GEMS


GEMS

 by Sharon Stevens

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought

into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.

George MacDonald

 

William, our son-in-law who is a classically trained executive chef at Blaze Sports Grill in Arlington Texas loaned what was to me a priceless gem… “MOTHER’S RECEIPT BOOK”. He had received this book from one of his colleagues, and immediately thought of me. Imagine, holding in your hand a book from 1906 filled with hundreds of “receipts”, and chapter upon chapters of household hints. Each page helpful advice for the busy wife. Even though this book wasn’t from around this area I could still relate. The year was 1906, after the city of Canyon was founded in 1888, and already a thriving city. The college, which would later become WTAMU was a dream in the minds of the city fathers, and in four short years would become a reality. At this time many of the residents of the city were still living in dugouts.

I wonder how many newlyweds carried these kinds of books over the plains in a covered wagon or on a train, packed in trunks in the baggage car along with the household goods. Can you believe how frightened a young bride was of making a happy home hundreds of miles away from the nearest neighbor. Who could she ask? Who would be there for her? Who would hear her cry? How in the world could she know what foods her husband liked, or what favorites HIS mother made especially for HIM. And what would become a family gem through the years for the family and the children.

I remember reading in Loula Grace Erdman’s book, “The Wind Blows Free” of a young woman coming out to start a life with her husband. As their team pulled up to the dugout she told her husband that the first item she wanted to put inside was the cloth calendar her mother sent with her where everything had been marked as to when to plant or to set the hens. She wrote that this was the one thing that she knew would make the earthen walls pretty in her new home reminding her of the treasures left behind.

My grandmother was a cook at the old Neblett Hospital and every time I saw Dr. Nester he would give his stomach a pat and tell me that his expanding belly was due to my grandmother’s creamed eggs on toast. He loved her cooking and she was the only one who could make them.

As writers we come across these “gems” day in and day out. We can use them as prompts, or as writing exercises or character analysis. With each sentence we can imagine the setting, the rooms, the colors, the mood. We can either celebrate the life contained in the book, or delve deeper into the sentiment expressed within. Imagine the loneliness with only a book to keep you company, or the joy of remembering family as you turn each page. And how in the world did so many woman find time to write when faced with all that they had to do? Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of Panhandle Professional Writers, were indeed miraculous women!

The “receipt” I found in this book was for “Gems” or otherwise known as muffins and I just had to include it in my blog as well as the instructions below for washing. And I am sharing it simply so that all of us can count our blessings! Thanks Chef Williams for sharing such a “gem”!

Enjoy!

I cannot leave this weeks blog without honoring the memory of George Koumalots and James L. ”Bunk” Brashears. Both veterans, both served in World War II. Koumalots was a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne that jumped on D-Day into Normandy. Brashears served in Japan and the Philippines and was on a ship parallel to where the Japanese commander was signing the end of the war. He got to watch it through binoculars. I took creative writing classes from George’s daughter-in-law Jodi Thomas and I was able to write this blog with the gifts she shared with me and her inspiration. May all of the families celebrating the life of these brave men have such sweet peace as they share memories together.

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”Few know how necessary care is in the making and baking of gems, and that often the recipes which they find unreliable would prove very different, if they were rightly used….Make a hotter fire for baking gems than for anything. If the oven is right, the gems will rise until about three times as large as when put into the oven, and but a few minutes will be required for baking them.”

 

BANANA GEMS

1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup water, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder

Make batter and stir in 2 bananas sliced thin. Fill cups half full and steam an hour.

 Eat with thin cream.

