Tag Archives: Memories

Thanksgiving, 1946

I’ve been reading a book, in bits and pieces, written by a cousin about some of our ancestors, including my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Ichabod Foster. It’s based on a volume of his diaries and her travels tracing his footsteps.

The front cover of the book Searching for IchabodIt was with great satisfaction to find some details about my Foster cousins and their traditions, including Thanksgiving.

Many of my family’s branches have connections to this part of Iowa — Washington, Johnson, Keokuk and Linn counties.

Almeda Foster, a great granddaughter of Ichabod, married a fellow named John Shannon Boal. Azariah Foster, Ichabod’s grandson, was her father. Their eldest daughter, Nettie Boal, married Jerome Harvey Darling. I’ve discovered that Nettie had sisters, too, the knowledge of which slowly faded from people’s memories.

I actually have one of Nettie’s books, printed in 1871, I think. It was among some of my grandmother’s things for sale just before she moved from her home to a retirement community. Thankfully, I had the chance to quickly browse through what was left, before the sale, but after relatives had picked through whatever was there. Somehow folks had missed this book. I noticed a stack of books and immediately made my way to it.

Nettie and ‘Grandpa Darling’ had one daughter, my great grandmother, named Geneva. My grandmother had obviously either rescued the book or was given it by her mother, Geneva.

I’m glad I’ve got something from this side of the family and era, a book printed just after the Civil War. In fact, Nettie’s father was a Civil War veteran, though I have yet to pin down his unit and experiences.

Now, we can add Julie Foster Van Camp’s memories and writings about Ichabod’s diaries to what we know about the Foster family. It’s nice to read about others, particularly cousins, with the same passionate interest in history and their efforts to preserve and share it.




It’s strange to read an obituary of someone you knew in high school. It is particularly poignant in the wee hours of the day after Memorial Day.

I learned about his death from a friend on Facebook, who was understandably shocked. Sadly, I know of a few other classmates who have died as well. I even went to a service for one of them, Troy Sikel, another talented man and fellow actor, despite my aversions to crowds and strangers.

The latest, Daren VanDewalker, I knew from wandering into the high school theater one day. What I was doing there I really don’t know. It was probably partly my brother’s influence, who had caught the acting bug a few years before.

I remember one day our teacher, who I can still hear bellowing my name as if I’m in some sort of trouble, wanted us to do some improv. Daren was sitting in a big circle with a group of us students. Everyone was having a raucous, good time. I was mostly just watching that day. I don’t recall doing much improvisation myself. I do remember being fascinated by the camaraderie.

Another memory is one time being given the task of acting the part of a man who had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. I had no idea what to do, so I just reacted to what my compatriot, the doctor, said. It was amazingly effective. I’ve heard famous actors say that the key to acting is listening. It’s very true.

Understated is often best, I learned. Our drama teacher had given me that assignment, at least in part, because I was often very prone to comedic buffoonery, rather than serious drama. Many of my roles in the various plays during my four years offered comedic relief, and I loved doing it.

Now, however, I’m much less the attention seeker, though I cherish those memories. I’ve reverted back to my introverted self. Today, I’m more of a recluse.

Life is certainly fickle. His death is a reminder that we are temporal. We must live in the moment and cherish every minute. I need to remember these harsh life lessons.

Daren, a mere 42 years old, barely more than a year older than myself, died from a stroke. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, his wife and four kids, and his sister, Denise.


Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th. I didn’t even realize it until reading a few headlines.

Reading about the 13th immediately reminded me of my late aunt, Carol. She was a remarkable woman, with a folksy common sense about her.

Aunt Carol loved celebrating holidays, particularly the odder ones, such as Halloween. She also was a bit superstitious, and Friday the 13th was one of those days for her.

It was nice to be reminded of her. She died after years of fighting off various cancers.

Approximately 17 million people fear Friday the 13th.1 They share this phobia with at least two presidents, FDR and Herbert Hoover. Neither would travel on the 13th if it was a Friday.

