Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bair museum presents intimate look at a Montana family's taste and fortune

The Bair family home in tiny Martinsdale may be toured, its treasures viewed. 

Montana sheep baron Bair made millions; daughters' left home, splendid museum to public 




STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

MARTINSDALE isn't more than a tiny spot on the Montana map, but it has a larger than life museum and an unusual inn that takes one back in time.
We headed Martinsdale way recently for my uncle, Harry A. Cosgriffe's memorial.
Within the gates, a fascinating home tour and
beautiful modern museum await your pleasure.
That meant traveling through several green and gorgeous Montana counties -- including Stillwater, Sweetgrass and Musselshell, and along some of Montana's most picturesque rivers and mountains.
PASSING NYE, Dean, Absarokee, Columbus, Reed Point and Big Timber, we departed the interstate and turned north for Harlowton. Then, thirty miles more, past Two Dot and fields of golden wheat and rich yellow canola, we arrived in the shadow of the Crazy Mountains, at the town of  Martinsdale.
We left our bags at the Crazy mountain Inn, (our next story spotlights this rustic and relaxing jewel). Proprietor Cheryl Marchi, checked us into the turn-of-century inn then sent us off to the museum. She urged us to try the inn's famous homemade pies later. More about the inn, in our next post!
The Bair sisters' fondness for "all things French" is apparent.
BACK ON the road a mile or so, we were met by husband-wife docents Don and Paulette Amundson at the Charles M. Bair Family Museum. The complex is the star of tiny Martinsdale. A state-of-the-art museum sits adjacent to a barn-turned-giftshop and the sprawling 26-room Bair family home. The museum features beautiful galleries showcasing the family's extensive collections of western and contemporary art, photographs and native American beadwork, leggings, elk tooth dresses and ceremonial pipes and attire. The home is a treasure trove.
Native rock was used to integrate the museum's look
with the landscape and the Bair mansion.
WITH ITS sleek, airy interior, contemporary lines and modern art preservation technology, the four-gallery museum could be at home on a Los Angeles street corner or in Midtown Manhattan.
Alberta Bair, one of two sisters of sheep and railroad baron Charles M. Bair and his wife, Mary, was the last of the family to occupy the house and her final car, a spiffy white Cadillac, is still parked in the garage. It looks as if it's waiting for her to bounce through the back door in one
of her favorite red hats, and drive into Billings for a concert.
French flair and western comfort are part of the ambiance of the Bair home.
DOCENT DON took us on a delightful one-hour stroll through the home, which is filled with antiques, paintings and silver acquired on trips to New York and Europe. From a Louis XV marquetry inlaid table to English porcelain and tea urns, the home is a tribute to deep pockets and fine taste, a western style palace for our own version of royalty. Some historians trace the family's roots to European royals!
THE BAIR progeny, Alberta and her sister Marguerite, had no heirs. Inheriting the family fortune, they made collecting and the goal of a museum their child.
The complex is a major beneficiary of the Bair money, and was Alberta's brainchild according to a plan set forth in the will at her death in May of 1993.
In one of my many interviews with her, she mentioned her desire that a museum be established on the grounds.  Other museums -- the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyo., and Great Falls' C.M.
The Bair barn makes a handsome and educational gift shop.
Russell Museum -- may have hoped that the extensive Bair western art collection might come their way.
But the Martinsdale museum came to be, opening finally in June of 2011, 18 years after Alberta's death.
I WROTE HER newspaper obituary, which lists the many organizations and causes to which she contributed and which the trust continues to endow: hospitals and clinics, libraries, schools, youth agencies, and many other cultural and humanitarian causes. Annual scholarships are still awarded to students in nearby schools,  according to trust dictates.
