Praying For the Propane Tank Holders

November is the month of All Souls. Halloween is October 31st, which is the Eve of All Hallows or All Saints Day Eve. On November 1st, we celebrate All Saints Day, a feast day of all the saints in the Church.  Then on November 2nd, we celebrate All Souls Day and remember everyone who has ever died in all of humanity.  We pray for their souls.  We believe that if they are still in Purgatory, our prayers can relieve their suffering and even liberate them from Purgatory and send them to Heaven.

Us Catholics pray for the dead throughout the entire year and not only during the month of November.  (Praying for the dead is in St. Paul’s Letter to Timothy and Maccabees, and that’s just off the top of my head.)  It’s a good practice.  We also believe that those dead we pray for will pray for us.

Everytime Sometimes when I pass a cemetery, I pray for the dead of that particular cemetery. So do my kids. They remind me. We offer the souls of the people in that cemetery a quick Eternal Rest or a Hail Mary or even both. For those of you that know the Pharisaical bo-bo Catholic that I am, you can imagine that these prayers aren’t always said with devotion or even at all and that I kind of take spells and do better at these prayers sometimes more than others.

Out here on the prairie, there are many country cemeteries. Sometimes they are family burial plots in unnamed cemeteries surrounded by pasture on land that hasn’t been that family’s homestead in 80 years. They don’t have signs. You can barely make out the headstones. I would venture to say that some might not even have headstones. We try to offer an Eternal Rest especially for these souls because I think it’s possible we may be the only ones still praying for them. There is one such cemetery only 2.5 miles from my house.

Genoa Colorado is hardly a mecca anymore. Still, there are times that I have to run to a certain business outside of Genoa or even pass through Genoa to go on the Interstate. When I am on my way to Genoa, I pass one such country cemetery.
propane genoa colorado
One day when I was on my way back from Genoa, my husband happened to be with us and I remembered to pray.
“What are you doing?” he asked, as I belted out a mumbled Eternal Rest.
“I’m praying for the people in that cemetery we just passed.” I said with all Pharisaical Catholic pride.
He started laughing.  “That’s not a cemetery,” he said.
“Yes it is.  Don’t you see the gravestones? They’re all fenced off there.”  Jesus really condemned those Pharisees.  Several times.
“Those are not gravestones. When I was a kid, that was a blah-blah and So&So had his giant propane tanks propped up on those stones.”

Oops.

Meanwhile I’ve been praying for the propane tank holders for years. I’m a Novus Ordo Jersey girl Catholic, trying to get this prairie-thing and this Trad-Catholic thing.  I’m bound to have a few slip-ups. Now I’m sure in all the course of humanity, someone had to die or be buried there, right? May their soul rest in peace.

eternalrest

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Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Touring Eastern Colorado by with 4 comments.

Rain Talk

The prairies are dry. My area’s normal annual rainfall is about 13 inches.This is farm country, but the area is so dry that it is mostly dry land farming, that is farming without irrigation. There is simply no water with which to irrigate.  Rain is everything here.

We’ve had an extraordinarily wet year here.  It’s a blessing.  We all realize that although it’s been very wet this year, that we can never take this for granted, that the next year it might be really really dry.  In an area of dry land farming, rain can make you or break you.

Since rain is rare, it’s also an event.   Most people have rain gauges.  They usually get them for free, as swag from the bank or the gas guy, or whoever.  Rain gauges (with advertising) dot the landscape here.  And it’s with good reason.  The rain is very variable.  My (rented) field that’s a half mile away will get a different amount of rain than my house, or than the other field five miles down the road.  It probably all balances out to the same amount of rain, but it’s still interesting.

A popular morning-after pastime is to drive around and check all of your rain gauges in all of the various fields.  You then dump them out so that you have a true measure for the next rainfall.  You may even sneak a peak at your neighbor’s rain gauge (but you don’t dump them out).

Since rain is an event, it’s the standard polite conversation topic.  I have heard this conversation over and over and over between different farmers. I’ve even tried to participate occasionally.  I’m going to give you the script here, in case you ever come out here and want to fit in.  Change the details accordingly.

Farmer One: “Did you get any rain last night?” (He knows full well that Farmer Two got rain, but that’s how the conversation always starts.)
Farmer Two: “We got three tenths.” (It’s almost always expressed as a fraction with tenths as the denominator. They always talk in inches, but they hardly actually use the word inches.)
There’s a pause to let it sink in. “How about you?”
Farmer One: “We got a half.” (There’s the pause again.)
Farmer Two: “I heard that Smiths got one inch over by Johnsons’ place.”  (They both know the Smiths, whose father bought land from the Johnson family back in 1974. The Johnsons have all been dead since the eighties, yet their land will always be known as Johnsons’ Place.) (And there’s also the subtle I can’t let you think you got more rain than everyone.)
They might also give the rundown of how much rain they got in their various respective fields.

