Early Recordings of Karl's Family

Karl and Alice Dahlke, children of Carolyn Lucas, daughter of John Lucas and Mary Lapish. The focus is on John Lucas, also known as Pappy. He is the maternal granfather of me, Karl dahlke, your humble narrator. Pappy is a character that can hardly be captured in words, pictures, or even audio, but for the sake of our descendants, we'll do the best we can. I spent many summers with him in his home in Kamas Utah, and traveling around the western United States in his "pacel" camper, which he built on top of a yellow flatbed Dodge pickup truck. In 1970 he came to our house in Royal Oak Michigan for 3 months and remodeled the front of our house, turning the front porch into an extended living room. The man could design and build just about anything! This website contains audio recordings of Pappy and other relatives, and some anecdotes, as I remember them. The recordings are made on a low quality cassette tape recorder. These have been turned into mp3 files, but you can still hear some tape hiss and flutter. You might want to read all the notes first, then go back and listen to the audio, it might make more sents. Some of the audio is a snore, particularly the restaurant meals, where they are talking to each other instead of us. Don't be afraid to skip those; I won't be offended. I'll put stars by he audio that is easy to listen to and informative.

I'm going to start with the last recording, when our family got together in 1988 in Eckley Colorado, where Pappy spent the last 3 years of his life. This was the last tape made, but it describes their early genealogy and family background, so perhaps it makes sense to present that first. Carolyn (my Mom) convinced Pappy, Mary, and Alberta (Mary's sister), to sit down and describe their ancestry and their childhood. They were in their mid 80's, and we wanted to get this information before they passed. Carolyn (my Mom) asks questions and directs the conversation throughout the recording. She is the first voice you hear, asking her parents how old they are, when and where they were born, etc. The information is slow in coming, really slow. The hour long conversation could be compressed into a couple pages of written text - and in fact I tried to do that below.

My Mom calls Pappy Daddy, as she should, since he is her Dad, but Mary, his wife, also calls him Daddy, and Mary's sister Alberta (Birdy) also calls him Daddy. He is indeed a dominating, patriarchal figure. Rarely, you might hear my aunt Sylvia (Carolyn's older sister), Monti (Sylvia's husband), Tony (Carolyn's second husband), and young Alice (my sister). I'm sure it was my tape recorder, and yet I am not in the recording at all. Perhaps I was hiding in another room. If you don't want to listen to all the audio, you can read my summary in the box below. It doesn't contain all the personal anecdotes, but it has the vital information. * Family Background and * More Talk.

Pappy's father was also named John Abner Lucas, though his ancestors were called MacLucas; the Mac was dropped at some point. John senior had a sister Leah. Pappy's mother was Ada Richmond, and Ada's mother was Matilda Richmond, from Bermingham England. My Grandma (the nurse) recounts, “They were getting ready to go back to England, and Grandpa Richmond knocked the skin off his knuckle. In those days they didn't have antibiotics, and he died of blood poisoning. Grandma Richmond said that red line went up his arm like lightning.” So she (Matilda) stayed, and did not go back to England, and married Mr. Ross, and then John Garget. Along with Ada, Matilda begat Harry and Fred, and as we will see below, both of these names were used again for Pappy's siblings.

Pappy was one of 12 children: Dorothy 1900, Alice 1901, John Abner Lucas (Pappy) 11/06/1904 in Homestead Pennsylvania, Fred 1905, Hary Leroy 1906, Barbara 1907, Alberta 1908, Cathleen 1909-1915, Sturgis 1910, David 1911-1980, Infant died at birth and not named 1912, Ella Mae 05/12/1913. Pappy was closest to Fred and Leroy. For a time they slept up in an attic, which gave them a certain amount of privacy, and license to act a fool. One day their Dad was coming up the stairs to check on them and they threw a huge bolster at him and knocked him backwards down the stairs. I guess he was in good humor that day since he didn't beat them all, all of them, don't care who did what, just pick one of them up and knock the others down. These were his favorite threats. In another experiment, they wrapped a black necktie around a lightbulb until it started to smoke, and was just about to burst into flames. The most famous antic may have been the bullets on the track. Pappy found that he could place a bullet on the metal train track and strike it with a hammer and it would go off. It didn't have the muzzle of a gun to propel it, but still, one of the bullets had enough velocity to penetrate Leroy's thigh. They had to go home and explain how Pappy shot Leroy in the leg. After the understandable shit fit, his mother said it was a consequence of a broken mirror earlier that day, trying to spare the wrath of their father.

Pappy, referring to his father, “He was a steam and electrical engineer, and a damn good one! He was in charge of the electrical power, including the electricity that ran the streetcars from Pitsburg to Botworth. Fascinated by the latest technology, he built a crystal radio set at home, and adjusted the whisker just so, until we could hear KDKA, the first radio station in Pitsburg. He had a shop, like I did, but not as many power tools of course. He made his own shellac and would shellac anything that didn't move. He had thousands of dollars worth of tools out there, but would raise the roof whenever Mom bought a yard of goods.”

Pappy in the army: “at Age 16 I got a job in the coal mine, but injured my foot on a mining cage, and my Mom wouldn't let me go back. Too dangerous. So I joined the army when I was 17. They looked the other way on my age but I was under weight. The sergeant told me to go home and eat a lot of bananas and then come back. I ate bananas till they were coming out of my ears, and gained a couple pounds, and then joined the army at Fort Bragg, in Feyetteville North Carolina. I would stich aerial pictures together to make one composite picture. Then I drew maps with certain colors for highways, bridges, railroads, etc. I was the only one who could do that. My buddy was Brigadier General Boilen. When he found out I was an engineer, he asked me to design a new home for him, which I did. I was housed on the second floor of the barracks. We placed balls on the floor and hit them with bats, trying to break the windows. We had a system for keeping score. We also stole pigs from the post piggery, and cooked them, and ate them. Sometimes we dropped things through the floorboards into the barracks below. Captain Spitzer remarked that if there was any trouble, Corporal Lucas must be behind it. I joined the army in 1921, and went AWOL in 1928 to get married, and never went back. I would be prosecuted for that today. I didn't have to go to war, but my brother Leroy, he survived the Bataan Death March. The Japanese, boy they really worked him over good. He use to hide food in the spaces between the bunks to try to survive. Our brother David brought him home, but Leroy didn't live long after that, probably because of what happened over there. Leroy would never wear shorts, due to the marks on his legs from the relentless proddings with bayonets. Keep marching, in the heat, with no food or water - or die.”

during the depression: “I worked for the PWA stringing wires along the highway. I couldn't afford gloves so my hands got all cut up on the wires. Later on I worked in a steel mill. Any work I could get. I did some contract work for a woman who had no money but she paid me in canned goods. Peaches, corn, etc, it kept our family going. We went a long time without meat, then Birdy came to see us and brought hamburger; I never knew hamburger could taste that good! It was such a bad time I don't really want to talk about it.” Indeed they didn't, not very often, in all the years I knew them. It was just too painful.

Pappy and his violin: “Sometimes I just wanted to play my violin, so I would sit out in the woodshed and practice. My buddies wanted to play, so they threw rocks at the back of the woodshed so I would stop practicing. Sometimes I went way out in the field to play, where nobody would find me. I couldn't take my violin in the army, so I took a xylophone instead. I went out to the rifle range and played my xylophone.” After he cut his hand on the saw in 1946 he couldn't play the violin any more; this is described later.

