Monday, August 8, 2011


Dorothy filled the waiting cake pans then placed them in the preheated oven. She noted the time on the small clock built into the top of the stove and made a mental note on when the cake would be ready to be tested for doneness. She laid a slender wood cake tester on the counter in readiness for the testing. Glancing at the clock again, she realized that her two oldest girls should be arriving home from school any minute.

Right on time, Megan, eight and Colleen, almost seven, came bursting through the kitchen door. It was time for more mayhem in the house as the
two oldest girls brought with them their schoolbooks, jackets and inevitable
squabbling with the three youngest kids currently watching Howdy Dowdy
on the living room television.

Colleen lifted her nose in the air and sniffed hungrily. “Something
smells good.” Colleen was always hungry. Dorothy wasn’t sure how she
stayed so skinny with the amount of food she could pack away.

Dorothy smiled at the girls.  “What you are smelling is the cake I am
making for Jesus for his birthday. You can have some cookies from the
cookie jar and a glass of milk.”

By some sort of radar, the other three came trooping in from the living
room. “Cookies?” asked Sean, four. Sara, five was already pouring milk
and Patrick, two was attempting to climb onto a kitchen chair.

Dorothy just shook her head. There went another gallon of milk.

“Okay, everybody sit down. Megan, get some more glasses please.”

Megan, as the oldest was often asked to be mom’s helper, a role she
was not that fond of. Megan made a face but did get the glasses down and
all the children sat at the porcelain topped large table with the green painted
“Who would like to help me frost the birthday cake later?” Megan
and Colleen said they had homework and the boys looked horrified at doing
kitchen work. Shy Sara raised her hand. “I’ll do it mommy.”
“Thank you Sara. You get to lick the frosting bowl.”

A silence fell on the cookie munching kids. She hadn’t said the helper
would get to lick the bowl. That was considered a special treat and now
Sara was going to get to do it. Megan reconsidered but remembering the
argument she had had with Pete Monroe, decided she would rather go up to the room she shared with Colleen and think about ways to get him. She left the kitchen and half a cookie.

Dorothy raised her eyebrows at the cookie half and Colleen grabbed
it. Colleen said to her mother, “Megan’s mad.”

“What’s she mad about?”

“She got mad at Pete Monroe and wants to do something to him.”

Dorothy was a little alarmed at this as Megan had the Irish temper of
her father’s family. Checking the clock on the oven, she decided that she
had time to go upstairs and find out what was bothering Megan.

She found Megan sitting on her bed staring into space. She
considered asking what was wrong then decided the direct approach was
best. “Megan, did you have a fight with Pete Monroe?”

“He says there isn’t any Santa Claus. I told him I knew he existed,
that I had seen him. I tried to tell him that he just needed to believe. He just
laughed and said I was wrong and acting like a little kid. He laughed at me.”

Megan was starting to tear up then clenched her fist and hit the bed.

“I’ll get him.”

Dorothy hugged her daughter. “No, no you won’t get him. A lot of
people don’t believe in Santa Claus. He is the spirit of Christmas. You
don’t have to believe in Santa Claus to believe in the spirit of Christmas.
And remember the important thing, what Christmas is, the birth of Jesus.

That’s why I’m making a birthday cake for him for Christmas dinner. It’shis birthday.”

“I know Mom.” Megan was silent for a while. “But I did see him.”

“I know you did honey.”

“I’ll come help you with the cake.”

“That’s okay. You just do your homework. Sara will help me.”

“We really don’t have to do any homework until the night before the
end of Christmas break. I just didn’t want to do the cake.”

“I know. Why don’t you read a book. I have to get down and take the cake out of the oven.” Dorothy knew that reading a book would always be the top pick for Megan.

After dinner, which was the usual noisy time, the family went to
Christmas Eve mass. By the time the kids were in bed, probably not
sleeping right away due to the Christmas excitement, the exhausted parents had some time for themselves.

Colin was putting together a bike for Sean. The other bikes in the
family were girl bikes and Sean had begged for a boy bike. The red wagon
for Patrick also needed to have the handle put on. Margaret started putting
other presents, dolls, building blocks, a doll house and a few other toys
under the tree in the living room. With five children, they couldn’t afford a
ton of presents, but each child got one big present plus some smaller ones.

Margaret laid out the stockings which would be filled with smaller
goodies and an orange. Colin snorted, “Should we put a lump of coal in the
toe of each one for all the bad things they did during the year.”

