Sunday, August 31, 2008

uncle cletus

Uncle Cletus died early this morning.

He was my dad's oldest and last surviving brother. Uncle Cletus was 85 and had been married for 62 years to Aunt Mary Alice.

Uncle Cletus farmed his whole life and was a damn good at it.

I can admit now that Uncle Cletus used to scare the wits out of me - but I was an easily frightened, timid child. I would get overwhelmed by all of the aunts, uncles and cousins when we went for a visit.

I grew up near Lebanon just a hour south of most of my cousins in the Logansport area. Between both sides of my family I had 14 aunts and uncles (not counting their spouses) and almost sixty cousins. Throw in the fact that Dad was the youngest in his family and had nieces and nephews almost his age, so most of my Spitznogle cousins were older than me, and in some cases already parents themselves. I was more comfortable hanging around the much smaller Grememspacher clan where I was the oldest grandchild and my aunts and uncles were younger than my parents.

After high school Uncle Cletus started asking me if I had a boyfriend and when I thought I might get married, stuff we certainly didn't talk about in my immediate family. I remember being so insulted, but too quiet to pipe up about it.

I don't know when the switch in my little brain flipped and I realized that Uncle Cletus was not giving me hell, but genuinely wanted me to be as happy as he and Aunt Mary Alice were.

When I worked at the coffeehouse Dad and I made many trips to Logansport to visit whoever was home. I always insisted that we swing by to visit Cletus. He was the healthiest eater that I know and he was "green" before anyone talked about recycling. Waste not, want not was his lifestyle. I was always offered food when I went to visit. I always said yes, even if I was not hungry just so I could see what smorgasbord of goodies was hiding in each of the margarine tubs in the fridge. I also loved that he refused to use paper plates and plastic ware at family parties. He'd bring plates and silverware with him.

Uncle Cletus remembered what veggies I liked. I loved visiting in the Springtime and walking to the edge of the yard with him to cut a handful of asparagus. The last few times he handed me the knife and with the curved blade and let me do the bending. I could always count on a sack full of beets in the Fall from his garden.

Grandma Nora died in 1951 when Dad was 15. I liked to quiz Uncle Cletus about her and what life was like when she was around. I know it changed dramatically after she died and Dad was sent to live with some neighbors for a while. One day Cletus reached up above a cupboard and handed me Nora's diary. Nora was also frugal and used the same calendar book for five years. When the year ended, she'd flip back to January 1 and start all over. Most of the posts concerned the weather and how many quarts of food she's canned. There were tantalizing entries: "Cletus home from the war," with no hint of emotion or details. My favorite was: "Lucille married today, served chicken salad." I was honored that Uncle Cletus trusted me the diary and I was careful to return it in good shape.

Uncle Cletus loved his little brother and was one of his biggest cheerleaders. He came to every party at the farm and I often overheard him bragging about Dad. Uncle Cletus' goodbye to me was always "take care of your dad," delivered with a wink.

Uncle Cletus loved the idea of Second Helpings and he and I talked about it every time we saw each other. He helped pick the sweet corn that Leo (his son, my cousin) would deliver each year. Uncle Cletus kept the parish nuns and priest in vegetables and anything else they might need.

He raised a wonderful family. Daughter Judi, Ann Herr and I were pen pals and Nancy Drew buddies, trading books each time we saw each other. Son Leo is amazing generous with his time and sweet corn.

You are missed Uncle Cletus. I feel like it is the end of an era.

Read the obituary here.
Here is a post I wrote about him earlier this year.
Here is the post about the last Spitznogle Christmas party.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

indiana state fair day 12

I rode my bike to the [sniff] last day of the fair to meet Tammy, Cara and Holly. I got there just as Cara and Holly finished getting a Henna tattoos.

We walked around the whole fair, stopping at Pioneer Village. There as an old log cabin in the building. 
I'd written about Dick Reel and his great bench in the Broad Ripple Gazette. I stopped by to say goodbye and see if he'd read the piece and to see how the bench went at the auction. The bench did really well, $1200 and his buddies were teasing him about that and the article, calling him the saint of Pioneer Village. Here is his halo. 

The true patron saint of (Purdue Ag Alumni) Pioneer Village is Maurice Williamson. 

I'm not sure how long he has managed the Village. I do know that it has grown tremendously under his guidance. The Associations efforts with its agricultural museum collection continued to develop and prosper. In 1961 the Pioneer Farm and Home Show Exhibit started at the fair. It It was housed in the balcony of the grandstand. It quickly grew out of the space. In 1966 it was moved to the Purdue Building, in 1967 to the Horticulture Building and in 1968 a new building constructed.

We checked out more animals. I thought I'd spare you all another photograph of the World's Largest Boar. These horses are much prettier and smell a little better also. 

