Sunday, December 29, 2013

Skiing at Seeley

Great snow, great company, great scenery, great fun!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Wilbur: Art Aficianado

Until now, Wilbur has never been a fan of art.  Usually his remarks about famous paintings he sees are something like this, "My grandkids can paint better than that."   Since Melissa completed the family tree painting all that has changed.  This is a painting with merit in Wilbur's mind. Here are some reasons that have led me to the conclusion that he loves this painting:

  • He wanted me to have it framed as his birthday present
  • He brings all of his employees into the house to admire the painting
  • He tells everyone we meet, from the slightest acquaintance to close friends, about the painting and invites them to drop by and see it.
  • Any person who comes to the house, including the Fed-Ex delivery man, is invited into the house to admire the painting and walk through the genealogical information it contains.
Yes, he loves it.  I love it too.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Uncle Les

When I first moved into my house and painted it peach, for some unexplainable reason I kept thinking of my Uncle Les and Aunt Myrtle.  I told Mom about this random thought that kept wandering around in my head. Turns out Uncle Les's house was painted peach when I was young.   Memory is such a funny thing.

My Dad's second oldest brother was named Leslie David Robertson.  I assume he was named David after his grandfather, David Brodock.
Win, John, Les

Uncle Les was short, dark, and wiry.  I remember him smoking cigarettes and dropping the ashes into his pants' cuff.  When I was around six, he shot questions at me about people in the Old Testament.  When I could not answer who was the oldest person in the Bible, he informed my Mom that our church wasn't teaching me anything.  I guess that was his argument to support why we should join the Jehovah's Witnesses like he did.

When Uncle Les was fifteen, he ran away from home.  He was the oldest student in the school at York.  I gather from talk that I heard that the teacher viewed him her own personal servant.  Since he was the oldest, she had him hauling water and chopping the wood for both the school and the teacherage.  I imagine the older students had responsibilities to help out with wood and water, but this teacher pushed him to the limit.  One day he informed her, he would be happy to help out in any
way, provided she would sleep with him.  Fifteen year old boys.

Apparently, the thought of what was going to happen to him at home scared him a lot more than leaving home and shouldering life's responsibilities.   Uncle Les hit the road.  His travels took him the the South where he served on a chain gang.  He was found guilty of vagrancy.  He hated the South after that experience.  He swam in the great Salt Lake.  When he got salt in his eyes, an old man helped him by rinsing his eyes out with water.  He eventually found work with the circus and then on the race horse circuit. He met and married Aunt Myrtle and helped her raise her son.  He became a baker and returned to Montana.

Les on right
After working as a baker for some years, the dust from the flour began causing damage to his lungs. Nowadays, I'm sure Les would be expected to relax and let the government support him as he lived out his days.  In those days, people weren't trained to think of the government as a benefactor to help them out of every tough spot.   With money he saved, Uncle Les bought a dump truck and went to work as a contract truck driver for Helena Sand and Gravel.   When that truck wore out, he purchased another one.

He was interested in horse racing all his life, although he was savvy enough with money not to get involved financially when he got out of that business.  He and Dad had some in depth discussions about race horses.  I particlarly remember how impressed they were with Secretariat, the triple crown winner in 1973.

I remember riding in the dump truck once.  That was a pretty big thrill for a little girl.  I remember him telling me to listen and pointing out that a robin was singing his "rain song."  I recall that he gave me five dollars when I graduated high school.  When my grandparents had birthdays and anniversaries, he made the most beautiful cakes for them that I have ever seen.

Uncle Les had his faults. He was "owly" when it came to money. I imagine that being
Les, Winifred
hungry and sleeping on park benches could make a person tight with a buck. When he died of a stroke in his 80's, everything he owned was paid for, and he had over a hundred thousand dollars in the bank. One regret I have is not taking the time to ask him about his own life.  I wish his adventures would have been recorded for posterity.
Les, OD Robertson, Maude Brodock Robertson

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

The Art of Relocating

If you relocate to a new place and think you might need help moving again soon, follow the steps below. You will have people lined up to help you move.
  • Call up those who have lived in the new area for most of there lives.  Complain about the shopping, the schools, and the people.
  • Tell everyone how superior your previous place of residence was and elaborate on your negative feelings about coming to the area.
  • Drop names.  Tell everyone about your friend the celebrated author or your niece the movie star.
  • If you notice that those in your new area have a regional accent, correct their word pronunciations that differ from yours.
  • When you are addressing a group, tell everyone about your horror and shock when you found you would be living in the area.  Tell the assembly that you thought only cows lived here. Say how relieved you were when you found out that the area was inhabited with people who were normal.
  • If your former place of residence is within driving distance, tear back there every weekend. Don't get to know anyone in your new area.  Moan about having to return at the end of the weekend.
  • Don't wait for an invitation to tell everyone all about yourself.  Tell them about your uncle the senator, the elite boarding school you attended, your $25000 handbag, your advanced university degrees, and your prestigious, lucrative jobs.  Don't ask anyone you meet about themselves. How interesting could a bunch of ignorant hicks be anyway?
  • Show up at community meetings and demand changes in the way things operate.  Tell everyone how things were done in your former community.  Insist that this community operate exactly like the place you moved from - you know, the place moved away from because you didn't like it there.
  • Make fun of the natives in the area where you moved.  Portray them as a bevy of backward hicks with subnormal intelligence.
  • Show everyone in town how a real urban dweller drives.  Honk at everything, no matter how minuscule.  Call up the radio station program that takes public comment and whine about how people in the area use their turn signals or complain about some other driving fault.
  • Forget that you moved here because you were sick of city life.  Decide that the opportunity to increase your wealth is irresistible and more important than the peaceful lifestyle you sought.  Buy up land and start developing it the same way you did in the city

