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The See Jane Run Guessing Game

The See Jane Run Guessing Game

The See Jane Run guessing game, at least for today, is all about the rock pictured above. Here are a few fun vacts about this geological wonder.

  • In real life, my students and I took more than one field trip to the rock. In the book, Jane explores it with her adventuresome uncle, her worried mother, and a stranger they picked up at the town dump.
  • In real life, my husband and I drove up to see the rock again during the South Dakota drought this past July. In the book, a rainstorm cuts short the picnic Jane and company were enjoying.
  • In real life, the rock is made of limestone. In the book it is, too. Why mess with a good thing?
  • In the book (and in real life) the rock bears the name of a famous building in Washington, DC.

Now for the guessing game. If you think you know the name of the rock, leave your guess in the comment box below. If you live or once lived near this rock and know it’s name, please don’t comment. Because if you know it’s name, you’re stating a fact rather than making a guess and are violating the spirit of the game.

In about a week, I’ll come back and amend this post with the name of the rock and the names of those who guessed right.

The View from Lone Butte

The View from Lone Butte

The view from Lone Butte plays a significant role in See Jane Run!, the first book in the West River Mystery Series. I’m not spilling the details here because I’d rather have you read the book once it’s available for purchase in June of 2022.

However, I will provide plenty of other tantalizing details. Here goes:

  • Hiram and I climbed Lone Butte this past July while staying with friends on their ranch that encompasses the butte.
  • It’s a pretty easy climb. If you know me, you may have already surmised that it had to be for me to attempt it.
  • The vegetation changes along the way. It becomes more desert than pasture higher up.
  • The butte is peppered with animal burrows. We didn’t see rattlers or any other kind of snake, so I keep telling myself they were rodent burrows. Faulty thinking, of course, as we didn’t see any rodents either. Still, faulty thinking can be a great comfort at times.
  • The view from Lone Butte is spectacular. On a clear day, a person can see for miles, Not just a few miles, but for 20 or 30, perhaps even 50 miles. Which means that a person standing on the butte can see Montana, two miles to the west; North Dakota, fifteen miles to the north; and  South Dakota to the south and east.

The day we climbed the butte, haze from the forest fires in the western United States limited the view. Even so, Hiram and I marveled at the beauty stretching before us. Standing there, I realized that the words used in See Jane Run! to describe this land were inadequate.

Fierce.
Remote.
Beautiful.
Vast.
Wild.
Intimidating.

Each word describes a facet of the landscape. Even when combined, they can’t capture the view from Lone Butte and the northwest corner of South Dakota where the series is set. Still, I try. Why?

Because this place and the people in it captured my heart more than forty years ago.
Because the view from Lone Butte explains the transformation of the main character in See Jane Run!
Because it changed me.
And because, dear reader, there’s a chance it might change you.

 

So That’s Where the Can Opener Went

So That’s Where the Can Opener Went

So that’s where the can opener went.

That was my first thought when I cleaned out the dishwasher at our son and daughter-in-law’s house not too long ago. It was the can opener of my childhood and a good one at that. The narrow end made prying the caps off pop bottles on the rare occasions when there was pop in our house. The wide end made short work of opening mason jars filled with the fruits and vegetables Mom canned each summer. That end was put to use almost every night before supper.

But those memories weren’t the second thoughts that sprang to mind as I stared at it.

My second thought was of the jars of jelly and jam mentioned in See Jane Run! Teaching duties and solving mysteries don’t leave much time for Jane to make decent meals. She frequently resorts to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Her mother insisted on sending plenty of home canned jellies and jams with Jane when she moved. Her mom was quite sure that grocery stores didn’t exist in sparsely populated Tipperary County where Jane had accepted a teaching job. And that home canned fruits and vegetables were nowhere to be found.

Jane’s mom was wrong on both counts.

Tipperary County had three grocery stores, and almost every cook in the county spent August through September canning and freezing garden produce and lugs of fruit purchased from those three grocery stores. In See Jane Run!, she’s busy figuring out 1) how to teach country school, and 2) who the murderer is that she’s unaware of the county canning culture.

Which led to my third thought while staring at the can opener.

See Jane Can! would be an intriguing title for a future book in the West River Mystery Series. Canning could be a launching pad for flashback memories of canning with her mother. A broken canning jar or a purposefully damaged pressure cooker could be a murder weapon. If Jane has a can opener like the one pictured above, it could unfold more of the story of her dad’s illness.

That thought, the fourth if you’re counting, sobered me.

