Childhood Memories, Adult Discoveries

I remember the house–a big two-story white clapboard, with a large wrap-around porch, and the stairway inside that my parents had to block so I wouldn’t try to climb up with my stubby two-year-old legs and fall back down. I remember the scent of tea, the warmth of the coal-burning stove in the corner of the living room, the hardwood floor covered with a bright rug and horse blanket throws on the sofa. Granparents house Ingomar

This is the ranch–known then as “the McCollum Place”–my grandparents moved to in the early 1940s after years of moving around, following the grass for their horses. This was the place they lived the longest, “retiring” in the early 1960s. This was my first home that my parents shared with Grandma and Grandpa for about three years after my mother emigrated from Germany, striking out on a journey of unknowns to the promise of a new and better life.

I hadn’t been back since I was a teenager, but when I visited Montana recently I drove to Ingomar, the “town” nearby. Ingomar is one of those places that you have to WANT to go to–you’re not going to happen upon it while traveling the regular Montana routes. Once the sheep shearing and shipping capitol of Montana in the early 1900s, it then boasted 46 businesses including three banks, railroad station, two elevators, two general stores, two hotels, two lumber yards, plus rooming houses, saloons, cafes, a drugstore, blacksmith shop, claims office, doctor, dentist and maternity home. Now the population is 14 and the main business is the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Cafe.Jersey Lilly

I had a vague recollection of the direction of the ranch from Ingomar, but I asked for directions, and I’m glad I did. Boots, the proprietor of the Jersey Lilly, glanced out the window at my car. “Good, you have all-wheel drive,” he said. I gulped. He explained they’d had some rain recently and the low-lying spots might still be muddy. Since my car was new to me, I dug out the owner’s manual to make sure I knew how to put it in four-wheel mode, just in case.

We (my sister-in-law, Marylou, & I ) followed Boots’ hand-drawn map: turn right after the cattle guard, keep going past the stock tank and you’ll have to open and close the gate… for eight miles over the rough one-track road. Fortunately, no mud remained, and I didn’t have to test out my vehicle and my memory of Montana mud-driving.

We found the house, which is still inhabited by Lance & Connie Moreland, very nice, hospitable people who are leasing the ranch. I had to smile at my memory of this “big” house. It’s two-story, all right, but it’s not large. How cramped the quarters must have seemed to my mother! The porch was not wrap-around as I had recalled, but still was a good-sized one on the front. I remember a photo of mini me at the rail with a chicken egg next to several large hailstones.  The staircase is still there, and the hardwood floors. The Morelands told me that unfortunately the owner doesn’t want to spend any money to fix up the house, so it is a bit on the dilapidated side.

But I’m glad it’s still lived-in and not falling down. Heidi with egg & hail

Published in: on November 7, 2014 at 6:19 am  Comments (1)  
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Traveling the Big Sky Country

I recently returned to my home state of Montana for a book tour, to visit old friends and family, and to drink in the beauty that is “Big Sky country. My sister-in-law (Thelma, or Louise, depending on who’s addressing whom) traveled with me.

Big Sky

We even had a taste of SNOW as we traveled from Great Falls to Helena:

Snow day


A display of a one-room schoolhouse at Ft. Missoula brought back memories of my grade school days:

One-room school Ft. Missoula

Stopped in at the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls:

CM Russell Museum

Signed books in Helena, where the state’s governor bought a copy of Cowgirl Up! for his daughter.

Signing in Helena

Another signing at the Miles City Saddlery:

Miles City Saddlery sign

Visited the tiny (pop, 14, plus 2 seasonal) town of Ingomar, near where my grandparents ranched in the ’40s and ’50s. It’s main business is the Jersey Lilly Saloon and Cafe:

Jersey Lilly

And the “conveniences” are located out back:

Out back Jersey Lilly

All in all, a fun trip and a total of 5,000 miles of driving! I’ll be posting more on my travels later.

Published in: on October 31, 2014 at 6:10 am  Comments (2)  
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A Moving Experience

When I moved from Montana to Washington state 17 years ago and then made a second move from one town to the next within nine months, I said “NEVER AGAIN.” Well, as the sage once said, “Never say never.”

We’ve just completed our second move in three months, first from Mount Vernon WA to Prescott AZ, where we rented a cute but small cottage while we waited for our renters’ lease to be up on the house we already owned in Chino Valley. That day finally arrived and then we ended up waiting two weeks for our belongings to be delivered! (Lots of time for painting and doing minor repairs.) Apparently there had been some miscommunication with the movers, as we had understood our things would be stored in Phoenix and we just needed to give them 2-3 days notice. Not true. It was stored in Seattle, they had to wait for a truck to be available (about a week), then they made several deliveries along the way (another week). We were not happy.

Front view 2

But at long last, everything arrived last Wednesday and we’ve been busily shuffling boxes around so we can make room to unpack, finding places for everything, then rearranging…you all know how that goes!

I am so happy to be here! Our house is nice, very comfortable, and feels like home already. I wake up to sunshine with a big smile on my face, and go out to drink my morning coffee on the patio. No SAD for me this winter!

Happy retirement to us!