ALBERTA'S "special late baby," as she once called it, lives on, along with the museum.  The Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, the old Fox Theater, was built in 1931 on the site where Alberta was born and renamed after a multi-million dollar remodeling. (I spent more than a decade heading that effort.)
Docent Don Amundson guides guests from the museum
toward the Bair family home, for a lively tour.
The Fox restoration, history and Alberta's decision to contribute a million dollars to the "Save the Fox" effort will be the subject of another story later this summer.
MEANWHILE, the Martinsdale museum doors open onto a walkway to the home. Docents take guests on a lively journey to the roots and legacy of the Bair fortune. The tour gives insight into Alberta's decision to make certain the Bair name is forever part of Montana's and the West's history.  With a $3.1 million pricetag, the museum houses the family's coveted Charlie Russells and Joseph Sharps as well as my favorite European and American contemporary paintings and rare, light sensitive photographs of Edward Curtis.
NATIVE AMERICAN artifacts are
Contemporary European art resides comfortably with western and Asian.
housed in climate and light-controlled glass cases and a "revolving exhibit" gallery showcases such rare treats as the present Crow and Gros Ventre Indian Ledger Art.
The elder Bair lived in the1930s ranch home less than 10 years, having taken the family to Portland, Oregon from 1910 to 1934. He died in 1943 and his wife in 1950.  Marguerite, who had married the ranch foreman Dave Lamb in 1939, lived in the family home with Lamb and Alberta until their deaths -- Alberta's the last, at age 97 in 1993.
We strolled through the home -- past photos, paintings and memorabilia in formal dining and receiving rooms and informal den -- admiring portraits autographed by a half-dozen presidents, and studio shots of movie stars, including Montana born Clark Gable.
 This urn was acquired during  European travels.
COWBOY ARTIST and author Will James, who lived for a time in Billings, is represented in a photo with Alberta -- both of them in hats -- and they spent time together when both were young.
A solid gold door nob is valued at around $20,000.
Our Atlanta guests admired the home, remarking that the Bairs inveted their fortune in much the same fashion as did other early 20th Century barons and moguls: on bronzes, paintings, china, gold fixtures and accents. Bair came to Montana in 1883, at age 26, as conductor of the Northern Pacific Railroad. He acquired his fortune in the Alaskan Gold Rush, parlaying it into oil, mining, real estate and ranching, including the world's largest sheep spread, more than 300,000 head.
THE MUSEUM and home illustrate what fhe family did with his money -- in cohesive, exciting displays, the result of the artful intelligence of museum curator and director Elizabeth Guheen. She sees the entire complex as "a collage -- vivid, idiosyncratic and alive."
As she developed the museum's rooms, drawing from the sisters' collections, a video of Alberta and newspaper clippings, she took care to inspire, guide and "expand our dialogue with history," a primary goal of Alberta's.
After their parents died, the Bair sisters made
A vintage 1950s kitchen is part of the tour of the Bair Museum and home.
frequent forays to Europe, collecting art and silver and china.  They furnished the home with Chippendale and other name brand furnishings and expanded the elder Bairs' collection of Indian art, beadwork and rugs.
The vintage 1950s kitchen is fun -- the girls liked bright reds and blues -- and the ornate bedrooms are left much as the two left them -- with frocks hung awaiting a dinner party, crystal, linens and favorite paintings. (The original artwork is in the museum; but the digitally reproduced copies hang mostly where the Bair sisters originally placed them.)
 PLAN A couple days, to take in the museum and enjoy the scenery and the Crazy Mountain Inn's relaxing ambiance.
To plan your Martinsdale weekend, go to:
info@bairfamilymuseum.org
www.crazymountaininn.com
Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn is next up at:
www.whereiscookie.com

