Murdo Girl…Just one pretty flower

Since it’s getting close to Memorial day, I decided to post the poem I wrote honoring the women who gave their lives for our Country…


Just one pretty flower

by Mary Francis McNinch

“Put a flower on my grave.” That’s all she asked of me.

“Just one pretty flower that I’ll be sure to see.”

“She never had a chance,” they said. “She won’t make it through the night.”

“She might have won some battles, but she’ll lose this final fight.”

I tried to say, “I love you,” as I stood beside her bed.

She smiled her biggest smile, and this is what she said.

“You know I’ll never leave you, right? It’s really not that far.

Look through all the darkness. Give my name to one bright star.”

“It never did make sense,” they’ll say. “She had little ones to rear.”

“Nothing much that she could do.” I know that’s what you’ll hear.

I said, “What you did mattered,” and she held my trembling hand.

She saw her Country struggle and she had to take a stand.

There are those who disagree. It’s their right to think that way.

They might not survive tomorrow, but they’ll live free today.

“Tell the kids I love them. Show them my picture now and then.

Tell them where I’m going, but don’t tell them where I’ve been.

I hope the evil can be stopped and we keep our flag unfurled.

“I gave you all my love,” she said. “My life I gave the world.”

The last time she closed her eyes, I knew what she would see…

Whatever love looks like those who fought to keep us free.

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“Put a flower on my grave.” That’s all she asked of me.

“Just one pretty flower that I’ll be sure to see.”

Those 70ish girls…A different approach!

I hope everyone is enjoying the kick-off Friday of Memorial Day weekend. It’s going to be a hot time in Ben Wheeler, with a chili cook-off on Saturday and all sorts of other goings on, including lots of live music. I’m going to help our daughter, Heidi, and her boyfriend, Joe, with their chili booth. I’m really excited to have something fun to look forward to. Kip will be able to take part for a while, but since he’s still recuperating from back surgery, he can’t stand for long periods of time.

I want to apologize to the readers of “A Story to Tell.” I have not been faithful to the cadence of the story. There is too much time between episodes. I want to add so much to develop it, yet my initial goal was to put a short little fun story on the blog. I have had so many ideas that would turn it into a better long mystery that I’ve decided to stop here, and rewrite it. Rather than play it all out on the blog, I will self-publish it on Amazon as a book. What do you think?

I made a version of Cousin Lav’s apple pie. I don’t have much counter space in the RV, so I made turnovers instead. I used her recipe for the filling, and even with Pillsbury pie dough, it’s delicious…

I have bananas in the background, like Lav but we don’t make smoothies.
Do you think we’ll get to taste any of those apple pies?

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell, part 8

Changes to come…

I could understand Aunt Marti’s desire to know what happened to Holly and her mother, June. There were several crayon written pages with different made-up stories about dogs and kitties and several child-like drawings of houses with trees and billowing clouds. All of her pictures had a bright yellow sun shining down from the corner of the paper. Aunt Marti had grown to love the little girl she had never met and wanted to learn more about the family that had occupied this house so many years ago.

Aunt Marti did not have knowledge of the internet, and my guess was that it didn’t occurr to her that someone could do a search online and find out more about the family. I hoped there would be enough information in the lock box and chest to be able to do an adequate search to find out what happened to Holly and her mother. I didn’t have the first names of the grandparents, but I knew their last name was probably Reading since Holly’s mother was married to their son, and their last name was Reading. Holly said she was moving from the house. The date was 1923. Did the grandparents move, too? Aunt Marti had said the house had been vacant for 20 years prior to her purchasing it.

I kept digging through the papers and also found a photobook in the chest.

“Mr. B.. Oh my… where did you find that?” It was a handmade sock monkey.


“But Mommy, I don’t want to move. I don’t want to leave Grandpa and Nana. I love our house. Why do we have to go?”

Dear, sweet, Holly. This will be an exciting time for us.

This is not WWI, but it’s really good.

