Author Archives: Coco Ihle

About Coco Ihle

I am the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, a mystery about two long lost sisters who reunite and nearly lose their lives searching for an ancient treasure and a murderer in a castle in Scotland. I am a member of MWA, FWA, SinC, Alma,a family search organization, Clan Buchanan of Scotland, and Linkedin. My website is


I do. I have a bedroom at one end of my house that serves as art, crafts, sewing, library, storage, and guest room and it is crammed full of stuff. I’ve tried several times to weed it out and get rid of things no longer needed and organize the things I want to keep. It’s actually been somewhat successful, but I still have too much stuff and it drives me crazy!


I’m generally a fairly organized person and I like to be able to find things easily, but more often than not, what I hear myself saying is, “I spend half my life LOOKING for stuff!” My last move, here to Florida, is responsible for this chaos. I was in a hurry to keep up with the movers and never got this room really organized to start with. Over the years, it’s gotten worse, because I didn’t take that extra time.

One of my problems now is I get distracted. While sorting out a cabinet in my wall unit, I’ll see a photo or a letter sent to me, and before I know it, I’m sitting on the floor musing through an album as the sun sets in the west and nothing has been accomplished.

Another problem is that I get overwhelmed and discouraged by the enormous task of sorting through this “getting-bigger-by-the-moment” room. I’ve tried taking just one shelf and going through that, but when I realize I have five similar objects somewhere just like the one in my hand (spools of thread come to mind), I need to find them so they all can be placed together. So much for the one shelf!

I can’t take everything and put it all on the floor, sort, and then put it all back in an organized manner, because there isn’t room enough to do that. I wouldn’t be able to move around the room with the floor full. Phooey!

I did go through the closet and sold or gave away clothing, but I have a storage unit with pull-out shelves that contains fabrics, some craft supplies, holiday and special occasion wrapping paper and ribbon that takes up the middle floor and half-way-up section of the closet. The shelf above contains items I don’t use a lot or want to sell when I have time later, plus bedding supplies like pillows, and blanket. Meanwhile, I still have too much stuff!


I’ve even tried a mantra while weeding. “Think ruthless! Think ruthless!” That worked only in a mediocre way, but it did help a little, so that counts, I guess. And a wise person suggested only keeping things that make you happy. Ummmm.

A large amount of space in that room contains family photo albums that eventually will go to my son. It’s not practical to give them to him now, because I still enjoy looking at them and because he often moves with his job and doesn’t have room for them now, so that’s out.

Anybody out there got any ideas? I could use all the help I can get!


Coco Ihle is the author of  SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mostly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, musings

I Miss Fall

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the cool, crisp air, the glorious yellow, orange and red colors, and especially the tangy scent of wood smoke. I remember bobbing for apples, hunting for pumpkins to carve and decorating and handing out candy to trick-or-treaters for Halloween. I grew up in the northeast area of the U.S. and I guess it’s nostalgia that evokes these thoughts. I lived in a medium sized town, but my parents had a vacation cabin in the woods on a lake in northern New Jersey.


Mom and Dad and I used to drive the family car up to the lake on weekends to rake leaves in October. I, of course, had to make my own huge pile, and then take a running leap into it. What a joy that was. When all the leaves were gathered, we burned them by the side of the road. It was hard work, but also a lot of fun. I miss the smell of those burning leaves. There’s nothing like it. Afterwards we’d sit by the fire in the cabin, drink fresh apple cider and reminisce.

My parents are gone now, the cabin’s been sold and I live in Florida, but those special memories live in my heart and always bring a smile to my face.


Today, my sister, Joanie, who lives up in the Adirondacks, knowing my feelings about fall, sent me a few photos of the season from up there. Seeing them brought a whole host of happy thoughts of days gone by. Not only of my parents, but of happy times with her and her family. Thank you, Joanie!


So after an unbelievably difficult week where just about everything that could have gone wrong, did, I’m sitting here in my office with a huge smile, grinning ear to ear, without a care.


I hope some of you readers get the same lift I did by seeing these photos. Happy fall!!!!


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, musings

It’s Celebration Time – Again

                                  by Coco Ihle

In trying to decide what to write about this month, I moseyed over here to the Second Wind Blog site, scrolled down the right hand column to Categories and down to my name, clicked, and brought up the Archive of all my posts since my book, SHE HAD TO KNOW came out in April, 2011. I was astounded to learn that my blog post last month was my fiftieth for Second Wind Publishing! As I often say, Who’d a thunk it?!