 

One tenth- I would totally fail the conversation!

One tenth- I would totally fail the conversation!

 

Although rain is the standard polite conversation, it’s also involves a bit of bragging. Rain talk is like locker room talk.  The one who brings the rain up is the one who has to brag the most. He asks the second person about it only to really brag about himself. He’s really deluding himself, because although he might have received more rain this time, next time he’ll receive less and it will balance out.

I don’t go out much, but whenever there was recent rain and whenever there are two farmers and wherever they are (the post office, the hardware store, etc.), they have this same conversation.  It’s a cultural phenomenon of the Colorado prairie, and I’m sharing it with you.


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Little Towns On the Prairie

The prairie is made up of wide expenses of grassland and cropland.  There are pretty much two areas of the prairie: “the country” and “town”.  The country is pretty much the entire area that is not town.  Today I’m going to talk about the little towns on the prairie.

I was recently lamenting that every time I go somewhere local (which isn’t often) people know who I am. I get lots of “Hi Laura”s and “How’s Kevin?”s and I have no idea who these people are.  I stick out.
“That’s just how [that town] is,” the person replied.  “I’m from [ACertainOtherPrairieTown].  It’s different there.  It took me a long time to get used to [that town].  I know what you mean.”
I tried to explain that no, you don’t.  ThatTown or ACertainOtherPrairieTown are the same really.  They are both dippy prairie towns.  I’m from New York, as in New York City.  You cannot compare New York City with a prairie town.  The person doesn’t see it that way.

I may be stupid, but it has taken me a long time to “get” prairie towns.  I’m going to share what I’ve learned about prairie towns, the “rules” if you could call them that.  I wish someone had handed me a pamphlet with these rules when I moved here.  It would have helped.  It’s taken me seven years to figure this all out.  So here are the “rules” that prairie towns seem to follow, in no particular order:

1. They started as railroad towns.  Not every town is along a current or defunct railroad line, but the majority are.  They have a rich railroad heritage.  Railroads out here predate the homesteads.  Eastern Colorado was roving gigantic herds of cattle and railroad towns for a while.  The Homestead Act did not open this particular area until around the 1870’s.  The farmers are newer than the railroads.  The towns had all the earmarks of historic railroad towns and the remnants of the railroad heritage remain, even if the tracks themselves are gone (as in the towns along the Rock Island Line).

2. A Grade A Town contains a post office, grocery store, and school.  A Grade A Town means nothing really.  It’s a term I made up to distinguish a happening (by prairie standards) town from a town on its way to being a ghost town.  It seems when they take out the post office, the grocery store or the school, the other two may shortly follow.

3. The town itself is less than three square miles.  There are smaller towns that aren’t Grade A Towns that are perhaps a few blocks, but even big towns are very small.

4. The term Big Town refers to the population, not the geographical size of the town, and its not really big, just bigger.  “That’s a big town,” they might say.  I’ve learned that, no, it really isn’t, that it’s just a little more crowded, the key words being little more.  Town1 might have a population of 600.  Town2 might have a population of 1500. Town3 maybe even tipping the scales at 4000.  Town3 is a “Big Town”, but it’s not really a big town at all.  For example, Spotswood, NJ, where I lived as a teenager is 2.5 square miles and has a population of 8000.  That’s a very small town Jersey-wise, but it’d be a thriving metropolis out here.

5. Most of Eastern Colorado is “unincorporated”, a term that basically means not in a town.  This took me a long time to wrap my head around. A town out here does not border another town.  For example, there will be TownA, a great big expanse of nothing and then TownB. In New Jersey, I could stand on the town borders and literally have one foot in one town and one foot in the other.  That will not happen here.  Even though TownA is the next town from TownB, there is a great expanse of unincorporated county in between.

6. A lot of actual towns in Colorado are technically “unincorporated”, too.  I really don’t understand the political structure here, just that these terms are used.

7.  Zip codes and school districts are independent of town borders and each other.  I have personally known people who have Ramah zip codes, for example, that live in three different counties.  Some live 30 miles southeast of Ramah and some live 30 miles northwest of Ramah.  Ramah itself is maybe 1 square mile if its lucky and does not have a school.  People with Ramah zip codes probably live in four or five different school districts.

