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The longest night

December 21, 2008

 I miss my brother a lot.  But, especially at this time of year.  He counted the days to the winter solstice, and counted each extra minute of daylight after that day.  Always waiting for spring.  He didn’t label his dread of the dark days, he just plain didn’t like it.  It came as no surprise that when he finally lost his battle with cancer, that he died on the longest night of the year, December 1989.  His mind was on other things that day, but I can never shake the feeling I get when the winter solstice rolls around.  I visited him in the hospital that day, and when he vomited up blood, he told me that he had prune juice for breakfast and it didn’t agree with him.  Always the big brother – protecting me until his dying day.  I knew it was blood, but there was no sense in speaking of it.  I went back to work, and when I came home that afternoon, and my friends were here and came out of the house before I even got out of my car, I knew what was in the offing.  We went back to the hospital and that night he died, with friends and family getting one last moment.  So I thought instead of being sad today and thinking of his death, I would go back in the time machine and look at his life. 

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Summer 1943.

We still have the basket and we used it at the farmers market in our display.  Every time I see it, I think of this photo. 


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Summer 1949.  It would be a while before I came along.


June 1961

I only have two pictures of my entire family, this is one taken when my brother graduated from high school.  You can barely tell in this picture, but my dad is missing fingers from playing with blasting caps as a child.  And my sister the seamstress had made a matching dress for her and my mom for the occasion. 


Pioneer meeting 1966.

My brother got roped into a lot of things he didn’t want to do.  This was one, but my mom made him put on a good show anyway.

I think if he had had a choice, he would have left the farm, or maybe done things differently.  But our dad died when I was 8 and my brother was 24.  He was locked in because my dad left property to him, and gave my mom a life estate.  He just did what was expected of him, with no complaints until I was grown and his wife left him because of the isolation of farming and being married to someone who was self-employed.  He was my brother, but he had to be the father figure too.  He spent a lot of his time teaching me what I now know, keeping me safe, so to speak.  Our relationship reminds me of Bambi and the Old Stag.  “Here eat this.”  “Run this way.”  He always was telling me how and why everything worked, and imparting his vast knowledge of the natural world.  He taught me how to be light on the land, all this, from a logger and heavy equipment operator.  He put up with all my idiot boyfriends, and when HD came along, he teased him, but he started teaching him too.  And he started getting sick, first heart attacks, surgery, and then cancer.  He accelerated his teaching with an urgency.  It un-nerved us.  It was daunting thinking of a life without my big brother.  He and I heard and saw the same things.  We couldn’t explain to anyone how comforting the sound was that the fire poker made in the basement when you hung it on it’s nail.  Our blacksmithing grandpa made that poker, and the metal rang straight and true.  It was music to our ears, to others it was a chore to hang the dang thing up.  He always quizzed me when we would hear a log truck – Cummins or Jimmy?  What girl needs to know that?  I knew, and I find myself teaching my daughter, and telling her stories of her uncle that she never knew.  I had to listen to the ram drive pipe, if it sounded just so, you had air in the line, if it rang good, you were good to go.  So many things to learn and remember, one cow missing – look for her, 10 cows missing – no big deal.

 When people say farmers aren’t good stewards, I beg to differ.  My brother was proof positive of the opposite. And horror of horrors, he was one of “them” conservative Republicans.    I know there are people who ravage the land, but I hate being lumped into the “Oh you’ve been farming a long time, well, there are new better ways to do things… .”  I know that, I’m doing some of those things, but I also do things the old way too.  Knowing when to do what, is what is more important.  I think.

I was tagged by Howling Duck Ranch for a green meme, and I have been struggling with how to do it.  I was flattered to be tagged, and I looked at the questions, and I thought of my brother, and I thought of how we have lived for a long time.  I couldn’t really answer the questions and sound green.  So I guess I’m not really green, but I think some people might think that I am.   I just don’t fit, I drive a full size pickup, but rarely.  My green neighbor has a new hybrid, but drives to Portland sometimes twice a day.  My other green neighbor drinks soy lattes, and flies to Hawaii multiple times a year.  I have only been to Hawaii once and I drink plain old coffee with cream from my cow.  I think my brother and I would qualify for the not-in-your face kind of green.  Just plain old everyday land stewards.  Thank you for tagging me HDR, btw. 🙂 


I’m guessing 1988, my brother had cancer here, no hair showing.

