The Six and the Magic Circles Excerpt 3

Again, a disclaimer. This is a first draft so it may change before publication or may be omitted entirely. Nothing is certain with first drafts.


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Garrett may have sounded a bit apprehensive when he hollered down to ask what he should do, but now Leyton looked up into the tree and saw he was sitting on a branch swinging his legs.

“Garrett, what are you doing?” Leyton called, worried that his cousin wasn’t being careful.

Garrett grinned as he looked down. “Just waiting for you guys to decide how I should get down.”

Grant looked up. “Garrett! Are you secured to the tree? It’s dangerous up there.”

“Nope. Just sitting here. How dangerous could that be? Don’t need to be tied to the tree.”

Grayson sighed. “Garrett!” he called. “You secure yourself right now. Don’t be so cocky. You never know when you may slip.”

“Not me. I’m a good tree climber.”

Suddenly a raucous “Screee!” sounded loud and close. Garrett startled and slipped, “Whoops!”

Everyone on the ground caught their breaths and peered upwards.

“You okay?” Leyton called in a shaky voice.

“Yeah.” Garrett still sounded confident, although his confidence had slipped a bit. “Oh, oh. That feathered giant doesn’t seem happy with me.” With shooing motions, he yelled, “Get away. Go on.”

But the bird continued to fly directly at Garrett, actually flying against him, knocking him off his seat.

“Oh, oh,” said Leyton. “He slipped. He’s falling! Mady, do some magic!”

Thumbs playing nervously in her loose fists, she replied, “Leyton, I don’t know how to do magic.”

“Well, you did some last night. You have to save Garrett. He’ll break his neck!”

“Garrett! Don’t fall!” screamed Mady. “Hang on. Don’t fall.”

But it was too late. Garrett was already plunging through the air.

Suddenly Mady’s ring flared a bright blue, burning a path upward toward Garrett. Then her eyes flared a matching bright blue streaking toward the falling kid. Garrett’s downward progression slammed to a stop; he hung in midair with no discernible means of support!

He grinned down at Mady. “Hey, Mady, let me down easy, will ya?”

Still not quite believing she was making magic happen, Mady looked astounded. Shrugging, she held out her hands, palms up, making motions as though she would catch him in her cupped hands. “Come down, Garrett. Come down slowly and land gently.”

Now bathed in a gentle blue light that emanated from her eyes, Garrett descended slowly and lit as gracefully as a bird, still grinning. “Knew you’d do it, Mady.”

Leyton threw his arms around his sister and said, “Mady, that was great! You’re the boss! You can make magic happen!”

“Yes,” said Mady. “It appears I can, at that. But how?”

“Dunno. But you had scary blue streaks coming from your eyes.” Remembering that, Leyton dropped the hug and stared at her as if she were some sort of ghoul. The others were looking at her with some evidence of trepidation, as well.

Mady didn’t notice. She was moving her hands and appeared to be whispering to herself.

Magic Spell Jar Post Eleven (41-45)

41. Tear, Tear, Tare

Tear with an ear sound TEER is a droplet of moisture from your eye. I laughed so hard a tear ran down my legs.

Tear with an air sound means to rip. Don’t tear the page from that book.

Tare is also pronounced with an air sound. It is the weight of the packaging of an item. If you are weighing a steak, you need to deduct the tare weight before pricing.

 42. Right, Write, Rite

Right means correct. Or it can mean a position: The right answer can be found in the first chapter. Your right side is opposite your left side. I have seen the left side referred to as the sinister side.

Write is to mark something down on paper or other substance. You can write in steam or frost on your window pane.

Do you write right on the wet cement with your right hand? Confusing?

Rite is a ceremony, often religious but not always.  Baptism is a rite. Use this spelling in the common phrase “rite of passage” referring to a coming of age encounter or act.

43.Peak, Peek, Pique

Pique is also pronounced like peek. It means slight anger or a bad mood or a snit. Or to put someone in such a mood or create an interest in something. The song piqued an interest in bongo drums. In a fit of pique, he threw the pen to the floor.

Peak is the uppermost, like a peak of a mountain.

Peek is to look, usually furtively.

Early in the morning the sun will peek over the mountain peak.

44. Shoe, shoo

Shoe is what you wear on your foot.

Shoo is to chase out, usually gently.

Recently I read a line that went, “He was a shoe in.” It conjured a picture of a boot thrown into a circle. Of course, the writer should have said, “He was a shoo in,” meaning an easy win of a contest or election.”

45.  Site, Sight

Site is a place, like a contstruction site or a web site.

The site had a long and goofy address;

Sight has to do with vision.

The sight of the snow made me shiver, although I was in a nice warm room looking through a window.


Thank God for Mama! (The Polio Story)

Deborah & Alvin Sather 1938

Deborah and Alvin (Taken 1938)


Thank God for Mama!