Grandma Mary Lucas was born to Edward David Lapish and Sarah Ann Logan on 08/11/1904, in Pitsburg Pennsylvania, and died 01/01/1997. Unlike Pappy, there were only 2 in her family. Her younger sister, Alberta, also known as Birdy, was born 11/21/1905 in Allegheny Pennsylvania. You'll hear her on the tape. Their parents, Sarah and Edward, were known as Mamo and Popo. Popo was a twin, his brother was Harry. Other siblings are Dick, Elly, Ethel, and Charlie. Popo's father was James Spratly Lapish, married to Mary Amanda Wright, and they both came over from England. Mamo's father was John Logan, and he came from Scottland. Birdy claims both her grandfathers fought in the Civil War, which would make them about 60 when she was born. It's possible, but generations went by faster in the 19th century, so I don't know about this one. Popo was a barber, farmer, carpenter, and first rate painter. He painted houses and buildings in Evans City Pennsylvania. He was working on 7 houses when the depression hit, and construction stopped, so he went back to his old farm. Popo died in Kentucky in 1963. Mamo died in 1961, just 9 months after Birdy's husband died. Birdy never remarried. Instead she spent the next 22 years in Wakashaw Wisconsin, working for the New Tribes Mission Bible Institute. After that she retired in Florida.

Birdy tells how she lost the sight in one eye, but I don't understand exactly how it happened. I'll just relay her story. “I think I was just about 2 years old when we lived in that Aunt Fowler's house in Warrendale. We were playing in the yard. Mother had found the wire at the bottom of the broom handle you know how it's wound around real tight. She threw that up in the tree so we wouldn't get a hold of it. She left one end hanging down, and sister found that end of that wire and gave it a yank and pulled it down, and that's when the wire went into my eye and punctured the sight. Mother took us to every kind of doctor but they couldn't do anything. But they said my other eye was perfectly normal.”

Popo took the girls to church every Sunday; Mamo had to work every day and couldn't take even one day off. You'll see this below if you read her diary entries. It was work, work, work! the conveyance was a horse and buggy, or horse and sleigh in the winter. Their first car was a model A Touring car, but not very practical. On their first trip out of town it got stuck in the mud. All roads were dirt roads, basically paths for the horses, but horses could operate in any weather. “You never drove a car during the winter. You just put it up on blocks.”

That is my summary of the audio recordings above. Pop back up and listen to them if you want more details - or if you just want to hear the voices.

Here are some diary entries from Sarah Logan, my mother's mother's mother. This is a diversion into Grandma's side of the family, and you can skip past it if you want to continue on with Pappy, however, it is well worth the read, to experience a way of life that we can hardly imagine today. It was work, work, work, occasional hardship, and work.
Open Mamo's journal.

When Pappy was in the army, he was stationed at Fort Bragg; he never went abroad. Some of his brothers did however. One of them, Leroy, survived the Bataan Death March. This was described briefly in the previous recording; I wish I had more information on his unbelievable act of heroism and survival. With this background, John and Mary were quietly patriotic, and somewhat prejudice against orientals, referring to them as chinks. You'll hear this in the next tape. Yet they were surprisingly apolitical. I spent a lot of time with Pappy, all day every day, for a summer here and a summer there, and he never talked politics - well almost never. And yet he liked to watch the news at night before bed, and read the paper on Sunday morning while sitting on the one and only toilet for 45 minutes. “I'm taking a hairy-chested he-man shit.” he would say. (There's an outhouse back by the shop if you're desperate.) He wanted to know, and be in the know. So what did he think about any public servant or candidate? I'm not sure. He would only say, “He's so crooked he has to screw his clothes on in the morning.”, or, “There's only two things I don't like, and politicians is both of them.” This applied to any politician from any party. He didn't like or trust any of them. He never voted in any election, so he told me, but as I say, he didn't complain either, so I couldn't drag out that old tired refrain, "You can't complain if you don't vote." He didn't even complain about taxes - well - no more than any other bill he had to pay. did Gramma vote? I don't know. In those days a wife usually did whatever her husband told her to do, but she was a nurse and could easily sneak off before or after work and vote, and he would be none the wiser. So I honestly don't know. She never talked politics either.

There was one time Pappy made an emphatic political statement. Pappy didn't like hippies, prominent in the late 60's and early 70's, and he was more than willing to say so. “They're lazy - they just sit around all day and smoke, and protest, and complain. How bout you get a job!” Pappy valued hard work, and did just that, morning til night, long after he retired. “And what is this trying to find yourself? Sufferin shit! Put your hands down on your ass and you'll find yourself.” But one time he made a comment on the hippies and the Vietnam War, and I was stunned. “They're right about that you know, the damn war, I wouldn't go either. I'd sit my ass down, or burn the draft card, or go to Canada, but I wouldn't go.” This was a man who served in the army, a man who helped America defeat fascism, a man whose brother survived the Bataan death march. Almost everyone in his generation was pro-war and pro-military. In fact our rampant militarism today is still a consequence of World War II, when we were indisputably right, when we were fighting pure evil from hell itself. That generation raised the next, and the next, to believe that we were right, always right, and we would rule the earth. We were empowered by God to save the earth. somehow Pappy saw through that, he saw past it, 60 years before the rest of us - like the 2 senators who voted against the Vietnam war in 1964. I realized at that moment that there was a lot going on in Pappy's head, a quiet intelligence that most people never saw.

In civilian life, Pappy went wherever the jobs were, even if he had to be apart from Mary for a while. There are quite a few love letters between them, when they were apart; I may include those at a later date. After the depression and the war, they settled down, and didn't move around as much. But here's the surprising part. Between 1945 and 1950, they lived at 210 Waverley Street, Royal Oak, right nextdoor to the house I grew up in, 218 Waverley Street. What are the odds? I asked my aunt Alice, Pappy's youngest daughter, about it. Remember, Pappy had four girls: Diane, Sylvia, Carolyn (my mother), and Alice, in that order. (They also had a baby boy between Diane and Sylvia, born at the height of the depression. The baby died days after birth, and was quietly buried in the back yard, as you might with a dog or a cat. That was not uncommon in those days.) My sister Alice was named after her aunt Alice, who was named after her aunt Alice, Pappy's older sister. It's a chain of Alices that I didn't continue, as I named my daughter Elizabeth. Sorry bout that. As per the house on Waverley Street, my Aunt Alice recollects.

“We were only there for a couple of years. I only have a few memories of that house. I might have been in the first or second grade. I guess we four girls were all upstairs, but I don't remember who slept where. I don't remember the bedrooms. I remember the sun streaming in the windows, and a big side yard. I don't remember whether Pappy had his tools in the basement or the garage but I think it was the garage. No room for all that stuff in the basement. It was his first well equipped shop. Of course I remember the saw accident, we were the only ones home. I was sitting on the work bench with the cat in my lap, and I accidentally pulled her tail, and she meowed loudly, and Pappy whipped around, and his hand went into the spinning blade. It was my fault.”

To this day she blames herself, even though she was only 5 years old.

“I asked if he was ok and he said, `No, I have to get some help.' He wrapped his hand, and held his wrist with the other hand to keep the bleeding down. We went nextdoor but I naturally didn't know what to do, and he didn't have any hands to knock with, so he kicked the door. I remember him kicking the door. The neighbor opened it and wondered why someone would be kicking the door; then she saw his hand.”

“It was like chopped hamburger, with blood everywhere.” Pappy recalls.

A skilled surgeon repaired the damage, and a few months later he could do anything with his hands that he had done before, drawing, tools, carpentry, anything, except for one thing, he couldn't play the violin. Yes, he played before, and quite beautifully by all accounts. Carolyn (my Mom) has very few memories of this, since the accident happened when she was only ten. It's interesting to me that someone who is so skilled at woodworking and architecture, from tiny wooden toys to large buildings, was also a musician. I never heard him play (obviously), but I saw his love of music. In the mid 70s he had one of the best stereo systems an individual could buy. It was the size of a small dresser, a piece of furniture in its own right. He showed me all the features, treble, bass, reverb, etc. He had hundreds of records, a huge collection by any measure. People have tons of music now on their flash drive or smart phone, but back then you generally didn't have more than a couple dozen records. He had almost a thousand, including some old 78s. A 78 is heavy and fragile, like a dish. Drop it and it will shatter into pieces. I didn't recognize most of the records, western and orchestral music.

A sad fallout of his table saw accident was his neverending hatred of cats. I saw him kick cats out of the way, rather violently, and I've heard he did other things to cats that I hope are just rumors or exaggerations. He was a gentle patient man in other respects. Life events affect us in ways we don't always understand.