COMING UP: Next up, a close-up of the Crazy Mountain Inn, with its unique ambiance and terrific cream pies. Our family spent a recent fun weekend there.  Then we travel to Egypt and Brazil, looking at the people and lifestyles and examining the change and politics. We'll also take a look at my attempt to integrate death and loss into daily life.
And we answer a request, to show off our Montana locale, High Chaparral, and share what we do and see when we're in the Rockies.
Remember to explore, learn and live and tune us in Wednesdays and Saturdays at:
www.whereiscookie.com

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Baby Christena has Hillary's "Village" behind her, meeting her Down Syndrome handicap head on

Child born with Down Syndrome sparks

 love, unity, courage in Cosgriffe family

Christena's auntie Misha bestowed a pretty new dress!

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER, MISHA 
MINESINGER, PATRICK COSGRIFFE

SOMETIMES we're tested in ways we don't understand. Our family has met many challenges. We rise to the occasion, doing the best we can.
So it is with the Cosgriffes as we deal with a first:  raising a handicapped child.
Christena Lynn Cosgriffe was born June 30, 2010, with Down Syndrome.
MONTHS BEFORE her birth, my brother Patrick left a voice message at my Arizona home, telling me "I'm going to be a papa," I was floored -- speechless -- a rarity for me.
Christena likes music, and is happy to sing and clap with her musical family.
Patrick was approaching 50.  He was single. He was planning to quit his job at Sears and return to college. He was overweight, with heart problems.
For all these reasons, I asked my beloved brother:
"A BABY? Seriously? It isn't  April Fool's Day. Are you sure?"
The baby's mother refused to take the test which would have determined a possible birth defect. She was in her mid-40s and the chance of a baby having Down Syndrome increases with its mother's age. We all crossed our fingers, meditated, prayed.
The day the child was born, the doctor confirmed that Christena indeed was a "special needs" baby. She has Down Syndrome, an extra copy of chromosome 21. We had done the homework. We had work to do.

Christena's birthday party attracted family and friends,
caregivers, and her physical and speech therapists.
 
