Lost History – Stolen Cannon

Many years ago – sometime in the 70s I think, some of my cousins came with little cannons they had built.  I remember seeing a little cannon one had.  My dad – as was common with him – said I can do that, and I can do it bigger.  So he ordered two barrels special cast.

Then my dad built a couple big cannons, and not just decorative! He built working cannons to shoot every year.  We would load one up and take it to the family fourth of July party to shoot off, at my cousin Kristi’s every year.

When friends would come over I would love to ask “Do we have gunpowder?”, “Can we shoot it?”.  My dad made sure I know exactly how to load it too.  I still remember the instructions include a dixie cup of gunpowder mixed with flour – it was years later that a chemist friend explained to me why the flour was added.  My dad somehow knew…..  (Flour when put out into the air like that is explosive – don’t ever put flour on a fire)

At my cousins especially we would then search for anything we could find to ‘load’ into the cannon after the paper was tamped in.  I remember everything from sand to even a frog once.  As kids we would run around searching just grabbing anything we could find.  I’ve seen the little holes that sand put through all the tree leaves and I could swear I remember a story about something someone else loaded putting a hole through something once.

As kids we would laugh at all the people who had too much to drink weaving as they were trying to light the fuse, and I’m amazed that no one was hurt as it would jump back several feet in recoil when the cannon would go off.

After shooting the cannon people would drop by from miles away to find out what had exploded.  I think my dad enjoyed shooting it as much as we as kids enjoyed showing it off.  It’s one of the things we can say my dad built himself.  I’m sure whoever took it either had no idea how much it meant to us or didn’t care.  They also are not aware of the history of the cannon.

The cannon itself was in my mother’s yard away from the road.  It weighs a lot, so whoever took it had to have come up her driveway and taken it down the driveway to the road and gotten it into their truck.  It would take at least a couple people.

The cannon does have wheels and a bolt area to allow for it to be towed, but it hadn’t moved in years.  I think the last time I remember my dad shooting it was when my in laws visited almost 15 years ago.

Of course the other thing I see when I look at this camera is how amazing my dad was with just a high school diploma.  My dad could engineer most things given the desire.  He would see them and put them together, the house we grew up in was in a continual state of remodel as doorways moved and relocated as my parents changed their mind.

My dad would also change his mind about where a stocked pond was and decide to move it..  I still remember waking to find our swimming pool filled with bass and catfish one morning (and dirty pond water).  He would clear areas to turn them into fields – including railroad…. So many stories that I’m sure he could tell.

How to get our cannon back though…

Glimpses of my Dad

There are things that they don’t tell you about Dementia…. Like the fact that a dementia home can decide they are refusing to keep a resident any longer. Really they aren’t supposed to do that. But it happens, and it happened to us, recently. Some of the behaviors of dementia are things a lot of people don’t talk about, but they apparently can make some homes throw up their hands and give up.  When you’ve never dealt with this before there isn’t a book on what to then do with your parent, who you turn to for help, where you find a new home for them – and believe me at that point you are totally confused, upset, and in a lot of cases embarrassed.  In our case we were dealing with a nurse that had an attitude also that didn’t really help.

For us the final straw was my father being dropped at an emergency room with the nurse at the dementia ward of the nursing home saying they refused to take him back.  To top all this off they had included lots of things on his papers that made other nursing homes afraid to take him in.  The social worker at the hospital tried to help by calling a few places, my mother called everywhere close, and my dad stayed in the hospital waiting for 6 days.  Not knowing what to do we finally called nursing homes and dementia wards at a further distance away.  We were lucky and found a place 1 1/2 hours away (and I have to say they definitely seem to know what they are doing a lot more than the first place!).  Besides calling other nursing homes I tried other leads, we had been eliminated from the VA because all my father’s active duty was ACDUTRA which apparently disqualified him., so I started calling all the organizations with fancy names that included long term care in their names.

The Association of Long Term Care Nurses for Illinois (or something similar) was nice enough to point me to the Department of Public Health.  It turns out, you are required to be given 30 days notice before being turned out of a nursing home and they have a group you can complain too.  It may not come to anything, but at least I felt better having someone listen.

I just have my mothers stories but the new dementia ward my father is at seems to care more.  The nurses are always seem to be with my dad when my mother visits, there haven’t been all the calls saying he has fallen when he escaped notice anymore.  They put a bed alarm on him to make sure he doesn’t fall at night (this is something the first place said was illegal to do????)

The thing though that brought me to tears was when they brought my dad the phone and dialed my mother when he was concerned about her safety.  It reminded me of the times when my mother and I would be somewhere and my dad would call to tell us that they were having a storm and we needed to find a place to stay so that we would be safe.  – Forget the fact that he was in Illinois and we were in Arkansas at the time, he wanted to be sure we were safe.  That was a few years ago and now having them show the care to help him call to ease his mind really made me feel that was the right place for him…. BUT I also was able to see a small glimpse of my dad again.  Some of the old thought processes were there.  It may not be a lot, but at least it’s something.