Margaret laughed. “They probably wouldn’t know what coal is or
what it meant.”

Colin reached out and gave his wife a hug, then grabbed a cookie
from the plate on a table next to the fireplace. “Thanks for the cookies you
left for Santa.”

Dorothy thoughtfully looked at the plate the kids had left for Santa.
“Colin we need to tell Megan there is no Santa Claus.”


“Because she is eight years old and other kids are teasing her at
school. That story you told her about the neighbor’s Santa convinced her
there really is a Santa Claus.”

Colin laughed. “Well, I had to come up with something in a hurry.”
Megan had been five years old when she had seen a Santa Claus get out of a car and walk across the street into the neighbor’s house. Colin had told her that as it was raining, Santa had to come to the area in a taxi. Megan
absolutely believed him and had thought she had seen the true Santa. That
was the reason her faith in Santa was unshakeable.

“Colin, you made her believe in Santa. You have to tell her.”


“Yes, you! Tell her he is the spirit of Christmas. That he was a Saint
centuries ago but he is now just something people tell little kids. That’s it is
about magic and fun.”

“You think she’ll buy it?”

Dorothy sighed. “I’m afraid she is going to be upset and feel we lied
to her. But we have to tell her. She is too old to believe in Santa.”

Colin glumly nodded, not looking forward to the conversation with

On Christmas morning, Dorothy and Colin woke Megan up before the
other children. “Shush. Come downstairs. We need to talk to you about

Megan rubbed at her eyes and wondered what her parents wanted.
She got more excited. Were they going to give her something special as the oldest? She put on the slippers Mom handed her and silently left the room. When they were downstairs, they didn’t go into the living room, but into the kitchen. What was going on?

Colin and Dorothy sat down at the kitchen table. Colin poured
himself a cup of coffee from the percolator and cleared his throat. “Uh,
hum, um, Megan sit down. Would you like a cookie? Glass of milk?”

Dorothy gave Colin a long look. “Colin. Get on with it. The other
kids will be awake any minute.”

Megan looked at each of her parents in turn. They both looked
serious. What was wrong? She was starting to get scared.

Colin cleared his throat again. “Uh, hum, um, Megan we wanted to
talk to you about Santa Claus.”

“Did he like the cookies we left out? Did he eat them?”

“Uh, yeah he did.”

“Colin!” interjected Dorothy.

“Okay, okay. Megan, there is no Santa Claus. He is just something
that we tell little kids to make Christmas magical and fun for them.”

Megan felt cold all over. She was stunned. What was he talking about?

“But I saw him!”

“No sweetheart you saw a man in a Santa Claus suit going to a party
at the neighbor’s. I told you it was Santa to keep up the fun for you.”

Megan felt confused. Then she felt betrayed. Then she felt mad.
Really mad. “So all you parents lie to all little kids?”

Dorothy put her arm around Megan. “I wouldn’t exactly call it lying
honey. Santa is the spirit of Christmas. Parents tell their kids about Santa
because he is magic and fun. You are a big girl now and now you know the
truth. Just don’t spoil it for the little kids, okay?”

Megan sat in stony silence. Dorothy asked again, “Okay?”

Megan eventually nodded even though she didn’t agree. She had
thought it was hard being the oldest before. But this! She had been so sure
that Santa was real! And thinking about Pete Monroe made her cringe
inside. No wonder he laughed at her. This felt horrible. She felt that she
had lost someone and something special. So she was a big girl. Big deal!
She still liked magic. She still liked fun. Lots of fun.

Her parents went up the stairs to wake the rest of the kids. The little
kids. The happy little kids who still believed in Santa Claus. The little kids
who were being lied to. Hu! She wondered when they were going to tell
them. Why shouldn’t they feel like this too? Well, maybe not the real little
kids, but what about her sister Colleen? Colleen went to school too. Why
should she still have magic and fun? Why indeed.

Megan gave an evil little laugh and went upstairs to wake her sister
and to tell her what her parents had told her about there being no Santa
Claus. Her parents didn’t want her to share the news but why not? Wasn’t it
time for Colleen to become a big girl too? If she couldn’t have Santa
anymore, neither would Colleen.