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“To Wash With Kerosene-Soak white clothes over night, or an hour or two in the morning, in hard water. Fill a No.9 boiler two-thirds full of soft water. Slice one and one-half bars of soap into a basin of warm water; let it dissolve and come to a boil. Wring the soaked clothes dry. If the water is boiling in the boiler, and the soap ready, pour a little more than half of the liquid into the boiler, and immediately add three tablespoonfuls of kerosene; one tablespoonful of kerosene to one-quarter of a pound of soap is a fair proportion. Shake out the clothes, and put them into the boiler, leaving the coarse articles for the next boiling. Let the clothes boil ten minutes, stirring them almost all the time. If the water looks milky, greasy, or a little scum rises, pour in enough soap water to remove any such appearances. Take the clothes out from the boiler into the tub. and cover them with plenty of fresh water. Dip out part of the water from the boiler, add more hot water, soap and kerosene, and boil the rest of the clothes. Wring the clothes from the suds into plenty of clear water, rinse well, put them through the bluing water, and hang them smoothly upon the lines. Calicoes may be washed in the suds water, as enough of the soap and kerosene remain there to cleanse them well. Rinse, blue, starch, and hang them to dry. Plenty of soap and water with the kerosene, if these directions are followed, will give clear, white clothes with very little of the hard work necessary in rubbing clothes according to the usual manner of washing.”

“If time and strength are to be saved, be careful to shake out the clothes well, and see that sheets, pillowcases, towels, etc., hang smoothly from the line. When perfectly dry take down the sheets, fold and roll them into a smooth, tight roll, and pin down the hems. They will be without a wrinkle on the beds, though they may lack the gloss the iron gives. If there is time to iron pillowcases, treat them in the same way. Take the towels, snap them, fold them in the usual manner, and crease them with an iron. They will take less room on the shelf or in the drawer. Roll the nightgowns like the sheets. It is better to iron tablecloths, napkins and handkerchiefs, but they look fairly well if rolled like the sheets. Turn, shake, stretch, in shape stockings and flannels, and fold them ready for use. The starched clothes alone remain to be ironed. Let busy women try this plan of ironing.”

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MIRACLES


MIRACLES

By Sharon Stevens

As I am writing this tomorrow will celebrate the 4th of July. Amazing that it comes around every year at the same time of the month, year after year. Each cycle falls on a different day, but the meaning is the same regardless whether it occurs during a week day or weekend. Red, white and blue are the same colors through centuries and generations. Uncle Sam never ages.

I read General Colin Powell’s Fourth of July wish, and was caught by something he wrote. “Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July as we once again celebrate the MIRACLE of our democracy, and the WISDOM of our founding fathers.

Miracle…Wisdom…Two words that you wouldn’t associate with fireworks and festivities. But then again these expressions are the perfect reminder of why we celebrate our American Flag and our Freedom. I was rereading the Bill of Rights and Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and by jove, these are miracles. When you think of what it took for a group of men to come together for the Common Good, and then to write the first draft, and the second, and the third until they got it right, you can appreciate what a miracle this truly is. These people left the comforts of their home and the love of their families to travel, and then to argue together to find the wisdom shared together. This must have been monumental even for them. I can’t imagine the fireworks of these spirited souls.

Tomorrow I will watch the parade from the vantage point of our local business, the Buffalo Bookstore, surrounded by friends, neighbors, family, tourists, visitors, WTAMU students, and everyone in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cherish the MIRACLE that is my Freedom, and treasure the memory of the WISDOM of the founding fathers.

As a writer, AND as a citizen, they are NEVER just words to me.

I can’t leave this blog post without celebrating the life of Margaret and Ples Harper, and Margaret and William Moore, the founders of the musical drama TEXAS. Both of these families were veterans of World War II and professors at WTSU, now WTAMU. Margaret Harper read an article about Paul Green in the July 1960 edition of Reader’s Digest. She invited the Moore’s over for supper and they discussed if it would be possible to do an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. They decided to write to Green and ask him to come to see what he could do. The date of the original letter was July 3rd 1960. I can only imagine the pageantry that they were anticipating as Canyon prepared for the next day festivities. They must have agonized over their correspondence until the mail went out after the fourth. I wonder what date Paul Green received this simple note at his mailbox, and if he knew where Canyon Texas was?

Truly a MIRACLE any way you look at it!

Happy July 4th everyone. Celebrate family and community, please be safe!

