Wendell Ashbaucher of Bluffton, IN


In the early 20th century, childhood deaths were common place in rural America and parents had to accept that some of their offspring would not survive.  Influenza and farming accidents claimed many lives in those days.  There were no antibiotics.  Polio, measles and mumps were prolific.  Farmers set their own broken bones and horses pulled the plows until they dropped dead in the field.  Women baked bread, sewed for the family, made do, and tended large gardens full of cucumbers to be pickled, beets, turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions.   Underground root cellars were thus filled and wheat that was threshed in July was ground into flour to bake breads, pie crusts and pancakes.   There was a pig in the pen, a hen house filled with layers and fryers, and a cow for milk.  Beef cattle and Percherons were rotated on pastures.

Nancy Mabel Waugh, my great grandmother.

My great-grandma (Nancy Mabel Waugh) was born in 1892 .  She lived on such an Indiana farm in the early 1900′s with her first husband, my great-grandfather, Wilhelm (William Edward) Ashbaucher.  They were third generation settlers, at the brink of American ingenuity and prosperity.  Henry Ford’s Model T was just rolling off the assembly line.  Soon to follow would be Edison’s electric light bulb, indoor plumbing, and radio sets which could miraculously broadcast a Yankee’s baseball game or one of Jack Dempsey’s fights.  Charles Lindbergh was learning to fly.

World War l was raging the year my grandfather, James William Ashbaucher, was born: 1917.  By November, 1918, the war to end all wars would be over.

My whole life, I was told that Grandpa had a big brother,  Will, who died one evening after being kicked in the head by a horse.  He was seven years old.   I was only six years old the first time I remember hearing the story.  It has always bothered me:   this little Will-boy who died without having had a chance to make his mark on the world.  I have always loved him.

Children of Nancy Mabel Waugh, my grandpa and his sister, Martha 1950′s

As I grew up, I would think about Will’s life on the farm.   He was the only big brother my grandpa ever had and he certainly tagged along after him.  By age 3, Grandpa was reaching under hen bellies to gather eggs while Will swept the hen house floor and freshened the nests.  Both boys shared an oval, metal bath tub in the kitchen on Saturday nights.  My great-grandma would heat the water on a stove top and both boys would strip down and get a good scrubbing.  My Grandpa wore Will’s hand-me-downs until 1926.  He was four years old then–the year that Wendell Waugh Ashbaucher “Will” was injured by the horse and killed.

Grandpa Place, living in town.

Four years later, unexpectedly at age 38, their father (my great-grandfather) died too:  leaving behind the farm, his wife (my great-grandma), and their two young children, my grandpa and, by then, a baby sister named Martha.  That’s when my great-grandma’s world fell apart.  She couldn’t care for her children and so sent them to live with two other families (temporarily) as she sold the farm, the livestock, the tools, and equipment.  Martha was cared for in town and fared well.  My grandpa, at age 4 or 5, went to live on another farm.  He never spoke of that time, but it is generally understood that he  had a hard life because the family was cruel.   Great-grandma moved to town and grieved.  Eventually she remarried a man named Glen Place, who was a railroad engineer, and brought the children back home to live with them.  Grandpa Glen was much loved by all and worked for the Nickel Plate Railroad.

  Today Grandma Place is buried between both husbands.  She died in 1971.

As a young girl growing up in Chicago, Grandma Place would come to visit.  She was very old by the 1960′s, but would push me on a back yard swing.  Later we would share some vanilla ice cream that my grandpa would hand crank in the cool of the shaded porch.  She played a wicked game of pinochle, wore lots of perfume, and her eyes twinkled.  She was a round, big hipped woman with frosty white hair and saggy, baggy cheeks that hung down.  She was soft and beautiful.   Once, she sewed me a dolly blanket from scraps and mailed it as a Christmas surprise. Now, when I get the patchwork blanket down from the shelf and look at the stitches she lovingly placed, precisely-spaced in rows, I wonder…

I wonder how she bore the loss of a child and a husband.  I wonder if she thought of them in the twilight hours of her life as she pieced together my blanket.  I hope making the blanket gave her comfort.  I can not touch the blanket without thinking of how she overcame all that sorrow.  She went on to live a happy, retired life in sunny Florida where she rode a three wheeled bicycle and enjoyed the sun’s heat and shine by the pool.  Later, Martha would join her.

One hundred years later, in 2013, my cousin, Sandy, and I were camping near Bluffton and on a lark I said, “Hey, why don’t we find out where the cemetery is and see if we can find any Ashbauchers.”   We googled it and discovered that there were four cemeteries nearby.   By divine intervention, we picked the right one, Fairview Cemetery.



My secret hope was to find Wendell.   I wanted to tell him (my great-uncle!) that he was not forgotten and that I loved his little brother, my grandpa, with all of my heart.


