Sun Lakes Writers’ Group

Minnie and Me

Ruby Regina Witcraft

Most of the dogs on our farm were strays but Minnie was a white, sweet, shy, pitiful, throw away female with the personality of a piece of white bread. When I say throw away, I mean it latterly as she was dumped by the side of Draper Lake road to fend for herself with no chance of survival.

I drove that road, going into town and noticed her sitting at the curb waiting for her hateful master to pick her up. I went on into town and on the way back she was still in the same place in the same position. I went on home and gathered up food, water, a bowl, and an old horse blanket for her to sleep on. My hope was for someone else to pick her up as I already had way too many animals to care for, besides, she had mange, which I cured. However, I brought her food and water, daily. When the weather tuned cold, some kind soul made her a dog house out of several bales of hay. That did it. I opened the pick-up door and said “Get in and your name, from this day on, will be Skinny Minnie!” She never hesitated for a second, in she went. She fit in well with the other dogs and all the kids who came for lessons, never lost her shyness, but I had to drop the Skinny as she became beautifully plump. She moved to Sun Lakes with, Don, me and a sweet terrier named Toot but refused to stay in the house as she was a dyed in to wool, outdoor dog.

When Sun Lakes had their annual dog show, it behooved me, (I love that word) to enter her for more fun on my part than on hers, but she was just too plain a white dog. Not one to leave well enough alone, I had some safe, black paint, stood her up on the washer, dryer and dabbed spots all over her. She drooped her ears and tucked her tail throughout this processes but loved me enough to tolerate this, frightening and probably, embarrassing experience. I thought, it seems only fair that I should join her in this adventure so I did the same to myself, without having to stand on the washer, dryer, by the way. My friend, Nancy, was visiting from California and took a precious picture of Minnie and me. The judge didn’t know in what category to place us but we won a ribbon anyway.

A couple of naïve, little old ladies ventured over to me and asked what kind of dog she was as they had never seen one quite like her. Couldn’t resist! Without missing a beat, I said, “She’s an Australian Ridgeback Wolf Hound.” The ladies nodded their heads and said, “Lovely dog.” Minnie seemed kind of proud of the name but Nancy wet her pants laughing.

The Straight Story

Dorothy Long

It was early September 1998 and our lives revolved around the Ace Hardware Store we had owned and operated for 35 years. Nothing exciting happened in our sleepy little town, Laurens, Iowa.

I spent the afternoon at home and had finished preparing our evening meal when my husband burst through the front door and announced, “We’re going to be in the movies.”

I asked, “What are you talking about?”

He explained that David Lynch wanted to use our store to film the movie, The Straight Story. It was a true story about a man named Alvin Straight, who drove his lawn mower to Wisconsin to visit his brother who was dying of cancer. Of course the media picked up on this and it was news across the country. Now, they were going to make a movie and begin filming in Alvin’s home town, Laurens, Iowa.

The movie crew soon went to work transforming our store. They build the set and we conducted business around them.

They needed Extras, so I signed up, assuming it would be my only chance to be in a movie. I was thrilled to be chosen by David Lynch to be the tourist on the bus who took Alvin’s picture. Alvin was played by Richard Farnsworth and his daughter by Sissy Spacek. We watched endless scenes and enjoyed sharing lunch and stories with the crew.

It was such an exciting time, but not all local residents were happy. They thought we were portrayed as Hicks. The one scene with the most objection was dogs running down Main street. Some said this never happened in Laurens. We disagreed as an occasional dog or cat wandered by our front door and maybe even inside.

After the movie was such a hit, a committee tried to preserve the house and movie memorabilia. There was much interest and people came from almost every state and other countries to view it. An annual lawnmower ride was started.

The town was gearing up for its 125th anniversary and a group from our sister city of Laurens, France were coming. Also 10,000 Ragbrai bike riders led by Lance Armstrong was coming through town when an arsonist burned the Straight House.

We were devastated but the celebration went on and our committee continued with the lawnmower ride. The house was too badly damaged to be restored so it was torn down.

Every June riders gather at Sportsmans Park to continue the tradition of the annual lawnmower ride. The chamber of commerce were able to purchase Alvin’s mower and are planning to construct a small building to house it on the Straight property. Visitors will again be able to enjoy memories of The Straight Story.

The Eye of the Beholder

Kris Szlauko

Beauty has always been in my life. Not that I have experienced great beauty myself, but as long as I can remember, I have found beauty in almost anything I have observed. My learning to appreciate beauty was no mistake. My mother had very little in material wealth to give, so she stressed with her children to find a wealth of happiness in the world we lived in.

A log cabin with no running water or electricity, and outdoor plumbing, beside a small bay in Oregon, became a virtual paradise in our eyes. As a child I never knew I was underprivileged or poor in any way. Our little cabin housed beautiful sunbeams that streamed through the glass windows and the small crevices in the walls. On cold evenings magnificent crystal formations would decorate those same frosty windows. Our iron stove in the middle of the cabin danced bright flickers of glowing light against the dark walls and made a perfect venue for shadow hand puppetry. It was an adventure to go outside in the evening to use the little doll house in back. To keep her children from being afraid of crashing thunder and flashing lightening, Mom explained that the gods were bowling. We learned to count by guessing how long the bowling alley was until the loud crashing of the pins.

Who needed toys? We had nature to cherish and enjoy. Walks in the surrounding woods were bountiful with watching and listening to squirrels, blue jays and other birds go about their busy lives. Rhododendron blossoms became crowns and leis for little girls who felt very special wearing them. Catching frogs admiring their shining skins and bright colors and then letting them go was a great past time. Chasing dragon flies and finding beautiful lady bugs around the yard was all in a day’s adventure. Finding a perfectly spun spider web was a real wonder. A sunset on the bay was unimaginably a most beautiful experience to enjoy.

Looking back on my beginning experiences, I know that without seeing the world through my mother’s eyes, I would not have the appreciation I have for the true beauty around me every day.

I can look into the teary eyes of a crying little one and see the beautiful sweet child with a deep need to be cuddled. Looking into the inquisitive eyes wide with imagination of a child just learning to explore their world is breathtakingly beautiful. Seeing the world through those new eyes is humbling at best. The new adventure of lift to be discovered is amazing.

Every wrinkle of an aged person’s face and hands tells the history of their dedication as they gave their best years in service to life needs.

Smiles are not just an upturn of the lips. Smiles are dynamic, an all encompassing of a person’s being into an elated state of mind. A smile is magic. A smile not only elevates the wearer, but all who come into its view are immediately propelled into a more beautiful place, even just for an instant.

There are times when I come across a person who gauges the beauty of our world through material belongings such as the best or newest car or the nicest home on the block. I can’t help but think how their world would become so ugly if those material things failed them.

If true beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then the most important observation of beauty is that it is not what you see, but how you see what you see.

A person can choose to live in paradise in a log cabin in the woods and be surrounded by the most beautiful sights and sounds nature has to offer, or try to build a beautiful world through wealth and possessions.

For me, I cannot improve on the true beauty that nature provides. I am willing to be a spectator and experience the true beauty of the miracles of the world around me.