEEE!”

There were more “Please, Gods” than there were “YIPPEEES” on their trip home. However, Brian and Beulah prevailed. Beulah inched her way up Wads with a lot of tire spinning, rocking back and forth no doubt to the rhythm of the blaring radio.  They finally reached the end of our street about 7:00 or 7:30 that night. And that’s when Beulah’s battery sighed and died. They got out of the car and trudged down the street to our house!

“WE’RE HOME!” Brian announced.

Relieved, Howard added, “But, I’m worried about your mother!”

***

Meanwhile, back on the bus…

We were still sitting at the entrance of I-25 and the Boulder Turnpike. Music continued to play on the radio. Passengers cracked jokes. Maybe we could get home faster if we walked, some suggested. Finally, the bus gained some traction and navigated the low hill it was trying to mount. We crept up the Turnpike and passed a school yard slowly, its swings and slides buried in drifts.  This storm occurred long before the invention of cell phones, so no one could call anyone and let them know our whereabouts. Then, we stopped again and sat still, completely unable to move.

“Well, that’s it!” the driver said. “We’re here for the night unless we try something else.”

He opted for the second choice. In those days, there was only a small barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes on the Boulder Turnpike. By rocking the bus back and forth, the driver was able to turn the bus sideways. And then with more rocking and churning, No. 1518 mounted the barrier and landed safely in the eastbound lane.

“There goes the playground again!” someone quipped as we headed past it.

We took the Federal entrance and headed north. Federal is another snow route that is always plowed first during such occasions. In this case, the road was plowed, but ice defied travel up hill. At one point, passengers got off the bus and pushed it to free it from an icy spot.

I glanced at my watch. 11:30 P.M.

“I don’t think I’m going to work tomorrow,” I told the person sitting beside me.

“You and me both,” came the response.

The bus turned down a side street. We navigated that street well and came out on Wadsworth near the park n’ ride. Cars were buried there. We were told to get out at the edge of the park n’ ride and walk to emergency vehicles waiting there for us. They would take us down to Nativity Church for the night. Well, Nativity is only a couple of blocks from my house, I noted. I could walk home from there.

By now, the snow had stopped. We grabbed hands as we struggled through drifts to police jeeps waiting to drive us down to the town. I hurried up to one of them.

“Do you have room for one more?” I asked.

“Right here in front,” the officer told me.

First and only time I’ve ever had a trip in a police vehicle.

We pulled into the parking lot at Nativity. I went inside briefly to call the house, but discovered the line for the phone went on forever.  Instead, I thanked them for getting me down out of the park n’ ride and headed home.

The moon glowed brightly overhead as the clouds moved away. As I headed down Emerald, I remembered some of the resolutions I made over the course of my experience. One was to free myself from the awful environment where I worked–a place full of snap dragons and venom suckers. I had been in similar environments previously and now I was doing it again. No more! At that moment, I felt as though I could walk on forever.

When I turned our corner, I stopped to look at the great white Buick stalled there.

“Beulah?” I exclaimed. “Then the kids got home safely!”

By now it was 12:30 A.M. And when I opened the door, a chorus of voices greeted me:

“WHERE IN THE WORLD HAVE YOU BEEN?”.

 

 

The 7:10 to Heaven: Brian Scott Beall (1968-2016)–A Mother’s Memory

Photo taken at Fort Garland, Colorado June 2009

Photo taken at Fort Garland, Colorado, June 2009

It was one of those hot, sticky Missouri summers where the sweat rolled off of us, causing us to stick to the furniture.

We had just returned from an afternoon swim at the local lake. Brian and Debbie hurried down the lane to the pond  behind the house where they were building a fort. I landed on an upholstered platform rocker, wondering when autumn would fall. Presently, I heard the back door slam, water running in the bathtub and the door slam once again.

“Brian, what are you doing?”

No answer. I looked through the window and saw him running down the path.

Oh well!

Howard was busy pulling weeds in the front yard. He was always busy out there.  As for me, I pulled the knob on the TV set and collapsed once again on the chair.

About a half hour later, I wandered down the hallway to the bathroom, where I was greeted by a loud sound from the bathtub.

RIVETT!

What in the world is that?

Peering over the edge of the tub, I was greeted by a large bull frog sitting in water.

RIVETT!!!

And I wasted no time in racing out to the back deck to register my displeasure.

“BRIAN SCOTT BEALL! YOU GET YOURSELF IN THIS HOUSE, AND YOU GET THAT FROG OUT OF MY BATHTUB AND PUT HIM BACK IN THE POND WHERE YOU FOUND HIM!”

Brian appeared at the end of the path.

“Well, he wants to stay in the house!”

“THAT FROG IS NOT GOING TO STAY IN MY HOUSE! NOW, YOU GET IN HERE AND GET HIM OUT OF MY TUB AND PUT HIM BACK IN THE POND! AND DON’T YOU BRING HIM BACK IN THE HOUSE AGAIN!”

“Okay! Okay!”

RIVETT!!

I stood at the window and watched Brian carry him down the path toward the pond.

Years later when I reminded him of this adventure, Brian stated, “Oh no! You didn’t call me BRIAN BEALL. You called me BRIAN SCOTT BEALL. And when I heard my middle name, I knew that I was in trouble!”