For some, that’s not so many, but since I only blog once a month for my publisher, that means I’ve been here a while. I guest blog from time to time also, but this post is about my Second Wind blogs. Skimming through them brought topics as varied as writing hints and other ideas, discoveries, reminiscences of experiences, reports of travel, mourning losses, and just plain musings. In those monthly offerings I expressed joy and sorrow, surprise, wonderment, even fear and was so pleased when my readers contributed with comments, likes and e-mails.

It’s always nice when an author realizes that people actually enjoy reading their posts. I mean, we don’t get paid for doing it. It’s something like sharing our lives with other readers, for we are readers too. We exchange and connect with others even though we are sitting alone in front of a keyboard. It’s wonderful and I really enjoy it. And I’ve made a lot of friends along the way and have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ve also become acquainted with new-to-me authors, whose work I now admire and enjoy.

Blogging keeps me learning things I might not have been exposed to otherwise, both in technology and in everyday living. I would like to thank all of you out there who read my blogs and especially those of you who have given me feedback. I appreciate you all so much! And happy fifty-first to me!


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, musings, writing

How I Survived “__?__NADO”

by Coco Ihle

“What IS that?” I said out loud, as a flicker of movement outside my office window caught my eye. Something was moving in the middle of my backyard. The grass hadn’t been mowed for almost a week and it had grown a lot since torrential rains had been pummeling the neighborhood for most of that time.

My desk is against the window and I stood leaning over toward the glass, to get a closer look. I could see something black, but the grass was too high to make out what it was. Since I live in a nature preserve, I’ve learned to expect all sorts of wildlife during the years I’ve lived in this area of Florida, but this was a real puzzle. It wasn’t big enough or the right color to be an armadillo or possum or any of the larger animals I’ve seen. It moved again. Maybe it was an injured bird.

My vantage point was too low and the bottom half of the window was screened, which made visibility difficult, so I decided my step ladder might help. I set it up alongside my desk, got up on the third step with one foot, straddled the desk and placed my other foot over on the window sill so I could look down on whatever it was. I still couldn’t see well enough. I got down, went into my living room and grabbed my opera glasses, went back to my office and back up the ladder.

While I was trying to focus the binoculars, the phone rang. I glanced over my desk and my caller ID said it was my son, Rob. I climbed down and answered. Before he could say anything, I started telling him what I was doing, and he started chuckling. He said he was picturing me straddled over my desk looking out the window and it was just too funny. I was glad he couldn’t see a video of me then.

Anyway, I asked him what I should do. He suggested I go out and look. Duh. But, I didn’t know what it was! Maybe it was a snake or something equally creepy. I climbed back up the ladder to look some more, all the while answering Rob’s questions. “How big is it? What does it look like? Is it still moving?” I didn’t know. By the time I got my opera glasses focused again, whatever it was, wasn’t where it had been. Eeeek!

I finally spotted it closer to the house. What the heck was it? It was slithering through the grass. My heart was really pumping at this point. My son suggested I get a large container and capture it. Easy for him to say! He lives forty minutes from me and he was safe and sound in his house. But he had planted the seed. I had to find out. I told him I’d call him back.

Gathering my courage, I went into the kitchen, found a large plastic mixing bowl with a snap-on lid and went out the patio door, all the while telling myself I could do this. I tried to get a grip on my pounding heart and heavy breathing. I certainly didn’t want to pass out now and have that thing, whatever it was, crawl on me! Cautiously, I crept along, searching, and finally spotted it around the side of the house, deep in the wet grass. It still wasn’t recognizable. By this time, my imagination had me one hair short of terrified, but despite that, I crept closer.

When I got about a yard away, I leaned forward as far as I dared, without losing my balance, and teetered above it on one foot. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was a catfish! A catfish in my yard? Seriously?! It was about a foot long. I could see its whiskers. I’m not a fisherperson, so I didn’t know if they bite or have poisonous barbs or something, so I decided to try scooping it up into the bowl and taking it to the pond at the end of the street, two houses away.

I’m glad there wasn’t any video of this endeavor, either! You see, I have this problem. All my life I’ve never been able to scream. When something scares me and I open my mouth, a weird guttural sound comes out. It’s nothing like a scream. It’s a low pitched, breathy “Auuuuunnh!” After a couple of those sounds sort of slipped out during a lot of writhing and slithering, I finally was able to get him in the bowl and snap on the lid. Shouting, “Eeeeuuuuww!” all the way, I ran down the street to the pond, tore open the lid and threw my arms in that direction. He flew up in the air, arced downward and splashed into the water. Then off he went, swimming as fast as he could.

