Halloween Memories

Halloween Memories

My mother often made popcorn balls from scratch the night of Halloween to coax me to stay in and not roam the neighborhood with my brothers and friends.  I think she worried they did more tricking than treating and she didn’t want the daughter of the high school principal to get into too much mischief.  Of course, I was nearly four years younger than my closest sibling and neighborhood friends so maybe she just feared for my life.

C2 in a a clown outfit

In small towns, tricking residents and businesses was epic back in my childhood.  Helions soaped front windows with spooky and sometimes naughty words, kids stole rotting veggies from local gardens to hurl at one another and often the local school (or home of a school administrator) was a target for the most grievous offenses.  When I was in high school, some kids (still not naming the culprits) stole nearly all of the pumpkins in town and lined them up on the roof just above the entry to the gymnasium.  Too bad we didn’t have cell phones to capture that impressive field of orange when we entered the school-house doors the next morning.  Or capture on video the act in the making.  All we have are our memories and every time I get back with my high school friends, the story gets richer and the number of pumpkins pulled up on the roof gets bigger.

My dad, a school official, was not a fan of these tricks since they bordered on (ok, maybe they crossed over) breaking a local ordinance.  And he had the responsibility of upholding law and order.  That part of his job stunk for us Hauck kids.  But we still managed to pull a few tricks of our own. I think, unfortunately, that today Halloween is so much less about our youth and so much more of an adult party. Although, I understand why many of us still enjoy the fun of dressing up for Halloween (see evidence below). But what happened to crafting your own costume and repurposing it for multiple children?  Growing up, we had a box of costumes and leftover accessories that Mom brought out a few days before Halloween and then expected her children to design something suitable to wear out for trick-or-treating from these disparate parts.   Unfortunately, the sum of the parts didn’t make for the whole, so we often resembled a homeless person or a zombie but hey, it was our own.

Never too old to dress up?

This year on Ashland, we are focusing on the little ones on our block and hoping to make this year, trick-or-treating, door-to-door the nexus of the Halloween experience. And we will have a hand-carved pumpkin lit and waiting for the little ones.  RM and I always make the kids tell us about their costume before they get their candy.  We think we are teaching them the art of communication and a little bit of practice at delayed satisfaction.  They think it is torture.

We have a few tricks up or sleeve this year and I will be making popcorn balls.  Can you say, “BOO”!

Popcorn Balls 

  • 1/4 cup Peanut Oil
  • 6 Tablespoons Popcorn Kernels
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 6 ounces, weight Mini Marshmallows (about Half A Package)
  • 1 cup Shelled Unsalted Peanuts or Pistachios
  • Cooking Spray


Add the oil to a medium saucepan (one that has a tight-fitting lid) over medium-high heat. Add the popcorn and shake the pan gently to make sure the kernels are coated. When the oil starts to sizzle, but before the corn starts popping, add the sugar to the pan. Shake the pan again, and when the first couple of kernels pop, place the lid on the pan and shake the pan gently with the other hand while you hold the lid in place. Keep doing this as the popcorn pops, until the popping slows down.

When almost all the kernels have popped, pour the popcorn onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, separating the kernels slightly with a spatula or spoon. Let the popcorn cool slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a separate pot over low heat. Add the marshmallows, stirring as they melt. Stir it to combine.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the popcorn to the pot, stirring immediately to coat it as quickly as possible. Right after stirring, add the peanuts and stir until nuts are totally worked in.

Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray and form the popcorn mixture into individual balls 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Set them aside and let them cool and set completely! Serve at room temperature.

Happy Halloween Y’all!  

Aspen Leaves in the High Country

Aspen Leaves in the High Country

As the temperatures begin to get colder, aspen, cottonwood and willow in the eastern Sierra Mountains suspend production of chlorophyll, which is essential for photosynthesis, and attempt to save energy in anticipation of the coming winter. As the chlorophyll left in leaves breaks down (and with it the green coloring), other colors begin to shine through.  And boy do they.

RM and I had the opportunity to drive over 1,000 miles this last week exploring over a 1100 square miles of Yosemite National Park along 214 miles of paved roads as well as the surrounding areas near Milo Basin and Mammoth Falls to the east of Yosemite.  We also drove through the Fresno Valley area and found it to be traumatized by the infamous California drought.  Very sad to see first hand.