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Arizona is Not Just Desert

Many of my friends have pictured me living in the sandy, seguaro cactus-filled desert of Arizona. But here in the North-central part of the state, we experience the best of a semi-arid climate near the mountains, near lakes, and many wonderful hiking trails. The weather, like my native state of Montana, can change from 70 degrees one Saturday to 34 and snow the next weekend and back again.

Mountains AZ

Prescott is bounded by the Santa Maria mountains to the north, the Bradshaws to the south and the Sierra Prieta to the West of which Granite Mountain is the dominate peak.

Snow & Pond Strawberry AZ

A snowy scene recently near Strawberry, AZ, on the way to Payson.

Prescott Hills 2Prescott itself is built among the hills.

Watson Lake Rocks

My favorite place, so far, to hike–Watson Lake amid the Granite Dells rocks.

Cottonwoods by Lake Watson

Also along the Watson Lake trail are groves of cottonwoods near Granite Creek which feeds into the lake.

I’m enjoying my new home in the “desert.”

Published in: on March 9, 2013 at 6:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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On the Road to Prescott

Moving Truck 1January 16, 2013: the moving truck pulls away from Mount Vernon, WA with all our worldly possessions (most of them anyway!) and we pack what we need for two and a half months interim living before we actually move into our new home in Chino Valley, AZ.

We spend a couple of days in town to tie up loose ends and say good-bye to friends, then on Saturday the 19th we take off in the early morning fog, which lasted until North Bend. We saw sun for awhile but then were back in heavy fog through Pendleton, OR, a disappointment because I really would like to have seen the famous rodeo town a little better.

foggy driveThis was my view for 1,400 miles (the back end of a U-haul trailer).

Just as I was laughing at the “Scenic Viewpoint” signs as we climbed Deadman Pass over the Blue Mountains south of Pendleton on I-84, we suddenly broke out into the sun! Yippee! I felt a huge weight lifted and what a gorgeous view!

mts PendletonThe summit is at 4,193 feet

We stopped to rest for the night in Boise, ID, finding a frosty 1 degree temperature! We’re not used to that any more! I wondered what I had done with my longjohns!

After leaving Idaho, we continued south on Highway 93, the infamous road that stretches from Canada through Montana where we used to live, nearly to Mexico (it’s southern terminus is at Wickenburg AZ). Many Montanans used to sport bumper stickers reading “I drive Highway 93; Pray for Me!”

Snowy NV

More snow in Nevada, but as we descend from White Horse Pass (elevation 6,031 feet), the temps get warmer. Much of this countryside reminds me of eastern Montana, where I grew up (minus the mountains).

White River Narrows NV

Going through the White River Narrows–beautiful and fascinating rock formation and petroglyphs. White River Narrows is located approximately 150 miles north of Las Vegas and 90 miles south of Ely Nevada.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

H Jailhouse Ely NVWe spent the next night in Ely, NV and ate at a restaurant called The Jailhouse. Each table was in its own “cell” and the menu items were all named appropriately “Robbers Ribs” and the like.

After leaving Hwy93, we were once again on the Interstate, I-15 which took us to Las Vegas. We stopped there long enough to grab a burger on the run and gas up our vehicles. We were in a hurry to get to our new home! Due to the load in the pickup and the U-haul trailer, my husband was not able to travel as fast as we normally would, especially going uphill. I was following along in my little blue Chevy, with my cat sedated by my side.

Day 1 AZ Lavender sunset

Our first Arizona sunset the evening of Jan. 21 as we approach closer to Prescott.

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 1:59 am  Comments (2)  
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A New Adventure for Heidi M. Thomas

Well, folks, today was the last time I will enter my house in Mount Vernon Washington. A bittersweet day, but my husband and I are embarking on a new life adventure by moving to the Prescott AZ area. My DH retired at the end of 2012 and we’ve been talking about moving somewhere with more sunshine (although it’s been crisp and cold and sunny here the last several days!)

moving 2.

Yesterday all our earthly possessions were loaded onto this truck and we are spending a couple extra days, saying good-bye to all our friends. Mount Vernon has been good for us and we will miss many things about it–most of all our friends, our church, the lush green. But we are looking forward to new friends, sunshine, good health and retirement.

And we’re all still connected via this wonderful thing called the Internet! “On the Road Again!”

Au revoir, Auf Weidersehen, till we meet again!

Published in: on January 18, 2013 at 6:22 am  Comments (2)  
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Bye-Bye Penske

After three days of cool, rainy and windy weather in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, we finally crossed the line into Florida and sunshine! We had been driving through corridors of pines through several states and seeing lush, green pastures and cattle. It’s funny, because when you think of Florida you normally think of beaches or swamps, not cattle ranches. I couldn’t help but think what my dad and our neighbors would’ve given for such lush green grass. But on the other hand, eastern Montana does have some of the most nutrient-rich grass in the nation, even though it’s green only a few months of the year. In fact, during WWII, the Armed Services requested Montana grain because it was so rich in protein.

St. Pete's Beach

We decided to spend a “down” day in St. Pete’s Beach and the weather cooperated nicely, allowing us to spend the afternoon at the beach. It was good not to have to pack up and lug suitcases in and out of a new hotel for at least one night.