Those 7oish girls…A story to tell..part 7


Holly Reading was born on Christmas eve of 1914. Her father served in WWI and was in Belgium at the time of the 1914 Christmas Eve one day truce. On November 11, 1918, after more than four years of terrible fighting and the loss of millions of lives, the guns on the western front fell silent. The reaction of the world was that of relief, celebration, and a profound sense of loss.

Holly’s father was one of the soldiers who didn’t come home. He never got the chance to hold his baby daughter.

Holly and her mother were living with her father’s parents when the war ended. Mr. and Mrs. Reading built the house in Pleasant Run in 1920. Aunt Marti eventually bought it in 1963. It had been vacant for 20 years.

The house in Pleasant Run


Holly was six when her grandparents, she and her mother moved into the newly built house. The year was 1920.

Mary Francis with her Grandma and Grandpa Sanderson. The relationships between grandparents and grandkids can be so special.

“Holly, please get down out of that tree. You still have your Sunday dress on. Nana has lunch ready and you must wash up and change quickly.”

“Momma, I kept my dress on because it’s the same color as the tree leaves and I can hide here where that man can’t see me.”

“Sweet Holly. my child. Your imagination goes wild sometimes. Pretending can often times create unbelievable stories.”

“It’s not a story,” Holly insisted as she climbed down from the tree. “A man with a black hat on has walked down this street three times. Well, maybe only two. He wants to talk to you. He asked if you were home and I said you were working at the hospital. I told him my Grandpa and Nana were here, but he said he had to talk to you. I told him we didn’t talk to strangers.” He laughed, Momma, and said he would be back when you were home. He said he knew my daddy.”

“Sweetheart, if this is the truth, you are doing the right thing by telling him you aren’t allowed to talk to strangers. Next time, tell the man to knock on the door and talk to me or your grandparents. That’s what someone who knew your father would most likely do, anyway.”

Two days later, when Holly went out to play, she was careful to choose clothes that would match the tree.


I couldn’t wait for all of my cousins to leave so that I could go back up to the attic and look at the remainder of the contents inside the old trunk and whatever was inside the lockbox that the attorney had given me the key to. Two days ago I had been busy minding my own business and now I was suddenly the owner of a monstrosity of a house and embroiled in a mystery…and I had a dog. Mr. B followed me everywhere I went.

When I opened the strong box, there was a note on top that said, “Dee, Holly was born 9 years before me. That has nothing to do with anything, but I need to know where she went. I need to know she and her mother’s story had a happy ending. At the bottom of this box, you will find a note written in a child’s handwriting. It was written with a crayon, and it took me a while to decipher what I believe it says. Holly wrote, “The man talked to Momma. She cried happy tears. I lived here, but now I’m going away.”  It’s dated 12/15/1923

Those 70ish girls…A shining shiner

I thought this would be a good time to write an update on a blog I posted a couple of weeks ago. My mental health has been stable, and I am more grateful than I can say. To anyone out there who suffers from depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, please remember there are qualified people out there who can help. I sought help, and I am sure glad I did. I learned a valuable lesson. I never want to feel that way again, so the most important thing to remember is self-care in the form of rest, healthy food (as much as practical), and exercise. If I am doing all of those things plus saying my prayers and still dread the day before me, then I will seek help. A check-up from the neck up can be a good thing. The mind is fragile.

Kip is doing great 3 weeks out from his back surgery! He’s on track to begin traveling on the 1st of August. He was released from Home Health last week but continues to do his exercises.

Yesterday, I was trying to tighten up our Jeep’s seat covers, and an elastic strap got away from me and gave me quite the shiner. I had contacts in, but I must have blinked just as the strap hit. After yelling,” I think I’m blind!!” I settled down and realized it only hurts when I laugh, which is when I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror.

Love the eyeliner, but the other eye doesn’t match.