BARE BONES


BARE BONES

by Sharon Stevens

 

I inherited so many cases of books this past week. A friend with a passion for history and heritage was moving and needed to unload instead of transporting to the new home. We packed them up into boxes and I took them to our Buffalo Bookstore until I could sort them out. The actual number of tomes doesn’t matter. My husband says there are too many, and I think there is never enough. But he didn’t see all the treasures I put in the box.

One of the books in the mix was Don Taylor & Jeanne Smalling Archer’s book, “Up Against The Wal-Marts.” This wonderful book was written by a man who was strong in the Canyon Economic Development Corporation in Canyon Texas, and works toward helping small businesses compete with the mega-giants by simple and basic means. I found an interesting quote in the chapter on survival strategies… “Remember that when you misspend one dollar you really wasted two-the dollar you misspent and the dollar you could have spent well.”

Another gem I found was the 75th Commemorative Edition Special Anniversary Issue of the July 1997 New Mexico magazine. One of the stories was written by Sheila Tryk with photography by Ralph Looney. “O’Keeffe’s World” celebrated thoughts of O’Keeffe with interviews and insight into her life. The story briefly mentioned when she taught in Amarillo, but didn’t mention her time at the college, which is now WTAMU or where she found her passion in Palo Duro Canyon. I found it interesting that later on after she married that she left her husband in New York for months at a time while she pursued her passion at Ghost Ranch.

Each year, when O’Keefe went back into her husband’s orbit, she took mementos of the West. Stones, weathered and worn smooth. Artificial flowers, (“They were popular then, and there were some very lovely ones being sold in the country stores here.”) And desert bleached bones. “To me they are as beautiful as anything I know,” she once wrote. “To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around—-hair, eyes, and all, with their tails twitching. The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable—and knows no kindness with all its beauty….I took back a barrel of bones,” she says now, her eyes amused at the recollection. “I remember it cost me 16 dollars by freight.” One wonders at her husband’s reaction to this delivery.”

O’Keefe was able to find her passion within bleached bones. Anyone who has ever seen her paintings of skulls knows what she sees within. Just like my boxes of books, I can find treasures among the words. Whether its a quote, passage, or sentence…all pull me to a story or memory, a sweet reminder of what touches my heart day in and day out. I take nothing for granted, and never overlook a single moment.

I truly believe that to me if I leave a stone unturned, that it represents a misspent dollar that I could have spent well. As a writer, just like O’Keefe as an artist, I can take an object and use my imagination and creativity to weave it into a story with tangible ties.

Even though O’Keefe used bare bones and stones to express her soul, I just happen to cherish anything I find in a box of books.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN


ADDRESS UNKNOWN

By Sharon Stevens

I was putting the finishing touches on my husband’s Santa coat for his performance as Cowboy Santa for The Hide Out. Earlier in the day I had read the Canyon News article about Gene Vaughn Morrison and Bill Anderson and the musical drama TEXAS. This instantly brought me back to another time and place years ago.

The Canyon High School drama department was performing “Becket” as their one-act play, and Kathy Gist and I were working on the costumes. The art teacher, Charlotte Brantley, had bought all the material and we were sewing the final pieces. I will never forget Gene standing beside me while I hand stitched the final button on his cape for his role as the Bishop.

On the spur of the moment Kathy and I decided to take the opportunity to ride the Greyhound bus to see their performance in Odessa. We got off the bus and caught a cab and gave the cab driver the address of where we needed to go at the college where the one-acts were being performed. This driver meandered through the campus and drove into this entrance and that, taking the scenic tour on our dime. We had no clue where we were going, but we thought he did. He truly knew where he was headed, but was hesitant about getting us there.

When we finally pulled up to the theatre entrance he told us the charge was twenty dollars. In 1971 this was good money, especially for me as I was living on my own, paying all my expenses while working part time at the nursing home. This money represented probably a week’s worth, no maybe a month’s worth of groceries for me. We had no choice. Kathy and I divvied up our dollars and gave it to the cabbie. Even worse than losing so much money was that we were so late we missed the performance, which meant we didn’t get to see all our hard work come to life onstage.

