Gail Lee Martin’s Favorite Things

I discovered a list of favorite things where Mom filled in her answers. If I were filling out the list for her, I’d have guessed the right answers for some:
Flower – iris
Type of food – chicken
Sport – fishing
Leisure activity – writing

Tall Bearded Iris Viva Mexico Print
Tall Bearded Iris Viva Mexico Print by ACrossPhotography

Others I probably would have missed. Here’s her choice for these:
Color – yellow
Perfume – Blue Waltz
Song – Oh, Lonesome Me
Dessert – lemon pie
Vacation spot – Ozarks

Copy the list of items here, but substitute your own favorites. Your friends will enjoy seeing these if you post them on your Facebook status.

Hot Times at the Ball Park

Baseball Memories of Gail and her family:

Ginger – I tried calling Mom one evening in July, but there was no answer. When I checked Facebook, I saw my sister’s status: July 8, 2012 – Karen was at McDonald Stadium in El Dorado.

Ginger:  Hmmm, that must be why Mom doesn’t answer her phone.

Karen:  We lost, badly.  It doesn’t help that Mom is always cheering for the visiting team.
Ginger: doesn’t she like the home team?
Karen:  She likes to be contrary.
Ginger:  I’m afraid we’ve inherited some of that too. Just wait until I’m 87.
87 year old Gail Lee Martin at the ballpark

At 87, Gail Lee Martin attended the Bronco baseball games frequently during a very hot summer.

Cj Garriott – As I recall, July 2012 was the host of those 100+ days that I arrived in time for a full week of? I remember thinking, how in Hades could it be HOTTER 700 miles north of where I was coming from.

Karen –  That was one hot summer, too, but Mom loved going to the El Dorado Bronco games in the stadium there at the fairgrounds. She flirted with all the good-looking college players when they came through collecting for the 50-50 drawing.

Mom and I were going to a lot of ball games that summer. The notes below were from the previous evening at the ball park.

kk fb rain at ballpark 2012

Virginia – I hope it did rain then.
Mom: We are living right! 3/4 of an inch right. Oh so sorry we missed the last inning when Dodge City beat the Broncos
July 8, 2012 at 3:10pm 


Karen: haha. I see what you’re trying to do, Mom–get me riled up because you always root for the visiting team! We won and we would have still won if we’d played that final inning!

July 2012 Rain at the Bronco ball park in El Dorado KS

Karen Kolavalli’s photo of the lightning and rain clouds at the McDonald Stadium (where the Bronco’s played in El Dorado, Kansas.

A Seed Packet Craft

Back in 2008, Gail Lee Martin put this craft article together for the eHow website. Her daughter recently recovered it using the Wayback Machine which finds defunct web content.

How to Make an Ornamental Birdhouse from Seed Packets

Make an Ornamental Birdhouse from Seed Packets
Don’t toss the colorful seed packages after planting time. Save them to make this easy and decorative birdhouse. Here’s how to do it.

moms birdhse_edited

Things You’ll Need:

seed packets
black marker
decorative touches (spagham moss, ivy leaves, birds)

Collect seed packets with colorful flower pictures on them. Sometimes discount stores have leftover seeds at bargain basement prices when the planting season ends.

Choose one seed packet for the front of the birdhouse. Draw a circle with a pencil in the upper half of the packet front. This represents the hole for the bird to enter. Fill in the circle with a black marker.

Cut the front packet and the back packet with a matching peak for the roof.

Shorten two packets to serve as the side walls.

Start by gluing a front and a side seed packet together along the long side. Continue gluing additional seed packets (the other side and the back) until it forms a square. Allow those to dry between each stage.

Attach two packages with glue to serve as the roof.

Glue on some accessories (spagham moss, fabric leaves, and tiny birds) to complete the birdhouse theme. You can find these in the craft or floral section at discount stores like WalMart or click on this picture to order from Amazon.


prism said on 11/25/2008 “What a great way to reuse seed packets! Would make a unique gift for wild bird lovers like my Mom. Thanks!”

mactraks said on 9/28/2008  “I never fail to be awestruck at the “recycling” projects my big sister comes up with! This is truly spectacular and easy enough for even me to do.”

So Many Butterflies

Virginia Allain, Gail’s daughter, wrote this memory piece back in 2013:

“At one time, I lived in South Texas near the Mexican border. I remember that sometimes there seemed to be a population explosion of butterflies. It is still a mystery to me why there were so many.

Butterfly on purple flowers - Photo by Virginia Allain

Photo by Virginia Allain

I’d see hundreds of them as I drove down the Military Highway. They were so plentiful they would pelt the car windshield.

During that butterfly season, there was an intensely yellow one hovering around my honeysuckle. Then, as I played golf, a gorgeous black swallowtail flew past. There seemed to be so many kinds in the Rio Grande Valley at that time. It didn’t happen every year, so maybe the conditions had to be just right.

I wondered where they came from and what their names were. Was it the time of year for them to migrate south like the monarchs did or had the previous month’s rain encouraged many to emerge? There certainly was a bumper crop. Perhaps there was just the right combination of weather and available plants to draw them.

Black Butterfly with blue markings - Photo by Virginia Allain

Photo by Virginia Allain

Whatever the reason, it was a joy to see them fluttering past.”

Perhaps, this memory of all the butterflies came to the surface in December 2013, as that was the year of Mom’s death. Since childhood, I’ve stopped to look at insects with admiration for their versatile shapes and colors because Mom taught us about them when we lived on the farm. Three of my sisters took entomology as a 4-H project and collected, pinned, and labeled all kinds of insects from a humble, not-very-showy beetle to the glory of a colorful butterfly.