8. A good way to measure the size of a town is by the size of its graduating class.  School districts here are literally hundreds of miles large.  The towns themselves are maybe three square miles, tops.  The country (unincorporated areas) are so sparsely populated that they seem to contribute little to the size of the school class.  So the school districts will be hundred of square miles large, yet maybe 75% of the students live in the actual 2 square mile town.  A “big town” will have 25 people in its graduating class, while a small town will have 12 and a town hanging on by a thread (without a grocery store or post office, see my theory above) may have two or three.  Still, even a “big town” school has a minuscule graduating class.
Years ago in Jersey, I remember going to my sister’s graduation.  She graduated with 500-something from the public high school.  It was on their football field.  The name readers read the graduates’ names in tandem and there were two lines of graduating kids with two degree-givers.  The name reading still lasted forever it seemed.  Her graduating class was about three times the size of the entire local school district out here (which is hundreds of square miles large). This is far away from the prairie in more ways than one.  A big town really ain’t a big town.

9.  There is both a camaraderie and a rivalry between the towns.  The rivalry is with the schools and the sports.  The camaraderie is that in a way, we’re all neighbors.  For example, I am equidistant between a certain town and Colorado Springs.   The people in the far away prairie town got my back.  They might know my husband or if they don’t they know his uncle or cousin or their uncle or cousin knew Kevin’s grandparents. They know my last name and they know that [insert my last name here]s come from outside the town we come from.  People in Colorado Springs are probably unaware of the prairie towns’ existences.  It’s just different.  It is also considered a local drive to drive 100 miles from one prairie town to another, but not 100 miles to Aurora.

10. The school and sports mean everything.  Your average Joe-Schmo-resident knows the colors of the local high school and the colors of the nearby prairie towns’ teams, which are all rivals.  They know the stats of the team.  They know who plays what sport.  They go to high school sport games for fun.  Homecoming is a major thing here.  People actually come ‘home’ to their alma mater, people who now live hundreds of miles away.  (I totally don’t get this.)

11.  These towns all have limited access to medical care and commerce.  Being far from real doctors, real hospitals and real stores is just a way of life for the prairie town residents.  It doesn’t phase them, and it’s been their way of life for generations.

12. The towns have declining populations and are in various stages of decay. The prairies have been loosing population.  There are empty falling apart houses and empty falling apart business buildings.  This is all very sad.

In 2010, I worked for the census.  A certain census employee seemed the type who, um, marched to his very own drumbeat.  The crew leader for his area sent him to a certain prairie town.
“That guy is committing fraud,” the crew leader said.  I was the crew leader’s boss. The crew leader continued, “That guy went to [ThatPrairieTown] and every single one of those houses, he marked as vacant or uninhabitable. He didn’t even check.”
“That guy is weird,” I said.  “I wouldn’t put that past him at all.  Go out to [ThatPrairieTown] and maybe spot check him, or redo a few of his areas.”
The next day or so the crew leader called me.  “That guy might be weird, but he’s accurate.  Every single one of those houses was empty.  It was apparent no one’s lived there for twenty years.”  We both didn’t realize just how decayed ThatPraireTown was.

There are some bright spots, here and there.  One example is the Hugo Improvement Partnership.  They have been slowly buying up some of these abandoned falling apart buildings.  They level the buildings or fix them up and resell the lots.  They have drastically improved the look of Hugo.  It is a slow process, a very gradual progress by these volunteer community members, but their efforts have severely lessened the decay in Hugo.  Perhaps other prairie towns can model their efforts.

13. For the most part, town residents have lived in and around the area for generations.  There isn’t too much “new blood” that comes in.  My blood is new, for example, but I married into my husband’s family, who has lived in and around here for over 100 years.  They are not unique.  People don’t move here.  Plenty of people leave (hence the depopulation) but for the most part newcomers don’t come.
They’re not inbred, however, many families have many connections.  My husband’s grandmother might have been cousins with his grandmother.  Or sisters-in-law.  People are just very connected.
As a matter of fact, when I met That Guy from the census, the weird guy mentioned above, his first words to me were, “Oh, you’re a [insert last name].  You live near Hugo.”  Yup, I am. Or I married one, I guess.  That Guy lives about 50 miles from here, yet he knew that [my last name]s come from Hugo.

14. The landscape, predominant architecture types, streets, and surroundings are all pretty similar.  If I was in Hugo and you kidnapped me, blindfolded me and dropped me in, let’s say, Cheyenne Wells, I’d probably never know the difference.  Cheyenne Wells is probably about 80 miles from Hugo, too.  They’re all surrounded by prairies, where there are vast fields of grazing cattle, wheat and corn.  They have some trees now and then, but they’re not predominant.  The environments are pretty boring here, for hundreds of miles.  The towns do not have suburbs.  It’s town or it’s prairie and that’s about it.

Parades are another example of how prairie towns and New York are different.

Parades are another example of how prairie towns and New York are different.

I lived in Northeastern Pennsylvania for 2.5 years.  I could probably write this same blogpost about the former coal mining towns there.  There are bigger cities, like Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Hazleton, but also smaller ones like Lehighton, Nanticoke and Coaldale.  They all look the same.  They all have similar histories.  If I was in one, kidnapped and blindfolded and dropped off in another, I’d also still never know the difference.  There are many commonalities with the coal mining towns, just like there are many commonalities with the prairie towns.  I suppose that each region of the country is that way.

