Saturday, October 1, 2016

The American Dream

The upcoming Presidential election has many of us questioning ourselves and others on many topics, the 'American Dream' being a common one.  I met, Nancy Newcomb, while engaged in one of these discussions with her and my mother at the dinner table in their retirement home. "My father immigrated from Siberia", Nancy said, and  I became instantly intrigued.  Feeling certain that I could find some answers, I arranged to meet with her the following week to learn more.

My mother joined me on the day of my visit, and we entered Nancy's quaint and cozy apartment which overflowed with family photographs and meaningful momentos.  A small stuffed porcupine sat next to the television set, reminding her of childhood days and growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   The three of us sat in a circle of comfy chairs, surrounded by framed memories on every wall.  I jotted down some notes, and this is Nancy's story.

Her father, Michael William Barenow, was born in Irkutsk, Russia, in 1895, one of fifteen children whose family operated a granary,  Tsar Nicholas ordered Michael's father to stop giving his extra grain to the peasants living in nearby villages.  More than 100 million peasants toiled on small plots of land in Russia at the time, living in abject poverty and misery.  Michael's father refused to obey and Tsar Nicholas exiled him and his entire family to Siberia.  Leaving their middle-class lifestyle, he became a captain of a sea-going vessel...sailing up the rivers to the North Pole.

Michael's cousin, who married the cook that worked in Michael's childhood home in Irkutsk, immigrated to the United States and settled in Detroit, Michigan.  Michael followed him in1913, at the age of eighteen, and journeyed by Trans-Siberian Railroad and sea to the New Jersey shore.  Michael lived in a boarding house and learned the Tool and Dye trade in Detroit, Michigan.  WWl began less than a year later and he enlisted as a volunteer in the U.S. Army.  "He wanted to be a good citizen of America and fight for his new country,"  Nancy told us.  Michael fought in France, where he sustained a gunshot wound in his back and Mustard Gas poisoning, which he never completely recovered from.  

The end of the war brought him to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he met and eloped with Lorraine Schable.  The Barenows raised three children in Kingsford, Michigan, a small village near Iron Mountain, in the Upper Peninsula.  Henry Ford opened a factory in Kingsford, because the tall Pine trees growing on the hillsides fulfilled his need of wood for the station wagons he would build there.  Ford built three city blocks of small houses in the forest for his factory plant workers and their families.  He even put swings in the trees for the kids, and tennis courts that were lit up at night!  Michael and his family worked and lived here very happily.

When Nancy was in the 7th grade her family moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan, where they lived in a rented house and her father worked in the new bomber plant that Henry Ford had built. WWll was in full swing and his factory made B-24 planes and later, C-119 planes.  Michael told his family that even when the men were away at war, and all the plant workers were women (hense the term Rosie Riveter), they completed 8 planes per day, from absolute beginning to end!  Ford sold the plant to Kaiser-Frazer at the end of the war and Michael continued to work there.

In 1948 Nancy and her family moved into a brand new home that the entire family worked on after school, on weekends, and after dinner until dark.  They pounded and straightened nails after pulling them from used boards, and they pounded mortar from used bricks.  Michael made sure that every un-needed board was kept in a wood-box under the porch, so it could be burned in their fireplace. "He didn't believe in throwing anything away,"  Nancy explained, "He wanted to show people that you can do a lot with a little."   The fascinating house was featured in Popular Science magazine in 1951.  The article is featured below and it is amazing to read!  When Michael retired as Manager of the By-Products Store of Ford Motor Company, he sold the house and he and Lorraine bought a cabin on Otsego Lake, in Gaylord, Michigan.  

Nancy is holding a picture of her family standing in front of the house; everyone is gone now and she misses them very much.

Before I left I noticed this poem on the wall; I was not surprised to learn where the 'man of the house' got his strength.

Michael never saw his brothers and sisters and parents again after he left Siberia. He fought in a world war for his country, though his citizenship was less than a year old and he built a house for, and with, his family; all the while demonstrating how to make a lot out of a little...remarkable!  I think that is my answer, the American Dream is faith, family, freedom...the freedom to make a lot out of a little with dignity and hard work!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Homeward Bound

We are rolling through the mountains of Colorado today and hoping to arrive home on Monday.  The view through the windshield is beautiful; snowy mountain tops, the rushing Colorado River, and the ski villages of Vail and Copper Mountain.  Speaking of beautiful views, we filled our last week with several of them while camped in, Moab,Utah.

First stop: Arches National Park.

Then Canyonlands, Islands in the Sky.

Dead Horse Point State Park

Yesterday we hiked the Chesler Park Trail in the Needles of Canyonland.  

Before leaving the Needles we walked a short path through very tall brush to a "Cowboy Camp".  The sign said the natural alcove in the huge red rock was used as a bunkhouse for ranch-hands of the property until 1975, when the National park acquired it....interesting.

Now, HOME...there's no place like it!  We miss our family and our friends!  Zeeland or BUST!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Great Little Town

Kanarraville, Utah, is a very small town in the foothills of the Kanarra Mountains.  Two very different hiking trails are a favorite weekend family spot for the locals.  Springcreek Trail winds into a canyon as it follows a narrow mountain stream.

