Prairie View

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Grassy Lizard Land

Last week for several days we had a Six-lined Racerunner lizard in Room 5 at school (the typing room).  Frieda caught her in the shop and brought her to me, and my startled reaction must have been quite satisfying.  All I could see at first was a snake-like head sticking out of her hand.  I recovered quickly though and set about trying to find something to put the little creature into.  I wished fervently for those three tiny aquariums that I gave Joey a few weeks ago.  One of them would have been perfect.  (So there, all those people who are sure that getting rid of things is always a great idea.  It's not, and I knew it.  Just kidding.  Partly.) We made do temporarily with a whipped topping container with holes punched in the lid.  Frieda put a weight on the lid, put the container on the kitchen counter, and went off to accounting class.

All was well till the dismissal bell rang and someone went to the kitchen to pick up their lunch "bucket."

"Hey, the lizard is loose," they called out, and others hurried to look.  Frieda cornered and caught her again, and we looked for a tighter fitting lid and punched holes in that one too.  The whole assembly got plopped overnight into a small enameled bucket on my desk.

The next morning I brought a gallon glass jar with a netting and rubber band to place over the opening.  With some sand, water in a jar lid, and some leafy twigs, it looked like a comfortable home when turned on its side.  It was a little tricky to get live bugs inside the jar without allowing "Lizzie" to escape, but Norma and several students worked at it diligently, and I think he was well-fed.

I learned that these lizards can run 18 miles per hour, and that the ones with a white underside are females.

Before I left school on Friday, I turned the lizard loose in the tree row, close to where she had been caught. Our brief acquaintance was a pleasure.


Today my brother Anthony emailed me a picture of something he didn't know the name of .  Arnold, who works at the same place as Anthony, had caught it on the trash pickup route, somewhere in the country southwest of here. I saw immediately that it looked like what I saw LeRoy carrying around once at Camp Mennoscah when we were there with the youth group on their all-day picnic.  He called it a horny toad, so I informed Anthony that "horny toad" is the common name and I would see if I could find a more specific name.

My North American Wildlife book didn't have a picture of it in the amphibian section, so I looked online, and soon learned that it isn't a toad at all but a lizard.  I found a picture of it in the reptile section of my book.  Texas Horned Lizard is what he saw.  These creatures look prehistoric, complete with horns and spiked armor, etc.

In typing class, during the break, we've been doing some "Naming Nature" activities.  Since this is the time of year when the grasses are at their finest, and since we live in a region that was once a vast natural grassland, we're learning something about grasses.  I like to think of it as one more step in "becoming native to this place."

Nearly all the grasses I've taken to school came from the roadside adjoining our property.  Thank God the ditch mowers had not chopped everything into a mutilated mass as has occurred elsewhere.  (I know; I know.  Just doing their job.)  I just can't believe that using the equipment and time to do this is the best way to care for our roadsides, when those places are one of the few areas where natural vegetation still thrives.  I know for sure that "mangled" is a lot uglier than waving gracefully in the wind, if it's a river of sunflowers or a stream of purple-topped or silver or blue-stemmed grass we're talking about.  

Some of the grasses I found are not true grasses, and not all are native, but here's the list of what I've found and identified so far:

Big Bluestem
Indian Grass
Sideoats Grama
Silver Bluestem
Yellow Bristlegrass
Windmill Grass
Western Wheatgrass
Barnyard Grass
Tape-leaf Flat-sedge

I didn't find any Little Bluestem (maybe it blooms later), and I have not yet identified one thing I found.  I suspect it's a rush or sedge and not a true grass, because the stem was very "cornered."

In my humble opinion, people from places elsewhere may boast of their yellow, orange, and red fall colors, but those colors aren't necessarily superior to our gold, purple, blue, and silver fall colors.  They're all beautiful, of course, but wherever home is, "becoming native to [that] place" calls for appreciative observation and thanksgiving to the Creator Who graces our world with such diversity and beauty.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Wrapup 8/25/2013

Hiromi announced in church today that Iwashige baby boy number five had arrived.  I'm sure that information took people for a loop temporarily.  He was counting his own three boys, of course, and Shane and Dorcas' first son, and now their new baby.

This baby's comfortable settling in makes Shane and Dorcas more aware than they were at the time that Tristan's arrival was accompanied by far more difficulty than is usually the case.

I think it's neat that it was Dorcas' Sunday School teacher who was the midwife in charge at the birth center when her baby was born.

You're good at lots of different things, Lois.  Thanks for serving so faithfully and well.

All of us who had gone to the birth center to see the baby stood around and sang "Happy Birthday" to Carson before we blew out the candle and sliced into the birthday cake the birth center staff baked for the occasion.  How's that for a down-home touch?  Lois may have baked the cake.  I think she sometimes does anyway.


We're back on the property this year where several ancient Bartlett pear trees survive.  Yesterday I finally thought to check to see if there were pears present, and there are.  Tristan and I picked and ate one and it was good.  I wish Ella Nisly were here to tell me if it's time to pick all of them.  They should be picked slightly green, she said, because they ripen from the inside out, and are mushy on the inside by the time they turn yellow on the outside.  When we lived here earlier, I could send my little boys up into the trees to pick the ones out of reach.  No such luck now.

The newer pear trees out back also have fruit.  It's a pity that Hiromi is not very fond of canned pears.  He's more enamored with Asian pears than the European variety--which is what most of us are most familiar with.  Asian pears are round and crunchy like an apple when ripe.  We have a few of those on a small tree out back.


The alfalfa field surrounding our property got sprayed with Roundup last week.  The alfalfa looks as good as ever, but the pigweeds are looking mighty sickly.  It's obviously Roundup-ready alfalfa.

I'm not smart enough to have it all figured out.  If it were being made into hay, I can't imagine that the pigweed would be a huge problem.  The other alternative is that the alfalfa is being saved for seed, and the weed seeds cannot be included in that seed harvest.  Harvesting seed, however,  would have to be through a special arrangement with whoever holds the patent on the variety, as I understand these  matters.  Are there publicly released, patent-free genetically modified alfalfa varieties?


Twila Y. brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my schoolroom last week.  The neat thing was that the whole thing looked exactly like something I would have put together to sell at Farmer's Market--vase and flower varieties all.  That's because she had gotten the plants from seeds or plants I supplied her with earlier.  She has been a faithful customer in the past, but this year I didn't start any plants.  I sold her some zinnia seeds instead, and she had the good fortune of having many of last year's plants reseed this year, and the zinnia seeds grew into nice plants with colorful flowers.


We had a lovely and leisurely Skype conversation with Joel and Hilda and Arwen yesterday morning.  It was almost bedtime there.  Having a conversation where seeing them is possible is a great blessing.  It's not quite as good as having them within arm's reach, but feeling present with them makes having them far away more bearable.