Lee Forse

Thursday, August 4, 2011


She had better hurry. John would be back any minute and she had
putt the wood into the stove to heat it only about 20 minutes ago. She had the biscuit mix already made but she had to brown the chicken pieces. They would have some vegetables from the garden to go with everything. Betsy wiped her brow off with her apron. She loved her stove but it sure heated up the room. No, that was not quite right. She didn’t just love her stove. She adored her stove and polished it every day. John had spent a fortune for it and it had come on the schooner from Detroit just last month after waiting for six months. It made Betsy feel that 1835 on the Maumee was getting more civilized.

 She smiled to remember John’s glowing description of the Maumee he gave her when he got back in 1814 from the war. He had been stationed at Fort Meigs and thought the river was beautiful. They had gotten married in Buffalo, New York in 1820 and it had taken him until 1830 and the chance to buy land to talk her into coming on the boat from Cleveland. What John hadn’t told her was about the forests, the Indians, the wolves, and the ague. Every spring just about everybody got sick when they first came here. Sweats, shakes and fevers. That first year it hit her so bad she got it every evening for two months. Eventually she had some resistance.

Betsy frowned at the wood box. Those boys were supposed to have filled it up this morning. They were off again, probably messing around in the old Fort ruins. She wished they would stay away from there. Not only were there a lot of  sharp objects in the earth but what would happen if they found an unexploded ball from the war? And besides, there were a lot of soldiers buried in that area. It really was a cemetery. She signed. Boys would be boys, and at 14 and 15 years of age, they were going everywhere and seeing everything. She had tried to teach them their letters and numbers and was very glad last year to turn over the rest of their education to the new school-teacher.

Perrysburg and Maumee had gone in together to hire this fellow, Mr. Bingham. This was going to be his second year of teaching and at least he hadn’t kicked out John Jr. and Frederick. They were always pulling pranks and Mr. Bingham had talked to Betsy and John about the boys at the end of last year. He had warned that if they continued, they would be out of his schoolroom. When John and Betsy had talked sternly to the boys they had sworn they would reform.

Betsy was about to go out the door of the cabin to the well with her pan to get water where there was a furious pounding on the door. Betsy was so startled she dropped the pan.  “Who is it?” she asked in a frightened voice.

“WHERE IS MY BELL!” The voice was male and furious.

Betsy opened the door to see Mr. Bingham, his suit rumpled, his rust
colored hair standing on end and his face a startling puce color. At least that is what she would think puce was like, kind of a cross between purple and reddish brown.


“Mr Bingham. What in the world are you talking about?”


Betsy gasped. “Your bell in missing?” She knew that Mr. Bingham had
been waiting for a school bell for the same length of time she had been waiting for her stove. He felt about his bell the same way she felt about her stove.

“Mrs. Sprocket. I implore you to get my bell back.” His voice broke and Mr. Bingham collapsed into a dining room chair, placed his elbows on the table and buried his face into his hands.

 Betsy was appalled and patted him repeatedly on the back.

 From the end of the lane where the Jones cabin was located there was a sound of laughing young coming down the lane toward them.

“Ha, ha, ha, what do you think he’s going to say?”

“Do you think he’ll even notice? Ta, ha, ha, ha”

“He was so proud of that bell. Just like my ma and her stove! Oh, oh, he,
he, he.”

The boys, hers and Grover Jones came tumbling into the cabin.

 The silence, while she and the boys stared at each other was profound. Their gaze darted to Mr. Bingham then to Betsy, then to Mr. Bingham.

Mr. Bingham opened his mouth to shout at the boys and Betsy held up her hand to stop him. Betsy glared at the boys.

“Go put the bell back now!

“Aw ma, we were just joking around. He was so proud of that bell.”

“He should be proud of that bell. It means education to this community and the ability to call all the students in the area to school. If Mr. Bingham agrees, you will be punished all this year by being the ones to ring that bell every morning.” She looked at Mr. Bingham who nodded agreement.”

“Aw ma, that means getting up earlier than everyone else.”

“That’s right. It is either that or I tell your fathers and they will give you alot harder punishment with their good right arms.”

John came in the door, looked at his sons with a stern look and said “what have they done now?”

“Mom, Mr. Bingham, we would be proud to ring that bell every day.”

“Sure will!”

John looked suspiciously at his wife.

“John, isn’t it wonderful. Your sons will be ringing the school bell all this year.

