Visiting Friends…Present & Past….

This week we had arranged to head south to Excelsior Springs.  It is right by Kansas City about 2 1/2 hours south.  Our good friends from Eastgate Cici and Larry, live their.  We decided to head down on Tue. return on Thur.  Larry had therapy that day on his new knee replacement.  Not knowing how tired that would make him, we arranged to arrive around 4 pm and go out for supper.  On the way, we stopped at Winterset.  I wanted to buy a copy of the movie Bridges of Madison County.  Now we can watch it before we go exploring at the bridges.  They had copies at John Wayne’s Museum.  Back on the highway south, we past the exits of New Virginia and St. Marys.  We decided to drive the back roads on the way back and see if we could find where Rich’s dad use to live.


We arrived in Excelsior Springs around 4 and found their house.   It was sure good to see them.  We went out to eat, and had a great time.  Not the greatest picture….lol…but it is what it is.    The next morning Cici cooked a wonderful full breakfast with eggs, bacon, potatoes, biscuits and orange juice.  Larry took Rich to shoot their pistols at an indoor shooting range.  Rich wants to get his card for carrying, so he really enjoyed that.   Cici and I went to a Great second hand store.   I haven’t found a good one since we left Harlingen.  We shopped at Texas Thrift.  lol. ….. cheap skates we are……This one was really nice.  I found 3 blouses….Not bad….spent $11.  Found another store and returned home.  They boys had a great time.  Supper that nite was at Applebee’s.

2016-01-26 19.49.31

Shopping at Lionel’s Western Wear in Weslaco after a style show last winter……

We have been friends of theirs for 2 winters now.  They pulled into Eastgate about a day after we did that first winter.  We hit it off right away.  When we go places together they always drive.  That’s what happens when you have a little Ford Ranger….lol….We’ve had so much fun with them.  Cici is a nut…..and Larry can crack you up with his jokes also.  Never dull…

.Larry and Cici

We had such a good visit.  We talked about family, about Eastgate of course, past and plans for this fall.  The next morning we packed up our little plastic bag of clothes and toiletries…lol…(HyVee)  and headed back towards home.

We finally made it to New Virginia, St. Mary’s exits.  We turned off on the one he thought he remembered.  Now Rich’s dad, Leo lived out here for a short time in the late 70’s.  Leo had served in the Military, and made a good friend, Kenneth Ballard.  When they would come home on leave the family’s would  get together.  Never the less, they were close friends.  Leo married Rich’s mom Rose,  and Helen and Kenny new all the kids.  After Rich’s mom died, when he was 15,he spent the summer at Ballard’s.  They lived in the country and had livestock, salvage yard, sold used cars, wrecker business,  and farmed also.  Kenny was always busy.  Helen and Kenny had a number of kids, even a foster son,  and she was always busy with the duties of a wife, mother, and the household.  She was always taking care of kids.  Her kids, neighbor kids, or many other family members kids.  They were very hard working people and the kids all grow up the same.  They were always a Happy Couple, Helen with a wonderful laugh, and Kenny was a jokester.   Leo and Kenny remained friends all those years until Leo had another marital trouble.  He went to live at Helen and Kenny’s around the late 70’s.  He then bought a used mobile trailer and installed it on some acreage that Kenny let him use.  Helen and Kenny had bought the property for retirement some day.  After the trailer was set up, his present wife Dorothy came back, and they tried to make it work.  But to know avail, it just wasn’t to be.   Dorothy went back to her daughters, and Leo eventually moved to McNabb to be close to all the kids.  After Leo passed in 1991, Helen and Kenny even came to Chillicothe for his funeral services.  It seems like after that everyone really drifted apart.  We know Kenny had died in 1995, but we really don’t know how or when we knew that.   Finally at least 3 years ago, something really strange happened.   By that time Connie, Rich’s younger sister had moved into Leo’s house.  A neighbor of hers gave her a letter that arrived at her house.  I don’t remember why it went their.  It was from Helen Ballard.  It contained some family pictures from years ago and a very sweet letter.  We were all amazed   One of them was a photo of their mother and dad.  I was always going to write her and thank her.   But of Course……Do we?…..Another moment of procrastination………….So now here we are today………….Searching to see if anyone is alive of the Ballard family or even around.

