Here we are in mid-August, on the 15th, and it’s time to wish our 5th family member a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
This time, the celebrant is our first-born, Lucas, known during his high school years in our family as “Luke Duke.”
Luke Duke did a lot of traveling very early, and was in a famous movie, before he was even born, as a matter of fact.
In February of the year Luke Duke was born, I had taken a new position as Foreman of a large cattle ranch in northern Wyoming, and loaded my 4-wheel drive with my clothes, gear, a roll away bed and our Siamese cat, and moved to the ranch that month to start work.
I flew back home in June, and packed up a U-Haul truck with our things, and my mother and I moved Blond Girl from southern Wisconsin to northern Wyoming. By staying and working at the medical center where she was working that spring, Blond Girl was able to bring along our health insurance coverage from there, to our new home, and have it cover Luke Duke’s birth, which occurred 35 years ago on this day in 1974.
Living and working out in the wilds of northern Wyoming has its good points and its not so good points, like being 55 miles away from our doctor and the hospital, where Luke Duke would be born. Our nearest neighbors were some 5 miles away, too.
As Blond Girl’s due date approached, and we had a pre-birth appointment with our doctor, we learned that he had recently been banned from practice at the hospital, due to being so late in completing his prior paperwork there. Our doctor, though, advised us that he was on good working terms with the delivery wing staff, and was pretty confident that they would allow him to sneak in and deliver Luke Duke when the time came.
That development kind of made us a little apprehensive about the delivery, but we had faith that all would work out when it was time.
After Blond Girl arrived on and settled in on the ranch, she made new friends, and even was chosen as an extra in the blockbuster movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” which was filmed on part of the ranch.
And then it was the 15th, and Blond Girl was feeling like maybe it was time to start thinking about making the 55-mile trip east, over the Little Bear Lodge Mountains, into South Dakota, to the dusty western town of Belle Fourche, made famous in one of John Wayne’s many western movies.
After leaving the ranch at a somewhat leisurely pace, and gaining the summit up on the Bear Lodge, we spotted a large apple orchard alongside the road, and on the spur of the moment, decided to stop and pick a few apples to take along to the hospital.
It was during this bit of exercise, that blond Girl’s water broke, and put a more urgent presence to the remainder of our trip into South Dakota.
We arrived at the hospital (which has long since closed), checked in, our doctor was summoned, and the birth went well.
A couple of years later, our daughter was also born there, and about a year later, we moved back to Wisconsin, where I would go into the real estate and auction business for several years.
As he grew up through childhood, being the first born, Luke Duke was a trail blazer for his younger sister and brother, in many ways. He was an attentive, happy and very curious child, who loved to be read to, and loved to disassemble anything he could get his hands on.
One of his early acquired love of things, was with a set of copper dinosaurs that I had acquired at the Museum of Natural History in Chicago, during one of my trips there during my college geology courses. We also bought a children’s dinosaur book, and, in rather quick order, he knew all the dinosaurs in his book, and everything about them.
As he continued to grow towards high school, his strong aptitudes in the sciences and English communications became glaringly obvious, which his school aptitude tests verified, when he scored in the 99th percentile in several categories.
During his growth, we were fortunate to be able to have Blond Girl be a stay-at-home-mom for several years, so she could be there during those early years with our kids, to better promote their upbringing and nurturing. Best decision we ever made.
During junior high and high school, Luke Duke was a popular kid in the neighborhood, and other kids usually came to our home to play, rather than somewhere else. The neighbor kids all looked up to Luke, and he was a pretty decent role model for them.
To celebrate his 16th birthday, we took the kids and Luke’s best friend in high school, to St. Louis for the weekend so they could enjoy Grant’s Farm, the St. Louis Zoo and the Gateway Arch. What a weekend that was!
His interest in the sciences and other creative interests continued to grow, and one would often find Luke making fine, minute sketches with one of his rapidograph pens, or perhaps constructing another ultra futuristic space ship model out of the huge bucket of small leggo blocks we had, that would give any of the star wars ships a real run for their money.
During high school, art was one of his favorite subjects, and his expressionism knew no limits. Expressing himself in English compositions and short stories, was also one of his creative talents.
We have always encouraged our kids to be independent and self-reliant, and one of Luke’s initiatives in that direction was to request being able to have his own room, out in one end of our two-car garage, which we allowed him to do and helped him to construct, so that he and his very large, black and white cat, Psycho, could have their own space.
Luke Duke also developed a love of cooking, which led him to become employed in our small southern Dane County village, as a short order cook in the local restaurant. He started technical college, but soon decided that it wasn’t the right path for him at that time.
Later, he moved on to excel at cooking at several fine specialty restaurants in Madison, which was only a short drive from our home. Eventually, he and I both went to work for a local Canon copier dealer as technicians, he as a field repair technician, and I as a remanufacturing technician.
Five years later, after he had established himself as one of the most competent field technicians in the entire field force, he and his wife moved to the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill research triangle area of North Carolina, where she could attend graduate school and obtain her Masters Degree, and where he now works as a very talented Web Site Developer, for a software company there.
And several years ago, he decided to work at getting his college degree, and during numerous night courses ever since, has maintained a straight-A average, and will graduate in December with a bachelors degree, with high honors, all while working full-time and helping his Special Ed teacher spouse, raise their (now) two young sons.
During his growing up years, Luke pushed the limits of many envelopes, tested and poked, and made his share of learning mistakes which many of us make during those years. During those same years, he provided so many proud moments for us, his parents, especially after marrying, and he and his wife beginning their own family life, and having two sons.
Luke is incredibly intelligent, creative in so many ways, and logical, like his mother, and now is a wonderful husband and father, who we couldn’t be more proud of.
Happy Birthday, Luke!
I LOVE YOU, SON!