 Mama – Deborah Graff Sather 

10-15-1917 —- 11-05-2010

This child has polio.

Just after the school term began, Deborah’s children became ill.  Being farm children, exposure to circumstances conducive for contracting infectious diseases was very limited. When she learned that polio was endemic in the area in the fall of 1946, Deborah further reduced the risks by keeping the school-aged child out of school for the term and the entire family as isolated as possible. Only necessary trips to town for supplies were made.  Still the three children, approximately 8, 4, and 3 years of age, became ill.

The first to fall victim to the dreaded poliomyelitis was Dean, the youngest of Deb’s children at the time.  The family had visited Deborah’s brother and his family the day before, where the children had played on a pile of gravel/sand. Dean, young and a little unsteady in the sand, had fallen and bruised his face on a wheel.  The next day, Monday, he complained of neck pain.  When Deborah noticed a decreased ability to rotate his head, she worried that he had injured his neck in the previous day’s accident and decided he needed to see a doctor.

“The fall against the wheel turned out to be a lucky thing,” she said.  “Otherwise we may not have realized it was polio so quickly, and early diagnosis was important.  Some children in the area were not diagnosed immediately, and their treatment was not as effective.”

Since there was no doctor in Greenbush at the time, Dean was taken to a doctor in Thief River Falls.  After a quick look at the child and lifting his limbs, the doctor said, “This child has polio.”

The Sister Kenny Institute in Minneapolis was the hospital of choice for polio victims from Northern Minnesota, but they were overwhelmed with polio patients and at the time of Dean’s diagnosis had no beds available.  Deborah was told to take the child home, apply hot packs, keep the room temperature at 80 degrees, and give him the pills the doctor supplied.  So, the family, including Dean, returned home.  It was the beginning of a winter of woe.

The next day, the middle child was cranky and complaining of flu-like symptoms.  Deb immediately made her own diagnosis, and Eunice was promptly subjected to the same treatments Dean was receiving.

The following day, Wednesday, the oldest, Alvin, was startled during his morning routine.  “Mama,” he called in a voice filled with surprise, “I can’t tie my shoes.  I can’t reach.”

Mama knew her third child had succumbed to the dread disease.  All of her children now had polio.  This was later confirmed by the doctor who came out to the house to check on the family (a housecall!).  “He told me that all three children had polio.  I already knew that,” Deborah said.  With all three unable to move, there was little question.


The children experienced pain as the muscles contracted, pulling their heads back and arching their backs.  The doctor had recommended hot packs, preferably 100% wool, kept hot by changing them every three hours and pills that apparently were either sedatives or muscle relaxants or perhaps both. Soon the children could lie flat on their backs, but were unable to change position.  In a matter of a few days, Deborah’s feisty, active children had been reduced to motionless, bedridden patients who could move only their eyeballs, and breathe and speak.

“But they didn’t say al,eunice,dean,dogmuch,” said Deborah. “They slept a lot. The doctor gave me pills to add to their food.” She doesn’t remember what kind they were, but along with the hot packs, the pills seemed to make the children both drowsy and more comfortable.

The neighbors

Like the majority of their neighbors, the family had no phone.  Still, the news traveled quickly.  Reluctant to expose themselves and their families to the dreaded virus, the neighbors wanted no close contact, but they were concerned.  They’d drive into the yard, stop near the barn, and call across the yard to ask how the children were doing. When they learned the family was in need of things easily supplied without exposure to the disease, the neighbors rallied.

The Sathers needed 100% wool for hot packs.  Did anyone have blankets that could be cut into strips?  People had blankets, but they weren’t 100% wool.  Who had woolen cloth?  The ultra-conservative wife an old farmer who wore only 100% woolen underwear had packed his old, worn-out, woolen underwear away. Though everyone wondered why she’d kept the old ragged things, the underwear solved the problem! They were brought out, cut up, and pressed into service for hot packs. Other neighbors gathered up old shirts for “hospital gowns” for the children.  Uncle Ove, whose wife had died, supplied a bedpan he no longer needed.

”So the children were dressed in men’s old shirts and wrapped in old Charlie Haug’s ragged underwear,” said Deborah with a chuckle.

Doctor’s orders

As per the doctor’s instructions, the hot packs were wrapped around the muscled areas of their bodies, avoiding the joints.  Although the children were completely paralyzed, their joints were mobile, enabling Deborah to lift and move limbs when applying the packs.  She also could prop their bodies at a slant to feed them soups and liquids. “They couldn’t lift their arms or even curl their fingers around a cup, so they had to be fed like little birds,” Deborah said.  To avoid choking, no solids could be fed, but with Deborah’s cream soups, the ever-ready cod liver oil, and lack of exercise, the children more-or-less maintained their weight.

A couple of days after Dean’s visit to the doctor in Thief River Falls, Deborah received a call informing her that a bed was available at the Sister Kenny Hospital.  By that time, her other children were sick.  “I didn’t want one sick child in Minneapolis and two in Greenbush.  I thought I may as well keep them all at home.”