Or maybe it’s that as an outsider, I see more of the commonalities than the differences.  All I know is that the prairie and its towns are different worlds from the former coal mining communities of northeastern Pennsylvania and certainly different worlds from the Staten Island and Central Jersey of my youth.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were all parts of different nations.  So getting back to that same conversation that I mentioned in the beginning… I really don’t see a difference between Prairie Town A and Prairie Town B.  I’ve outlined the “rules” here that the prairie towns all seem to unknowingly follow.  I am still getting used to it all.  I’m sure if I was from a prairie town, I could probably distinguish the differences a little better, however, being that I am a Jersey girl homesteading in Colorado, the biggest difference is Jersey to the prairie and not prairie to prairie.

 


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Using the Whole Cow: Spleen Vastedda Recipe

Today I made vestedda. I’m going to share to recipe here as well as three reasons vastedda is important.

If you’re new here on this blog, let me tell you that my name is really Laura and I really do live in a little house on the prairie.  I am a Jersey girl to the core and I live here because of the enticement of cheap land and the opportunity for my children to farm land that their ancestors (on my husband’s side) have farmed for generations.  I struggle all the time.  Although New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Colorado Prairie are all part of the United States of America, I sometimes doubt this.  I am also 100% Italian.  To say that there is a lack of Italian culture on the prairie is an understatement.  Most people here don’t even know how to say “Italian”. I’ll chalk it up to the dialect or the accent or something, but many people here say “Eye-talian” and it drives me nuts.  Where I grew up, it seems most families were Italian, Irish or Jewish.  We had a strong Italian culture.  I miss it.

Both of my parents are from Brooklyn.  I grew up visiting both my grandmothers in Brooklyn frequently.  Although I was born in Staten Island and that perhaps means I loose street credit, I’m a Brooklyn girl, too. I grew up with Brooklyn pizza and Joe’s. Joe’s of Avenue U is in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn. They have been in business since forever in the same location.  They sell Sicilian Italian food.  I am half Sicilian.  I miss Joe’s.  My favorite dish at Joe’s is vastedda.  Vastedda is basically a spleen sandwich.  I miss vastedda. Making vastedda, copycatting Joe’s, is a small way to alleviate my homesickness.  It’s an ethnic dish, right on the prairie.

Joe's of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Joe’s of Avenue U is a good 1700 miles from the short grass prairie.

Vastedda is spleen, which means it’s offal.  We try to follow the Weston A. Price diet. A big pillar of the Weston A. Price diet is the consumption of offal. The experts can explain the whys and wherefores of the benefits of offal.  Logically it makes sense that since people have eaten offal for millennia, and we should, too.  Our bodies and biology haven’t changed.  If offal was good enough for my great-great grandmother, it should be good enough for me.

I am a cattle rancher.  I raise grass-fed, grass-finished organic beef on the beautiful prairie of Colorado.  Shouldn’t I use it all?  We eat our own meat of course.  Isn’t it most efficient to use all of the meat?  The steer, after living a happy life eating grass with constant access to pasture and sunshine, looses his life to provide us with food.  Isn’t it being a good steward to eat all the offal?  Didn’t Jesus Himself tell everyone to gather up the scraps after He fed 5000 men?  Is spleen a scrap?  A scrap that can feed my family four more meals out of a steer than we would have otherwise.  It makes economic and environmental sense to eat vastedda. Or maybe I’m just cheap.

So let me recap why everyone should eat vastedda:
1. It is a way to bring Sicilian Italian culture to your own kitchen, even if you don’t live in Gravesend in Brooklyn.
2. Vastedda is spleen which is offal.  Mankind has eaten offal through the millennia.  Weston A. Price people say this is a good thing.  It just makes good logical sense.
3.  Vastedda is a great way to make an animal stretch, especially if you buy your meat by the whole animal.  Why not turn the otherwise unused spleen into a few more meals?  It makes economic and environmental sense and doesn’t cost extra.

So now that you have a hankering for Sicilian cuisine, yummy offal and a desire to be a good environmental steward, here is the recipe for Vastedda (which I have adapted from here)…

Ingredients…
cow spleen
tallow (which can be doubly cool if it’s from the same animal as the spleen)
yummy rolls of your choice
parmesan or other cheese, shredded
ricotta (of course homemade is best)
milk

Procedure…
1. Soak thawed spleen in milk to remove the organ-y taste.  Change out the milk twice.
2. Boil the spleen for about 30 minutes.
3. Slice it thin.
4. Fry the spleen in tallow.
5. Prepare rolls by slicing in half.
6.  Place spleen ricotta and parmesan cheese on rolls and bake them in the oven until just hot.

