Life is full of adventures. Some we choose. Some we are dragged into. Some we find ourselves in the midst of.

My mother, Ruby Leppke, did not seek adventure. She and my dad, Elmer Gaede, were Mennonite farm kids in Central Kansas. Mom drove a tractor, did farm chores, and butchered chickens. It was no surprise that she won first place in a cow milking contest.

When she and Dad married on April 16, 1943, Dad was working on a diary farm. Somewhere on Dad’s way home from some cornfield, he took an unexpected turn. Instead of walking into a barn stacked with musty hay, crowded with the smells of warm milk and the meows of begging barn cats, he found himself at Kansas University Medical School, anticipating a missionary’s life in South America.

Mom had seen the caption below his picture in the college yearbook, “Seeking worlds to conquer,” but it didn’t occur that that might mean something other than dealing with wheat prices and drought, catching catfish with his hands, and shooting jackrabbits. When he mentioned someday he’d like to fly an airplane, she laughed. His twinkly eyes, sense of humor, and restless ambition attracted her.

They didn’t go to South America. In 1955, with my sister, Ruth, and I standing on the broad backseat of the ’47 Fleetline Chevy, they drove north. On the dusty car trunk my father finger-wrote, “Anchorage or Bust.” The blue and gold KU Jayhawk decal faded from view on the chuck-holed Alcan Highway.

Mom didn’t choose adventure, but she had the resiliency to trade the harvest sun of Kansas for the midnight sun of the far North. Sweltering humidity for ice fog. Milk cows for moose cows. Catfish for salmon.

When the content, Mennonite farm girl arrived at her new home in Alaska, she was given a prescription for adventure.

*****

My mother missed acutely the farm-fresh eggs, milk, roasting ears, pork sausage, and tomatoes. Growing up in the Depression, however, she knew how to scrounge around, make something out of nothing – and improvise. In Alaska, she was quickly introduced to rhubarb. That became her Alaska fruit – even though it is factually a vegetable.

Life is full of adventures. Some we choose. Some we are dragged into. Some we find ourselves in the midst of.

My mother, Ruby Leppke, did not seek adventure. She and my dad, Elmer Gaede, were Mennonite farm kids in Central Kansas. Mom drove a tractor, did farm chores, and butchered chickens. It was no surprise that she won first place in a cow milking contest.

When she and Dad married on April 16, 1943, Dad was working on a diary farm. Somewhere on Dad’s way home from some cornfield, he took an unexpected turn. Instead of walking into a barn stacked with musty hay, crowded with the smells of warm milk and the meows of begging barn cats, he found himself at Kansas University Medical School, anticipating a missionary’s life in South America.

Mom had seen the caption below his picture in the college yearbook, “Seeking worlds to conquer,” but it didn’t occur that that might mean something other than dealing with wheat prices and drought, catching catfish with his hands, and shooting jackrabbits. When he mentioned someday he’d like to fly an airplane, she laughed. His twinkly eyes, sense of humor, and restless ambition attracted her.

They didn’t go to South America. In 1955, with my sister, Ruth, and I standing on the broad backseat of the ’47 Fleetline Chevy, they drove north. On the dusty car trunk my father finger-wrote, “Anchorage or Bust.” The blue and gold KU Jayhawk decal faded from view on the chuck-holed Alcan Highway.

Mom didn’t choose adventure, but she had the resiliency to trade the harvest sun of Kansas for the midnight sun of the far North. Sweltering humidity for ice fog. Milk cows for moose cows. Catfish for salmon.

When the content, Mennonite farm girl arrived at her new home in Alaska, she was given a prescription for adventure.

*****

My mother missed acutely the farm-fresh eggs, milk, roasting ears, pork sausage, and tomatoes. Growing up in the Depression, however, she knew how to scrounge around, make something out of nothing – and improvise. In Alaska, she was quickly introduced to rhubarb. That became her Alaska fruit – even though it is factually a vegetable.

Rhubarb Cherry Pie

3 C. rhubarb, chopped

1 can (14.5 oz) pitted, tart, red cherries, undrained

1 ¼ C. granulated sugar

2 T. tapioca

Combine ingredients and let stand 10- 15 minutes

Prepare two-crust pastry. Roll out and line a nine-inch pie plate. Dump in ingredients. Cover with remaining crust. Pinch edges and trim off excess dough. Roll out left-over dough. Cut into 2×2 inch squares. Sprinkle pie and squares lightly with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 400º: twenty minutes for squares, forty minutes for pie. Nibble on squares while waiting for pie.

(This story is published in April/May issue of The Country Register – Kansas:

http://www.countryregister.com/kansas/kansas.html)

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