The Silver Gypsy

Often I write about whatever has shown up on my personal radar for the week. It might be about problems, politics, gripes, happy thoughts, memories, favorite people or places, or even not so favorite people or places.

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Sharlene Minshall

Sharlene Minshall

Widowed at 45, Sharlene Minshall dusted herself off and left Michigan driving full tilt into a twenty-year solo, full-time RVing saga taking her from Key West, Florida, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; from Baja and old Mexico to Newfoundland/Labrador; and most drivable points in between. This, mother and grandmother, former medical secretary, and intrepid traveler, canoed the Yukon, mushed sled dogs on a glacier, paraglided off a Colorado mountain, served as “cabin girl” at a western dude ranch, and among other adventures, rode a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, played with the polar bears at Hudson Bay, and lived six months on a Mexican beach. Sharlene gave lectures at Life on Wheels venues for ten years, and published six non-fiction, RV-related how-to and adventure books. Recently, the Silver Gypsy reinvented herself as a fiction writer with her first e-novel, Winter in the Wilderness.

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The Silver Gypsy: Memorials

In my travels, I have visited many, many, MANY memorials, memorials to the early pioneers, to one early pioneer, to famous people, to presidents, to various eras and roads and definitely to each legendary war and its heroes.  There are monuments to famous homes and shrines and poets and authors, plus tributes to ranges of mountains.   There are marble and stone monuments in local cemeteries representing loved ones.   You get the picture.  We have monuments to places for all kinds of reasons and to the sizes and shapes of countless “things” that are the highest, longest, deepest, lowest, widest, etc, as in monuments to fish, crab, and wind.

b2ap3_thumbnail_SD-MT.-RUSHMORE-549-April-20-2005.jpgWe are all familiar with Mt. Rushmore and Chief Crazyhorse (still unfinished) in SD and NH’s natural monument to the Old Man of the Mountain (crumbled a few years back).  A lesser known one is the statue to Hannah Duston, a colonial MA Puritan and mother of nine who was taken captive by Native Americans in 1697.  Eventually, she made her way back to her family after killing ten of her captives at night.   She was the first woman in the US to be honored with a statue.

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The Silver Gypsy:  Teachers, Our National Treasures

Continuing with my reminiscing of class reunions, way back in the dark ages, 1999, I wrote a column on the visit that two classmates and I had with our 1950s Home Economics teacher, Miss Burman.  I had talked with this lady on the phone.  Her voice at eighty-one, was strong and authoritative.  I just knew she was still fourteen feet tall with a military bearing and her back straight as a rod. 

At sixty-something, Peggy, Shirley and I, were seventeen-something apprehensive.  It was a day I wanted to shine as an exemplary past pupil but three sweaty August hours riding in a hot car did nothing for my confidence.  My pals looked svelte and attractive.  We rang the doorbell.  I was already convinced she would take one look at me and say, “I knew you’d turn out like this.”  When she opened the door, we chorused together, once more teamed against “The Force.”  “Good Morning, Miss Burman.”     

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The Silver Gypsy: Random Thoughts

I overheard this in a waiting room recently.  “Watch my purse for me,” said Mom as she proceeded to her appointment.  “Why?” said the son, “Is it going to do something?”  Hmmm. 

TV talk shows often rate the various sayings as the most frequently used, good or bad.  I would nominate, “…take it to the next level.”  This can mean just about anything …going from an expensive car to a more expensive one that’s all electric or it might be in a toothpaste commercial for Wal-Mart.  One gets a rather more steamy idea when the same expression is used on The Bachelor or Bachelorette.  If you’ve never noticed the reference before, I’ll bet you will now. 

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The Silver Gypsy: 60th Reunion!

A letter followed me to Virginia last summer, an invitation to the 60th class reunion of Dowagiac High School’s 1954 graduating class in Michigan.  We missed the 55th reunion because it is a lot of work to put a reunion together and the home town group didn’t want to do it and I can’t blame them.  At any rate, this invitation came with a date of September and with plans already made for the next few months, I was not free to go.  It will be the first one I’ve missed.  We have had them every five years and I’ve driven or flown from far distant points to be there to renew old acquaintances.  It is a disappointment but the invitation brought back lots of memories. 

As September 27th approached, I found my senior year book to reminisce.  I don’t know if class books are still used or whether students still write notes in them on the last days of school.  If they do, I hope they are writing the notes in ink because those are almost the only ones that survived the years.   But then again, I’m sure that none of us were thinking 60 years ahead to whether our silly notes to each other would still be legible.   

