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A Small Town Gal

Summer Break

Mel BooneSummer break was so much fun for me when I was a kid. Three months without school, who didn't like that? It was a blast. Of course, I like to make fun of my childhood summers. I didn't have Nintendo, PlayStation, computer, internet, or a smartphone to pass the time with. I had to use my imagination, and as an only child I probably used my imagination a little too much.

There was the little plastic wading pool in the back yard. I can still find those at Dollar General, can you believe that? In fact, I bought one of those several years ago when I still had my dog Stubby. He loved to play in it as much as I did all those years ago when I was a child.

When I got a little older, I lost interest in the little plastic pool; so I spent quite a bit of time running through a sprinkler attached to the garden hose. Looking back, I wonder how high my parents' water bill was during the summer months because of me. I'm sure that would have been one reason for them to be happy  to see me go back to school.

One of the best part of summer break for me was also the most agonizing part at times. That was waiting for the ice cream truck to come by. I could always hear its music playing from the loudspeaker from several blocks away. It could never get to my street fast enough. Once there, I had the hard task of picking just one item. No matter what I chose, it always the best that I ever had!

The other best part of summer break was spending time with both sets of grandparents. I always loved being with them. It's a bittersweet memory now. Grandma and Grandpa Boone have both been gone for several years now. They, along with several other neighbors, sold their home to the bank. I end up on what used to be their property every time I go through the drive up window or ATM. My grandma on mom's side is now in the nursing home. The farm that her and grandpa worked so hard on has been sold. There's a lot of memories during the 41 years of my life on that place.

Summer as an adult definitely isn't like it was when I was a kid. To be a kid again, even for a little while, would be a blast. Just don't tell on me!

ice cream truck

Learning to Drive

Mel BooneOne of my earliest memories of driving was on Grandpa Roe's Massey Ferguson. I was too small at the time to reach the pedals. So I would sit on his lap and "operate" the steering wheel while grandpa worked the clutch and brake. I don't remember how old I was then, but I felt like the most important person in the world to be able to help drive that tractor. Plus, for a little kid like me, the hood seemed to stretch out for a mile!

1973 Massey Ferguson 165
1973 Massey Ferguson 165 that my grandpa bought new.

My next driving lesson came a few years later. My stepdad would take me out to drive out in the country. No gravel roads, just the blacktop roads where there wasn't much traffic. Mom never knew about the driving lessons until we accidentally got caught one day. My stepdad had to go to a job site to bring in the boss's International Harvester bucket truck and had me with him. Once there, it dawned on him that he had to get the truck in but had no way to get back to the site to get his van. So there I was at age 13, following the bucket truck to town while driving the van by myself. We would have gotten away with it if Mom had not been at home looking out the front door when we drove by. That pretty much ended my driving lessons for a few years.

Later on in life, I managed to buy a couple of antique tractors of my own. Both are John Deere model B tractors. The first B I bought when my Grandpa Boone was still alive. I can still remember being in his driveway showing it to him. I think he was the happiest guy on earth to see a granddaughter get into the antique tractor hobby. Perhaps in a way, it also reminded him of his oldest son (my uncle Bob) who collected and restored antique cars. In a odd sort of way, I was following in my uncle's footsteps.

John Deere Bs
One of two John Deere B's that I own.

My uncle and both grandpas are gone. But both John Deeres and the Massey Ferguson are about ready for the 2017 tractor shows. It seems to me, as I sit on the seat, my hands on the wheel, I can almost sense that I am not alone. There are three spirits there, smiling down at me. I wish I could tell them how happy I am to have them supporting me in my favorite hobby, but I think they already know.

Memorial Day

Mel BooneRight now as I write this, May is in full swing. The weather has warmed up, the sun is out, and the rain has stopped for a little while. I pretty much have all of my shorts, short sleeves, and sleeveless shirts in my dresser, ready to wear.