Buffalo and Deer and Snakes Oh My!

Growing up we had a lot of strange animals (no snakes actually, though we found quite a few)….   My dad would hear about something and run and get some animals. During grade school dad heard Bambi and Iabout a person with a collection of animals and decided he wanted one. We all loaded up and ran in to get what we could AND came home with a deer….  Pictured to the left is Bambi.  He was friendly and as long as he didn’t have antlers on, we could interact inside the fence.

My dad would try all sorts of things though.  At one point we had a crow that my dad found that would ride around on Bambi’s antler’s.  It had an injured wing, so the crow was perfectly content to ride around.  After a while my dad got more deer and we had a whole menagerie.

These were Fallow Deer, indigenous to Germany, and I’d swear my dad’s goal was to use them as lures to get deer to come closer while deer hunting.  We would have the local game warden visit each year to make sure ours in captivity were legal and not white tail (local deer).  Deer can jump amazingly high, so my father had high fences for them made out of old grain bins.  The only escape I remember took 6 men to get the deer back in the pen, and I remember the deer standing with all 6 on it’s back.

While picking up Bambi we also got to see an old monkey named SOB (mean! and abused) and some honey bears.  I wanted them SO bad at the time. My father tried later to trade for the honey bears but couldn’t make a deal.   I remember the visit by the guy with the bears (they are little bears), and the bears got loose in his truck and locked him out while he was dropping off deer at the time.

SOB ended up taken from his owner and became a test subject for the University of Illinois.  Even with all the odd animals we had and the quirky behavior my dad would never have abused an animal.  Even a dog we had (Peanut, and yes the matching dog was Butter) that bit my dad while he was trying to help with an infected ear, ended up going to a family with no kids.  The dog really had been ‘provoked’, so it wasn’t the dogs fault – and my dad knew it!

Later my dad and a friend tried Beefalo and decided it was GOOD! So they ran out and got two buffalo.  We got the girl who my brother and I named Buffy.  She was added to the herd at our house. Pictured below is my mother with the buffalo feeding chickens from the look of it.

scan0136It’s funny, at the time, although we all had a healthy respect for the animals and knew what each could do and when… we were in and out of the cages to feed them all the time. I’m sure I didn’t think twice about standing there to take this picture and I’m sure my mother fed the chickens, gathered eggs, and fed buffy and the deer like this a million times.

Buffy escaped once in my memory.  An owl got into the chicken coop and couldn’t get out.  As it flapped trying to get out through the top whole (an old grain bin top that had been cut off) – Buffy got scared and exited through the fence.  I’m sure that was a site for all the cars coming up the road.  Note: My parents do live on a dead end road and knew everyone around, but still a buffalo in the road on your way home ha
s to be a surprise.

IMG_9400Now as my dad’s memory goes, talking about animals is a way to connect.  Seeing deer, a snake, or the fact that my son decided to make a pet out of a frog he found at their house is a great talking point with my dad.  These deer were in my parents field! I do wish I had a way to show my dad pictures, I’m thinking I should move them onto my iPad to show him an image that he can see better – maybe put together a slide show of the things that he would find interested.  Konnor’s new frog, Konnor’s toad, the deer by the house, even his dogs (did I mention we had 32 dogs at one time growing up!)

We did have a few other unusual animals for short stints, but they always moved on quickly.  Everything from a ferret that tried to use a litter box in the kitchen to a a swimming pool filled with fish.  My father ended up with a pond filled with catfish that were trained to come to the sound of his footsteps so that he could feed them dog food!

Family Farms and Dementia

It doesn’t really matter what causes dementia, the problem is that it isn’t covered by health insurance! Most people don’t realize how expensive it is either.  A nursing home can cost between $5000 and $7000 or more per month for dementia care.  All out of pocket unless you qualify for Medicaid (have less than $1500 to your name).  For a farm family this literally means losing the family farm to pay for care.

Farmers that do plan ahead get Long Term Care insurance ahead of time.  (We are dealing with filing for benefits now.)  It’s paperwork, run around, and lots of work to get the benefits when they are finally needed – and that’s after they push the ‘grace period’ as long as they can.

Long Term Care insurance policies are also only good for a set amount of time – so the issue also becomes at what time do you enter the nursing home to use all the benefits without going over.  Basically what is the family members life expectancy, if you miscalculate you can still ‘lose the farm’.

We have in our own situation looked at other things, but the biggest issue is that we are stumbling around blind.  Whether you get an advocate, get a lawyer, or just get friends that have been through it, every situation is different.

For example, my father was in the reserves, but was told that he was serving active duty for 6 months near the end of his enlistment during the Vietnam war.  We are filing for benefits, but now we are being told it may not count because it was classified as ‘training’! Assets become an issue also and income definitely does. From the sound of it my mother would need to be destitute and live on nothing for my dad to get benefits? If he had qualified…

Anyone with suggestions on ways to pay for dementia care when a family members becomes unmanageable at home?