Kathy Gist sat beside me again at the Panhandle Professional Writers Frontiers in Writing Conference as she won Best of Show for her story. The judges stood in front of all of us gathered and excitedly told Kathy to send her story to several different magazines. They even listed the addresses of where to write for writer’s guidelines as well as where to submit her stories. Kathy went on to have this story published with Guidepost Magazine and her award was to attend the Guidepost Short Story conference in New York.

As writers we have so many opportunities to send out our stories. And with the Internet the possibilities are absolutely endless. But we can never forget to research our destination to make sure we go in the right direction. We may think we know EXACTLY where our thoughts need to go, but in all honesty we ourselves are missing the point. This is not saying we shouldn’t stray from our intended path now and again, but it is very important for us to weigh our options before embarking down what appears to be a promising road. At all times we have to be mindful of the correct address in case our bread crumbs are eaten before we can retrace our steps. We can’t expect the post office to deliver our message if we don’t have the write destination. They are not Santa whose only address is the North Pole!

I came across “The 1941 Reader’s Digest 20th Anniversary Anthology” at our Buffalo Bookstore. In it was the most wonderful story called, “ADDRESS UNKNOWN” by Kathleen Kressmann Taylor. The story involves a time before World War II and the rise of Nazi power. This powerful message revolves around both sides of the horror and tragedy of this time, and totally reverses the meaning of the address of the soul.

I will always miss Kathy. She was so kind to me over the last several years with our heritage project in Canyon, and our storytelling at The Fountain on the courthouse square. I don’t have her correct address in Heaven, but I have no doubt this message will be delivered without any problems. I was very careful as I wrote where I thought my words needed to go.

PHONE HOME


PHONE HOME

By Sharon Stevens

 

“The only hope is at home.”

Matt Laur

Recently on a trek out of town my husband and I stopped at a convenience store in Clayton New Mexico. As always I picked up the local newspaper and came across an article from fifty years ago dated October 3, 1962.

Operators of the local telephone company quickly rushed Mrs. Brown, and Jeanine Brown, sister of Charles G. Brown, to the R.E.A. office. On three extension phones the family had a fine time visiting for 22 minutes with Charles, stationed 450 miles north of Tokyo on the Korean front lines. Charge for the 22-minute (phone) conversation was $88 plus taxes, which made for the total of $105.60. The Browns think it was worth it.  

Without a doubt I know what transpired. When the call came in one of the office workers was sent on a mission to locate Mrs. Brown and Jeanine. They may have been at the dry good store, the soda or the beauty shop or any of the other shopping opportunities. Wherever they roamed in town someone was able to find, and then rush them to the office for the long distance chat with a loved one so far away.

Oh the wonder and beauty of small town life!

Today at the Buffalo Bookstore Connor Woods, a young WTAMU student on staff with The Prairie came in researching information about local authors and writers. Within minutes we had pulled articles and books from the entire panhandle area and shared the rich treasury that surrounds us.

This reminded me of the time when I was working on our heritage project fifteen years ago. I had visited with LaRae Scott at the Canyon Public Library. Within the hour she had pulled over 300 sites so that I could link to the research I was interested in.

As writers we can visit with anyone at any time about some facet of our story. There will be someone, somewhere that can connect us further or lead us in the right direction. Every person at our public, college, or museum libraries will guide us with the information not only at their fingertips, but also within their heart. Many have a passion that just cries for expression.

This week celebrates the release thirty years ago of Steven Spielburg’s, “E.T.” and Elliot’s ride across the moonlit sky so the Extra Terrestrial could PHONE HOME. I wonder if it would have taken E.T. so long to get to his destination if they had visited a local librarian and researched how to call his family. How much would it have been worth if they enlisted the help of someone knowledgeable.

And a reminder that we will be celebrating Homecoming week for WTAMU. The theme for this year is COME HOME and reminds alumni and community alike to return to gather together on behalf of our college and its rich heritage and legacy.

Come enjoy the Homecoming parade, Fair on the Square and all the festivities Canyon has to offer. It will be well worth it. After all, we are already Home.

