Those 70ish girls…Those six Sandersons

By Valerie Leckey Halla, daughter of Ella Sanderson Leckey and husband, Al Leckey

We all love our small hometown…my Mom’s family were all brought up in Murdo, SD. I was partly raised in Pennsylvania but visited our small hometown most summers and loved moving back for 7-8 th grades. Then, boom, my parents moved us to California and I was devastated as a 13 year old to leave, thinking I could never go home to the place I loved and all my aunts, uncles and cousins again. But you can go home again…

I was chatting with my cousin Mark one time on the phone. We were looking back at good times, good people and good stories we had known and experienced. We talked about how my dear Mom was pretty frugal. When I was about 9 years old, she bought a new throw rug for the house. She kept it hidden away in the coat closet and didn’t use it except when some special South Dakota friends were visiting. It was considered an extravagance.

My Mom, Mark’s Aunt Ella and his Dad, my Uncle Jeff, had grown up with six kids in their family in a small log cabin. It was in a beautiful place about 8 miles east of Murdo called Horse Creek. It was a tough life growing up in the early 1900’s and 1920’s on the prairie and money was only used for necessities.

The young Sanderson family, minus Elna who was not born yet. Jeff is faced with his left side facing the camera. He had a black eye from a fall I believe
L: A family friend, sisters Loretta, Ella, and Helen, holding baby Elna

Mark and I kept telling stories. Fast Forward to the 1950’s- my Mom would put this throw rug out only on special occasions. It was not a necessity but it made us look like we could afford to buy a small fluffy foo foo rug. After the visit with old friends was over and dishes were cleared, we stood at the entry saying goodbye to our old friends. Standing there and as a kid I got bored, so I reached down and pulled up the new throw rug and put it back in the coat closet. The friends looked shocked. I had literally pulled the rug out from under them. Like my Mom, I knew the rug was just for special occasions. When company left, the rug was whisked away. My folks told that story for years after and Mark and I chuckled at that old story once again. He even knew where it fit in our wonderful family past. It clicked with him.

Grandma Sanderson, Jeff Sanderson, Grandpa Sanderson, Wayne Sanderson, Ella, Helen, Loretta and Elna

“Yeah, your Mom was really frugal and did some strange things. And our Aunt Elna fit in with our family of characters also. She would go into Mack’s Cafe whistling a tune and just barely step inside looking around. If no one of interest was there, she turned around and left!”

We both chuckled together on the phone still discussing our crazy yet lovable aunts and uncles. I offered another story a friend had told me recently since I lived in California and missed out on a lot of Murdo stories.
I got excited and yelled out, “Oh – and Mark, Cynthia told me about how during tourist season Aunt Elna drove Aunt Loretta uptown to check out the motel situation! It’s so funny. Aunt Loretta filled up her Chalet Motel then parked at Aunt Elna’s house so people didn’t recognize her car and then Loretta rode in Aunt Elna’s car with her. She would see which motels still showed vacancy signs!” I told him the route Cynthia said they took down the highway, up the hill, down Main Street, and they would do the route circling around a few times all this at about 5-10 mph, seeing all the Murdo motels in town and on the two highways several times. He knew all this anyway. “ So Aunt Loretta smoked her cigarettes and they went back and forth at about a snail’s pace, really stretching the ride out, lording it over on the businesses that weren’t filled with tourists chatting away until Aunt Elna drove Aunt Loretta back to the house to pick up her own car!” He laughed. (Ironically, years after this story occurred, Aunt Elna’s son – our cousin – now owns a big impressive motel in town and Mark has a lovely country inn also.)

Our conversation continued. Mark told another good one about his Dad promising to give him his treasured jeep when he, Mark, turned 24, but no, he didn’t. Uncle Jeff didn’t give it to him. There are many jeep stories, but suffice it to say many years later, friends took the old jeep out by the cemetery when Uncle Jeff passed away and the jeep watched as Jeff was buried there. The jeep now lives in the Murdo Auto Museum. If that old vehicle could talk…what a lot of stories it holds.