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The Silver Gypsy: Interesting Seatmates

People in general are very interesting.  When I flew from Lynchburg, VA to Charlotte, NC, on my way back to Phoenix, I was prepared for an ultra-quiet flight.  These short flights are usually filled with business types who have their noses glued to various sized computers or phones and want no engagement of any kind.  It was a surprise to have a young man about the age of my grandson (17) as my seat companion. 

He asked, “Have you ridden on one of these small planes before.”
“Yes, many times.  And you?”
“No, it’s my first time.”
“I call them butterflies.  It will be an adventure.”
“My name is Ronald.  I didn’t catch yours,” he said with an engaging smile.
“My name is ‘Charlie.”

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The Silver Gypsy: A National Treasure

This is a story that I wrote.  It was published in 1996.  As you head to the warm country for the winter, stop by this national treasure.  You won’t be disappointed.

Some say it is indescribable.  Others call it magnificent.  To many it is awesome.  Still others describe it as Mother Nature’s theater-in-the-round.  It is Crater Lake National Park, Oregon’s only national park, established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1902. 

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The Silver Gypsy: Ants and Bunnies!

Now we are back to "real" time and I have been home about a month.  I love being back but it always feels like I am being punished for going away.  The trees and plants were overgrown and the ants had been working overtime.  I finally realized it was wise to just let the ants do their thing.  They bring up the most wonderful dirt when they make their big cones.  I just rake it around.  It is much easier to work with than the hard desert dirt.  I  have a feeling one day that my house will just disappear into a giant ant den.

b2ap3_thumbnail_BLOG-SAGUARO-STORM-003.jpgb2ap3_thumbnail_HOME-STORM-005.jpgThe bunnies love all the trimming.  I usually leave the cut branches piled up for awhile.  I try to remember to not come out of the office (shed) at full speed and scare them off.  One afternoon there were seven of them chomping away at the big green salad.  They also help keep the yard clean by eating the mesquite tree pods.  They take them by one end and chomp them into their mouths, a little like slurping spaghetti.

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The Silver Gypsy: Revisiting the Waltons

Just one of the many perks of visiting my VA kids, is that they have a huge flat-screen TV with the Hallmark Channel and re-runs of some of my favorite TV shows.  When I started writing this blog and checked its history, I realized the Walton’s TV drama ran from 1972 to 1981.  That was 33 years ago!  Well, I almost choked on that one!  As I watched many reruns I hadn’t seen before, I also realized I had choir that night.  Since it was a favorite, I stayed home until the last possible minute, and then avoided the eyes of my choir director as I slid into my seat very close to being late.

b2ap3_thumbnail_ORIG-HAMNER-HOME-2014-046.jpgFriend Sue, my son-in-law’s mother, and I, drove north from Lynchburg, then turned on the narrow country road through the hilly forest to Schuyler, VA, famous for its soapstone industry but even more famous in later years for being the home of Earl Hamner, Jr.  We passed the Hamner family home, now empty of Hamners since it was sold shortly before the last Hamner occupant, Jim-Bob, died in 2004.  

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The Silver Gypsy: Booker T. Washington National Monument

In Virginia recently, I picked up my son-in-law Tom’s mother who doesn’t drive and we went on a half day adventure to the Booker T. Washington National Monument.  Booker T. Washington was born in 1856 on the 207-acre Burroughs tobacco farm on Route #122 near Roanoke and Smith Mountain Lake.  This African American was born in the tiny reconstructed two-story slave cabin you see pictured here.  With no wooden floor or otherwise in the tiny space, he, his mother and brother and sister slept on piles of dirty rags on the bare ground. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_INSIDE-SLAVE-CABIN--3-058.jpgHis mother was the plantation cook but that did not mean regular meals for those children.  It was a catch as catch can existence where food meant snatching a piece of meat, some broth-stretched stew or perhaps some corn filched before the pigs ate it.   The slaves tended a vegetable garden, sometimes providing fresh vegetables to eat.  A “hole in the earthen floor, covered with boards” was for the winter storing of sweet potatoes.  Washington tells, “Sometimes I would come into possession of one or two, which I roasted and thoroughly enjoyed.”  Sometimes his mother would cook a chicken and they would eat it in the middle of the night so that by morning there was no evidence it had been stolen.

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The Silver Gypsy: Lesson “LLLL”

“LLLL” means Learn to Live with Less Luggage.

My flight was late out of Lynchburg, late out of Charlotte International, NC, and late to arrive in Phoenix.  So what’s new? I didn’t want to jostle any friends out of a warm bed at 1 a.m. to pick me up so I found a quiet spot to wait for daylight, perchance to sleep.  It was right across from the “lost luggage” office.

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