Nellie and Rylie must find life with us is pretty exciting. They’ve had a few chances to run away, but decided better of it and came back. I’ll sure be happy when Kip will be able to help out more with the walking chore. They get 4 long walks a day. (The joy of RV living with no fenced yard.) We try to take them to a pasture in the middle of downtown Ben Wheeler for a leashless run every day.

Well, this is sounding like a Christmas letter. As Mom used to say, “Enough about me, how did you like my last movie!”

We put up a flag yesterday. I got it for Kip for his August birthday and finally got a holder.

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 6


“Hi Tara, I was exploring the house and didn’t hear the doorbell at first. I hope you and this sweet looking puppy dog didn’t wait too long.” Tara had just informed me that Mr. Bairnsfather had wanted to come home for tea. “Is he Aunt Marti’s dog?” I asked.

“He sure is,” Tara informed me as they walked through the door. “We call him Mr. B for short. Bairnsfather is a mouthful. I have no idea where Aunt Marti came up with that name in the first place. I took him to my house when she became ill, but he has become unhappy and barely eats. I thought it might help him to be back in his home for a few hours.”

Mr. Bairnsfather

“Poor baby,” I said. “Let’s go into the parlor and wait there until everyone gets here. I was just reading an article I found in an old trunk in the attic. Mr. Bairnsfather was a British soldier in WWI. He took part in the Christmas Eve truce of 1914. Do you know who Bernard was or is? His name was on the envelope containing the information.

Tara thought for a moment before shaking her head. “No, I don’t recall Aunt Marti ever mentioning anyone named Bernard. It is interesting to know who Mr. B was named for, though. I thought Bairnsfather was a name she made up.

Within 30 minutes all 5 cousins were there along with the attorney, Mr. Danes, who arrived last. Tara’s husband, Tom was there as well. He had picked cousin Drew up at the airport. Tonja and Grayson, who lived in Pleasant Run had driven over together. Everyone declined tea or coffee, so once we had visited a short while, Mr. Danes handed each of us a packet that contained a letter from Aunt Marti and a copy of her will. The attorney instructed each of us to first read our personal letters, and then he would read the will to all of us.

Dearest Dee,

Thank you for making the long trip to be here. I have a lot to ask of you.

I have left you my home, which, as you already know, is over 100 years old. It was one of the first houses to be constructed in Pleasant Run. I purchased it when I turned 30, and it became clear to me that I would never marry.

As I write this letter, I am 90 years old. If you are reading it, it means I have passed on without solving the mystery.

I don’t know what happened to the family who lived here. The house had been vacant for 20 years before I purchased it.

I found several things in the attic that caused me to be extremely curious, even alarmed. The remarkable thing is that no one living in Pleasant Run at the time I bought and restored the house knew much about the former inhabitants.

I know I won’t be able to rest in this life or the next until the mystery is solved. Please find out what happened to Holly. She was born on Christmas Eve, 1914. Her father was fighting in Belgium.

You will find all the information I have been able to accumulate in the chest in the attic. My attorney will give you the key to the strong box inside.

I know you are a retired sleuth. Maybe you will decide to make this house and Pleasant Run your home…once you have solved the mystery…

Love and blessings,

Aunt Martie

Those 70ish girls…The call girls

I know the Little Murdo Girl and her brother Billy, really love their Mom. Billy took her to the races for Mother’s Day, but really, what could be better than a heartfelt poem from your daughter?


Hi Mom, I called to…Mary is that you?

Yes Mom, I want to…I called Ella today. I had some “news” to tell. To get a word in edgewise, I really had to yell!

Well, Mom how long…Oh, we talked an hour, and it was on my dime. If she wants to talk again, she’ll have to call next time.

So, Mom…I’d tell you what she said, but it was blah, blah, blah. If you really want the truth, I forgot it, ha, ha, ha.

I only have a minute Mo…I went shopping with my coupons. I thought I’d save a ton. They told me they were all expired, no more two for one. Say, last time I saw you, I was constipated. Did I tell you aloe vera juice is very overrated? I use Metamucil now, two teaspoons to a cup. You should try it dear, you really sound bound up.

