Treasure Chest Thursday: Stories for my New Birthday

Bluebonnets at Muleshoe Recreation Area

A recent picture of me

As those of you who follow my blog know, I was diagnosed with a rare lymphoma last year and had several months of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant. When you have a stem cell/bone marrow transplant, the medical staff refers to the day of your transplant as your “new” birthday. As the time approached for my transplant, I wrote the following message to my friends and family on Facebook and my Caring Bridge journal:

I turned 60 in October and wasn’t able to celebrate quite the way I wanted to. I have a “new” birthday coming up – the day I receive my transplant. And I thought of a way I would like to celebrate. 

I like to collect stories. It was one of my hopes in starting my family history blog – sharing the family stories I know and hoping others in the family would share more family stories with me. Not all of you are blood family – but you are my family and so what I would really like for my new birthday are stories from you. About anything, really – but personal and true…. how we met, a time we shared together, the worst (or best) date you ever had, when you got your first car or learned how to drive, your proudest or most embarrassing moment, something silly one of your kids did, why you love or hate beets, a story about a relative we share, or about your own special grandmother or whomever. Ridiculous or sincere. All are good!

You can email me, or private message me on Facebook – but I like letters I can hold in my hand and read again, so when I know my room number I’ll let you know how to send me mail in the hospital.

My new birthday will be February 12th. 

I got my birthday wish and the stories shared are treasures to me. I just can’t resist sharing some of the stories I received!

So today, I’m sharing three stories sent to me by a dear friend, Kathryn. She emailed them on three separate days, giving me three days of pleasure reading them while I was in the hospital. I printed them out today and held them in my hands and read them again. 🙂

I hope that in sharing them, I’ll encourage you to write down your stories too!



The horney toad in our garden

The horney toad in our garden

Really this story should be titled the “Horned Toad”, but in Texas growing up we always referred to the quirky reptile as “Horney Toad”.  You know, the little squatty lizard that’s covered with spikes and some pretty large ones atop his head.  Ya don’t see Horney Toads around central Texas any longer unfortunately…the result of fire ants imported from some other part of the world that took hold of Texas’ low to the ground species, and made our lives hellacious at the same time!

Any way, back in the early 1940’s my Daddy was a 10 year old boy, living in central Texas who did what boys do….getting his hands on all sorts of things while playing outside. He caught a prize Horney Toad and he was so proud of him!  He learned from his dad that they liked to eat ants.  To ensure that his Horney Toad would be the happiest, biggest Horney Toad around he decided to give him all the ants he could eat…Horney Toad heaven you might say!  My dad went about his plan of tying a string around his Horney toad and then tying the other end of the string onto a stick that he staked into the ground in the center of a Big Red Ant mound.  Now you have to have seen some of these Big Red Ant mounds…they can be 5 feet across, no vegetation at all and the ants are at least 1/2 inch long. (You don’t see these mounds very often in central Texas any more either!) He also thought to put a tin of water so the Horney Toad would have enough water to wash down all those ants he was going to fill up on. The next morning my Daddy went out to visit his Horney Toad expecting to find him the fattest and best Horney Toad around.  Instead he found a Horney Toad skeleton…

So sad.  I guess too much of a good thing is not even good for Horney Toads!  They were ultimately not a match for those mean Imported Fire Ants either….must have been a foreboding sign of things to come for all Horney Toads. 


In my career as a “professional” substitute teacher there are lots of stories.  This is one of those that makes you ask “what are the chances????!!!”

As the choir teacher’s sub I tried to get ALL (38-40) of the boys’ choir quiet and standing still on the bleachers….a nearly impossible task.  To make it more difficult, the choir room is always freezing cold, therefore most of the boys had their arms inside their shirts. (Of course boys think bashing into each other is mandatory when their arms are inside shirts).  Broken noses and black eyes in the making…I could visualize the accident and explaining to administrators how the injuries happened. I, the inept substitute, would be to blame (of course). 

I finally achieved some calm.  Instructing them to take their arms out of their shirts I described in detail how important arms are in breaking a fall…unless they really liked broken noses.  Most of the boys abided and stood with both arms in sight. 

A second reminder brought most of the remaining hidden arms out.

And the third all but one.

I looked sternly at the one boy who only had one arm out of his shirt and told him I was talking to everyone and expected BOTH arms out.  He looked around, surprised that I was talking to him.  He then said, “OH, I only have one arm!” 

I glanced at several other boys with a questioning, horrified look asking for confirmation.  They verified, “Yea…he only has ONE arm!”