To be Continued….




Time to Pucker Up

It isn’t often that we catch “The Bryce” suffering any humiliation of any kind.   He is human after all, and I’m sure he slips and falls down, but we’ve never caught him in the act.  That has all changed my dear friends (insert evil grin).

A little thrill ran up my leg when I received the following text from him this morning, “This should make your day; I’m stuck in the ditch right now by your neighbor’s house.”

 Oh, it did. 

For years we have suffered through his “I have a perfect driving record” bull crap story every time he shows up to tow us out of a jam or save the day in some other way SO, of course, I hustled right out there to take pictures and laugh at him.

His Chevy diesel pickup truck was buried to the axles with snow due to a teeny weeny bit of ice on the road and a whole lot of operator error.   Being the good citizen that I am, the first thing I did was post his “stuck” picture on facebook  to let the neighbors know to be careful tonight on their way home.

Adam shows up with his Ford Dualie diesel and they strap the pickup trucks, butt to butt, for a good yank to freedom.  Instead, the Ford jerked and spun all four rear wheels, catapulting Adam into uncontrolled spins, snapping lines, and setting him into a free fall.  He ended up butt to face with Bryce’s truck with a fresh load of crap in his pants.

They both got out of their trucks to work up a new plan.  Each almost fell over and had to reach out and clutch at the other like Olympic Ice Dancers dressed in Carhartt brown.  As the wind blew, their bodies drifted on stilted legs down the road, taking them farther and farther away from the scene.  Just short of a double Lutz toe loop, they released their grips on one another.   Bryce slithered his way back to his truck and Adam switched it up to Nordic skiing on his way to the barn for heavy duty reinforcements.

Confident now, Adam pulls out with a four wheel drive tractor headed towards Bryce so they can give ‘er another go.    Here is where the real butt puckering began.  Events prior had simply been foreplay.










As he approached Bryce’s truck, the tractor lost control, gained speed, and was gliding until it hit firm snow at the ditch.  Then Adam threw it in reverse and the real trouble began.  Now it was “The Bryce” who got the last laugh as Adam had to drive straight into, through, and up the snowy ditch, nearly missing a mailbox, just to get back up on the road.


Adam:  “That wasn’t even the bad part. The bad part was going back down the hill after we got him out. I did another spin at about 20 mph and thought I was going to flip over in the ditch.”




Epic Fail

Okay, so I have this friend.  Let’s call her Sally.    “Sally”  is coming up on 33 years years of marriage and is always looking for ways to grow old gracefully.  One day she was feeling so dang bloated; her tummy was distended and her jeans wouldn’t snap.  It was painfully apparent that something bad was going to happen.

It was during this realization that her husband came home early, sat down on the couch, and started working on his computer.  Her living room furniture floats out in the middle of the room, just like mine.  Knowing that her muscles were fully taxed and accepting that there is only so much one can blame on a dog, she decided to make the most out of a bad situation.

Sally knew that  she was going to have to “own it” sooner or later–so she stood just behind the couch, near the back of his head, pretending to pick up dog toys, and relaxed.  And relaxed again.  And relaxed one more glorious time.

Not yet a pro at practical jokes (and this was practical) she tried to keep her sniggling silent…in truth, she tried to keep everything silent.  By this time her eyes were watering as she doubled over in agony, holding her laughing in.   Did you know that it is very hard to hold one thing in while letting another thing out?

Getting no response, she finally burst into heaving waves of laughter.   The End.



Billie Bo-Beggins and the Bear


When Adam picked out an eight week old mini dachshund, a black and tan smooth coat, he thought only a German name would do.  Wilhelmina.  That quickly morphed into Willie.  This breed is notorious for mischief and since Willie, a two syllable name, sometimes took too long to say, her naughty name was shortened to  Bill!  (Get out of the garbage.)

Then Jennifer brought home an adorable mini dachshund of her own (because Willie was lonely and needed a friend, they come in collectable colors, AND, Mom,  it will be so fun).  Lola is a tan smooth coat with soft eyes and a sweet heart.  Lola was so stinking cute that her name quickly became Lola Bear.  When potty training proved difficult, Jennifer would say, “Where’s My Little Poopie Pants?”

Together, we have a pinto bean and a black bean. 

The little beans. The little beanie weenies.

One day the black bean had to be rushed to the hospital.  She couldn’t eat and she couldn’t poop and her sausage body was dragging on the floor.   She had a bowel obstruction.  X-rays showed a cute little thing stuck in her intestines that looked like a mouse with a long tail.  It turned out to be a $3,000  tampon.  From that day on, she was called “The Black Rat.”