HER FIRST months were complicated and after an emotional, expensive and difficult legal battle, my brother Patrick H. Cosgriffe, obtained custody. Christena came "home" to our care.
She's named after three strong women -- myself, her great-great grandmother Christena Wilson Pittendrigh, and another auntie, the late Robbie Lynn Cosgriffe Townsley, her first and finest advocate. The child adds joy to our lives, just as cliches about special needs children predict.
But as Hillary Clinton famously said, "It takes a village."
CHRISTENA'S "village" is our Cosgriffe family -- strong, loving, loyal and, thank goodness, large. Her support includes a network of savvy and supportive speech and physical therapists, a fine pediatrician, excellent cardiologist, devoted daycare personnel and many others who love her.
Christena turns three at a party with friends and family.
WEE CHRISTENA had her first lung surgery in Denver when she was just weeks old.  She is beset with physical woes, relating to the birth defect: a tendency to ear infections, trouble chewing and sometimes swallowing because of compromised jaw muscles, a hole in her tiny heart which will likely require open-heart surgery down the road.  Her kidneys, eyes, thyroid and other organs are monitored.
SHE COULD develop skeletal problems, so her posture is carefully observed.  She has worn leg braces and supports in her shoes, to boost her ankle function and walking.
At her third birthday, she was walking with spirit and confidence. Patrick walks with her every day.
Christena and her father, Patrick Harry Cosgriffe, enjoy their back yard.
She is cheerful and loving, laughs and mimics others, and is an observant quick study.
SHE QUICKLY learned my Yorkies' names, and says, "Oh, puppies. Hi, Nick and Nora."  She knows her colors and brings me the pups' kibble bowls -- blue for Nick, red for Nora.
"OK, puppies. Eat now," she says, clapping her hands.
WHEN SHE was just days old, I touched my pointer finger to hers and whispered, "Sistine Chapel." That quickly became our greeting, one which others in "the village" have adopted.
Michelangelo's magnificent painting of God and Adam touching hands has always inspired me, heretic that I claim to be.
Christena and the writer, Christene, indulge in silliness, at play with zucchini. 
When Christena sees me, she extends her "ET" finger to meet mine. I hope this is always our special greeting.  She calls me "Ween" -- her version of "Queen," my nickname from her, based on her tiny "Princess" t-shirt. "There are many princesses in a court," I told her when she was just one. "There is but one Queen! It is I!"
"Q" IS A  tough letter to pronounce, but I know she'll master it.
Christena and I have a special connection, which includes laughing and abundant silliness.
My brother loves this late-in-life only child dearly.  He keeps her immaculate and beautifully groomed.  Her dark hair glistens, often in a pony tail.  Her face is always shiny clean.  She smells like a spring valley after rain. When she slops pea soup or smears frosting on her dress, she is quickly changed.
Christena recently met cousins in the "Cosgriffe Village"
at her great uncle Harry Cosgriffe's memorial. Auntie
Olivia holds her at the Harlowton Cemetery.
PATRICK HAS returned to college, with plans to be a drug and alcohol counselor. He is losing weight, walking, getting fit.
He busy day is long and complicated: study and classes, childcare and seeing to Christena's complex medical needs, exercising, support groups, laundry, meal preparation.
Meanwhile, "The Village" fills in the cracks. Sister Olivia walks and dances with Christena. Brother Rick and his partner Jane watch her and read to her.  Sister Misha dotes on her, too, sending her adorable dresses from Atlanta.  I pick out books for her, sing to her and hope she'll be a piano player. She has nice, long fingers! Patrick's good friend, Ginger, loves her dearly and contributes to her care.
Christena had a new birthday gown as she turned three.
COUSINS, FRIENDS and caretakers lavish love and attention upon her.  Her speech therapist Vicki Andre and her physical therapist Linda Malloy came to her birthday party.  They sing her praises, and believe she will be able to attend regular school, so well is she doing in day care and pre-school. The early attention paid is making all the difference in her handicap, needs and personal potential.
MY LATE mother Ellen would have loved this child, a granddaughter younger than her great grandchildren. Her grandfather Richard would be smitten with her sweet smile and air kisses.
YES, CHRISTENE Lynn was born with difficulties to overcome. Down Syndrome is not for sissies. But luckily, she was born into a family willing to share the challenge and joys.
Christena in the writer's arms, with her uncle Rick (in blue)
and from left, her auntie Olivia, father Patrick, auntie Misha.
Early treatment --  including speech, physical and occupational thearapy -- is essential to improving a Down Syndrome child's chances. Christena's therapists commend Patrick for seeking support and treatment the week of her birth, giving Christena a good chance at a happy, productive "normal" life.
Sometimes, I hear Patrick reading her to sleep when I'm overnighting at the Billings house family members share.
HE READS with expression and I hear him answering Christena's questions:  "What's that?"  "That's a deer."
"What's that?" "It's a rabbit."
A bird. A cat.  A tree. A puppy. "Nick and Nora?" she asks.
 Christena Lynn Cosgriffe on her way to sweet dreams. 
PATRICK IS old enough to be her grandfather. He knows that as she ages, her problems may multiply. But for now, she's thriving. Each Down Syndrome child is different. So is each parent. Patrick has devotion and discipline in spades.
I WITNESS that as he tucks her in at night, and wishes her "sweet dreams."
We accept that Christena has Down Syndrome. She also has love, love, love. The Beatles song tells us that's all we need.
Patrick and Christena have that in abundance. And they have the Cosgriffe "Village" staunchly in place behind them.



The Bair Museum is one of the enticements in Martinsdale.