I stammered my apologies and that if I’d have known about his situation I would NEVER have asked him to show me both arms! 

 He shrugged and said, smiling, that it was no big deal!

 What are the chances? 

That boy will go far in life with his acceptance, both of himself and others!


When I was a kid we had all sorts of pets.  Of course there were the “normal” ones…all dogs, as our mom hated cats. (One scratched her when she was small).  There was Bootsie, black with the obligatory white paws. And our Scottish Cairn terriers and West Highland terriers–Piper, Drummer, Cailin, and Laddie.

But we did end up with some odd ones that came through our household. One was my brothers’ favorites–a big red-eared turtle.  Our mom was out one morning and our housekeeper, Mary, was babysitting when the turtle snapped onto one of my brother, Bruce’s fingers.  He came screaming through the backyard with the turtle flailing with every shake of Bruce’s arm but the turtle did not let go.  Oh, no….turtles can hang on tight!  Mary tried to pry the turtle’s lips (I don’t think that turtles really have lips, but…!)  Nope, can’t pry turtle lips apart even with an ice pick! Bruce was wailing by this time so Mary called my daddy at his medical office, sure that Dr Lindsay would have a solution. Nope. Daddy was in the middle of his very busy morning, annoyed that he was bothered by such a silly thing as a turtle stuck on his boy’s finger.  He only confirmed to Mary that the turtle would let go when it thundered. And hung up. No clouds in the sky that day. Daddy apparently didn’t know the answer.  Bruce yelled louder as his little finger was turning blue. And that turtle still was hangin on.  Mary, the ever-caring, brilliant woman of the world called her husband, Mr. Willie (a jack of all trades and our yard-man) who instantly had the solution.  He told Mary to light a match under the turtle’s belly and he’d let go.  Sure ‘nough, the turtle quickly let go.  Bruce’s finger took a while to mend, but all was well, thanks to Mary and Mr Willie.

Sadly, we were given baby chicks for Easter…pink, blue, green dyed ones.  We loved getting them. They were so soft, so cute, and cheeped so urgently for us to play with them(at least that’s what we thought!)  We kept them in special bed/boxes we decorated for them.  Rolled them around in dolly buggys, wrapped them up in little blankies, put them in our doll house.  I didn’t want to leave mine outside so I put him in my pocket.  And then forgot and sat on him.  So sad.  Poor Easter chickies.  I to this day feel badly for those chickies. 

Also in our backyard we had a corner with no grass where we played in the dirt…kind of like a pitiful-kid’s sandbox since Bryan has really sandy soil.  We found a big tarantula that lived in a hole in our dirt corner.  She was pretty and brown and furry, about as big as a 6 year old’s hand.  We would make mud-pies that she would march around and over.  We had cups of water to make those mud towers and always left some fresh water for her to drink.  Soda crackers were stuffed in her house for her snacks and we KNEW she loved them…and us for bringing her those treats.

Mr Seigbornson brought Daddy 3 chickens to pay him for his medical services one day.  Mr Seigbornson was a proud man, a farmer who couldn’t pay in currency but was fair. He didn’t want to make a big deal out of not paying with money but chickens instead so he went to the back parking lot(always shaded), found my Dad’s car and put the chickens inside.  My dad came out hours later to find the frightened fowl who made quite a mess in their cooped (I couldn’t resist!!) up surroundings!  I don’t know what happened to those chickens….I think our neighbors didn’t appreciate the noise.

Wiiiillllliaaaaaammmmm (you have to say it like a goat talks!)was a goat that one of my dad’s patients brought to him as payment.  William was mighty cute and we loved him.  My mom did not love him since he ate ALL of her garden down to the dirt. Banana trees, strawberries, flowers, etc. We would let him in the house and he would clickity-clack around the wood floors until Mommy would find out and shoo him out.  He went to a new home “out in the country”. (Or else he was a cabrito dinner for El Vira Gonzales, Daddy’s nurse!)  Daddy got probably 3 different Williams through the years as I remember. When I was in high school and my two sisters were in college at A&M we took William (the last) to the Dixie Chicken.  The Dixie Chicken was a rickety beer joint across the street from campus with free stale crackers, 25 cent Lone Star beer, dogs laying around, tables with lots of names and things carved into them and domino games always being played.  Perfect place for Aggies!  We figured since folks could bring their dogs we could bring William (the last). He fit right in!

I wonder if our kids will think back on their childhood pets and think how boring we were to only have one dog, one parakeet and a few guinea pigs! Though I must say, Stewy the parakeet was quite amazing with his vast vocabulary and well-timed comments!