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Pranksters

I suppose some people might think it is random, but I don't believe it for a minute.  All of the last six of my grandchildren have been born on or next to a holiday or family birthday.  My knowledge of these little pranksters leads me to the only rational conclusion:  they had a Bon Voyage party before they left on their earthbound journey and decided to be born as close to holidays and birthdays as possible.

This is the ringleader  She was the first of group to arrive.  She entered the world on Christmas Day.

Modern medicine interfered with his planned Veteran's Day arrival.  Since he wanted his own birthday, he arrived the day after his Great Uncle's birthday and the day before his Great Grandmother's birthday.

The next jokester to arrive picked Valentine's Day to take the plunge into mortality.

This comedian didn't want to share a birthday with her cousin, so she arrived December 26, Boxing Day.

Next, this rascal kept the prank going, arriving on Labor Day.  Very funny, kiddo.

The latest rascal kept his mother waiting for 11 days so that he could keep the holiday arrival  agreement.  He arrived on Thanksgiving about 7:00 am, weighing in at 9 lbs 11 oz.

And what lies in the future for my impish grandchildren?  I'm betting the next scamp checks in on Martin Luther King Day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Because of Them

Robin Byrd

John Byrd
Helena 1860's

Whenever I think life is a little too tough and I can't stand it one more day, I hang on because of all those that came before me. I owe it to their name to be courageous, honest, and decent.  I remember Emeline Owens organizing a wagon train and leaving war-torn Missouri for the gold fields of Montana.  I remind myself that I am her descendant.  I have those genes.  She expects me to be courageous, honest, and decent too.

There are times I feel anxious, even terrified because the economy. I wonder how the income from our business, struggling the past five years, will ever pay for things such as our skyrocketing health insurance costs.  When life seems too precarious to handle, I remember Emeline driving an ox team west with only her children to accompany her.  She passed a burned out wagon train that had been attacked by Indians, but she couldn't go back.  I must press forward too.

When I lost my oldest grandchild to a brain tumor, I had the example of those that came before to lean on. Maude Brodock, my grandmother, watched her baby die slowly through several months from a bowel problem that could probably be cured with pro-biotics now.  She got on with her life, so I knew I could get on with mine.

When I worry about what others think of me, I remember Robin Byrd.  He ranched, he explored, he mined, and he put in a stint as a Federal Marshall.  He was busy living his life. I imagine he made his mistakes.  All people do. He had no time to wallow in chagrin from his mistakes.  From what I've heard of him, I'd bet money he didn't give a hoot what anyone else thought either. I don't want to disappoint Uncle Robin by cowering before public opinion.

When today's influential people want me to shift my values to conform to whatever popular philosophy they have decided is now correct, I cannot do it.  I have too many people behind me who paid too high a price to worship as they please and live the values they knew in their hearts and minds were right. Leaving behind family, home, and property, my Puritan and Mormon ancestors sent God, and me, a message that they weren't joking when they determined to follow His course. They trusted Him. Can I do less?

Whenever I think of my children, I know sometimes their lives are going to be tough. Our family stories  remind us of those who went before.  They were courageous, honest, and decent. They are part of us and we are part of them. We owe it to them to honor their names.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Entrepreneurs Are Safe

Sometimes I worry about the small entrepreneurs in the business world.  I wonder how they can possibly compete with the big retail corporations.  Then I think about some of my experiences with some chain stores, and I know the entrepreneurs will survive without any problem.

There must be something about a business becoming huge that makes logical human thought and feeling seem unimportant.  Here's a question a CEO might want to consider before approving the next plan to get us all to spend at the store:  “Would I, as a normal human being, like to be treated this way?”  From experience, I’m pretty sure promotions people for large companies must think customers are about as smart as earthworms and expect ethics on par with horse traders from Dodge City.

For example both Scheels, a sporting goods store, and Appleseeds, a clothing catalog store, have offered me significant discounts on my purchases if I would sign up for their credit cards.  After taking my time and personal information (including my Social Security Number), both companies informed me my application was pending.  A pending application meant I could not have the promised discounts.   Instead, they very generously offer me a handful of coupons for the next time I shop in the store.  Like there is going to be a next time.

I’m sorry to say I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed.  Still, since I have great credit, it seems plausible to me that the Corporation President’s wife is probably one of the few people whose application will not be “pending”  and qualify for the discounts.  Now after this experience of gathering my sensitive information and tricking me by offering discounts they evidently never intended to give me, why would I want to shop there again?  My appearance in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated is more likely. I sent the Scheels credit card they mailed me (even though I told them to forget the whole thing) through the shredder and every Appleseeds Catalog adorns the trash before I even enter the house.