Pappy wasn't big on fear. When I spent summers with him in Utah, he wanted me to run most of the tools in the shop, sometimes with supervision, sometimes without. I started hammering nails, then electric sanders, grinders, drill press, jigsaw, bandsaw, etc. My Grandma, Mary Lucas, also called Naomi, or Naoma, or Nomi, or Nalma, would sometimes come down to the shop and say, “Jack, don't you dare let him run any of those machines. You guys be careful out here.” He would acquiesce, but once she left I was back on the machines. The shop was about 100 feet behind the house, so she didn't come down all that often. Somehow I could walk from house to shop and back without cane, and without anything to guide me, just a field of grass. I don't know how I did it, the lay of the land, the sound of the buildings and trees, I guess. Next to the shop was an outhouse, which he built, since there was no plumbing back there. It was a two holer, so we could both go together. His shop had a front office for administrative purposes, with a desk and a typewriter and cabinets and a mini-fridge, and a back room full of tools. Walls of tools all the way around, and a center aisle of stand-up power tools. His favorite, and mine, was the jigsaw. After some instruction he let me run it on my own. It had a metal footing around the blade so I could put my hands on the footing and know right where the blade was. You have to push the wood straight into the blade, even as you're turning it to make a complicated shape. Push at an angle and the blade snaps, and yes I broke a few blades while learning. Pappy was very understanding; he put in a new blade and showed me what I did wrong. Soon I was making real puzzles, and I learned how to make knobs and notches so the pieces interlocked, and wouldn't just slide apart. I pasted a picture of cats on a board and turned it into a puzzle and mailed it to my then girlfriend Elizabeth. This was freshman year of college, 1979. Sometimes I'd be in the middle of making a puzzle and Gramma would poke her head in to offer us some lemonade or tell us dinner was almost ready. “Jack! I told you not to let him run those machines. He'll hurt himself. It's too dangerous.” I paused the jigsaw until she left.

During the Depression Pappy made puzzles for money, a penny a piece, using this very same jigsaw. So a 30 piece puzzle was 30 cents. His skills, combined with her nursing, got them through the depression, even though they had four girls to feed. Still, they lost their car to repossession, with just two payments remaining: $27 a month. A heartbreaking side effect of unregulated capitalism. An elderly neighbor, several doors down, starved to death, too proud to ask for food. These are the only stories they told me about the depression; as I say, they didn't like to talk about it.

There was one machine I never touched though, the table saw. Yes, Pappy's accident of 1946 was fresh in his mind, but he had another accident in 1973, with the same table saw. I didn't remember this one at all. I guess it wasn't as serious, but there was plenty of blood, and you just don't know until an orthopedic surgeon looks at it. Pappy sent us a cassette tape describing the accident, and other events in their lives. It is essentially a letter to us in audio format. Thank goodness somebody kept it all these years. Here it is in mp3. The quality is considerably better than the previous recording. * Pappy's Hand

I think saw accidents, or hand injuries in general, were more common in the past. It almost has to be true, statistically. Ordinary people wielded power tools, and before that hand tools, on a regular basis. They worked with their hands all day. My other grandfather, Walter, my father's father, was also a carpenter by trade. He had a saw accident as well, partly induced by alcohol. He was trimming a Christmas tree with a power saw, and he cut his thumb off. Later they removed half of his index finger because that finger grew stiff and was a problem on many levels. This is a serious impairment for a carpenter, so he drank all the more. I'll write more about him later.

Did you read Mamo's journal? Her rather terse entry for June 14, 1915, reads, “Me and Alberta went over home in the buggy to see how Daddy's hand was.” A buggy, because ordinary people didn't have cars in 1915. There is no mention of what happened to her father's hand, or whether it healed.

we received the next tape about 6 months later, at the end of 1973, as they were preparing for Christmas. Mary Lucas, my grandmother, is referred to as MereMere. this was a short-lived nickname. She always wants us to come out. They miss us terribly, as we miss them. MereMere talks about all 5 grandchildren coming out, that would be myself, Alice, Eric, and my cousins Kurt and Matt, sons of aunt Alice. Eric was my brother, but he died in December of 1974, about a year after this tape was made. I'll write more about that below, since he died in Pappy's shop. Diane had two children, Wendy and Shannon, also Pappy's grandchildren, but they are already in Utah, so they see them more often. I'm not sure if all 7 grandchildren were ever together in one room. I don't think they were. By the time Matt was born, Shannon and Wendy were already out west.

Grandma refers to fresh fish caught at the local hatchery, just a couple miles from their house. She bought and cooked some trout for me, and boy was it a treat! I almost jumped up and down every time she suggested it. It is better than any fish I have ever had anywhere else, including restaurants.

When they talk about Pappy's teeth, they mean,primarily, dentures, affixed to the 3 or 4 teeth that remain. He had terrible teeth, and lost most of them before I was born. I only remember him with dentures. He had a small mouth and they never seemed to fit right. He always complained about them, and hoped somebody, some day, would make a set that fit. This is one reason he didn't eat much, plus smoking like a chimney, plus he was just too busy in the shop. Some days I would go in for supper while he continued to work. Hey, I was a growing boy. * Getting ready for Christmas

We received another tape around March of 1974. It begins with Christmas at Diane's house, 1973. You can't really tell who is getting what from whom. They desperately needed a narrator. A bit of a snore. Christmas day

There are more recordings below, but first, a few notes on Pappy and his home and his shop. For a time, Pappy lived nextdoor to Diane (his eldest daughter) near Salt Lake City, to help her with her horse business. He moved to Utah circa 1968 to be with her, and lived in the valley for a couple of years. I visited him in this locale, and I may write about that later, but I was young, and have only spotty memories of that time. Around 1970, more or less, he had had enough of Diane's horses and the big city, so he moved up to a small house in Kamas Utah, 6,500 feet up the mountain. This is where he built his shop and spent most of his retirement years. This is where he sent his cassette letters from, which you heard above, and more to come below. It's a beautiful area with no traffic, cool summer nights, and sparse neighbors that don't bother each other. He rented the house and land from a fellow named Jim, who had Parkinsons and was difficult to understand. Jim was a great landlord, partly because Pappy was a great tenant. Pappy made numerous repairs and improvements on the house, and never charged Jim anything beyond materials. And of course he did a first rate job every time. In fact, Pappy built a bunkhouse, with electricity, next to the shop, so Jim and his sons could sleep over. The shop was 100 feet behind the house; and as you walked towards the shop, the outhouse was to the right, and the bunkhouse was to the left. We slept in the bunkhouse once or twice, just for an adventure. I think Alice was with us once; I'm not sure. That makes me think it had 4 beds, 2 bunkbeds on each side. As I say, there were electric lights inside, and sockets to plug in things like a radio, or a coffee maker to wake you up in the morning. It was "pacel", like everything else he built. "Just like downtown!" Can you imagine your tenant building a bunkhouse for you and your family, and only charging you for materials?

So why would Jim want to sleep over? He owned land next to and behind Pappy's house, and he raised cattle on this land. I'll just call them cows, although Pappy said they were all bulls. Raised for beef I imagine. You could see the cows just over the fence behind the shop and beyond the bunkhouse. Sometimes one bull would hump another, because that's all they had. The humpee would sometimes tolerate it, and sometimes throw the humper off, as if to say, “I'm not a girl; go away.” I began to realize, at age 14, that homosexuality was ubiquitous in the animal kingdom, and not the abomination I had been taught by my church. One day Jim came over with a bag of antibiotics. The entire herd had pink-eye. When one cow gets it it spreads quickly, and you have to treat them all at once. He had to inject each one; cows aren't good about taking pills regularly for 5 days. Just part of being a cattle rancher I guess.

As you walked toward the shop from the house, the bunkhouse was on your left and the outhouse was on your right. The front door of the shop led to the office, then an inner door separated the office from the work room, where all the tools were, and finally there was a back door, which was rarely used. It opened out onto the field where the cattle grazed. In other words, the land behind the shop was not Pappy's, it was Jim's. On a hot summer day, Pappy would sometimes open all three doors to catch the breeze. (No AC in the shop.) I never saw any cattle intrusions when I was there, but Pappy described it this way.