***

Brian Scott Beall was born August 6, 1968 at 3:45 P.M. in St. Anthony’s Hospital, Louisville, Kentucky–our first born child. And I must admit I was somewhat terrified. Unlike many of my friends from school and my sister, I did no babysitting while growing up. At most, I may have held one or two babies–but beyond that, I was clueless. My mother-in-law, Mildred Warfield Beall, came to stay with me my first week home. Howard was teaching school and the year was just beginning for him. Rather than leave me alone to my own uncertainties, Mildred came to the rescue. I don’t know what I would have done without her. And I cried after she returned home.

Howard's parents: Mildred Lee Warfield Beall (1917-2007) and Rev. Edward Leyburn Beall (1907-1992) standing behind their house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Winter 1963.

Howard’s parents: Mildred Lee Warfield Beall (1917-2007) and Rev. Edward Leyburn Beall (1907-1992) standing behind their house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Winter 1963.

Brian and cousin Kari Jo's baptism, November 1968, Farmington Presbyterian Church, Farmington, Missouri. Their grandfather, Rev. Edward L. Beall, performed the baptism. Kari Jo is the daughter of Howard's brother, and Prince's wife Cleone.

Brian and cousin Kari Jo’s baptism, November 1968, Farmington Presbyterian Church, Farmington, Missouri. Their grandfather, Rev. Edward L. Beall, performed the baptism. Kari Jo is the daughter of Howard’s brother, and Prince’s wife Cleone.

My new role as mother left me clueless. I stood beside his crib and watched him smile in his sleep. My own parents would be coming on vacation in October to see their first grandchild. That should give me time to figure out what I was supposed to do with the little fellow.

One morning I carried him into the living room and sat down in my comfortable chair, arching my legs on the footstool. Brian rested against my legs and looked at me as though wondering “Who is this strange person?” I think I smiled first and said, “Hi!” He smiled. And then I knew we connected. He wrapped his tiny hands on each index finger and smiled again. After that, it was Row, Row, Row Your Boat — The Teensie Weensie Spider, and Pee Paw–a word that eventually became his word for Peek-a-boo! I see you!

Brian getting his bath when my parents were in Louisville, October 1968

Brian getting his bath when my parents were in Louisville, October 1968

My parents Gordon Loren Inman and Elva Gail Spence Inman arrived on their vacation trip. I kept looking through the window of the front door for them and put Brian back in his bed. I had already experienced one disaster that morning with a furnace vent cleaner. We had just installed a new furnace in the house. Well, the new furnace was installed a few days previously, but the vents weren’t cleaned out,  and the pilot light wouldn’t stay on. So Howard called the people that morning and told them to “get out here” and “clean the vents!” It was chilly that morning. We needed heat with a new baby in the house. The man arrived, blew out the vents, lit the pilot and left. And I stood in the dining room in tears. Having spent several days cleaning the house to make it spotless for my parents, I now needed to reclean it and get it in shape before my parents arrived. Fortunately, the task was quickly finished just as their car pulled up in front of the house. Our dachshund Heidi was elated. She loved my parents and hadn’t been getting as much attention since Brian arrived.

“I couldn’t believe you are a mother until I saw your little baby!” my mother told me as we looked at the sleeping Brian.

As I recall, they were there about a week. We even went on an excursion to Stephen Collins Foster’s “My Old Kentucky Home.” That was Brian’s first road trip. He did just fine.

Did I mention the little squeaky noise he made while being fed? I had joined The La Leche League in Louisville just before Brian was born because I was determined to breast feed him. I took him to a meeting one night and he decided he wanted a night cap. All eyes traveled to Brian as he noisily enjoyed his feast–the squeakiest little baby in the room!

Springtime in Louisville took us out to the yard where Brian enjoyed his swing set and playing in his walker. He also had a stroller and a swing, both of which he plainly enjoyed.

Brian and me, late Spring 1969, Louisville, Kentucky

Brian and me, late Spring 1969, Louisville, Kentucky

Howard had started a master’s program in counseling through Western Kentucky University that spring and decided that we would move to Bowling Green in June. So we sold our house and moved to Bowling Green, Kentucky in June 1969. It took us a while to find a place to live there, but we found a place by late October or early November and were in Bowling Green until the following July.

Howard and Brian in front of our house in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Howard and Brian in front of our house in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Taken December 1969

Brian sitting on our front porch in Bowling Green, Kentucky, June 1970

Brian sitting on our front porch in Bowling Green, Kentucky, June 1970

Before the Summer of 1970, however, we made a trip to Cedar Rapids to see my parents, where some generation photos were made.

Four generation photo: my maternal grandmother Oda Elizabeth Hopper Spence (1894-1981); my mother Elva Gail Spence Inman (1917-2003); Brian and me

Four generation photo: my maternal grandmother Oda Elizabeth Hopper Spence (1894-1981); my mother Elva Gail Spence Inman (1917-2003); Brian and me, Probably taken Summer 1969

Three Generations: my dad Gordon Loren Inman (1908-1974), Brian and me. This was taken on one of our spring jaunts

Three Generations: my dad Gordon Loren Inman (1908-1974), Brian and me. This was taken on one of our spring jaunts. Taken Spring 1970

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard and Brian on the porch of his parents home, Auburn, Kentucky the day he graduated from Western Kentucky University.

Howard and Brian on the porch of his parents home, Auburn, Kentucky the day he graduated from Western Kentucky University.