Arwen is one busy little lady.  She's getting around well on all fours and pulling herself up and taking some side steps--none of which she had started before they left.

Lynita (their family friend who is a wife and mother) has Dengue fever, and is quite ill.  That wasn't such good news.  I pray for a good and fast recovery.


Joe and Marilyn K. and their baby are headed to Nepal for about five months.


Frieda Y. returns this week to her teaching job in China.


Here's a link I found and shared on Facebook on various homeschooling statistics.  The sources for the statistics are given at the end of the report.  Cindy P., who posted the link where I saw it, was standing a little taller after she saw the report, for having been homeschooled.

In one of the comments on my post, someone shared some Sunday School history, obviously from the perspective of  not being enamored with the Sunday School system--because of the age segregation, and children not learning from their parents primarily, or in their presence at least.

Also in the comments was the perception that nearly all conservative Mennonite and Beachy churches "outlaw" homeschooling.  I'm curious.  Is this how it is?  I know of three Beachy churches who fit into the above category, but I would not have thought that the majority fit this description.

I keep chuckling inside at something my dad wrote once to someone who was a minister in such a church.  I don't remember the whole sentence, but he said something about leaders in such situations who "have inadvertently overstepped the bounds of their authority . . . "  How's that for decisiveness and clarity--with a good dose of diplomacy as well?

I'm nearly as troubled about the future of education in our circles as I am about the future of healthcare in our country.  I doubt that the answer lies, in either case, in beefing up a system that I see as being fundamentally flawed in important ways, although I recognize good-faith efforts along the way in creating the systems in operation now.  I especially like the elements of the systems that do not abandon those with limited resources.  If someone can figure out how to maintain that element while empowering and equipping people to do for themselves what they are able to do, I think the result will be a winning combination.  People should not be surprised if that winning combination will create very different education and health care "animals" than we have now.  Lord, help us not shrink from tackling that task.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Time to Celebrate

We have a new grandson!  Carson Dale was born to Shane and Dorcas today at the Birth Center in Yoder.  His middle name is the same as his Kuepfer grandfather's middle name.  Grandpa Mark has a birthday in three days, so honoring him now with a namesake seemed appropriate.

Carson has black hair and fine features, which  may mean that he'll end up looking like a black-haired Dorcas.  This would be quite a contrast to Tristan's blonde-Shane appearance.

Since it was Yoder Day, Carson had fireworks celebrating his arrival.

Other stats:  7 lbs. 10 oz., 20 inches long.

Tristan is here, and he's pretty sure he'd rather be with MommyDaddyMommyDaddyMommyDaddy . . . but after his initial disappointment at being dropped off or sent off, he's been very agreeable.   He goes to sleep easily for us.

Welcome to our world Carson.  It's not a perfect place, but lots of people already love  you and will pray for you.  I think you'll enjoy the place.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dreams and Rants

Two more days till school starts.  Since yesterday, I'm excited about that prospect.  School is far more energizing to me than moving and its accompanying chaos, and I'm seeing approaching deliverance.  Actually, I think this will give me more motivation to finish moving tasks, although almost certainly no more time.


Here's a little Facebook exchange under a picture of a sign in a western state advertising something mango-flavored:

In memory of the two Denny's servers at different locations who corrected our pronunciation of the word 'mango.' — Los Angeles Trip 2013
Like ·  · Unfollow Post · Share · Added 8 hours ago ·
  • Miriam Iwashige So did you say it the Spanish way, or did they?
  • Jared Shetler We did. One of our members would say, "I'll take a mahn-go smoothie," and the server would kinda repeat it back as a question: "Man-go?"
  • Amber Nichols Oh my word. This happens all the time in Metro. I don't correct people, but somewhat seethe inside. Whyyyyyyy.
  • Miriam Iwashige Good for you. I really think the world would be a slightly more pleasant place if more people understood that vowels in "foreign words" should almost always be pronounced according to the Latin long-vowel pronunciation (when they are spelled in English letters--usually the same as Latin letters). That means "a" should be voiced like the "a" in father, "e" is like the "a" in date, "i" is like the "i" in machine, "o" is like the "o" in holy, and "u" is like the "oo" sound in hoot. Whew! Almost got that rant squelched in time, but not quite.
Before this morning, I never quite knew what to call the above system of vowel pronunciations.  Hiromi had described it to me as an international pronunciation system.  I saw many evidences that it is indeed the system used almost everywhere when knowledgeable people use English letters to show how a foreign word should be pronounced.  I saw it again last Wednesday evening when my double-first-cousin Marvin, who has a doctorate in linguistics and who has spent many years in Bible translation work, gave a presentation.  Many of the people he introduced us to via photographs have African names, some of them names from a language that was not a written language until Marvin and his helpers created it.  Every time those names appeared on the screen with the pictures, Marvin pronounced them according to the above rules for vowel sounds.

Most assuredly, such words are regularly mangled when people look only at the spelling and try to wing it without knowledge of how the pronunciation/writing system works.

Pronouncing names as they are likely pronounced in the foreign language can be awkward, but I'm like Amber.  I feel irritated when the "rules" are trampled--especially when this is done smugly, instead of merely ignorantly.

I don't really expect the American world to switch to saying Ee-rock instead of Eye-rack for Iraq, and Ee-ron instead of Eye-ran for Iran (the latter sounds like a line straight out of the Tip and Mitten books from first grade), but a person can always dream--and rant.


It's been 50 years since the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King (MLK) delivered his eloquent "I Have a Dream" speech.  The event galvanized the country to get on board with civil rights legislation that, in retrospect, can be cited as the beginning of the end for legal racial discrimination in America.

Time published a special edition to commemorate the event.  I was 11 years old at the time, and don't remember the march as clearly as some of the other racial discrimination challenges and tragedies around that time:  James Meredith's bravery in enrolling at the University of Mississippi--the first black to try to join the all-white campus; the three young men (civil rights workers) who were murdered and their bodies concealed in a massive earth works barrier being constructed to form a dam;  the little girls who were killed when a bomb ripped through the church they had gone to.

Kennedy is the president usually most clearly linked to great leaps forward in civil right matters, but I learned from Time that Truman and Eisenhower had both exercised helpful leadership in this area.  Truman was the first president to address the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and Eisenhower sent Army troops to escort nine black children into a formerly segregated school in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1953 when Brown v Board of Education (from Topeka, KS), the landmark school integration case, was still a year away.

Kennedy was very worried that the March would turn violent, and was cautious in supporting it in advance.  After King's speech, however, he was clearly awed and said simply, "He's d______d good."  Time says King . . . reset every standard for political oratory.  Presidents ever since have been trying to match his words, power and moral authority."  Kennedy met with King in the Oval Office after the March concluded, and Kennedy greeted Martin with "I have a dream . . . "   thereby giving tribute both to King's eloquence and his own identification with King's dream.  