COMING UP: With Pope Francis visiting Brazil and Egypt in turmoil, we examine the cultures and speculate on the excitement and challenge of change sweeping this pair of intriguing countries, both recently visited by the writer and photographer.
And we look at a small Montana town in  summertime splendor as we visit Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn and Bair Museum.
Remember to explore, learn and live, and check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at:
www.whereiscookie.com.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Our language includes bountiful gifts from the sea

We've borrowed many terms from life aboard ships;


whether you "know the ropes" or not, come have fun



 If you "know the ropes" you have proficiency
in your task, a term which comes straight from sailing.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

AHOY, avast and shiver your timbers!
Much of our language comes from the sea, from the early Phoenician and Greek cultures, on up through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when British naval vessels ruled the seas.
Did you know, for instance, that "overwhelm" comes from the Middle English meaning to capsize.
Our term, "square meal," comes from the square trays set before hungry seamen, the "three squares a day" promised in their contract.
DO YOU try to "go with the flow" and "give some slack" to your colleagues or friends? Both old sailing terms.
Are you proud of "knowing the ropes" and understanding "the lay of the land."  Both derive from sailing, meaning proficiency in a task and knowledge of the terrain.
Perhaps there is a modern day "floozy" aboard, enjoying.
If you're a "leading light" in your business, you're a natural teacher or leader -- another sea term in which lights were hung to mark entry to a port and show other ships the way.
MAYBE you're a "floozy," meaning loose woman. This salty phrase comes from a centuries-old term, floozies, for women brought aboard when a vessel was in port.
Basically prostitutes, assuming they received some pay.  Or perhaps they just liked fooling around with sailors.
Are you a "Limey" -- hailing from the British Isles -- or a "loose cannon," slightly out of
control? Limey dates to the 17th Century when British sailors were issued limes to combat scurvy.  The cannon reference  
The term "loose cannon" comes from an unpredictable, loose cannon on deck.
refers to the unpredictable or potentially dangerous cannon which came loose on decks of old sailing vessels.
Want to tie up some "loose ends" -- or are you feeling "under the weather"?
The "loose ends" refers to having everything shipshape on board -- no details overlooked, no ropes untied.  The "weather" reference refers to feeling ill and comes from the frequency of ship passengers becoming seasick in heavy weather.
DO YOU do your best to "keep an even keel"? Another sailing
Above and below left,  writer and
photographer are minding their
"P's and Q's" or at least champagne
.
term for keeping a boat upright, not listing to either side. Today the expression is used when describing a person's emotions, encouraging level-headed or stable behavior.
You may have guessed that "minding your P's and Q's" has to do with pints and quarts.   

Sailors would get bar credit at the taverns in port until they were paid. The barman always kept a record of their drinks on a chalkboard
 behind the bar. A mark was made under "P" for pint or "Q" for quart.  On payday, a sailor was liable for each mark next to his name, so he was forced to "mind his P's and Q's." Today the term means to remain well behaved.
THERE ARE many, many more. Even the word "nautical"  originates from the Greek word 'nauti' meaning sailor, not questionable behavior.
"May Day" is one of my favorites, an internationally recognized voice radio signal for ships and people in stress or trouble -at-sea. Its source is actually a verb, the French
Even the word "nautical" comes from the sea; "nauti" is Greek for sailor. 
m'aidez which means "help me."
So the next time you're sailing, think of language and its shipshape evolution.
That term, by the way, shipshape, derives from the captain's command that everything be left in meticulous order or "shipshape" by the crew.
HERE ARE a few more to ponder and have fun with.
*Feeling over a barrel?  Sailors were sometimes tied over a cannon barrel when being whipped. Today the expression is used when someone is in a risky or precarious  situation with limited or no course of action.

"Getting hitched" means marriage, deriving from joining ropes together.
*High and dry: This expression usually refers to being without resources or support. It derives from the description of a ship that is beached or on the rocks.  She's "high -- as the tide recedes -- and "dry" without water.
*Getting hitched: This common term usually describes the act of  marriage and comes from the ship hands' joining or hitching two ropes together to form one.
 *Holy mackerel: Because mackerel spoils quickly, merchants were allowed to sell it on Sundays contradicting the blue laws in 17th-century England. Thus mackerel is a "holy" fish! The phrase is still
If you wanted other vessels to see your identity,
you flew your flag or "colors" when passing.

