Ruby learns to eat with a fork

JP gets another pheasant. Rae gets excited.

Rae takes up photography

This one's a little better. M is for Mommy.

JP hunts at a game farm and brings home more birds.
Rae counts them. In English and Spanish.

Ruby practices her fine motor skills.

I love my life.

Letters from Chip, Part 2

Tuesday, February 25, 1941

"Dear Folks:
Just a line to let you know that the army isn't a half-bad outfit to live in. The screws are tightening down aplenty both in ground school and on the flying line, but it's still a great life, and don't anybody try to tell you different.
...These instructors are the best that can be had, and believe me, they know their business inside out. They stay right up in the front cockpit until you can fly as good, or nearly as good, as they can. I was up again today, my fourth time, and am learning more and more every day. We only fly when the sky is clear -- never fly when it's raining. We have missed about four days due to fog and murky weather so far.
...All the gang from Wisconsin really hooped it up over Wisconsin's win over Indiana last night. We follow the sports pages of the Chicago Tribune like a bunch of hawks.
Thanks loads for the prayer and the cards. The typhoid shots made every body's arm sore, but I didn't get sick at all from it. A lot of the boys did! Must close now with love, regards -- and don't worry!

February 28, 1941

"Dear Mom and Dad:
I've finally taken time out to get off a letter long overdue.
...We are settled pretty comfortably now. Dellas has the house cleaned to a sparkle, and we are entertaining on Sunday evening. I am barred from snooping around in the kitchen while Dellas fixes supper, because she is set and determined to surprise me -- every meal. Been doing a right good job too. In fact, I have been so pleased with the home cooking that I help with the dishes without being asked. I am gradually working her into the idea of buttermilk soup.
...Dellas comes to the field on the nights when I am "on alert" and we visit at the officers club together with the rest of the married officers, or go to a show.
We are very happy together. For me, especially, it has destroyed all the old lonesomeness. If only I can get her to make buttermilk soup.
Love to all,
Tuesday, March 4, 1941, 8:00 pm

"Dear Mother and Dad:
Just a few more days and I'll be soloing. I hope you won't worry, because our instructors won't let us solo until they are absolutely sure we can do it. Today we practiced landings and take-offs, which is the sign that always comes just before our solo flight. We've been working hard, all of us, and you can notice the strain on the men at the end of the day. We are busy every minute from 5:15 am to 9:45 pm, and when it's over, you're ready for bed, and no doubt about it.
Some of the more advanced students -- those who have had previous flying instruction -- soloed today. There were five of them -- and each one was shoved under a cold shower, clothes and all, which is a flying cadet tradition. After a man's first solo, he gets ducked. Then he rips the piece of white adhesive tape off the top of his helmet, to signify that he is no longer a fledgling. It's all a great ceremony, full of horseplay, and I believe the instructor gets just as much of a thrill out of it as the student does.
Mrs. Pickering sent me a copy of the Dane County News in which she printed my first letter home. If I would have known that, I might have polished it up a big. I'd rather that she didn't print any of my personal correspondence -- just makes me feel uneasy is all. I blush easily, you know. Which reminds me -- you should see my freckles. This Oklahoma sun and wind is really bringing them out in fine shape.
Must close now, and get to my studies.
Love to all, "

House Hunt Update

For those of you who haven't heard, we had an offer accepted on a house in Buffalo, MN. The offer is pending an inspection by the USDA, who has to approve any home we buy. If they approve it, we are set for a closing date of January 6, 2010. If they don't approve it, we have a back-up plan house in Monticello with an offer all prepared and ready to be submitted.
Our landlord found a new renter starting February 1st, so the clock is now ticking for us to find a place.
Please keep praying that God would open and close doors as necessary to lead us to the house where He wants us to be. We know He will!


House Hunt

For those of you who don't know, JP and I are on the house hunt again. We have been renting our current place for a year now, and our lease is up in December. We have loved living here; it is an amazing place. We are spoiled to the space we have here, and I personally have fallen in love with living in a two-story house. But at the same time, we really do not like renting. It's part of our nature to want to fix things up and improve things, but since we don't own this place, it's not worth our investment of time or money. It's very frustrating for a handyman!
One day when JP was listening to talk radio, he heard some real estate guys talking about a program through the USDA that helps people buy homes in rural areas. It sounded right up our alley, so JP called in and got some more information.
Long story short, we qualified for the program and have been approved for a loan. We are now on a USDA-appointed timeline to find a home and get an offer approved. We've been looking at houses for the past couple of weeks, and they are all starting to blur together in my head.
The only downside to this program is that they are fairly picky about the house you get. They come and inspect it themselves to make sure it is up to their standards. We would be happy getting a fixer-upper, but they don't really want us to do that for some reason.
Another downside is that because they only give us a certain amount of time to find a house, we have to exclude the short sales and foreclosures in our searches. The banks simply take too long to respond to offers. It could be months before they even look at your offer!
Anyhow, we'd appreciate your prayers as we move forward with this house hunt. We know God will lead us to the right house at the right time. It will definitely be good to own again!

Letters from Chip, Part 1

Muskogee, Oklahoma. February 14, 1941. 7:20 pm.

