Chapter 17

All the News from Walnut Shade, KS
September 15, 2011

Charley Wick, grandson of Clarke and Ilene, was married to Harriet Randolph on Saturday at St. Stephen’s.  A reception followed in the Fellowship Hall.  Charley and Harriet met at the University of Colorado, where Harriet is an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.  Charley is manager of the campus T-Mobile store.

Donna Brock-Hilton and Doris Brock-Simmons attended the Brock Family Reunion in Yates Center on Friday and Saturday.  Stan and Marge Brock met their daughters there on Friday on their way from Seaside, Florida.  Stan and Marge retired to Seaside in 2002.

Jeffrey Branson will be visiting friends in Fremont for a couple of weeks, according to Marshall Green.

The Prairie View Festival begins tomorrow.  We are expecting about five thousand visitors over the three days of the event.

Sally Ryan completed a summer course at K-State on the management of horticulture businesses.

Olive Jane Johnson hosted a summer tea at her home on Sunday afternoon.  Guests included Sherri Brown, Lucille Miller, Harry Singleton, Jason Glenn, Michelle Clemons, Daphne Wolf, and Flossie Wentworth.

Victoria Cramer, daughter of Dr. John and Sandy, was elected president of the eight grade class at Miller Middle School.

Gwen Burton’s antique store will be closed for a week.  She recently sold over half of her inventory to a collector in Vermont and will be busy packing and shipping everything.

Ann Davis was surprised on Saturday with a birthday party to celebrate her 50th.  Her parents and brother drove in from Garden City and spent the night at Holly House B&B.

Craig Duffy was on a panel at the Northeast Kansas Extension Agents district meeting in Hiawatha last Friday.  The theme of the panel discussion was agri-tourism.

Michelle and Gene Boone returned from a trip to Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, where they visited the birthplace of Daniel Boone, a distant relative of Gene.  Michelle and Gene have spent the last five summers touring sites associated with Daniel Boone and his descendants.  Gene is researching and writing a book about his ancestor.

Don Cornett says that he was contacted by the Miller County Democratic Party chairman about running for state representative next year.  Apparently, the words “Hell” and “freezes over” were part of the conversation.

Well, even though the weather has taken a turn, I don’t think Hell is in any danger right now, but one never knows, so…

Until next week, I remain
Your Faithful Correspondent

Ilene and Clarke Wick were surprised and elated that their grandson decided to celebrate his wedding in Walnut Shade.  Charley and his fiancé had visited them over spring break, but were talking at that time about a wedding in the Bahamas.  Charley used to visit his grandparents during the summer and attended St. Stephen’s with them, but never gave much indication that he had any attachment to the church.  Perhaps the fact that St. Stephen’s hosts a lot of weddings and  jokingly bills itself as the “Church of the Immaculate Reception” made an impression on the couple.  Perhaps the cost of flying all the relatives to Nassau also had some bearing on the decision.  The newly-weds spent the night at Holly House and then drove to KCI the next day to catch a plane back to Boulder.  Harriet had classes on Monday and Charley is training a new assistant manager at his store.  They plan to honeymoon over Christmas break, probably in the Bahamas.

Over the years, there have been a lot of wedding receptions in Walnut Shade, but recently not many baby showers.  You’d think the two would go together, but it seems like most of the weddings around here are second marriages, given that the median age of the population is now over fifty.  While there have been a fair number of divorces, most of those second marriages seem to happen after the death of a spouse.  Now, Walnut Shade is no Love Canal or Cabot Cove; the passing of our people is usually due to the normal reasons.  Like the walnut trees that die and are replanted, when someone goes to their reward, the surviving spouse seems to have no trouble finding a replacement.  For example, talk around town is that Jim Fillmore has been seeing a woman from Parkersburg whom he met at the Miller County Fair… a Dixieland music groupie, no doubt.  Jim’s wife, Helen, died in 2007 and he’s been unsuccessfully pursued by members of the local “widowry” since then.  For the first few years, Jim said that he was OK being on his own, but for the last couple of months or so he’s been eating all his meals at Shirley’s, so it seems obvious that he’s tired of his own cooking.  Perhaps another wedding reception is on the horizon.

Psychologists say that twins are a special, unique subset of human beings, more one than two people, and with a closer bond than typical siblings.  When I was in elementary school, there were three sets of twins in my class.  It drove the teachers crazy and gave the rest of us unending joy to see them, the teachers, try to figure out which twin was which, particularly when the twins made it a point of trying to confuse them.  In the first few grades, the sets of twins (boy-boy, girl-girl, and boy-girl) mostly dressed alike (causing not inconsiderable consternation to Francis Evans, though his sister Frances was rather oblivious to the problem), which compounded the teachers’ bewilderment.  By the fifth grade, subtle differences started showing up in the twins’ personalities and in their clothing, like the madras shirts that the Gilbert twins wore; Gary’s shirt was primarily green and Greg’s was based on blue.  Sally Cornett might wear a white blouse and black skirt to school and Susie would reverse the colors and wear a black blouse and white skirt (though that combination probably only happened a couple of times given that our playground was either dust in the fall and spring and mud in the winter, or mud all year round; a white skirt, even with a poodle on it, wouldn’t be white for long).