DISCOVER THE PROMISE


DISCOVER THE PROMISE

by Sharon Stevens

I don’t know what I feel each time I watch the viral video of Karen Klein being bullied on the school bus. There are no words. None! Of course there is disgust and there is anger, and there is dismay, and there is outrage, and there are tears, so many, many tears.

It was so hard to distance myself from the words of horror I had witnessed so I approached it from a different angle. I decided to Google Greece Town New York, the city where the incident occurred. It seemed like such a pleasant place filled with a cross section of humanity. Who knew the town with the motto of “discover the promise” would harbor families that raised such ugliness. Sort of like our own Tulia Texas who faced a tragedy of its own a few years ago.

Still there were no words.

I can only imagine the pain Karen went through listening as they taunted her. What gave her the grace to not lash out at the kids? How many times did she face this in the past? What words did she carry in her heart and soul that brought her peace with each mile she rode?

No one knows, no one can fathom…ever, forever!

And then there is Sandusky!

Everyone needs inspiration! We face unspeakable horrors, pain, and tragedies, but also tremendous joys and celebrations. No matter the media we still need to discover the words that keep us whole and sane and center our soul.

Those of us who love to write try to find words in everything that crosses our path. When I put pen to paper or fingers to computer I want to set down all thoughts and every feeling. It is important for me to make sure each and every person understands what I am trying to say whether they want to or not. I know I need to focus, and tighten. There is no question I have a problem, but I need this. I live for this. I cherish this. In all the terrible destruction in the world with writing I can find a solace in my soul.

And I think this is why attending writing conferences like Frontiers in Writing matter so much to me. As I sit in a room with others I soak up inspiration from not only the speaker, but each person in the room. The questions they ask and even the way they frame their queries gives me a glimmer of hope. At the very least I find a quote phrased in-between the ideas. I can study the characters around me at the same time. Names, plots, settings, emotions, all find their way into my psyche and my notes.

But you don’t always need to share just with written words. Take for example Delbert Trew’s column in the Amarillo Globe News about his family’s mercantile store. When I read the article I knew the words would be perfect for Biffle and Cross Mercantile for the opening of the new Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. I made copies and carried them over and placed them in the store. On the way back to the Buffalo Bookstore I just had to stop under the shadow of the American and Texas Flag at the entrance to the museum and take pictures of the flowers planted there. Sunflowers are always special as they bring up memories of my daughter. Her words are that you always have to smile whenever you see sunflowers. There are no bad memories associated when you share the beauty of these bright, yellow treasures.

This weekend hosts many different events in our area. The Frontiers in Writing Conference will be held at Amarillo College and sponsored by Panhandle Professional Writers hosted with PPW president Matt Sherley, and chaired by Natalie Bright with guest speakers of Candace Havens, Jodi Thomas, John Erickson, Jeff Campbell, Hilary Sares, Craig and Nancy Keel, Chris Stewart, Mary Lou Cheatham, Joe Trent, and so many others. Jim Gleason at Barnes and Nobles also will give a presentation about publishing.

And the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum will be hosting the grand opening of Pioneer Town-a long awaited celebration. WTAMU will be sharing along with the English Department, The Legacy with selected readings and open mic at the Palace Coffee House on the courthouse square in Canyon Texas.  The musical drama TEXAS continues in Palo Duro Canyon, and Canyon is gearing up for July 4th.

How can anyone choose?

I urge everyone to take advantage of the wonderful opportunities in our community. We have so much facing us in the future and need to take these moments to heart. Don’t miss a single moment to celebrate the rich legacy and heritage that surrounds us. As a writer, Frontiers in Writing meets every need for those who love to write and share.

Just as in the case of Karen Klein, it will help us to find the write words.

Sharon Stevens

LEMONADE


LEMONADE

by Sharon Stevens

When I started working on my Wordsmith Six blog for this week I knew I wanted to center it around Clyde and Grace Warwick. This wonderful couple will have a historical marker placed in their honor at the site of the Canyon News on May 26, 2012 by Harold and Wanda Root on behalf of the Randall County Historical Commission.