“Old Home Hospital”

The family lived in a tall old house with a small footprint — only a kitchen, pantry, living room, and one bedroom on the first floor.   The house had no bathroom because there was no running water (as some wag said, we only had running water when someone ran out to the well to fetch it). The kitchen boasted a wood-burning range with a reservoir where water was stored and ‘‘automatically” heated when the range was stoked.  For larger amounts of hot water, an oblong copper tub that spanned a two-burner area of the range served as the “water heater.”  Someone, of course, had to carry buckets of water to fill the reservoir and the tubs.  Someone also had to carry wood to heat the water.  Since Alfred, the father of the family, avoided dealing directly with the illness, the fetching chores fell to him.

For nursing convenience after the polio struck, the children needed to be on the same floor and in separate beds, which limited choices.  The oldest was given the bed in the downstairs bedroom.  For the youngest, a crib was placed in the living room, and the middle child was placed on the living room couch.  By default, Alfred was relegated to one of the upstairs bedrooms – the only “non-hospital quarters” remaining. With the kitchen being the water-heating and hot-pack-prepping center and the living room and bedroom patient rooms, the entire main floor of the house was essentially a medical center/hospital with a medical staff of one.

Medical staff

Deborah dedicated herself entirely to the children for the duration.  The doctor had recommended hot packs and the pills he’d given her.  Deborah felt pressured to keep to the hot-pack schedule to reduce the chances of permanent paralysis.

And the hot packs were hot!  Deborah used a stick to remove the packs from the copper tub.  “When applying them to the children,” she said, “I’d handle them with the tips of my fingers, and they were very hot.  I worried that the children would blister, but the field nurse told me not to worry, because they wouldn’t blister. She was right, none of the children blistered.”

Deborah diligently prepared and changed the packs every three hours, often completing a round of changing packs and feeding just in time to begin again.  When she could finish the round with a little time to spare, she’d collapse at the foot of the bed of the oldest child to nap for a few minutes.

Household staff

That’s if she had the time, because clothes had to be washed.  This wasn’t a matter of throwing a load into an automatic washer.  “We did have the convenience of a gas-powered agitator washer, though,” said Deborah.  And soup had to be made. “For the first time, Alfred had to make coffee and sandwiches to go with the soup, if he wanted a meal.  I didn’t have time to prepare meals.”

Surprisingly, the family was not officially quarantined, but there was no household help, hired or volunteer, to be obtained.  Still, without quarantine, Alfred could go to town for supplies so they did not have to rely on people dropping off supplies.

Deborah avoids answering questions about her fears for the children’s futures.  She says she didn’t have time to think about that.  But she couldn’t know what the outcome would be; she couldn’t know if the children would be crippled for the rest of their lives. So we can only imagine the fears, tears, and prayers that had to have accompanied the difficult routine of caring for her three paralyzed children.


In the spring, Deborah was wearily changing packs on the oldest child yet again when she noticed he moved a toe!  She couldn’t believe her eyes!  She asked him if he could do it again, and he complied!

Alfred was in the kitchen having a cup of coffee.  “Alfred!” she called, “Alfred! Alvin moved his toe!”  Alfred rushed in.  He wanted to see it for himself, so they asked Alvin to do it again. Again he complied, so Alfred saw it, too!  Although he could not move his leg, he had actually moved his toe!  This was an exciting day!

As time passed, the children began moving more and more, and the hot packs gave way to tub soaks. The children sat in a galvanized tub of hot water for twenty minute intervals, which soon became a boring stretch for them.  When Alfred made a run to town for supplies, Deborah asked him to pick up something to entertain the children while soaking in the tub.  He brought yellow rubber duckies.

Soon the children were moving around enough to look for entertainment outside the tub, as well.  Because warmth was a consideration and the floors were cold, the couch was put into double bed position so Dean could be removed from the crib and placed with Eunice where they could crawl around and play.

The doctor from Thief River Falls made another house call one day when the children were crawling around on the couch.  He took one look, grinned, and confirmed Deborah’s assessment, “Yup, they’re getting better.”

By the end of the school year, Alvin was doing well enough to be taken to his little country school to take his exams to determine whether he had passed his grade. After he was sufficiently on the road to recovery, Deborah had been home-schooling him.  He passed, of course.  Mama had tutored as she did everything else – effectively.

Alvin, the oldest polio child, remembers

Al, the oldest, remembers the children falling ill, but remembers nothing of the time of paralysis. He recovered first and remembers being brought in to see his sister after all those weeks of illness.  “This may not sound very nice,” he says, “but I remember looking at her and thinking, “Oh, yuck!”

He cannot recall what prompted the comment, but agrees that it may have been that she looked ill – or that after all that time, he’d forgotten he had a sister and wasn’t thrilled about it.

