Thursday, August 27, 2009

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Its been a rough week, we had tried to be productive but it was hard to think of anything but the loss of Mattie. Michael only had a few days left with us, before his month-long guiding trip. We decided to get away from it all, if only for a day. I had been dreaming about catching a silver salmon, so we packed up our Cessna 180 with snacks and fishing gear, and headed out across the inlet. It was quite a gorgeous day, so we got going early to catch the right tide near where the inlet meets the river. Chena was not feeling well, so we left her home this time.

The view as we flew across the inlet, of Mt Spur, the Cook Inlet, and an oil platform far below.

The river where we were headed, from the air.

We landed beside the river on a grass airstrip (if you can call it that!) and set up our poles. The river was so serene...beautiful, but I wanted to see some salmon splashing or at least making a small wake. We ate blueberries and pb and j sandwiches, while we waited for the tide to change. Mt Redoubt was crystal clear in the background behind us, while Mt Spur had only a few tiny clouds caught on its tips. It was the kind of day and the kind of scenery that takes your breath away. And you know, it still does, even after I have lived here all my life!

After we had fished a few hours, I wandered away and was taking some pictures, when I saw the tip of my pole bounce a bit. As I started running back to it, propped there on the side of the bank, it really started whipping around, and I grabbed it just in time to fight a big silver! They like to fight hard, and you have to keep the line taut, or you will lose them. You have to set the drag on your line so you can let them run a bit, then reel them in a bit, then run, until you can work them close to the bank and bring them in.

Its a nice one!

Later, Penelope caught one too. She was pretty excited! Her fish was a fighter too, and she needed a bit of Daddy's help to keep her line steady and keep reeling...

Good job, Baby!

Later, Michael cleaned the fish so we could have them for dinner, and took the eggs out. Both were female, so the eggs can be cured and ready for the next fishing trip as bait.

We fished a bit longer, but only caught one Dolly...poor Michael got skunked except for that! I didn't tease him..much. :)

A majestic swan landed in the nearby lake.
There he is........

and there he goes!

Such pristine beauty, the early fall sky is especially blue right now, I just love it.

Daddy and daughter off for a walk, you can see the glacier beyond.

We had to fly home fairly early, to get ready to go to Mattie's memorial service. I'm glad we got to get out and have a nice family day, after a very emotional and difficult week.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Goodbye Mattie

There can be no other post today, because I cannot think about anything else. Friday morning, a nine year old boy we know, who is in our 4-H club, was killed at our local fair.

Thursday we drove to Ninilchik, about 1 1/2 hours, to take our fair entries. The fair started on Friday, but everyone always sets up on the day before, does their judges interviews, gets their animals in their stalls, and etc. We were all thrilled with the sunny weather, and it was a bustle of activity everywhere you looked. The 4-H club children were all excited, bathing their sheep, cows, and pigs for the showmanship classes on Friday. My girls stopped to play and laugh with Mattie, a nine year old friend of theirs. He was hanging out at the cow barn, eager to show them his prize cauliflower, excited and raring to go. The cutest little toughie farm boy, he is small for nine years but makes up for it in energy.

It was the first day of our small county fair. That morning, Friday, Mattie made a dire mistake, one that would cost him his very life. I am sure it seemed innocent at the time. In his little boy mind, it made perfect sense to tie the short rope from his milk cow around his waist, instead of standing there holding the rope while she grazed. But the huge cow got spooked, and she bolted. Mattie was dragged and trampled, while at least a hundred people ran and screamed and tried to stop the cow. By the time it stopped, the cow had gone quite a ways, and had crashed through a fence. When people rushed in, Mattie was not breathing. He had terrible injuries. His dad was the one who untied the rope and started CPR. Help was called, but there is no hospital in the tiny town, and the helicopter seemed like it took forever. Mattie was rushed to Anchorage, but his head injuries were too severe, and he died that night.

Our community is in shock and agony. Mattie is the youngest in his family, they are a wonderful family who has been some of the biggest leaders in our 4-H family...and very active in our horse groups too. They have always raised horses, cows, sheep, pigs and llamas. We hope and pray that they can be swept up on the wings of thousands of prayers right now, prayers for their comfort, for peace, for the strength to carry on moment by moment and day by day without their precious little boy.

My mind whirls and tries to take in this unreal event. How can he be gone in the blink of an eye? How do we 4-H parents wrap our brain around the idea, before a distant possibility, now a stark reality, that our animals can kill our children? That a farm pet can destroy dreams, rip up a family, and shred hearts? Its staggering.