The Black Rat has since perfected the art of sitting pretty.  For hours.  For As Long As It Takes to break all human resistance.  As soon as the fridge opens, a bag is rattled, or she smells anything, up she goes like a miniature T-Rex waving those little hands.   Her stage name is Billy Bo-Beggins.

Lola da Bear has been spotted recently in Chicago playdating with a young gent twice her size who sports a curly coat and a healthy appetite for humping legs.  Go, Polo, go.  You just go ahead and tire your bad self out.  That’s right, try and keep your tongue in your mouth.  Do you need a cigarette old boy?

There really are no bad dogs.  The best ones can be naughty and entertaining and frustrating and hilarious and goofy and totally endearing all at the same time.  The smartest ones answer to any name you call them within earshot of a cellophane wrapper being twisted but feign utter deafness when a squirrel cuts loose and they give chase.

In the end, we nickname these rats to save face–to justify our continuing to love such cute, naughty little devils who are only too happy to humiliate us in public.

Hold on, I hear my dog.  Hey, Remi!  Get out of that toilet bowl.  Rem-Tard!!!!!

I said  S T O P   D R I N K I N G   O U T   O F   T H E   T O I L E T.

Oh, wait, Daddy’s home…you go give daddy kisses–lots of wet doggie kisses.

We love daddy.



marbles brick 9










I’ve been falsely accused of fixating on things and then collecting them.  My adult children are stone cold meanies every time the subject comes up.  They forget that I’m the one who made them hot chocolate and Mickey Mouse pancakes.  It was me who kissed their boo-boos and foreheads goodnight.  Admittedly, my antique marble collection did get a little out of hand, but they are so shiny and pretty and I needed to build up my positive feedbacks on ebay.   These orbs were traded in the school yards  of yesteryear.   So what if I have two tackle boxes that weigh about 75 pounds each and several multi-level displays.  They are my marbles and no one is getting my aces, bloodies, or ringers.

Once I gave in to having a single compulsive collection, the kids had a field day accusing me of other hidden collections that only they know about because I keep them in drawers, away from my husband.

My motto:   He is on a need to know basis, and he doesn’t need to know.

Playing cards is one of my favorite things to do so collecting every vintage Ace of Spade card is only natural.   One time, in band camp on ebay, I ran across old canceled stock certificates from the Pennsylvania Rail Road, B & O Railroad and other Monoply properties and was captivated by the fine artwork that old certificates had.  Now my collection is about 150 certificates, all alphabetized and they proudly represent Americana.


Hey, that’s 150 positive feedbacks.  Cha-ching.

Then there’s the vintage food crate labels for oranges, apples, blueberries and other fruit and vegetables.  I had the idea once to wallpaper an entire room with them and so started my massive collection.  Now I just flip through them and admire the colors, subjects, and simplicity that represents a time, long ago.  Don’t get me started on Smoky the Bear. 

My collecting has morphed into NOT having to actually have the physical thing I adore, but a picture of the thing that attracts me.  This week I’m spending time on the Internet collecting historical Michigan logging photos and pictures of woodpeckers in a folder.  Woodpeckers are my favorite bird.  I saw my first pileated woodpecker this year and almost pooped my pants.



The bottom line that I tell my children antagonists is,

“You should hope to grow up like me. 

I go exploring every day!”



FrankenFoot Follies

Pain has a way of twisting your every thought in its direction.  It sucks the freedom and life from your brain and lungs.  Living moment to moment on narcotics, snapping out of the haze long enough to figure out if it has been 6 hours so you can swallow down some more pills, is the only way to survive the intense and constant blowtorch heat, set on high, and aimed at the inside and outside of the foot.  The swelling hurts as the skin almost bursts.

Five weeks have passed since going under the knife to correct my feet.   All this improving would be encouraging if the results still didn’t look like a red, mismatched angry club.  “Whose toes are those?”  Yucka-munga.

My first post-op visit was a few weeks ago.  The soft spoken surgeon came into the room and made the mistake of asking me (a south-side girl from Chicago) how it was going.  “Well, Doc.  This thing is a real Bastard.”   A little daunted, he replied, “Well, I’m glad I didn’t call you the first week you were home.”   My reply?  “Damn straight.  I might have called you a Bastard, too.”  We both laughed (as I sat there wanting to stab his eyes out with a steak knife.)

Bunion surgery is not for sissies.   Wait too long, and you get the added pleasure of having so much damage done to your foot that they have to break a couple of toes, shorten them, and plate the base of your foot.  Five screws, a rod, a plate and seven more weeks of crutches until I get to have the other foot “repaired”.

The thing I hate most is talking about it…like old people coffee-klatching at McDonald’s at 6 a.m. with nothing better to do than discuss their bowel movements, joint pain, and hemorrhoid medications.  Forgive me, my brain has been hijacked.

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