Eunice, the middle polio child, remembers

Eunice remembers nothing of the time of paralysis, but does recall riding in the car and mother exclaiming over Dean’s inability to turn his head properly.  In this memory, it seems that the moment is quite intense.

She also recalls the long soaking baths in a round galvanized tub and the yellow rubber duckies they were given to entertain them in the tub.  These were perhaps the first toys the children had received in months. Deborah says these soaks were twenty minutes each time, but Eunice remembers that they seemed long, hours long!

Eunice remembers learning to walk.  She has a snapshot memory — they were in the kitchen in front of the door leading to the upstairs near the kitchen range.  Mother was holding her up and Father kneeling in front of her coaxing her to come to him.

“Eunice had the most trouble learning to walk again.  It seemed her legs were disconnected from her brain and no messages were getting through,” said Deborah. “I held her hands to keep her upright and her father crawled along pumping her legs trying to show her what to do.”

Dean, the youngest polio child, remembers

Dean, too, remembers the incident in the car involving his inability to turn his head normally.  The time of paralysis is a blank to him, too.  But he does remember the oblong copper tub upon the space heater in the living room.

The space heater was a new one.  “We got a new heater so we’d have better control over maintaining a constant 80 degrees as the doctor recommended,” said Deborah.  The tub full of water for hot packs sat there simmering day and night for months.

And he remembers learning to walk.  “Mom held me up and Dad pumped my legs,” he says.

Exercises and tears – the children remember

All the children remember the exercises–the horrible dreaded exercises, the painful   stretching of the cords.  Oh, how we hated “exercise time.” Every night we’d have this wonderful “family experience” with the three kids complaining and crying while Mama encouraged and enforced. Daddy apparently hid out somewhere.

It was discouraging; we didn’t seem to make any progress.  We’d stretch and stretch those cords, and they seemed to “shrink” before the next evening, because we had to stretch them again. Growing exacerbated the problem—as our bodies grew the cords either didn’t grow or didn’t keep up.  And that stretching hurt!  Oh, the tears!

The leg exercises were the most painful.  One of the hated exercises consisted of standing with legs straight–no knee bending—and reaching down to touch our toes. It hurt; we’d cry, Mama would try to encourage us by exercising with us.  She could do the most amazing thing!  She could reach down and put hands flat on floor!  None of us could do that, and Mama was old (or so we thought).

The most horrible of all the exercises, though, was to sit on the floor with legs outstretched–no bending of the knees–then bend the torso until the head touched the knees.  We’d try and try, and it would hurt so much.  We did not get an A for effort.  We did not get excused for pain. If we couldn’t do it, if we couldn’t get that head all the way down, Mama would push until we got there.  Oh, how it hurt!

Without Mama’s daily encouragement and enforcement there is no doubt that we would have skipped the exercises.  Even as we grew older and knew, without the exercises, we could end up with useless, crippled limbs, I believe we would have found excuses to avoid exercising.  We didn’t want to be crippled, but oh, it hurt to exercise.  We hated those exercises so much!

Thank God for Mama!  Mama knew about tough love before it was a catchphrase!  Mama cared about our futures more than she cared about being popular with her kids!  But as I recall, Mama’s unpopularity usually lasted only about as long as each exercise session.  And not one of us entered adulthood with crippled or atrophied limbs. And all of us learned to deal with pain.  And I like to believe that our exercise sessions built character, too.

Post-polio syndrome

Alvin PPS

Only one of the children had any visible after-effects from the polio; Alvin had a barely discernable limp when he was tired. The limp was so slight, it’s doubtful anyone other than family noticed.  Though none of the children seemed as agile and limber as other children, this was not really noticeable either.

Deborah had asked the school to excuse Al from football when he returned to school.  At some point, though, Al did participate in football – and the next morning he required help to arise from the bed.  “I was so mad,” Deborah said. “After all the effort to get all the kids past polio, he was back to being unable to get out of bed.”  However, from this, too, Al recovered with no ill effects.

Al does not admit to post polio symptoms, but his gait seems to indicate leg muscle problems.  However, he has experienced severe back problems much of his life, which could also affect his gait. He also has some palsy in his hands as he’s grown older, and has some vision problems. He’s had cancer and a stroke, which may account for his symptoms.

Eunice PPS

In her twenties, Eunice found she could not tolerate dressing her long hair, which required holding her hands above and behind her head for sustained periods of time.  At the time, she thought little of it and merely did what was necessary – cut her hair.  Only recently, she’s begun to suspect it was the first onset of post-polio syndrome.

As Eunice edged into middle-age, late forties, early fifties, she began experiencing fatigue and pain in her legs that seemingly could not be totally explained by cardio-vascular disease, and some of her doctors began mentioning post-polio syndrome as a possibility.