This is a small town, a small close-knit 4-H family. We all know and love one another. All of the children, especially, love each other and support each other, and know each other's animals by name. Its hard to imagine how each child will process this, having been there and witnessed the tragedy in person.

Please join me, this family needs our prayers. His older sister, who saw this happen, needs our prayers. Our community needs your prayers. Each child and our 4-H families and leaders need your prayers. It will be a struggle and a challenge to make sense of this, and we probably never will be able to let go of the what-ifs. Only God can give us peace when the world offers none. He promises us the peace that passes understanding, and its for situations like this that he gives us this resting place. We surely need it now.

Goodbye Mattie. Your smile will never be forgotten. You will be mourned by us always.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The New Kid on the Block

Introducing "Joker"!!! He is a 6 yr old Welsh/Paint cross pony who wandered into our lives and hearts. We brought him home today for a lease-to-own try out period. We have to see if he is a good fit with our other horses, and see how he is trained. I plan to work with him quite a bit, and finish up some training too. He might be a nice guy for our Penelope.

Who could resist this face????

I think he is JUST BEAUTIFUL! I love his tri-colored body, his black mane, and his white socks. He has black knees...he does! So cute-as-a-button. He is not quite 14 hh, he is fun sized. Ha!

The gang checks him out...........
Summer is watching "his" mare quite carefully, thinks he is a stud-muffin now. What a goof. We have not started the "real' introductions yet, I will let them all snort and squeal and stomp through the fence overnight. Then tomorrow I will start by letting him meet Mukluk (the mini) and we will go from there.
See the knees? And he has some real pretty black streaks in his tail too.
Goodnight, Joker. Don't let those jealous horses get to you. Soon they will love you like we do. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The biggest highlight of our summer was LEX coming home!!! It was so hard to believe he was really here. He has been in Germany for so long, and we were so happy to get him back with us. His Air Force tour in Europe is over, and he is now just getting settled into his new assignment in Osan, South Korea. Boy oh boy, that's a long way away too! But he will only be there for 15 months, and then he will be back in the United States for good.

Lex was stunned at how grown up his sisters have gotten, but they are never too old for him to settle right back in and start teasing them as a big brother should. It was so neat to see them all together again, out playing basketball or chasing the dogs around. Getting the five of us back together as a family made this mama go around grinning from ear to ear- its hard to explain unless you have been there...but its just this feeling that everything is exactly as it should be. And, for those days that he was back home, I didn't have to worry about him at all! :) That was a nice peaceful feeling.

Grandpa Jim was here from Washington at the same time, so "the guys" got to hang out and talk about Lex's future plans, and do a bit of flying around. Lex and Michael flew out to our cabin for an overnight trip, and Lex was happy to see the cabin again. I think it missed him too!

The days flew by and Lex had to head back to Anchorage to get ready for his flight out of the country. It was pretty hard to let him go, poor guy...he knew he would not get out of here without me bawling my eyes out...but I could not help it. Its such an emotional thing to have one of your children so far away and unreachable, out in this often strange and confusing big world. I trust the Lord to keep him safe, and I trust Lex's judgement and decision-making as well. He has grown from a boy into a man in a few short years. I miss that boy but I'm proud of this man. :)

Lex, I know you are reading this. We love you!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August Already?

I'm shaking my head that July is behind us! On the other hand, when I think of all that we have done this summer, its kind of amazing that we still have a month to do more of it! Hee hee! :)

We just did another horse show, and while it was more of a rollercoaster ride than the last one, we all had a lot of fun.

Chena was warming Whisper up in the warm-up arena, and had done several jumps, and was humming along when her horse tripped a bit, just as she was approaching a jump, and kind of fell through the wooden jump. Chena tumbled over her head, and fell, but she was not hurt. She waited for her first class, and went in the arena..but as she was riding, we could both tell Whisper was favoring her front left, and our eyes met several times as she passed by the bleachers. We both knew she was done for the day.

So Chena came out, took off her tack, and went to scratch her other seven or eight classes. I was SOOOOO PROUD of my girl. She could have argued, or tried to get me to let her ride in her trail class, or make excuses, etc. Instead, she immediately did what was best for her horse, no questions asked. Horses certainly build character in kids! Its not the first time I have seen it. As she put Whisper in a stall, and got her hay bag and water trough, I could see how determined she was not to cry or feel sorry for herself. I got so teary watching her inner strength show on the outside, I had to turn away and busy myself at the trailer.