Note to large companies:  Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Novel Idea

Even though it is November, I have a novel idea:  Let's Celebrate Thanksgiving -  at least until  Black Friday.  It seems the retailers cannot wait to get our minds thinking about buying from them.  Since our major Thanksgiving purchase is only a turkey, Thanksgiving doesn't exist in the retail world.  Retailers and Advertisers jump from Halloween directly to Christmas.  I'm not jumping with them. I want to make the most of this month of prayer and thanksgiving.

 A whole month devoted to gratitude.  Think of it!  I want to celebrate Thanksgiving with all my heart.  I want to remember a courageous people who boarded a small vessel, braved the fall storms on the Atlantic Ocean and arrived in a new land all because they were determined to worship in their own way.  They didn't want a monarchy to shove the state religion down their throats any longer. They were truth seekers and seekers of God.  They proved their commitment with their lives. Half of them died the first winter of starvation and sickness.  And they didn't go back to England when the first winter turned out to be a pretty rough hop.  They stayed here and stuck it out.  For us.  They wanted us to have freedom too, and many of them were looking toward building Zion, even though their concept of what Zion was might not have been very clear at the time.  They laid the groundwork for the restoration of the full gospel.  

Here was a people who lost half their number the first winter.  Instead of whining or giving up, they established a day of Thanksgiving.  I want to be like them.  As a talented whiner, I want to replace complaining with thanksgiving.

I also want to remember the Indians.  They stepped in to save a people that had no notion of how to survive away from civilization.  They rescued a people who had no clue about hardships to be endured establishing a civilization from almost scratch.  I like the Indians' smarts about hunting, farming, tracking and surviving without leaning on other civilizations.  I am astounded at their willingness to help a people they could have just as easily exterminated. I was excited to learn of clues that point toward having First American ancestry on the Brodock side of the family.  (And, no, I'm not calling them Native Americans.  I've heard too many Indians make fun of that term.)

I might need to think a little about shopping and Christmas this month, but  for me 90% of November will be about giving thanks and being thankful for those who sacrificed everything so that we would have so much to be thankful for.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where the Music Comes From

While the Robertsons have many, many athletes, Hermione's and Prudence's "Superior" piano rating at state music festival did not come from that side of the family.  Orville cannot credit the Robertsons for his 1st chair trumpet seat at state band or his "Superior" trumpet score at state music festival.  Nor can Petunia or Eglantine cite Robertson genes for their singing excellence that made it possible for them to be included in the audition singing groups in school.

Prudence in an early performance
I first remember Dad singing when he began coming to our church after he was baptized. He could never seem to find the right note.  Mom said Dad's singing difficulties were because there was no music in his home when he was growing up.  Once, I asked Dad about his parents and music.  He told me his mother couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, but his Dad played the violin for dances.  Mom later confided that Grandpa was a horrible violin player and just scratched the thing back and forth, more like a rhythm instrument.

The music in the family was passed down through the Prices, typical Welshmen.  Both Grandpa Price and Uncle Kevin have beautiful bass voices, even without ever having had benefit of singing lessons.  Of course, Grandma Latour is a master at both the piano and the organ, playing for church and for many other events.  I don't know if the Thorpes are Welsh or not, but if musical talent is an indicator of Welsh ancestry, she should be. Grandma is loaded with talent.

The Hansens and Millers, Mom's family, were also very musical.  Mom mentioned having a cousin sing in the Tabernacle Choir. Mom's mother, Annie Margaret Hansen recalled hearing her mother and older sister, both born in Denmark, sing "their music" in their own language.  Annie Margaret thought it was beautiful.

Hermione on stage
I think Mom was correct when she said Dad's difficulty with music, some of it anyway,  was due to no music in his home because over the years at church he improved enough that he could find the right notes half of the time or more. Despite the fact that Dad was no musician, he loved music and appreciated hearing others play and perform.  He recalled walking up to the cabin of a sheepherder when his family lived at York so that he could listen to a symphony on the man's radio.  Dad was a trooper about attending my band and choral performances.  Still, being a Robertson, I know he preferred my track meets.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Athletic Prowess

horseback riding: another athletic event
Petunia at volleyball match.  If the coach had been more experienced this team would have won state.
Eglantine: runner extraordinaire
One of my cousins must have been a great high hurdler in high school.   I surmise this because I discovered some old movie footage of this cousin running the high hurdles mixed in with my Dad's old home movies.  Another cousin was a pretty good distance runner. I remember seeing him run at the JayCee Relays (now Skor Dekam relay).  Petunia was a very good basketball player and was offered a scholarship to play volleyball.  Eglantine was a superb 400 runner, 800 runner, 200 sprinter, and high jumper.  The dilatory track coach decided to enter Eglantine in the 200 and the high jump during some of Eglantine's last meets during her Senior year.  I'm guessing when the coach entered Eglantine in the 200 meter race at Divisional track meet and the high jump, she didn't expect her to walk off with two divisional metals in the events( as well as the medals in the 400 and numerous relays she usually participated in) and proceed to the state track meet.

