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Milli Gilbaugh

I’m still wondering

Food For Thought

When I was in grade school, a friend of mine had a modest coin collection. It consisted mostly of pennies, which she polished by scouring them to a shine with a pencil eraser and placed in slots in a blue cardboard book. Sometimes I stopped at her house on the way home after school and helped her with the penny-polishing. I never quite understood or appreciated why she wanted to spend her time and effort doing this.

Remembering birthdays

Sept. 10 was my mother’s birthday. Because of her small stature, I was surprised to learn that my 4-foot-11 mother had played on the girls’ basketball team when she was in high school in a small town in northern Wisconsin where she and Dad first met as classmates. Unfortunately, Mother never finished high school. Her father, who was working as a carpenter at the time, fell and injured his back which kept him unemployed for some months. Mother and her sister Opal dropped out of school and found jobs to help support the family.

Support your local authors

My life, for many years, seems to have been blessed with Marys. It all began in the Solon schools where, sometime in the 1970s, I met Mary Ferryman, a local artist who volunteered to help with the Picture Presenter program we started at Lakeview Elementary.
I had been writing this column for some time when Mary invited me to attend a meeting of a writing group she belonged to. I had just had two of my short stories published in the short-lived “Iowa City Magazine” and was anxious to meet other writers who knew more about the ins-and-outs of getting things published.

Lack of imagination

Food For Thought

Doggerel: Poetry with irregular rhythm that does not scan well and is often not intended to be taken seriously. Poor-quality composition: something that is badly written or makes no sense at all.

The need for butt glue

Food For Thought

“I think it’s writer’s block,” my friend said. “I can’t seem to think of anything interesting to write about.”
This, from a talented woman who writes delightful poetry and entertaining essays, and has something new to share with the writers’ group at nearly every twice-a-month meeting.
“Take an imaginary tour of your grandmother’s house,” someone suggested.
Others said, “Write about one of those old family anecdotes that get told at family reunions or around the dinner table on Thanksgiving.”
And, “Do you have any relatives who might be called ‘characters’?”

How many trees do you need?

Food For Thought

Because I live in the woods with more than my share of trees, I forget that one of our environmental concerns is we don’t have enough trees to absorb the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere. Whether happy coincidence or divine plan, it doesn’t matter, the fact that plants use carbon dioxide and manufacture oxygen holds the possible solution to the unbalance that is causing our environment to become less suitable for the sustenance of animal life—and that includes us humans.

A little bit of water

Food For Thought

I don’t know why, but my mother firmly believed that a lawn and garden weren’t complete without a pond, stream, fountain or, at the very least, a birdbath. Dad apparently agreed, for he managed to provide a small body of water in the back yard of every place we lived.
While I don’t remember it, I have photos of a fish pond that was in the back yard of the house where I was born. It featured a little waterfall that tumbled over some rocks on its way to the pond, and a weeping willow tree that drooped picturesquely over its west edge.

The harvest

Food For Thought

Dad’s dream of raising all the food for his family came closer and closer to reality as the fruit trees and berry bushes he planted came into production. He had planted just about everything in the nursery catalogs they claimed would survive southern Iowa winters, and we were beginning to enjoy the difference between store-bought and tree-ripened fruit. We also had a number of things that, for years, had been standards in gardens across the Midwest. Rhubarb and ground cherries, horseradish, grapes, asparagus and other things that, once planted, came back reliably every spring.

Gardening with Dad

Food For Thought

Dad spent most evenings reading, an activity I understood and appreciated. What I didn’t know was just what he was reading. I realized, years later, that he had been boning up on farming and animal husbandry. He was dead serious about raising most of the food his family would eat, and he didn’t want to waste time, money and effort doing it wrong. He also sought advice from Mother’s brothers and father, who had farmed all their lives.

The acreage, Washington Street

Food For Thought

From the time my parents first came to Knoxville, a couple years before I was born, Dad had his eye on a small acreage that was located on the southeast edge of town. Just short of 10 acres, it had once been a commercial cherry orchard. There was a big, two-story house, built around 1900; a small barn with attached lean-to that served as a machine shed; an old corn crib converted to a chicken house; and the remnants of a small pear orchard. Some black walnut trees and a couple unidentified apple trees grew in a sloping pasture that stopped at what is now Highway 5.

Summer days on First Street

Food For Thought

There was always something special about an early morning in summer. Possibly it was because the day hadn’t yet heated up, there was a fresh coolness that belied the promise of another sizzling July day.
When I was about seven or eight years old, the house we lived in was located on South First Street in Knoxville. It faced west, the front yard shaded by a row of mature American Elm trees that hadn’t yet been exposed to the devastation of Dutch Elm Disease. There were two gooseberry bushes flanking the door to the screened front porch, and the grass grew sparsely in the limited sunlight.

Wanting it all

Food For Thought

Every week, the last half-hour of Friday kindergarten class was devoted to the rather scary but heady activity of standing in front of the class and telling about an experience we considered memorable, or showing off a prized toy or curiosity. Quite often I had neglected to bring something to talk about, but that didn’t stop me from taking my turn.
One Friday, I marched to the blackboard and boldly announced that I could write my name in cursive.