Once upon a time, there were all these little kids growing up together. Some were sisters, some cousins and a couple of them were aunts to all the rest. Some of them lived just a mile from the others and they had such great times together, but only if they got their chores and work around the house completed first.
Today, those “kids” are soon to be 80-year olds; some are past 80 — then there are the “little kids,” only 60 or 70 something. What in the world happened? All still delight in getting together to “play” but they run out of energy a whole lot quicker. The fun thing is, every day is a new day and they can repeat the previous day without even realizing it.
The older kids have become much better about playing nicer with the “little kids;” in fact they realize to get where they want to go in order to do what they want to do, they now depend on those little kids who they used to lock in the closet or would run away from.
This past weekend was a wonderful gathering in Ft. Collins to celebrate Marlene Schmalz Abbott’s “big” birthday! Marlene was the first in her family, daughter of my late sister Arla and her husband Joe Schmalz. I was born just three months later, then seven more siblings followed Marlene.
We only lived a mile apart so the Schmalz kids and I were pretty much inseparable all our growing-up years, from playing dress-up and dolls to playing in the play house or making mud pies.
Marlene and I attended first grade at the little two-room schoolhouse of Highland. Marlene lived north of the school; I lived east. That was tricky when we tried to walk each other home. One evening I would walk her as far as the apple trees, then would have to walk back to school and change directions toward my house.
The next evening she would walk me to the top of the hill and she would be the one to turn around and go back. I had the advantage because when the apples ripened, at least I could pick apples to eat on the way home.
The next year the Catholic School in Delta opened and a lot of the neighborhood kids left to go there. Highland consolidated with Olathe Grade School, where we were bused. After graduating from eighth grade, Marlene and I were reunited in OHS, partners in crime once again.
When I turned 16, Daddy bought me an old 1936 Chevy pickup to drive to school. We had so much fun during the noon hour. We took Marlene’s sister Joan and my niece Margene Burch out for lunch, meaning we all had our sack lunches, but would either go downtown or a short ways out of town for a picnic — so many laughs!
The pickup didn’t win any races; in fact, the trick was to simply keep it running and not let it get too heated; meaning we had to get out once in a while and blow on the engine (oh, yes, it worked! It really did!) Or the front bumper might fall off and we would have to get wire from a farmer’s fence and fasten it back on!
Summers were a blast! Lots of hay rides, bonfires, picnics. Marlene and Joan had some pretty cute cousins who kept us well-entertained. I rode either my bike or my horse to their house quite a bit.
When I was a sophomore, my dad was ready to sell half our property and build a house on the 40 acres where he had the hog barn. He recruited the Schmalz and Scheetz kids to help move some of his stuff which had accumulated since the 1930s. He promised us all a party if we would help him.
When the kitchen part of the house had a roof and a floor, it was party time! One of the invited guests who didn’t regularly run around with us was Lee Abbott—a tall, very handsome guy who immediately fell for Marlene. It became true love forever. They married, had four boys, then grandchildren, played lots of golf, lived in Wyoming. Sadly Lee died a few years ago from West Nile Virus. Marlene moved to Ft. Collins to be nearer her family.
Last week-end was wonderful being back with my sister-niece and so many members of the family. Thanks to all! My nephew Bruce Ray (another “extra” Schmalz kid) and his wife Pam saw to it that I had a ride over the mountain, along with “little sister niece” Julie Schmalz Fitzgerald. I am so blessed and still not ready to end this fairy tail!
Marilyn Cox, a native of Montrose County, grew up on a farm and was always surrounded by countless family members who instilled the love of family and history. She retired from the Montrose County School District and, for 21 years, served as curator of the Montrose County Historical Museum.