So here we go….driving the back roads….some blacktop…mostly gravel…..We couldn’t find Helen and Kenny Ballard’s house so off to try to find the property where his dads trailer was.   We turned down this gravel road and down near the bottom, their was a lane to the right.  He said turn here.   Now I am driving.   So I crept slowly, ever so slowly down this small lane and he says….“This isn’t it”…..I look in the rear view…..”Ohhhhh Shitttt”….Another car pulled into the lane……….we’re busted….no way to go but to the yard and turn around.   I pulled to the side and let the car park.   Rich got out….A lady got out…..They Talked….Thank Goodness they shook hands…..Whew….Were Ok….So I watched them talk for at least 10 min.  then she made a phone call.   hmmmmm …calling for info right?……..Finally Rich came back to the car with her…..He introduced me to Helen’s Granddaughter,  Julie…….Ohhhh My…..of all the drives we pulled into, we chose hers.  Ironically she usually doesn’t get off work that early…..Coincidence?  When I told her how my heart skipped a beat when I seen her car in the rear view, she said “Imagine how I felt.  I didn’t know what I was walking into”.   Ohhh yaaaa.   She said her grandmother is very much alive.  She tried calling her and she wasn’t home.  She is 91, drives, quilts at the church, member of a garden club and never stops.  Julie know exactly who Rich was.  Her grandma and grandpa had talked about Leo and his family through the years and she had know Leo when she was a child.  After a nice little visit and exchanging of phone numbers, she gave Rich directions.  Grandma Helen now lives on the property that Leo had put the trailer on.   In the early 90’s Helen and Kenny brought in a different trailer and built on to it…..Julie says they call it the “trouse”   lol  I found that very funny.

So on we went.  Turned out we were miles away.   Finally turned down the gravel road and found the gravel lane.   Yes this is it.


Now this is what was on the one lane bridge heading to the house…….‘Caution Trolls” On the top of the pole is a troll….lol…Yes this has to be the Ballard’s.   We drove up to the house.


Nobody Home.  This is the Trouse…..We walked around a little and then got back in the truck.  Going back over the bridge Rich said,  Look, theirs something down their.


Hahahaha…..A Troll…..Now we gotta go back and take a picture of the Troll on top the fruit cellar.


We took the picture, wondering what the story was…..Gotta be good….Like I said, Kenny was a Jokester in his day. Finally we drove back down the lane and almost to the end and low and behold, in turns a car.   It is Helen….She was so shocked.  We turned around “AGAIN”   Another Coincidence?……We visited with her for several hours.


I asked her about the Trolls……The Hat Explains it All…..”Its a Ballard Thing   (You Wouldn’t Understand)”…..This was a gift from a family member, made especially for her.  so, some things never change.  What a great family.  So in talking with Helen, she has a mind of a 60 year old, a sparkle in her eye.  so much energy for her age.  Her memory is fabulous.  She has a wonderful laughter, that is so full of life and young sounding.  Truly a woman to admire.   Most of her family still lives near with the youngest daughter living just up the hill from her.  We talked a lot about the past that was so interesting.  Finally we had to say Goodbye.   She was so glad and excited that we came by.  With all those “COINCEDENCES”  of timing, we would have never been able to see her.  But we do plan in visiting again before we leave the end of the month.  We are actually less than an hour from her house…..Amazing I think….


Rich Bergen and Helen Ballard

So the end of another day in Iowa…..What a few days its been….Visited our Very Good Friends and Finding some of Rich’s dads past

……..Its Like Stepping Back In Time……

……..Reality Check…..

Labor Day Weekend Ahead……Work 3 Days


3 thoughts on “Visiting Friends…Present & Past….

  1. How neat to visit and find family you have wondered about so often. Memories that cannot be forgotten. So glad for both of you to have been in the right place at the right time. By the way, our son here in Peoria teaches the Concealed Carry classes if Rich is interested.


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