Our Lady of the Blue Highways

Our Lady of the Blue Highways
Portrait in oils by Jackie Poutasse

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My, how time flies!

I have received a lot of feedback about my living situation while in NY.
Some of my friends were really upset I was living in such cold conditions. Here I thought I was enjoying an adventure! But, I realize these friends are from more current decades of my life. The Cousins, and a childhood friend or two will know what I am talking about.

I was born in Seattle, and lived there until I was nearly 5 years old. My parent’s’ families – or at least a major portion of them, lived in Montana. My Mom’s parents had a chicken farm in Great Falls MT - They wanted to retire, so my Mom, missing her family, and Dad decided to move back to MT and buy the chicken farm. Now, in Seattle, we lived in a nice sized craftsman style home on a large corner lot with trees and flower gardens and a beautiful expanse of lawn.

Like I said, I was nearly five, and my two brothers were approaching their teens. Gramma and Grampa’s house was three rooms – kitchen, living room and bedroom – each room about 12 x 12 with an entry hall between kitchen and living room. No lawn, no trees, no flowers. Just gumbo and weeds. Out back was a the chicken house – at that time, it was probably about 40 – 50 ft long and the outhouse was near the end of it. Ah, yeah, the well was about 20 ft from the house – no running water either. I clearly remember the day we first had running water in the house I was the “look-out” to let Dad know when it came through. It was so exciting. Prior to that – there was a cauldron (or so it seemed to my 5 year old eyes) that sat on the heating stove in the kitchen – kept warm for washing up.This was all situated on 5 acres.

I can just envision my grandparents laughing all the way to San Diego!!!

Eventually, Dad built a room on the back of the chicken house to store feed, and kindly, he built in a toilet and shower, and eventually a washer resided there, too. (Notice, no dryer)

Later on, he added a room for serve as a bedroom for my brothers.

Now, in Montana, the winters are extreme. Even more so when the wind blows, and it blows all the time. 20 below is not uncommon in the winter! And, if you have followed my description – you’ll realize it was a 50 yard dash to the bath room. I was the youngest, so I had special consideration. Every Saturday night, a large galvanized tub was brought into the kitchen and filled with warm water for my bath. How special!!!

And the shower! It was built into the corner of the feed room (remember – a 50 yard dash from the house) It was about 4’ by 4’ with concrete walls up about 4 ft, the rest just 2 x 4 framing. My brothers told the best story about the shower

The shower head dripped. And during the winter, ice started forming on the walls of the shower, and by late winter, the ice built up til you could hardly turn around in the shower.

One year, the boys got bikes for Christmas – and memberships at the “Y”. Man were they excited – snow, sleet, rain or hail – didn’t matter, about 3 times a week, they peddled the 5 or so miles into the “Y” to spend the evening. My parents thought this was great. The boys were playing basket ball, working out and making friends. What a great gift, my parents thought.

Not so – years later, my brothers admitted that each time they rode into the “Y”, they spent hours under the hot shower!

Later, when Dad put sheet rock up in the house (It had had something made out of paper mash that peeled away, we learned that the Insulation in the house was single sheets of newspaper!!!

Get the picture? This past winter in the basement apartment in NY – I was reliving nostalgia. I felt I was on an adventure. While it was cold in the living room, the space heater kept the kitchen cozy and that was where my sewing machine was set up, and after all, I had an indoor toilet and a hot shower. I was living in luxury compared to my child hood days. I mentioned the temperature so often because I was amazed I could function and I enjoyed it after so many years of having to have the heat turned up for Mom. And, if I were to spend my winters anywhere again, I would choose upstate NY - No wind. Cold weather is embracing when the wind chill doesn’t hold it at-20 and below.

With the exception of the couple days the temp fell to –28, I was quite cozy. I only watched TV for 1 hour a week – NCIS, of course and just curled up with a blanket. My bed was always warm thanks to the down comforter.

There you go – another peek into my childhood!

Until next time

Bear Hugs

Luv ‘n Boots

She believed she could do it, so she did!!!

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