I love trains … and the real reason why

After a late night meeting last week, we decided to stop in Cambridge for a bite to eat. As we were leaving town, we crossed a railroad track and noticed a train down the track. I sighed, knowing we would be past the track when the train came through. You see, I love trains … in particular the whistle, but also the sound and power of the engine, the clickity-clack of the wheels on the rail, the rushing sound as the cars pass by … I love it all.

My husband, knowing me all too well, however, turned at the next corner, pulled into a parking lot and parked close to the train tracks. Within moments, the train appeared – the headlight becoming brighter and all too quickly passing by … but, for me, the highlight of the day.


A Union Pacific train passing through Cambridge.


I have loved trains for a long time. You see, my Dad retired from BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) in 1980. BNSF used to be known as the Great Northern Railway.

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Rocky, the goat, was their logo. For many, many years, Rocky the Goat graced their calendar, a copy of which was always hanging on our bathroom wall.

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Several of the Great Northern/Rocky logos found online.

After Dad retired, he didn’t care much about trains. It didn’t stop, me though. A few years ago, we went on an excursion train ride in Spooner, Wisconsin. I paid an extra fare so I could ride in the engine on the return trip. An eight-year old and his Dad were also riding in the engine. The eight-year old soon lost interest but my trip – and the conversation with the engineer – was loud, noisy and wonderful.

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Inside the engine

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The excursion ride in Spooner, Wisconsin

As I think about it, however, it’s not just the physical features and sounds of the trains. It’s more than that. When my Dad was still working, he often received anniversary gifts from BNSF. The ring I wear next to my wedding band is one of those gifts. It is a silver band with three emeralds – for Mom, symbolizing her Irish heritage. Just before they closed Mom’s casket, he reached in, took out her rings, and handed them to me. Dad always chose a gift for Mom rather than himself. As kids, we didn’t notice those things. We didn’t understand the depth of their love.


So, the real reason I love trains is that they remind me of my Dad and they always will. And that’s a good thing.

Thanks for reading!





A peek through time … continued

One of my previous blogs, found HERE, featured abandoned homes. This blog continues that blog, featuring photos of various buildings or structures. There is just something fascinating about these buildings – the nostalgia of times past, the stories they hold, and the opportunity they create for those who choose to imagine. I am one of those.

The first two pictures below are pictures of a building in Estes Brook, Minnesota – a very small place that used to be considered a village. More than twenty years ago, we leased this building to manufacture camper cushions and employed about twenty people. The building was set up with sewing machines, cutting tables and tables where the cushions were stuffed with foam rubber and wrapped for shipment. There was a constant hum of machines and people working. Today this building sits decayed, silent and forlorn.

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Next to that building is an old church which has significantly decayed over the years. There is no longer joyful voices found here. Only the sound of silence.

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As we were travelling around the state, we found more … This coop building stands tall  … and still used but not like it was used in its glory days.


Recently I learned that my great grandfather worked part time as a blacksmith. I wonder what his shop was like.

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And this lovely abandoned silo … still standing proud …

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And, finally, a photo with a young girl looking out the window … through eternity … (you see, she is a doll  –  but it sure makes you look twice).


Thanks for reading!

Lost in the past … and loving it

Recently I spent the better part of the day looking through old photo albums and totes of photos – in search of those to take to the cousins weekend getaway. As I was searching, I found an envelope marked ‘Grandma’s letters for May 5 column.’  The handwriting on the envelope was my mother’s. For many years, she wrote a weekly column in the Princeton Union Eagle titled ‘Shirley’s Sampler.’ The envelope was stuffed full of old letters. Curiosity got the better of me so I went to my desk, sat down, and started reading through the letters. Soon, I was lost in the past …

“Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” Bryant H. McGill

The handwritten letters were from my great-grandmother Cora Lamoreaux Bullis. Some of the letters are to her sister Edith Schussler and some to her ‘friend’ – likely her future husband Hiram (yet to be verified). I cannot adequately describe the amazing feeling reading Cora’s words – and getting a glimpse into her life. You see, Cora died in 1902, on her birthday, at the young age of 25, only five weeks after the birth of my grandmother Edythe Elizabeth Bullis (Beth). At that time, there wasn’t much to be done for a ruptured appendix.