Then over-all fatigue became a problem, enough to interfere with her routine.  It would often take two or three days to recover from a clinic visit or a shopping day; any unusual activity, trauma, or anesthesia seemed to exacerbate the problems.  As she continued to age, the over-all fatigue increased, as did the muscle fatigue – now moving into her thighs, hips, and lower back.  There were some issues with intermittent mental fogginess and visual fogginess, as well as memory problems.  Because of early onset of heart disease (she had artery by-pass heart surgery at about age 46, with placement of stents and carotid surgery about fifteen years later, a heart attack at 64, and a stroke at 65), it is difficult to pin-point these symptoms as post-polio syndrome.

Dean PPS

Dean also admits little regarding post polio symptoms (it seems to be a guy thing).  He does, however, have problems with his legs, which seem very similar to Eunice’s leg problems, albeit with a later onset.  He also seems to struggle with fatigue.  He is a long-haul truck driver handling a big rig, and the driving seems to have become more difficult for him, and he, too, is experiencing some issues with vision.  Dean also had early onset heart problems having had by-pass heart surgery at age 44, so again there is a question of whether the symptoms are due to post polio syndrome or cardiac disease. He has had strokes (TIAs), which may account for some of his symptoms.

Post Polio

It seems that many of the symptoms of post-polio syndrome mimic premature aging, in a way.  Muscle fatigue and the resulting pain seem somewhat normal in old age – the same symptoms at early middle-age and middle-age are not normal. Similarly, over-all fatigue, mental fogginess, and visual fogginess are more expected in old age.

How did Mama do it?

But the greatest difficulties of the Sather family polio episode lay not with the children, but with the caretaker.  The children remember little of the experience and the memories they do have are fraught with love. Thanks to Mama!

For Mama it was a different story – hard times, exhaustion, worry, tears, and prayers.

Deborah was asked, “How did you manage?  How did you get through it?”

Her pragmatic reply, a lesson for us all, “You did what you had to do.”

Magic Spell Jar Post Ten (36 – 40)

36. Wait, Weight

Wait means to hang around until someone has time for you – or until something is about to begin – or to serve people, as a waiter

Weight is what most people seem to be battling.  It measures how much gravity pulls on you.  This weight has an eight in it but it in a perfect world, it would have an ate in it. Sorry, bad pun.

37. Wined and Whined

Wined is often used in the phrase “wined and dined.” It means someone treated someone else to a fancy dinner served with wine.

Whined is to fuss and moan – He whined over the loss of his glove.

38. Stalk, Stock (Pronounced similarly)

Stalk is the main stem of a plant, but can also mean following someone, usually stealthily and with bad intentions. The lion stalked the antelope hoping for dinner.

Stock can mean cows or other domestic animals (as in live stock). It can also mean goods (usually for sale). Used as a verb it means to place good somewhere (She stocked the shelves with toothpaste and other dental products)

39. Feint, Faint (pronounced similarly)

Feint – I saw this misused in a book recently – Feint is to make a misleading (feigned) move usually when boxing. Feint with your left, then lead with your right.

Faint – Is unclear, not distinct or it can be passing out (He fainted from dehydration)

40. Your, You’re, Yore — Probably the most commonly misused words on web sites are your and you’re.

Your is a possessive pronoun. When talking about something that is owned by the other person use your. This is your bat. Your answer is incorrect. Your activities are amazing.

You’re is a contraction meaning you are. You’re acting silly. If you’re going with  me, be ready in ten minutes.

Yore is not used as often as the other two spellings. Yore refers to time gone by, usually far in the past. In times of yore, knights jousted with lances. Though dangerous and often fatal, jousting was a form of entertainment.

Should you use your or you’re in the comment you’re typing? Usually it is  easy to decide. Just read your comment saying you are. If that doesn’t seem correct, you probably want to use your, not you’re..

Magic Spell Jar Post Nine (words to describe words)

Words to describe words

Synonym –(sin-ah-nim) words that mean similar things and can be used in place of one another, depending on the sentence.  Like hot and warm.  They are synonyms and are similar in meaning, but cannot be changed in certain sentences without changing the meaning of the sentence.  You will find synonyms in a thesaurus.  That can be helpful if you just cannot think of the exact word you want but do know a similar word.

Synonym and Cinnamon – Some people have trouble with these – pronouncing them the same and sometimes interchanging the when writing. They are not promounced the same and the meanings are very different – synonyms are words of similar meanings – cinnamon (sin ah mon) is a spice that Norwegians like on their romegrat. A;though it is true that Norwegians like cinnamon on a variety of foods, it is not true they  eat cinnamon on everything!

A common synonym joke is, “What’s another word for Thesaurus?”


Antonym (ann-tah-nim)–Words that are opposites. Like hot and cold. Sometimes when you are writing only the exact opposite word of what is needed will come to mind.  Usually a thesaurus will have a list of antonyms after the listing of synonyms.

