Where’s Your Happy Place?

Believe it or not, even though I live in Sheridan, Wyoming, my happy place is a beach in Jupiter, Florida, where my brother and I often go when I visit him. I sometimes swim but am mostly content to walk alongside the ocean and feel cool waves wash over my feet, cleansing them of the tension from which I’m retreating. I also enjoy sitting in a lawn chair with a picnic lunch or lying on a blanket. Once when I got sick during my visit, my brother and his family encouraged me to accompany them to the beach. I went, against my better judgement, and to my surprise, the ocean breeze and the roar of the waves plus the occasional cry of seagulls made me feel better.

I recently red an article entitled “5 Ways to Re-Start a Bad Day.” One suggestion given here is to think of your happy place. This could be a place where you went as a child with happy memories associated with it. It could be a place where you’ve never been but would like to go. It could even be a made-up place. Now that summer is waning and fall is approaching, I want you to think of your happy place and tell me about it.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Our Buddy

The first vehicle I remember from my childhood was a white Mercedes Benz with four doors and a trunk. The interior seats were of a gray and white decorative pattern. Before my younger brother was born, my parents and I took many trips from our home in Tucson, Arizona.

We called the car Buddy. After my younger brother was born, when he was old enough, Dad started calling him Buddy, and I was confused. My brother’s given name was Andy, so why was Dad calling him Buddy? I was too young to understand that “buddy” was also a term of endearment.

Three years after my younger brother was born, after a second car was purchased, Buddy took Dad and me all the way from Tucson to Sheridan, Wyoming. The year was 1971, and I was ten years old. Dad would have gone on his own, but on the night he planned to leave, while we were eating supper, he asked if I wanted to come, and I said yes, since I was always up for an adventure.

We left that night. Because it was close to my bedtime, I camped out in Buddy’s back seat while Dad drove for a few hours. When we stopped, he unrolled a sleeping bag on the ground near the car. We were still in Arizona.

The next day, we drove through the Navajo Reservation and into Colorado, stopping at Four Corners, where Dad said we lost an hour. That night, we ended up in Durango, and I remember thinking it strange that it was still light at eight o’clock in the evening. That night, we visited several bars. Years later, this experience inspired a poem from my collection, How to Build A Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.

The next day, we stopped at Mesa Verde, then spent the night with friends in Beulah, and the following evening, Dad left me in Denver with my maternal grandmother while he drove the rest of the way to Sheridan.

I stayed with Grammy and Granddad Hinkley in Denver for several weeks. During that time, Dad and his mother, Grandma Johnson, went to Las Vegas and back to Denver, where they picked me up. We drove to Sheridan in Grandma’s Cadillac because Buddy quit working after Dad reached Sheridan the first time.

We’d come here because Grandpa Johnson died in the fall of the previous year, and Grandma needed help with the family’s coin-operated machine business. During the weeks I spent in Sheridan, Buddy sat neglected in front of Grandma’s house. Dad was too busy running the business and keeping me entertained to worry about fixing the car. When we drove anywhere, we either used Grandma’s car or one of the company vehicles. When it was time for me to start school, Dad drove me to Denver, again in Grandma’s Cadillac, and I boarded a plane for Tucson. I wondered if I would ever see Buddy again.

In October of that year, Buddy somehow managed to get Dad home safe and sound. Two years later, we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could run the business full time. We had two cars: Buddy and the other Mercedes Benz we called 220S Baby. We rented a U-Haul truck to carry our earthly possessions. Dad drove the U-Haul, towing Buddy, while Mother drove 220S Baby.

After we settled in Sheridan, Buddy eventually retired and was relegated to a space in our driveway behind the garage. When Andy became a teen-ager, Mother wanted him to fix up and use the old car, but Andy wasn’t interested, and Dad didn’t like the idea for some reason. She eventually gave Andy her old Fiat when she bought a new Subaru. There were other cars, a gray Buick station wagon, a number of pick-up trucks and a van that were used mostly for the coin-operated machine business, a Plymouth Reliant station wagon, a Mitsubishi, and a red Subaru station wagon that Andy inherited after Dad passed away and gave to his son as a graduation present. For a couple of years when my husband was alive and partially paralyzed by two strokes, I owned a red wheelchair-accessible van. However, our Buddy, a reliable car for years, will always be foremost in my memory.

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How about you? I’d love to hear about the first car you remember when you were growing up. What color and brand was it? What did the interior look like? Do you remember where it came from? Can you think of a specific road trip you took with your family in this car? Please share your thoughts either in the comments field or on your own blog with a pingback here.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Reblog: On Bars and Drinking

Blogger Alice Massa’s post from last week inspired me to write about a trip I took with my father when I was ten years old. What does that have to do with bars and drinking? Well, read on, and you’ll find out.

