July 2013

Like most grandparents I enjoy taking pictures of my granddaughter Anneke. Earlier this year I took one that I thought turned out especially nice .

Anneke 7-13

All of four and a half, but looking like she’s all grown up… It’s the eyes, I think! 🙂

I have this friend in Canada who’s one heck of an artist, so I sent John the above picture and asked him to do something with it like this amazing pencil portrait:

Anneke Ruth Donker Anno Domini 2013 Age four years and seven months

Anneke Ruth Donker Anno Domini 2013
Age four years and seven months

October 2011

Most of you, by now, are aware that our son Elias married his high school sweetheart Sara eight and a half years ago. A member of the 101st Airborne Elias did three tours in Iraq where he did good and gathered a chest full of medals including a Purple Heart. He is currently a Captain in the Indiana National Guard stationed in Muscatatuck, IN where he is in charge of hand-to-hand combat training.

Three and a half years ago Sara and Elias blessed us with a wonderful grandchild named Anneke, who, of course, is the apple of our eyes! Since “Pops” likes to write as well as brag on his one and only grandchild this page will feature some of Anneke’s growing-up adventures.


Anneke writes:

When the hunting season starts Daddy usually arranges for some time off from the army so he can go to Granny-Ellen and Pops’ house to go hunt. That leaves Mommy and I to fend for ourselves. We don’t really mind especially since Pops does not care for hunting and usually finds something to do that is both fun and educational. This day started out by me lazily draped in one of the living room chairs waiting for Pops’ famous cinnamon rolls to come out of the oven. When they did… oh boy! They are so good!

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Pops has been working with clay “forever” and one of the things he is known for are these little gnomes that have been a staple of his workshops “forever and a day”. They are really simple to make and consist mostly of a caricatured head and a long flowing “body”. Here’s a picture of a few small ones, just to give you an idea:


The gnomes pictured on above were made by mentally challenged students and are an average of eight inches high. The “bodies” are just plain as most of the efforts were spent on the heads. Granny-Ellen and Pops (well mostly Pops!) have this “park” up on the hill where we go take golf cart rides and generally relax on the trails. Well, Pops had this crazy idea to make some really BIG gnomes and plant them all around and along the golf cart trails for our enjoyment.

So after we ate the cinnamon rolls it was off to Pops’ studio where I helped smash the clay in preparation of rolling it out. We went nuts making large and tall gnomes. They will be between 23 and 27 inches tall! Pops rolled out these huge pieces of clay using an enormous rolling pin he made out of a piece of schedule forty plastic sewer pipe.

It is really cool to watch that thing smash the clay and make a slab that is a uniform three-quarter of an inch thick. The slab has to be that thick to support the head and the general weight of the gnome! When Pops first slices the clay off the block, he cuts rather thick slabs, places them on the canvas (clay does not stick to the canvas) and then we pound the pieces kind of, sort of, together. The big rolling pin does the rest. On either side of the clay are these sticks on which the rolling pin rides. Sort of like a train rides on rails, since the sticks are three-quarter of an inch thick, the slab of clay will also be three-quarter of an inch thick if Pops does his job correctly!

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When the slab is done, Pops places another piece of canvas over it and then he picks up the canvas-clay-canvas “sandwich” and flips it over. The first piece of canvas on which the slab was rolled out is now kind of wet and can be peeled of. The second piece of canvas also removes some of the moisture from the clay so when the time comes, later, we can set the thing up, without it collapsing. Since Pops did the hard work of rolling out the slab I now get to have some fun imprinting my name and the date and a whole bunch of other things in the soft clay. Pops helped me out a bit to make sure my letters were straight in a row, but when it came too imprinting stars and a few other things (like that sun!) he let me go to town on my own. Note my hand imprint in the left picture below.This is fun!

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Meanwhile Mommy started the head and had a lot of fun trying to make a “female” looking head… “Hey”, she said, “I’ve never done this before!” Whereupon Pops in his usual gruff manner said: “You’ll get over it!”  Ah, but it was fun!

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I got to cut the clay that Pops needed to make fingers for one of the other gnomes that he had made earlier. That one just came out of the canvas, which had supported it while it stiffened up a bit. Pops told me that we are going to make a “zillion” of these creatures and plant them all over the park up on the hill. I have to come up with names for all of them. So far I have “Mushroom Man” but that is about it. I better come up with some more, Pops and Mommy said…

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This happened to be the weekend that Pops had a gig for the Terre Haute Park Department. He set up his potter’s wheel at Collet Park’s Old Fashioned Day and demonstrated the almost lost art of throwing on the wheel as well as entertaining the crowd with his mad antics on the potter’s wheel. Mommy brought me over to see Pops and boy! It was fun! I got to try my hands on the wheel and Pops said I was a natural! Go figure!

I also got to sit in the driver’s seat of the carriage. “Jake” the big black horse that pulled the carriage all around the park did not seem to mind and it sure was fun! Mommy treated me to an ice cream cone that I shared with Pops. I dropped it on the ground… oh oh… Pops cleaned it up, Mommy inspected it and down my throat it went! Pops said a bit of sand wouldn’t hurt me anyway! He was joking!

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