Homonym (hah-mah-nim) This one is a little bit sloppy.  A true homonym is a word with a totally different meaning depending on the sentence but it is spelled the same and pronounced the same like this:

(The unadorned cake looks plain.  The buffalo was pictured on the plain.) Or  (The plane flew low over the trees. The carpenter used his plane to smooth the wood.)

Those are two pairs of words spelled alike and pronounced alike and are what I consider true homonyms.  Strictly speaking, that is the true definition of homonyms: spelled alike, pronounced alike with different meanings

But most people would also pair Plane and Plain as homonyms. They are spelled differently but pronounced the same with different meanings.

Also, most people include words spelled the same but pronounced differently depending upon the sentence: Like this: Our neighbor is Polish (poe lish) and he will polish (pah lish) the car.  Or another example in mind is this – The grocer doesn’t produce (pro doos, with the accent on pro) the groceries he sells, but he sells produce (pro doos, with the accent on doos0.  Or here is another – The wind is blowing from mountains in which the dragons lived, but you must wind up your power cord before putting the saw away. Spelled the same, pronounced differently with different meanings.

Homonyms are confusing. But the thing to remember is that for most people words that share the same spelling or share the same pronunciation are homonyms.

Palindrome  A palindrome is easy to recognize and the mosr fun.  It is a word or phrase spelled the same forward and backward.  The thing is the poor word cannot know if it is coming or going!  The whole family has palindromic names – Dad, Mom, Sis, Bub, Tot.  Palindromes can be phrase or a sentence or even a whole verse.  Probably the most well known palindromic of more that one word is, “Madam, I’m Adam.” Of course you have to omit the comma and apostrophe as they do not come out in the proper place on the back read.

Madam is a palindromic word. Madam, I’m Adam. is a palindromic phrase.

Knowing what a palindrome is can come in hand y.  Crosswords sometimes have a clue like “an actress with a palindromic name.  Say you’ve filled in an E as the last letter from another clue.  Well, guess what? It is a palindrome, therefore the first letter must also be an E.  This actually was in a recent Sunday crossword.  Turned out the name was Eve.

How many palindromes can you list?

Oxymoron – Yes, this is a description of a word (or phrase) even though it sounds like a made-up word, and a goofy one at that.  An oxymoron is a contradiction of terms.  Some are in common use and no one really notices the contradiction – like bad luck, big baby, alone together, awfully nice, pretty toad, and my favorite – honest politician.  As you can see by my favorite, sometimes the contradiction is a matter of personal belief.  For instance if you hate dogs and think they never behave, good dog would be an oxymoron, although I don’t see it as one.   Can you think of an oxymoron?

Spell Jar Post Eight – I/E Mnemonic Aid

 A common mnemonic (memory aid) goes:

I before e, except after c, or when sounding like A, as in neighbor or weigh

Well, here’s an eye opener.  Although this mnemonic may be helpful for some words, it really isn’t very reliable as there are more exceptions than words follow the rule. 

Here’s another one about the I before E rule.

I before E except when you run a feisty heist  on a weird beige foreign neighbor.

I read that 923 words do not follow this rule while only 44 actually do!   I haven’t actually made the count myself.  

Don’t understand that goofy sentence feisty means something like frisky; heist is a robbery, generally something of great value.


Spell Jar Post Seven (31 to 36)

31. That, Who – These are what I call “refer back” pronouns

Who refers back to a person.  The man who flew into space came back a week later.

That refers back to a place or an animal.  The red spotted dog is the one that bit me.

If you use either in the other way (like the man that or the dog who), you are conferring properties upon the noun – making the man a thing and the dog a person.

32. Threw, Through – These words sound alike but their meanings are not alike.

Threw means tossed, like she threw the ball to first base.  He threw the ball and broke a window. This is also the word you would use in ‘he threw the game’ meaning he deliberately let the other team win.

Through means went into and came out a different side, as in the ball didn’t go to the first baseman, but instead went through the rose bushes. She walked through the door.

33. Way, Weigh, Whey – I recently saw one of these words used incorrectly – you do not way in when offering your opinion, you weigh in. If you are measuring your weight before a wrestling match, you also weigh in.

Way has a multitude of meanings. It can be a path (on the way, by the wayside), it can mean extensive (that’s way to much), or direction (which way to Grandma’s House) and more

Weigh is a measurement of mass versus gravity. How much do you weigh?  Or as mentioned above it can mean offering an opinion. He weighed in on the discussion.

Whey is a dairy by-product.  You may be familiar with this line from a poem: “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey.”  A lot of weird words show up in that line –  a tuffet is a stool, curds are like cottage cheese, and the whey can be either the liquidy runny part of cottage cheese or the thinner excess of that liquid which can be a drink.  But these days whey is generally used in processed foods.

34. Wear, Ware, Where – These words should have a subtle difference in pronunciation, but usually do not.

Wear is to use clothing or other adornments.  Another meaning is to show use as in there is a lot of wear on that tire.