All week I had gone back and forth between the Canyon newspaper, Amarillo Globe News, United Methodist Church, Haley’s Printing, Canyon Public Library, the Randall County Story, and the Internet. I could have asked anyone, and I mean anyone to direct me for research. Lynne Guy, the historian for the Methodist Church could have given me so many leads to pursue. Warren Stricker, Archivist at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum would have given me document after document regarding the Warwick family and their contributions to the museum. At the Cornette Library on the campus of WTAMU I could have pored, literally poured over the bound issues of the Canyon News tomes housed there, and each and every staff member would have pulled related articles from the shelves. The Panhandle Press Association would have dug through their history to enlighten me.

Whew! What a journey this has been.

I realized I couldn’t pull just one memory to share. The Warwicks and the Haley’s were not only the most wonderful people involved in every aspect of our community, but they lived their faith and breathed their dedication. They are buried out at Dreamland Cemetery, but their legacy lives on and will for eternity. When I read old issues of when they were editors of the newspaper the writings shimmer and dance off the printed page, vibrant and alive and filled with the very essence of the journalistic spirit.

And this is the point and the guide of every newspaper and every journalist from time eternal. It is absolutely unreal how many avenues of documentation you can connect with for any direction you care to link. Take “The Randall County Story” written by Mrs. Warwick. After my copy disappeared I had the hardest time finding one to takes its place. Rebecca Harp, Mrs. Warwick’s granddaughter told me they were finally able to make arrangements with the University of North Texas at Denton to digitalize the book to make it available on the internet as a mission of their Portal to Texas History Project. Since then I have checked to verify stories and resources and names and family connections with just a click of my mouse any hour or minute of any given day or night.

One of my favorite people in the book was our neighbor where I was raised. Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Gordon-Cumming had such a wonderful influence on me and touched my life deeply. When she first came to this area she was going to teach art at Goodnight College. Charles and Molly Goodnight invited her out to supper and after visiting with Dr. and Phebe Warner (Panhandle Professional Writers) she took a tour of the JA Ranch with Goodnight. I loved her expression as an artist, and this is a direct quote from The Randall County Story the way it was told to Glenna Wilson.

“I remember so well about the evening meal;” She reminisced. “The way the lemonade looked in the pitcher. There was milk in a pitcher too, homemade light bread, fresh roast beef, honey from their own hives, turnip greens grown in the garden and jelly and preserves from the fruit of their own orchard.”

With any research I could investigate honey, or turnip greens or the Goodnights or lemonade for that matter. In only seconds I could connect with heritage and legacies, family or pioneers. It doesn’t matter, I could, I CAN link and share with ease. The hardest part is to focus and condense, but that will always be my downfall. No matter, I can find a self-help instruction manual for writers. I can’t say I will abide by it, but I can find it.

None of this may be newsworthy to the reader, but then again you never know what will inspire a heart at what moment, or how it may touch their soul. Don’t underestimate the power and insight of those who cherish the written word, and don’t attempt to choose their memories for them, but celebrate their interest and passion.

Please come to the dedication in honor of the Warwicks of the historical marker at the Canyon News office on Saturday, May 26, 2012 at 10.00. Celebrate everything related to writing. And if you have an extra moment go across the street and stand on the News mosaic at the threshold of Haley’s Printing, next door to Stevens Flowers. Haley’s will be closed on Saturday, but come back again and make copies and marvel at the legacy that Mike Miller continues to perpetuate as he and his family prints all the newsletters, all the graduation or wedding announcements, and every funeral card for the funeral homes. You will be amazed what a strong and committed Canyon business they are to this day.

In the Randall County Story Grace Warwick once wrote in her Canyon News column, “Around the Town,” she mentioned some of the things in life to which she hoped always to thrill; and in closing she wrote: “And when I can no longer thrill to these, the simple joys that complete my life, then give me patience, God, to bear my cross until the fire that burns within my soul consumes the clay that can no longer feel.”