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I have a question Mo…I have a tickle in my throat. I’m sure that I’ll start coughin. It’s been fun catching up. You should call more often.

I’ve been trying to reach you Mom, but it’s been really hard….

Oh never mind, this Mother’s Day, I’ll just send a card.

I heard her hang the phone up. She was in a tizzy.

I knew, if I called back again, the line would still be busy.

She’d be calling sister Ella, so they can talk in rhymes.

I know for sure that every day, they talk at least 3 times.



Ella and Loretta Sanderson…sisters and friends

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 5

The Attic…

It was all a little overwhelming. Aunt Marti had come to me in some sort of dream and informed me that at 3:00 o’clock that afternoon, I would be given a letter explaining why she was leaving her house in Pleasant Run to me.

It was only noon. I had 3 hours before the other cousins would arrive for the reading of the will. It seemed a little strange that all of this was happening so quickly. Aunt Marti had only passed away the evening before and there had been no discussion about anything. I was guessing that the attorney arranging the meeting would also be informing us of Aunt Marti’s wishes regarding her funeral.

Since I had plenty of time before everyone arrived, I wanted to do a little more exploring. I decided to start at the top of the house with the attic. I had remembered seeing what looked like a drop-down ladder in the hallway. I pulled the cord and was excited to see a substantial ladder unfold. Halfway up, I reached the cord to the light and continued to the top. What I saw was typical attic decor. a discarded table and chair set lined one wall and some dressmaker paraphernalia was on another.

In one corner, there was an interesting looking chest. I was excited to find it wasn’t locked. Inside, there were several boxes and a long narrow tin box that had a padlock on it. I opened the largest cardboard box and pulled out a man’s army tunic and trousers. It looked to be from the WWI era. Possibly an English uniform.

There was a manila envelope under the uniform with the words, “From Bernard.” scribbled on the outside. Inside, I found several typewritten pages…

On 12/24, 1914, in the dank, muddy trenches on the Western Front of the first world war, a remarkable thing happened.

It came to be called the Christmas truce. And it remains one of the most storied and strangest moments of the Great War—or of any war in history.

British machine gunner Bruce Bairnsfather, later a prominent cartoonist, wrote about it in his memoirs. Like most of his fellow infantrymen of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, he was spending the holiday eve shivering in the muck, trying to keep warm. He had spent a good part of the past few months fighting the Germans. And now, in a part of Belgium called Bois de Ploegsteert, he was crouched in a trench that stretched just three feet deep by three feet wide, his days and nights marked by an endless cycle of sleeplessness and fear, stale biscuits and cigarettes too wet to light.

“Here I was, in this horrible clay cavity,” Bairnsfather wrote, “…miles and miles from home. Cold, wet through and covered with mud.” There didn’t “seem the slightest chance of leaving—except in an ambulance.”

At about 10 p.m., Bairnsfather noticed a noise. “I listened,” he recalled. “Away across the field, among the dark shadows beyond, I could hear the murmur of voices.” He turned to a fellow soldier in his trench and said, “Do you hear the Boches [Germans] kicking up that racket over there?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “They’ve been at it some time!”

The Germans were singing carols, as it was Christmas Eve. In the darkness, some of the British soldiers began to sing back. “Suddenly,” Bairnsfather recalled, “we heard a confused shouting from the other side. We all stopped to listen. The shout came again.” The voice was from an enemy soldier, speaking in English with a strong German accent. He was saying, “Come over here.”

One of the British sergeants answered: “You come half-way. I come half-way.”

What happened next would, in the years to come, stun the world and make history. Enemy soldiers began to climb nervously out of their trenches, and to meet in the barbed-wire-filled “No Man’s Land” that separated the armies. Normally, the British and Germans communicated across No Man’s Land with streaking bullets, with only occasional gentlemanly allowances to collect the dead. But now, there were handshakes and words of kindness. The soldiers traded songs, tobacco and wine, joining in a spontaneous holiday party in the cold night.