Ware is sometimes used in place of beware, but that is colloquial (old) usage.  It is also a type of goods, like housewares – usables in the kitchen usually.  Turn it around and you have warehouse which is a place to store items (wares).

Where is actually a pronoun refering to a place. Where did you put my socks? Here’s another use: wherewithall . It means sort of like sense or awareness. I wonder if she has the wherewithall to survive those conditions.

Look them up to find other meanings.

35. Wonder, Wander –

Wonder is to contemplate, think about, or mentally be in awe. I wonder if I’ll this is a good thing.(contemplate) And here’s a usage most will find familiar: and what to my wondering (awe stricken) eyes should appear . . .

Wander is to travel in an unplanned manner or just to travel. She wandered off alone. She spent her life wandering the world. The child wandered off and became lost. In class, her mind wandered off the subject.

Magic Spell Jar Post Six (26-30)

     26. Sight, Site, Cite – these all sound alike but have different meanings

  • Sight is the function of your eyes or sometimes what you see, like “What a sight he was in his swimming trunks.”
  • Site is a place.  The site on which the house was built.  The construction worker went to the site of his job.  Or you may go to a web site, never a web sight, although people often mistakenly spell it that way.  Don’t you do it, now that you know the difference.
  • Cite is what the police do to people who are caught speeding.  They stop you and cite you for your reckless driving.  The document they serve you with is a citation.

     27. Stationery, stationary: These words are often confused.

  • Stationery refers to writing supplies, usually paper for writing letters.  Letter and stationery both have the letter “e” in them.
  • Stationary:  means it stays in a place, doesn’t move

     28.  Then and than are often confused although they don’t sound the same.

  • Then sounds like ehn. Then refers to time.  After this happened, then that happened.
  • Than sounds like ann and is a comparison word.  As in greater than or nicer than.   Usually you should not use it with different.  Usually you would say different from.

      29.  There, Their, They’re These are so often confused and yet are not that hard if                 you concentrate for a couple of minutes.

  • There is a place, like I set it there. There has here in it which is also a place.
  • Their (related to they) is a possessive pronoun for more than one person.  Their dresses were similar.
  • They’re is a contraction for they are, like they’re all going to the movie.

                 HINT – a spelling tip from one of my favorite composition instructors:  All                          three begin with the.

     30. Tome, Tomb

  • Tome is a large book.
  • Tomb (with a “b”) is a burial place. Tombif you bury someone they should be dead.


Memories of Dad

Alfred & Alvin Sather1938

Dad – Alfred Sather – and Al Sather – 1938

Written by my brother Al Sather

I remember one winter when the snow got too deep for the cows to be outside, so they had to be kept in the barn (on the Ole Sather farm).  Dad would load up an old wooden stone boat with manure in the barn and when it  had a big pile on it, he would harness up Babe and Jessie and out the west door they would go with the manure—sometimes that old stone boat would stick to the floor and the horses would slip and fall trying to get the old boat moving—but  Dad would holler get-up and they would get up and try again.

I remember one old Plymouth car Dad had that wouldn’t start in the winter and neither would the tractor so Dad would harness up old Babe and Jessie and pull the car to start it—Dad always said that darn  old car wouldn’t start after the sun went down.  But he finally figured out the problem and he would tell anyone who had the same problem with their Plymouth how to remedy the problem. I think that is how Dad became the neighborhood fix it man.

Do you remember the old Delco light plant out in the West shed—It had 12 glass batteries about 12 or 14 inches high? That is how we had electric lights on the old (Ole Sather) farm before we got REA— (electricity)

I don’t suppose you remember the time the old sheep buck tried to sneak up on Dad when he was carrying a feed bag on his shoulder from the South shed to the barn—I don’t know how Dad knew he was going to be attacked from behind but about the time the buck was going to get Dad, he pushed the feed bag off his shoulder right onto the buck’s head–that old sheep buck took a nose dive into the ground—I think that was the last time that old buck tried to sneak up on Dad. Talk about eyes in the back of your head!

(REA is an acronym for Rural Electric Association)

Storm Days

I sit here looking out the window, gazing upon a magical, glowing, silvery world – the far-north mystical-looking air, a phenomenon conjured by blowing snow back-lit by an obscured sun. It only happens when the snow flakes are fine, not when they are big lacy flakes. The big flakes produce a magic of their own but not today.

The blowing snow howling around the house sounds fierce. It looks cold and sounds cold. It is cold. But in my living room, bundled up, I’m cozy and warm on the couch, pecking away at the keyboard – or even cozier bundled up with a book.

When I need not leave the house, I love stormy, wintry days and the cozy, snug feeling of a warm house threatened by severe weather.