Valerie and the Jeep at The Pioneer Auto Museum in Murdo
Ella Sanderson Leckey and Grandma Sanderson in CA during the war years. Grandma was hoping to see her son, Jeff before he shipped out.
Valerie and mom, Ella
Valerie and Aunt Elna Sanderson Miller at The 1880s Town near Murdo
Helen Sanderson Haverberg, daughters Sue Ann and Trice, Valerie Leckey and Ella Sanderson Leckey
Elna Sanderson Miller and Irma Bork Sanderson visiting Horse Creek after Sister Loretta Gustafson passed away
Valerie Halla holding Caitlin, Irma Sanderson with Valerie’s son, Morgan, Ken Halla, Jeff Sanderson behind Matthew Halla, Mark Sanderson

Mark and I ended our hours long conversation by joking and bragging that we certainly weren’t as silly and weird like our parents and aunts and uncles! No, we were different, more educated, more modern, and young! We both paused and thinking it over, knew we had also done some weird things, but we felt the joy going back in time, recalling how we laughed at the good times, good people and funny stories. How lucky that we were able to go back home even if just in our memories.

There are more stories about Uncle Wayne and Aunt Helen and our grandparents and cousins, but that’s for another day when we’re back home. Thank Heaven, we can go back again. Back home.

(Yram: I apologize that the pictures aren’t in the correct order. I am working from my Executive trailer.)

Those 70ish Girls…My Lady

I tried to capture every nuance and every minute on display.

The Queen’s God given body was laid to rest, today.

Funerals are for the living. We need time to say goodbye.

Her soul’s at peace in heaven. It is we who need to cry.

We saw the faces of her family and at times we saw their grief.

Her son, the King, filled with emotion, let a tear roll down his cheek

They moved the scepter, orb and crown as all of us watched on.

King Charles III was handed, and with grace took the baton.

I felt a tear run down my cheek though all emotion had been spent.

There is value in things she said and even more in what she meant.

Don’t match evil for evil, nor curse when you are cursed.

Show kindness and you’ll be blessed. It’s promised in a Bible verse.

1 Peter 3:9

God Bless Queen Elizabeth. There’s no need for us to weep.

She knew our Lord and Savior and the promises He will keep…

Those 70ish girls…How is my life different than I thought it would be? How is it the same?

MG’s answer to the question:

The question is supposed to be…Looking back as a child, how is my life different than I thought it would be? How is it the same? I didn’t have room for all of that in the title.

Thinking back, I don’t know if I was different or the same as most kids. I remember imagining myself married to a man who always wore a suit. My husband also wore a hat. He didn’t look like my dad, although Dad often wore a hat. It was one of those brown felt Fedora type hats. The man didn’t look like Dad although I don’t know for sure because I never saw his face. I remember he was taller and leaner than  my dad.

I thought I would be a flight attendant or stewardess as they called them back then. It’s funny I thought that’s what I would grow up to be because the first time I flew, I was eleven and I was sure the airplane would crash and I was going to die. I flew alone because Mom decided to stay in California longer and I had to go back to school. I remember that I paid no attention to the stewardess as she explained how to use the oxygen and the floatation cushion. The thing I feared more than the airplane crashing was to be floating around in the ocean on a seat cushion that doubled as floatie, oxygen or no oxygen.

I don’t think I imagined that I would have children because, (this will sound gross), I was afraid they would get sick and throw up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle that. When I was in the 2nd grade, one of the kids threw up on her desk and I took one look at that and threw up, too. The teacher called Mom and I had to go home, even though after the other girl left with her mother, I felt okay.