Johnson acted heroically after Kennedy's assassination.  The Civil Rights Act was passed on Johnson's watch, and his public comments in support of 600 blacks who had gathered peacefully to demand equal access to the voting booth moved MLK to tears, and clearly and publicly "explained us to ourselves" as Time stated it.  Many among the 600 had been clubbed and tear-gassed by local police and state troopers, and Johnson stated firmly to a joint session of Congress afterward that "we shall overcome" "the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice."  (Brilliant reference to the song "We Shall Overcome"--the anthem of the civil rights protest movement.)

I loved hearing the back story of King's speech.  He departed from his prepared script after Mahalia Jackson (gospel singer and performer at the March) called out "Tell 'em about the dream, Martin.  Tell 'em about the dream."  Martin did, and the extemporaneous speech made history.

MLK's moral authority proved to be more durable in his public life than in his intimate life, and that is regrettable.  I can't help, however, contrasting his message of peaceful protest and visionary thinking with the strident "Christian" voices so prominent today.  Weapons, immigrants, voting rights, and social services are often shrilly-spoken buzz words when these voices are heard.

Blacks who lived fifty years ago will find certain aspects of these conversations familiar.  Regrettably, the "Christian" voices don't sound much like Martin Luther King's.  Helplessness in the face of injustice.  That's the aspect of these current issues that will resonate with them.  Certainly, that's not all that is present in these matters, but  it's a very real part of what is present, and MLK's response was better than most of what they're hearing now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What High School Teachers Want Parents to Know, and Other Miscellany

My sister Linda sent me a copy of this article:  "What High School Teachers Want Parents to Know."  I  recommend it.  The writer is Alice Wellborn (Now there's a last name to be coveted.), who is a school psychologist and the author of a new book, No More Parents Left Behind.  Not all the parents I know need Wellborn's advice, but parents probably should not automatically assume that only other parents need it.  At the bottom of the article are links to articles for parents of students in other age groups.

If anyone knows of a book that parents wish teachers would read--something like No More Teachers Left Behind--be sure to list it in the comments.

Wellborn emphasizes that high school teachers will practice tough love and hold students accountable.  This includes allowing students to fail rather than rushing in to prevent life lessons from taking effect. Wellborn's favorite high school teacher says "Let kids screw it up, get advice from parents and teachers, and try again.  Don't swoop in and fix everything." She also identifies the high school years as being the last best chance for students to take realistic stock of their strengths and weaknesses, and to make wise career and lifestyle plans accordingly.  She says you can't really be anything you want to be, and people who say you can are lying.

I don't blame parents for not always knowing when helping is actually hindering, because I don't always know either.  I'm sure, however, that every student should be expected to put forth reasonable effort to accomplish reasonable goals, and failure, though unpleasant, is usually not fatal.

I don't always know either when it's better to warn a student away from tackling something that seems beyond their capability, or when encouragement and extra help might make accomplishment possible.  I do know that I love it when students and parents ask for help in figuring out the right answer to such puzzles.

Parents should not capitulate to a persuasive student who also might have a streak of laziness. Students are quite capable of convincing their parents that a certain course would be "too much work" and sometimes parents allow their student's judgement to stand, without further consultation with teachers, or any effort to challenge the student to rise to the occasion and put forth extra effort to accomplish what is needed.

If a student seems inordinately preoccupied with finishing school fast or finishing without too much work--that's a signal for all responsible adults to beware and be brave.  What I see happen more often than I would like is for students and parents to assume that low-credit courses are low-value courses.  That seems wrong to me on many levels.

A sole emphasis on piling up academic credit in high school course selection is misplaced, especially for students who are unlikely to go to school beyond high school.  While it is also true that non-academic skills can be acquired more readily outside of school than academic ones,  for a lot of students, most of life beyond high school will be ordinary home and family life, and work.   High school may be the last best chance to gain a systematic, broad, and thoughtful perspective on how to be most effective and find the most pleasure in those ordinary roles. Parental instruction and experience is valuable, but any student who has spent most of their time in school away from home till approximately age 18 has already missed many parental instruction opportunities--partly because they were absent from home during the majority of the time, occupied with homework at home, or gone from home in other activities.

What about taking classes elsewhere while enrolled in high school?  I'm all for it, if it offers an opportunity we are not providing at school, and if it doesn't interfere with what we need from our students.  I'm very wary, however, of taking a college comp class, for example, instead of taking the high school comp class we offer.  For a student who is extraordinarily gifted or skilled in writing, this may make some sense.  For most students, however, the high-school comp class experience is not only much more manageable, but is actually a necessary prerequisite for being successful in a college class.  Passing the college class may be possible without it, but doing well in it will almost certainly be impossible, absent the aforementioned extraordinary gifts or skills. Here's another place where I would love for parents to ask teachers for advice instead of assuming that the student has a good feel for what should happen.

I'd like to see our classes at school be more inclusive of people who want training in a certain area of study, but are beyond high school age.  Some adult enrollment in high school classes has happened in the past, but much more would be possible, from my perspective.  Sherilyn took Bible, Beverly and Carol took typing, Tonya took speech, and Martha took Spanish in my memory.  Limited classroom space might be an issue sometimes, but usually not.  I'm not sure if it's written policy, but, in general, specific high school classes are always open to students who are enrolled in a high school course of study somewhere--not to high school age people who are not enrolled in school at all elsewhere.

I see the value in this, in that it can be tempting to skim the rich cream off the top of our course offerings, without also consuming the muscle-building "milk" of other course offerings.  Another concern is the nuisance of having students who come in for a certain class and then hang around a long time to play or socialize, without the limitations placed on enrolled students.  This can be distracting for those who need to make good use of their study time.  Nevertheless, I'm glad exceptions to the policy are sometimes possible.  As far as I know, these problems are never a concern for adults who take a specific class at the high school.


One aspect of our lives these past weeks will serve to illustrate my conviction that low-credit classes can be high-value classes.  Hiromi has been struggling to get our riding mower in shape again, after it quit working soon after we moved here and had most of three acres to mow.  This sequence of events happened repeatedly:  First, he figured out what was wrong, then ordered a part to fix it, then installed the part, and discovered another problem.  Then he called Grant.  Three times Grant came to the rescue, and promptly spotted the problem or did a quick fix.

Somewhere along the line Hiromi asked, "Who taught Grant's small engines class [at Pilgrim High]?"

"I'm sure it was Harry," I answered.  "Also, LaVerne was the small engines project leader when he took it in 4H."  

Cue here a pause to give thanks for those teachers and those classes and that one well-trained student.  A very present help in trouble.


Having two fewer students this year at the high school, compared to last year, enables us to come in under the wire without having to provide bottled water or treated well water for the students.  That's a huge relief.  This is one place where government regulation seems intrusive.