I spend every moment that I can outside. Winter has never been my friend, nor have I enjoyed many indoor activities for very long during the winter months. But to be outside brings so much enjoyment to me. I use every excuse that I can to go outside, even if it means taking Buddy and Jake for a few more walks. They don't seem to mind, and neither do I. Besides, most of the TV shows that I watch will be reruns soon. The only thing that could make the situation better was if I was a kid again, running barefoot through a sprinkler. Then again, I don't really have to be a kid to do that, right?

I've got my Mother's Day card sent to my mom. She lives in the southern end of Missouri, so mail takes a few days to get to her. I plan to hand deliver my Mother's Day card to my grandma tomorrow. As always, to make grandma laugh, I've got one "signed" by Buddy and Jake.

In the end, I've suddenly remembered something that I have forgotten. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I will: May isn't just Mother's Day. It also has another holiday — Memorial Day.

How could I have possibly forgotten? How easy did I forget? I, like so many others, chose not to serve in the military. There's nothing wrong with that. However, that's no excuse for me to forget those who did and are no longer with us.

My grandpa and one of his older brothers are buried near each other at the cemetery in Woodville. It's right there at the church near the farm that they grew up on. Both served in the military. With Grandma not getting around as well as she used to, I will go put flowers on their graves this year, hopefully with an American flag for each one. As it should be; they deserve to be remembered.

Cemetery with flags and flowers
Photo by Adobe Stock/Terrance Emerson

Cast-Iron Collector

Mel BooneNow that the weather has turned nice and warm, yard sales have started to pop up. I look forward to going to yard sales every year. It seems that for each new year, I have something new that I am looking for. This year, with a little luck, I hope to add to my cast-iron skillet collection.

I must admit up front — I don't know much about cast-iron skillets. I've had little experience cooking with them. I hope to learn as much as possible, since I would like to be able to use them to cook with on a regular basis at home. Plus, I want to be able to use them when I go camping. I would love and welcome any advice from those who have years of experience cooking with cast iron! (my email is deeregal2@gmail.com)

I remember years ago my stepdad used cast-iron skillets. He liked to cook in them. Then it came time to clean. After having them rust because he used soap and water, he quit using them. Oops! Well, lesson learned for me by watching someone else's mistake. I now know the wrong way to clean them. I'm pretty sure that I'd better learn the proper way to season and clean them before I actually try to cook in one.

So far, I've have about five pieces in my collection: four skillets of various sizes, plus a dutch oven with a lid. It's like any collection that I have — I can't have just one. (Isn't that a slogan for a potato chip company, too?) So off I go on my quest to every yard sale, estate sale, and swap meet to find more pieces that I just can't live without!

With any amount of luck, I'll find more pieces to my collection. With some words of wisdom, advice, and recipes from others, I'm sure I will have a lifetime of joy using these pieces!

Various cast iron pans
Photo by Adobe Stock/manuta

Great Day for Radio Contacts

Mel BooneDuring the spring, summer and early fall, I practically live outside. Gardening, walking the dogs, going to tractor show, camping ... Well, you get the idea. If it's nice out, I'm doing one of the above (if not several of the above). One thing is for sure, if I'm out and about when it isn't raining, I will have one of my portable ham radios with me.

Portable ham radios
Portable ham radios that I use.

I can honestly say that I have a blast talking to people via ham radio. At this point, I only make contacts on the 70 centimeter and 2 meter bands, only because I don't have an antenna set up at home. With a little luck, I'll find some DIY plans for homemade, portable antennas to take with me so that I can get some enjoyment on the other bands. Of course, I work QRP, which is just ham speak for low power. Working with 5-watt radios can be a challenge, but there are those who love to make contact with a low power station.

Man manning radios
Making contacts via Morse Code during the 2016 ARRL Field Day.

Then there's Field Day coming up in June. That's always a fun time. How many contacts do you think you could make is 24 hours? A few hundred, or how about a few thousand? You'll never know if you don't get your license and try!

I took my technician's exam in February 2013. I'm proud to say that I passed the Amateur Extra Exam (the highest license that you can have here in the US) in 2015. I also became a V.E. (Volunteer Examiner) that year. It's always great to sit in on an exam and watch someone's face light up when he or she passes.