This re-blogged post from several years ago includes, among other things, a poem from my collection, How to build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver, that details a stop we made, during that journey, in Durango, Colorado. Next week’s post will outline the whole trip. Meanwhile, click here for a recording of me reading the poem. Then click the link below to read the original blog post containing it. Enjoy!

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On Bars and Drinking

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Jim, the Mischievous King

After reading the latest Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I was inspired to write my own canine tale. I doubt Chicken Soup for the Soul will publish any more dog books, since they already have two on the market, so I’ll post my dog story here.

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In the spring of 1977 when I was a freshman in high school, and my younger brother Andy was in fourth grade, our family decided to get a dog. We were living in Sheridan, Wyoming. Before Andy was born, when we lived in Tucson, Arizona, we had a pooch that died as a result of Valley Fever, common in that part of the country. Despite the fact that we had two cats, my parents were now ready for another dog, and Andy and I liked the idea.

Mother found an advertisement in the newspaper announcing Irish setter puppies for sale. She called the woman who placed the ad and arranged for us to visit her and see the puppies.

The little dogs were in a box, and all except one were scratching and whining. The silent pooch sat in a corner, aloof. Mother said, “Oh, let’s see this little guy.”

She lifted him out of the box, and despite my limited vision, I could tell he had the sweetest face. He was red with floppy ears, which I immediately stroked and scratched, and he didn’t seem to mind.

“Let’s take him,” I said. The rest of the family agreed, and a week later, he was ours.

We debated what to call him. Dad, liking all things Irish, suggested Shem, the Irish name for Jim. Andy liked the name Clancy. Mother and I didn’t have a preference. We settled on Shem Shenanigan Clancy Leroy. Leroy was my grandfather’s name, and in Irish, it means king.

When we brought Clancy home, he was full of mischief and ruled his kingdom. When he wasn’t napping, he was running and playing with Andy inside the house and out, chewing on anything he could find, and antagonizing the cats. He eventually came to an understanding with our feline companions. Although they were never friends, they were civil toward one another.

In the summer, Mother enrolled Clancy in an obedience class for puppies. For Clancy, this was play time. At home alone, Mother was able to teach him to come, sit, and stay, but around the other dogs in the class, it was as if she hadn’t even tried to train him.

Andy tried training him with the girl next door, but that didn’t work, either. I suppose we could have hired a trainer like some of the authors in the Chicken Soup book did for their unruly dogs, but in the 1970’s, that wasn’t something to be considered.

Andy hoped that he and Clancy would be like Timmy and Lassie, but Clancy eventually became Dad’s dog, accompanying our father everywhere, even to the shop where he sold and serviced coin-operated machines. Clancy enjoyed riding in the back of Dad’s pick-up or in the station wagon with his head stuck out the window, eating air. This was before seat belt laws were enacted.

If Dad couldn’t take Clancy, he’d say, “not you.” With sad eyes, the dog would watch, as his master strode out the door. In Dad’s absence, Clancy would often follow Mother around, thinking she was responsible for Dad’s disappearance and that if he stayed by her side, she would magically make Dad appear.

Since the high school I attended wasn’t far from our home, Dad and Clancy often walked me there, through a park and up a hill. This was in the days before leash laws became more stringent, and Clancy ran free through the park, playing in a nearby creek while we walked. During the winter months, Dad drove me to school. At the top of the hill, where there wasn’t much traffic, he stopped and opened the rear passenger door, and Clancy jumped out and ran alongside the car the rest of the way.

Like any dog, Clancy enjoyed rolling in fish heads, cow pies, and anything else that stank. Andy tried hosing him off, but naturally, because the water was too cold, Clancy didn’t like that at all. Dad gave him a shower, which was a disaster, with water everywhere in the bathroom and Mother pissed. In those days, there was no such thing as a do-it-yourself dog wash, which is similar to a car wash and mentioned in the Chicken Soup book.

Despite his antics, Clancy was a lovable addition to our family for eleven years. He died suddenly in the summer of 1988, one of the hottest on record. By that time, my parents were separated, and Dad lived in a house halfway across town. I’d just completed a music therapy internship in Fargo, North Dakota, and was staying with Mother in our family home. Andy had graduated from high school two years earlier and was off somewhere for the summer.

One hot night, Dad let Clancy out so he could do his business, and the dog wandered off. He was found dead the next day by the creek near Grandma’s house. Here’s what I think happened.

Since Dad didn’t have air conditioning, Clancy was hot and wanted to get somewhere cooler. In gest, Dad always called him a dummy, but that dog had some smarts. For years, he’d been driven, along with the rest of the family, to Grandma’s house, which was air conditioned. He knew it was cooler, and he knew how to get there.

Unfortunately, Grandma was hard of hearing by that time. Upstairs in her bedroom, perhaps with the television on full blast, she didn’t hear Clancy scratching at either the front or back doors. When he couldn’t get into Grandma’s house, Clancy knew the next coolest place was the creek, so he went there. He no doubt passed as a result of heat stroke.