"Dear Folks,
Just a line to let you know I'm safe and sound and feeling great. The air down here is as clear as a bell, and believe me, we're getting plenty of it in our lungs.
...We had a great trip -- a private pullman coach all the way. We arrived last night at 1 a.m. -- or was that today? We climbed right into bed -- and a good bed, which we make-up ourselves every morning.
...We wear ordinary shoes -- the old pair I brought along and our wool socks. We have been given coveralls, a heavy sweater, and a leather sheepskin-lined jacket and cap. Our uniforms will be here in about a week. We were measured for them today.
...The food, believe it or not, is swell. Not near as good as mom's of course, but better than anything you could find in a restaurant. We are served cafeteria style and can have as many helpings per meal as we wish. I had a pint of milk for every meal and am going to stick to it.
There are about 150 men in our class and about 90 upperclassmen. Lower classmen are known as dodo birds. They estimate that 45% of our class, about 60 men, will 'wash out' during the first five weeks.
Must close now, as we have a meeting coming up in five minutes. Will write more, soon.

P.S. All flying cadets must write a letter home at least once a week or be forced to do 'gig.' (That's walking steady for one hour.)"

February 18, 1941.

"Dear Folks,
Am terribly sorry I didn't get a chance to write another letter sooner, but we've been 'on the hop' every minute here, and it just hasn't been possible. I'm working on the cadet publication here -- 'The Gosport"
[Note from Audra: forgive me if this title is incorrect; the writing is unclear] and am also writing 'propaganda' articles for various newspapers -- the last duty by order of the commanding officer.
...At the last writing, there were some 240 men here. There are about 205 now. Every day, three or five men 'wash out,' not because of scholastic requirements, but because they just can't fly good enough. There are 60 men left in the upper class out of 137. And another 25 or 30 of these will 'wash out' within the next month before they get a chance to go to Randolph.
This is the heart of the dust bowl down here, and the land is dead dry and flat as a table top. When the wind blows, it lifts a fine cloud of dust about a mile in the air and it looks like a heavy fog for the rest of the day.
...In three days we've learned to snap to attention, salute, and execute every marching movement in the books. It's a great life, and tough. Believe me, they make you toe the mark. I wish you could see the way I can make up a bed and put a locker in order. I can't believe it myself.
...Must close now to get to my studies. Will write again the first chance I get. Don't worry about me -- I'm doing great.

Letters from Chip, An Introduction

I'd like to start doing something new on this blog on occasion.
I've recently started reading a collection of letters that I am so in love with right now, I just have to share them. They were penned by a man named Carlos Bowar, or "Chip." Beginning in 1941 and ending in December 1945, they were written to friends and family back home as he trained to be, and served as, a bombardier pilot in the U.S. Air Force. He would eventually patrol the eastern coast of the U.S. and South America searching for enemy submarines, and earn various decorations for his fine work.
According to his wife's notes at the beginning of the collection,
The young 22 year old Chip was truly involved in high adventure with being admitted to the Flying Cadets. He was desperately anxious to not 'wash out.' Few people, perhaps 10 percent, had been in an aeroplane in 1941.
The great love and concern within the Bowar family is obvious. You will read of the daily inconveniences of food rationing, gasoline, clothing, housing shortages.
In Oct. 1941, the 76th Bombardment Quadron was formed at Gunter in Idaho. All personnel remained intact for two plus years. Life-time friendships were formed. They called themselves the 'bastard squadron' because in those fearful times they were on the move constantly.
And in an article in the Philgazette in December 1954:
It was not until after the war and removal of censorship restrictions, that the dangers of his missions were revealed.
What makes these letter all the more fascinating is that Chip is JP's grandfather. I never had the privilege of knowing him, but I feel like I am getting to know him through these letters. I even feel as though I have something in common with him, because he was also a journalist and talks about writing numerous articles for various papers during his time in the service.
The Bowar family as a whole were called a "champion war service family" in local papers, because all seven members of the family, including Chip's sister Maxine, served in the military in one way or another.
Chip's wife, Della Mae Bowar, or just "Grandma Dellas" to us, has given me permission to share pieces of this wonderful collection with you. Many of them have already been published in his hometown paper 60+ year ago. Chip didn't even know his sister was collecting and saving all of his letters over the years. Who knows what Chip would think if he knew his "chatty notes" were being shared on the internet more than half a century later. It was such a different time back then.
So this is his story, and mine, from January 1941 to December 1945. Another world, another time, but a wonderful life with Chip. Dellas
Chip and Dellas on their wedding day, February 14, 1942


Last week I had the great honor of learning how to make homemade potato lefse with G & Bompa. It is a tradition they have been maintaining for years, and I'm only sorry it took me this long to join in on the fun!
These guys start at the crack of dawn -- I haven't been up and out of the house that early in a long, long time. I won't go into all the details of how lefse is made, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised at how simple and rewarding it is! The secret is mastering the art of using the lefse sticks, and according to Bompa (the reigning champion), I guess I didn't do all that bad!
This was the second year that they have held their lefse-making day without the loving help of Grandma Arlene, Bompa's mom. She was the master, and I'm so very happy to now be able to carry on the lefse tradition in our family. As soon as the girls are old enough to roll the ingredients into balls, we'll teach them, too.

G prepares the potato mixture.

Bompa demonstrates the proper flipping technique
My first piece of lefse!
View more photos here.


JP's First Kill

JP has taken up hunting this year. He and his old buddy Jamie have been going out quite a bit lately, but hadn't brought home anything until today.
He's proud of his duck, and I'm proud of him! The guys got it all cleaned up, and the meat is in our freezer. Duck is supposed to be pretty good, although I've never tried it. I do have a duck recipe, though, so I guess I'll be trying it out soon!