 

In July 1970, we moved back to my home town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa where Howard had a teaching contract. I was pregnant when we moved there. Brian’s sister Deborah Lee Beall (“Debbie) was born January 12, 1971 in St. Luke’s Hospital, Cedar Rapids, Iowa–the same hospital where I was born. Brian stayed with my parents during the week I was in the hospital and didn’t quite know what to make of a little sister who had just arrived. They squabbled when they were little but bonded well with the passage of time. Debbie, a nurse, would become Brian’s “cheer-leader-in-chief” during his last illness.

Brian, age 3, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Brian, age 3, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. June 1971

Deborah Lee Beall at six months of age. Taken June 1971, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Deborah Lee Beall at six months of age. Taken June 1971, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brian attended Garfield Elementary School in Cedar Rapids from 1973-1975 during Kindergarten and First Grade. We moved to Kansas City, Missouri after my graduation from Mount Mercy College.  While in Third Grade at Renner School north of Parkville, Brian became a member of a cub scout troupe. I was the Den Mother for his pack. Our most memorable occurrence? A week of daytime camp activities! “Snakes stay in their holes! Leave the other wildlife alone!” the cub scouts were told. I remember sitting in a puddle in the pouring rain, wondering how I had gotten talked into this! But for Brian, it was a week of fun. The cub scouts made rockets they shot off the last day of the camp. Brian’s rocket placed second highest.

We were in Kansas City until 1977 when we moved to the Missouri Ozarks for a three-year stint. That’s where the frog-in-the-bathtub incident occurred. I had long known Brian had a special love for animals beginning with Heidi the dachshund. He and his sister  had a rabbit named Peetie and guinea pigs galore. We didn’t know guinea pigs could be so productive! By the time we moved to the Ozarks, a cat named Louie moved into our house. He belonged to the former residents and took off for the woods the day they were moving. Louie was joined in December by Heidi the poodle. She belonged to Howard’s parents, and they let us take her back to Missouri with us. Brian thought that all of nature belonged in the house. Besides the frog, Louie and Heidi, Brian brought a box turtle named Red Top inside the house, as well as a rabbit named Christie.  We also had a pony named Red. Brian did not attempt to bring Red indoors!  Brian had a couple of gold fish named Bubbles and Fattie. When the goldfish died, Brian took them outside and buried them beneath our bedroom window. Then he placed tiny crosses on their graves. And then he wanted to have a funeral for them. Howard joined the ceremony and said a prayer for the fish. I had never witnessed a funeral for fish before. The big problem was keeping Louie from digging them up.

The pet drama continued well into our move to Colorado. In seventh grade, Brian rescued a cat named Lucky. One of his teachers was looking for a home for Lucky, and Brian volunteered. Lucky died just before Brian entered the Army. I guess he sensed Brian was going away for a long time.  Several years later, he brought our little cat, Shadow, home while out making pizza deliveries. Shadow’s owner was a rookie for the Denver Broncos that year. He and his wife felt sorry for the kitten when they were gone. We had several additional rabbits, a dog named Gigi, a second Louie cat, a hamster named Tidbit and much later, our daughter Debbie’s dog Ramsey. In the end, Ramsey and Shadow lived with us the longest. Both have been gone for some time. Shadow died in 1997; Ramsey died in 2005. Brian went on to acquire his own pets after his marriage: a cat named Cheeto, a German Shepherd named Thor–both of whom lived a long time. Another dog named Sparky joined the club and died about a year ago. Some years ago, Brian and LuAn adopted two cats from a rescue place: a Siamese named Moe and a big bundle of love named Melvin. Melvin is the lone survivor. We often thought Brian should have been a veterinarian.

In August 1980, we left the woods for the plains and mountains of Colorado. By the time we made our move, Brian was a full-blown Pittsburgh Steelers fan–something that did not ingratiate him with Bronco supporters in Denver. He later had a habit of going to Bronco games dressed in Steeler garb. Someone once yelled at him, “Why don’t you go back to Pittsburgh?” Brian’s response? “Never been there!”

He delivered newspapers in junior high and later delivered papers as an adult for extra cash. “All of Colorado should be proud to have such a wonderful paper boy!” one client wrote the supervisor. “He’s the best newspaper deliverer I’ve ever had!” wrote another.

Brian and school did not mix well during his junior high and high school years. He was a visual learner, and he was dyslexic. When he was in seventh grade, he made a family tree book–something his dear old mother helped him with. I gave him the pictures; he wrote the stories to go with the pictures. Of course I told him the stories as he wrote them. “Only A+” I ever got!” he remembered. By high school, he was completely bored.  Howard and I turned gray over his driving escapades as well as his speeding tickets.  So Howard enrolled him in Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado. He joined the Army after graduation, where he became a field artillery surveyor. He did his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and then went to Germany for the rest of his tour where he served at Herzo Base. He was awarded the Army Achievement Medal for Perfect Service. After his discharge, he returned to Denver where he rejoined his family.

The day of Brian's graduation from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1996

The day of Brian’s graduation from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, 1997

In May 1990, I received my master’s degree at the University of Colorado of Denver.  Brian came to my graduation and while we were posing together in the front yard, Brian told me, “Mom, I met someone last night. Her name is LuAn!”  He had fallen in love with a woman while in Germany–something that didn’t work out. And then he met LuAn.

Brian's Army photo. I'm not sure whether this was taken at Fort Sill or in Germany

Brian’s Army photo. I’m not sure whether this was taken at Fort Sill or in Germany

 

 

Brian and me the day I received my Master's Degree, May 19, 1990.

