[Vision2020] Blue Bellies and Personality Plus: A Tribute to My Mom

Nicholas Gier ngier006 at gmail.com
Fri May 15 17:11:18 PDT 2015

Dear Visionaries:

Here is my Mother's Day column for those who don't take the Daily News. The
long version is attached.


*Blue Bellies and Personality Plus: A Tribute to My Mom*

 By Nick Gier, The Palouse Pundit

My mother was a remarkable woman.  “Lots of spunk” would be a good way to
describe her.  She was a fiery red-head, and she was just as feisty as
Lucille Ball.

When my mom praised other people for having “personality plus,” she was
also including herself.  She always complained about why her vivacity did
not “rub off” on her two sons, but she did not realize how difficult it was
to develop any personality at all in her presence.

She had a quick wit and peppered her speech with colorful phrases. At the
sight of a beautiful sight or a nice piece of craftwork (usually her own),
she would say “feast your eyes on this.”

There was one phrase that I repeat that puzzles everyone.  When anyone had
failed at a task (and that was often), my mother would immediately advise:
“You’ll just have to lick your (cow) calf over again.”

Her remarks could also cut to the quick.  I remember coming home and
showing my first publication to my parents.  It was on the religious view
of the Founding Fathers, and my father said something like “Good job,
son”!  My mother’s response was “I don’t care about those old farts”!

When my dad wanted to take his two sons to an elk hunting camp in Troy,
Oregon, my mom would always object.  Her dear boys’ ears would be subjected
to crude language. The delicious irony, however, was that she was the dirty
joke teller in the family.  My dad would turn beet red when she told one of
her stories.

            My mother’s family were tight-fisted Scots-Irish from Missouri,
and my brother and I never understood one of most her provocative
statements: “Did you know that people from Missouri have blue bellies?”

We were too afraid to ask about these strange stomachs.  We certainly
didn’t want her to show us either, even though I later learned that
Missouri was the “Show Me” state.

Even after much internet search, I am none the wiser about my mom’s amazing
pronouncement.  Because of their blue uniforms and their alleged penchant
for cowardice, Union troops were known to crawl on blue bellies.
Missourians, however, supported both sides in the war, so many of them
would have gray stomachs instead.

My mother was a very enterprising woman.  She helped her own mother run a
boarding house in Evanston, Wyoming, and she always boasted about running
her own hot dog stand in that city.

She also bragged about the fact that she overruled her mother about not
having a room for a handsome man who showed up in the middle of the night.
She gave up her own room, slept on the couch, and married that man after a
two-week courtship.

My mother was a creative craftswoman. She would make beautiful artificial
corsages and sell them at local taverns.  While my father drank at the bar,
my teetotalling mother—all tarted up—would convince men (she didn’t take
“No” for an answer) to buy a corsage for their wives.  She could easily
make $50 in a night.

After reading one of my columns about speaking at a faculty meeting, she
created a masterpiece.  It is a driftwood collage with carefully chosen
gnarled pieces, which actually look like craggy, old professors.

I like to think that I am a hybrid of my mother and father.  In person I’m
very much like my calm and gentle father, but my mom comes out in my
political activities and my writing.

Thank you, Mother, for giving me that special spirit (albeit sometimes
impolitic) and drive that have made me what I am.  If there is anything
funny in this column, it came directly from you.

Nick Gier still has a soft spot in his heart for Oregon, but he has enjoyed
the beauty of Northern Idaho for 42 plus years.
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