Christmas Past – Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen

barn in winterBarn In The Winter

2017 will be the first Christmas without my mother so it is fitting that I blog about how it was possible to have a perfect Christmas with family and few gifts.

Every Christmas, we would go to my grand parent’s farm eight miles north of Jamestown North Dakota on Highway 20. This was not a forced event as many would think but you looked forward to it.

My mother had eleven (11) siblings of which ten (10) survived past childhood. At Christmas, all that lived within the four (4) state region would drive to the farm for the annual get together for all the siblings and in-laws. Sometimes we would even have outlaws attend.

Mom As A Toddler

When I speak about inlaws and outlaws, I am referencing spouses and the current spouses were in-laws and the divorced spouses were outlaws. The kids like me were just part of the general herd.

With eleven (11) total siblings that were adults plus spouses and children, you had a significant gathering that occurred at a farmhouse with three (3) bedrooms upstairs and a partially finished basement with a pool table.

The temperatures were normally sub zero by this time of the year so most everyone was in the house or barn to keep warm and if you did go outside, your time was limited due to wind chill.

I have set the stage to allow you to understand the stock I came from and they were an interesting stock of Polish, English, and Danish ancestry.

The house had ground rules that involved the adults being upstairs unless downstairs playing pool. The grandchildren (40 plus) including myself were downstairs or outside.

Christmas lunch and dinner were served upstairs but you took your food downstairs and ate it if you were a kid and if you complained, you went without.

Lunch was normally something easy like sandwiches or pizza and I still remember thinking the mushrooms on the pizza were mouse butts.

Dinner was turkey and ham plus potluck from the siblings so you had a wide variety of food to chose from and it was normally worth the wait after being active all day.

There were plenty of activities to participate in and few involved sitting around. Common activities included:

  • Dodging the bull named Royal who would chase you as you played matador. My uncles would do this after drinking and would sometimes get the horn.
  • Snowball fights with your cousins when the snow was damp and when not manure fights were fun. It was imperative that you kept your mouth shut during either type of fight.
  • Jumping on the milk cows from the hayloft and attempting to ride them. We were not very successful at this.
  • Feeding the barn cats direct from the cow nipple during milking and did they love warm milk directly from the cow.
  • Riding a flipped over hood from a car behind the tractor through the snowy fields. You felt every rock, bump, and hole.

This is but a short list of activities us kids participated in during the day and early evening prior to opening gifts and I would not trade it for all the tea in China.

Once the meal was complete and dishes hand-washed by the older kids, Grandma and Grandpa gave each one of the grandchildren a gift specifically picked out for them.

Even though there were probably thirty (30) plus grandchildren at this time, not one grandchild received a duplicate gift and you felt so special. This would later grow to nearly fifty (50) grandchildren.

Once the gifts were opened, the older kids would return downstairs or outside until it was time to go and the younger children would normally nap.

While the kids were doing their thing, the adults were upstairs playing cards, drinking wine and beer, and bonding until somebody started a fight.

Yes, with siblings even though they were adults, the proverbial crap would sooner or later hit the fan and some member of the family would be a black sheep normally until the family summer picnic.

I can still remember watching one of the three (3) channels we received on antenna TV as the lava lamp did its thing on top of the TV while in the background there was screaming and shouting.



TVs With CRTs – Oh Yea



This part of my life was priceless and I will always cherish that I had a childhood where I was able to get barb wire cuts, a black eye from a thrown rubber milker insert, and a special gift picked just for me.

My grandparents, many of my aunts and uncles, my mother, and some cousins are no longer with us but they will always be part of my memories and heart.


Mom Third From Left & Siblings


  • What special memories do you have about your grandparents, aunts, and uncles?
  • Did you have similar family functions with the drama that was part of being a family?

Wishing you health, safety, and success. It is great being fifty plus going on fifteen but I wish I could be a kid back on the farm.

Jay Patterson

Paul Harvey Friend To Millions – Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen

One thing was certain as a kid growing up in Jamestown North Dakota and that was KSJB Radio 600 AM would broadcast Paul Harvey’s programs. Millions loved him for his straight forward style and I for one miss his daily broadcasts.

My mom hooked me on Paul Harvey as a child and I always stopped tuning the radio when I heard his unique voice until his death in 2009. My favorite broadcast series was “The Rest Of The Story” which was part of his daily program from World War Two (WWII) until the mid 1970s and became an independent series from 1976 until 2008.

The rest of the story was a mixture of history and mystery and as Paul Harvey read his notes, your mind would be working hard to guess who, what, or where his story was going to reference.