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

Hersheyburger


Hersheyburger

by Sharon Stevens

A few years ago we had a student and his family stop in buying college textbooks. We learned they were from Muleshoe Texas, and we asked if they knew my husband’s aunt, Bertie Purcell and the Dari Delite, her little business, a local eatery and high school hang out in that town.

HERSHEYBURGER! He shouted and then shared the story. Bertie would take a cinnamon roll, slice it in half, and then unwrap a Hershey bar and lay it in the middle. She would put it back together, slather the whole thing with butter, wrap the concoction in foil, and put it on the grill just long enough to heat and melt the chocolate bar. Served with a Twin Coney, French fries and a Coke this was a meal fit for… fit for…the masses.

The man who shared this story at our bookstore that day was in military service to our country and taking online courses. His wife was in school to become a teacher. His daughter was in law school and one of his sons was also in college. Here was a family man spending hundreds of thousands of dollars so everyone could attend college, paying bills to support his family, buying groceries to feed them, and he could still take just a moment to share one of the most wonderful memories of his life.

Aunt Bertie died this past week, and the church was packed at her funeral. She and her family were beloved by so many. All around me I heard murmurings of, “Twin Coneys”, and “Cherry Vanilla Newton”, and “Purple Cows”. When I asked what a “Newton” was the man said he had no clue, this was something Bertie concocted, but it was his favorite.

We had tourists come into our bookstore after having been horseback riding in Palo Duro Canyon all day. They were hot and tired and looking for someplace to cool off and they had promised the wives to do a little shopping. They had come from The Hide Out next door and wanted to know what else Canyon had to offer. I noticed they had spurs on and knew where to send them. First I directed them to our courthouse square and told them about the Rock and Roll Soda Shop, or the Palace Coffee House to find some refreshment. I then told them not to miss Stevens Flowers and Down Home next door (spurs), and shared about all the other shops downtown. They instantly hit on the soda shop because they had great memories of a hang out in their town where burgers, fries, a Cocoa Cola (Coke) and an ice cream cone was all they needed to survive.

They didn’t come back by to explain if they had found what they were looking for. There is no doubt in my heart as God and John Wayne are my witness, that they would connect somewhere along the line.  THEIRS would be the memories they would take back home to share.

So many times in our writings we get so wrapped up in telling our stories we forget the reader may find something totally random to connect with. We push, and push, and push some more to get our point across till we have lost sight of the heart of our stories. We want anyone and everyone to understand our point of view. How can they not when its as plain as day. We forget they may need something light when facing something so dark, or vice versa. Or they could be facing a puzzlement, seeking a solution, needing just the right clue from their past for the answer to click.

You cannot force a reader no matter how hard you try. Celebrate what each finds in your writings. It’s okay. Your story isn’t ruined if they don’t “get it” the way you wrote it. And on another token, follow the direction it may lead you.

After all I envisioned a whole different path when I started writing about the “Hersheyburger”. It wasn’t that I would be telling the story about diabetes or cholesterol. I knew “the masses” would get that. I just thought I would be connecting it with band-aids. Who knew?

Rest in memories, Bertie Purcell.

Sharon Stevens

GRAFFITI


GRAFFITI

by Sharon Stevens

I tried to write graffiti today…No, not the kind tagged with gang signs that mar the landscape of public buildings or the bubble letters written on the side of rail cars. I am not even referring to the colors spray painted on the fins of Stanley Marsh’s cars at Cadillac Ranch.

What I attempted to scribble could never be seen, never be shared, never see the glow of my computer screen. I would never let it get that far.

Let me explain. When you think of graffiti you imagine a punk using illegal paint, defacing to their hearts content until they hear the sound of someone approaching. They immediately ditch the evidence and run as fast as their pants dragging legs will carry them. What they leave behind is bits and pieces of what they consider a masterpiece of their soul soon to be destroyed by people employed for just that purpose.

I tried to paint my masterpiece this week, tried to create with simple graphics my homey’s world. (It’s disturbing my computer spell check didn’t highlight homey.) No go. Every thought I attempted would bring the word police and I would run away with fear pounding in my heart. Or even worse, just when I thought my etchings were beautiful, and focused, and strong enough to remain, others would come along and whitewash every thought and every dream, deeming it ugly, stupid, and representative of a culture they wouldn’t tolerate in their fair city.