Exhausted, I called Rob back and described my ordeal, which sent him into gales of laughter. He kept saying, “Stop, stop!” I could picture him grasping his side in laughter-pain. When he finally calmed down, he said he could just see me “screaming” and dancing around with arms flailing, trying to get the catfish into the bowl and then running like a maniac to get to the pond to release it.

By this time, my heartbeat was getting close to the normal range and I could almost breathe without panting. Through his chuckles, Rob said, “Just think, Mom, you saved a fish’s life! What an original fish story.”

With a weak smile, I answered in my defense, “Well, at least my story is true.”


Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric, traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.
Join her here each 11th of the month.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, Humor, musings

Pets in Mysteries

Mystery books are the genre I enjoy reading and writing the most. Lately, I’ve noticed my stack of cozy mysteries has grown, many of which involve pets in some way. Cats and dogs, specifically. In pondering why this has been a factor in my reading, I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve been seeking somewhat lighter fare. Books with a good puzzle to solve, but that are considered more “comfort” reads, with a good resolution and happy ending.

The pets in recent and current readings have such attributes as being affectionate, loyal, curious, obedient or not, cute and even humorous. Some have that instinctive sense of good and evil and/or use their scent abilities. Some even help describe their owners’ traits or personalities.

Sometimes, animals in books are more family members than pets and as such, are involved in the plot more like actual characters. They often set the scene with their own cute antics to which readers can endearingly relate. Pets with acute instincts or sense of smell are more to my personal liking when it comes to animals involved in the mystery’s solution. I’m not really fond of talking animals in stories, but that’s just my preference.

In my own book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, I introduce Pippi, a black cat who seems to think she is the mother of Scotti, a white West Highland Terrier. They are both family members who appear just a few times being the animals they are, chasing one another, sleeping together, or just being nosy. But, since they have such small roles, they are not featured on the cover.

There are authors who have animals based on their protagonist’s vocation, for instance, veterinarians or pet sitters, or protagonists who have more exotic animals, like birds, turtles or potbellied pigs. If a reader sees a book on a bookstore shelf with a domestic animal on the cover, I think they automatically are inclined to assume the book is not going to be hard boiled and quite possibly, cozy. I may be wrong, but it seems to me there has been an upsurgence of these kinds of books lately. Is it me? Could it be a reflection of readers’ desires to escape the challenges of today’s world? What do you think? Do you have any animals in your stories? If so, how did you use them? Or, if you are a reader and not a writer, are these among the kind of books you enjoy reading? I’d love to learn your viewpoint.


Filed under blogging, books, Coco Ihle, musings, writing

Mose T’s Jick Jack Suzy to Tico Bird

I have a mini gallery in my breakfast room devoted to a special folk-artist friend from Alabama. His name was Mose Tolliver, or Mose T, as he was known, and although he’s no longer with us, his memory lives on, as “they” say. Mose was born on July forth somewhere between 1920 and 1925 (nobody really knows for sure), and he was one of twelve children. His schooling went as far as the third grade with dyslexia hampering his ability to read and write.


In the 1940s, he married his childhood friend Willie Mae Thomas and they had 13 children, 11 of whom survived. He worked with plants and designed creative yard plans with an unusual flair and became a respected gardener.

He worked from time to time for McLendon Furniture Company (sweeping out the shipping and delivery area early each morning) and during the late 1960s he was severely injured when his legs were crushed by a load of shifting marble which fell from a forklift. The accident left him unable to walk without assistance. He was encouraged to try oil painting by his former employer, who offered to pay for lessons, but Mose decided to explore this idea on his own. Little did he know that his life was about to change, forever, again.

First, he painted birds, flowers and trees and later added people and animals, all the while developing his own unique style and sense of humor. Even the titles of his paintings were unique, as was his signature with a backward “s.” He used any surface he could find: wood scraps, metal trays, Masonite, furniture, cigar boxes, even a piano, and items that were given to him. He’d display his paintings in his yard and later on his front porch and in his living room and eventually they started selling.

Mitchell Kahan, a former curator at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts in Montgomery, AL, admired Mose’s work and set up a one-man exhibition for him in 1981. After that, Mose shared an exhibition entitled, Black Folk Art in America 1930-1980, with another folk artist at the prestigious Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. First Lady Nancy Regan visited this exhibition and met Mose.