“The cows don't want anything to do with me for the most part, but once in a while a cow would wander up to the shop and poke his head in the back door. I grabbed a 2 by 4 and waved him away. One day I was in the office, and a cow strolled into the shop while I wasn't looking. I went back to the workroom and there he was, just standing there, his head swinging from side to side.”

The aisle between the workbench and the row of stand-up power tools is narrow. Pappy and I could barely stand abreast. As you might imagine, the cow could not turn around. And animals don't like to back up - none of them. In fact that was one of the tricks your horse was suppose to do at the Arabian horse show in Salt Lake City - back up. If you could get your horse to back up that was extra points. Anyways, this cow wasn't going to back up, and Pappy didn't want to provoke him, because if he charged, there is no stepping to the side. Pappy would be trampled to death in his own workshop.

“I went out the front door, across the yard, through the gate, around to the back, and in through the back door.” he continued. “I gently nudged the cow in the butt with a 2 by 4, pushing him forward. He went through the workroom, through the office, and out the front door; he could hardly do anything else. I coaxed him over to the fence, through the gate, and back into his field. That only happened once.”

Pappy respected animals, but wasn't afraid of them either. They were just part of his world.

I only visited him in summers, due to school, and who wants to be up in a Utah mountain in the winter anyways? Sometimes a rancher would take his sheep up the mountain to graze during the summer months. I don't know if these high elevation pastures were owned by the ranchers, or if they were public lands. When I say sheep, I mean a lot of sheep, from 1 to 3 thousand. They walked along the road right in front of Pappy's house, accompanied by ranchers and herding dogs. We sat out on the porch and watched the parade. It was an endless stream of sheep, like the longest train you've ever seen, moving at 1.5 miles an hour. I didn't need a lot of descriptions, since most of the sheep were bleating. As far left as I could hear, and as far right as I could hear, bah, bah, bah. They didn't seem unhappy or distressed, they were just talking to each other, or whatever sheep do on such a trek. I could hear the individual sheep as they passed from right to left in front of me.

Pappy liked horses from a distance, beautiful, majestic animals, but at the same time he had a grudge against them, since Diane's horse farm cost him dearly. “The only one making any money over there is the vet.” he confided to me one day. “$75,000 is a lot of mad.” he continued, referring to the amount of money he had sunk into his daughter's business. That's about $350,000 in today's dollars, and Pappy never made the big bucks, so that was a huge loss for him, his entire life savings I'm sure. Oh the sacrifices we make for our children, sometimes foolish sacrifices, all in the name of love. He only mentioned it once though, in all the time I knew him. He didn't dwell on it; he knew there was no gain in bitterness. He simply called it a mistake and moved on. Returning to the horses, he did enjoy going to the horse shows in Salt Lake City, though he rarely had the time. He went more often when he lived there (obviously). They are beautiful to watch, as they go through their exercises.

As mentioned before, Pappy didn't like cats, but he loved dogs. He had a dog named Heidi, and he affectionately called her Heidi-Hodey. They talked about Heidi in the previous recordings. I don't recall the breed, or her colorings or markings. She was mid-sized , like a lab, but was rather overfed, and considerably overweight. She didn't get much exercise either. She laid at Pappy's feet, wherever he was, in the house or in the shop. There was an area of the shop floor between the band saw and the table saw where she could lie and be mostly out of the way. She adored Pappy, and spent every waking minute with him. And he adored her too , but spoiled her, hence her excess weight. Two or three times a week we would get in the camper and run some errands, getting lumber perhaps, or some hardware or stain, but always a trip to the ice cream shop. pappy and I were in the front seat and Heidi was in the back. He would order 3 cones, one for each of us. He tossed the third cone into the back seat, where Heidi gobbled it all up. She got ice cream all over the back seat, but then licked it up, so it was all clean again. He also gave Heidi parts of his dinner, he didn't eat much, due to his teeth.

The bees in that area were big and slow, and the flies were small and fast. Pappy ignored them all as he went about his work. I have a hard time ignoring stinging insects as they buzz around my head. It's just one of those things. “They won't bother you.” Pappy said as he waved them away. He was right, I never got stung. But I don't understand how Heidi didn't get stung. Whenever a bee flew past her at 4 feet off the ground or less, she jumped up and ate it right out of the air. Her jaws snapped shut, and then a few chews, and the bee became a snack. sometimes a bee was buzzing against a window, trying to get out. Heidi had it cornered against the glass, and was trying to slurp it up with her mouth. Now this was a dangerous game! The bee could easily turn and sting her nose. Pappy pulled her away from the window before she got stung, but once or twice he was not around to intervene, and Heidi used her tongue to pull the bee into her mouth, and still she didn't get stung. I don't get it. She never bothered with the flies. Either they were too small, relative to the energy it took to catch them, or they just didn't taste good. My last Utah trip was in 1979, so I don't know when Heidi died, but it must have been a sad day for Pappy. I saw Pappy once more in Colorado in 1988, as per the first recording on this page, and he mentioned how much he missed his faithful companion. As the song says, “His dog up and died. After 20 years he still grieved.”

Here are more details on Pappy's shop. As mentioned earlier, the front room was an office, with a typewriter and files and desks and a mini fridge. sometimes I cleared the ice out of the fridge. The main fridge in the house was frost-free but most mini-fridges at that time were not. Ice built up on the freon tubes, sometimes an inch thick. I pealed it off with a table knife, careful not to damage the tubes. I would do this when Pappy was painting or doing some other task that I couldn't help him with.

The back room was the work room. Here is an inventory as best I recall.

An aisle ran the length of the work room from the inner door (as you came in from the office) to the back door. To the left was the work bench, long and sturdy with a vice at either end. Bright lights shown overhead. Basic hand tools were all around, dozens of hammers and screw drivers and wrenches and plyers, and nails and screws of every size and type and pitch. A bin held stacks of wood, many different kinds. He tought me to identify wood by smell. A propane heater also stood against the left wall, though that was for winter, and he never turned it on when I was there. The tank of propane was wisely located outside the shop, on the other side of the wall, with a tube passing through to feed the heater. At the far end of the bench, just before reaching the back door, stood a power grinder. “If you haven't clipped your nails, this will do the job.” The rough rock wheels were strong enough to grind metal. He only used it a couple times that I recall.

Now return to the inner door, and walk to the back door again, this time looking right. First is a power belt / disk sander, with a box below that accumulates sawdust (technically sanddust). Most of the saws had similar boxes. Sawdust all over the floor is a bit messy, and a fire hazard for a man who smokes constantly, and sometimes drops live ashes onto the floor. A neighbor, Sue Ann Crittendon, came in once a week and swept the floor and cleaned the shop. She was enthralled with Pappy; that's all there was to it. She was only a bit older than me. Next we have the crosscut saw, for perpendicular cuts, then the table saw, the big boy, for "ripping", i.e. cuts parallel to the grain. When he turned that on, the lights would dim in the house 100 feet away. Gramma always knew when Pappy was using the table saw. This is the beast that cut his hand in 1946, and again in 1973. Next comes the bandsaw, and then the jigsaw. The blade of the bandsaw is a continuous loop of metal with teeth on one edge. A drivewheel spins it around like a conveyer belt, and it makes thin precise cuts. One day the band broke, and boy did it wap and flap around before he could turn off the machine. He replaced the band and we were back in business. The jigsaw had a 5 inch blade that snapped into a reciprocating motor that drove it up and down, cutting on the down stroke. Yes, jigsaw blades would break as well, especially if you were just learning how to use it, as I was. He was very patient; he just put a new blade in, then he tought me to push the wood directly into the blade, never at an angle, which is tricky when you're turning the wood to make curves and notches. He always said the jigsaw was his favorite tool.

Just before and just after this line of power tools was a passage that one person could fit through, to get to the other side. In other words, there was a second aisle to the right of these power tools. We'll get to that in a bit.