Now, as to how my life is the same as I thought it would be…

I have sat here for five minutes and tried to think of something and I can’t recall one thing that I thought back then actually played out the way I imagined it would. I thought if I couldn’t be a stewardess, I would be a gymnast or a singer or dancer. God knows that didn’t happen. Goals have to be achievable. I sure didn’t think I would ever leave Murdo, and I certainly didn’t think I would live in that faraway land known as Texas. I didn’t plan to be a mortgage loan underwriter, and there was no such thing as a blog or even a computer. I could type words pretty fast, but I never could type numbers without looking. I still can’t. It’s a good thing I fell into something else I could do to make a living because I would have starved to death if I had been a secretary.

It’s kind of a scary thought that my life hasn’t turned out one bit like I thought it would. I’m sure my cousin’s answer will be much more to the point. I bet she can type numbers, too.

I just remembered. There is one thing that is the same as I imagined it would be. I always knew I would have a dog. I’ve had seventeen.

I’m number 17

Lav’s response to MG’s story:

This is very good and funny and prophetic! The faraway land called Texas!?! No kids because they vomit!? You’re Too much!!!

You thought you’d be a flight attendant which you very well could’ve! But a gymnast or dancer or singer? Well, maybe in your next life.

So glad you did fulfill that dog owner dream. We need more people like you. 

Lav’s answer to the question…

My current life is much different from what I imagined it would be like as a child. I thought I’d live on a ranch just like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I used to watch their TV show and thought they were the best people ever. They were living the fun free life, yessiree! We would ride around in a jeep – “Whoa Nellybelle!” -and ride horses so we could chase after the bad guys and catch some varmints once in a while. Pat Brady would help us. And naturally Trigger the horse  and our dog, Bullet, were always saving us. We would herd cattle – not DAIRY CATTLE – and take care of the chickens, pigs, and horses to our hearts content.  We would be rich in many ways not just with money but fun times and happiness abounding, out in the fresh air.  Out in the country.  Ahh, what a good life. 

Instead, I went to college in California after the popular surfer time was just peaking in high school then the Beatles and it kept rockin on. I got pretty good grades. Then I graduated from college, did student teaching, and got married and taught high school then taught elementary school in a remote area on the coast near Big Sur.  There’s no time to give my life story here. That would take up another few paragraphs and that’s another story. 

This might seem like a “cop out”, however, I do not think my current life is anything the same as what I as a kid had imagined. Why can’t life just be like a Saturday morning western TV show?  It just didn’t turn out like I had imagined.  

(Please don’t tell Roy Rogers this. It’s our little secret.)

MG’s response to Lav’s story:

Through wind and rain and weather, we 70ish girls stay together. Just keep those milk cows moovin. RAWHIDE!!!

Those 70ish Girls…A tribute to Queen Elizabeth II

I have felt a special affection for my beloved Queen E for many years, and she will always hold a special place in my heart. She was beautiful, kind, and clever. I would like to think that if she had known what a fun addition to my Murdo Girl blogs she had been all this time, it would have tickled her keen sense of humor. The amazing Queen Elizabeth approached everything in her life with immeasurable grace, which is a quality that I greatly admired.

I struggled to write something that would be an adequate tribute to this great lady, but in the end I didn’t have to struggle at all. The right words came to me through my cousin, Valerie Halla, and my friend Yolie Beavers, otherwise known, in my blogosphere, as Lav and Windy.

Tea With Her Majesty, by Valerie Halla

Imagine having tea with Queen Elizabeth II.  It would be formal yet comfortable. I can’t imagine what I would wear but maybe a modest long dress with sensible shoes. I would practice proper etiquette of course. Maybe I could hire a coach knowledgeable in the Royal Requirements before meeting the Queen who has served her country 70 years. Being correct would be utmost. Maybe preparing a set of questions would get me through the tea time. Just polite questions about her love of country, getting through WW II, her family, her work with charities, on and on.  How do I like my tea? With one lump of sugar and a splash of cream, thank you.  A biscuit? Yes, please.