Orville with cronies at the state soccer championship- they won

Add caption
Orville was not a whit behind his sisters.  He is the only goalie we are aware of who didn't play arsenal soccer (pay and play soccer league for kids) but still made first string goalie for the high school team. If Orville had practiced tennis, I'm guessing he would have been a contender at state since he nearly made it to state without practicing in the off season.  Orville decided to keep school tennis as something he did just for fun. In college, Orville made goalie for the BYU team.

This post is getting too long to mention my nieces and nephews who have been star basketball and volleyball players, some receiving impressive scholarships.

But these aren't the first athletes in the family.  My Dad played on the last Helena High School team that won the state football championship.  Despite being extremely nearsighted and having no glasses, Dad had a heck of a shot in basketball.  How he developed his shot without being able to see the basket clearly still puzzles me.

Sid Robertson - football  and basketball player and sports fan

The first athlete of the tribe that we know about was O.D. Robertson.  Believe it or not, foot races were an athletic competition that often took place in Montana during the early days.  And O.D. was a good sprinter.  Family lore has it that he practiced with weights on his feet.

Early Montanans not only watched sprinting competitions, they bet on them.  According the Dad, a big name sprinter came from out of town for one competition.  The sprinter and his backers were none too pleased when my grandfather walked off with first place honors.
O.D. Robertson, the first sprinter we know of in the family.

When competitors were scarce, my grandfather faced off with horses. They would pit a horse against a sprinter for 200 yards.  According to grandpa, this was kind of silly because a sprinter could always beat a horse for a two hundred yard race.  It took the horse that long to approach a fast speed.  But if people wanted to part with their money so willingly, my grandfather would bet with them.

Since rodeo is a sport, it make sense to mention that O.D. was a top roper.  This was skill he honed punching cows in the Judith Basin.  Dad recalled O.D. once approaching the barn with a fractious horse. The barn door was shut.  Keeping his hand on the bridle  O.A. threw a lariat to the wood door fastener and opened the door, leading the horse inside.

It's fun to see talents passed down through the generations.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Terrible Twos

If you are all about your image as a parent, put your children up for adoption when they approach their second birthday.    They don’t call ‘em the terrible twos for nothing.   Suddenly your darling, sweet baby decides he has a mind of his own.  He learns how to scowl, finds the scissors and cuts his hair, and his favorite word is, “no.”   The next year is filled with tantrums and embarrassing scenes in the grocery store, at church, and anywhere else you go.

One thing I will say for two-year-olds, they are supremely indifferent to their image, and yours.  I remember Hermione sitting on my lap at a piano recital and wetting her pants.  Thanks Hermione.  Orville had the longest terrible twos in the history of the world.  Orville was opposed to leaving any place we went.  For a while, it seemed entirely possible that I would be hauling him to the car, kicking and screaming, until he turned eighteen. 

Two-year-olds have their pet peeves.  Petunia, miffed about the birth of Prudence, decided to bite her.  She also expressed herself artistically by drawing a six foot mural on the walls of my parents’ home.  Petunia said it was an alligator.  Prudence severely annoyed about the birth of the twins, took scissors to a Quaker lace table cloth my mother had given me. 

Prudence, as well as Petunia, had an artistic streak, but Prudence liked scissors instead of crayons.  She cut her hair more than once in a place that could not be fixed with a new haircut.  (You see, Prudence, your children come by their fascination with scissors honestly.)  Eglantine, took a passive aggressive tack.  She put crayons in a load of my underwear in the dryer.   And as we wheeled the shopping cart through the grocery store, she called to every man she saw, “Hi, Daddy!”  It sounds darling, I know, but it was extremely embarrassing.

Two year olds like to do things for themselves.   They insist on doing things they are much too young to do like: tying their shoes, cutting up their own meat, and driving the car (Yes, Petunia.  I mean you.)  If you tie your two-year old's shoes, he melts down.  If you leave him to tie his own shoes, he melts down when he finds out he can’t do it.  Either way, you are in for a melt-down.

Two year old girls love to dress themselves, when they decide to wear clothes, that is.  More often than not, their garment of choice is a bathing suit, a leotard, or their birthday suit.  When two year girls opt for clothes, they love to dress themselves in a new outfit every fifteen minutes all day long.  Naturally, a two year old is much too young to fold clothes and put them away.  At the end of the day, the room looks like a hurricane hit, and you have to wade through a pile of cast off clothes trying to determine what should go in the wash and what should go in the drawer.  In the pile of clothes, you will usually find a half-eaten, moldy apple they clandestinely maneuvered out of the kitchen and under their bed.

When they dress themselves, two year old girls exhibit unique fashion sense.  I will never forget two-year old Hermione choosing to wear a size 8 dress belonging to her sister for a grocery shopping expedition to County Market .  The dress, six sizes too big, reached the floor. But Hermione fashioned a long necklace around her waist. After four kids, I just didn’t have time to mess around with what every child wanted to wear, so I let her wear it. Naturally, we ran into one of my long lost cousins at the store.  Then, there was the time Hermione decided to wear a pink crown and a huge, pink necklace to the doctor.  Fortunately, the doctor also had children.