Paul Harvey may have been considered a bad boy for his time considering Paul Harvey was discharged from the military during World War Two (WWII) for questionable reasons that Paul Harvey would not address, Paul Harvey was arrested for attempting to break into a nuclear research facility in the 1950s, and was accused of misleading product endorsements late in his career.
Today, Paul Harvey’s style would not be considered politically correct (PC) and Paul Harvey would probably be considered right-wing in our current environment and I am sure his advertisers would have been targeted by boycotts.

It seems strange that someone that worried about national debt, big government, lack of common sense in government, and the permissiveness of parents could be so right about the future of our nation decades before it happened.

One of Paul Harvey’s most famous broadcasts and newspaper articles was “If I Were The Devil” which was penned in the early 1960s. This visionary piece identifies the steps the devil would take to corrupt the world and when a comparison between the early 1960s and 2010s is performed it is extremely accurate.

There are many websites that you can visit to learn about Paul Harvey or to actually listen to his broadcasts and I have attached one for your pleasure.…
Paul Harvey belongs with many other greats that I enjoyed since childhood. John Wayne, Johnny Cash, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Michael Landon, Elizabeth Montgomery, and Paul Harvey with the list going on. It is great to watch the classics and see what we have lost. It makes you ask what is going on with each loss.

I miss the days of rotating the tuning knob on the AM radio and stopping when I heard those famous words “Now For The Rest Of The Story“.

Do you remember Paul Harvey and what was your favorite story? 

How were you exposed to Paul Harvey?

Do you remember when you could state your opinion and not be attacked for standing for something?

Wishing you health, safety and success. Its great being fifty plus going on fifteen (50 plus going on 15).

Please feel free to provide comments or opinions.

Jay Patterson

Little Red Wheelbarrow – Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen

We travel through life retaining items of comfort and/or discomfort and these items may be physical, non-physical, and/or emotional possessions.

I have traveled the nation with a little red wheelbarrow that normally provides comfort to me and is both a physical and emotional possession. The little red wheelbarrow is not your standard wheelbarrow so may be considered more a cart and its picture is on this post.

When I was a child, my mother purchased the little red wheelbarrow as a kit and since my dad was not mechanically inclined, my mom and I put it together. At that time, it was shiny red with white lettering, a white handle, and wheels that were quite as they rolled.

Much like me, my little red wheelbarrow has aged. The paint is faded, the wheels squeak a bit, and it has started to rust. Although I could buy a new little red wheelbarrow I won’t because I can fix it, oil it, and I am attached to it even with its imperfections.

People talk about being physically and emotionally attached to fancy cars, locations, etc., but my little red wheelbarrow is my Achilles tendon. Why is this?

As a child, our first project with the little red wheelbarrow was to move the full load of sand my mom had delivered instead of the half load of sand we needed so we had sand everywhere. That’s okay, sand was a great cure for traction on ice so we maintained the extra sand in a pile and filled the wheelbarrow until we used it all.

With my mom and sister, we moved hundreds of rocks to the rock garden we built after driving around the North Dakota countryside picking up rocks bigger than your hand but smaller than a shoe box. We had a 1962 Ford Galaxy and its back end was dragging when we would go over speed bumps and dips.

The little red wheelbarrow was used for many chores and resulted in many memories as I grew up and although I did not know it then, we were linked for life.

In 1980, I left for the Navy and for a number of years I would only get to spend time with my little red wheelbarrow when I was home on leave and mom or dad needed a project completed. Incredibly, the handle still fit like it did when we were both young and although we had aged, we were still a great team.

In the late 1980s, I found a bride and once we moved into our first house in Georgia. We were in need of a wheelbarrow so we picked one up from the local Walmart. The wheelbarrow had one wheel and two handles but was not the same as my little red wheelbarrow in North Dakota.

During my next trip to North Dakota, I noticed my little red wheelbarrow hanging up in the shed and that there was a new, shiny wheelbarrow in the garage. I went in the house and popped the question regarding my little red wheelbarrow and we have not been separated since.

My little red wheelbarrow and I have been through many new adventures since the late 1980s and it my goal to do whatever is required to keep her happy and with me for the rest of my days. In that little red wheelbarrow, I will always have kind memories of my parents as a child, of my children as an adult and hopefully of my grandchildren in the future.

Fifty Plus Going On Fifteen is an adventure and I am sure many of you have a little red wheelbarrow that may be physical, non-physical or emotional. Hold onto that wheelbarrow tight because sooner or later things we love go away but not the memories.

Have a great day,

Jay Patterson