But the leaves.  Oh, my.

We timed our trip in hopes of experiencing cooler temps and a bit of a nip in the air in mid October in the mountains and we were not disappointed.  We had sunshine nearly all week with just a dusting of snow on the highest elevation the night before we departed.  Nearly a perfect week of viewing the changing season up close and personal.

Happy Fall y’all!



Santa Fe All the Way

Santa Fe All the Way

Today, I am featuring a guest blogger, my long departed paternal grandfather, Lawrence E. Hauck,  who passed away in 1979.  He wrote this article, most likely in the 1960’s, for the Santa Fe Magazine, published date unknown.   I would like to think that Grandpa would have taken naturally to blogging and social media as is evident of his interest, through hamming, to connect his thoughts, reflections and experiences with his “new friends” hundreds of miles from his rather isolated home in Newton, Kansas.

Glimpses Into Amateur Radio Stations, Owned and Operated by Our Employees, Who Nightly Explore the Lower Wave Lengths in Search of New Friends and New Adventures

by Lawrence E. Hauck who owned Station W9CYV

Granpa’s Station squeezed into a second floor bedroom. The transmitter and power supply are built in the large rack at the right.  At the left can be seen the four-tube screen grid receiver and loud speaker.  This is a ten-watt station, power supplied by a step-up transformer from the city current.

Many of our employees, tired from the day’s work, go home, drop into an easy chair and snap on the radio, little dreaming that far below the range of scheduled programs there is a new world, inhabited by thousands of amateur operators, a vast army of friendly “hams” (as they prefer to be called) who nightly split the ether with the vibrant scream of their code signals, chatting with friends miles away, whom they have never seen, handling messages of a noncommercial nature, or swapping information about the weather, the girl friend, or the intensity of the ever-prevailing static.

The radio amateurs of the United States, sixteen thousand of them, enjoy perhaps the most fascinating and yet the least known of hobbies.  The public is privileged to gaze upon the efforts of the golfer or the stamp collector, but the radio amateur enjoys his hobby in an isolated upstairs room or basement nook, surrounded by a maze of wires and a barricade of equipment, where he can “pound brass” (operate) to his heart’s content.

The neighbors may view his squirrel cage aerial swinging from the mast, high above his house, and comment wonderingly on the necessity for such a contraption to bring the radio programs, and the postman may stare bewildered at the flood of postcards with strange call-letters on them which are delivered daily to the “ham’s” residence but generally speaking the public is scarcely aware of his hobby.

To tell about the growth and development of amateur radio would require more space than is available; sufficient to say, however, that no sooner had Marconi announced the first successful transmission of wireless signals, than a group of interested experimenters became bent on duplicating the feat, improving on his apparatus and extending its possibilities, not for monetary gain, but purely for the sake of the experiment.  Their number has grown to thousands.

The United States government, immediately after the World War, began granting licenses to all who could pass the required examination, free of charge, and this practice is continued today.  In order to operate an amateur radio station it is only necessary to have a working knowledge of the apparatus you wish to use, ability to send and receive Continental Morse code at ten words a minute, and a thorough knowledge of the international laws governing radio communication, such as preference to SOS calls and other rules too numerous to mention here.  Once the applicant passed the examination and secured his operator’s license and his station license and call letters, he can design and build his own transmitter an “get on the air.”

The government has allocated six different wave bands for amateur use:  160, 80, 40, 20, 10 and 5 meters, respectively and of this group the 40-meter band (7,000 kilocycles) is the most popular.  On this wave length static moderate even in the hot summer months, and radio signals carry like wildfire with a minimum amount of power.  On this band only code signals are allowed.  In other words, the operator is allowed to connect up a microphone and transmit speech, although the voice may be used on some of the other allotted wave lengths.

It might be well to clear up a point here:  in this connection many people think of code signals as “wireless” and programs or speech as “radio”.  This is a false interpretation, your radio set, placed in the parlor and used for receiving programs, is just as much a wireless set as is radio set used to receive code signals.  Radio and wireless are one and the same thing, but there are different kinds of signals, code and phonetic,  The majority of amateurs prefer to use code because of the greater distance that can be covered with a small amount of power.