There was one question on the green meme that I would like to answer.  If you had unlimited funds what green project would you implement?  I think I would try to restore a project that my brother and his business partner did before it was the “in” thing.

I apologize for the three following videos.  Our original VHS tape of this project has seen better days, and our computer had a hard time loading the entire segment, so we broke it up into 3 smaller videos.  This news segment is from the early 80’s.






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My brothers headstone – his best friend since first grade (not the guy in the video) did the original artwork. 

My brother’s BFF drives by here frequently, hauling rock to various jobs.  He honks both ways, multiple times a day,  and my daughter always thinks Woody is honking at us.  I know he is honking at my brother.

21 Comments leave one →
  1. December 22, 2008 1:56 am

    Beautiful, thank you for sharing. xx

  2. December 22, 2008 5:17 am

    Thank you for sharing a part of your brother’s life with us…I wish I had known him, too
    I love the videos and what they were accomplishing with the micro-hydro

  3. Renee permalink
    December 22, 2008 5:18 am

    This was wonderful! Your brother sounded like a great guy and I can that you loved (and still do love) him a lot! This post really tugged at my heart:) Lots of Hugs!!


  4. December 22, 2008 6:48 am

    What a beautiful post – the love and admiration you have for your brother came through in every memory.

    I also wanted to mention the “green” thing briefly. Regardless of what you may think about your “greeness” based on the survey questions, I learn a lot from you and your posts that help me to live more “sustainably” and with greater fulfillment.

    I have often marvelled at the knowledge you posess – your brother shared a wonderful gift in passing along that information.

    Thank you for taking the time to share some of it with us.

  5. December 22, 2008 7:41 am

    Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. I think by passing on your knowledge to all of us, you are honoring your brother’s memory every day.

  6. December 22, 2008 8:51 am

    What a beautiful post about a wonderful man. You were blessed. Thanks so much for sharing with us. The tractor picture brought a heavy lump to my throat.

    Peace to you, my friend.

  7. Kristen permalink
    December 22, 2008 10:24 am

    Oh my….this really touched me….thanks for sharing…I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!!

  8. December 22, 2008 1:42 pm

    This was an incredibly moving post. I read it last night and had to think about how to respond, and here I am still at a loss for words (which is saying somthing … I’m Italian after all!) I teared up through the whole post, and then they overflowed when I read how his friend honks when he drives by. How lucky you were to have such a loving brother, and how lucky he was to have a little sister to bestow his love upon. That bond continues on for all eternity, and his legacy will continue on, too, through your daughter, her children, and her children’s children.

    Love your little white gloves in the graduation photo. I used to wear those too, for special occasions. How telling, too, that you and your brother are together for this photo. Coincidence? I think not.

    Hope you are keeping warm over there. We are snow bound, but am enjoying how it’s forcing us to slow down a bit. We are supposed to pick up my sister at the airport tomorrow … provided her plane gets here. Still, I am enjoying looking at the snow. I imagine it makes your chores that much harder. And, by the way, you are SOOOO green that I’m surprised you don’t have chlorophyll in your veins! Okay, guess my Italian genes came through afterall!

  9. December 22, 2008 6:05 pm

    What a wonderful tribute to your brother! Thanks for sharing such a personal story. How lucky is your daughter to have a Momma who shares such beautiful memories?

  10. Jana permalink
    December 22, 2008 8:04 pm

    Sharing such a treasure is a gift. Thank you. It seems he should still be here to experience the new world. He would have had lots to offer.

    I am sorry for your sadness in remembering. But lucky are those who have something wonderful to remember.


