Murdo Girl…Mystery in Murdo

If you read my last blog, you’ll remember that I am leading a life that’s parallel to my regular life. My second life is in my hometown of Murdo, SD.

I bought my childhood home and restored it to the way it was when my brother and I were kids. He was nice enough to give me the money I needed. The phone keeps ringing and it might be him, but I haven’t had a chance to answer it yet. I have no idea what my other self is doing. That’s the thing about having a parallel life. You don’t know about the other life, so you never have to wonder about it because the other you is living it just like nothing ever happened.

Anyway, I was cleaning up the furnace room downstairs and I found a little box. I remembered it from my childhood. It used to sit in front of the bookcase close to the fireplace. I opened it and guess what?


It was full of pictures of the things I described in my last blog. I swear, If I have ever seen these pictures before, my mind has blocked them out. I promise…I just found these.


This is Billy, me, and our cousin from California, John Pat Francis. Remember how I described the nice wood bookcase and fireplace in the living room? If I had seen this picture, it sure would have been easier to restore all of that. I remember the cute picture of Billy on the bookshelf. I wonder if Billy has it…


The bathroom tile is pink and black. I remembered the pink and black towels Mom had, but I didn’t remember the faucet was on the side of the tub. Dad was a plumber so I guess he knew what he was doing. The shower is on the other side of the towel wall.

I remember this like it was yesterday or the day before. I was in Mom’s room standing on the bed. I told her I was just standing there for a while. I had no intention of jumping. I would have taken my shoes off, but I wouldn’t have been able to tie them when I put them back on. I don’t know why we all had to wear those white leather high-tops, anyway.


Another one with Billy in it. Mom had those gold plates too high up on the dining room wall…and too far apart. Mom was the queen of minimalist living. It’s funny…I don’t remember Dad wearing a colored shirt. He always wore white shirts.


These front yard pictures show the planter I talked about and the breeze-way between the house and the garage.

Now…here is where the mystery begins. In this next picture, I’m wearing the Easter outfit Kitty Reynolds made for me. I’m standing at the front door. I must be about seven or eight because I don’t have my front teeth.


Here’s the kicker…

There are no pictures of me after this one. Oh, there are some school pictures, but that’s it! There might be some of Billy. I’ll look, later.

Do you suppose someone removed all of the pictures of me after the age of eight? Or…did my parents not take any. I do remember going through sort of a gangly, big-tooth stage.

Regardless, I think I should check it out and make sure there isn’t something more sinister going on. I still know quite a few people around here. I’ll start a full-fledged investigation tomorrow.

I wonder where people buy their groceries now? I suddenly have a craving for a chicken pot pie. And I wonder where I can get a coke and a Bing.




Murdo Girl…She needs a million dollars

Now that’s just crazy…I don’t need a million dollars. I want a million dollars. And then the second thing I want is to live a parallel life.

Continuing on with my nostalgia- filled week, this is what I want to do with my parallel life once I get my million dollars or a hundred thousand. It’s negotiable. This  might be what my other life would look like…

Low and behold, I got a check in the mail from Billy. He said he had some money lying around and he knew I wanted to live a parallel life. He hoped the two hundred thousand would help finance my dream. What a guy!

The first thing I did was call the people who currently own the house I grew up in. (Not the basement house…the one next to where Mowell’s used to live.) I asked the owner if he would consider selling it and he said I was in luck because the renters just moved out and he hadn’t found another renter yet. He gave me a price, and even though Dad built that house sixty-five years ago, I thought the asking price was fair and told him I would be in Murdo in a couple of days and we would seal the deal.

  1. The best picture I have of the front of the house. 2. Dining room… Dad and Aunt Elna had birthdays one day apart. 3. Dining room…the air conditioner window and doorway to the kitchen 

A couple of days later, I flew from Dallas to Rapid City. I rented a little orange and black mustang convertible and headed for Murdo. It was a great drive. I stopped at Wall Drug and had a hot beef sandwich and a piece of cherry pie. It was delish…

By the time I got to Murdo, it was too late to investigate the house, so I decided to find a place where I could stay for a few days. I have two cousins in Murdo who own motels, but it’s the middle of the tourist season. There is an unwritten rule that you don’t stay at a relative’s motel during tourist season because they might feel they are obligated to give you a good deal. I paid the going rate at the motel next to what was about to be my house again. The motel also happens to be owned by the seller of the house.