School starts on Thursday of this week.  Whenever people ask me if I'm ready, I say "No, but I will be by Thursday."  That's how it is.  I do not dread the start of school, but I still have lots of things to finish up at home, and, especially this summer, school preparations have had to wait their turn.  Most of the preparing for school I've done has happened at home.

One feature of the school year that will require some concerted effort is that my classes happen as early in the day as possible--right after Bible/chapel.  That will  necessitate earlier arrival at school than is my usual custom.  If I don't leave before the school day is over, or very early in the evening, I will end up being there more than is expected of a 3/4 time teacher.  It's one of the scheduling pains of trying to run multiple language classes this year, as well as accommodating the wishes of other part time teachers.


A column by Jim Schinstock in last Wednesday's Hutchinson News told about the final months of Glen Nisly's life.  He died at the age of 21, in 1975.  He was almost two years younger than I, and was two days older than my sister Carol, and in her class at school.  You can read the column here.  I had read the column, not having any idea that I knew the philosophy class student who Mr. Schinstock was talking about.  His last name was not given in the column.

Mr. Schinstock has written some good columns, and no doubt taught some good classes at Hutchinson Community College (HCC).  I appreciate his regular contributions as a community columnist.


My sister Dorcas is a good Words with Friends player, at least if beating me makes her a good player.  Let's just say I'm ready to beat her again for a change.

She's quite patient, willingly playing the game the way I want to play it.  It's just like everyone else plays it, with the exception that all words used must be in the abridged online Merriam-Webster dictionary and not be capitalized or be an abbreviation or be listed as slang.  Good English words only.  As you know if you play Words with Friends and use any word the game accepts, you end up randomly trying all sorts of combinations to see if one of them will be acceptable.  I don't like how this makes it a game of chance.


My friend Marian is feeling better since she's getting IV nutrition.  She called me one day last week and I was greatly encouraged to hear how hearty she sounded.  I'm really happy that this is working out.

Recently I had read an article written by a doctor who  believes that IV nutrition should be routinely offered to cancer patients.  He recommends a particular nutritional regimen.  Because my dad is wishing to regain some of the weight he lost during the past  year, and because I'm taking my turn to cook for their household, I was looking for ideas on how to  maximize nutrition for people like him.  When I found the article on nutritional IVs, I forwarded it to my family, and then, as an afterthought, to Susanna, who is Marian's sister-in-law, and who often accompanies her to Tulsa, where Marian is being treated.  Susanna later asked someone there about the possibility of IVs, and a listener who is also a medical professional commended her for being a good advocate for Marian.  It was promptly arranged and is also being administered here since she returned home.  That kind of responsiveness to patient needs is truly what sets apart a stellar treatment approach from a less responsive or less inclusive approach.

It was very hard to see Marian being infused with "poisons" and almost completely unable to take in good nutrition.  Killing the bad stuff is important, but nourishing, defending, and maintaining the good stuff happens mostly through good nutrition if it happens at all, and is certainly necessary also for recovery.  

My dad is able to eat well and does not need nutritional IVs.  I'm mentally filing away the information, however, in case it could later benefit him or anyone else I love.


Daniel (Danny) Yoder and Kathy Miller are engaged.  Their parents are Joe and Twila Yoder and John and Frieda Miller.  They're planning a November 9 wedding and will be moving into the home vacated by Lyle and Maria Stutzman.


My cousin Marvin Beachy and his family have recently returned from having spent most of the past two decades in Ethiopia in an effort to translate the Bible into the Diizi language.  Their oldest son is 18 now, and will be starting school at EBI this fall.  Marvin will continue to do some translation work from this distance.

The portions of Scripture that are now complete and published are Genesis 1-11, Gospel of Mark, and Epistle of James.  I loved hearing from Suzanne some of the back story for how these came to be the first Scriptures made available.  Most of the rest of the Bible is in some stage of translation and preparation.

I also liked hearing how the Latin script was chosen instead of the Amharic script.  Amharic is one of the official languages of Ethiopia, and the Latin script is very similar to what is used in English.  The choice was made by a group of around 200 Diizi people who gathered and discussed the matter for two days.  At the end of that time they made the decision.

Included in Marvin's presentation were some high-drama tales.  One of them was about a lioness, which Marvin took a picture of through the window glass of the vehicle he was riding in.  This became a clear necessity after he had first lowered the window and aimed the camera, and then the female lion made a threatening approach.  Later, they heard that in the same area a lioness (probably the same one) had once leaped to the top of a passenger bus and stayed there for about a half hour while the driver waited to move on.  If he had not done so, and the lion had stayed, she might have disembarked in an area where people routinely walk along the road.  That would likely have turned out very badly, as demonstrated by the other story.

In that incident, a truck driver with a helper was passing through the "lion" area when he felt that there might be a problem with his load having shifted, so the helper got out to check.  He was attacked by a lion which dragged him into the jungle along the road.  The driver had no weapon, and could not think of any way to save his helper without also being killed.  The helper's body was found later.

In another story, Marvin told of a doctor in one of the pictures of the presentation. He was a passenger on a plane when it was hijacked and subsequently forced to crash land in the ocean on the West Africa coast after it ran out of fuel.  The doctor and the two pilots were among the 50 who survived the crash.  The three hijackers perished, along with scores of other passengers.   The doctor seriously rethought his direction in life after that event and would have been willing to give up his medical practice to take up preaching.  Others, however, advised him to continue as a doctor, and work also in Christian ministries as he has opportunity.  I can't remember exactly the role he is playing in the work of Bible translation, but somehow his path has crossed Marvin's in translation work.  The story of the hijacked aircraft appeared in the Reader's Digest, perhaps in about 1995.  Marvin had a copy on display at his presentation, and I regretted not being able to take time to read the whole story.


Marvin and Suzanne's only daughter strongly resembles my niece Diana.  On this visit to Kansas, they finally got to meet each other.  Suzanne and Rhoda are presumably not related, but Marvin and Myron being double first cousins no doubt makes a resemblance more likely than otherwise.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday Wrapup--8/11/2013

My dad has passed his one-year anniversary since his initial cancer diagnosis and surgery.  He is feeling well, and today began his first long-distance trip since then.  Uncle Ollie is providing help with driving, and they are headed to Labette County, to my brother Ronald's place for the night.  Tomorrow they will strike out for Ohio, where Dad is planning to participate in a CASP board  meeting.  We're happy that he can continue in this work for now, and grateful for God's healing.


The Kansas Youth Chorus gave a program at Center this morning.  I'm sorry for those of you who missed it.  Worship happened, and praise, prayer, and peace abounded--all related to the main theme:  suffering.  Oren referenced a timely quote about how life is:  "Pain is a given, but misery is optional."

I loved having the words of the songs printed in the program.  Maybe I've gotten slow in my old age, but I find that recorded  vocal music often feels like noise (pleasant noise, sometimes) until I've had a chance to read through the lyrics paper as I listen. Words to live music are a bit more accessible since lip reading is also possible--at least if you sit close enough to the presenters, and see well enough.  This morning's program was a great combination, allowing the audience to participate fully in the service.