Kanarra Falls Trail also winds into a canyon and the hiker is treated to two water falls at the very end, and even a little snow on the top.

Taylor Creek Trail, which is part of Kolob Canyon and Zion National Park surprised us because it isn't a main attraction of Zion, but it was close (just six miles away from our campsite) so we had nothing to lose and, as it turned out, a whole lot of beautiful hiking to gain.

A homesteaded cabin from the 1930's still stands along the trail.

While looking for fishing holes we discovered the small town of Parowan, which is known for petroglyphs and dinosaur tracks.

We searched all around the hillside next to the sign reading 'Dinosaur Tracks', determined to find one to show our grandkids.  What do you think kids?  An antasaurus, the duck-billed dinosaur?

Oh, did Jerry find a fishing hole? Yup!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

French Friends


The first time we saw Alois and Romane we passed them on Highway 89, between Page, Arizona and Kanab, Utah.  The sight of their bicycles buried in camping gear, as they peddled alongside the highway, captured our attention.  A few days later we thought we spotted the same over-packed bicycles parked at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, while we waited for our scheduled tour to begin.  A quick scan of the crowd proved we were right!  After sharing a short conversation with them we learned, Alois and, Romane are from France and have been traveling in the U.S. since arriving at O'Hare Airport in August.  After utilyzing various methods of travel, including bus, they purchased the bicycles in Flagstaff, AZ.  Having been to Flagstaff ourselves and knowing the mountainous terrain they had traversed from there to Kanab, we were in awe.  The tour of the sanctuary was just one of many things to do in Kanab and after about one week we left for Kanaraville, Utah.  While enjoying one of many sunny Utah days on a drive to Cedarbreaks National Park from our campsite in Kanaraville, we spotted two bicyclists coming down the mountain highway.  We remarked how fun it would be if they were the 'kids' from France.  They were!  We stopped, talked for a bit and I took this picture.

They explained that they were headed to Cedar City, which is just a few miles from Kanaraville, to work for one month at Dust Devil Ranch Horse Rescue, where Romane will be breaking (which we learned is referred to in France by a word that means 'taking the fire out of') and training horses.  They accepted our invitation to join us for pizza last Thursday and we thoroughly enjoyed learning more about them and a little bit about France, as well.  They are investigating the possibility of continuing their travels on horse-back when they leave Cedar City, agreeing that it would be a whole lot less exhausting than bicycling.  Happy Trails, Alois and Romane, it was such a pleasure to meet you!  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Zion National Park, Utah

Last week we camped in Kanab, Utah and visited Zion National Park, which excited one of our grandsons quite a bit.  He too is named Zion, and he and the park are rightly associated because they both are truly SPECTACULAR!

Zion is on the snowman's left.  This is his family; his mom and our daughter, Kayla, his dad. Daniel and his other Grandma, MoMo.  Zion's older brother, Gene, his sister, Jubilee and younger brother, Brave all helped make the snowman.

Jerry fished the Colorado River, while we were in Kanab.

We drove to Bryce Canyon and hiked the Queen's Garden Trail which was the most challenging for me (edgy drop-offs) but also the most rewarding views!

Yesterday our son, Kody, asked me, "How are you and Dad going to handle hiking the neighborhood when you get home?"  I don't know, but we are sure looking forward to finding out! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Camp Verde

Just before we left Tucson I captured this picture at the zoo and I really like it.

Our last hike in Tucson; Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon, a grand Grand Finale!

We arrived in Camp Verde on March 11th, and on a tip from my brother, we visited Jerome the next day.  Jerome is built on the side of a mountain and an old ghost town teeters above it, where we watched a steam-powered sawmill preserved from the 1930's.

Oak Creek, like Jerome, is just a short drive from Camp Verde.  We hiked the West Fork Trail in Oak Creek Canyon...majestic!

During our week at Camp Verde we visited Sedona several times.  It is beautiful just to be there, but hiking the Bell Rock Pathway and Courthouse Butte trails was even more so!

Two parting shots. This is our church in Tucson; The Rincon Valley Cowboy Church.  I never got a picture of the actual service, but this is the ramada that held all the white folding chairs.  The pastor wore a cowboy hat and boots, and sang in the bluegrass gospel band that led the worship.  The service was held at 6pm on Saturday night and the setting sun turned the mountains pink, a stirring sight to see.

Another amazing picture from the zoo in Tucson; this nest was made by a beautiful little yellow bird appropriately named, Weaver,   I'm still amazed at the creativity of God when I look at it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Answered Prayers

Before we left on this trip I hadn't blogged in a long time.  Since this journey jump-started my blogging, I've realized that our life journey has been blessed immeasurably also.  Whenever Jerry and I count our blessings, two beautiful young women always make the top of the list.  Kody got 'Carrie-d' away last August when the girl of his dreams promised to share his name and his life forever.  Yes, I know...she's a beauty!

               Kody and Carrie

Last week, Jack and Melissa sailed into forever-after on a wedding cruise with both kids in tow. 

      Jack, Melissa, Jack Jr., and Sharlet

Do we believe in answered prayers?  We feel like shouting from the red rock mountain tops here in Sedona, "YES!"