The next morning, I got up early and walked over to the Star Cafe and got a good cup of coffee. Even though I know they make a great breakfast, I was too excited to eat anything. A couple of hours later, I had purchased my childhood home, without even walking inside. I didn’t care what shape it was in.

It was harder than I thought to find a contractor to do the work right away, but fortunately I had Billy’s cash to do the talking. In no time at all, the house was almost as it was the day we moved out.

1. Front yard 2. Mom and I on front steps

When you walk in the front door, to your left is a beautiful wood, built-in bookcase. Next to the bookcase is a brick fireplace. Continuing down that front wall, there is a huge picture window. That’s where Mom put the aluminum tree with the color wheel. The window sits up high. In fact, you can look out the window and see the brick planters below on the outside. On the east wall, there is another smaller window in the corner and a window in the area where the dining room table goes. That’s where the air conditioner was.

There is a doorway that goes into the kitchen. The first thing you see is the broom closet. On the wall between the dining room and the kitchen there is a cut-out place to put your phone. It makes it convenient to answer the phone from the kitchen or the dining room.


Sitting at the booth in the kitchen. Mom always pulled a chair up to the end. The picture is not very clear, but the other people are Harold and Elsa Peck and Irma and Jeff Sanderson.


Living Room…Harold and Elsa Peck

When you walk into the kitchen, to your left is a landing with a door that goes outside. If you turn to your right you can go downstairs. The basement is completely finished except we never did put carpet or linoleum on the stairs. We didn’t even paint them.

Billy’s room, a bathroom, a built-in bar, a laundry area and a huge living room area with a fireplace are all downstairs.

The hole Mom blew in the ceiling when she threw the shotgun shells in the burning fireplace had been fixed…I was hoping it was still there. I have so many memories of playing with my friends and cousins in that basement. The only problem was when it rained hard, the window wells filled up and flooded Billy’s room and the living area. We had to scoop the water up with buckets and mop what we couldn’t scoop.

My room is upstairs… across from the master bedroom. If we would have said master bedroom back then, people would have said, “what?” There is a linen closet in a small hall area and a nice bathroom with a separate tub and shower. I remember the wall was painted a burnt orange and there was a round mirror hanging there.

Kitchen and living room -I took these from a DVD

Kitty Reynolds made beautiful layered pink and white curtains and a matching bedspread for my bedroom. I also had a vanity with a mirror in the middle, and drawers on each side. One day I came home and Mom and Kitty had sawed off the middle and put a set of drawers on each side of my bed like end tables. I threw the biggest fit you ever saw.

I had to do a lot of work to get my house back to the way it was, but when I was finished. It was even better than before. I refinished all the hardwood floors upstairs and the stairs to the basement. I had to replace the yellow booth and table downstairs, and the red one in the kitchen. I bought some great, comfortable furniture and the last thing I did was fix up the one car garage and put a whole new yard in. I now have a fenced back yard with a covered deck.

My understanding is that when you are living a parallel life, you don’t know it, so I wouldn’t know if Kip and I are having fun on an RV trip with the dogs and cat.

Now that I have my old house fixed up just the way I remember it, what will I do? I know. I think I’ll stay here and turn my little Murdo Girl memories into a book. I can interview other people and I’ll give everyone an alias this time. I’ll have to move fast or there won’t be very many people who will remember the people places and things I’ll write about.

I wonder if Billy has a little more cash lying around…I heard that once you decide to have parallel lives, there is no going back to just one. But how could anyone know for sure?


Murdo Girl…The power of a story

Never underestimate the power of a story.

I have more tales than I can count, in my inventory.

I’ve heard them told so many times, I should know them all by heart.

On both sides of my family storytelling is an art.

First there was my Grandpa, whose stories never ended.

Just as it was winding up, his story was amended.

I try to tell Dad’s stories. Most are favorites of mine,

But I usually crack up, before getting to the punchline.

“How many guys work for you?” The question made Dad laugh.

“I’m not really sure,” he said. “But I think it’s close to half.”

Though Mom could tell a story, the ones about her are the best.

She was outspoken, quick and witty… and by far the funniest.

They’d ask, “Can you keep a secret? She’d say, “Not even for one day.”