She would look regal, in her informal blouse, sweater, long wool skirt, old lady leather shoes and showing a worldly air and smile. No crown would be necessary.  How happy I would feel and honored in her presence. Serene. Peaceful. How divine. It would be heavenly because it would be in Heaven.  I loved your speeches during the difficult times especially during the worst of the pandemic.  Thank you for all you have done with your gentle manner, soft spoken advice, strong model in life’s tough times and for your guidance.  Oh, and thank you for the tea.

Tea with the Queen

A poem shared with me by Yolie Beavers…

Phillip came to me today

and said it was time to go.

I looked at him and smiled,

as I whispered, “Yes, I know.”

I then turned and looked behind me.

I welcomed a beautiful sleep.

My family was gathered around me.

I could hear them softly weep.

I gently touched each shoulder.

Phillip was by my side.

Then I turned away and walked,

with my waiting angel guide.

Phillip held my hand

as he quietly lead the way

to a world where Kings and Queens,

are monarchs every day.

I was given a crown to wear

or a halo known by some.

The difference being up here,

they are worn by everyone.

I felt a sense of peace.

My reign had seen its end.

70 years I had served my Country,

as the people’s friend.

Thank you for the years

for all your time and love.

Now I am one of two again,

in our palace up above.

Poem borrowed from and written by unknown author

The Queen and her Prince

Those 70ish girls…Give an example of a time when you were brave

MG and Lav have both written an example of their bravery…They have been brave so many times in their lives that it was hard to narrow it down to one example each, but they did their best.

MG

I suppose there is a fine line that separates bravery from stupidity. I know a few friends of mine sometimes wonder which side of the line my activities fall on. I try not to think about it. I just forge ahead.

Kip and I were driving somewhere a few short months ago and we saw a big RV driving in the lane beside us. We could see the driver and his wife. They looked totally relaxed and were smiling ear to ear. They were on their way to see some friends they hadn’t seen in years. The driver was the best man at his friend’s wedding twenty years before. The couple planned to go to one of the state parks and maybe Yellowstone on the way. They could go wherever the winds blew them.

How do I know all this, you ask? I don’t, but I know how we feel when we’re rolling down the highway. When Kip saw the big RV, he made the comment that he wished we were on a trip. I said if I had my way, we would sell our house and be full time RVers. Kip waited a New York second before saying, “Let’s do it!”

We listed our house and began to go through all of our “stuff.” Where in the world did all the “stuff” come from? Our garage became packed full of “stuff,” and we’re talking about a garage that holds 2 cars and a 39 ft motor home, not to mention one of every tool made for man plus one riding lawn mower and 2 walk behinds. Of course I did have a few small collectibles in my cottage.

Anyway, it’s all been pretty overwhelming. I’m expecting a lengthy note of gratitude from our kids thanking us for taking care of the “stuff” and remembering that you can’t take “stuff” with you.

To make a long story longer, I’ll just finish this by saying these two BRAVE souls are hitting the road next week. We’ll wave to all of those less brave folks we pass on the highway. We’ll probably see them again one day at Yellowstone National Park.

Before the garage sale…
After the sale…YAAAAY

Lav

There definitely is a fine line or maybe a fat line that separates bravery from stupidity. One thing means a brave deed or action has been done and the other means a dumb deed or action has happened. People react to both these differently. And as I thought about this assignment my cousin had given us, I came up with brave things other people and even a dog had accomplished.  

My husband was brave beyond words in 1975 when we lived in a remote area south of Big Sur, California. We were at a deserted beach swimming after teaching that day. Incorrectly assuming this beach was like beautiful serene Southern California beaches were, we swam out in the Pacific and immediately realized we were caught in undertow – the current was dragging us farther and farther out. I tried to swim to shore, which you’re never supposed to do , and soon was exhausted and ready to go under,  swallowing more and more salt water. Ken swam parallel to shore and got in where he was safe and at the edge of the water. He looked at me flailing now about 12 feet away and swam back out grabbing me and soon with barely a toehold in the sand, pushed himself off, he pulled me along swimming strongly without thinking of himself.  Simply put, I owed him my life. That was love.