By: Lee Forse

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


We all sat down on the creaking wooden benches in the designated left front seats and looked around the small narrow church with the white adobe walls, wooden ceiling beams and the tan, white and black large stylized designs lining the walls. The St. Joseph Mission church was completed by the Franciscan Fathers in 1699. It is a preserved and active Catholic church, in a small historic village on the Laguna Pueblo, one of the
19 Pueblo tribes.
     The areas designated for each of the Pueblo tribes are called Pueblos rather than reservations and the Laguna Pueblo with an enrolled membership of 7,700 people is the largest. About half of the membership lives in the six villages on the 777 square mile reservation .
     The Spanish came in the 1500s up from Mexico and brought to the area of New Mexico a religion and style of art which has been incorporated into the spiritual beliefs, songs and dances of the Native American people. The paintings on the altar of St. Joseph remain as originally painted in 1699 and they have a Spanish flavor with bold colors and stylized and floral designs. The central painting is of St. Joseph holding the baby Jesus, both wearing crowns. Above that is a painting of the Trinity as three young men. Surrounding columns are painted red and black spirals.
   The Native American Cultural Tour group arranged for all eighteen of us to attend the mass. As many of us were not catholic, we were told we could remain seated when the congregation was kneeling. We were interested in the architecture and art work and noticed the three men to the right side of the altar, two of whom were holding skin covered drums and one with a guitar. After the mostly Native American congregation filed into the church, the service started with the drums: THUMP, thump, THUMP, thump, THUMP, thump, THUMP, thump, THUMP, thump and the singer started singing in the Keresan language of the pueblo in a high nasal voice.
     All the responses made by the Native American congregation during the mass were in English but done in the chanting style set by the drums with the melody played by the guitar. During the priest’s message, he welcomed our group and explained the paintings on the altar and other items
in the historic church.
     When the congregation stood the wood benches shifted somewhat on the packed earth floor. We were told later that twice a year they pound straw into the floor to keep the floor solid.
     After the main part of the service was over the dancers came out to the accompaniment of the drummers and singer. There were two young men and two young girls. All their regalia is traditional and hand done. The
     The girls were butterfly dancers with wings on their backs and antenna on their heads. The men were eagle dancers with large rigid wings adorned with feathers and with a white wool headdress with eyes and a beak. The butterflies follow the eagle dancers who perform ceremonial movements which dramatize the relationships among the spiritual powers, the eagle and man. The eagles soared, swooped, folded their wings and soared again. Chants with drum word prayers are delivered to the spirits who dwell in the spirit world and the heavens, asking for wellness, for rain and long life. All their steps are to the same rigid beat with their feet landing at the same time as the heavier beat. Bells around the knees and ankles of the dancers sound with each step. The song continued for an extended period of time.
     Dancing for the Native American people is a type of prayer and this day they were especially praying for rain for their drought stricken state of New Mexico. During the dancing the congregation also keeps the beat and prays. We noticed Sister Rosita, one of the tour guides and a 76 year old nun who was a Pueblo Indian, stomping her feet to the beat. She had danced for our group the night before. Part of her regalia was a dark fringe put over
     The atmosphere in the church was extremely spiritual and expressive of a deep faith. We all felt very blessed that they had shared their service with us.
Lee Forse