There were so many joys I wanted to write this week. WTAMU as part of their Distinguished Lecture series hosted former president Bill Clinton as well as Robert Ballard who found the Titanic, The Wounded Warriors would ride with George W. Bush in Palo Duro Canyon and the Palace Coffee House in Canyon would host Shawn Smucker and Jason Boyett on writing and blogging. The list goes on and on.

I even wanted to write about going to the funeral of kinfolk and hearing the memories of the “Hershey burger”, then afterwards visiting the Muleshoe Heritage Center, and being given a personal tour of the John N. Janes Home. To top it all off, at the end of the day I wanted to write about the visitors at the Buffalo Bookstore from England who shared their memories of home, as well as the kindness they had found in the panhandle of Texas. They were the ones who asked me what I thought about graffiti.

Each time I set down at the computer to write that perfect phrase, that glowing intro, I got distracted by another thought, another story, another reminder I couldn’t wait to share, and instantly I would run away and hide.

I think the worst of my fears was that I imagined who would be reading this blog. I wasn’t so afraid that they would critique my writing, as I was petrified they would deem it as a story that shouldn’t be told, thus destroying the essence of my memories and therefore my joys.

And this is my dilemma. Every story I write I feel is a message to future generations. I know that once it is written, and goes into cyberspace it can be retrieved forever. Would the writing police a hundred years from now judge my memories as silly and irrelevant? Would they determine when they read the words of my fellow Wordsmith Six bloggers that mine was the misfit graffiti defacing the beauty of THEIR efforts.

I guess what I am trying to say is that is that I want to write the words and paint the picture that will endure for eternity of all that is good and wonderful in our community. Even though there are others who feel I shouldn’t write such trivia. I envisioned that I was the one who believed, and could see how artistry was on every surface as well as every nook and cranny as far as the heart could see. Joseph A. Hill wrote on coming to the panhandle in, The Panhandle Plains Historical Society and its Museum, “Never before had I seen such cloudless skies, such blue Heavens, nor so many stars. Nor had I witnessed such displays of Heavenly beauty as when, ever and anon, the Master Artist dipped His brush in Nature’s richest colors and gave us a canvas of sun and cloud on the western horizon.”

Graffiti artists will never have a venue without the fear of exposure, and their artwork can never stand. They know it will be destroyed as soon as someone comes along and recognizes it as unacceptable in their minds. This is a given. And no doubt about it, there is nothing glamorous about punks who will deface property that doesn’t belong to them. This is a crime and should be dealt with swiftly and forcefully. The millions of dollars spent each year to wash away gang signs and profanity could be spent in thousands of different ways to help their fellow man.

There is absolutely NO EXCUSE!

But then again, they could go out and paint the cars at Stanley Marsh’s Cadillac Ranch or have a photo shoot like Vogue Magazine. Marsh welcomes that kind of exposure for the world to see and this is why he created his masterpiece in the first place. He would never wash it away!

So maybe this is what I need to do, imagine it is people like Marsh or O’Keefe or Joseph Hill OR the Master Artist that are giving me a canvas that encompasses every avenue in the universe. I can write or paint to my heart’s content and celebrate receiving “postcards from the inner muse.”

And as far as the couple from England asking me what I thought about graffiti…? In their small town she is a secretary at the tiny church and he is the caretaker of the graves. He told us that there are 1,500 inhabitants in the city and 26,000 buried in the churchyard. On the stonework of their church someone had carved a sailing ship as proof they were once there. He shared that it was the Vikings that had left the mark of their “gang” about 800 A.D., still visible to this day. I can only imagine who the “homeys” chose as their artist for this effort. And not only that, how fast did they have to run ahead of the villagers to make it to their ship to sail away to the next destination to find another means of expression.

Next week I promise to not run away after I paint the picture of the “Hershey Burger.” I hope and pray it won’t be graffiti that you want to wash away.

Sharon Stevens