That’s it for today. Weren’t her stories fun? Now go and write your stories!

Facebook Comments and Family Stories

I don’t automatically send my blog posts to Facebook, but more people in my family are likely to read my Facebook status than read my blog. So if I want certain cousins to know I’ve posted about a common ancestor or relative or if I’m hoping they will chime in with more information, I link the blog post on my Facebook page. And sometimes it does get a conversation going.

Last week, I linked my blog post The Civil Rights Summit and a Family Story? to my Facebook page and tagged cousins whom I hoped would read it and maybe even add more to the story I’m trying to research. I know at least one cousin came here and read the post because she left a comment. I’m not sure about the others, but the photograph thumbnail that showed on Facebook did spark some conversation.

Here’s the picture…
Webber.Fred and KathyAnd here’s the conversation:

Sue: I love seeing this picture of you and Fred. And the picture on the wall of Dorinda and the other picture, mostly out of sight, of Wilda.
Kathy: Like being back in the house on H Street…
Bea: Love Daddy’s bow tie!
Yvonne: All of the above and the cage with “Pretty Bird” !!!
Yvonne: Kathy, was this 1954?
Kathy: I have a few other pictures taken that day and none are dated. Must be early 1954. Mid Oct. birthday + still wearing hat and sweater.
Yvonne: Of course, in Iowa you might need that hat and sweater in May! I too was figuring from your birthday.
Kathy: True! Especially this year! I’m guessing I was maybe 5 months old?
Yvonne: And I was just turning 11 and was always excited about relatives coming from out of town.
Wilda: This is off topic, but I love this photo for more reasons than one (or two). I see Dorinda Rupe as a child (my photo got cut off) but also the bird. I had forgotten about the bird. Was it Zam’s or Aunt Lottie’s? I sort of think it came at the same time as Pedro, and Pedro was, I believe, Aunt Lottie’s dog. I’m trying to remember the name of the canary. I have a name in my head for it, but am not confident I’m right.
Yvonne: I love it for many reasons, too, Wilda. Read through the preceding messages. I think the bird was Grammy’s and that she called it “Pretty Bird.”
Wilda: I think you are right – “Pretty Bird.”

In the course of this little Facebook conversation, we set an approximate date for the photograph, identified pictures of people on the wall in the background, confirmed the location of the picture, identified the name and species of the bird that lived in the cage, confirmed Yvonne’s age and feelings, and identified the name of a dog that lived at the house at the time and the possible owner.
This is not the first time that a picture or post has yielded family stories. And I may never find those comments on Facebook again. Have you ever tried to find an old post on Facebook? It ain’t easy!
So this time I came up with a plan to save this information. I copied it from Facebook and added it to the comments on the linked blog post, using first names only.
What do you think of this as a way to preserve the information?
Should I add tags to the post that reflect the information in the comments so I can find it easily when I want it?
What about conversations sparked by a photo on Facebook when there is no linked blog post?
Do you save family stories from Facebook posts and comments? What is your preferred method?


*** The formatting changed somehow in the middle of this post and I can’t get any paragraphs/spaces where I want them in the last half.  And yet I was granted spaces here? Annoying!

Why did the pigeon-toed girl cross the board?

To avoid wearing orthopedic shoes.

Do you see the problem here?  How about here?     Certainly not here!

Yup, those are my little pigeon-toed legs in the first picture. When we lived in Great Bend, Kansas, Mom took my little pigeon-toed legs to an orthopedic doctor to see what he could do about them. He looked me over and had me walk back and forth across the examination room. Then he told my mom to walk across the room. “Um hum,” he said, “She got that from you, Mom.”

As Mom’s puzzled expression changed to realization, you could hear the indignation in her voice as she replied, “Well, I’ve never had a problem with my legs!”

And you can see, as we are pointing out in that last picture, Mom did not have a problem with her legs.

The doctor stuck by his professional opinion and did his best to explain that the problem resided in our knees… the lower leg bone turned in at the joint. (That middle picture is of Mom’s little girl legs.) Mom wasn’t buying her part in this, I could tell, but she didn’t argue. The good doc pulled out the ugliest, clunky, oxford-style brown shoes you would never want to wear and told me these would be mine…. unless I followed his instructions.

I was to practice walking on a board every day until my return visit and if I could walk with my feet pointing straight ahead when I came back to see him, I could avoid those ugly shoes.

Dad (Jim) went to the lumber yard and bought me my own 6-foot piece of lumber. He laid it in an open space in the basement and I walked back and forth on that board every day because there was no way I would be caught dead in those shoes.