You have copycatted Joe’s of Avenue U.  You have eaten good-for-you offal.  You have stretched your beef into a few more meals.  This is a win-win-win.

 


Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Laura's Little Kitchen On the Prairie, Recipes, The Irony of a Food Desert Surrounded by Farms and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.

‘Tis the Season


‘Tis the season.

You might be imagining office parties, eggnog, corny Santa hats, crowded shopping malls and yuletide carols.  Actually, here on the prairie, ‘Tis the Season has a whole different meaning.  ‘Tis the season for cutting wheat.

DSCN3502lotp2Let’s talk about wheat and wheat cutting…
Out here most of the farmers grow “Winter Wheat”.  Winter Wheat is wheat planted in the fall that overwinters and is harvested the following summer.  Most farmers leave those wheat fields fallow prior to planting them in September.  They are called “summer fallow”.  Wheat could therefore be thought of as a two-year crop since it takes the farmer two seasons to produce one crop of wheat.  Wheat’s harvest time is variable.  It depends on when it is ready. Wheat is a grass.  It starts off green and then “heads out”, i.e., makes wheat berries, and then dies.  We harvest it dead.  The harvest is usually July Fourthish around here.
There is a science to it.  The wheat berries must not be too wet.  We take a sample to the grain elevator in town.  They run it through their special machine and the machine comes up with moisture rating.  The moisture content must be a certain number or lower before we can harvest it.  If the wheat is too moist, it can get moldy or ignite a fire in the grain bin.  (I don’t really understand how moisture can start a fire either, but that’s what they tell me.)  The wheat must also be harvested at a certain humidity.
Wheat cutting involves using the combine.  A combine is a big big piece of farm equipment that combines a reaper, thresher and winnower. Basically the combine is a harvest machine.  We say “cut” wheat because the combine cuts the stalks of wheat, takes the wheat berries off the stalk and spits the straw back out.
Combines are a part of the culture.  My almost-three year old has a speech problem.  He doesn’t even say verbs yet, but he can say “combine” very clearly and point them out.

Wheat cutting is a race, a race against hail.  Wheat is ready in hail season.  A hail storm can level a wheat field in a New York minute.  After the wheat is ready, the race is on.  We hope the combine doesn’t break down.  We hope that it doesn’t hail.  My husband and all the neighboring farmers work on their own respective fields to get the wheat harvested ASAP.  They get up super early in the morning, get in the field as soon as the humidity is right, and work all day until maybe 11 at night.  Combines have headlights.  They don’t stop for lunch.   They take sandwiches or their wives bring them lunch. And dinner.  And snacks.

Do you remember the story of the wheat harvest in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s (affiliate link) The First Four Years ? Almanzo had started to harvest the wheat.  It was a bumper crop, one to surely get them out of debt.  He worked a few minutes and then realized it was too wet to harvest.  He did other farm work that day.  This wheat crop would solve all of their problems.
About three o’clock Manly came in from the barn and said it was going to rain for sure… The sunshine darkened, and the wind sighed and then fell again as it grew darker yet.  Then the wind rose a little, and it grew lighter, but the light was a greenish color.  Then the storm came,  It rained only a little; then hailstones began to fall, at first scattering slowly, then falling thicker and faster while the stones were larger, some of them as large as hens’ eggs…
In just twenty minutes the storm was over, and when they could see as far as the field, the binder was still there but the wheat was lying flat.  “It’s got the wheat, I guess,” Manly said.  But Laura could not speak…
“And now let’s make some ice cream,” Manly said.  “You stir it up, Laura, and I’ll gather up hailstones for ice to freeze it.”
And just like that, their bumper wheat crop was gone.  This was before crop insurance.  They ended up in more debt and after a few more years of trials ultimately left South Dakota.
120 years later, weather is weather and this can still happen.  This is why wheat cutting is still a race, a race against hail.

Wheat is ready at different times in different parts of the country.  Some farmers hire custom harvesters to cut their wheat. Custom harvesters are teams that travel the country, following the wheat season.  They came with a bunch of combines, grain trucks, grain carts, tractors, camping trailers, etc.  They are usually young single men.  A harvest crew passed through Hugo when we were in town for Mass on Sunday and they had six vehicles total, including two tractor trailers that were towing a combine and a grain trailer.  I didn’t have my camera.

For little farmers like us, wheat harvest is the big thing.  (I don’t really understand why harvesting wheat is a bigger deal than harvesting corn or millet, but I guess I’m just the clueless Jersey girl again.)  You know what they say, when in Lincoln County, do as the Lincoln County farmers.  So I’ve embraced “the season” and get as excited as everyone now, even if I’m just acting.  If I act enough, I’ll believe it. The parrellels between cutting wheat and the Christmas season are amazing.