Another act of bravery I experienced was also near Big Sur. A loverly Yellow Labrador we were watching for a friend for six months was out in the yard at our cabin we rented. This cabin was 30 minutes up a dirt road and had no electricity nor phone. 

We heard the eeriest sound of a growling kind of catlike screaming and looked out our window to see Nyra, the Lab, chasing a huge mountain lion out of our yard. She had no fear and even though much smaller, she bravely bared her teeth and ran after the big cat. That was love. 

I have done many stupid things but maybe I have been  brave, too. Just living in a remote area in the mountains of California might count. No, on second thought, I don’t think I crossed the thin or fat line … yet. 

I will add a picture of the remote cabin where we lived…

The Cottage
Another picture of the cottage
Inside the cottage…(Ken and Valerie brought the table you see from our Sanderson grandparent’s cabin near Nemo, South Dakota.)

Those 70ish girls…Pt 2, Going to the dogs

Cuz Lav wrote a great and very true story…Happy Labor Day!!!

Going to the dogs…if they let me…
I had been on the volunteer job at the dog shelter for a few months, and luckily they didn’t can me after almost losing the first dog I walked, Snowball.  I thought things were going doggone well, when I chose a chunk of a dog to walk one day. I picked out pit bull mix, Katie, she was squat, thick like brick and reminded me of a mini tank. These dogs have gotten a bad rap. I love pit bulls that people haven’t messed up. She had an adorable toothy smile. She took me on a walk of a lifetime. It was like walking a mini granite building with legs. The entire walk, I was praying I could keep up with her. She was strong, weight lifter strong. She loved getting out and about in the beautiful area around the SPCA grounds. I’m not sure who was puffing more, her or me. Her tongue hanging out with a fun waddle of her backside, tail wagging all the way made me happy and her squared off face with beautiful eyes was a delight . It was a solid workout, from which I hoped to recover.  Katie was in charge of me. I even thought I could hear her say, “Heel!” to me. My shoulder and arm had no feeling when we got back to the adoption floor, but the thrill of pretending to walk this great dog made up for it all. It was an honor to be with this marvelous animal. I had survived  Katie taking me out on a walk. I was puffing but happy.  Dogs are better than a lot of humans. They like you for who you are, failures or successful people alike, no matter who you are. It made me feel good. Katie had shown me who was in charge, but she didn’t rub it in.

Another time I volunteered, -(the administration was still letting me come in) – I managed to get into a kennel with a larger dog and my leash.These were separate from the dog condos.  It was always tricky getting the slip leash around a dog’s neck and not allowing them to get out before I was ready. I was trying a new method:  go into the kennel with the dog after reading all the important info posted on the door. Maybe give the dog a few treats, say their name and talk calmly as you assess the situation. I was thinking how good I was at this. Bet they were happy to have me here volunteering, even at my age I was an expert, a real asset to the dog community. Maybe I would get a certificate or special pin or a cupcake treat.

As I got the leash on the large Labrador Husky mix, I reached for the door latch to go out on our walk. The metal latch that drops down was engaged as was this little extra twirly thing that assures no dog can get out. It also made sure I didn’t get out. Doggone it! I saw someone nearby in the official SPCA shirt, and asked to be let out. She looked at me like, “How did you let that happen?” The employee told me how to just reach under the twirly thing on the door latch and then as you push it out you can flip the latch up.  You’re not stuck inside, but you are if you didn’t  listen when the trainers taught you the ropes during the on site tour. I thanked her and went on another dog walk.  The Lab/Husky mix didn’t seem to blame me, he was just glad to get out of there and be on a walk in the open air and sunshine.  That’s another great thing about dogs. They don’t hold grudges nor make you feel dumb.  You can do that yourself.