“This Friday the 13th . . . is even more unusual: Tonight happens to include a full moon.”

It won’t happen again until 2049.

“Since this is a phobia, there are names for it: friggatriskaidekaphobia, derived from the Norse goddess, Frigga, wife of Odin the ‘allfather’; and paraskevidekatriaphobia, the Greek root for fear of Friday the 13th. Triskaidekaphobia simply means fear of the number 13.”

“There can be as many as three Friday the 13ths in a single calendar year, such as in 2009 or 2012. The next year in which the day will occur three times is 2015. The longest period that can occur without a Friday the 13th is 14 months.”

“On average, there is a Friday the 13th once every 212.35 days.”


1. According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in North Carolina

Landry’s Playbook and His Bible

Yesterday, a man named Thomas ‘Hollywood’ Henderson, a professional footballer with a story of his own, shared some memories of Tom Landry, longtime coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and Ken Hutcherson, who died in December after a decade-long battle with cancer.

Henderson had not seen Ken Hutcherson since 1975, when they competed for a spot on the Cowboys roster, a team that would play in Super Bowl X against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“He was a hard hitting middle linebacker that I went to training camp with in his second year with Cowboys. He later played for Seattle. Ken carried Landry’s playbook and his Bible everywhere.”

Hutch was going up against some talented men. Some were veterans of the game. Others were rookies, just drafted.

The 1974 Dallas Cowboys, including Hutch, wearing no. 59
The 1974 Dallas Cowboys, including Hutch, wearing no. 59

“The numbers were against Ken making the team,” Henderson explains, despite Hutch having played the year before.

Coach Landry spoke to the men on the final day of that camp in 1975. He had to declare who had made the team and who had not.

“This is a tough business and sometimes decisions are difficult. I had to cut a friend today,” Landry said, trying to hold back his emotions.

That friend was Ken Hutcherson.

“Landry started to cry. He then dismissed us.”

Hutch wore no. 59 while playing with the Cowboys.
Hutch wore no. 59 while playing with the Cowboys.

Henderson and two others, Randy White and Bob Breunig, were standing together when Coach Landry approached them.

“I hope you guys are worth it,” he said. He was taking a chance letting Hutch go, a good player and a good man. Hutch was a man of character.

“During my five-year career as a Dallas Cowboy, I never saw an emotional Tom Landry for any reason. A rare moment indeed.”

Twelve rookies made that team. The Dirty Dozen the motley crew was called, Henderson says. Henderson struggled, off-field mostly, with drugs and alcohol. His behavior became increasingly distracting, even to the point of using cocaine during games. Eventually, after several warnings, Landry had enough, first benching and then waiving him.

Meanwhile, Landry decided to trade Hutch to the San Diego Chargers rather than just cut him loose. Then, Hutch was drafted by a new expansion team, the Seattle Seahawks, only to have an injury end his football career prematurely. But Hutch had higher aspirations than just football. He wanted to preach and teach the gospel. He wanted to change lives, beyond this temporal, corrupted world.

“Ken Hutcherson has gone on to minister and impact lives. I know he impacted Tom Landry. God bless his family and the man he was and is. Obviously Landry has prepared a place for him.”

Landry died in 2000, eleven years after being fired by a brash new Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. Jones chose a different path, a flashier one, replacing him with Jimmy Johnson.

By that time, 1989, Hutch was a pastor at Westminster Chapel, though he had been proselytizing for most of his life.

“You are a special man, Ken. I knew it then and I know it now. For 39 years I’ve known you were a special man. God bless.”

Hutch was a remarkable man of faith. Yet, he was just a man, an ordinary man. But a common, ordinary man with a passionate love of God, life and people. He impacted me, too.

That’s what I loved about Hutch. He was just one of the guys. He never thought himself better than anyone else.

Thanks, Hollywood, for sharing.