Two year old boys often decide changing clothes is a waste of time.  They pick an outfit and decide to wear it for the rest of their lives.  And when you make them change clothes, you guessed it, a tantrum  ensues.  Yes, Orville, you.

From two-year-olds, I learned that tantrums aren’t the end of the world.  I learned that every parent goes through terrible twos (some kids have terrible threes instead) and empathizes. I learned to let unimportant things slide and enforce what was important, regardless of others’ opinions. I learned that tantrums weren't my fault, and to sit tight and ride the wave.  I decided that the opinion of a childless person, regarding my struggles with a two year old in the candy aisle of the grocery store, was as meaningless to me as my opinion on diesel engines is to a mechanic. I also realized God made two-year-olds so priceless and adorable so we could get through the terrible twos.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


I hope our country is not turning into a society with a patronizing upper class and a lower class.  Those promoting tipping everyone for everything might want to think about where we will end up if the promoters get their way.

If I have my facts right, tipping started with an upper class, a huge lower class, and a sparse middle class.  The upper class began handing out tips to indigent people sweeping a street crossing for them, holding their horses, or for other small services of this nature.   A nobleman staying at another nobleman’s home as a guest tipped the servants for performing duties for the guest that the guest’s servants performed for him in his own home. 

As an American through and through, I have no interest in establishing a class of “noblemen” or keeping others as part of the “lower class.”  I want all people to have a chance to be anything they want to be without regard to their roots.

For me, the problem with tipping is that it implies that one person, the tipper, is above the other, the tippee.  When my hair stylist put a jar on her counter soliciting tips, I wondered why she didn’t raise her prices and forgo begging.  I have always considered my hair stylist to be equal to me, but me giving her extra money implies that I am her social superior and she is in the position of a “servant.”  After all, I would never consider tipping my dentist or my doctor.

I know, I know, my dentist and my doctor make a lot more money.  I am not looking at this situation from a monetary perspective.  I am looking at social standing.  I believe I have equal social standing with my dentist and doctor. (They might think I have inferior social standing to theirs.)  I always thought my hair stylist had equal social standing with me.  But whenever I give her extra money for doing her job, I feel more like a patron providing extra funds to a begging servant.

I don’t mind tipping a waitress or waiter, probably because that kind of tipping is so long established. Also, I remember when I worked as a waitress for a little while between my Freshman and Sophomore years of college.  A new manager was hired.  He lowered all our wages from minimum wage, $1.80/hr to .90/hr.  He informed us the wage cut was perfectly legal as long as we made $.90/hr in tips.  He advised us to tell him if we didn’t make .$90/hr in tips and he would pay the difference. Who would admit that they were such a lousy waitress that they didn’t make $.90/hr in tips?   Now, I would check out his “legal” wage cut with the Department of Labor. 

Tipping has become ridiculous. A few weeks ago I picked up a takeout meal at a local restaurant.  My receipt advised me that a 10% tip was ____ amount, a 15% tip was _____ amount, and a 20% tip was ____ amount.  I should tip the person at the cash register for handing me my order and taking my payment?  Think again. 

It’s time to draw the line on tipping.  I am going to respect others' social standing, even if they have no respect for their own.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tales of Lost Treasure

post card front

Among the family lore handed down are tales of lost treasure.  The treasure was supposedly accumulated by O.A. Robertson while mining for gold. My dad said O.A. didn't trust banks and hid his money.

According to my grandfather, who was prone to stretch the truth for the sake of an interesting story, O.A. Robertson made quite a bundle mining.  Grandpa maintained that O.A. loaned big bucks to his brother's hospital in Missouri. His  brother was Dr. Duncan Robertson who founded a famous hospital. In addition, O.A. was flush enough in the pocket to vacation every winter in Arkansas my grandfather told Dad.

O.A. Robertson and Jenni Johnson Robertson
The attached photos of post cards I found in my grandfather's papers are from O.A. Robertson.  They are written to Jenni Johnson,  his second wife.  The writing indicates that O.A. was sick.  I don't know if he became sick on his vacation or if the hotel catered to men recovering from illnesses. It seems odd that a chance visitor would have his picture taken in front of a hotel, so I am wondering if O.A. stayed at the Jefferson Hotel to recuperate from something.

Evidently O.A. recovered from his illness, because he later married Jennie Johnson.  My Dad stated that when O.A. died in June of 1926, he sent for grandpa, O.D. Robertson, to come to his deathbed.  O.A's  purpose in sending for his son was to reveal the whereabouts of the treasure.  O.D. almost killed his horse trying to get there before his dad passed away but didn't make it in time.

According to the story, O.A.'s second wife went to Missouri after his death to collect on the loans, but they were too old. Jennie must have been informed on the location of the treasure because she traveled the world after her husband's death, Dad said. Whatever the truth may be, it does make an interesting story.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Don't Call Me "Hon"

The old saying is, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  Lately I’m beginning to think the reverse is the real truth: contempt breeds familiarity.  Several female sales clerks who have decided to address me as “Hon” lately have led me to this conclusion.  Either these clerks harbor an deep affection for all other female members of the human race, or they are getting their jollies annoying them.