used   as an expression of surprise.
 *Swashbuckler has become synonymous with adventurer,  explorer or traveler. The word originated in the 1500s, and was used to refer to a below average swordsman. Its present day connotation is more glamourous.
If you "scrape the bottom of the barrel," you're dealing with the undesirable, deriving from the ship's cook's last couple ladles of food which were not very appetizing.
My daddy always woke us youngsters with "rise and shine," an old naval morning call now used to mean "get yourselves out of bed and greet the day!"
"Swashbuckling" has its roots in sea language, connoting adventure.
If you knew most of these, you've "passed with flying colors." This expression comes from the sailing custom of flying colors, or flags and pennants, to be identified when passing other ships at sea. Today this expression is used to refer to someone who has easily passed a test or some other trial or challenge!
Aboard the Jada, out of San Diego bay, everything
is "shipshape" in her beautifully restored galley.
OKAY. Now are you ready to go the "whole nine yards? This expression means "everything" or all encompassing. The expression comes from square-rigged sailing vessels that had three masts with three yards of sails on each. "The whole nine yards" meant all sails were up.
 Now, perhaps you'll come into a windfall.
Originally the word was used to refer to a rush of wind which would help a vessel's forward movement.  Today, it means a stroke of good luck.
Since language has been evolving for hundreds of years, and the sea has played a huge part in our lives, it makes sense that our speech is permeated with nautical terms.
TRY FIGURING out "run the gauntlet" or "rake you from stem to stern".  While ancient armies forced soldiers to "run the gauntlet" the Royal Navy had its shipside version,  as a punishment for theft. The condemned was prevented from rushing by the master-at-arms with a cutlass and pushed forward by a corporal, while being beaten with rope yarns. If you're raked "stem to stern," you are verbally chastised completely, from one end of your "boat" to the other."
So happy sailing.  Happy speaking. The two have a time honored connection!


COMING UP: We take a loving look at our three-year old Christena, born with a birth defect, Down Syndrome,  but thriving in the "Cosgriffe Village."
See how our family is coping with this delightful youngster (the writer's namesake) and how she is thriving with her single dad's steadfast care and many loving helpers.

Christena recently celebrated her third birthday with balloons.
Her father, Patrick Cosgriffe, hosted a party for her.
AND, HAVE you ever been to Martinsdale, Montana?  You're in for a treat. At the world class Bair Museum and the Crazy Mountain Inn with its delectable lemon pie.
Remember to explore, learn and live.  Check us out Wednesdays and Saturdays at
whereisccookie.com

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Happy trails to a well-rounded guy who never lost his love of Montana

Remembering 'Uncle Cog' for his wry wit,
Harry A. Cosgriffe,
above right, poses with his
 siblings, circa 1930.
From left, Richard (the
writer's father), twins Nancy
 and Mary, Harry. "Uncle Cog"
 was the oldest
  child, but outlived
his three siblings.
In left photo,
Cog with his daughters,
"my girls," he called them,
Susie, Colleen and Kathleen.