I noticed something that is probably standard in printed programs for such presentations:  Only the composer's name was given with the songs--not the writer of the words.  Why?  I've never written the words or the music to anything presented in a program, but if I had written the words to a song being performed, I think I'd feel a little cheated if only half the work were credited.  Explanation, anyone?

In this morning's program, Lyle Stutzman's name was given with one song, and the conductor announced that the writer of the words was Mrs. Rachel Miller, also from our church.  I would have been sorry to not have been informed of that, so thanks to John for telling us.

P.S. Lyle and Maria moved last week to Indiana, to help with the new school being established in the Elnora area, so he's not technically any longer from our church quite in the same way Rachel is.


The news from Tulsa, where Marian is being treated for cancer, was not good this week.  Her cancer spread further during chemotherapy.  The good news is that she is now receiving IV nutrition therapy, and concerted efforts are being made to discover what is keeping her stomach from accepting and digesting food.  It is apparently not blocked by a tumor, so something else is going on.

Marian stayed at Cottonwood (Marvin and Lois' place) for the past few weeks, and, when she returns from Tulsa, she will likely go to Barbara Yoder's and her daughters' home, down the road from Marian's home.  A nurse lives there, it's a quiet and unstressful environment, and several caretakers stand ready to help.


The principal at Pleasantview Academy gave members of our feasibility committee a tour.  They noted, among other things, that the parking space there is limited.  I note that only limited parking space is needed during a school day, and that there is a 10-acre plot across the road already owned by the people who might occasionally need extra parking area.


Our area is still under a flood warning.  At our place, we're not greatly inconvenienced by standing water, but that is not true along natural waterways.  Cattle are often pastured along these natural waterways, and now they may be stranded, with very little or no land area visible.  Shane's cattle, in LaVerne's pasture, had only a small island left on Friday morning when he checked on them.  Yesterday was a sunny day, and we had no rain today, but a new round of potentially heavy rain over the next few days could return small creeks to wide-river status in short order.  The rain will likely begin overnight here.

High temperatures in the 70s and 80s sweeten the prospect of more rain.

Between several of the last rains, I planted some fall crops.  The process actually went something like this.

--Slap mosquitoes throughout the following process.
--Find a hoe and use it to scratch a straggly line in the mud.  (No time for stakes and strings.)
--Dribble or place seeds in the muddy line.
--Drag a little mud into the tiny furrow.
--Press on the mud with the flat side of the hoe.
--Escape to the house before the rain starts.
--Ignore the project for several days.
--Put on "mud shoes" to check on the project.
--Note with joy that most of the seeds have sprouted.

Getting fall garden plants started is hardly ever this easy.


Last week we received and distributed an order of goathead weevils.  We've always called goatheads sandburs.  Puncture vine is another name for them.  If you've ever stepped into the burs with bare feet, you may have called them by any number of other uncomplimentary names.  Also, if you're a biker traveling through territory where they grow, you've learned first hand what they can do to a bicycle tire.   It ain't pretty.  
The package of weevils contained two different kinds.  One burrows into the burs, and the other into the stems.  A weevil-infested bur will not germinate the following year.  A weevil-infested stem will die beyond the point of infestation.  The adult form of the weevils look like tiny bugs, half the size of a pinhead.

Several problems with using weevils as the main sandbur control strategy are that they may not always overwinter here, and when they are finally successful in eradicating the sandburs, they will not survive long without a food supply.  Their feeding habits are very specific, so some spot where sandburs are allowed to thrive is always needed to sustain the population.

Goatheads are thought to have come to the US in the wool of sheep imported from the Mediterranean region.  If the sheep had been shorn before shipping, it might have saved us a lot of trouble.

Check out if you have an interest in learning more about this nasty plant, or the weevils that can help control them.


I feel inspired after following up on a series of links acquired from Facebook correspondence.   Dwight Gingerich started the process by linking to this article on how to teach Bible stories.  The writer's concern basically is that we often err by failing to focus on the author's intended central message, substituting instead one of the following teaching errors:

1)      Promotion of the trivial
2)      Illegitimate extrapolation. 
3)      Reading between the lines. 
4)      Missing important nuance. 
5)      Focus on people rather than on God. 

Each of the above points is further explained in the original article.  I found the article thought-provoking and shared the link.

Tryphena S. (a.k.a. Trippy) read the article from  my post and responded in a private message that started me along a different route--reading Bible texts in entire-book blocks instead of as isolated chapters and verses.  This is facilitated by using texts with those divisions removed.  Each book of the Bible would appear like a chapter in a book, with paragraphs and sentences written in prose form, except perhaps for the poetry sections.

Trippy pointed me to this article  which advocates repeated deep reading over fast reading--up to seven times before moving to a new book.  Trippy also mentioned having read James Gray's book How to Master the Bible, which advocates reading through each book in one sitting.   She tells me it's an old book that has been reprinted and is available on Amazon.  Gray's advice is to start in Genesis, so that's what Trippy did.  She used The Books of the Bible by Zondervan, which is an NIV prose-form version.

I located a prose-form KJV Bible online, and Hiromi told me about the Reader's Digest Bible which Bruce Metzger wrote in RSV prose form.  (Metzger feels like an old friend ever since he very kindly wrote the foreword to the book Hiromi and I co-authored on Greek Bible texts.)

Hiromi's simple solution to reading without chapter/verse distinctions was "just ignore them."  I tried it when reading the book of Mark and it actually worked better than I thought it would.  My first read-through was in KJV, in the Bible I usually carry to church.  It took me two sessions, and I really enjoyed the reading.  My study Bible had an overview/introduction that was very helpful.  The next read-through will likely be in a different version--one of a number we have in the house.  Hiromi's favorite is NRSV, which Metzger contributed to extensively.

I requested most of the books referenced above through inter-library loan.  The Reader's Digest Bible is the only one in the local library's collection.    This will let me decide what books I want to purchase.

One of the things I remember from a Bible class I took in college is that most of the other gospels seem to draw on Mark.  It's also the shortest gospel, and seemed like a good place to start in test-driving my new Bible reading effort.  I learned that Mark was written primarily to a Roman Gentile audience, and that it must have drawn heavily on the account of Peter, who was a close friend of Mark's--also known as John Mark, of missionary journey fame.

At the risk of repeating one or more of the errors in "How to teach a Bible Story," I note that John Mark's rejection by Paul did not disqualify him from writing a gospel that no one protested for inclusion in the canon of Scripture.  John Mark may have failed, but he did not thereby become permanently un-useful or unqualified for kingdom work.

It also helps me read the gospel a little differently to know that Mark was apparently from a well-to-do family.  At least they lived in a house large enough to host gatherings of believers.  Yet he became indebted (and apprenticed?) to a fisherman who had walked closely with the God-man Mark also worshiped and followed and wrote of.  I think I like this man who could move across strata in society to embrace another Christ follower.