You don’t have to be a genius to realize all this familiarity is not affectionate.  Not long a ago, a clerk at the gas station in Dubois, Idaho called me “Hon.” Then noticing my annoyed expression, she escalated to “Sweetheart.”  Clearly, this form of address is hostile.

This irritating famliarity almost never happens at the higher quality stores like the Parrot, Base Camp, or Pan Handler.  But pay for gas at the chain gas station or check out at the local big-box store and all too often a female clerk “Hons" you. Yuck.  These clerks do a great job of living up to the movie stereo-type of a low class, gum chewing kind of babe with a nasal voice and a nail file. 

The best offense is a good defense, according to my football loving husband.  So I am considering what kind of defense to use when I am inappropriately addressed. Would a direct approach be best?  I am considering asking, “What have I done to deserve such disrespect from you?”  Or perhaps, “Since I don’t know your last name, I can safely say our relationship is not that chummy.”  Maybe a reply in kind would get the point across.  Next time I hear, “Here you go, Hon,” I am considering the following responses:

“Thanks a bunch, Snookums.”
“Toodle-oo, Poopsie.”  Or possibly,
"See you later, Lambie Pie."

After all, why should low class clerks have all the fun of irritating people?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Shot in the Arm

John Byrd Robertson

O. Dunc Robertson

the Millegan Country
 O.D. Robertson would have probably spent all his life working jobs that involved manual labor and the outdoors if his brother hadn't shot him in the arm.

According to my Dad, O.D. Robertson (known as Dunc) and his brother, John Byrd Robertson (known as Byrd) were hunting in the Millegan country with a few other men.  Byrd's rifle discharged into Dunc's arm. The wound was a bad one.  Doctors wanted to amputate Dunc's arm, but there was a doctor in Great Falls who treated Dunc and didn't insist on amputating the arm.

For over a year, bone fragments worked their way out of the wounded arm.  Finally, the arm did heal.  It seemed like Dunc would never be able to return to being a wrangler, rancher, miner, or all the other jobs he did.  So Dunc took a business course in accounting.  He became an accountant and worked for a store owner in Marysville.

After working for the store for about a year, the owner committed suicide.  To Dunc's mind, if that was what working inside and in a store did to you, it was for the birds.  He went back to all his previous occupations. While one arm was an inch or so shorter than the other one, he seemed to function without impairment.

Dad related that later Dunc and Byrd went on another hunting trip.  Byrd was holding his rifle in the same unsafe position that had caused the first gun accident.   My grandfather had a few choice words for Byrd's edification.  They arrived back from that hunting trip unscathed.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Teaching How to Use a Window

We have two young ladies staying in an apartment near our house.  One young lady is from a big city and the other is from the South.  One of the most challenging aspects of living in Montana for them is learning how to use a window.

On a warm day in May I got a frantic phone call, "It's 80 degrees in here, and I can't seem to turn on the central air."

"We don't have central air.  Do you think you could open a window?"

"Oh, I didn't think of that."

Then a couple of weeks ago I walked by the apartment at 7:00 am, temperature 53 degrees, to hear the air conditioner running.  I thought it might be a fluke, but the next day at the same temperature the same air conditioner was running.  So we had a talk.

We talked about air currents. We talked about air pressure. We talked about using a fan.  We discussed opening two windows when you are using a fan so the air you are drawing in has a window that it can flow out.  We talked about how a person living in a second story could need an air conditioner for an hour or so if the day has been warm and they have been gone - until the outside air cools down.

I never appreciated before that most Montanans have a special skill set: cooling off rooms without benefit of air conditioners.  Wilbur and I purchased an air conditioner for days when we are choked by forest fire smoke.   Choked means we have so much smoke we can't see the hill a quarter of a mile away.  Terrible smoke means we can't open a window.  Paying for air conditioners running when the temperature is 50 degrees does not make us happy.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

The Freight Outfit

Great grandfather Oscar Andrew Robertson came to Montana July 9, 1864, according to an application he filled out for the Society of Montana Pioneers, dated June 2, 1910.  His place of arrival was Virginia City.  The application tells us he departed for Montana from Carroll County, Missouri and came via Nebraska City, Fort Bridger, Soda Springs, and Gibson's Ferry.

O.A. Robertson
According to Oscar Andrew Robertson's application, he mined for thirty years and as of 1910 had stock on the Smith.  There probably wasn't room on the application to tell us of two other occupations:  meat market owner and freighter.  O.A. owned the main street meat market for a while.  For a time when my grandfather was young, O.A. also ran a mule team to the rail head in Corrinn, Utah and operated a freighting outfit.
Pic of O.A.'s meat market.  O.A.'s Main Street Meat Market is in between Watson Bros. & J.H. Curtis.  The Historical Society told me this picture is a a big Shriner's event.  O.A. bought a copy because it showed his business.
According to my dad, the employees of the meat market.
Once when my Dad saw a painting of a freighting company (painter Selzer possibly) with a diamond R brand, he was convinced that picture had to be of his grandfather's outfit.  Diamond R was his brand, or at least O.D. Robertson's brand. The painting Dad saw featured Mount Helena in the background.