A friend took me on my first visit to Mose’s home on Sayre Street back in the early 1980s. After that, I used to go often. I was fascinated listening to him tell stories and show me his current paintings on the walls and his “pure paint” in its cabinet at the foot of his bed, also there in the living room. I found out that “pure paint” was gallon cans of exterior house paint, first oil-based, then later, water-based latex, which dried faster. He was so prolific, he needed faster drying paint, and whatever colors were in the cabinet were the colors of his latest art pieces. He painted them while seated on his bed, his walker close at hand.

mose & coco

As time passed, I started taking him pieces of wood left over from my neighborhood construction sites and he seemed pleased to have some unusual shapes to use. In the early 1990s, I redecorated my kitchen and asked Mose if he’d create a painting for me of strawberries to hang in that room. I brought a bowl full for him to use as a guide, but he was more interested in eating them. Several weeks later, I visited again and there was my strawberry painting. I think it may be one of a kind. I really cherish it. But, more than that, I cherish my times visiting with this gentle man, hearing his stories and witnessing his love of life. He was truly inspirational. I was saddened to hear of his passing in 2006 at the age of 82.

Mose Tolliver’s work has appeared at such renowned institutions as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, The American Folk Art Museum in New York, The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, The New Orleans Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Art Museum and many more throughout the world.


Filed under Art, blogging, Coco Ihle, musings

Rediscovering a Treasure of Youth

When you were twelve, did you know what you wanted to become when grown? A few days ago, I started going through a closet full of photos and old papers from years ago with the idea of getting rid of some of it and organizing the rest.

After days of sorting and tossing, I discovered an autobiography I had written. It was an assignment which my seventh grade teacher, Miss Galbraith, gave us students several months to complete, and told us our success or failure carried with it a large part of our overall grade for the year and was due in the spring. No pressure there!

I remember being perplexed about how to begin, since my life had started out so different from the other children in my class. A large part of my early years were spent in foster care and later being adopted, so I didn’t have the usual baby pictures and mother and father photos for Illustration. I had to start somewhere, however, so I began with explaining I was adopted and I wrote about my last foster home, adoption, and a couple foster children who came to live with us later.

I wrote about my church and singing in the various choirs through the years, and about my friends, and about school. In sixth grade, a couple of my poems were published in the school newspaper. It’s strange to me that I still remember writing them and I can still recite them at the age of seventy-two. I mean, gads, that was a loooong time ago! Why do we remember such things? Here’s one:

        Snow Fairy

     I am a little flake of snow,

     Falling from the sky;

     I bounce and toss and whirl away.

     Such fun – oh me! oh my!


     I gently touch the treetops tall,

     And scamper here and there;

     I rustle on the window pane,

     With not a thought or care.


     And when at last I reach the ground,

     And join the other flakes of snow;

     We play a game of hide and seek

     With piercing winter winds that blow.

I wrote about how my leisure time was spent and about vacation trips to the western states, Canada and Florida that I’d taken with my parents and suddenly, it was spring and my autobiography was soon due.

In trying to write the last chapter, I found myself in a real quandary. I originally wanted to title it, “My Future,” but I had no idea what that would be. What I did write is as follows:

“…I do think putting down a lot of facts and reading them over has helped me to realize that there really is to be a future and what it is like will depend a lot on how I shape it. My mother and father say there are many things I might do and have explained to me that most of the professional fields require a lot of work and training. They have suggested I might want to do something in dramatics or music, because I like to entertain people. I think maybe I may want to be a writer, because that would be another way to make people happy.”

As I ponder the words of my autobiography, written so many years ago, I’m surprised. Dumbfounded, actually. I don’t remember them. I thought my desire to write came from the search and subsequent discovery of my sister’s whereabouts much later in my life. What a revelation! That writing seed was planted when I was twelve, not during my fifty year search.

How about you? Have you discovered something really significant about yourself many years later that was buried in your subconscious? I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings, writing

What Do Sod and MS Word Have in Common?

The most amazing experience happened to me yesterday and I must tell you about it! But first, a tiny bit of background. I wrote my first book using Microsoft Word versions 2000 and 2003, but when I ran into formatting issues trying to send my manuscript to my agent who had a more advanced version, I decided I needed to upgrade. A couple of years ago I purchased a new computer and had MS Word 2010 installed. I thought it would just be a fancier version of a system I already knew so well. Wrong! It has been almost like working with a foreign entity―a nightmare I have complained about to this day. I even bought a print book to help me learn how to do things I used to do almost automatically.