The next day: Frostproof and the end of the 3,040-mile journey, unloading the match equipment and saying Good-Bye to Penske Truck! Hooray. We picked up a “normal” Ford Escape and commenced the last few days in vacation mode.

Cherry Pocket

We ended up eating twice at a funky and fun restaurant called the Cherry Pocket Steak and Seafood Shak, in the middle of a fishing camp near Lake Wales, FL. We sat outside, enjoyed the warm evening and a singers with guitars, playing “oldie-goldies.” Great food, fun atmosphere. We highly recommend it!

Our last port-o-call, Boca Raton, where Dave’s Navy buddy, George and his wife, Francoise, live. We had a great visit, wonderful walks on the beach and outdoor dining at the Patio Bar and Grill, overlooking Deerfield Beach. Our friends took us to see “Butterfly World“–what a fun and fabulous place that is!

All too soon, our cross-country journey came to an end.

We left Florida in 80-degree weather, wading in the surf and walking on the sand.

Deerfield Beach in Boca Raton, FL

And we woke up the next morning to this “welcome home” sight!

"Welcome Home"

Travels with the Penske Pair: Part IV

We had hoped to stop in the Gulfport MS area to take an airboat tour of an alligator ranch, but the weather had turned downright chilly (a reminder of home!) so we decided to forgo this stop.

Our next stop was in Mobile AL for a tour of the battleship USS Alabama in Battleship Memorial Park. The Alabama was commissioned in 1942 with Captain George B. Wilson in command and

USS Alabama 5-inch/38 cal. Side Gun Turrets

served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was decommissioned in 1947, assigned to reserve duty, and was retired in 1962. In 1964, Alabama was taken to Mobile Bay and opened as a museum ship.

The below-decks tour was a fascinating look into history and how the crew of 2,500 men lived, worked, ate and slept. The ship is 680 feet long and 108 feet wide and weighed in at more than 45,000 under battle conditions.

The park included an

aircraft pavilion, and one of the displays commemorated the Tuskegee Airmen who were the first African-American military aviators in the United States armed forces and served during World War II.

Another tour took us through the USS Drum (SS-228), a Gato-class diesel-

USS Drum Submarine

electric submarine and the oldest American WWII submarine in existence. There were 52 submarines and more than 3,600 submariners who made the ultimate sacrifice in WWII.

The inside of the submarine pointed up the need to be young, slender and limber! It’s a good thing I don’t have to do this job.

Inside the USS Drum

More Magnolia Mount Photos

Hart House. The first mayor of Baton Rouge

It wasn’t clear whether this house was originally part of the plantation acreage. Robert Hart was the first mayor of Baton Rouge and in 1899 was instrumental in getting bonds passed to improve education, including a new school for black children.

Girls' bedroom in the Magnolia main house

Overseer's House

Sick Room Sign on Overseer's House

Sick Room for Slaves

Slaves' Quarters

Inside Slaves' Quarters

Quite an interesting and sobering look into part of our country’s history.

Published in: on March 10, 2012 at 4:03 am  Comments (1)  
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Travel Adventures Part IV

Magnolia Mound House Parlor

Baton Rouge, LA, offers several plantation tours. Because of the size of our ride, I selected BREC’s Magnolia Mound, which looked easily accessible. The on-line site I found at first listed it on Sharp street, which we found quite easily…except, Magnolia Mound was nowhere to be seen. A stop at a gas station nearby netted no information—no one had heard of it! On the trusty smart phone, we found the “real” address on Nicholson street, about 10 miles west of where we were.  Still have no idea how the address came to be listed wrong, but we finally arrived.

On 16 acres of the original 900, the architecture is called “vernacular,” influenced by early settlers from France

and the West Indies. The property includes a 200-year-old historic museum house, an open-hearth kitchen with a kitchen garden, overseer’s house, a slaves’ quarter house, crop garden, pigeonnier, and carriage house.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and marveled at the cooking processes of the day. fireplace, with a brick oven built into the wall for baking, and the devices, such as a “toaster,” a metal frame to hold two pieces of bread that one could turn for toasting on both sides. With no refrigeration and winters not cold enough to collect ice, food was buried in the ground in large crockery olive oil jars from Europe. The pigeonnier housed squab, a delicacy in early America.

This plantation is kept up by the Baton Rouge’s park system, offering educational programs, workshops, lectures, festivals, and other special events to illustrate and interpret the lifestyle of the French Creoles.

That evening we found Boutin’s Restaurant, a “Cajun music and dining experience.” This certainly was a great experience, from  the boudin sausage (casings stuffed with rice and sausage) the crab-stuffed catfish entrée I had (complete with corn maque choux, Cajun rice AND a stuffed potato!), to the folk music band. Their music reminded me a lot of the old time groups my dad used to play fiddle with. A great evening—I recommend Boutin’s.

The next day we had planned to stop at Moss Point near Gulfport to take an alligator ranch boat tour, but the sunny southern weather had turned downright cold, with clouds, rain and wind. Next stop: Mobile, AL!

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