Later, she was talking and laughing with some friends, and she asked if she could borrow a horse, just to mess around and play a bit in the warm-up arena. The friend didn't have her extra horse, but another girl heard Chena and said she could use her gelding. So Chena rode him a bit, was having some fun and I was pretty happy that she could smile and relax and play a bit. Then, her riding instructor came up to her and suggested she enter back into a few classes...just Western as the English were just about finished. Chena asked me if she could, we cleared it with the owners, and off she went! They said he was a bit stubborn, and wouldn't do well, but she could go ahead with him.

So she jumped right in there, with a strange horse she had never ridden before, and she WON second place. Wow. I know a mama's prayers were a big part of the judging, because I sat on the bleachers and asked the Lord to just let her have a bright spot in her day, so that her sacrifices would not be her only memory of the show that day. We were so excited when she came out of the ring with that beautiful ribbon, I think it will be my favorite for all time. She went on to another class, and won fourth place on him! What a fun day it turned out to be.

Chena on Whisper in her first class:

Chena on "TJ" in Western classes:

IN other news.....we are about to start our guide business field season, so Michael will basically be gone from now until the middle/end of October, with two short visits home in that time. The girls and I are used to it, but really you just can't ever truly get used to that kind of separation. We stay very busy, and I tend to just go go go as a way of coping until we are together as a family again. The last few days have been spent putting up the last of our hay, taking the Super Cub off of floats and lifting it out of the lake, and making plans for his long absence. I felt sad as I saw the Cub sitting in the lake on its last night on floats. The fireweed is getting tall too.
It means Michael will be gone soon. We try not to think about it! Tonight we are all going out for a VERY special dinner, (that story next!) and bowling/mini golf.

A few nights ago, we were sitting at the table after a late dinner, just talking. We heard a motorcycle in the driveway, but we thought it was a four-wheeler and it was friends of ours stopping by. But then we heard running footsteps, and then loud pounding on the door. We all jumped up and opened the door and there was a young man, in his twenties, and he gasped out "Please help, I'll pay you anything to help us, my girlfrend just crashed her motorcycle in the woods on the trail. I think she broke her ankle or her leg! Help please!" We all sprang into action, I grabbed blankets and pillows and was in our van and headed down our runway to the trail in just minutes, following him as he raced ahead to show me the way. I was shocked to hear her screaming all the way from our house! (its a long way)

I parked and ran down the trail, Penelope following me close behind. I could see her crumpled up in an awkward ball, but as I got close she begged me not to move her. I slipped down in the mud and bushes next to her, with my body kind of under her (she was on a slope) and I put blankets under and around her, and pillows under her head. She moaned and cried and tried to sit up but I told her to relax, and I held her hand, and got her to lay her head on me, with the pillows supporting her. She had no helmet, so I was concerned about her neck, especially. She was white as a sheet, and in shock, and she gripped my hand so tight it hurt me a bit. Then she said she was "so dizzy" and she suddenly went limp and her hand slipped out of mine, and I knew she had passed out from pain and shock. She came to screaming again. Michael had called 911 back at our house, and he rode HIS motorcycle to the end of our road to direct the ambulance in so there would be no wasted time. I told "Casey" she would be okay, I prayed with her, I stroked her hair and tried to comfort her. She was in agony, and pretty terrified as well. She told me she had heard her leg snap, and she knew it was broken. I then told her to breathe in and out slowly, and as she exhaled, she should listen for the sirens and she did as I told her....and soon we heard the sirens and the emergency vehicles started arriving.

They raced down the trail to us, and after checking her out, one of them mouthed to me over her head "Its broken", and I could see it was really bad. Her boyfriend, who had been absolutely frantic when he first came to us for help, had completely relaxed and handed her over to me, so I reminded him to get in there and hold her hand, and I climbed off the slope and we all helped take her on the stretcher to the ambulance. They had a C-collar on her by then, and stabalized her body for shock, and we could see the very bad break.

We took their two motorcycles to our house, and told her boyfriend to ride with her in the ambulance, and he could come get the bikes at anytime.

So last night, we were gone, and when we came home the bikes were gone. I was really wishing I knew how she was doing, but the hospital would not give me any information, since I was not a relative. But as we walked up to our door, I saw an envelope there. Inside was a gift certificate to our nicest restaurant here in town, and it was for $100! We were shocked. The note said thank you, but that was all. I loved the thoughtfulness of the two of them, but really we would have all preferred a note telling us she was doing okay, and how she was feeling.

Well, I'm just glad we could be there when we were needed, and that she was not hurt any worse than she was.

Tonight we are all going out for a very special dinner, compliments of "Casey" and her boyfriend. It will be a great opportunity to talk to our girls about motorcycle safety, huh?