Brian and me the day I received my Master’s Degree, May 19, 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian and LuAn were married in the front yard of their home March 9, 1991. March 9, 2016 would have been their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

Brian and LuAnn on their wedding day, March 9, 2016

Brian and LuAnn on their wedding day, March 9, 2016

 

 

Brian and LuAn taking their vows. Brandon is standing in the foreground

Brian and LuAn taking their vows. Brandon is standing in the foreground

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luan, Brandon and Brian heading out for a Christmas party, 1991

LuAn, Brandon and Brian heading out for a Christmas party, 1991

 

The following year on August 22, 1992, Brian’s sister Debbie married Dee Wall. Jr. in our back yard. Brian was the disc jockey at her wedding.

Debbie Beall and Dee Wall wedding, August 22, 1992

Debbie Beall and Dee Wall, Jr. wedding, August 22, 1992

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian worked ten years for Jolly Rancher  Candies and two years for Budweiser. He graduated from Red Rocks Community College in fire science. In 2003, he became a locomotive engineer for the Union Pacific Railroad, where he worked for fourteen years.  A lover of sports, Brian organized a softball league with friends from Jolly Rancher. As I recall, they played for several seasons. He traveled extensively with the railroad including a several month stint in Illinois.  He loved to travel–a love he acquired while in Germany. He and LuAn made several trips to the Indianapolis 500. He wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby but didn’t make it there. He even had his name on a season ticket list for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That would not come to pass either.

About five or six years ago, Brian and LuAn joined Calvary Chapel in Broomfield. They were both immersed–the second time for LuAn and the third time for Brian– and they became active participants in their church. They went on a Healing Waters Mission Trip to the Dominican Republic in 2012 or 2013. Brian and LuAn co-founded the Bean Saver Project that feeds hungry children. That project is still active.

In May 2014, Brian went to a high school graduation in Parker, Colorado. Jason Wall, one of our grandsons and Brian’s nephew, was graduating from Thunder Ridge High School in Douglas County. I remember sitting on the bleachers, looking for Brian. Presently, he arrived and sat on the bench next to me. He was dressed in his Pittsburg Steeler’s attire.

Dee Wall, Jason Wall, Brian Beall, May 2014, Parker, Colorado

Dee and Jason Wall, Brian Beall, May 2014, Parker, Colorado

Brian seemed fine that day. After the ceremony, we went to Debbie and Dee’s house for food and celebration. An hour or so later, Brian went into the bathroom.  When he came out, he said he was going home. We didn’t think anything about it at the time.  Then in July, he drove over to our house and said he had something to tell us.

“I have cancer!” he said.

Of course, I didn’t want to believe it. Our daughter was diagnosed with the beginning stages of breast cancer two years previously. She underwent a double mastectomy and hasn’t been troubled with it since. But during her ordeal, they discovered a mutant gene in the family that makes a person carrying that gene more susceptible to any form of cancer. Brian had the same gene. He was suffering from Stage 4 esophageal cancer. Surgery was scheduled for October 22, 2014.  And Debbie organized a team of supporters on his behalf called Team Brian.

Team Brian: Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas, Jason, Dee, LuAn, Joshua

Team Brian:  Front L-R–Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas; Back L-R–Jason, Dee, LuAn, Josh

 

Brian underwent his surgery on October 22, 2014. At that point, the operation was successful. They had to redo his esophagus and cut out about half of his stomach. He believed he was cancer free. He would return for a check-up in January. But he really seemed great that fall. And we believed the cancer was gone.

Brian Scott Beall (1968-2016)

Brian Scott Beall (1968-2016)

Unfortunately, it returned. Brian told me he knew it was back–he could tell!  He also added, “Well, Jesus is going to heal me, whether in this world or the next!”

In January 2015, he began a three or four month heavy deluge of chemo. He became so ill, he couldn’t keep food down. The doctor told him he would fight cancer the rest of his life and by fall, forbade him from ever returning to work.  And so began the alternating periods of chemo-non-chemo-hydration, etc. which eventually took their toll on him. I might add that Brian and Debbie were quite adept at keeping us out of the loop on all of this. The first time I learned he was in the hospital was in September 2015. He called saying he needed a ride home! So we drove to the hospital to pick him up. He told me he would be waiting in the lobby. I didn’t see him, so I asked the lady sitting at the front desk.

“He’s still in his room!” she told me while giving me the number.

When I knocked on the door and opened it slowly, there sat Brian, eager to get out of that place. He needed to go in for hydration and had been there a few days.

The last time we saw him when he looked good was on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2015. He went with us to Applebee’s for their Veteran’s Day Special. It was the first time he had an evening out without going to a doctor or hospital since this whole thing began. We left Applebee’s that night confident Brian was on the mend.

Brian and me at Applebee's, November 11, 2015

Brian and me at Applebee’s, November 11, 2015

Howard and Brian at Applebee's, November 11, 2015

Howard and Brian at Applebee’s, November 11, 2015

 

C

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas told us another story. Brian called on the 23rd, announcing Debbie had arrived, and he wanted us to come over for our Christmas. I remember saying, “Right now?” When we arrived, we saw a different Brian. He did not look well at all, and his legs were swollen with edema. Nevertheless, we carried on with our celebration and went home.