It’s summer time, so before you swat at the next bug that flies or strolls past, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the tiny critter. If it isn’t trying to bite or sting me, I let it be.



Dragonfly photo by Virginia Allain


Gail’s Immigrant Roots

June was Immigrant Heritage Month! To celebrate America’s diversity and the monumental contributions immigrants make every day, I’m featuring my mother’s immigrant ancestors. I’ll have to go back quite far, as her family lines came to America many generations ago. Gail’s family name was McGhee and her mother’s maiden name was Vining.

Here’s the family tree showing the Vining line. John Vining was her immigrant ancestor for the Vining line, having been born in Wincanton, England in 1636. He died 49 years later in Weymouth in the Colony of Massachussets. Weymouth is just south of Boston.

vining family tree immigrant ancestor

As you can see, there are some gaps in the family tree for the Vining line. I’m working on it.

Of course, along the way, there were many other family lines joining in. Tower, Buckland, Ashcroft, Long, Pease, Stone, Prior, Marsh. About 250 years later, the Vining and the McGhee lines converged when Ruth Vining and Clarence McGhee met and married in Tyro, Kansas in 1918.

Gail Lee was their second child. When she was in her sixties, she plunged into tracing the family history back through the generations. Finding her immigrant ancestors and where they came from was a thrill for her.

mcghee martin family tree

McGhee – Martin family tree

Do you know when your immigrant ancestors arrived in America? Where did they come from? One wonders what motivated them to make such a big move.

Gail’s Big Fish Story

Back in 2006, Gail posted this story on the Our Echo website:

Summer Fun

Since we retired from money-making jobs a few years ago, we have enjoyed fishing in eastern Kansas lakes. Several years ago we were fishing in a small city lake where the fish were fed with floating fish food. As the fish food went floating by I suddenly had a terrific bite. The line was being pulled off my 404 Zebco reel faster than I could handle.

Finally, the fish began to respond to my efforts to reel him in, but in the meantime, he was all over that body of water. My folding lawn chair fell over as I tried to stand up. I stumbled over the tackle box. Thus scattering hooks and sinkers all around as the fish maneuvered me from one side of the dock to the other. In the process, it was tangling up my line with the other three that my husband and I had in the water.

One by one my husband untangled the lines and got them out of my way. Still, this monster of the deep was dragging off more line than I was reeling in. During all this commotion my fishing partner was issuing instruction by the mouthful. I knew one or two things was going to happen. The fish would break the line and I’d lose the fish or the fish would pull me into the lake.

Time after time the fish would begin to tire allowing me to bring him closer to shore. Then, in a new burst of energy, away across the lake he’d go. After hours (later I found out it was only 30 minutes) of grueling strain, I finally had the fish close enough for us to see how big he really was. The Oracle of fishing commands grabbed the fish net to be ready to assist in the final landing, only to realize this net wouldn’t even hold the fish’s tail.

30 pound grass carp caught at Sugar Valley

Gail Martin in her fishing attire with the 30-pound grass carp she caught at Sugar Valley, Kansas.

But God was good. The giant grass carp became so tired I was able to drag him ashore as my amazed spouse gave a boost to the tail section with our woefully small net. Definitely, a fish to tell ‘tall tales’ about and be truthful. He was as long as a yardstick and weighed thirty pounds. Tasted good too.


  • Posted 05/15/2006 by Carol J Garriott – This is hilarious! From the stumbling chaos created by the pull from the fish to the “oracle of fishing commands,” the reader is immersed in the activity. Great fun.
  • Posted 06/02/2006 – Great fish story–but where’s the photo to prove it?! Karen
  • Posted 06/14/2006 21:56 by Gail Lee Martin – Well I have a picture but haven’t learned how to get from the scanner to OurEchoes. One picture was sent to the state wildlife people who gave me a state angler’s award.
  • Posted 07/19/2007 04:04 – This is a captivating fish tale, but you didn’t tell us about the one that got away, or whether or not you’re brave enough to bait your own hook!
  • Way to go, Gail…that angler award is nifty. Does your hubby have one, too? Blessings, Sandi in FL.
  • Posted 07/19/2007 by Gail Lee Martin – Oh my, those big fish broke so many lines before we learned how to let them run and get tired then bring them in again. Kindy like deep sea fishing. Yes, Clyde received a Kansas Angler award also that same summer. Your comments are so appreciated. Made My Day, Gail
  • Posted 10/31/2008 – Wow, a thirty-pound fish. Your story took me away from our cool weather and transported me back to days of fishing with my Zebco 33. Happy fishing memories. RLP
fish certificate

Gail Martin’s award for Master Angler from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Iris – A Favorite of Mom’s

Gail Lee Martin’s daughters all feature iris in their gardens. It’s a tribute to their mother’s love of this stately flower. For much of the summer, the plant is mostly spiked leaves, but the dramatic flowers in spring brighten any flower bed.


Many old homesteads in Kansas have decades-old clumps of iris that come up year-after-year. The small flower heads and limited colors pale before the appearance of the hybrid iris.

Gail planted the showy hybrid iris around a tree by the driveway at the farmhouse near El Dorado where the family lived for eight years. She created a walkway of native stone to lead from the garage down to the family vegetable garden. Along those steps, she planted iris and some wild plants plus low-growing hen and chicks.

Eventually, when she and Clyde bought their small home in town where they lived through their retirement, the flower beds naturally featured handsome clumps of iris. El Dorado had an iris grower and Gail couldn’t resist bringing home new, dramatic colors of hybrid iris for their yard.

eldorado iris gardens by eva tower

El Dorado iris garden (photo by Eva Tower)

The collage of iris above are ones photographed in Cindy, Ginger, and Karen’s yards. Yes, they all love iris. The iris garden photo is by Eva Tower.