She said they always told her… their secret, anyway.

Gus tells stories too, when we’re all reminiscing.

But everyone can’t talk. We need him for listening.

Brother Billy knows all the good ones… and tells them perfectly.

You know the story’s over when he laughs and slaps his knee.


The stories I like to hear again

are those that start…remember when

Passed from one generation to another,

They make us feel part of each other.


Jesus taught his children through those great stories we call parables… another story category.

No, never underestimate the power of a story.


The photograph is of my Mother’s family. LB: Jeff Sanderson, Grandpa M.E. Sanderson, Wayne Sanderson…FL: Grandma Mary Sanderson, Ella Leckey, Helen Haverberg, Loretta Gustafson, and Elna Miller. They are all together again. What a beautiful and remarkable family to have been and continue to be a part of.

Murdo Girl…Unless you love it, don’t list it

There is a show on HGTV called love it or list it. A designer tries to make the owner who wants to move, love their old house and the real estate agent tries to find the perfect house that will convince the one who wants to stay, to move. In the end they have to decide whether to love their old house and stay, or list it and move to the new house.

The transformation is remarkable, and I can never decide what I would do.

(This has no connection to the inspiration for the poem below! It’s just how I came up with the title of the blog.))

What to do with your list

I’ll take a little time to spend 

On this list that just won’t end.

Its full of things that sound like fun.

Mundane things? No, not one.

It has no chores I should attack

It isn’t passion that I lack

I’m less young now…


I looked today and realized

The list should be prioritized.

The U(s) should come before the I(s).

Hello(s) turn quickly to goodbyes.

I can’t decide where I should start

The beginning, end, or middle part.

Where were these interests years ago?

The seeds took too long to sew and grow.

Sew what?

2-We Shall See what We Shall See

As for those things not yet begun?

Here’s a thought that really stung

I’m too old now to die young.

(Think opposite of cheek in tongue.)

When I have a good idea

others quickly say, “I’ll see ya!”

They all know how my mind works.

(Think craziness and lots of quirks.)

I was once more reserved, you see

I think that tinfoil crown  unnerved me.

(Pretend unnerved means took away nervous shyness)



That list that caused me so much strife

Is no longer part of my life.

I’ve embraced… ashes to ashes

The list is now where the trash is.

I’m over it.

Murdo Girl…The dog days of summer

The dog days of summer were supposed to end August 11th. My dogs don’t agree, but then we live in Texas. They think Kip and I are crazy. I have no argument. We always wait until the fall when it’s nice, to take our yearly motor home trip. 


We’re getting ready to head out on another six to eight week trip around the 20th of September. Our destination is Maine. We are trying to time it so we can see the fall colors in the New England states, and also see a lot of other historical things along the way.

We don’t want to miss any bad snow storms, so we’ll be coming back through North Dakota and we’ll swing down as far as Pierre, South Dakota in mid-October. This will be the fourth year we haven’t escaped one hot  summer day in Texas.




18216640In the meantime, I have been busy with a few projects. I was going to get my water tower collection updated before I left, but to tell you the truth, it’s much more time consuming than I thought it would be. They were supposed to be a perfect thing to collect. Especially since I live in  a tiny home. They don’t take up any room and they don’t cost me anything.




I forgot that I am not an organized person and the whole thing got out of hand. I lost track of which ones were already named and who submitted what. I also have no idea what city or state some of them are in. I’m sorry. Some of you went out of your way to help me collect. I’ll try to figure out a way. At least unlike most collections, I don’t have to worry about them collecting dust while they wait.



I wrote some storybooks…(More about these later….) Here is my favorite page from Nikki’s…


My head is a busy place!

Murdo Girl…Sometimes when our eyes are closed


Sometimes when our eyes are closed, we can see much better

I can’t seem to find the words, so let’s do this together

We can sit here quietly and I’ll take your hand in mine

I’ll look inside your hurting heart and see what I can find.

I see the one you’re missing is right where they belong

They want you to know they have been there all along.

See them fill it up with all the love they have to give..

They want you to remember, in your heart is where they’ll live.

Let’s sit here a while longer. You can tell me what you see

A smile, a laugh a wink… a treasured memory?

Remember all those things you thought you never would forget?