Can you tell I've not completely figured out how to teach Bible stories perfectly?  I think it's probably possible to become afraid to notice or share almost anything at all if there is too much emphasis on focusing only on the central message.  Yet I'm certain it's possible also to trivialize the story by not focusing on the central message.  I have a lot to learn.

Does anyone out there have something helpful to pass on?

Trippy was a Pilgrim student during the year I was on sabbatical, so I interacted with her mostly as the teacher of the Sunday School class she was a part of.  This recent interaction has been a great blessing for such a small earlier investment.


One likely effect of more emphasis on whole-book Bible teaching is that expository preaching becomes more common than topical preaching.  Does that seem like a good thing to you?


One of the bits of trivia I picked up is that the epistles in the New Testament are simply arranged in order of size--largest to smallest.  Some of the prose Bibles arrange them in the order in which they were written.  I can see that this would be very helpful in acquiring a big-picture view of Scripture.


Tristan had a very grumpy time here the other evening when Shane and Dorcas took an evening to celebrate Shane's birthday and their anniversary.  He really wanted his Mommy and Daddy by turns, and was not amused by much of anything for very long.    Having awakened at 4:30 AM and then not having taken a decent nap no doubt figured into the equation.  I think if he hadn't been too upset to eat, his mood would have improved a lot sooner.  Blood sugar in the cellar does not foster elevated mood.

He was still eating when his parents arrived, and by that time, he wasn't all that desperate anymore to see them.

Who knows what bothers little guys to keep them from sleeping, which then keeps them from eating, which keeps them from being happy with almost everything else?  And yet, we love them to bits.


The DLM family has a new bit of drama to entertain us, courtesy of Christopher.  He and Rachel Y. have begun a courtship.  It's about as non-long-distance a friendship as could be imagined.  We're pleased at this development.

Another recent DLM drama also involved Christopher and dating.  He really wanted Hannah to call him before she left on a long trip, so he texted her saying that he's having his first date on Friday (or whatever day it was).  She was so consumed with curiosity that she made sure to call him back for the details at the first opportunity.  It was then that he admitted it was a ruse to get her to call, and no date was planned.

Grant and Clare know now that their baby is a Clive instead of an Ermy.  I'm thinking that Arwen left the country just in time to avoid being overwhelmed with boy cousins.  The Iwashige family surname is going to be famous some day--or numerous, at least, if all these boys marry and have families.


This is the proper time of year to transplant irises, or to mow them off, if you're so inclined.  Actually a few weeks earlier might have been a better time, but it's not too late yet.


I have been busy washing and sorting clothing, towels, and bedding--a little to keep and a lot to donate.  If you're local, and you need any such things, please feel free to check with me to see if what you need is one of the things I have in abundance.

Linda suggested that I have a rummage sale and let people decide what to donate for my excess things, letting everyone know that it will go to a "Bangladesh trip" fund.  It sounded like a great idea, except that I just don't have it in me to manage all those details.   I think I'll have to grow a Bangladesh trip fund by another means.


I guess I've never donated enough stuff before to struggle with the questions I often deal with these days?  What is worthy of donation and what is too disrespectful of the recipient to bestow on another?  The shocker for me came when I realized that I was disqualifying for donation a number of items that my family would have used happily ourselves.  We do and did so, in fact.  So is it really necessary to avoid passing on something that is slightly imperfect?  A tiny hole or a small stain or a dingy cast in an otherwise good sheet or towel, for example.  If I would use it as is, and it's not welcomed by someone else, what is really going on?  Are my standards far below "needy people's" standards?  If they are, do mine or theirs need adjusting?

I recalled something I heard a friend say cautiously one time when she told me she was sewing for children in an orphanage.  She added that they already had lots of nice clothes, but someone in charge thought they needed more.  She was not upset--just thoughtful about the same thing I'm thoughtful about now, I suspect.  She continued to busy herself sewing for the orphans.

We've probably all heard the story of the "tea-bags used only once" donation, which we all know crosses a line that none of us want to be on the wrong side of.  If only all lines were that clear.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Foxy Neighbor

This morning when I was reading my Bible, I heard a strange sound outdoors.  It had to be loud, since the windows and doors were all closed.

I opened the window in the front door and listened again.  Hiromi heard it too, and asked me what it was.  I said I didn't know.  I finished my devotions and then searched online for mountain lion sounds.  Too low and growly.  Next I searched for bobcat sounds.  Still too low and growly.  I hit paydirt on fox sounds.  At this link, in the first recording, you can hear a sound like we were hearing this morning.
If we decide to bring poultry or rabbits onto the farm, I guess we'll know up front that protecting them from foxes will be necessary.  At least one is apparently already at home in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Tales From a Corn Feed

Bryant was once dive-bombed by a Cooper's Hawk, who apparently found his "pishing" so convincing that he thought he was about to get an easy songbird meal.

I learned how to do it last night.  It's a repeated, non-voiced sound using all the consonant sounds in "pish," and it's a great way to call in birds or get them to change position if you know they're present but you can't see them.  Joseph demonstrated for me.

I also joined in the "hush and listen" on Myron's patio so that the Upland Plover and the Grasshopper Sparrow in the surrounding pasture could be heard.


Tristan's verbal skills are developing.  I noticed a pattern last night in his latest efforts at names.  He repeats the central consonant sound at the beginning of the word, instead of the initial consonant sound. So Diana becomes Niana, and Bomani becomes Momani, and Grandma is Maamaw.


Myron's neighbor, Mrs. Soby, was born in Germany, and was six years old when World War II started.  She remembers telling her mother the news.  It was her mother's first awareness of it.

She also reported that she keeps track of Myron's family's comings and goings.  "You get up at about 6:00 on weekdays, and on Sunday you sleep in," she said confidently.


Linda tells about one entrance in the "Humor" profile at the Golden Rule office.  Any agent who encounters something amusing during the course of a workday gets to post an addition to the information on the "client" named "Humor."  We all hooted at one entry, taken from a communication expressing regret about something that had gone wrong.  It came from someone for whom English was probably a second language, and he or she apologized for "any incontinence the error may have caused."   An incontinence effect would have truly been something to apologize for, but I think the word they wanted was inconvenience.

Dorcas, who worked in the GRT office at one time, wasn't sure she wanted to try to imagine the effect this gem had on the office employees.  Let's just say there's a great appreciation for this kind of humor.

Even the telling of it sent Linda and me into paroxysms reminiscent of my schoolteaching days with Esther K. and Susie K.  Sisters and housemates are absolutely the best giggling partners.  


