Several people, knowing that I lived in Alaska several years, have mistaken "Flames Over Ruidoso" for Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). This is actually a painting inspired by photographs my oldest daughter took during the forest fires in New Mexico in the early years after the turn of the 21st century. "Flames Over Ruidoso" is a 16" x 20" (40.64 x 50.80 cm) oil painting on canvas. I do not wish to dwell on such destruction. I have seen the Northern Lights several times and they are quite spectacular, but I don't have any stories about them. I will tell a memory when we first found out we were going to Alaska.

This memory occurred as we were preparing to leave Delaware on our way to see family in Texas before moving to Alaska. We knew it would be a long time before we saw them again. In fact, I remember speaking with my grandparents in Texas only once in the 5 years we lived there.

When Dad got his transfer orders to Alaska, we were in Dover, Delaware. I have 3 brothers and we are very close in age, all within 6 years. The boys didn't do much without their sister tagging along. It didn't matter what it was. Dad always cut the boy's hair into a burr. He set a chair in the yard and it was pretty quick with the electric shears. I always had long hair and when I was 10, it was past my waist, long curly of white. This particular day, Mom had gone to visit her friend, Pauline, who lived down the road. After Dad had given all the boys their hair cuts, he said, "Come on over here, Linda." I never questioned my Dad, but obeyed explicitly. "Sit down", he said as he pointed to the chair. One, two, three, as quick as that, all my hair was on the ground. I thought, "Hmmm, I wonder why he did that?" I think he was considering the future months, the long trip and the ordeal facing us. Having a short cut would be much easier to take care of. It was called a pixie cut, but I doubt he knew that. To him it was just 'very short'. Then he said, "Now, go show your mother."

When I got to Pauline's house, she, Mom, and Mr. Troxell just starred. Then Mr. Troxell said, "Well, you ladies are going to have to do something to distinguish Linda from the boys!" He walked away as they thought. Then Pauline said, "I know." She went to her bedroom and came out with a pair of earrings for pierced ears. Yeah, this would distinguish me. They proceeded to pierce my ears. Mom got a towel, then went to the freezer and got some ice. She held it against the front and back of one of my ears while Pauline got a potato out of the pantry. Then Mom said, "What are we going to use to make the hole?" I remember, with mouth closed, my eyes widened in wonder. Pauline said, "I think I have a needle large enough." She sure did! It was a huge needle. I don't know what she used it for, but it couldn't have been a better tool for the job. She got a match and burned the needle to sanitize it. By now, I couldn't feel my ear. Pauline stood in front of me and aimed, then plunged the needle through my ear into the potato Mom was holding against the back of my ear. I didn't even feel it. The earring had been soaking in Witch Hazel, a popular disinfectant of the day. It was much better than alcohol because it didn't burn. The earrings were what we called 'dangles', a beautiful design of pure silver with an oval crystal dangle. I kept them until recently, when one of them broke. Pauline easily inserted one into my ear and flipped the back closed. Then they continued the project by piercing the other ear. When they had finished, both stood in front of me and critiqued their work. Looking at me as they turned their heads sideways, they looked at each other, then back at me a couple times. Then Mom said, "Pauline, one hole is lower than the other!" She said, "Yes, I see that, but it's too late now." Pauline handed me the Witch Hazel and some cotton and said, "Now, Sweetie, you'll have to dab that on your ears and turn the earrings several times a day until they heal." That was how and why I got my ears pierced.