The good and maybe bad times. And it’s not over yet.

One thing about memories…you’ll soon recall the cream of the crop

Because the bad ones sink to the bottom and the good ones rise to the top.

When our eyes are closed, we can see a little better.

Let’s keep them closed a little while and say a prayer together. 

South Dakota photos by Dianna Diehm



Murdo has lost some good people these past few weeks. I hope this poem helps you find peace. My thoughts and prayers are with you…

This sunflower photo was taken near Vivian, SD, by Nancy Authier on the day of a family member’s funeral. Thank you Nancy



Murdo Girl…Everybody wants to be a cat

I have almost as many cat pictures as I do those of water towers. I never used to like cats. I love Dollie, but not because she’s lovable. She’s just really cool. I wish I was cool like Dolly. 

Cat song…

Everybody wants to be a cat
Because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at
Tell me, everybody’s pickin’ up on that feline beat
‘Cause everything else is obsolete
A square with a horn
Makes you wish you weren’t born
Every time he plays
But with a square in the act
You can set music back
To the caveman days

I’ve heard some corny birds who tried to sing
Still a cat’s the only cat
Who knows how to swing
Who wants to dig a long-haired gig stuff like that?
When everybody wants to be a cat

A square with a horn
Makes you wish you weren’t born,
Every time he plays
Oh riki-tiki-tinky
With a square in the act
You can set music back to the Caveman days

Everybody wants to be a cat
Because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at
When playin’ jazz he always has a welcome mat
‘Cause everybody digs a swingin’ cat

Everybody, everybody
Everybody wants to be a cat
Everybody, everybody
Everybody wants to be a cat
Everybody, everybody
Everybody wants to be a cat
Everybody, everybody
Everybody wants to be a cat

“This tiny home has a mouse.”


“Can we talk about this tiny home thing? It has a mouse!”

“I was just going to mess with her a little.”

“This is too big.”

“I don’t think I like it!”

“Much better.”

“I told the mouse to dust.”

“I sleep in a feline position.”

“You say fat cat like it’s a bad thing.”

“If I fall asleep, don’t throw me away.”

“I prefer, “Go Fish.”

“Please tell her not to touch me!”

“I’m looking for that mouse.”

Tiny home and tiny RV living is for the birds.!”

Murdo Girl…Hits and misses

The thing that surprises me the most… about my life is this… 

I never really planned a thing. It’s all been hit or miss.

I never had a dream that I was driven to pursue.

I never looked too far ahead. I preferred a close-up view.

I know it’s just the way I am, but  at times I feel distressed.

Are people who don’t have good sense, sometimes the happiest?

Some days I feel resentful. Life gets on my last nerve.

Other days I’m grateful to have more than I deserve.

When I look back on those early years and I see where I am now,

The words that come to mind are Man oh’ Man, and Holy Cow!

I’ve lived in five great states and in each we’ve made our home.

Our RV travel has been fun… no matter where we roam.

But for me there will always be just one shining crown.

I might call other places home, but there’s only one hometown.

************************(60’s picture of the Chalet Motel in Murdo. My parents built it over a period of years. I have written many stories about the Chalet in Murdo Girl. It is now part of the Range Country Inn.)


I look back now at that young girl who left town with her grandpa the day after graduation. Someone had suggested I go to California and get a job. I hadn’t made any other plans, so why not? Grandpa was going to put me on a plane in Rapid City in a couple of days.

The same day we left Murdo, I remember sitting by myself at a track meet in Rapid City. Grandpa had dropped me off because I just HAD to go and watch Murdo’s track team. I needed to be there to support all the guys I had cheered on through all those football and basketball games over the years.

A couple of our stars…

I was feeling a huge sense of loss. I was not prepared to leave high school…



(Karen Ferdig Snider and I helping build the float for homecoming 1969. I lost my annual so Eddie Jackson sent me some pictures. I think we were all goofing off at our class play rehearsal in the bottom pic.)

Like all of us, my life has taken a lot of twists and turns since high school. There’s been some great hits and a few misses, but these last three plus years that I have been able to share, through the Murdo Girl blog, about my life in Murdo, as well as other life experiences, have been good for me. (I think that’s what writers call a run-on sentence.)

Anyway, I really appreciate all who have allowed me to share all of my stories and some of yours.

What a gift!