 attention to detail and devotion to family



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
HE'D HAVE loved the weekend.  Fun, frolic, feasting, reminiscing, dancing, laughter.  And moisture -- both in tears shed as we said "so-long", and in welcome rain on the ranch land.
Rick Cosgriffe amused and touched gatherers
with his eloquent remembrance of his uncle.
Harry Arthur Cosgriffe, "Uncle Cog" to his doting nieces and nephews, was born in 1920 and died in March of this year.  His three daughters, my cousins, decided to honor his memory in July, giving friends and family time to reflect on the loss and make travel plans.
So the weekend after the Fourth of July unfolded with joy, a gentle wind, music and memories. Relatives and friends   from in a dozen states and many Montana towns gathered to pay respect as Uncle's ashes rested in a beautiful urn crafted by a nephew.
The Crazy Mountain Inn was a regular dining out option
for Uncle Cog and Aunt Peg and some of us stayed here.
NIECES PLAYED, sang and my cousin Nancy Ellen delivered a loving eulogy while her sister Diane led a rousing "You Are My Sunshine."   My brother Rick compared  his Uncle's orderly and well planned life to the white fence surrounding the Two Dot ranch where he spent decades of happy summers. He imagined that Uncle's heart "soared like a hawk" each time he approached the Crazy Mountains from his other home in Pullman, Washington. For his heart was always here in the shadow of the Rockies with the comforting sight of horses, cattle and wheat fields.
Uncle Cog and my dad, Richard Edward Cosgriffe, were bookend brothers, with twin girls born between, Mary and Nancy.
 They shared a love of land and family, engendered during their ranch rearing and Harlowton roots.  They both loved to reminisce and each told a good story. They adored the familiar landscape of their youth.
THE WEEKEND, for the Richard Cosgriffes, offered an opportunity for our own five-sibling reunion and we gathered for two days at Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn (that's an upcoming post -- great fun).
 From left, the three offspring of Harry Cosgriffe
and Peg Moore: Kathleen, Colleen and Susie, who
planned a delightful four-part day of honoring their dad.
Uncle's day was a four-part opus on Saturday, July 6.  My three cousins -- Kathleen, Susie and Colleen -- greeted mourners and celebrants at Harlowton Cemetery, where Uncle's parents, in-laws, uncle, sisters, brother and a nephew are interred.  I offered piano music on a keyboard.  Children romped, with respectful restraint, and dogs were welcome, including my twin Yorkies, Nick and Nora.
WHEN A GUY reaches his 90s, with many accomplishments and legions of admirers, it's hard to be too sad.  We'll miss him, of course, but we had him a long time and for that we are grateful. The Cosgriffes walk to their own
 
