Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Bonnie Dell Ranch Foster Home

I sent an email to both Vicki at Ettie Lee Homes (and thanks for her quick response) and Marjorie about my response to the article. As I mentioned one of the stories about my memories of living there - ???60 years ago??? - I thought it only fair to share it with you here and for those who follow this blog on Google+




A MORNING AT THE BONNIE DELL RANCH
By; Dale (Ketcham) Day

I don’t need an alarm clock to wake me. The big Rhode Island Red rooster is on the roof of the stables and tells the world the sun is near to rising. I chuckle as the Bantam rooster on the rail fence surrounding the corral tries his mightiest to emulate the big guy. The bunkhouse is still dark but I know it’s time to get up. This is my week to milk the cows.

The rug beside my bed is cool from the cement floor under it. I move carefully so as not to awaken Wayne in the bunk above me, taking my toilet kit from the wall locker before going into the latrine. I usually shower when I first get up but will wait this time until after I’ve finished my chores.

Light blue eyes look back at me from the mirror and I run my hand through my sandy red crew cut. As close as I look, there’s still nothing on my cheeks or chin that needs a razor blade.

The old pair of Levis is faded and worn but clean. Mom Lunt always ensures we have clean clothes. I pick the red flannel, long-sleeved shirt and don it before slipping my feet into my work boots. As I walk to the door, I notice Ralph watching me. We exchange smiles before he rolls back over to get another half hour of sleep.

The sweet aroma of fresh mown alfalfa fills my nostrils as I savor the dewy morning breeze. A few fluffy clouds off to the west reflect sunlight from just beyond the high hills between the ranch and Redlands. A pair of Red Tailed Hawks circle high overhead, sharp eyes seeking field mice feeding in the pasture behind the barn. I can even see a couple of Cottontail rabbits there, ears up to hear the first signal of danger.

The gravel crunches underfoot as I walk across to the stables. I slip the stick from the hasp and open the door to the milk room. The two shiny stainless steel milking pails are in their place and I take them with me as I go to the next stall to fill a canvas bag with oats. As I walk around the stables, I see Mom Lunt in the chicken coop gathering eggs from the various nests.

Good morning!” she cheerfully calls out. I can’t remember any time when she wasn’t cheerful.

I return her greeting and enter the corral. Tom, the big gelding, stares placidly at me before turning back to munch on a bit of hay. The mare [I cannot, for the life of me, remember her name] ignores me. She’s busy searching the stalls in the side of the barn for something to eat. One of the other boys will be along soon to fork hay for them.

It’s no surprise to find both milk cows waiting. I hang the milk pails up on a peg before walking behind the stanchions. I spill half of the oats into each trough and slide back the wooden bar. I pull back my hand to keep the Jersey from nibbling on it. She’s always more eager than the Holstein. The next thing is to fill the bent up bucket with water and go around to rinse off the udders of both animals. Finally, I take down the milking stool and settle in next to the Jersey’s right side. I rest my forehead against her warm side and go to work. Even though her udder’s full, she’s still darned hard to squeeze milk out of. It’s something like playing scales on an instrument - except she’s so hard it feels like trying to squeeze a basketball.

Of course, the cats are there. Momma had a litter of six and all of them wait patiently on their haunches. A stream of white lands near and Momma cat sports ivory whiskers while her kittens rush to lap up the milk with steam rising in the morning chill. I manage to get a little over a half pail from the Jersey before giving up.

Hanging that on its peg, I take down the other to go and milk the Holstein. She’s easy. Her udder’s about half again the size of the Jersey’s and usually fills a pail and a half. But, she had a heifer so I only fill the one, leaving the rest for her baby.

The two cows have finished eating and back out of the stanchions as soon as I opened them. The next job is to wash down the concrete before taking the pails to the milk room. A rich vapor rises from both and I look forward to breakfast.

The Jersey’s milk has a richer fat content so I put half of her milk through the hand-operated separator, pouring the cream into a large pitcher with a lid. The rest goes into another container to be mixed with the Holstein’s milk.

After taking both milk containers to the house, I return to the milk room to sterilize the pails with steam. Pop Lunt has drilled into us the rule that one always needs to clean up after doing the milking. It’s only then that I return to the bunkhouse to shower and change into my school clothes.

We all wait until Pop Lunt comes in, hangs his old Stetson on its peg and sits down at the head of the table before we take our places. I don’t remember how we worked it out but there is some kind of order in who sits where. I seem to remember that I am one place away from Mom Lunt. Pop Lunt nods to Bruce and he says grace. Then we eat.

A huge pile of scrambled eggs fresh from the coop. Rashers of bacon and slices of ham from one of the Hampshire hogs recently butchered. Home-style potatoes and two loaves of freshly baked bread. I happily use my butter knife to spread unsalted butter from our own churn and cover it with peach preserves Mom Lunt made from the two trees in our garden. And, yes, a large glass of raw milk - this from the huge fridge that I milked yesterday. I’ll drink the store-bought sterile milk for lunch at school and it won’t be anywhere as good as this!

There’s plenty for all and everybody finishes their plate. It seldom happens but anything left will go into the slop bucket to be fed to the pigs.

The other boys gather their schoolbooks. I never bring mine home as I always get my homework finished at school, either during lunch or the afternoon recess. Each of us picks up the sack lunch Mom Lunt has prepared for us. We all wear jackets, three of us the blue corduroy of the Future Farmers of America. We have plenty of time, so we make our way through the orange grove on the far side of the Southern Pacific railroad tracks. The big navel oranges are ripe for picking and the owner never begrudges us any - after all, we’re there for him any time it gets too cold and he needs someone to light his smudge pots.