There is something exciting about a snow storm. That feeling of excitement stems, perhaps, from a long ago childhood spent on a Minnesota farm so far north we were almost hugging the Canadian border. Back then the winters were fierce and transportation less reliable. When the snow began falling all the children watched with bated breath and listened to the radio with anxiety. Was it snowing hard enough, storming wildly enough to call off school? Would we have a snow day? The answer would be yes about three times a year. What joy!

If school was called off early enough and we had not dressed for the day, we could relax in our jammies and have a leisurely breakfast. If we had already dressed for school, we’d happily change into more comfortable “everyday clothes.” We had very few school clothes and never wore them around the house or farm.

Usually we’d be assigned some household chores, but it was our special day off so the chores would be few. Sometimes Mom would bring out ingredients so we could help bake a nice, warm treat for ourselves. Or she’d mix up a batch of bread early enough so, for noon dinner, chunks of the dough could be fried and served up dripping with butter and generously sprinkled with sugar. We called them flapjacks. Then later the remaining dough would be baked. The heat from the oven was welcome as the space heater left cold spots in the house, and the aroma of baking bread on a stormy day was wonderful. When it came out of the oven, we got chunks of that, too. Also served with melting butter and sugar.

Usually at some point in the day, we’d go outside to romp in the newly fallen snow. Whether it was our idea or strongly suggested by the parents cooped up with us, we didn’t stay out long. We did not have the wonderful winter clothing today’s children take for granted, so usually we’d soon be freezing and ready to seek the warmth of the house.

But most of the day we bundled up next to the space heater in the living room and read comic books or whatever printed material we could find. Reclining on blankets next to the heater, we’d play games until we argued. Then Mom would find more household chores or we’d be sent outside to wear off excess energy.

Sometimes to warm up, we made fudge or enjoyed hot chocolate and warm donuts shaken in a little bag of sugar. Cozy, lazy, happy comfort.

Part of the excitement of snow days was the element of danger. When we were snowed in, we were truly isolated. Vehicles would not move, often would not even start even though the batteries were removed and taken kept warm in the house. Most winters we had no horses, so the only way to get out was to walk in the storm. Some of the neighbors had horses and sleighs, but we had no telephone to call them if we experienced an emergency.

We always had a stock of food in the winter. Every year Mom “put up” (canned) fruit, berries, and vegetables. In the basement, we had shelves of Kerr or Mason quart jars filled with jewel-like goodies. We raised chickens and hogs every year, and butchering was done each fall. We usually had milk cows, so we had milk and cream and made butter. After harvest, Mom bought flour in 50 pound bags. No, we did not have to worry about getting to the store for groceries during a storm.

On snow days there was a fine sense of isolation. The world did not intrude on our family; we had to rely on one another. Whatever we needed, the family had to provide.

Three storm incidents come to mind today.

Once, our neighbors harnessed their horses and came trekking through a blizzard to play cards! What excitement! We certainly did not expect company emerging from the dark in the blowing snow. It seems like that storm continued for days. The neighbors claimed cabin fever had brought them out; they simply had to get out of the house. I suspect, though, that they were checking up on us to see if we were okay since we could not get out and had no phone. People were like that back then.

Another incident was not so pleasant. My dad had injured his foot before the storm and he developed blood poisoning. I don’t remember how the neighbors were notified; someone must have walked out to the neighbors to tell them of our emergency. I do remember taking Dad out to the main road on a toboggan so someone could give him a ride to the hospital.

The most dire storm emergency involved plowing across country, across fields to get Dean to the doctor. The snow had piled up and the plow could not efficiently plow out the road. Across country was faster. I was very young and only remember the family legend, so I asked my brother (Pastor Al Sather) about it.

This is what he wrote:

“Memory is a funny thing—let me rephrase that—sometimes it is funny how our memories can be fine one minute and the next minute we seem to be in a fog.

— Do you remember the trees along the east side of the road from where I used to live [the old Ole Sather farm where our family lived until I was six. EDK ] down to the corner where the road went to the evergreens?

Well, the year Dean’s tonsils swelled so big he couldn’t swallow, the snow had drifted in from the west so all that was [to be seen] above the snow was the REA wires on the west side of the road. . .

— When Nick Derod came out with the snow plow at  night all you could see was his head lights on the top of the cab.

Dad walked up the road on top of the snow to meet him and Nick told dad it would probably take close to three hours to clear that last ¾ of a mile. So he backed up all the way to the [Old Bethania/Sather] cemetery and came across the field and crossed the ditch at the corner where we were waiting.

— Then Nick turned around and went back the same way and dad followed him across the field because the snow had almost filled in the path he had made already. . .”

When we lived on the farm, before we moved to town when I was in high school, we had no phone. Neither Al nor I can remember how our rescuers were notified of our need. It seems someone had to make the trek through the deep snow in a blizzard to our neighbors a half mile away.

But on a day like today in the relative safety of modern communication, I remember the “cozy” and feel the warmth of it again.

Posted in October but written in the winter several years ago.