Just like your families don matching sweaters and take the same annual picture by the Christmas tree, I dress the kids alike-ish and take their annual picture in the combine tire.

Vince was born about ten hours after we took the 2011 pictures.  We did not have a wheat harvest in 2013 because of the drought.

Vince was born about ten hours after we took the 2011 pictures.
We did not have a wheat harvest in 2013 because of the drought.

You may be known to the neighbors.
“Did you see the Johnson family’s house?  They put up 147 strands of lights.” will be a typical comment around the Christmas season.
“Did you know that John Smith got 48 bushel [per acre] by Harris?” is a typical comment here around wheat harvest season.  I should add that Harris has probably been dead for 40 years and everybody but me knows where his field is that John Smith bought 35 years ago.

We have a picnic in the field at least once per year.  You have turkey or ham, manicotti and all the fixings for Christmas dinner.  We have bratwurst or taco salad or some kind of other yummy portable goodness.picnic

You take pictures of the festivities. We take field pictures, too.
picnicccc

DSCN3485

You may here the merry voices of carolers off in the distance, jingle bells and Salvation Army Santas ring their bells.  Late into the night, we hear combines humming miles away.

‘Tis the season.

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The Brooklyn Bridge and Other Things That Don’t Make Sense on the Prairie

Last week when I was visiting my relatives, I drove on the Brooklyn Bridge.  It would have been a simpler drive if I had chosen the Verrazano Bridge, but the Verrazano Bridge is $15.00.  Yes, that is right.  $15.00 for one bridge.

Yes, this bridge is really $15.00.

Yes, this bridge really costs $15.00 to drive on from Brooklyn to Staten Island. And, yes, if you’ve ever seen the movie Saturday Night Fever, this is that same bridge.

 

My bridge adventures made me think of some sayings that don’t apply out here.  My husband, for example, was born and raised here in Lincoln County.  He lived a short time in a town just over the border of Lincoln County and a short time in Colorado Springs, so he is really a Lincoln County boy.  Lincoln County and Brooklyn are different.  Sometimes I want to use a phrase and I have to stop myself.

I took this picture last week from my rental car.

I took this picture last week from my rental car.

If [Donnie] jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you? New York children have heard this expression for generations.  A parent will usually say this in response to a child whining that they are prohibited from doing something that their friend is allowed to do.  The Brooklyn Bridge is about 1700 miles from Lincoln County.  It connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City.  The Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883 and is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the country.  It is free for cars and has a pedestrian portion.  Lincoln County children, including my own, will just not understand.

bigsandycreek

This is a super-rare event, last August. The Big Sandy Creek actually had water in it. I really do live five minutes from this bridge. Well, maybe ten.

I live five minutes from the bridge.  My father said that in 1964, when they opened the Verrazano Bridge to connect Staten Island and Brooklyn, there was a population boom in Staten Island.  Die-hard Brooklyn residents would complain when their loved ones moved to Staten Island.  “I live five minutes from the bridge,” is what the new Staten Island resident would say, regardless if they were really five minutes away or at the very opposite end of Staten Island.  As New Yorkers continued to move and moved to New Jersey, “I live five minutes from the bridge” came to mean they lived in New Jersey up to a half hour from the Goethals Bridge or Outerbridge.  When they pass out brochures in Brooklyn about Manalapan, they describe Manalapan as five minutes from the bridge, which would only be true if you had a helicopter.

They love so close that I can see their front porch from my backyard.  I suppose that this is a Jersey phrase rather than a Brooklyn one.  The Lincoln County version of this saying should be They live so close that if I stand on my roof, cock my head and squint, I can kind of see the trees by their house.

He’s a dems and dose kinda guy.  This is an expression to describe an individual who isn’t very bright.  There is an untrue connotation that people who have very thick New York accents aren’t very smart.  Did I mention that this is untrue?  Many people with thick New York accents are really smart and many people without New York accents are idiots.  When someone pronounces a “th” sound in New York, it frequently comes out as a “d” sound.  If someone did not know the name for people or things, he could perhaps call the people “them” and the things “those”.  Except with a New York accent, it would sound like “dem” and “dose”.  We make “them” incorrectly plural for further insult.
So a few months ago when I was telling my husband about a Lincoln County resident and said “He’s a dems and dose kinda guy,” my husband did not have a clue what I was saying, and understandably so.  I was really a dems and dose kinda gal to be using that saying here on the prairie.

And that’s the thing that gets me, again and again, when I bite my tongue when these sayings come into my mind and then sigh in frustration, I have to remember that I’m really the one who is an outsider here.

And then I’ll tell you that I live five minutes from the bridge anyway.


Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie by with 2 comments.

Going to Arriba, Trail Roads and My Jersey Mind

I recently made a trip to a Sacrament of a relative.  Unfortunately, Kevin had to work so I was alone with the children on this journey.  The journey was about a hundred miles, a hundred miles from the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere.  There were two possible routes there, the pavement or going by Arriba.