As far as the brand goes, O.D.  had his wife, Maude Brodock Robertson register her own brand, the lazy BK.  According to Dad, the diamond R was only O.D.'s brand if he used it on the animal's jaw.  This was an inhumane way to brand a horse, so they used my grandma's lazy BK on all the horses.  Then, they could brand the horses on the hip instead of the jaw.

Dad also told me that O.D. Robertson played hookie from school one time and was messing around with the freight outfit.  O.D. ended up with a broken leg.  I vaguely remember Dad telling me that O.A. Robertson had a 20 mule team outfit.  That seems like a LOT of livestock, and I am doubting my memory here.

I seem to remember too, that the freight company was involved in an Indian fight on an island in the Missouri on a trip north of Helena once.

O.A. Robertson mainly considered himself a miner and rancher, but he was an entrepreneur with the meat market and his freighting company.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Remedies for a Bad Day

When I’m having a bad day:

  • I remind myself that I have five fabulous children with loads of goodness, talent, parenting skills, intelligence, and accomplishments.  But this really doesn’t help much because parents never really know if children turn out well in spite of them or because of them.
  • I take a hot bath.  I wash my hair and make weird hairdos with the shampoo suds. Then I pretend I’m sporting the weirdest of my shampoo hairdos in the Miss America contest.  I try to imagine the judges’ faces as they see me strut across the stage in an evening gown with my weird hairdo.
  • I draw mustaches on the models in my clothing catalogs and black out their teeth.  I have even been known to draw thighs on them that qualify for liposuction.
  • I ponder the question:  Would it REALLY be so bad if a 58 year old mother of five adult children decided to start sucking her thumb?
  • I remind myself that in 1777 John Adams didn’t think George Washington was much of a general.   Adams was wrong. 
  • I remind myself that I’m unique.  I may not be important, wanted, or liked, but no one can argue that I’m not an original.
  • I put all the Hershey bars underneath a heavy bucket in the basement, for the sake of my thighs and my digestion.
  • I plan a canoe trip down the Green River.
  • I write notes on toilet paper to people I'm mad at and  flush them.
  • I chant over and over, “This too shall pass.  This too shall pass.”  And I shout “Hurray!” when it does.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Skeleton in the Closet

My First Cousin Once Removed (FCOR) is really getting into family history.  Since I last had an account, amazing research tools have become available.  My FCOR brought to my attention to an ancient skeleton in the closet of one of my ancestors.  The skeleton came to light during her research.

This ancestor had a child out of wedlock. She and her father sued for seduction and got child support. In those days wives and children were considered "chattels" or property of the head of household.  So the ancestor sued for "seduction" and her father sued for "trespass for seduction." I didn't realize that men were held accountable for children out of wedlock in the old days as they are now. The interesting thing about the case is that Abraham Lincoln was the attorney for our ancestor plaintiffs.

Here is the link to my pedigree chart on Familysearch, the church website: It only takes a minute to register for your own account.  Type in your name and me as your Mom and you will be hooked up to all the information I have entered.  Using logic and the information I have given you about the attorney, see if you can figure out which ancestor was represented by Lincoln.

DON'T post the ancestor's name if you comment.  After all, how would any of us like a serious mistake posted on a blog for the whole world to see?  If you figure it out, send me an email.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Grocery Store Donations

I used to have grocery stores in my town.  Within the last three years the stores’ missions have changed. Providing groceries to customers has taken second place to collecting donations from customers.  It’s a rare day that a customer (or should I say donor?) can buy so much as a pack of gum without the clerk at the checkout asking,   “Would you like to donate to the National Society for Rattlesnake Abuse Prevention?”

Don’t think that a person will slyly avoid contributing by clicking “no” to the same soliciting question displayed on the credit card key pad.  Those questions all read something like this, “Do you want to donate to the Association for Better Bananas ?”   As soon as you click “no,” the clerk directly asks, “Do you want to donate……?”  I think the key pad must be there only to collect the fingerprints of reluctant contributors.

There is diabolical reasoning involved in this method of solicitation.  Why I should care if the person behind me in the checkout line thinks I’m a heartless cheapskate, I don’t know.  But saying, “No” within that person’s hearing is much more embarrassing than clicking “no” on a key pad.  Naturally, the peer pressure aspect never occurred to the grocery store solicitors.  This additional discomfiture is all coincidence.

In my view, the idea that the grocery store is a first-rate place to gather donations is fundamentally flawed.  After spending $100 on groceries that cost me $80 the week before, who wants to part with more cash?  I need a drink of water, a round of relaxation breathing, and a cold pack for my aching head.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, I was a raised by a woman who didn’t know the meaning of the following phrases: back down, peer pressure, go along with the crowd. Whenever I find myself in a situation laced with the faintest scent of any of those phrases, my inner thirteen-year-old revolts, “See if you can make me do it!” 

By virtue of my inner thirteen-year-old, the grocery stores no longer twist my arm. Now, my stock phrase at the checkout counter is, “My policy is that I never donate to anything over the checkout counter.”  There is something about having a personal policy that makes it much less heartless and cheap when declining to donate.