Bairnsfather could not believe his eyes. “Here they were—the actual, practical soldiers of the German army. There was not an atom of hate on either side.”

And it wasn’t confined to that one battlefield. Starting on Christmas Eve, small pockets of French, German, Belgian and British troops held impromptu cease-fires across the Western Front, with reports of some on the Eastern Front as well. Some accounts suggest a few of these unofficial truces remained in effect for days.

By the time winter approached in 1914, and the chill set in, the Western Front stretched hundreds of miles. Countless soldiers were living in misery in the trenches on the fronts, while tens of thousands had already died.

Then Christmas came.

Descriptions of the Christmas Truce appear in numerous diaries and letters of the time. One British soldier, a rifleman named J. Reading, wrote a letter home to his wife describing his holiday experience in 1914: “My company happened to be in the firing line on Christmas eve, and it was my turn…to go into a ruined house and remain there until 6:30 on Christmas morning. During the early part of the morning the Germans started singing and shouting, all in good English. They shouted out: ‘Are you the Rifle Brigade; have you a spare bottle; if so we will come half way and you come the other half.’”

“Later on in the day they came towards us,” Reading described. “And our chaps went out to meet them…I shook hands with some of them, and they gave us cigarettes and cigars. We did not fire that day, and everything was so quiet it seemed like a dream.”

Another British soldier, named John Ferguson, recalled it this way: “Here we were laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill!”

Other diaries and letters describe German soldiers using candles to light Christmas trees around their trenches. One German infantryman described how a British soldier set up a makeshift barbershop, charging Germans a few cigarettes each for a haircut. Other accounts describe vivid scenes of men helping enemy soldiers collect their dead, of which there was plenty.

Just how many soldiers participated in these informal holiday gatherings has been debated; there is no way to know for sure since the ceasefires were small-scale, haphazard and entirely unauthorized. A Time magazine story on the 100 anniversary claimed that as many as 100,000 people took part.

The sound of the doorbell brought me back to the present. I rushed down the ladder and to the front door. When I open it, I saw Tara standing there. She was holding a leash. At the end of the Leash was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

“Mr. Bairnsfather wanted to come home for tea.” Tara said.

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 4

The house…

I had just asked Aunt Marti if there was a reason, other than the 10 year age difference, that she and my mother had not been close.

“We will talk about all of that in good time,” Aunt Marti said. “But right now, I must tell you a few things concerning what will be taking place here this afternoon. My hope is that all of my nieces and nephews will be present at the meeting that Tara has been good enough to arrange. She was given some directions from my attorney. You will all be given a letter from me and you will be reading my will.”

“According to Tara, all of the cousins will be meeting here at 3:00 pm,” I offered.

“Perfect,” Aunt Marti said with a dramatic flash of her eyes.  I had seen that same expression many times on my mother’s face. As if reading my mind, Aunt Marti continued. “Your mother was different from the rest of us and sometimes the things she said and did didn’t set well with me. As the eldest of 4 children, I always felt as though the other girls’ behavior was more or less my responsibility.”

“Speaking from my own experience of living with Mom, I said. “I can understand your comment. Mom’s behavior sometimes pushed the envelope.” (I was secretly amused by my mother’s outlandish ways, but I didn’t share that with my aunt.)

“I must leave you now,” Aunt Marti said as she rose from the chair and picked up the tray with the tea and muffins. “But before I go, I need to tell you that I left you this property. I do hope you will give staying here in Pleasant Run a lot of thought before you get the news formerly at the meeting today. This house has a story to tell, and I believe it will tell you all of its secrets.”

“I don’t know what to say, Aunt Marti. Why would you give me your house?” I was surprised, to say the least.

“It’s all in the letter,” she answered. “And you can say goodbye.”

A story to tell..