Brian spent the first three weeks of 2016 in the hospital. He went home, but was no better. So he went to another hospital and was told the other hospital had not been treating him properly. He had gained 51 lbs. of liquid on his legs! He was in that hospital for another week getting re-corrected.

I’m not sure whether he was in the hospital in early February. But he began having difficulty breathing. In my last telephone conversation with him, he told me his cancer had spread into his intestines and elsewhere. So I knew it would take a major miracle for him to be healed during this side of life. LuAn drove him to the hospital on Sunday afternoon, February 28, 2016 about an hour after we talked with him on the phone. He said he couldn’t talk long because of a shortness of breath. He didn’t go by ambulance and was a walk-in. They said he had fluid on his lungs. On Monday, they planned to drain it. They would keep him overnight, and LuAn could pick him up and take him home on Tuesday morning. I don’t know whether they drained the fluid. But on Tuesday morning, March 1, 2016 Brian passed away at 7:10 A.M. between the shift change. The night shift checked on him as they left. He was alert. The day shift arrived and checked on him, and he had passed. LuAn arrived on the scene and discovered that he had died. Debbie called us about 9:30 and  told us we needed to go to the hospital because “Brian passed away this morning.” The cancer didn’t kill him. I believe the pneumonia did.

Our sweet Brian was gone!

The room was empty. The others went out in the hallway. I stood beside the bed and held and kissed his hands. My sweet baby was only 47 years of age! I remembered holding him in my arms and kissing his tiny little face after he was born. Presently, I grabbed the metal bar of the bed and pulled myself up in bed beside him. Then I kissed his face–told him I loved him–and said goodbye.

***

After a passing, tears flow with fond memories of a loved one gone. Brian will forever be in our hearts. His memorial service  is Tuesday, March 15, 2016 at 2:00 P.M. at Calvary Chapel, 1200 Miramonte, Broomfield, CO–an informal service. Brian would have wanted it that way. He will have a military burial at Fort Logan National Cemetery in South Metro Denver at a later date. More than likely, that will be in April. A leather cover will deck Brian’s urn. He was a leather-type of guy and would have liked that as well.

Brian was called “Bri” and “Brian” by Howard. I called him “Honey” and “Brian”–and yes–occasionally Brian Scott Beall! –but not recently, thank goodness!  LuAn called him “Honey”–a term he called her as well. Brandon called him “Dad.” And four little girls–Trinity, Kanoe, Brooke and Delaney–called him “Pappy.” Debbie and Dee’s children-Joshua , Jason and Amanda–called him Uncle Brian, as did a host of nieces and nephews named in his obituary. He was a nephew in his own right to Dickson and Joan Beall, Prince and Cleone Beall, and Edward Leyburn and Marilyn Beall–Howard’s brothers and their wives. His Uncle Ley called him “A.J.”–a term inspired by some of Brian’s early driving activities. He was “Cuz” to a host of cousins. Most  people called him “Brian”. Some people called him “Mighty Mouse” because he was short and able to “bend steel in his bare hands!”  My Grandfather Spence called him “Bub” the first time he saw him at four months of age. Brian will be missed by many.

Here are some interesting facts about Brian:

1. He was born during Leap Year (1968) and he passed away during Leap Year (2016)
2. He was born in St. Anthony’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, and passed away in another St. Anthony’s Hospital.
3. When Brian was born in 1968, a crazy presidential campaign was underway. We were watching the Republican Convention the night I went into labor and had just heard Eisenhower’s speech when things within my body began happening. Brian was in this world during the Democratic convention–that crazy thing in Chicago resulting in the Democratic implosion. When Brian passed away in 2016, another presidential campaign is underway and viewing the cast of characters involved, there is probably another implosion enroute..
4. Brian was born August 6, 1968 and passed away on March 1, 2016. There are five months between March and August. If you add one day, you get the number “6”). (Kind of a wacky connection, but it is there).
5. Brian’s wife LuAn was born and raised in southern Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky. She once joked and said, “I was probably the girl who winked and smiled at you in a grocery store!” They met in Denver, Colorado. I was trying to think of a connection between Kentucky and Colorado, and this must be it. Her father lived a few blocks from our house in Louisville during the time that we lived there!

I recall reading an article the day after Brian’s passing about some strange radio signals from outer space. The signals are sporadic and come at unpredictable intervals. They are several light years away, but they are really beginning to puzzle the people who are studying them.

Smiling, I said aloud: “Brian is churning up the universe while driving the 7:10, his own heavenly train!”

"See ya!"

“See ya!”

 

 

 

 

Up On The Housetop: A Family Picture Album

Snapshots!

Howard Lee Beall at approximately six months of age. Taken summer 1938, Sykesville, Maryland

Howard Lee Beall at approximately six months of age. Taken summer 1938, Sykesville, Maryland

Barbara Ann Inman, taken at two months of age ca. July 1943, Cedar Rapids Iowa

Barbara Ann Inman, taken at two months of age ca. July 1943, Cedar Rapids Iowa

Our parents: Gordon Loren Inman and Elva Gail Spence Inman; Edward L. Beall, Sr. and Mildred Lee Warfield Beall

Our parents: Gordon Loren Inman and Elva Gail Spence Inman; Edward L. Beall, Sr. and Mildred Lee Warfield Beall. Our wedding April 25, 1964, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brian (age 4) and Debbie (age 2)), taken December 1974, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Brian and Debbie, taken December 1973, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

 

Brian, LuAn and Brandon, taken Christmas 1991/2, Broomfield, Colorado

Brian, LuAn and Brandon, taken Christmas 1991/2, Broomfield, Colorado. They were married in Broomfield March 9, 1991.