It was fun looking at all of the goodies for sale along the main drag. Lots of giggles, no purchases. 

We did succumb to the call of the potato-y goodness of King Taters. We were walking with our piping hot plate of chips when I heard my name called from the tractor tram. 

My cousin Leo, his wife Luci and daughter Nina. I jumped on the tram with them to visit as we rode to their exit. In my excitement, I took the plate of potato chips with me. In a true testament to my willpower, I got off the tram with most of the potatoes still on the plate. 

I rendezvoused (am I using that word correctly?) with the girls at the Lumberjack competition. It was standing room only. The bleachers were full of women. In case you were wondering why women were so attracted to the manly sport of lumber jack contests I'll let the photographs do the talking. 

As you can see the weather was amazing. And the weather was the real star this year. The temperatures were moderate, hardly any humidity and only one short rain the whole 12 days. 

The theme of the 2008 Indiana State Fair: The Year of Indiana Trees. They did a great job of showcasing Indiana trees, forests and the lumber industry. I learned a ton of stuff. 
-Indiana grows 40% more wood than we use. 
-The forest product industry is the fourth largest manufacturing industry in the state. 
-Indiana has 4.6 million acres of forests. 
-Most common woods: Oak, Hickory, Ash, Maple, Poplar, Maple, Walnut and Cherry. 
-I'll be paying attention to the Lumberjack World Competition next year. Go Derek and Bobby!

I jumped on my bike and rode home. 
Another successful state fair under my (getting smaller) belt. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

indiana state fair day 11

I missed going to the state fair on day 10. I was supposed to be in New York City and that trip was postponed earlier in the week. I looked at going to the Irish Festival in Milwaukee to meet up with my Ireland traveling companions, but that got too complicated. Five whole days off and a plane ticket and I couldn't figure out what to do!

I decided to stay at home. I can't remember the last time I even had two whole days off from all of my jobs. Thursday was spent at the fair with Ann, getting a hair cut, sitting on a park bench talking to a friend for hours, watching the last season of Sex And The City and reading a fluffy book.

By Friday I didn't know how to act and couldn't get it together enough to leave the house before 2:00 in the afternoon. I ran to the Glendale library to display some more PEZ (thanks Erin!) and was so tuckered out that I took a two hour nap. And I opted for Sausage Fest for my evening activity.

My friend David suggested that I pretend that I was out of town and even sent me photographs of NYC to help with the ruse. In the end I just couldn't do it. I was getting a little stir crazy.

I picked my Saturday waitressing shift at the Red Key back up, I'm sure by the time I had a third day off I wouldn't have had the energy to leave the house.

I was on a mission with this trip to the fair. I was there for the express purpose of getting dinner for Jake (my co-worker) and Russel (the owner, celebrating his 90 1/2 birthday) and me.

This has become an annual tradition and I have it down to a science. I hopped on my bike at 4:10 and was walking in to the fair at 4:25 with cash, a cloth bag and a plan.

First stop: The Pork Tent for two pork chop sandwiches. Next stop: The Beef Tent for two ribeye sandwiches.

I usually have little side cups with lids, but my supply (leftover from the coffeehouse four years ago) is gone, so I had to take Dixie cups for the condiments.

Next stop: The Red Barn Elephant Ear stand for two Elephant Ears.

I was back on my bike at 4:35 and pedalling back down the trail.

Home and on my way to work by 5:00

Another successful visit to the fair.

Friday, August 15, 2008

sausagefest 2008

...and that is not a euphemism.

In fact it was a fundraiser for the Catholic church down the street. And I must say it is the most fun that I've had on a parochial school playground since, well, ever. I was not good at recess or kickball or any of that kid stuff. I was too busy wiping my nose on my sleeve and trying to be invisible when I was young.

As it turns out, everything is more fun with Guinness and sausage! And consuming it on the playground feels twice as naughty.

Tammy Lieber and Nora

The sausages were excellent and the beer selection was superb.

Evan Finch and a knackwurst (or maybe it was a cajun sausage, but knackwurst sounds funnier).

The new parish priest scratching his head wondering what the heck he's gotten himself in to.

Tim Brickley and Scott Sanders.

Cara Jean Wahlers and Gary Wasson

I really did have a great time -- and the three mugs of beer only had a little bit to do with that. I ran in to folks that I have not seen since the coffeehouse closed four years ago. I got to catch up with old customers and their kids.

The music was terrific. Tim Brickley is a great singer and songwriter and it was a treat to see him with out the full band. Tim owns Hit City Recording Studio, where I used to have my coffeehouse office. It is strange to go from seeing someone almost every day for seven years to just a couple of times a year.