Those 70ish girls…A story to tell..part 3

Cousin Valerie and I are going to be featuring a few different things on the blog. Val and I will still be writing about our daily lives, both factual and fictional, plus I am going to be continuing on with the story about Aunt Marti and her niece, DeeDee.

We love interaction with our readers. Please leave us a comment when you can.

Tea for Two

Aunt Marti had made a delicious breakfast of fried cornmeal mush and bacon. She looked the same as she had twenty years before, which was the last time I saw her. I had come to Pleasant Run hoping to spend time with her before she completely succumbed to the stroke she had suffered. According to my cousin, Tara, Aunt Marti was not expected to recover. The stroke had left her weak and confused, which, considering she was 99 years old, was easily understood.

While I was enjoying my breakfast with Aunt Marti, I answered her house phone, and it was Tara. You can imagine my confusion when Tara told me Aunt Marti had gone home in the night. She had not meant to her house. She had gone to her home in heaven.

Tara was still on the phone waiting for me to respond to the news. “Sorry, Tara I said. “I had a dream about Aunt Marti and it was so real. It was like I got to see her one last time after all. I’m really sorry she is no longer with us, but I must say, in a way, I think she’s still here in her home just waiting to spoil us.”

“That sounds like a great dream, Dee. I also wanted to let you know that our cousin, Drew, is coming in from Montana today. My husband, Tom, will pick him up at the airport. Grayson, and Tonja, who, as you know, are the other 2 cousins who still live here in town, will all join Drew, you, and me at Aunt Marti’s house this afternoon around 3:00 pm. So, you have the morning off. Rest up.

“That all sounds good, Tara. Will Drew be staying here at Aunt Marti’s house?” I asked. There is certainly enough room here.”

“That’s a good idea. I’ll shoot him a text and ask him if he’d like to stay there or at the hotel. You know how men are. He might feel more comfortable in a hotel. I don’t know Drew that well, so we’ll wait and see what he says.”

Now that a plan for the day was taking shape, I decided to grab a shower and then explore the house. Even though I hadn’t eaten breakfast at all, because it was a part of a dream, I wasn’t hungry. I did, however, brew a cup of coffee to take upstairs with me.

The first room in the old house that I found myself exploring was the library. Aunt Marti had been quite the reader. The shelves were filled with everything from children’s books to mysteries. Maybe that’s who I inherited my love of reading from. I had started to peruse the children’s section of books to see if I could find any of my old favorites when I heard someone say, “Gulliver’s Travels.”

I swung around to see Aunt Marti standing there. She was holding a tray with a tea service on it and some delicious looking muffins. She was dressed in a peach colored shirtdress and wore an apron. I couldn’t remember Aunt Marti without her apron, except when she hastily tore it off before we all sat down to a meal.

“The few times you visited when you were small, you wanted me to read Gulliver’s Travels to you. It’s there in alphabetical order by the author’s name. You hardly ate a bite of breakfast this morning,” she said. “I thought you might be ready for some tea and my special cranberry-orange muffins. Don’t look so shocked, dear. You are not losing your mind. I wanted to spend a little time with you. My other sisters and I were close, and I saw their children often, but your mother and I were so far apart in age, with her being the youngest and me the oldest. Well, we never spent much time together. Ten years is quite an age difference. Anyway, I’m here in spirit, as they say. You are the only one I’m here to see, and our time together will take its own course.”

I didn’t pretend to understand all of what Aunt Marti was saying, but I did not question whatever phenomenon was occurring. I wanted to spend time with my aunt. I knew she and my mother hadn’t been particularly close. Mother had very seldom spoken about her oldest sister. I had only recently become curious about the whole family dynamics myself. Mom had died two years earlier, and with her death, my whole worldview had begun to change.

“Aunt Marti, I’m not going to question why or how you are here. I’m just happy to be spending some time with you. Is the ten year age difference, the only reason you and my mother weren’t close? I’ve recently become curious about that.