On Sunday morning, of the four possible routes to church, only one was open to Myron's family, because of the big rain during the night, and the resultant flooding.  Last night we had to detour because of a road closed sign on Highpoint Road, between our place and theirs.  I presume the route might no longer have been dangerous, unless an officer had seen us ignore the warning.  I hear the fines for whipping around a barrier in a vehicle can tally up pretty fast--$127.00, as one person discovered--or was it $173.00?  I'm second-guessing my memory.

We had another .7 inch of rain last night, with enough wind to break off a big branch on the Kentucky Coffee tree at one bend of our "U" drive.  The same weather scenario is slated to kick in again tonight, with a 90% chance of heavy rain.

The weather watchers group moderator on Facebook explained that a high pressure area is currently centered over Oklahoma.  Within that area, the weather has stayed hot and dry for a long time.  On the periphery of that area, wind currents rotate in a clockwise direction, drawing abundant moisture from the south into this region.  When these currents intersect with a frontal boundary, the boundary functions as a trigger for instability, resulting in wind, heavy rain, and sometimes hail.  This is at least the second week we've been in this pattern, and it looks like it will extend through at least a few more days.  Field crops are thriving, but no one is trying to cut hay.  Miring down in the mud would be the first problem.

Reno County is still under a flood warning.


Lowell's cattle have been pasturing along Salt Creek on Centennial, in Crist Y.'s pasture.  The rising creek water had Lowell a little worried, but he figured that as long as they stay in the back part of the pasture where he had last seen them, they could likely still find enough high ground.  On Sunday afternoon, Joseph walked over to check on them and found the normally ditch-width creek about 3/4 of a mile wide, and he could see the cattle in the front pasture on the far side of the water, and wasn't sure if they were on dry ground or not.  Later Dwight saw them about knee-deep in water.

Apparently the cattle took rescue operations into their own hands and struck out for distant parts.  They were seen the next morning on Partridge Road a mile away, by Shane's place (our former home), and then Dolores, on her way to work, trailed them west on Illinois Avenue.  She did a little calling around to see who the cattle belonged to, and Lowell eventually caught up with them, and made arrangements to put them into Shane's nearby pasture.  They'll stay there for the time being, since there's a lot of new growth there because of the rains, and grazing is a benefit.  Meanwhile, the water in Salt Creek will have time to slip away.

At the Salt Creek crossing on Partridge Road, some unfortunate young lady's pickup was swept off the road, and eventually got hung up somewhere, which kept the vehicle from being swept down the main channel of the creek.  As it was, the water level had risen inside the cab to seat height.  The sheriff's department rescued her.

A road closed sign was placed there.

On Monday evening, the heavy rain that was headed our way from the west split right around us, and fell instead to the north and south of us.  It was the first significant rain in SW Kansas in a long time, but it came with high winds also.  It's an unfamiliar sensation for us to feel relief when a rain misses us.  Feeling cheated when that happens is still a very familiar feeling.  I can easily imagine how those poor souls in Oklahoma are feeling right now--rain all around, and they're as hot and dry as ever.  That was us most of the time for the last 2 1/2 years.


Last night Andrew shared a gem he had found in Job 15:27 (NIV).  He found this verse highly amusing:  "Though his face is covered with fat, and his waist bulges with flesh . . . "  It's apparently part of one of Eliphaz' discourses, and he's describing how even the very fortunate--as described above--can come to ruin--if their ways don't please God, presumably.


Little Eric Nisly, who is a neighbor to Myron's family, told his mother reflectively after he heard about the corn feed, "Didn't she say something about us getting some of that corn?" He's very fond of corn, and his wishful thinking couldn't quite be restrained.  Although attending the corn feed was not in the plans, Rhoda saved some for him, and he and his mother came afterward to pick it up.  By then, husband and dad at their house had come home and could stay at home with the little one.


I had to bum a ride to Myron's place since our one car is in the shop and Hiromi had the other one at work.  True, the old Caprice still runs, but it has no liability insurance and no current tag, so it really needs to stay parked.  The problem that took that car to the shop still has me feeling both smug and sorry.

I had been having trouble extracting the key after I parked it.  When I told Hiromi, I got a free tutorial in the necessity of always parking so that the wheels are straight, because the steering column can lock up otherwise, and when the ignition is on the steering column, that can create problems with the key.  This ignition's switch, of course, was conspicuously missing from the steering column, and was on the dash instead, and Hiromi didn't know if it worked the same way if it was located there, and he didn't know anything about any of this anyway, but "just park in the middle space if you can't park under the Goldenraintree and keep your wheels straight."   Hiromi also squirted some WD40 somewhere to help solve the problem.

Worst of all, on Sunday morning when we tried to leave for church, the battery was dead.  For the first time, apparently the key had actually not made it all the way into the "off" position when I turned it off the last time I drove it. More instruction on the need to keep the wheels straight.  Hiromi pushed the car out of its parking spot and we jump-started it and drove to church.  When Hiromi drove it home, he couldn't extract the key.  I'm sure those wheels were as straight as possible, but nothing worked.  So he disconnected a battery cable so it wouldn't drain the battery again.

On Monday he called Fairview, and on Tuesday we hooked the battery cable back up and took the car over there.  Steve thought it probably needed a new ignition switch, but he discovered a different problem.  It was in the gear-shift lever, and a safety device that does not allow the car to start unless it's in "Park" had malfunctioned, and the whole "gear shifter" assembly had to be replaced.  It would cost over $300.00.  Soooooo, we hope to be all fixed up before long, and I can park wherever I want, however I want again.


A corn feed is not a regular event around here.  Usually, any extra sweet corn gets socked away in the freezer if we're lucky enough to get a good crop.  This time, Myron's family had already put enough into the freezer, and a later planting was producing more than they wanted to tackle for fresh eating.  So they invited the extended family over, along with Mrs. Soby and Delmar and Suzanne and their colorful family.  They also fired up their grill, and we were each invited to bring along any food our family wished to eat alongside the corn.  Grilling was on our own, and we could provide for ourselves any side dishes we wanted.  It was Lowell's family's night to cook for Mom and Dad and Linda, so they brought enough for them too.  I took a hamburger, an avocado, and a peach.  It was a wonderful meal.  The corn was delicious, the mosquitoes left us alone, and the evening was calm and clean-washed.  The lightening show in the west had already begun when we headed home.

I took note of this great format for a last-minute food and social event.

Thanks to Myron and Rhoda for organizing and hosting it.


I've never googled "setting up a buffet line" and am not positive I want to, since I might find my assumptions challenged, but this is how I think it should be done:

1.  Put the plates near* the beginning of the serving line.  (I'm sure we're all agreed on this.)

2.  Put the drinks at the end of the serving line.  (Agreed?  Yes.)

3.  Put a serving spoon or fork into every dish on the buffet.  (I think this should be obvious also.)

4.  Put the napkins and flatware (aka silverware) at the end of the serving line.  (What????? Not with the plates??????  I can hear those protests.)  Here's why.  No one needs it before then because all the serving utensils are in place, and it's really in the way if you have to carry silverware while you're filling a plate.  Remember, we don't all have a shirt pocket in which to stow it, and we don't always have a tray on which to rest it.