Arriba, pronounced with a short i, is a town here in Lincoln County.  Believe it or not, I had never been in the town of Arriba.   Since I was running late (of course) I choose to go by Arriba, since that way was supposed to be quicker.  Although I had been to the town where the Sacrament was before, I had only been the Arriba way once before, about six years ago when I was a newlywed.  I didn’t remember it, so I looked at the map online before I left.  It should have been simple.  I would drive by Arriba and end up in that other town.  What could go wrong?  I drove and drove and drove.  The one particular dirt road that I was on seemed to get narrower and narrower.  There was grass growing in miscellaneous places on the road.  I had to take it easy.  I did not pass even one other car.  I never thought much about it because Arriba is not exactly a destination of choice to most.

And then the road turned into a trail….

What is a trail road? you may ask.  A trail road is a dirt road that you should really have pickup for.  There is usually grass in the middle of the road.  A trail road is pretty much a set of tire tracks that happen to be on the map.

On my way to [that other town]...

On my way to [that other town]…

I had checked the map.  This particular road went all the way through to where I need it to.  Reality was different.  I had to backtrack. Between having to drive slow on the road and then the backtracking, I think I lost the time I would have saved by going by Arriba.  I was still late.

Don’t rely on the map. should be a cardinal rule in Eastern Colorado.  They should hand out pamphlets explaining this.  It’s something that I can’t get through my Jersey mind.  For this recent trip, I should have asked someone about the particular route.  They would have gladly explained that the road that really went through was three or four miles away and parallel to the trail road.  Yet this seems to be a lesson that I have to learn again and again.

I remember before I moved out here I was visiting.  We weren’t married yet.  I was looking for a job.  I had an interview or something. Earlier that day, Kevin and I were in [that same town where the interview was].  When we were on our way back to [that other town] we passed a dirt road.  “If you’re ever going from [that first town] to over where my parents live, ThatRoad is a shortcut.”  I filed that information in my Jersey brain.  A few hours later, after my interview, I happened to be going from [the first town] to over where Kevin’s parents lived.  I thought I was doing well when I saw ThatRoad and I turned right.

ThatRoad was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.  Really.  ThatRoad had an unsigned railroad crossing.  I had never seen one of those, except in a Lifetime movie or something when someone dies there because they don’t see the train.  Then there was a cattle guard.  I had seen one of them before in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.  I felt smart because at least I knew what that was.  ThatRoad continued.  There was a little bit of grass in the middle, under the car.  Also, apparently some rancher owned the pasture on both sides of ThatRoad.  The grass in the middle of the road seemed to get taller.  How much longer could this road be?  I thought.  I drove on.  And then there were cows.  Yup, cows in the middle of the road.  The rancher owned both sides of ThatRoad, so the cows just hung out where they wanted.  I’m thinking they weighed more than my Corolla.  Move it cows.  A Jersey girl is a long way from home. Cows do not move unless they want to.  I drove on.  Slower now.  The cows moved a bit, taking their sweet bovine time.  The grass under the car in the middle of the road seemed to get taller.  Should I turn around?  No, cows in the rearview mirror.  I pressed on.  Another cattle guard and then I finally made it, made it to pavement.  Hooray!

This is a sample of a cattle guard.  Take heed- there will be cattle on the highway.  And this road really is the Eastern Colorado version of a highway.

This is a sample of a cattle guard. Take heed- there will be cattle on the highway. And this road really is the Eastern Colorado version of a highway.

“You are really brave to take ThatRoad,”  Kevin said, when I told him about this.  Brave? No, stupid.  I was stupid.  Roads like that are not met for Corollas.  Most people out here have pickups, so they would think nothing of a road like ThatRoad.

When I was 39 and a half weeks pregnant with my second child (no exaggeration, literally 39.5 weeks pregnant), I worked for the Census.  I was basically in charge of the Eastern area of the local district, an area geographically way bigger than New Jersey.  I had to train my crew leaders.  They sent us one area to practice on. It was about 25 miles from the site of the training.  We were supposed to be checking for “living quarters”.  We were two cars full of about 9 people.  Did I mention that I was due in a few days?  The CensusRoad turned into a trail, too.  Let’s reflect on this:  For our supposed training, I led 9 people out into the “country” 25 miles or so from a gas station to a trail road where there was no cell phone service to look for missed houses and to distribute censuses.  The map never indicated that CensusRoad was a trail road.  In retrospect, it’s no wonder that I didn’t go into labor or break my water or something.

I have learned this lesson, again and again and again… Don’t trust the map.  Any road can be a trail road.