Cara Jean Wahlers is always a treat to hear, and I swear she just keeps getting better and better. I do have to confess something. I gave Cara the finger (yes, that finger) while she was singing. I was surreptitious about it (I walked to the stage pretending to take a photograph). Why did I do something so rude? On such a beautiful evening? At a church?

She was singing BROWN EYED GIRL!

I have a theory - a puppy dies every time a band plays that song. I have nothing against Van Morrison, in fact I love his music. It is the reaction of the audience that ticks me off. Look around the next time you hear the first few notes of the song. People start cheering and high-five-ing like they've cured cancer or saved a baby from a burning building or donated a kidney or something. I totally understand why a band would cover the song, I'm sure that it gets requested all of the time. But, there are other songs out there people!

Phew! Rant aside, it was a lovely evening. I'll go say the rosary now to make up for my sins.

edit: I realized this was not the first time I've ranted about Brown Eyed Girl. Read it here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

indiana state fair day 9

I don’t know if Ann Herr Mitchell and I had ever been to the state fair together, which is surprising since we’ve known each other for let’s just say, ages.

We walked down the trail catching up on life. Ann is the person that I feel closest to in this world, but we talk very randomly. We had pretty much solved the world’s problems by the time we got there.

We walked around; stopping at the Ag/Hort building, checking out the cheese sculpture, looking at the paintings in the Home and Family Arts building and the new bridge. There were some teary moments (not that Ann and I would ever discuss it in a million years) looking at wood working and cows – reminders of Mr. Herr.

We cheered up considerably at the lumberjack show. I’m sure it was the sunshine and goofy jokes during the show. The physique of the lumberjacks had absolutely nothing to do with it. Swear. After all, the theme of the fair was “Year of the Trees.” We were just being patriotic.

We had one goal for the day: to ride an elephant. I’ll admit to snubbing of the circus area earlier in the fair. I’m a purist. What does the circus have to do with Indiana? As it turns out, a lot. The Peru Circus (pronounced PEA-roo in Indiana) was offering elephant rides and Peru is the winter home of the circus.

The elephant ride was a blast. I got the better end of the deal – Ann got the bony end of the elephant. But Ann Herr and I rode an elephant. Of all of the adventures our little Nancy Drew hearts dreamed of, riding an elephant was not even on our radar. The most exotic we ever got was reading Nancy Drew's The Mystery of the Ivory Charm. 

I really wanted to take a photo while riding the elephant. I envisioned a shot with floppy ears in the front of the frame. They were strict about both hands on the bar. I tried to sneak in an iPhone photo, but I was given the stink eye when I reached for it. 

Speaking of stink, poor Ohma could have really used a bath. 

The sky looked ominous. Ann and I walked home and made it to my backyard before the rain started. Good thing we didn't melt!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

indiana state fair day 8

I left work early and soaked in the sun at the Indianapolis Indians game. I forgot to take my camera with me, which was too bad. My brother, J.R. had one of the party decks to entertain clients and his hanger-on family. I was introducing myself to someone when I heard a voice behind me say, “And I’m her Godfather.” I swung around to see my actual Godfather. Which was quite a surprise since he lives in Decatur, Illinois.

I had really been looking forward to this night at the fair. Garrison Keillor’s Rhubarb Tour was in town and I’d invited my friend, Kipp to go with me.

Believe it or not, but there was a building I had not been in yet. The Farm Bureau Building housed this giant diorama of farm scene.

We had a grand time looking at tractors, eating grilled cheese sandwiches and corn on the cob and pointing out our favorite things about the fair.

I always enjoy the Garrison Keiller Rhubarb Tour variety show. This year’s version featured the very talented singer Suzy Bogguss.

The real highlight of the evening for me was how wonderful the weather was. I was really enjoying hearing the sounds of the fair layered with the music from the show. The sunset was amazing and there was a nice breeze wafting through the grandstand. It was defiantly one of those close to God moments for me—the overwhelming feeling that washes over me occasionally, realizing how amazing this world and my life is.

We were pretty far from the stage. I realize how spoiled I am about being able to see bands up close. Not because I always have great seats, but because I’m usually only a handful of people in the audience. The pedal steel player, Joe Savage was excellent. I was happy to see such a big crowd – and I challenge them to go see live music in the next month.

I’ve never had a funnel cake and we searched the Midway for a funnel cake stand. The one we found had a funky smell surrounding it. I can justify the smell of poo near the swine barn, but not on the midway.

My column in the Broad Ripple Gazette is called Buzzing Around Town. I've had my photograph taken in the bee ride at the fair before, but I've never been happy with them. I always feel too self-conscious and the photographer always only takes a few pictures. Kipp did a great job of snapping a ton of photographs.

I know they guy running the ride thought we were a little nuts. A woman on a kiddie ride and a guy taking photos at 11:00 at night.