Beyond the jigsaw, and the opening that granted access to the right side of the shop, stood a drill press. It was against the back wall, next to the back door. He had a wide array of drills, including some that would cut through metal, and various jigs. This is another tool that I could use independently.

Now let's walk around to the other side of the saws. This gains access to the right wall of the shop (as you face the back). The entire wall is hand tools, and some hand held power tools such as skill saws, sanders, routers, hand drills, etc. There were clamps from 4 inches to 4 feet, and specialized hammers, and magnetic screwdrivers for difficult places, and awls, and countersinks, and yoyos, and plumb-bobs, and levels, and paint and stain and varnish, and just so many special tools that I can't remember them all. Wise to keep the flammables away from the heater, and away from his work area.

Somehow he knew where each tool was, and he could put his hand on just the right tool for the job.

He spent years assembling this shop, and it probably had the retail value of a new car. It was sad to see it scatter to the winds when he moved to Colorado, unable to do his work any more. The tools probably sold at auction for a tenth their retail value. He always wanted someone to keep the jigsaw; I don't know what became of it. I asked Shannon (Diane's eldest) about this, here is his reply.

“I have the table saw, lathe and survey set. I believe Charles has the drill press. Not sure what happened to the jigsaw. I use his tools often and always think of him. Pappy taught me alot that has served me well.”

One more thing in the far right corner of the shop - a drawer full of tiny bottles of alcohol. He got them on airplanes, when he flew, or from his friends who flew. They use to hand them out; I'm sure they don't any more, broken glass being a potential weapon. He had dozens and dozens, different brands and different cocktails. He never drank them, well almost never, but he liked to have them. Sometimes if a good friend dropped by unexpectedly he would hand them a bottle, and take one out for himself. He kept them out here because Gramma, a proper Christian, wouldn't have approved.

Let me describe the first project we worked on together, the first project where I was actually a help, instead of just a little kid underfoot. It was the summer of 75. I flew out and he explained what he wanted to build. First some background. An irrigation ditch ran across their yard, just inside the front gate. To leave their property, you had to step over the irrigation ditch, then through the front gate, and out to the street. The gate was usually closed to keep Heidi in the yard. These ditches are common throughout the mountains of Utah. They run 1 day out of 3 (or 4), or maybe 18 hours out of 72, I don't remember the exact formula. Water flows through them, and the farmers use the water for crops and livestock. Pappy didn't need the water but maybe his neighbor did, or his neighbor's neighbor, so 1 day out of 4 it would flow. The water was cold, but not ice cold. I could put my arm in it and fish around for a while. I don't remember why I was doing this, but it entertained me I guess. The ditch was about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. Wet or dry, it was easy to step across, unless you had your hands full of groceries, so Pappy had a wooden plank that he walked on. Think of it as part of the sidewalk, bridging the irrigation ditch. The plank was only a foot wide, but that wasn't a problem, except for the winter. There's plenty of snow in the mountains, and it filled the irrigation ditch and covered the plank with several inches of snow. If he missed the plank, he fell down an extra 2 feet and tumbled into the ditch. Uttering more curse words than usual, he climbed out of the ditch and went on his way. When I arrived he said he wanted to build a real bridge across the ditch. And when he built anything, it was gonna be pacel! We assembled the frame for the floor, a rectangle that was 5 feet wide and 10 feet long. “I want a cow to be able to walk across this bridge.” he said. Remember, cows did wander into his yard from time to time. I helped him nail the flooring onto this frame with large spikes. He pounded a spike in with 4 strokes; it usually took me 16. Having built the base, anybody else would stop, but not Pappy. A big snow could cover this bridge, so he wanted railings that could be seen from 50 feet away. Also, he liked the look of the bridges that railroads built across rivers and canyons. Remember, he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. So we built side tressels and gussets, and hand rails along the top. The gussets were wood, not metal, and were not needed structurally, but they made the bridge look authentic. The railing was 4 feet high and strong enough to lean on; nobody could fall over into the ditch. We painted the bridge silver, as though it was a metal train bridge, and then it was done. We jumped up and down on it and it was rock solid. Yes indeed, a cow could walk across it. This bridge served him well for as long as he was living in that house, and I'm sure it serves the current occupants today.

Ok - I'm getting ahead of myself. I spent the summer of 75 with Pappy, in Kamas Utah, when we built the aforementioned bridge, and so many other things, but let's back up to the end of 73 and the start of 74, as captured in the next tape. Sylvia begins by talking about Heidi, their beloved dog. Then Pappy lost another tooth, and New Years Eve, and the weather, and Wendy's plan to marry Gary. Gary had lived in Diane's music studio in the back of the house for 3 months prior, so they knew him well. A navy man, he was soon to return to his submarine for 3 months, and then they would get married in May. He was 35 and Wendy 17, and he lived on ships and Wendy on horse ranches, so they (wisely) did not marry. * New Years Eve, Wendy&Gary

The tape also includes dinner at Banjos, a restaurant in Heber City. This is rather a waste cause all you can hear is the background music. I include it because maybe you have some of that NCIS software that can pull the sound of one chirping bird out of a forest. If not, you can listen to the conversations between the songs. It's 39 minutes long, and not much to be gained therefrom. Banjos Restaurant

A second tape followed just a couple weeks later, a continuation of the first. This tape covers February 1974. It includes Lori Ann, Howard's granddaughter by birth. Lori spent most of her childhood with Diane and Howard, and was legally adopted on December 21, 1973. You'll hear her talk and play the recorder.

Gramma talks about the leak in our roof. This refers to the addition that Pappy put on our house in 1970. That brought back some bad memories for me. Every year it leaked, usually around Christmas. It started leaking in 1972 and got worse each year. The spring and summer rains were ok, but the combination of rain and snow and ice caused the leak, ice dams perhaps, and that happened in December and January. We placed pots and pans along the bay window, catching the water, as many pans as we could spare, and still water spilled over onto the carpet and threatened to ruin it, and who knows how much damage was being done to the ceiling. We never had money to fix it. We had the Christmas tree and presents in the front of the extended living room, and we always had to move the presents to the side so they wouldn't get wet. It really put a damper (pun) on Christmas. we told my grandparents about this in our December 1973 tape, and Pappy replied with much sadness, feeling responsible. I learned later that my Dad replaced the shingles on the roof in 1972, and he also blamed himself for the leak. The true source of the leak will forever remain a mystery.

The next year, 1974, the leak was even worse. My parents' divorce was final on November 28, and Eric died on December 1, so my Mom just looked at the water falling from the ceiling and cried. she hadn't worked in 17 years, and didn't know how she would support Alice and me, and this house was all she had, and the roof was leaking buckets, and no money to fix it, and above everything else, her son died at the tender age of 16, by his own hand. There was no Christmas joy that year. We opened presents in a mindless, mechanical fashion, emptied the pots to collect more water, then went back to our rooms. I don't recall if the leak was ever fixed, or if we sold the house in the summer and that became the next guy's problem. I think we were in Tony's condo by the summer of 75, so I'm guessing somebody else had to deal with it. That somebody else would have been my father; he took possession of the house after we left. I remember him living there for a couple of years, him and Krista the family dog. He says there was no leak, so perhaps Tony paid for the repair, thinking they were going to have to sell the house. In any case, let's rewind to the beginning of 1974, before the divorce and before Eric died. Here is the tape. * Diane and Lori

On this tape they recorded another restaurant meal, no kidding. There's no background music, but still, they are talking to each other, not to us, and it's not very interesting - but here it is. Jordanellos

At this point the tapes stopped, probably because we were dealing with the horror of Eric's mental illness, and we didn't have the time or the energy to record happy glowing stories about life with the Dahlkes. We didn't send tapes to them, and they didn't send tapes back to us. It all stopped, and never started again.