  11. December 23, 2008 4:33 am

    Ah, you got me with the honking…now that’s love.

  12. Judi in Pa permalink
    December 23, 2008 9:40 am

    That was beautiful.

  13. December 23, 2008 11:19 am

    Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your brother with us.

  14. December 23, 2008 7:55 pm

    What a wonderful story, loved every word of it. Your brother would be very proud of you I’m sure. Loved this post. Merry Christmas to all at Trapper Creek.


  15. December 24, 2008 10:47 am

    Such a beautiful tribute. Your brother was a wonderful man and each year, the day of his passing, brings back the warmth of the sun and the natural cycle of the seasons.

    thanks for sharing his story.

  16. December 24, 2008 7:10 pm

    Nita, I read and re read this post, it’s an honest, loving tribute to your brother. I would have like him and he would have loved how you “grew” up into what you are today and what your daughter is growing into. Not making a lot of sense here but “Here’s to your brother”!

    Have a great Christmas, all of you!

  17. December 25, 2008 10:17 am

    That was beautiful….I lost my older brother too, in 1986….and even tho I still think about him a lot, it’s always Christmas time which is bittersweet.

    Memories of times gone by….

    Enjoy your day today with your family,


  18. Shane permalink
    December 26, 2008 12:46 pm

    That is a wonderful story about your brother and especially about the hydro station he created with his friend. I’ve just gone back to college (at the age of 32) studying for a degree in Energy Engineering – it involves renewable and sustainable energy sources. Of course everybody thinks they are the best/newest at anything when you start studying so its a little humbling to see that someone was wayyyy ahead of me :-).

    Do you have any more pictures or videos? That design of your brothers is among one of the best of the micro hydro video on youtube as it minimises the impact on flora and fauna around it. Most others use dams and weirs which effect the fish life.

    Nollaig shona agus Ath blian faoi mhaise (Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year)

    Shane [Cork, Ireland]

  19. December 28, 2008 9:46 pm

    Bel, thank you.

    Robbyn, thank you, the hydro was pretty cool at the time, unfortunately the importance of that project didn’t carry on with the next generation. You know – family 😦

    The funny thing, on the VHS tape is another family with an ethanol still for heating their commercial greenhouses. At that time (early ’80’s) they could get corn syrup waste for distilling and they commented on being energy independent, because you don’t know how much gas could cost in the future… they were all ahead of their time.

    Renee, thank you so much.

    Late Bloomer, thank you so much for the kind words. I hope I am doing some good here.

    Judy, Meadowlark, Kristen, thank you all for your kind words. It means so much to me.

    Paula, thank you, it’s funny you should mention the gloves, they were kind of a net, and I really liked them, but I really resisted wearing a dress!

    I hope your sister made it in OK, the weather was terrible at that time. The snow is finally leaving! 🙂

    Kim, thank you, I just had to post about my brother, it was better to write about it than to keep it bottled up.

    Jana, how true, I have wished many times that my brother could see some of the innovative agricultural methods now, and even new technology. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful comment.

    HDR, he went by with his Caterpillar today and revved, since it has no horn. If my brother was alive they would have been plowing snow together!

    Judi, I bet you have some stories to match…

    Sarah, thank you.

    Chris, thanks, you can spin some good memories yourself.

    Gina, thank you for such a great comment, it really puts it all in perspective.

    Linda, thanks I think he would have liked you too, except the horse thing. 🙂

    Annie, thank you and sorry about your brother too. Time goes by fast and then all of a sudden something can take you right back. Thanks again.

    Shane, I don’t have much of the paperwork involved in the building of the waterwheel. But, I will keep your email and if I come across anything I will send it on. The intake worked very well, with just a small amount of maintenance at leaf fall, otherwise, the water washed the debris away.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Michael permalink
    June 5, 2012 4:38 pm

    I have been reading this blog for four days straight and this post made me cry. Your brother sounds like a wonderful man and I found myself wondering what blog posts he would have written. Then I realized I probably have already read some of those posts, they were written by his sister.

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