Zach, our wild, ornery, sweet grandson, was lost to us in a tragic accident, but he will always remain in our memory as the kind, funny young man he was. Clay, his brother, and their family lived a quarter mile from us at the far end of our pasture. I was one blessed grandma because they were so close that I saw them most days.

Zach feeding calvesMy favorite memory of the two of them was watching them walking across the pasture from their house to ours. I can still see them in their little blue denim bibs making their way here to “work” on the farm. Clay and Zach were very close but he and his cousin Payton were more like each other. They were raised together a quarter mile apart as well. See how lucky I was – I had four grandchildren within one-half mile of our home.

When Payton was a newborn baby, Zach was two years old and told his mom, “I’m gonna teach that kid to fish someday!” He taught him many things (probably not all good!) Zach was surely the daredevil that taught Payton to ride 4-wheeler and snowmobile. Nobody could ride like Zach, but Payton did pretty well to keep up. I’ve always thought that the reason Payton was so tough was because he spent his early years trying to keep up with his older cousin.

We all miss our Zach. We just loved him so, so, so much and will miss him forever and ever!

I made this casserole for Zach one year for his birthday and he said it was the best chicken he had ever had. I thought while preparing supper that fried chicken would have gone over better for a young boy, so I felt his remark was high praise for a lowly casserole!

Casserole ingredients
Wilda’s Creamed Chicken

Sauté 1 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped green pepper and 1 cup chopped celery in 2 tablespoons melted butter. When vegetables are translucent add them to 2 cups cooked chicken either cut or torn into bite size pieces. Stir in two cups medium white sauce (see recipe in my book, Sustaining our Lifestyle, page 97.) Top with buttered bread crumbs and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Zach & the Hat

Every year our town celebrates the 4th of July with a Fireman’s Festival.  As it approaches, I find myself thinking a lot about our family and our grandson Zach, in particular, who we lost two years ago over this weekend.  My daughter Kate, who teaches college English, meets often with a group of friends who share ideas and creative writing prompts.  A few weeks ago their prompt was to write a piece entitled “The Hat.”  That assignment inspired Kate to write this poem that captures some of the qualities we loved about Zach and tells some of what he meant to all of us. We know how much he treasured time with his family. He never missed a family event, and we’re grateful for every moment and memory we had with him.

Zach and Jamie

The Hat

Zach made the hat. He didn’t braid its straw bands
or bend its pre-scuffed cowboy brim, but he gave
the hat personality with his blue eyes
and sudden grin. His strong shoulders made
the hat seem plausible to us, a family
of Ohioans gathered at the beach.

The next to buy the hat was Payton, who’d spent
the first seventeen years of his life doing much
of what Zach was doing, and he looked
at home in it too. Soon, like locusts, our family
had scoured the shops and almost every hour,
a new hat was passed around and tried
experimentally on a new blonde head.

I purchased mine at the peak of the run. I reckoned—
because “reckoning” became something you could do
in the hat—there was enough vacation left
to justify the investment. It wasn’t the type
of hat that I would wear ever again,
but once I donned its shady depths I felt
at peace, peering out with a two-drink start
on the world.

At one point, some truth-teller
in the family ventured, you know these hats are actually
kind of ugly, and no one disagreed.
But that didn’t stop us from wearing them
for the family picture of twenty-some
half-tanned Midwesterners, sun drunk
in white sand, cheap hats looking almost
gold against the sea.

family picture