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I kept reading until I had read through all of the letters in the envelope – 20 of them. Many of the letters include sketches on the top page of the letter, indicating Cora’s artistic ability. Amazingly, one of the letters talks about the birth of my grandmother and includes a small lock of her dark hair. Cora further explains to her sister that the baby will be named after her. How proud she must have been. One of my next projects will be to transcribe those letters – perhaps for a story book about Cora.


But, of course, the story doesn’t end here. I went online and was soon looking at information about my great grandfather’s second and third wife – and then my great grandparents – and on and on. And so the day soon disappeared …

About twenty years ago, I wrote a history report on the Bullis-Fadden relatives for an assignment at St. Cloud State University. I haven’t read that report in years so I will go back and be reminded of my earlier research. A lot has changed, however, in those 20 years.There if far more access to historical information. A quick online search of newspapers yielded several interesting stories. I connected online with a person on Ancestry.com and now have additional photos  – including one of Great Grandmother Cora. Then I connected with my youngest brother and guess what – he had Cora’s wedding picture! (The photo shown above is a crop of that photo.) And, I have several totes of old photos from my mother – yet to be identified. So, the investigation and research goes on … I may be ever ‘lost in the past’ and loving it.

Thanks for reading!

The changing skies … clouds and rainbows

On Friday night, we decided to go out for dinner. In light rain, we headed west and south, to Orrock, Minnesota – a very small unincorporated area near the junction of Sherburne County Road 5 (184th Street NW) and Sherburne County Road 4 in Orrock Township, Sherburne County — to the K J’s Refuge Bar & Grill. The facility serves traditional American food. We chose broasted chicken.

Instead of going home right away, we decided to take a little road trip on the way home, meandering back and forth on township and county roads, all within 15 miles of our home, crossing back and forth of Highway 95. We really haven’t done this in years so it was fun to see the changes in the landscape.

The rain had stopped but the clouds were amazing. Several times my husband stopped so I could pop out of our vehicle to catch a photo.

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Clouds and Chipmunks 086.JPGAfter an hour or so of driving, the skies changed – with a few raindrops here and there – but rainbows appeared.

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Heading home, we were a little surprised that we had spent two hours driving around – peacefully observing nature’s color show. What a fun time.

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Thanks for reading!





Color from the yard …

Today I bring you bits of color from our yard. Soon the summer will be over – but, you can always come back to this blog to get a bit of joy.


The hibiscus have really blossomed with the recent very warm weather. 


The rain is helping produce mushrooms … 


The lilies will soon be done blooming … 


Such vibrant color … 


This is the only blossom on my rose bush. I wish you could smell it … heavenly. 








A cousins weekend …

This past weekend I went to a cousins gathering – at my sister-in-law’s cabin on Lake Lipsett (also called Lake Lipsie) near Siren, Wisconsin. Technically, some of us are really cousins-in-law or cousins through marriage. However, we made no distinctions.

There were seven cousins, all women, who attended. Many had not seen the others in many, many years.However, it took about five minutes to get reacquainted and then it was as if we had just seen each other. And so the talking and the laughter began …

We enjoyed pontoon rides on the lake  …

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We saw eagles and loons (a favorite thing for me) …

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We poured over family photos …

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We had bonfires …

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We drank wine … (with just a little trouble opening the bottles) …

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We played cornhole …  (look at that arm follow-through) …

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We talked and laughed …

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And we enjoyed the beauty all around us.

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The picture below  truly represents the glorious evening sunlight and our glorious weekend.

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I highly recommend a cousins weekend. We did not talk politics. We did not solve any world problems. We did not listen to the news (we were too busy talking). But we did create precious memories that will linger …

Precious mem’ries, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold.

Until next time – Thanks for reading!