Debbie and Dee's Wedding, August 22, 1992, Broomfield, Colorado

Debbie and Dee’s Wedding, August 22, 1992, Broomfield, Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Group shot taken in our driveway Christmas 2005: Brian, Jason, LuAn, Brandon, Trinity, Joshua, Debbie, Howard and Mandy

Group shot taken in our driveway Christmas 2005: Brian, Jason, LuAn, Brandon, Trinity, Joshua, Debbie, Howard and Mandy

 

 

Debbie and Dee, Joshua, Jason and Mandy. Taken about 2003.

Debbie and Dee, Joshua, Jason and Mandy. Taken about 2003.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Howard teaching Brandon's daughter, Trinity, how to make a dove call. Taken in Broomfield, Colorado about 2006.

Howard teaching Brandon’s daughter, Trinity, how to make a dove call. Taken in Broomfield, Colorado about 2006.

Brandon's daughters Brooke and Delaney. Taken in Broomfield, Colorado Christmas 2009

Brandon’s daughters Brooke and Delaney. Taken in Broomfield, Colorado Christmas 2009

 

Joshua and Dallas at their high school graduation, May 2012

Joshua and Dallas at their high school graduation, May 2012

Dee, Jason and Brian at Jason's high school graduation May 2014

Dee, Jason and Brian at Jason’s high school graduation May 2014

 

Mandy and her prom date May 2014. She will be graduating this spring.

Mandy and her prom date May 2014. She will be graduating this spring.

 

 

Brian has been battling cancer this past year. Debbie has been the "Chief Supporting Officer."

Brian has been battling cancer this past year. Debbie has been the “Chief Supportive Officer.”

Team Brian: Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas, Jason, Dee, LuAn, Joshua

Team Brian: Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas, Jason, Dee, LuAn, Joshua. Debbie organized a Gofundme account for Brian as he wages his war against cancer. With Team Brian on his side, Brian will win his war!!

 Wishing each of you a blessed holiday season. May you have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and joyous New Year 2016.

Barbara and Howard Beall

Christmas 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of the Perfect Tree

Brian, Debbie and Louie the cat in front of our tree in Missouri--Taken Christmas 1977

Brian, Debbie and Louie the cat in front of our tree in Missouri–Taken Christmas 1977

 

Once upon a time, we lived in the woods in Missouri. We lived there for three years before returning to “civilization.” My special memory about those years centers around our annual tree displayed in our dining room beside our circular table.  We always put up our tree the week before Christmas, enjoyed it through the holiday season and then took it down. But the day the tree was chosen was awesome.

Howard, Brian, Debbie and Heidi the poodle--Taken in Missouri December 1977

Howard, Brian, and Debbie getting ready for their adventure–Taken in Missouri December 1977

On the day of the grand selection, Howard, Brian, Debbie, Louie the cat and Heidi the poodle would embark upon their journey into the woods. Howard shoveled a path leading down toward the woods. And then the procession began: Howard leading the way with his axe in hand, Brian and Debbie behind him, Louie the cat springing from tree to tree along the path, and Heidi bringing up the rear. I stood on the back deck watching them disappear, and then returned indoors. While waiting for them to return, I lined the kitchen counter with boxes of ornaments and checked on their progress from time to time

Debbie, Brian, Me and Louie the cat--Taken in Missouri 1977

Debbie, Brian, Louie the cat and me–Taken in Missouri October 1977

 

***

We moved to the woods in October 1977, and Louie the cat moved in with us. He belonged to the prior residents and vanished into the woods the day they were moving. Thereafter, he accessed the house through the open dryer vent until we hooked up the dryer. When he resorted to sitting on the porch railing and meowing through the window, we decided to make him a member of our family. The former resident did stop by one day–a heart-stopping experience because Louie was already a member of our family, and we were afraid he wanted him back.

“Naw!” the man told us. “We have another cat now. Louie took off, and we decided he would be happier here.”

The man was just there for the window air conditioner.

Needless to say, we were greatly relieved. We had already grown attached to the little orange tabby.

Brian and Heidi the poodle on our back deck--Taken January 1978--just before the blizzard!

Brian and Heidi the poodle on our back deck–Taken January 1978, just before the blizzard.

Heidi the poodle joined our family Christmas 1977. We traveled to Ames, Iowa where Howard’s parents lived, enjoying our Christmas at home a day before our departure. The actual celebration was in Ames, and Howard’s parents had recently moved there. A medium-sized black poodle greeted us through the glass window in the foyer.

“Mom has another poodle!” Howard commented.

She wagged her pom-pom tail and shook the jingle bells on her head. We didn’t know it when we first arrived, but our family would have another member upon our departure. Heidi returned to Missouri with us. She missed the 1977 tree hunting expedition, but she was certainly present for Christmas 1978. After that experience, she always accompanied Howard whenever he headed down that path into the woods. So did Louie!

***

Presently, the tree gatherers returned: Howard dragging a tree behind him; Brian and Debbie hopping from drift to drift; Louie the cat still springing from tree to tree; and, Heidi bringing up the rear. Once the tree entered the house and was secure in its stand, Louie shot up the middle. For the three Christmases we lived there, I had to fetch the little rascal from inside the branches. Keeping him from repeating the performance was a major hassle! His other favorite trick was to drink up the sugar-water at the base of the tree!