Eric's problems didn't manifest over night. He watch the footage of the Vietnam War on the news, and couldn't process it - but neither could he look away. He watched our parents argue and fight, and couldn't process it. He saw the cruelty of the bullies at school, and was sometimes the recipient of their taunts, and couldn't process it. He failed most of his classes, and the teachers asked why he couldn't be like his younger, blind brother, who got straight A's, and he couldn't process it. He heard the message of God and Jesus and perfect love at church, and his parents said the message was true, even as they demonstrated no love for each other, and he couldn't process it. During the spring of 1974, shortly after the previous tape was made, Eric shut down and would not interact with anybody. He was admitted to Beaumont Hospital for psychological evaluation and treatment. The doctors gave him pencil and paper to write down his thoughts, which is fortunate, or we would never know what he was thinking. He had to follow the directions of his doctors and nurses, so he viewed them as robots. Robots brought him food, and told him what to do, and he obeyed. One night Dad brought a chess set to try to cheer him up. Eric and Dad and I played chess often, and we were (almost) evenly matched, Dad a bit better than Eric, a bit better than me, so the games were good. Eric wrote, “A chess set appeared, and the pieces moved by themselves. I decided to play along. It was a good game. The pieces went back in the box, but the next day they came out and we played again. I will play whenever the set wants to play.”

Mom went and talked to him every day, but he didn't hear her, or didn't register it in his writings. I heard her say once, “You can retreat as far back as you want, but we will always love you.”

We had Auto Workers Blue Cross, which was the best insurance in the state, but even that had limits. After 30 days in the psych ward the insurance ran out, and Eric still wasn't interacting with people. I was in my room and I heard a conversation that I was not meant to hear. Dad began, “The insurance runs out next week. We'll have to bring him home.”

Mom replied, “The doctor says he is close, he needs a few more days, is there some way he can stay for a few more days?”

After a pause, my Dad said, “I guess we could sell the diningroom furniture.” He was referring to a beautiful set that we bought a couple years earlier, a dark wood table with leaves, six chairs, a china cabinet, and a hutch. We would lose a bundle selling it, but you do what you have to do for your children - something I understand now all too well. That was the first time I realized money was a serious consideration in our home. Things had been tight before, especially when Dad was unemployed, but they managed to hide it from us. We ate gravy bread for dinner, some gravy poured over bread, and we kids just thought it was dinner, we didn't understand it was poverty. When Dad got back to work we ate real food again. Gravy bread was something we ate now and then; we took it in stride. But that night I was afraid for all of us.

Eric snapped back to reality just before the insurance ran out. He came home and insulted me, which made me feel better. But we knew his environment, home and school, was not sustainable. Mom decided to sent him to Utah, and the grandparents were more than happy to have him. In their mind, any visit from a grandchild was a gift from God. Eric went out some time in April, a one way ticket, we had know idea when he would be well enough to return. He had a chance to start over in a new home and a new school. We knew that he and Pappy would get along famously, and would work together on all sorts of projects, just as I did whenever I was with him. It was the right thing to do. By any measure, and any reasonable judgment, it was the right thing to do.

I have seen more than my share of depression in the past 50 years, in Eric, in Diane, and in others who are still alive so I won't mention their names. There is a common theme throughout. If you say the wrong thing, if you have the wrong tone of voice, if you glance at them the wrong way, they read it as, “You don't love me, and you never did.” And they truly believe it. anyone else would look at all the sacrifices that were made, the hard work, the tears, the sleepless nights, and recognize the love, but that unassailable mountain of evidence flies right past these people. Nobody loves them and they are worthless and there is really no reason to live.

After several months, Eric decided we sent him to Utah because we didn't want him around. Mom called him often, and wrote him almost every day, but nobody loved him. I don't know that these were his thoughts, he wasn't writing them down, but it is consistent with other depressed individuals that I have known and loved.

Eric seemed to be doing well, especially when he was working with Pappy on various projects. He got along well with Gramma and Sylvia, and was doing ok in school - not great but ok. On November 30 he seemed very relaxed and at peace, as though everything was going to be all right. He made muffins for everybody as an after dinner treat, while humming his favorite hymns, then he went out to the shop. Pappy thought he was going to check on a project they were working on, but Eric had other plans. He knew where Pappy kept his gun. It was just for target practice, almost a toy. They had shot tin cans with it before, in the back field, careful to avoid the cows. It wasn't powerful enough to shoot through bone. If Eric had shot himself in the head, he would have survived, possibly with some brain damage. He knew that, and so, he shot himself in the chest between the ribs. The bullet had just enough energy to penetrate the heart. It was carefully planned and executed. He bled out on the shop floor.

After midnight Pappy became concerned and went out to the shop. Both the front door and the back door were locked from the inside. He thought he saw Eric on the floor, so he broke the glass and went in. It was too late. Time of death was recorded at 1 AM MST on December 1.

We went to church on Sunday morning as usual. When we came home there were cars at our house. We went inside and there was aunt Alice. I said hello, always happy to see her, and hoping we could play with our cousins Kurt and Matt today. Then we saw Tony, who was sort-of dating Mom, but trying to stay low until the divorce was final. “Oh, it's company day.” I blurted out, without considering the incongruity of both of these people in our house at the same time, uninvited on a Sunday morning.

It was very quiet. Aunt Alice spoke. “I've got bad news from out west.” There was a pause. Mom told me, years later, that she knew. Alice didn't have to tell her the rest; she knew Eric was dead. There wasn't any doubt in her mind. Alice continued, “Eric went out to the shop last night and killed himself.” There really wasn't any other way to say it - or any better way to say it. She reached out to hug my Mom, but Mom backed away and said, “Don't touch me!” She didn't scream, or yell, or cry; she ran into her bedroom and closed the door. Alice turned to Tony and gave him some advice.

“You'll have to leave her alone for a while, maybe quite a while. You were here to support her, she knows that, but she and Carl will have to work through this together as a couple, as parents, their divorce notwithstanding. And after that she will need time and space. She will call you when she is ready.”

Tony left, and sister Alice and I were silent, staring at aunt Alice and wondering what to do next. There was no sound from Mom's bedroom, as though she wasn't there. Aunt Alice knew we would normally eat lunch at this time, and Mom was in no condition to cook, so she put 2 chicken pot pies in the oven. I don't remember any words after that. Maybe there were some but I don't remember. 45 minutes later we ate our pot pies. I remember the taste of it, it tasted the same as always, but somehow I knew nothing would ever be the same. Mom told me, 40 years later, “I was given a life sentence that day.”

I didn't witness the effect on my grandparents directly, but it was devastating. “He was like a son to me.” Pappy declared. He had four girls, and finally he had a son, but now Eric was dead on the shop floor in a pool of blood. Pappy stayed in his room for four days and would not come out. Perhaps he went to the bathroom, but he wouldn't eat, and he wouldn't come out, and he could not be consoled, even by the love of his life, his wife of 50 years. For a time, Mom was furious with Eric for doing that to Pappy. He could have gone off into a field; he didn't have to kill himself on the shop floor. But remember, these people are convinced nobody loves them, so there will be no repercussions when they are dead, no tears, no heartache. It doesn't matter who finds them, because they will simply sweep the body away and move on with their lives. Such are the thoughts of the chronically depressed.

My Mom and Dad had to get back together long enough to go out to Utah for the funeral. “Your Dad was very supportive.” she told me later. “We put all our differences aside and just tried to get through the funeral and help Pappy and Grandma as best we could.” I found out, decades later, that Dad wanted to get back together with Mom after that, for the sake of me and Alice. Maybe they could make it work after all. They still had two children who needed two parents. My Mom appreciated the thought, but was not willing. She felt there were incompatibilities that would not abate, despite their best efforts.

Mom asked me if I wanted to go to Utah with her to the funeral, believing Alice was too young to understand. I said no. I didn't require closure - to this day I'm not sure what closure is, or if it even exists. I don't have to go to the funeral to know he's dead, just as I don't have to see electrons to know that electricity is real. So alice and I stayed with aunt Alice and Uncle Mike and Kurt and Matt for 4 days while our parents went to Utah to bury my brother.