Cookie plays keyboard in the wind as mourners
arrive.  Among her tunes, a favorite of Uncle
Cog's, Cole Porter's "Don't Fence Me In."
drummer when it comes to staging memorials. We're not big on dour funerals. Our good-byes are emotional occasions with music and poetry. That's our Irish showing, I suppose.
MY OWN memories of Uncle Cog shine:
There's the time our large family plus a couple friends stopped on a camping trip, at the Big Timber drive-in in the early 1960s.  My parents had fashioned the back of a cattle truck into a camper and we looked like own own version of "The Beverly Hillbillies" with blankets and books, lanterns and coolers, fishing gear, guitars, dogs and sleeping bags.
Cog and my Aunt Peg happened to be at the drive-in having a late lunch when we made our larger-than-life ice cream stop.
 Since Cog loved to dance, it was fitting that his memorial ended
at his beloved Two Dot Bar with music and action on the dance floor.
Uncle walked slowly to our truck, then hoisted himself up to peer over his bi-focals into the back. He smiled broadly, and deadpanned, "I don't suppose there's there room for one more?"
HE ONCE told me he did his best thinking on the back of a horse.  I replied that my best thoughts came at 30,000 feet in the first class section of an airplane.
"Just different modes of transportation," he opined. "I'll bet that's where you come up with your good stories!"
ONE WINTRY day a few years ago, my sister Olivia and I were invited by Uncle to the Cosgriffe-Moore ranch, where the dessert part of his memorial day was held. Peg was detained in Washington state and Uncle invited us to sleep at the ranch and sup at the Two-Dot Bar. "It's not a salad kind of place," he offered. "Good burgers. That's what to order."
The Fire Hall was the place for the feast following
the cemetery rituals, with more tributes here by a
 brother-in-law and grandson, and music:
a group sing of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
UNCLE  WAS unruffled when we arrived with my ancient sheepdog, Smedley, and a rescue mutt, Max. But, he said, sadly, "I'm afraid they will have to stay in the garage.  House rules."
As dusk came, snow fell and the temperature dropped, Uncle disappeared into the basement with an old horse blanket under his arm.
"I made a bed for Smedley and Max," he said, returning. "But you must swear never to tell Peg that a large wet dog and his equally moist little friend spent the night in this house!"
With both Cog and Peg gone now -- and Smedley and Maxwell long in their own doggie urns -- I can tell this sweet story.
ANOTHER TIME, Uncle wrote me asking how much truth poetry should have.  He had been pondering a poem I wrote, inspired by my memory of a
Guests were encouraged to write a memory and sign in.
1954 visit to my great Aunt Maud's home in White Sulphur Springs. He wondered how much was "fact" and how much was imagination. This interesting question launched a continuing discussion about poetry versus reporting, the liberties poetry can and should take, that its "truth" comes from its evocative nature, from its expression of feelings. That details and ideas can craft a larger "truth" through compelling style, language and rhythm.
The Cosgriffe-Moore home welcomed family and friends at the memorial.
GOOD REPORTING, I wrote Uncle, comes from factual ordering of events and circumstances. They're different literary beasts.
He wrote me back: "A Plus on your explanation, dear niece. You have written a fine poem. Let the record show you are also a good reporter. I enjoyed your explanation on the differences between the two forms."
An Angus at home on the range.
HOW I WISH we'd been able to visit our ancestral homes in Ireland together. I've felt the family influence in my trips there and know Uncle reveled in touring
A scenic view of Jordan, where both the writer
and her Uncle Cog spent time, but never together.
the linen mill in northern Ireland where his grandfather Arthur worked.  I'd have loved for us to experience the wonders of the Middle East together. Uncle lived for several years in Jordan, where he was praised for his inventive agricultural contributions. I've visited a half-dozen times, recently looking down upon Jordan from a lovely vantage point with Israeli friends.
 Cousins help cut and serve the "Uncle Cog" memorial cakes.
I know Uncle was proud that so many of us have become teachers, writers, counselors, communicators, curious global citizens.  He earned his doctorate in adult education at University of Chicago and like many others in the family, had a passionate commitment to education and travel.
The Cosgriffe brothers, Harry and Richard;
the twins, Mary, seated  left, and Nancy, right
and their dad Harry Cosgriffe, center, in the 1950s.
 
HE MADE many friends in Jordan and I remember one story of a days-long wedding at which he was an honored guest.
A niece, Misha, places
a white rose with the urn.
My last note from Uncle came after I wrote daddy's obituary for several newspapers. I erroneously listed his only brother's residences as Pullman, Wash., (correct) and Ryegate (wrong -- it's Two Dot and I know better.)
Correcting me with his characteristic diplomacy, Uncle Cog pointed out the mistake then said, "It was a wonderful obituary. I've always been proud of you.  And I did date lots of Ryegate girls, so I'll bet that's what you were thinking about."
AS HIS memorial day wound down, with tributes and toasts, dining, beer, wine, dancing, rain and elaborate
Cowboy hats were in vogue at the Two Dot Bar dance.
cakes and storytelling, I thought of the roses loved ones had placed on the urn, each one saying, perhaps, some last word of thanks, maybe even deadpanning a one-liner.
My kindly, smart Uncle -- who made a bed for two cold, wet dogs -- had a good heart and sharp mind. I thanked him for that. Dear Uncle, I kept the dog secret for years.  But it's such a good story, it just had to be told.


COMING UP:  Ever think about how much of our language comes from sailing?
It's true:  from ship shape to lowering the boom.  A look at the many phrases we use whose roots are in sailing and boats.
So many words from our language derive from our love of boats
and the sea, here a rainbow framed harbor in Lisbon, Portugal.
And our family stages a third birthday party for our delightful Christena, born with Down Syndrome. We examine the joys and challenges of raising a handicapped child, with my brother, a single dad, and a large and loving family and friends support system.
And traveling light at Martinsdale's Crazy Mountain Inn. Remember to explore, learn and live.
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