I am by no means an expert. I've never built my own portable antenna before. It will be an exciting and fun challenge for me when I get one completed. I don't currently have a computer or internet at home, but when I do, I'm sure I will have a lot of fun working the digital modes that the ham radios have. Perhaps someday I will get the chance to talk to a ham on the International Space Station!

Until then, perhaps I can look forward to making a contact with a few of you who read my blog posts. So if you're interested, check out the ARRL at www.arrl.org, or the Macon County Amateur Radio Club at www.maconcountymissouriarc.org. Go get licensed, and I'll see you a little later on down the log!

Man manning radios
Making a contact during 2016 ARRL Field Day.

A Love for Steam Engines

Mel BooneFor as long as I can remember, I've had a fascination for steam engines. At every tractor show, I'm drawn to these big behemoths of iron and smoke. I love these pieces of old iron. "Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" is the saying that comes to mind. I believe every steam engine I see is beautiful.

 

Old steam engine
Steam engine hooked up to a threshing machine at the 2015 NEMO Old Threshers Show, Shelbina, MO.

At one time, my stepdad thought that he wanted a steam engine. However, over the years he has gotten to where he doesn't like to be around the smoke that billows out of them. So now he pretty much steers clear of them.

At the tractor shows, I love to hear the engines blow their whistles at noon. It takes you back to the good old days when the blow of the whistle let the farm hands know when it was lunch time. The days of the threshing crews have ended years ago. I'm betting that it would be hard for me today to find someone that worked on those crews all those decades ago.

I see quite a few half-scale and sometimes quarter-scale steam engines at the shows. It's amazing that someone has taken the time to build them. They look and work just a well as their full-size counterparts. Sometimes I think that I would rather own a half-scale instead of a full-size steam engine!

I must be honest. I am clueless in the operation of these machines. I'm really kind of ashamed to say that, especially when I go to a show and I see young kids helping in the operation and maintaining of these steam engines, both full-size and half-scale models. They have the advantage, though. They're in a family that operates them, so these youngsters have someone that guides them along and supervises them so that he or she knows what to do.

I feel like I'm missing out on something special. Not everyone has the chance to work on or around these machines. Not everyone has the interest. I would love to go to a steam engine school and learn. There are several held every year, but all are out of state. I would love for one to be held here in Missouri, close to home. Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to attend one. Maybe someday, someone won't mind showing a middle-aged woman the ropes on how to operate and maintain one. You've got to start somewhere in order to gain experience, right?

Old Threshers Show
2015 NEMO Old Threshers Show, Shelbina,MO.

Rain and Mud

Mel Boone"Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day." That's an age-old rhyme that every kid learns at some point. During the last few weeks, it's been an ear-worm that I can't get out of my head.

I know the farmers need the rain. It's essential to have it for the crops to grow. The livestock need water to drink, too. But for about three weeks now there's been some amount of rain in my neck of the woods — or at least some part of Missouri — every day. I'm starting to think that if Missouri was is any type of drought, we must be close to being out of it by now.

As I type this blog at the local library, I get to look out the window and see the sun. It's hard to contain my enthusiasm. I just want to jump up and scream, "Oh my gosh, the sun!" It's been way too long since I've seen it. At least, that's what my brain is telling me.

The weatherman tells me that I get a few days of sun and no rain. Do I believe him or not? I mean, think about it: Forecasting the weather is the only job where you can be wrong and not lose your job. (That how it can seem.) So I guess for now I will cross my fingers. I will hope for a few days of reprieve from all those raindrops.

Jake and Buddy have had enough trips outside in the rain. I've had enough of wiping muddy paw-prints off of the kitchen linoleum. Let's not forget the dog blankets that I keep washing because they smell like wet dog once Jake and Buddy finish rolling around on them.

So here's to finally being able to raise the blinds and let the sun shine in!

Rain falling on umbrella
Photo by AdobeStock/ivan kmit