Well, yesterday, MS Word redeemed itself in one particular way. My ninety-nine year old next-door neighbor, Nellie, and I ordered lawn sod to be laid in both our yards. Since she is hard of hearing and confined to a walker, my task was to make sure she understood everything that would occur and to assure her all was going according to plan. From time to time, we wanted to verify procedural steps and to ask the men a few questions.

When the men and equipment arrived, it immediately became apparent we had a stumbling block. The men spoke only Spanish and, naturally, my language studies had been in French. Since I had lived for several years in Germany, I figured I could use the charade skills I had learned there. Ummm. All I can say is that if there had been a video of me cavorting around trying to make myself understood, and of the poor soul who was trying desperately to understand me, the video would have gone viral as a comedy of errors on YouTube!

Luckily, I was able to get the men started. The yards had been sprayed to kill the old grass and now the men would dig that up, fill any holes with new soil, and clean and smooth out the areas while we waited for the new sod to arrive. Then I came inside to ponder what to do next.

I remembered I have been able to use a translation method on Facebook, which made me wonder if I could translate from one language to another in Word. I got out my instruction book on Word 2010 and lo and behold it seemed possible. The instructions told me to go to the “Review” tab and under “language” in the upper left of the screen, it says, “translate” with an arrow below it. I selected the English question I had written, clicked on the arrow and then selected Spanish in the list of languages. Then I inserted the Spanish translation of my question below that and voila! The English was above and the Spanish was below. I printed that out and rushed outside to show the foreman. There was only one Spanish choice in the list of languages and I wasn’t sure if it would be understood because I know there are differences in Spain and Mexican Spanish and probably other Spanish speaking countries, but I hoped my version would at least be better than my cavorting. It worked. Hallelujah!

Here’s an example: I was asking one fellow to set the sprinkler timers thus:


Start sprinkling Nellie’s at 2:00 AM, 30 minutes for each of 5 zones = 2 ½ hours and at 5:00 AM start sprinkling my lawn, 30 minutes for each of 5 zones = 2 ½ hours.


Empezar por aspersión de Nellie en 2:00, 30 minutos para cada uno de 5 zonas = 2 ½ horas a 5:00 iniciar aspersión mi césped, 30 minutos para cada uno de 5 zonas = 2 ½ horas.

Can you imagine me trying to pantomime those instructions? Ha! It’s quite possible you readers already knew how to do this, but it was wonderful news to me and certainly simplified my day. Now Nellie and I have beautiful new lawns, the sprinkler timers are set, and the workmen really appreciated my extra effort to help us all understand. I haven’t seen so many smiling faces and raised thumbs in quite a while. Thanks to Microsoft Word. (I imagine Mac machines have something similar.)

Have any of you had an experience using writing software that has helped you in a seemingly unrelated practical circumstance? I’d love to hear about it.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, How To, writing

Life in Havre, Montana (Final Chapter)

The long cold winter wound down and spring announced itself abruptly. Montana was always windy and I remember having to adjust matchbook covers to quell the howling from our front door frame, but when a dreaded dust storm loomed in our direction, the Havre Air Force Station operator would call each house to give us an estimated time before it would hit. We knew to get inside. Close and lock any open windows and doors.

As the storm approached, a huge brown cloud could be seen on the horizon and as it got closer, like the song, tumbling tumbleweeds leapt and danced across the road until visibility became zero. Within minutes, all was quiet and still again and the sun would bear down on us once more. The only indication a storm had even passed through was the color of the walls and furniture in our homes. Everything was brownish-beige. Time to get out the vacuum cleaner. I couldn’t remember ever having to vacuum walls before. All surfaces were covered with a fine layer of gritty dust, even though I had “battened down the hatches.”

Every day, my son, Rob, and I would play a game. It involved flash cards and actually taught him how to read. When people expressed their amazement as he looked at me with excitement and pointed to a box of cereal or a sign and spoke the words he saw, I felt so rewarded and proud. Sometimes, being inquisitive, though, can be frightening.

One day, I was playing the piano and Rob asked to go outside to ride his tricycle. With his little red jacket on I let him out the front, and continued playing, checking on him every few minutes. It was one of those days that makes one glad to be alive, gloriously warm and sunny. I never had to worry about traffic, because all the husbands were working up at the radar site and the street was deserted. Rob rode up and down the road, around in circles and then, suddenly, I didn’t see him.

I walked outside and still didn’t see him, or his trike. I walked up and down the street. No luck. I walked all the way around the housing circle. No Rob! Now I was beginning to worry. Where could he have gone this time? I alerted several neighbors and we set up a search party. We contacted base security and they checked the radar site area. We checked the fields behind our homes. An hour passed. Two. Still, no sign of Rob.