Brian, Howard and Red the pony--Taken Summer 1978

Brian, Howard and Red the pony–Taken Summer 1978

We stayed in the woods from Fall 1977 until August 1980. By Spring 1978, we were joined by Red the pony, who no doubt also joined the tree procession as well.

The annual tree processions discontinued after our move to Colorado with the advent of artificial trees. And while I enjoy decking the halls each year, I will never forget the simple life we lived in the woods and the custom of selecting a real tree!

 

 

 

The Case of the Missing Figurine

Mother's favorite decoration, ca. 1953

Mother’s favorite Christmas decoration, ca. 1953

Sometime about December 1953, my mother decided to go shopping for a special Christmas figurine. We were living on L Street S.W. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa–the area where I grew up. My parents’ house was an older two-story with the dining room just off the kitchen. My mother (Elva Gail Spence Inman) had a large buffet inside the dining room, and she wanted to find a Christmas piece to display on top of it beside the candy dish. We were in school at the time, so she caught the bus and went downtown, engaging in her shopping expedition.

“I know what I want to get!” she told me. “And I hope they still have it in the store!”

Later that afternoon when we arrived home from school, a candy cane figurine adorned with angel children decorated the top of the buffet.

“Is that the one you wanted?” I asked.

“Yes, and I bought it in Sanford’s! It was the last one they had!”

Mom kept the figurine inside its box through the year.  Then each December, she removed it from the box and displayed it on the buffet. After Christmas was over, she returned it to the box where it remained for another year. She took excellent care of that figurine. I think she enjoyed it more than she did the tree. Mom wasn’t one to “deck the halls” like I do. She kept the holiday simple: a decorated tree standing in the living room; a Nativity scene on the book case; and that candy cane figurine on her buffet.

Mom passed away in September 2003. Shortly after her death, boxes began arriving from Iowa. One of them contained all of her Christmas decorations. And at the bottom of the box, I discovered the familiar green holiday box containing the candy cane figurine.

“Oh my! She still had this!” I exclaimed.

That was the first year I displayed the figurine in my front window, something I have done each year since 2003. And then came the present year. After spending nine hours “decking the halls”, I realized that something was missing. I scanned the living room while wondering what I had overlooked. That’s when I noticed the empty spot on the window sill!

My discovery propelled me downstairs to the room now cluttered with empty boxes. I always go the extra mile when the annual “decking” takes place. Each year I add something new to the environment. My sister once told me I reminded her of Snoopy and his heavily decorated dog house. Let’s face it! I like a lot of figures and lights! I think my love of “decking” was born from the department store windows I saw in Cedar Rapids as a child. Those windows were full of movable figures and lights–something you really don’t see any longer. So each year,  I royally “deck the halls”–a display that lasts a month.

I stood in the “storage” room, staring at the empty boxes.

How could I be so stupid? I wondered.

For eleven years, I had been so careful placing that figurine back in its original box and placing the box back inside the large storage box with other decorations. Then I packed away all those boxes beneath a large table for the year. Now, I was really frustrated, launching me into another ransacking of all the boxes in the room. No green Christmas box or figurine could be found. But I located a number of other items I had been looking for.

“It will turn up somewhere!” Howard told me.

That didn’t ease my concern! I was soon tearing into other places in other areas of the house, and I found more things long placed on the Lost-and-Hope-I-Find-It list. Some of those lost items are now members of the “decking”. But no figurine!

This year, the “decking” took place the day after Thanksgiving. By now, it was Saturday, and I was still flustered concerning the missing figure. I realized how little I knew about it. I wondered whether I could find something about it on the Internet.

China candy cane with kids on it!

My search term!

It wasn’t long before I was directed to eBay. And after accessing eBay, it wasn’t long before I discovered how expensive that little figurine had become ranging from $100 on up! I saw one for $295. Then I had to review last year’s photographs to verify whether my Mom’s figurine fell into this classification.

It did!

According to Collector’s Weekly:

Founded by Hungarian sportswear designer George Zoltan Lefton, Lefton China of Chicago, Illinois, imported porcelain decorative objects such as figurines and head vases, as well as kitchen wares such as cookie jars and salt-and-pepper shakers, from postwar Japan. From 1945 through 1953, these pieces were stamped with the words “Made in Occupied Japan.” Figures from 1946 to 1953 may also bear a red sticker with either silver or gold trim on their bases, which reads “Lefton’s Exclusives Japan.” Objects made after 1953 added the words “Reg. U.S. Pat. Off,” while those made after 1960 swap that phrase for the simpler “Trade Mark.” Unfortunately, during the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s, the use of these stickers (and others) overlapped, so they are not a perfectly reliable way to date a piece of Lefton.

Beginning in the 1970s, Lefton began contracting with potteries around the world, from China and Malaysia to Italy and England. Fortunately, this global diversification had little impact on the quality of Lefton pieces, which is generally better than that of direct competitors such as Nike NAPCO and ENESCO. More variable is the look of Lefton figurines. For example, there is no such thing as the quintessential Lefton dog. Some are realistic, capturing the appearance of poodles, German shepherds, terriers, and basset hounds. Others are a good deal more syrupy and sentimental, such as the numerous versions of big-eyed puppies with bows around their necks. And then there are the figurines that are just plain silly—how else to describe a puppy wearing a hunting cap and carrying a shotgun, looking down at the innocent duckling that’s staring up at him from inside the canine’s bag?