Thirsty Horse By: Bob McAfee

Chapter 5- Our Lives Are Shaped by What We Love

It has been three days since the twines have been born. The preparation for the Religious Rites of Dedications for the twines is in the final phase. With the two water basins, each containing three gallons of water are filled with warm water. Two special tables are set up and upon the two tables are laid out the following items: two finely decorated miniature loin clothes made of finely woven white cloth, two little under shirts made from the same material. The next items that are to follow are two outer garments made of small animal skin fashioned together with very fine and thinly cut leather fashioned from squirrel pelt. The next two items laid out are two pairs of moccasins which are overlaid with color beads and painted porcupine quills inner laced together to indicate whether this child is to be identified as a male or female. The last two items that is to be placed upon the children are the headbands made of fine buckskin, simple in design but are of equal importance in the symbolism.
                The time has come for the trumpet to be sounded. Morgan, the oldest of the elders of the people walks up the grassy mound at the center of the camp. He gracefully, dutifully, and with great pride lifts’ a ram’s horn to his lips. A long, deep, trumpet sound comes from the Ram’s Horn, followed by four shorter blasts which than is followed by another long blast. The trumpet sound reverberates throughout the forest.
                All the people, save John, Wanda, both of their parents, as well as the twines make their way to the foot of the grassy knob. Not one person believes that he or she is to neither take the most prominent place nor do anyone feels to be less than another is. Each person and family enters in. If by families, the elder of that family takes the lead. When there are young children in the family, they follow directly behind the elders with their parents behind them, just to make sure the children remain quiet by entertaining themselves with their toys.
                All six Ancient Ones rise to their feet when John and Wanda, caring the twines, enters into the Great Circle through the wide opening provided by the honor guards. Mid way up to the Holy Knob, John and Wanda handover the twines to their mothers to carry them up to the foot of the Holy Knob. It is there that the fathers receive the infants, to carry them up to the top of the Holy Knob and offer the babies to the Ancients Ones.   All of this symbolizes the unity of the families and their dedication to the rising of the children.
                Todd and Randle receive the twines from the grandfathers and lifting them high into the air. In their left hand the babies’ heads and shoulders are supported, and in their right hands tier backs and buttocks are supported. The Ancient Ones look upward into the sky and speaking in unison, as if of a single voice, say “Oh Great and Mighty Father, we thank you for such a great gift. You have given to us, and the gift that is found within these, your young children.”
                Todd and Randle slowly lowers the infants and turn them so that they could look directly into their faces, they once again speak, saying “you are the reason for our lives. Our lives, which are shaped in the way that they are. Because of our deep love for you, we vow to look after you. Thank you for coming.”
                Everyone looks astonished b these last words but each person writes down these words mentally “Thank you for coming,” as if to say babies do have a choice of becoming a part of the human race.
                Walking behind the tables, the two Ancient Ones take their place and gently lay the babies down on the blanket-covered tables. They then proceed to remove the infants’ garments. Speaking in gentle musical tones they begin to pronounce the words of dedication.
                “My child,” they begin as they start to lower the infants into the warm basins of water, saying “we wash you, to cleanse you from the struggle you had at your birth.
                The than lift the babies out of the water and as they start to dry them the Ancient Ones whisper “and we will always be here to dry your eyes in your distress and sorrow.”
                After placing the children onto the table with their heads pointing outward toward the people, they proclaim the following “let this loincloth protect you, shield you from spying eyes and groping hands, “they then place the loin clothes onto the babies. Lifting the undershirts up they say in unison “let this undergarment be your protection from a broken heart, and girdle against withering attacks against your spirit and soul,” with these words spoken, the undershirts are slipped on.         
                Todd and Randle than lift up the outer garment and pronounce “with this blouse, may your whole being be protected from the ravages of life,” upon which the blouses are gentle pulled down onto the children. Lifting the moccasins the declaration is made “let this footwear keep your feet pm the straight path, to walk to those who know the way of a good life and to protect your feet from harm and hurt,” they are than placed onto the infants’ feet.
                Finally the headbands are placed on the head and tied with the following words, “let this headdress be a protection for your mind and a helmet of salvation. When it is time to become a member of the greater family here on earth and above may this headdress remind you from where you have come, you have come from the Great Father. Amen.”
                As the dedication come close to its conclusion Todd and Randle steps aside and the Elder Guy and Elder Morgan, the one with the Ram’s Horn, ascends to the top of the Holy Knob. With gentleness the two men lifts the infants up, cradling them in their strong arms, they look out over the great congregation with broad smiles. They then look up into the heavens. Elder Guy, speaking in a strong, firm voice he says “thank you Lord for these children and helps us to raise them for your purpose and your delight.” Looking out unto the people he declares to all “I charge you with this undertaking, to help raise these children as your own.”  Than to the parents and grandparents Elder Morgan commands “let these children be corrected when correction is needed, and pampered when pampering is to be done. Do not over look their needs, nor forget that they are of you and yours. These are your brothers and sisters,” Elder Morgan continues, as he looks out over the people, “they will be help guidance for you when it is needed. We will do our part to help you all the way. May the Great Father bless us all. Amen.”
                Elder Guy introduces the babies to the great congregation, “let me introduce to you Joshua Randle and Anna Marie.”
                John and Wanda retrieve their children from Elder Guy, and Elder Morgan, retrace their steps down the Holy Knob to be met by both families and the congregation.            
                There is much to think upon, there is much to talk about. There will be many a long nights ahead and more than enough time to enjoy the children as they grow and mature ever learning but always but always striving to be the best that they could be.
The End