I was “frantic” personified! All the mixed feelings of fear, frustration and aggravation, had turned to worry, even terror. Where was my baby? We were on a secure military station with a guard gate at the entrance. How could my child have just disappeared? Neighbors were checking in with me regularly, either to report places they’d searched or to give me comfort. All of us were totally perplexed.

In the fourth hour, a car pulled up in my driveway. It belonged to my neighbor, Sgt. Knight, across the street. His wife, Shirley, got out with a tearful Rob in her arms. She approached with a knowing expression that said, “It’s okay now.” I practically screamed, “Where and how did you find him?” They explained they had gone thirty-eight miles into Havre for groceries and spotted Rob and his red jacket in a pasture on their return trip, a couple of miles from home. They were familiar with Rob’s adventurous disappearances since this wasn’t the first time he had gone missing. Their daughter was his babysitter and probably has stories to tell about him to this day.

Between Rob and Shirley, I found out why we couldn’t find him. He had ridden his trike up to the base gate and because the window in the phone booth shaped guard house was up so high, Rob had slipped under the guard arm and out onto the main road, unseen. He was playing, Daniel Boone, explorer. After riding a while, he noticed some cows grazing off the side of the road in open range and decided to get a closer look. He left his trike and scampered down an embankment into the field. These animals resembled highland cattle from Scotland, since they hadn’t yet shed their long winter coats, but as Rob got closer, he realized they were bigger than he thought they’d be. He got scared as he wandered among the beasts, and started crying. This was when he was spotted and rescued by Cliff and Shirley Knight. Bless them always!

That night, there was a celebration at Havre Air Force Station and Rob was the center of attention. I didn’t have to scold him at all. His fear had taught him not to ever do that again. Forty-nine years later, Cliff and Shirley and I still exchange Christmas cards each year and I am eternally grateful to them both.


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings

Life in Havre, Montana (Part II)

Last month, I told you about moving to Havre Air Force Station, thirty-eight miles north of Havre, Montana and six miles from the Canadian border. By the way, that’s pronounced HAV-ER, rather than the pronunciation one would imagine, since it was named after a city in France.

Life there was pretty basic. On the station, we had no doctor, dentist or minister. A trip into the town of Havre was necessary to fulfill those needs. We did have a small commissary that supplied milk, bread, cereals, canned goods and occasional fruit. But since we were all in the same boat, those hardships didn’t seem too bad. We shared the good and the bad, like family.

In the winter, that part of Montana typically had several feet of snow each year. Often, early in the morning, we wives were out shoveling our single-car driveways so our husbands could get up to the radar site to go to work, and we knew it was important to keep those driveways clear in case of emergencies. I’ll always remember my next door neighbor, Toni Spaconi. She was a little shorter than my 5 feet 4 inches, and one day we were both out shoveling. After about thirty minutes, as I looked next door, all I could see of her was the bobbing pompom on the top of her ski hat and phantom shovel-fulls of snow flying up on either side of her driveway. It was such a funny sight, I had to laugh.

Later, the wives would all congregate at one house for morning coffee and all the children would play together in one of the bedrooms. We rotated for a change of scenery. Since the winters were so cold, the base telephone operator would call us each morning to tell us how long it was safe to allow our children outside to play in the snow. All the moms would bundle their kids up in boots, snowsuits, gloves and scarves and we’d let the herd out, and sometimes only five minutes later, we’d call them all in again, unbundle each one, throw their clothes in the dryer and start all over again after an allowable time period. I remember, the winter I was there, we had a low of 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Because of the frigid winters, plug-in headbolt heaters were required to keep our cars from freezing up. To save money, my family’s car’s engine was treated at night to a quilt, a heating pad set to “medium”, and a blanket placed on the hood, inside our garage. It’s probably a miracle we never had a problem. But then, we spent only one winter there.

At the time we were stationed in Montana, there was a law that when temperatures plummeted, if you came across a stranded driver on the highway, one had to pick him up and take him to safety, and there was a steep fine for noncompliance. The possibility of someone freezing to death was very real there. That was long before cell phones. I imagine that law is no longer on the books these days. Luckily, we never ran into that situation in winter at least, but I’m sure it happened from time to time.

Even though it was difficult dealing with hardships, they were offset by wonderful people who became lifelong friends. Next month, I’ll tell you just how wonderful, especially after two particularly harrowing experiences!


Filed under blogging, Coco Ihle, life, musings