The weather did not cooperate. We were slammed by one of the worst snow storms in Michigan's history, over 20 inches across the county. My parents were lucky to get out before the storm hit. They might have been on the last flight out of Metro. The snow was a welcome diversion for us. Schools were closed, so aunt Alice didn't have to worry about getting us, or her own boys, to school. We just stayed in the house and played together, as we had done so many times before. But it wasn't the same. One morning sister Alice and I got into a physical fight, which never happened. We got along better than any two siblings I know. Maybe we were trying to process Eric's death in our own way.

Uncle Mike provided a diversion by taking us outside and building an iglu. I was cold initially, but after stomping down the snow I was plenty warm. Mike cut bricks out of the compressed snow and laid down the first circle, with an impressive circumference. We laid down the next layer, and the next, leaving a gap for the door. The wall rose waist high, and we had to call it a night, ready to continue the next morning. After another day of construction the wall was two meters high. I don't think we finished the roof, but it was an impressive structure nonetheless. Back inside, we played board games, and pachinko, and hide and seek, and the usual things we cousins did when we were together. Tony came regularly to read a book on Steinmetz, which was part of my homework. Mom was reading it to me but she was away, and she didn't want me to fall behind in my school work. Tony did so much for us over the next 16 years, but that's another story.

about a week later, Tony brought a small gift for my Mom, and she took it, and looked at him, and pointed to the corner of the living room and said, “Get those out of here.” She was refering to a stack of Christmas presents that she was going to mail out west for Eric. Tony took them away and probably threw them out. We slogged through the rest of December in a daze, as water fell through the roof and sogged the carpeting, graduallly turning it into mold. I imagine we opened some presents on December 25, but I don't remember it.

Fast forward to spring, and Mom wanted to send me out to Utah as soon as school was out. It would be a great experience for me, and she wouldn't have to entertain me for the summer, but the subtext was her true motivation.

“Mom, Dad, it wasn't your fault. I don't blame you for Eric's death. Please don't think about what you should have done differently, or could have done differently. If Eric didn't find the gun, there are a hundred other tools in that shop that are just as deadly. It's really not your fault. I'm sending Karl out this summer, to tell you that I trust you with my children. I know you will take good care of him, and he'll have a wonderful time, and come back with skills and experiences that can't be learned in school. Please stop crying - I love you both very much.”

This isn't my supposition; Mom told me, many years later, that these were her thoughts. She wanted Pappy to know that he was not responsible in any way. Yes, sending me out to Utah helped, it helped a lot! It helped Pappy, and it helped me. The summer of 75 was not my first trip to Utah, nor my last, but it would be the most important.

Ok, let's go back ten years earlier. My first memory of my grandparents was a temporary apartment in Richmond, Indiana. They lived on Starr Road in Royal Oak Michigan, but spent this particular summer in Richmond while Pappy did some contract work. As I say, he went where the work was. I stayed with them for the summer; I'm sure my Mom didn't mind the break, she still had Eric and Alice to watch. So it was me and Pappy and Grandma and aunt Sylvia. I don't remember Sylvia but she must have been there; she lived with her parents until she was 53, when she married Monti and moved to Eckley Colorado. The year was 1965, and I was only 4 years old, soon to be 5, ready to start Kindergarten in the fall. My Mom told me that Gramma asked if she could keep me for a year; I didn't really need to go to kindergarten, that wasn't important. Thus I know the year was 1965. I remember the diningroom and the kitchen, though it looks a lot like their house in Kamas Utah, so those memories may have blurred together. I remember his desk with lots of papers on it, and a big red office chair with wheels. The desk and the chair were definitely from Indiana, no doubt about that. I was so small I could lie down in the chair on my stomach or my back with my legs sticking out. I used my feet to push off of the desk and spin around. Each time around I gave another push, so I would spin as fast as I could. It's a wonder the chair didn't tip over. I did this quite a bit during that summer, basically any time I was bored. I guess they didn't mind.

Soon I returned to my home on Waverley Street, just in time for kindergarten, and they returned to their home on Starr Road. The Starr Road house had three big rooms on the first floor: kitchen, diningroom, livingroom (clockwise). Ok I was small, but the rooms seemed big to me. At the back of the house, where the diningroom met the livingroom, was a back door, and stairs going up to the second level. The kitchen had a bright tile floor and an island running down the middle, the diningroom had a dark carpeting, and the livingroom had a bright carpeting with an interesting pattern that I use to look at. My aunt Alice confirmed immediately.

“Yes it did! I think it was red and pink flowers against a white background.”

One Christmas I was sitting on the floor, looking at the pretty pattern in the carpeting, and someone handed me a gift to open. It was an assortment of tools. I didn't know what to do with this. It was meant for Carl Dahlke, my father.

The back yard was big, with a circle of track and two engines, a blue engine and a black engine. A small child could sit on the engine and turn the handles and run around the track, and I did, sometimes for an hour. I found it very relaxing. One side of the track was a little higher than the other, so I had to crank the handles to go uphill, then I could sort of coast downhill, then around again and again. Sometimes the train would jump the track on a turn, and I had to get off and seat the wheels back in the track, but I knew how to do that and it was fine. After they moved to Utah, this train set moved to aunt Alice's back yard for the benefit of my cousins Kurt and Matt. When I went to visit, I continued to ride the train, until I was 11 or 12 and just couldn't fit on the engine any more.

I only saw the upstairs of the Starr Road house once, when I slept over. I remember the little bedroom I stayed in, where Grandma read me The Little Engine that Could. I remember the bathroom because I took a bath that night; I think it was the only time I was ever in that bathroom. All these had to be early memories because they moved to Utah in 1968, when I was just 7 years old. They moved west some time after September 1967, because we celebrated my seventh birthday in that big bright kitchen, with a rocket shaped cake on the table. How my Mom made a cake shaped like a rocket lying on its side, I'll never know. She use to make special shaped cakes for us on our birthdays. One year the shape was an elephant, and Krista (our dog) ate the trunk off, so Mom had to replace it with an iced twinkie.

Here is another memory of Pappy at Starr Road. He had just purchased a Dodge flatbed truck. The metal bed was painted bright yellow, with walls about 2 feet high. When the tailgate was opened, it formed an extension of the metal floor, strong enough for two men to stand on. This was a "pacel" truck, in Pappy's words, and he was proud to show it off. I sat in the passenger seat and he showed me the shifter on the dash. PRND21, for park, reverse, neutral, drive, second gear, first gear. Drive represented automatic transmission, which existed in some cars but was rare in trucks. This was the latest model, with all the bells and whistles. Still, the manufacturer expected the owner to go off road, or perhaps climb a mountain, thus first and second gears were provided. Believe me, we used those gears when climbing up the mountains of Utah. Another novelty was the altimeter, built into the dash. Pappy knew he would be out west some day, so he wanted an altimeter in his truck. He explained how it worked, translating air pressure into feet above sea level. I understood pretty well, for a 6-year-old.

Pappy had already started to modify the truck, soon to be a camper, the likes of which have never been seen before. He drilled rectangular holes along the tops of the side walls, 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches, every 2 feet. Yes, he's cutting into metal, but of course he has a tool for that, he has a tool for everything. He inserted 2 by 4's into these holes, standing up like the ribs of a giant animal. This would be the framework of his camper. He didn't get much further than the skeleton before he moved to Utah; he would finish the camper out west. As I watched, he was adding braces and horizontal beams across the top, to keep the wind from blowing the ribs about at highway speeds. Even at age 6, he was showing me the methods of construction. For example: what are the dimensions of a standard 2 by 4? Answer: 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches. So it has always been. He explained why; I don't remember now. I helped him with the braces as best I could. At one point I reached over to see what he was doing, and my knuckle touched his lit cigarette. I remember the sharp pain, and the sore that took a long time to heal. I learned a valuable lesson that day; Pappy always has a cigarette in his mouth, or in his hand, or nearby if he needs both hands for a task. And he learned to keep his cigarettes away from his blind grandson.