I enjoyed all my time walking dogs, washing dishes, seeing and greeting customers who are looking for a life long friend, the perfect dog for them. So after a couple years, I asked about the back shelters and getting trained to help in the large buildings there where dogs who are not ready to be adopted or have had surgery are kept.  Was I ready to move up? Could I emotionally handle seeing dogs with problems or health issues? I wasn’t sure. Maybe my cousin was right. The SPCA will eventually charge me to volunteer there!
Hmm. That’s another story.

You set a beautiful example, Valerie Halla. No matter what your challenges are (0:

5 Star Volunteer

We just couldn’t include the really sad pictures, but believe me, there are many…Please give what you can to your local SPCA or Humane Society…Or take a special friend home!

Those 70ish girls…I’m a volunteer!

Going to the Dogs…BY LAV, Illustrations by MG
After I retired, it seemed like a good idea to give back to my community and to the world.  I had the time now to volunteer helping animals who needed homes. This would be rewarding. I could handle this. It would be fun.

I told her, “Don’t go from the community to the world. Start with around the block”

My retired friends volunteered at schools, public libraries and food banks. I love animals so I decided to volunteer at the SPCA. It took me a while to get up the nerve and to find the time. Finally, I went online and applied to our local SPCA, paid the fee for getting fingerprinted and went in for my interview. The young gal who asked me a few questions was easy to talk with and it turned out, she lived 8 miles from where I did. She hired me on the spot and I got the feeling, it was because I was nice and I was a warm body.

She PAID to get fingerprinted? The Police don’t charge do they Billy?


So I passed with flying colors but had to take a 4 hour class and be trained on the site. After all that,  I got my official badge, T-shirt and sign in number. I started walking dogs that were up for adoption and helping customers who came to see the dogs, safe dogs who had been screened.

I’m a safe dog in a scary world…

The first dog that I walked, Snowball, was it turned out, much smaller but much smarter than me.  I got the slip collar leash on him and we headed out of the yard through the gate. He stopped as I went forward and he just backed out of that collar like one slick and cool snowball sliding away into the distance, away he ran. “Help, help, I lost my dog!” I yelled, running to get help from the main office.  An employee ran out with me to help (not all workers are volunteers) and she was quite serious and quite professional as she and soon another employee headed Snowball off by the gate, where he obediently stood waiting to get back on the main grounds where the kennels are located.

We’re Arf and Annie… Heeere Snowball

“Ma’am, we don’t yell ‘Help’. Just say ‘loose dog’ or call this number on your cell,” the kind worker informed me, giving me the number to put into my phone contacts. Snowball was now leashed up again, and heading to his little home kennel, which were called “condos “.  They’re nice clean little rooms with all glass doors and viewing windows on one side for dogs to live in just like at your house until they find their forever home. Snowball had rolled back home and didn’t want to have a thing to do with me. He looked at me. He was wagging his tail as if to say, “So there, you volunteer newby. You couldn’t keep me on a leash. I am too slick! Ha!”

Snowball is a loose dog..tsk, tsk…and more tsk

The first dog I walked, and he escaped easily. I felt like a failure. I can’t even walk dogs? But wait… this was volunteer work. This was voluntary. They couldn’t fire me. It wasn’t like I had  to pass an audition or tryouts. And I was a senior. Surely they’ll feel sorry for an oldster who means well. They couldn’t get rid of me so easily.

So fast your head will spin, lady…I’m Sadie

I hung in there and walked more dogs over the next months, making sure they could not pull out or back out of their slip leash. I washed dog dishes, cat litter boxes, and kongs part of my time there. I got better as I got more experience. I found out though that some dogs are super strong so one big dog I took out once, took ME for the walk. I hung on for dear life. More later…

We’re Charlie and Cyndie…Our heads are spinning…
You mean she’s coming back?
I’m outa here…BOOO