The writing on the can opener says it came from the Glenwood, Iowa Lumber and Coal Company. Glenwood is in Mills County, Iowa. My dad was the county extension director there when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The story of how the disease impacted Jane’s dad and his family is based on our family’s story.

“Mom,” my son said. “Why are you staring at the can opener?”

“It reminded me of something from when I was a kid.” I laid it on the counter and took a picture with my phone.

“Something good?” he asked.

“Something hard.” I smiled and put the can opener in the utensil drawer. “And very good.”

Mom’s Apple Dumplings Embraced by a New Generation

Mom’s Apple Dumplings Embraced by a New Generation

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.

Mom’s apple dumplings (as in author Jolene Philo’s mom and not fictional protagonist Jane Newell’s mom) were mouthwateringly good. My mom learned how to make them from her mother, who made them in a huge, metal dishpan to feed her large family. Neither Mom or her mom used a recipe. At some point in my adulthood I badgered Mom into writing out a recipe so I could make them for our kids. They loved them.

So much so that last Saturday my adult daughter Anne said she was craving apple dumplings. She asked where to find the recipe. I pointed her to the electronic version from a 2015 post at this website. She made them Saturday evening, and she served them for dessert after Sunday dinner. They were eagerly devoured by all. My heart was as full as as my stomach as I watched my grandchildren (ages 5 and 3) become fans of Mom’s apple dumplings. Once Mom can come visit again, Anne and I will make a batch for her to enjoy with us. I think she’ll like seeing an old tradition being embraced by a new generation.

Mom’s Apple Dumplings

Step 1: Make a batch of Grandma Conrad’s Never Fail Pie Crust. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes.

Step 2: In a saucepan, combine 2 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons butter (or Earth Balance Vegan Stick for a non-dairy version), and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 3: Peel, core, and slice 6–8 cups of apples. Put them in a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix together until apples are coated with sugar and cinnamon.

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Take 1/4 of the pie dough and roll it into a rectangle about  15 inches long and 8 inches wide.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.   With a paring knife, cut the dough into 6 pieces.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Fill each section of dough with as much of the apple mixture as it can hold.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Fold the dough up and around the apples.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Place 12 dumplings in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Pour the syrup over the dumplings.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.Bake the dumplings at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 30–35 minutes until the apples are soft when a fork is inserted into one of the dumplings.

My mother made the most delicious dumplings. When a friend called to offer us free apples, I pulled out Mom's recipe. They were as delicious as I remembered.

Cool and serve with ice cream, milk, or half-and-half or dairy-free alternatives.

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.

It Could Be Worse. It Could Be -45°.

It Could Be Worse. It Could Be -45°.

It could be worse. It could be -45°.

That was my first thought when I scrolled through Facebook and saw the low temperatures my friends, both near and far, were posting. Curious, I checked the local temperature on my phone.

“It’s -21°,” I told my husband.

He shook his head. “That’s cold.”

“It could be worse. It could be -45°.”

We silly grinned at each other as we remembered the stupidest thing we ever did in the coldest weather of our married lives.

It was a February Sunday in 1982.
We were a young and foolish.
We’d been married for 4 years.
We lived in Camp Crook, South Dakota.

Someone called to say church had been cancelled because it was -45°. I wanted to know what -45° felt like. The inner door worked without a hitch, but the screen door barely moved. It wasn’t frozen shut, but the lubricant in its push/pull mechanism had congealed. It took some muscle to open it. I poked my head out for maybe a second and pulled it right back in. -45° is cold. Really cold.

But not cold enough to say no when our friend Craig called. “Liz and I are going out to eat in Spearfish. Want to come?”

“It’s -45°,” we said.

“We’ll warm up the car,” they said. “We’re not leaving until noon. It’ll be warmer then.”

They was right. It was only -30° when we crawled into Craig and Liz’s car. The sun was shining. The car was toasty. Dinner was tasty, and we all returned home safely. So why do I say the trip was the stupidest thing we’ve ever done? Consider the following details:

Camp Crook is 100 miles from Spearfish.
There are only 2 towns between where we lived and where we were going.
I was 5 months pregnant.
That’s why I know it was 1982.
Now do you see why it was the stupidest thing we ever did?

Then again, it’s a shared memory that makes us grin and say, whenever the temperature dips into the double digits below zero, “It could be worse. It could be -45°”

Sign up to receive website updates and See Jane Run! book news on Gravel Road’s home page right under the picture of–you guessed it–the gravel road.