Christmas figurines were a perennial favorite; Santa and Mrs. Claus, of course, but also adorable elves, angels, and children, some of which resembled candy canes with faces, arms, and legs. Especially popular is a character called Little Miss Mistletoe, whose cherubic face and short ponytail are tilted as she leans down to tie her red slipper. In fact, recurring characters were a big part of the Lefton catalog, so much so that Lefton had a number of lines devoted to them, from the secular Doll House Originals and Bloomer Girls to the religiously inspired Christopher Collection, which featured within it a group of Heavenly Hobos. In particular, many people gravitate to Lefton’s angels, which are often marked with the name of a month or a day of the week.(1)

The company’s founder, George Z. Lefton, was born in Hungary and set up his company in Chicago. Some of his pieces are marked George Z. Lefton, Geo Z. Lefton, G.Z.L. or just Lefton. An article titled “The Lefton Company” notes:

Japan was occupied by the Allied forces with its unconditional surrender in August of 1945. The Allies’ plan was to help Japan rebuild and grow, but not to allow Japan to have the manufacturing capabilities to rearm itself. Pottery and porcelain manufacturing fit into the areas of acceptability as set by General Douglas McArthur and the Allies.

Lefton was one of the first American businessmen to deal with the Japanese after World War II. The first pieces of Lefton China with the “Made in Occupied Japan” mark reached the United States in 1946.

Lefton China produced in Occupied Japan included a wide range of pieces, dating from 1946 to 1952. Designs ranged from delicate, formal pieces with gold edging and soft floral patterns to the whimsical and playful designs of the 1950s. Many of the pieces of Lefton China from Occupied Japan were produced by the Miyawo Company during this period. The quality and price were both good on Lefton China pieces from this period.(2)

Okay–so I discovered some information about the maker of the piece. But what if I no longer had the piece?

What if I threw it away?

A year ago, I had disposed of some of my boxes. What if I accidently threw the figurine away? What if it was in its original box, with that box lodged inside one of the larger boxes I tossed?

Don’t tell me that!

Wearily I searched eBay, wondering whether I could find a replacement.

Not at these prices!

Perhaps I could find one not in pristine condition–something on the “cheaper side.”

Making a long story short, I actually got two. One is probably the same vintage as my mother’s. It was displayed quite a bit and had been moved around as indicated by some dings and paint wearings. It also has different children figures sitting on the candy cane. I decided to display that piece in my front window. The other was the same type of piece with children figures and no markings. Apparently, the original owner bought it from Cracker Barrel. I checked out the Cracker Barrel collectible store site and discovered they have sold Lefton figures over the years. This one still has the plastic cover on it and is still in the original box. I may just keep it that way.

These acquisitions didn’t satisfy my desire for my mother’s lost piece. However, I soon realized that if I threw it away, searching for it was a waste of time. I might as well just forget about it.

It was Sunday night, November 29, 2015 Howard and I were settling in for the Broncos-Patriots game being played here in Denver. The first quarter was somewhat slow, and it appeared the Broncos were going to lose.

Just like I lost my mother’s figurine! I thought.

But I had made so many “David vs. Goliath” statements prior to the game, I kept thinking “The Broncos are not going to lose! They are going to win!” And that quickly translated to “Just like me! I did not throw the figurine away! I’m going to find it!”

Back downstairs, I studied the empty boxes still strewn about the room. Perhaps I should retrace my steps! Perhaps there was something I overlooked!

I sat on the floor beside the huge box that houses most of my decorations. The smaller boxes had been tossed out of it, so it was mostly empty. The large box partially extended from beneath the table. I scooted to the other side, pulled back the lid and peered inside. And I saw–

“–THAT BOX! OH DON’T TELL ME! DON’T TELL ME!”

When I removed the lid, what to my wondering eye did I behold?

“MOM’S FAVORITE CHRISTMAS DECORATION!”

Followed by my yell up the stairway–

“HEY! GUESS WHAT I FOUND?”

I squealed my way through the rest of the game while admiring Mom’s perfect figurine. It has no flaws and the labels Geo. Z. Lefton and Made in Japan clearly appear on the bottom. No, I would not display it in the front window. That’s where my dinked replacement will reside when it arrives. Mom’s figurine is now displayed inside the box with cellophane over it in a prominent place in the living room! And after the season is over, it will be the first item returned to the large box in the storage area.

Then came another exciting moment of the evening.

Anderson caught the ball and went flying down the field toward the end zone. I leaped from my chair with my favorite pen in hand, getting ready to record the score. Jumping up and down, I screamed: “RUN! RUN! RUN!” My pen flew from my hand just as Anderson crossed the goal line.

The Broncos beat the Patriots–and destroyed their perfect season 30-24– in overtime–in a snow storm–with a second-string quarterback who was playing his second full game–and some running backs!

Now about my favorite pen–

 

References

(1) “Vintage Lefton Figurines.” Collectors’ Weekly Website. Date Accessed: 29 Nov 2015. Available online at http://www.collectorsweekly.com/figurines/lefton

(2) “The Lefton Company”. The American Antiquities Website. Date Accessed: 30 Nov 2015. Available online at http://americanantiquities.com/Journal%20Articles/TheLeftonCompany.html