I have two more memories from 1966, and I'm pretty sure they are connected. I have an image of my Aunt Diane's house in Denver. I remember looking at the kitchen, and I remember looking over the top of a dutch door, the top being open and the bottom being closed. Given my height, it might have been a small gate, like a baby gate. In any case, I thought it was cool. And I remember taking a bath in a small bathroom in the back of the house. I remember that because Shannon gave me my bath, not my Mom, not even my Aunt Diane. I'm not sure why the task was entrusted to my older cousin, who barely knew me. These memories are so vague I had to ask my cousin Wendy if this was even real.

“Did you really live in Denver for a short time?” I asked.

Wendy replied. “We did go to Denver. I think I was barely 7 years old, if that. My Mom loved the west, and My dad thought that if my mom was able to get out from Gramma Lucas' thumb, she would not be sick any more. You know she had a lot of struggles with mental illness, right? Then I was probably 10 years old when we moved from Denver to Utah. My dad had a good job offer there I remember that. We lived in several places, but since Pappy got our first horse, we ended up eventually buying and moving to the farm in Bluffdale.Pappy loaned us money to do that in some way. That would have been in 1968 I guess. I was going into 7th grade so I was 12. There was 20 acres on that farm. we grew tomatoes for del monte, barley, and a few other things. Pappy and gramma moved to Utah due to our financial situation, plus, Pappy LOVED the west, and cowboys, and always wanted to live there. They lived in a little house next to ours. Pappy wanted to participate and help us with the horse investments, etc, which were just beginning at that time. As I say, he bought our first horse. But my dad and gramma hated each other so much. And it dragged pappy into it. It made my mom even sicker, and my dad would not let pappy build stuff the way he wanted. I'm sure there was much more to it, but they moved up to the little town of Kamas in the mountains where they stayed. I was broken hearted. Pappy was such a powerful force in my life. I didn't really know the facts.”

So ok, my Denver memory is real. Another memory, which is more vivid and detailed, is riding the train with Pappy across country. Why would he do that if he was living in Utah? I would go to him, or come back home, but we wouldn't travel cross country together. I can only deduce, 55 years later, that Pappy was still living here in Michigan. I'll call it the summer of 1966. I was 5, turning 6 in September. diane and family had been in Denver for a couple of years, and would soon move to Utah, with Pappy following soon thereafter. Pappy wanted to go out and visit his daughter and grandkids in Denver, and he asked to take me along on the train, and my Mom said yes. That's how it went down, I believe.

Nobody understands train travel today. You should watch White Christmas every December, or maybe North by Northwest, to see how it use to be. Pappy and I were in a private room, with a door that closed and left us undisturbed. Sometimes a porter would knock on the door and ask if we needed anything. Room service perhaps, or he would even shine your shoes if you wished. The room had comfortable seats and a window to watch the scenery go by. When night came, a double bed pulled down from the wall. Plenty of room for Pappy and me. I tell you, there's something wonderful about sleeping on a train. The gentle movements, the clickety-clack, the bells going by illustrating the doppler effect, it's just a wonderful thing!

“Feel the wheels rumblin' 'neath the floor. And the sons of Pullman porters, and the sons of engineers, ride their fathers' magic carpets made of steel. Mothers with their babes asleep are rockin' to the gentle beat, and the rhythm of the rails is all they feel.”

During the day I played with my legos, which I took along for entertainment, since I didn't get much enjoyment looking out the window. The box spilled all over once and we had to pick up all the pieces, which seemed like a lot of work but really wasn't, since my lego collection was just beginning. I also remember the club car. The food was pretty good, and I kept asking for extra pickles. The sandwich I ordered just didn't have enough pickles. Pappy smoked like a chimney. In those days everybody smoked, on trains, on planes, on buses, that's just the way it was. Planes had separate smoking and nonsmoking sections, which helped a little, but still the smoke spread throughout the cabin. ditto for restaurants. So Pappy smoked while he ate; remember that he didn't eat much anyways. He turned his empty glass upside down and held his cigarette beneath, until the glass was full of smoke. I put my face close to the glass so I could see the white smoke inside. Then he would lift the glass up and release the smoke into the air. He called it a "Moke Doggy". I ate the rest of my sandwich, and then he did the same trick again. I never got tired of watching it; it seemed magical.

So it was just Pappy and me on a train heading west, probably to Denver to visit Aunt Diane and her family. That makes sense, and it knits those memories together. No wonder my Mom didn't give me my bath; she wasn't even there. Then we took the train back home, and I'm sure the two train trips have blended together in my mind. Soon thereafter, Diane and family and Pappy and Grandma and Sylvia would be in Utah, 1,500 miles away. We visited each other as often as we could, but we certainly missed them, and they us.

In the summer of 1968, Mom put Eric and me on a plane, to visit Gramma and Pappy. We were just 6 and 8. I remember almost nothing of the visit, but I remember the plane ride. I looked out the window and thought I could see the edge of space. It was just the sky and the darkness of night above, but for a kid enthralled with the space program, I thought it was space. At the same time, I knew a plane couldn't fly in space, so I realized it was an illusion, but it was compelling nonetheless. When we landed at Salt Lake City, they lowered the stairs, there being no jetways at that time, and the pilot carried me down the stairs. (A blind six year old descending the stairs down to the concrete below; they didn't need that kind of liability.) I think Eric walked down under his own power. I remember Pappy and Gramma meeting us, and soon we were driving through Salt Lake, late at night. I remember the lights; lights everywhere. Some stores had lights that travelled around the perimeter of the building. I realized the illusion, but it too was compelling. The even lights were on for half a second, then the odd lights, then the even lights, then the odd lights, and it looked like they were travelling along. Through a conscious effort, I could make the lights travel left or right, but right was easier. We stopped at a fast-food restaurant called Dees. They served the best fries I had ever tasted, or so I thought when I was six. I was familiar with Burger King and McDonalds, but these fries were incredible! At my urging, we ate at Dees several times during this visit. Remember, they lived in the valley at this time, not up the mountain, so we had regular access to the conveniences of the city. One day I ate three orders of Dees fries; I remember Gramma commenting on it. Of course she would not restrain me in any way; she spoiled her grandkids, as grandparents do.

Here is a memory, but I don't know if it was during this visit, or the next one in 1969. A lot of these trips run together in my mind. I'll include it here. I was with my Aunt Diane, going to check on the horses. I held her elbow as she led me to the back of her ranch. The ranch seemed huge, a lot of walking for me, but I didn't mind. I was fascinated by everything around me. Her horses were contained in a wooden fence, with a live wire running along the top. She told me in stern tones not to touch the wire.If a horse touched it with his nose he would get quite a shock, and learn to avoid the fence. This kept the horses inside the paddock, and away from the fence, since they would sometimes chew on the wooden fence and get pieces of wood in their mouths or their digestive systems. I didn't understand power units at the time, but I'll bet it was a 220 volt line; a horse is a big animal! We went up to the gate and she lifted a bright blue plastic handle out of its housing. The handle anchored the 4 feet of wire that went across the gate. She moved the handle to the other side of the gate, thus clearing the wire so we could pass through. She did not need to turn off the fence. However, she was distracted by me at her right elbow, and brushed against the live wire with her left arm. “did you feel that?” she asked, with some concern. I did not. I'm sure most of the shock was felt at the point of contact with her arm. She shook it off, put the handle in its place, and we went in to check on the horses. I remember some of the horses, big beautiful animals, some white, some chestnut, some brown, but not too much else about that day.

Are electric fences in common use today? Do you have to post signs? Does the fence have to be 50 feet back from the street? Wikipedia describes the circuit this way. It is not a simple connection to house current as I thought; sometimes it even runs off a battery, since it pulls almost no power except for the occasional shocks. Sometimes the fence is in the back 40, where there is no power in any case. There is a special energizer that sends a high voltage spike once per second through the wire. So the horse, or you, could get a pretty serious shock, but it stops, and you have one second to let go of the wire and/or back away. That makes the fence significantly safer than the lines coming into your home.

I will add more stories about Pappy as time permits.