During the past eight or ten years I have talked to hundreds of other amateurs throughout the United States, and it was a natural curiosity that led me to inquire as to the vocations of these “hams” when they were not tinkering with their radio equipment during their leisure hours.  Being a Santa Fe employee, naturally I was interested in communicating with other Santa Fe men who were located in other cities along the line, and to my surprise I discovered that many of these stations are operated by our employees, who enjoy amateur radio as a hobby.

Ham operator, Lawrence Hauck, transmitting code to fellow Santa Fe employees and friends

A Beautiful Ditch

A Beautiful Ditch

The locals call the Yosemite Valley section of the Yosemite National Park, the Ditch.  This area is the most heavily packed with tourists and devilish rock climbers. Views up from the deep valley floor to the heights of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome as well as access to the Awahanee Lodge now called the Majestic Yosemite Lodge (due to a failed naming rights deal with new owners) draw the crowds even in the October off-season.

The real reason for the mass attraction to this area, is it is where all our human needs are met including access to groceries, shopping, lodging, paved trails, shuttle service and clean restrooms.

The rest of the park is devoid of many of the human comforts we are accustomed to just very basic port-a-potties and no gas or groceries, and rustic and challenging trails, so plan ahead before you venture east.  But so worth the drive to view spectacular formations like Olmstead Point, Tenya Lake, Tioga Pass and Mono Basin.  We drove the park roads at night watching carefully for deer taking in the views of the night skies and feeling alone with the history of the place, the creatures past and present.

Make sure you get out of the Ditch.

While RM and I explored the popular valley area as well, trying to time it mid-week, what we found in Yosemite East, was truly transformational in its vastness, beauty, and geological interests.  We discovered this lesser explored area because we elected to stay at the Villages of Mammoth Lakes, located about 2 hours east of the valley and outside the park grounds. Lodging inside the park is expensive no matter when you visit and we have never enjoyed tent camping.

Must do’s:

  • Drive the length of the entire park not just the Valley area.  It takes about 4 hours from the Tioga Pass entrance to Wawona exit but do it at least once.
  • Drive up to Glacier Peak at dusk and stay to see the stars. 
  • Hike the Tuolumne Grove trail and walk under the great and near extinct giant sequoias.  It is a moderately strenuous trail as it drops about 500 feet in one mile.
  • Sip an adult beverage at the Majestic Yosemite luxury lodge, sitting in the outdoor patio area below sheer granite walls. We ate in the dining hall but the food was uninspired and overpriced plus the hall was full of obnoxious tour groups.
  • Have a picnic on the edge of one of the many lakes.
  • If you venture outside the park, check out eastern attractions like Devils Postpile in Mammoth Lakes or even further east to the ghost gold mining town of Bowie.

Day of the Dead Ofrenda

Day of the Dead Ofrenda

An offering or an ofrenda is the essential part of the Day of the Dead celebrations.  The ofrenda is set up in honor of the memory of our ancestors and first began with the Aztecs some 3000 years ago.  Hayes Lavis, cultural arts curator for the Smithsonian’sNational Museum of the American Indian, says that mourning was not allowed because it was believed the tears would make the spirit’s path treacherous and slippery. “This day is a joyous occasion; it’s a time to gather with everyone in your family, those alive and those dead,” he says.

Last October, my daughter and I traveled to Toluca, Mexico, and participated in the local Dia de los Muertos festival.  The experience was life changing and life affirming.  If you haven’t gone before, please add this experience to your bucket list. There are several cities that have huge festivals in Mexico and Toluca’s is rated one of the top experiences especially for their offerings of sugar skulls, other candies and dried fruits.

This year, both of us were motivated to craft our own ofrenda in our homes in north Texas. We are thrilled to display the items we collected while in Mexico especially the papel picado (cut paper), magnolia flowers, candles, Katrina figures, sugar skulls  and much more including photographs of our relatives that have passed before us.  Later this month, we will light incense and remember our trip to Mexico with fond memories and new traditions here in Texas.

Here is a recipe for Day of the Dead Bread that you will want to make all year round Pan de Muerto.  Ofrendas in Mexico are truly works of art.  What would you put on your ofrenda?