We wound up with an elephant ear, instead of a funnel cake, which was just fine by me.

Fried pillowy doughy goodness.

Slathered with butter and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

And when I say dusted I don’t mean the delicate dusting of your great-aunt’s Hummel figurines; I mean crop-dusted, laying it on thick dusting. And it was delicious.

I suggested that we get an extra elephant ear to take to Lana at the Red Key.

Once there, I suggested a post-fair drink. Kipp drinks a very sophisticated cocktail, a Manhattan. I decided to have one too. As much as I like whiskey, I did not love the Manhattan. Which was unfortunate, especially for Kipp.

I was telling a story, ironically about talking with my hands and someone who openly mocks me for that. As I was making the point that I don’t really talk with my hands I knocked my drink – with a sweeping hand motion, into Kipp’s lap.

It was a perfect shot.

Kipp was charming and didn't make a big deal about it, but I know that I’ll be apologizing for that, well, forever.

I've been practicing sitting on my hands and talking.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

indiana state fair day 7

...and on the seventh day she rested...or worked too late to make it to the fairgrounds. Even with my rabid love the fair, I couldn't justify going at 9:30 p.m.

Monday, August 11, 2008

indiana state fair day 6

I know some of you think I'm nuts for going to the state fair so often, but I have a totally different experience each time I go.
And it is practically in my backyard.
And I have all of these tickets.
And I love it!

I left work early and rode my bike to the fair grounds. I met Kristi and her daughters. They had been there long enough for Ava to have a blister. I inexplicably had a Barbie Band-Aid in my bag so she was back in business.

We visited the cows.

We waited quite a while for the cows to come to be milked by the machines, but there were no takers. Purdue had a petting area in that corner of the cow barn that kids could be in the pen with the young cows.

We walked around the fairgrounds in search of a soft pretzel. Those kids are so healthy - for a snack they had popcorn and the pretzel. I need to hang around them more often!

We visited the DNR (all through high school and college I worked in nursing homes. DNR still has a different meaning to me. And, even after eight years at CATH coffeehouse, cath still means something entirely different to me - and it doesn't have to do with hearts. Anyway...) building and looked at the fish.

One wall of the building is full of huge tanks. When I was I kid I loved this building because it was always cool.

They built a cement pond (just call me Miss Jane) behind the building last year and kids get to go catch-and-release fishing.

We didn't have time to fish, the girls had a school ice-cream social to attend. They were excited to meet their teachers. Who are these alien kids? Healthy snacks, like to see farm animals and fish and look forward to school? I heard Sophie tell her mom: I haven't been to school for the whole summer. I can't wait!

I love it! I walked them to their gate and went to meet my friend Kevin who was just arriving.

We walked over to the Home and Family Arts building to meet up with sister Beth and her husband Ron. We checkout out the antiques and the Ugly Lamp contest. Even my ugly lamp didn't get a ribbon this year. I have to admit, it looked more sad than ugly. I need to remember to take a picure of it. I also forgot to snap one of Beth and Ron -not that they're sad or ugly, you know what I mean.

Kevin wanted duck for dinner. I was happy to watch.  Plus I had a feeling that this was the King Tater night...

...and it was. Well worth the bazillion Weight Watcher points. Delicious.

We ate the Taters as we watched the tractor parade. It is hard to see in the photo, but the John Deere is towing the red tractor. Did you hear that? The JOHN DEERE is towing the red tractor (once a John Deere girl always a John Deere girl).

I had not been to the south corner of the fair grounds yet. It has a farm experience for children, pony rides and elephant rides. I hope to ride an elephant before the fair is over. I over- heard someone say they thought it looked like a ripoff ($6) because you don't get to ride the elephant too far. But how far do you want to ride and elephant, really? There are several tigers in a giant round cage and another fence around that. There were at least four of these Albino tigers. They did a lot of pacing. I wouldn't have minded another fence between me and them. On the way out I saw a sign that said "Please don't open your umbrellas." I can't wait to ask someone what that is all about.

Kevin and I walked to Pioneer Village from the back side. I saw a barn that I'd missed on my previous trips. It was build without using nails - pegs only. It is amazing. 

We had a chance to chat with Dick Reel. Dick is a woodworker and carver. He's also a Red Key customer during the fair. He's a fan of the cheeseburgers. He has worked at on the fairgrounds since he was fourteen. He had some great stories about working at the Grandstand and taking tickets. He’s been part of Pioneer Village for the last thirteen years. He makes a bench each year for the end of the fair auction

Here is this year's bench. I think he did a great job. 

We walked through the DNR building. I swear some of the fish recognized me after my third trip in 24 hours. 

It was another beautiful evening. The moon is getting a little fuller each night.