I bring up the subject of twins because twins have provided some interesting entertainment the last week.  I’ll begin with the Branson brothers.  Jeffrey and Jason Branson are the twenty-two year-old sons of Fred and Gladys Branson.  Fred works in Fremont at the limestone plant and Gladys is a substitute teacher in the USD 345 school system.  Fine, upstanding parents that they are, they managed to raise two of the most obnoxious, ill-tempered sons that ever walked the streets of Walnut Shade.  From the time they made it to high school until they graduated at the absolute bottom of their class, Jeffrey and Jason succeeded in spending the better part of their time in the principal’s office.  High school was one long practical joke to the Branson brothers and they joyfully shared in every bit of anguish they caused their classmates and teachers.  Something happened when they graduated, however; they became each other’s target of what started as harmless pranks, but some where along the line, the jokes got out of hand.  When Jeffrey filled Jason’s car with packing peanuts, everyone in town laughed.  When Jason, anonymously, sent Jeffrey a telegram saying that his girlfriend had been seen at the VFW in Marysville with a Marine just home from Iraq, no one laughed at the fight Jeffrey got into with an unsuspecting Marine who just happened to be visiting the VFW in Marysville.

In the last year, the jokes have turned into an intense animosity between the two brothers, with the result that Jeffrey was sentenced  on Monday to two weeks in jail in Fremont for flattening the tires on Jason’s car with an ice pick (“visiting friends in Fremont” is a euphemism around here for being in the pokey there, which is what the item in this week’s column is referring to).  Fred Branson has hired Marshall Green to be a mediator for the brothers and we’ll see what he can work out between the two of them.  Perhaps this is just a passing phase, but I’ve seen lots of relatives spend years and years in senseless fights.

Most of the time, twins have the same level of disagreements that any brothers and sisters have, but with the added layer of difficulty that being nearly the same person brings.  This is especially true the closer in time the twins were born.  Take Donna Brock-Hilton and Doris Brock-Simmons, born just six minutes apart, which has been the source of decades-long arguments, quarrels, squabbles and falling-outs.  When the sisters were young, Doris, who was born first, wanted everyone to know that she was the “oldest,” age-as-proxy-for-maturity being a badge of honor for those under thirty-five (which seems to be about time that most people realize that they are no long actually “young”).  Donna, at that time, usually either ignored Doris’ professions of inherent grown-upness or made sure that the listener knew that it was “only by six minutes.”

This past weekend, an interesting twist to the on-going conversation about age occurred.  The sisters, as reported, attended their family reunion at which a cousin, Lance Brock, presented his research on the history of the Brocks in the New World.  Using a sophisticated on-line software program, he had been able to trace the family back to Joseph Brock, who immigrated to the United States in 1689 from Lesser Notley, England.  Everyone was fascinated and thrilled with the details uncovered by Lance, everyone except Doris.

“Lance, your chart has Donna listed first under the children of James and Martha Brock, but I was born first, you know,” Doris pointed out helpfully, but with a note of the old irritation in her voice.

At this, Donna reverted to her teenage interpretation of the time-line of their birth and said, “Yes, but only by six minutes.”

“So I should be listed first,” Doris reiterated.

“Doris, the way the program works,” explained Lance, “is that children are listed alphabetically, so Donna shows up first that way.  We all know that you are older.”

After a silent beat, everyone laughed, except Doris.

“Well, I still think I should be first,” Doris said, putting on the pout she had been famous for in the family since her teenage years.

As the gathering progressed through the weekend, the family members quietly rallied around one or the other of the sisters, some supporting Doris’ claim of the first spot on the genealogy chart because of age and some telling Donna that “the software does the logical thing” listing children alphabetically.  By the time the sisters headed home to Walnut Shade, they had all but forgotten their disagreement about age and had substituted an intense debate about whether oil or shortening produced the flakiest pie crust, an argument that has been a central feature of the Brock family reunions for at least three generations.  Thankfully, no one ended up “visiting friends in Fremont” over that dialogue.

I’ve completed about a dozen paintings for the Miller County Art Fair, so I thought I’d let you get a sneak-peak.  Here are a three of my landscapes.

Logan County
Those of you who have traveled across Kansas know that from Logan County you can just begin to see the Rocky Mountains as a shadow on the horizon

Mountain View
The Rockies outside of Boulder just after dusk

Water moving over limestone
A view of Little Bear Branch north of Fremont

About stclairc

Abstract artist, photographer, writer
This entry was posted in Abstract art, Art, Natural world, Observations, Painting, Serendipity, Small Town Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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