Moms are special; here’s a story about my wonderful mom

Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily
Posted 4/11/23

Bill Sniffin column for Tuesday, April 11, 2023

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Moms are special; here’s a story about my wonderful mom


Living during the Great Depression of the 1930s was a difficult time for just about everybody. Some had it worse than others.

My mom, little Betty Brockmeyer, had it tough. She had an unimaginably difficult childhood — and yet in all my memories of her as our mother, she always maintained a sunny disposition.

Her childhood was a story of courage and resilience.

She was the daughter of deaf-mute parents who struggled during those depression years. From the time she was 7 until she was 16, she had to serve as their speaker when her parents needed something. Life was hard for everyone during those days, but folks with disabilities especially had it hard.

If you saw the movie CODA about a child living with deaf-mute parents (2022 Best Picture Oscar winner) then you know a little about my mom’s life.

Later she met my dad during World War II, they got married, and started their family.

Her life story ended July 15, 2020, when she died from ramifications of the COVID epidemic. Her birthday is coming up later this month, on April 16. She would have been 99 this year. Our family celebrated her life at a funeral in northeast Iowa in June last summer.

As the second oldest of her 11 children, it is easy for me to remember the tastes and smells of our home growing up in our big house in a tiny town.

How tiny was our town? Our town of Wadena was so small both “resume speed” signs were on the same post – just on opposite sides. It was so small we did not have 10 commandments — we had six commandments and four suggestions. Just kidding. But I digress.

The smell of babies, both good smells and not-so-good smells, permeated our home. Mom was a great cook and specialized in making homemade bread. With such a big family, the house was full of the smells of cooking all the time.

She was an expert in baking bread. To this day, most breads are irresistible to me. My mom was of German descent so we always enjoyed the smells of goulash, stuffed peppers, porcupine meatballs, and other casserole dishes. My dad was Irish so we had shepherd’s pie, corned beef and cabbage, and other various dishes.

After our dad died in 2000, she lived on her own until she was 92. We would visit my mom at her home in Lafayette, Colorado. She always made me salmon patties because I loved them growing up in a Catholic household that required fish on Fridays. A great personal memory.

My mom and dad moved to Lander  from Iowa in 1978 and brought my three youngest brothers with them. Jerry, Ron, and Don graduated from Lander Valley High School and then graduated from the University of Wyoming.

Ron lives in Cheyenne, where he heads the Wyoming Education Association. Another sibling, my sister Susan Kinneman, lives in Riverton and teaches at Wind River High School.

My parents left Wyoming and moved to the Denver area in 1991 so they could be more accessible to all my siblings.

The reason I am a journalist is because of my mom.

When I graduated from high school, my dad wanted me to help a friend of his run gas stations in a neighboring town. I had been very good at running my dad’s service stations. 

But my mom saw me as a journalist after having been editor of the high school newspaper. She literally forced my dad to borrow $300 to pay for my journalism short course at Iowa State University, which started me off on an ongoing 59-year career. Thanks, Mom, for seeing that in me and for fighting so hard for me.

Recently, the memory of a taste or smell from 70 years ago came wafting over me during a visit in Las Vegas. While tasting a shepherd’s pie dish at the famous Hennessy’s Pub on Fremont Street, I inhaled this wonderful concoction of hamburger, gravy, peas and other seasonings. That gravy was identical to what my mom fed us for all those meals over potatoes, bread, toast or whatever.

My dad also loved it and recalled it being served often during the war.  He called it SOS (s--- on a shingle) from his army days. I always loved it, too.

So, sitting there in Las Vegas, those tastes and smells brought back childhood memories of my mom’s cooking as they cascaded over me from 70 years ago.

I sure miss her.

As I write this, one of our colleagues is mourning the loss of his mom, who died earlier this week.

I reached out to other members of the Cowboy State Daily staff to remind them these are the times to remember how much a phone call to your mom is appreciated. Be sure to ask her about her childhood. Talk to her about your memories of smells and tastes growing up.

So, all of you out there who still have your mothers — call her. She is going to love it.

I wish I could call mine.