*5.  If bread needs to be buttered in the serving line, have that happen at the beginning or end of the process and leave a space to park the plates meanwhile.  At the beginning of the serving line, the bread and butter and jam can actually precede picking up the plate.  At the end, leave a space for the full plate to be parked on one side or the other of the bread station.

At the corn feed, we sort of improvised as we went along, and it all worked out.  That's possible too, but more easily managed for two dozen people than two hundred.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Seventy Years and Counting

Today I attended the 70th wedding anniversary celebration for Ervin and Emma Stutzman.  I think that's the first couple I've known personally to reach such a milestone.  They're both in reasonably good health, living together in their own home, and attending church and community functions regularly.

For nine years after their retirement, they lived and worked in Haiti.  Much of the credit for the establishment of the clinic, school, and sewing and repair shop in Labeliene goes to Ervin and Emma.  Before that, they founded and developed Stutzman's Greenhouse into a very significant presence in the retail and wholesale plants market--in this community primarily, but they also now have retail locations in at least four other Kansas towns, and their plants are listed in some of the wholesale plant catalogs I get.

I worked for Stutzman's sometime around 1970.  Looking at old pictures today and remembering those years made me realize that the work environment in that business at that time was really outstanding.  I remember lots of singing together among the ladies in the transplant room, with Ervin commenting often on how he loved to hear us sing.  When he was asked to give a speech to a garden club in Hesston, he took his transplant crew along to sing for the ladies.

Some of you know Kendra Miller through her singing with Oasis.  Her mother, Esther, was one of the best voices in our transplant room choir.  She is Ervin's cousin, and Ervin and she shared a rich family heritage of music--mostly singing, but Ervin also was proficient at playing the accordion (and harmonica, I believe).

In the transplant room, we had a low-stress competition going to see how many flats we could transplant in a day.  I never won such competitions, but it helped keep the work moving along purposefully.

I don't remember many of the discussions we had over transplanting, but I remember talking once about Christianity in Communist countries when an MCC trainee from Poland was there.  (Poland was a Communist country then.)  I think she was surprised at our impression of how things were, and I often puzzled over that.  I realized that this divergence of impressions presented several possibilities:

1.  What we were hearing was not accurate.
2.  Our Polish fellow employee was not knowledgeable about Christianity in her own country.
3.  What we were hearing was happening only in some parts of the Communist world.

Ervin and Emma rented an RV and took their work crew one summer to the Ball field day in Chicago.  I got to go along.  Their trail gardens were picture-perfect, maintained by a crew of mostly Hispanic workers, and watered by an invisible underground watering system.  I still remember the field day as my first experience with smog.  The weather seemed to be sunny and cloudy at the same time.  Strange.
The Ball Seed company was one of Stutzmans' major suppliers of seeds and plant material, and their representative, Adrian Holmes, was a familiar face at the greenhouse.  Ervin attributed a lot of his success in propagating geraniums to Adrian Holmes' help.  Their geraniums are still sold in a national marketplace.

For me, working at Stutzman's was a very significant chapter in developing my knowledge of and love for plants.

I still like being around some of the people I worked with at Stutzman's.  Andrew Miller and Edward Mast were employed there at the same time I was.  Karen "Denise" Mast was born during that time, and Andrew was newly married--or working on getting married.  Barbara Headings was the matriarch of the seed sowing operation.  It was she who was responsible for dribbling seeds into rows in flats at just the right rate for allowing good germination and growth to transplanting size.  The timing of seed sowing was critical too, so that the other steps in the process could happen in time to offer customers good plants at outdoor gardening time.

Clara Miller (Mrs. William)--an Oklahoma "homie" for Ervin, and a relative, was the rock of the transplant crew.  My best friends, of course, were the girls near my age who worked there--Carol Nisly, Rebecca Miller, Wilma Helmuth, and Esther Miller--good folks, every one.

Several years ago our composition class at Pilgrim used Ervin and Emma's life story as the subject of our community writing project.  I learned lots of details about their earlier life at that time, and gained a deep appreciation for how they grew and eventually prospered through various kinds of adversity.  "Saved for a Purpose" is how Ervin referred to several near-death experiences for both Ervin and Emma, and it became the title for our class booklet.  Ervin's prize Ayrshire bull nearly killed him, and Emma suffered third degree burns in a cooking fire.  She suffered another health crisis with a ruptured appendix.

The life purpose uppermost in  Ervin's mind as he looks back was the work in Haiti.  I wish for everyone such purposeful and satisfying retirement years.  Fishing or playing shuffleboard in Florida somehow doesn't have quite the same power to inspire as Ervin and Emma's story of hard work and generosity for the benefit of needy people.

Today I told Ervin and Emma that I wish them more good years together, although I can't wish another 70 for them.  That would deprive them too long of heaven, which is what I wish for them when the years here become a burden, and heaven promises a welcome release.  Until then, seeing Ervin and Emma out and about will put a smile on  my face every time.


Wow! The whole world changed overnight.  Or maybe it was just Reno County.  I thought our overnight 3.2 inches of rain was a real drought game-changer, especially on the heels of  seven tenths inch the night before.  Then when I turned on my computer I saw news of Hutchinson having received nearly 7 inches in the same time period, with widespread flooding and evacuations of health care facilities and opening of a Red Cross shelter underway.  Rain is still falling, and the county sheriff has urged everyone in Hutchinson to stay off the roads.

We who live in the western half of the county have consistently gotten less rain than Hutchinson has had.  Last night this was a good thing.  Hutchinson, though, has usually gotten less than the counties north (and west?) of us in Kansas, and some of their flooding has gradually moved into Hutchinson's waterways and brought them to nearly flood stage.  With the natural drainage systems already at capacity, seven inches of local rainfall leaves the newly-arrived  moisture with no place to go--except back up, in the form of high water, wherever it collects.

I woke up once during the night to hearing either small hail or jet-propelled water droplets pinging off the top of our window air conditioner.

If anyone doubts that Kansas can be green in August, you should see it now.  The green is almost luminous, as though it's giving off light from within.

The frog chorus is loud enough to be audible inside the house, with the windows closed.


Later:  I saw also that water rescues are underway in Barton County, several counties to the northwest of us.  Most of last night's rain was predicted to fall across the southern half of Kansas (We are slightly south of our north-south state center), and I thought previously flooded areas had a good chance of being spared last night's deluge.  The news from Barton County tells a slightly different story, although I believe  most of the earlier flooding happened east of Barton County.  MDS worked in Lindsborg the past several days to help remedy flood damage there.    

So far, Southwest Kansas has stayed dry--still stuck in a long drought.  I really hope they got a good rain last night also.