The old saying is that: turn about is fair play.  I think it fair that I should indulge in some entertaining reciprocity at the store.  My latest plan involves finding the manager and within hearing of several customers stating, “I am collecting for the orphaned song bird fund.  Would your store like to donate?”   Or maybe next time I’m solicited at the check stand I’ll ask the clerk if she will donate to the customer recovery fund.  This is a fund for individuals to recover the all funds they have donated every time they enter the grocery store.  The customers need to recover the money so that they can afford to buy groceries.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Detective Work

Hermione and I decided to take a trip to my Dad's birthplace: The once thriving metropolis of Pompey's Pillar.  First, we visited the Pompey's Pillar National Landmark itself to view Captain Clark's signature. I am speaking of Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The landmark has a beautiful visitor's center with information from Clark's journey in the areas:videos, displays, pictures and a gift shop.  It was well worth seeing. Pompey's Pillar, the rock outcropping, is along the Yellowstone River where you can also view snakes and mosquitoes, so bring mosquito repellent can be handy in the morning or evening.  I loved the  views of the amazing Yellowstone.  I am going to go there again.

It so happens that the first government financed irrigation project, Huntley Project was a few miles up the road from Pompey's Pillar. Huntley Project allowed farmers to begin to make a go of it in the Pompey's Pillar/Huntley area. Before the irrigation project, many settlers tried to farm, but most of them went bust.  We visited the Huntley museum and talked with the curator, Melissa Koch.  She gave a us a platt and showed us where the homestead was located on the platt.  She also gave us information about the original town and how homesteading worked for the settlers.

In 1913 O.D. Robertson and Maude Brodock Robertson homesteaded Farm Unit I, sections 22 and 27, almost adjacent to the Pompey's Pillar monument itself and fairly close to the river, although not bordering on it.  Fly Creek and the railroad ran through their farm.

Captain Clark's signature


Years ago, I found pictures O.D. Robertson had of the Huntley project when it was being built.  The back of the pictures state, "Working on Huntley Canal Project OD Robertson."  Some say "Huntley Canal Project Contract, O.D. Robertson."   These leads me to surmise that my grandpa, who hired out himself and his horses worked on that project.
Back of this picture says, " Working on Huntley Canal Project Contract O.D. Robertson"
This is one of three pictures of Huntley Project that O.D. Robertson had.
Interestingly, some of the lands opened up to homesteading by the irrigation project was Indian Land.  The Indians usually didn't farm the land themselves, but settlers had to pay charges to them. O. D. Robertson and Maude's land title states that they had to pay Indian charges.

O.D. and Maude had a dairy farm that seems to have been successful if O.D.'s tally book tracking the amount of milk his cows produced daily is anything to go by.  Every morning he would load his milk onto the train bound for Billings.
The most impressive building in Pompey's Pillar

The most impressive girl in Pompey's Pillar

Pompeys Pillar - looks like an old livery stable
While Pompey's Pillar now has only some trailers, a few houses, a company that sells honey, and a Post Office, this was not always true.  Melissa Koch informed me that in 1916 the First National Bank of Pompey's Pillar was established.  From 1912 to 1925 the town was booming.  There were two general stores, two implement dealers, two restaurants, a meat market, a real estate office, garage, blacksmith, hotel, pool hall with barber shop, newspaper, livery stable, two lumber yards, a school, two churches, an elevator, two section houses, a department with three telegraphers every 24 hours, daily passenger service both ways (I assume this means the train) and a town policeman. There was also a steamboat that ferried people and supplies up and down the Yellowstone. This post includes pictures of all the buildings in the "downtown" now.
Pompey's Pillar Post Office

Sadly, after losing their son, Teddy to a mysterious and lingering illness and almost losing their daughter, Winifred, and younger son, Sid, O.D. and Maude sold the farm.  They thought the water was bad and making their children sick.  Melissa Koch confirmed that the water in the area is not the best.

For their son, Teddy's funeral, Maude and O.D. rode the train from Pompey's Pillar to Great Falls, where Robert Theodore Robertson is buried in the old part of the cemetery behind the mall.  Great Falls was close to both O.D.'s father's ranch and Maude's family's ranch.  Both ranches were near Millegan, Montana.

Some things don't change.  The need to be with our family during a time of heartbreak is one of those things.

Teddy's death was published in the Billings' and Great Falls' newspapers. I found the clippings when I looked through old letters.  I also discovered a letter from a minister offering his services to conduct the funeral.  Maude and O.D. took him up on the offer.  At this time, neither Maude or O.D. had any religious leanings.  I can't imagine enduring the death of my baby without my religion to comfort me and help me with my perspective.  This must have been an awful time for both Maude and O.D.

While genealogy can be lots of paperwork with names, dates, and places, it can also involved some fascinating information brought to light by detective work.  After we've lived a few years and experienced a few things, we know the aching hearts and turmoil attached to hard experiences.  The names, dates, and personal experiences work together to lead us to empathize with those who went before us.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Expertise that Counts

I am limited in many respects, but you have to admit that I chose a great Husband and Dad for my kids.