Tie Yourself Down

A hundred years ago, there was a legendary “tie yourself down” stretch of railroad along Beaver Canyon, one of the places my great grandmother, Sophia, worked as a cook for the railroad crews laying track. The road was so rough, several men were stationed there with the sole purpose of cleaning up the box cars that weren’t tied down and therefore tipped over and smashed on the rocks below. “Tie yourself down,” meaning prepare for...

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Hate Mother’s Day Platitudes?

My great grandmother, Sophia Nielsen, is the undisputed matriarch of our family. She started in a log cabin and ended owning a 40,000 acre ranch. She worked hard and fought harder. Our favorite story is about how she brought a railroad to a stop–not just one train, a whole railroad because they owed her money. That makes her sound hard, but, in fact, she lived long and became greatly beloved, called “grandma” by everyone. It is...

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No One Remembers Her Need

I know a family who handles hard times by referring to them as memories. “We’ve just made a memory,” they’ll say in the face of some new setback. Good strategy. No matter how bad it gets, they’re always richer in memories.  In the 1920s, when she was in her 80s, my great grandmother, Sophia, decided automobiles were part of the modern world. A person had to drive to stay in the driver’s seat. With that in mind, she talked...

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