Dad said Clancy could have lived longer. Several years later after he moved to another house and acquired a second Irish setter, he bought a window air conditioner. That’s another story.

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Why don’t you tell me about a pet you had when you were growing up? If you have a blog, you can post your story there and a link to it in the comment field here. If not, you can just share your memories. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Saturday Song: My Sweet Lord by George Harrison

While living in Tucson, Arizona, Dad and I spent the summer of 1971 with Grandma here in Sheridan, Wyoming, so Dad could help with the family business after Grandpa passed. I was ten years old, and my Uncle Jon was in high school. When he wasn’t at football practice or with friends, he and I spent time together listening to music on his cassette player.

Here’s a George Harrison classic that was on one of his tapes. Although I was too young at the time to understand the song’s meaning, the chord progression, electric kazoo solo, and repeated words and phrases resonated with me, and they still do today. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

 

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Letter to Mother Nature

Abbie-1

Thanks to Alice Massa for inspiring this post.

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Dear Mother Nature,

 

Since the week before Thanksgiving, all we’ve seen, here in Wyoming, is snow, snow, and more snow and bitter, bitter cold. At first, it was great. It got me in the mood to work on seasonal music for my performances and write Christmas letters and holiday blog posts.

Then, it got old fast. This year, thanks to you, Sheridan had a white Christmas, with ten inches of snow dumped on us and plenty of wind. For me and others not traveling out of town, it was okay. For those needing to get home the day after Christmas, it was not so good, as road closures abounded.

The snow and freezing temperatures continued after the holidays with no sign of warmer weather. Two days after the first of the year, as I was flying to Florida, it was so cold the pilot had to rev the engines several times to warm them, and I couldn’t help wondering if the plane would get off the ground.

Of course it did, and Florida provided a welcome respite from your brutality, with plenty of sunshine and 70-degree days most of the time. When I ended up spending the night in Denver on my way home because of a flight delay, I was pleasantly surprised to find no snow on the ground. I hoped you were showing our neck of the woods the same courtesy, but that hope was dashed the next day, as my plane approached Sheridan, and you created a great deal of turbulence. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose my breakfast. Soon after my homecoming, you gave Sheridan another eleven inches of snow.

I don’t know why they call you Mother Nature. You’re definitely not my mother. My mother would never have made it almost impossible for me to walk anywhere by depositing a multitude of snow and ice on the ground and not letting it melt before dropping more. She would never have frozen me to the core with sub-zero temperatures, then mocked me with sunshine that gave the impression it was warmer.

Why couldn’t you have given us the same treatment as Denver, warm winds and sixty-degree temperatures? I know Wyoming isn’t the only state you’re bullying, but places like California are still in drought, yet you ignore them and give the rest of us moisture we no longer need. I’ve just about had it with you.

 

Signed,

Frozen in Wyoming

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

My Home Town

Abbie-1

 

 

My Profile Picture

 

In Sheridan, Wyoming, after forty years, my life has turned full circle. I live at the bottom of a hill, down the street from my former elementary school, now a child development center. The old wooden steps up the hill are still there. When I was in sixth grade, our house was at the top of the hill, and I often used those steps to get to and from school. In winter, I still hear the happy cries of people sledding.

The old brewery, now Whitney Common, features a playground, fountain, plenty of grass, and sidewalks. Only foot traffic is allowed. The senior center and public library are close by and provide parking for those using this area.

Across the street from Whitney Common, a cement walkway and bridge lead to Kendrick Park, the setting for many childhood memories. The swimming pool, band shell, ice cream stand, playground, and elk sanctuary have been modernized. When I was in ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, living only a block away, I walked through the park and climbed an old wooden boardwalk up the hill to get to the high school. The boardwalk has since been replaced by a bike path.
Downtown, Woolworth’s, with its inexpensive clothing, toys, and other items plus soda fountain, has been replaced by several smaller businesses. Dan’s Western Wear is now a thrift store. The palace Café, where I enjoyed milk shakes at the counter after school while listening to the jukebox, is now the Cowboy Café, with no jukebox or milk shakes. Main Street has since been reconstructed, with new sidewalks, lights, and curbs. The bank my family patronized for years is still there, having changed hands many times and become part of an office building with a parking garage.

When my late husband Bill proposed to me over ten years ago, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, and I was living here. At first, I thought he wanted me to leave my home town and move to his, a daunting prospect since I’d lived in Sheridan for years. To my astonishment, he told me he wanted to move here. He was tired of living in Fowler, where there wasn’t much to do. The idea that I wouldn’t have to leave familiar surroundings made marrying him more doable. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds.
What do you remember about the town where you grew up? What has changed over the years? Please share your thoughts in the comments field.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.