So what about Arriba?  I know all of your inquiring minds want to know.  We actually went back home through the proper-not-a-trail dirt road and this time drove into Arriba.  Arriba unfortunately suffers from Eastern-Colorado-town-past-its-prime disease.  It was pretty sad town, with a population of 244 in 2000. Did you know there’s a Clown Museum in Arriba?  Sigh, we’ll have to make another trip…

You can say that again, Arriba.

You can say that again, Arriba.

And then I think of Ma and Pa Ingalls.  Pa drove their horse and buggy over 600 miles from Pepin, Wisonsin to  Missouri and then to Independence, Kansas.  Laura and Mary were toddlers. They didn’t have a cell phone or a car or even a trail.  Pa didn’t even get lost.  I should be able to handle the trail road, yet I can’t…


Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie, Touring Eastern Colorado by with 2 comments.

X1W007

I took this picture today.

I really don’t think that my son’s hand is in his nose. It just looks that way.

Of course my children are cute, which is why I took the picture. These are my three oldest. But as I was looking at the pictures as I was loading them on the computer, I remembered that this red fiberglass Loomix tub has a history, a history that I’ll share with you.

Right now the Loomix tub is serving very well as a photo prop and tumbleweed catcher, as you can see above.

I save it for use as my brooder. While I don’t think it is quite waterproof anymore, it serves as a fine brooder and has over the many batches of new baby chicks here at Laura’s little farm on the prairie. I have even received compliments on my brooder when I have sold some baby chicks. (A brooder is a container to keep baby chicks warm and contained, just an FYI.)

babychicks

This is a view inside the Loomix tub brooder the last time we had baby chicks, February-ish 2013.

So, where, you might ask, did the brooder come from? The previous owners of this property left a lot of junk useable farm things on the property. The Loomix tub was one of them.  Loomix is a company that makes vitamin and mineral supplementation (just known as “mineral” around here) for livestock.  I suppose that the previous owners once upon a time had this tub full of mineral.  The livestock probably ate it up and the tub remained.  Sounds fair, right?

Except that they left it upside down.  I found it shortly after we moved here out by the barn.  I was still a city slicker.  Remember that.

“Kevin,” I asked. “What’s that big red thing?  It says ‘X1W007’? What does that mean?”

Update 7/10/17: Apparently since this post starts with an “x” certain spambots have tried to stop this blog from being family friendly.  I have now disabled comments for this post.  


Posted in Culture Clashes of a Jersey Girl on the Colorado Prairie by with comments disabled.

POPS Concert

August 29, 2009 promised a fun-filled free POPS concert on the train depot lawn in Limon. I marked my calendar. “When else am I going to get to see the symphony? Let’s go,” I told Kevin.

I was utterly excited about this.  Culture on the prairie, and the symphony no less.  I bragged about it to long distance relatives and friends.

After a bout with “evening sickness” (as I was in my fourth month of pregnancy) and a last minute invitation to my in-laws, we jumped in the car and headed the 25 miles to Limon for the POPS concert. I kept thinking about the symphony coming to Limon. I was impressed.

Upon our arrival into to town (late because of my evening sickness), I rolled down my window. “I’m going to listen for the concert. Maybe I can hear it.”

When we arrived closer to the festivities, we learned from others that the concert had moved inside the train depot because of the rain. We parked the car and headed there on foot. Everyone was squished inside the depot. Weather cannot be helped.

Were we in the right place? It was the train depot turned bad karaoke bar. Against one wall of the depot were a few singers, taking turns singing, reading lyrics off a television screen to prerecorded music.  Isn’t that karaoke?

Dictionary.com defines POPS as “a symphony orchestra specializing in popular and light classical music.” Dictionary.com defines karaoke as “a music entertainment system providing prerecorded accompaniment to popular songs that a performer sings live, usually by following the words on a video screen.”

I’m sure that the singers were very talented. The truth is that I had a hard time even listening to them. I was geared up for POPS. The gracious hosts did offer me ice cream and a cookie. We ate ours and headed back home.

When I sent a letter of my frustrations to the editor of the Limon Leader newspaper, she explained that the “POPS” concert actually refers to the older people who volunteer in Limon for the various summer activities. The free concert is a ‘thank you’ to all the ‘Pops’ who help out in town.

Sigh… I guess once again, I am the dummie. I thought a POPS concert was a light symphony and not karaoke for grand “pops”.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”  Or Jersey, Toto.  The POPS concert was a decisive moment for me.  It was the 2×4 whack across the forehead and actually the impetus for me to start blogging, if only to vent my frustrations at first.  I have since learned that the Colorado Prairie is its own world, farther from Jersey than those 1700 miles that it is geographically.  Kicking and screaming, I’ve come to accept it, I guess. Now when I see the annual POPS concert advertised, I know it’s only karaoke and move on with life.  It’s a conversion really.  I die to myself every day.


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