Another morning at the Bonnie Dell Ranch.

The End

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Teens 'speak out' about foster care at annual summit

(This topic caught my eye as I spent four years in a foster home. So, I will add my personal comments at the end)

OGDEN — In a meeting very much like Friday's Youth Summit, a group of teenagers and young adults who had been placed in Utah's foster care system gathered together to talk about their common desire for "normalcy" during their teen years.

They wanted to take part in activities that most teenagers take for granted such as going to a school dance, competing on an athletic team or even learning how to drive.

For a teenager in the care of the state Division of Child and Family Services, getting the OK to travel on a team bus out of town meant his or her foster parent getting permission from their caseworker, who then had to get the approval of a supervisor, who would likely check with a juvenile court judge before giving the green light.

Youths taking part in the division's annual Youth Summit took a lead role in changing Utah law to streamline the process with the Utah Legislature's passage of HB346 in 2014.

It was a watershed moment for the youths and their self-advocacy efforts, said Jennifer Larson, the DCFS out-of-home program director, who works extensively with foster youths.

"As we have moved to this use of the youth foster care experience and seeing them as experts in their own experience, I think it has changed the scene, the format and the way we talk about foster care," she said Friday.

The 14th annual summit, held at Weber State University, is offering sessions on money management, job preparation, relationships and advocacy. Each of the state's public colleges and universities, applied technology colleges and Job Corps have representatives at the summit to encourage students to attend college or seek other post-secondary education opportunities.

The state Youth Council, made up of youths in foster care from five regions throughout the state as well as youths who have aged out of care, takes the lead in organizing each year's summit.

This year, the council has organized guided discussions on the issues of permanent placements, obtaining driver licenses and staying connected with siblings who are in different foster care placements and the appropriate use of psychotropic drugs. While many youths in foster care acknowledge they need treatment, they do not want to be overmedicated, Larson said.

"It's, 'How can I get my treatment needs met without the overuse of psychotropic meds?' Some of the youth in that region are really passionate about that because they really feel strongly that they have been overmedicated over the years," she said.

On Saturday afternoon, the youths have the opportunity to participate in a "Speak Out," to discuss their experiences in foster care.

Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, is taking part in the conference instructing the youths how to advocate and participate in the legislative process. He was the Senate sponsor of HB346, which was introduced by Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville.

"We're so pleased he wanted to do this. I think it says a lot about his commitment to the outcomes of these kids and his commitment to make sure that we have a balanced system where they have a voice and that they're getting their needs met and we're helping to change those outcomes," she said.

The summit, titled "Raise Your Voice," concludes Saturday with a concert by Janiva Magness, an award-winning blues singer and former youth in foster care.

Magness, who entered foster care after the suicides of both of her parents, is a national spokeswoman for Casey Family Programs National Foster Care Month Campaign and an ambassador for the Foster Care Alumni of America.


(For others like me who wish to comment, please email marjorie.)

I spent my four years of high school at one of the Ettie Lee Homes, a privately funded foster care system affiliated with the LDS church. It was a working farm/ranch with the foster parents experienced ranchers from Southern Utah.

We learned to work. To use our hands and minds to build and create. We raised livestock. Tended to vegetable gardens and savored the fruit of our labors. We moved irrigation pipes for the pastures on which horses and cattle grazed. And, when the alfalfa grew tall enough, we drove a tractor to mow it, then went through with pitchforks to put it into rows for when it was dry and ready to be taken to the barn. We dug post holes and strung barbed wire. We dug a big hole and cemented it in to make a reservoir which also served as our swimming pool.

For those who had learned to work with the other children and were doing well in school, we were allowed to find jobs where we could put some money in our pockets. We were even allowed to go on dates with girls we met at school or church. All of us learned to drive.

Verdell and Laska Lunt were probably the wisest people I ever knew. When we did things we shouldn't, they didn't lay down the law, they let the others judge the miscreant and determine the punishment. If that judgment was a bit too severe or off base, that's when they stepped into advise us about it.

It certainly is not what the current crop of welfare bureaucrats would tolerate today!

I entered the Army and, when I completed my three years, I returned to the ranch and was impressed with the improvements made there.

I then re-enlisted in the Army and did not return for many years. By the time I returned, Miss Ettie Lee has passed away and the homes were turned over to clerks and administrators. I could already see how it was going downhill, not letting the children learn the most important lessons of life – working hard and teamwork.

I returned 20 years ago to find nothing but an institute for housing children, giving them no goals in life. Fruitful pastures and fields were now filled with drab, formless apartment buildings. And then, I learned there was going to be some kind of anniversary celebration for the Ettie Lee Homes Group.

I went.

I left disappointed and sad as I knew it would soon come to an end.

Why?

Government rules and regulations so they could get the funding they needed. Foster parents more concerned about themselves than the children.

And, most important of all – an official separation of church and state. The homes could no longer be associated with the LDS church and all the amazing guidance it provides for children.

Perhaps it's different in Utah. I would sincerely hope so. For without spiritual guidance, the children will never be able to attain a truly fruitful and rich life.

I see the group still exists and can be found @ www.ettielee.org and can be reached by email @ vicki_m@ettielee.org

And, if you were by any chance a member of the Ettie Lee family it would be wonderful to hear from you.

God bless Auntie Lee's memory.