Bennie James Siemens (1930 – 2007)

Bennie James Siemens – May 15, 1930 – October 26, 2007 (77 years old)

Bennie James Siemens was known as Jimmy, Jim, BJ and Sarge. To us, he was just Jim. Jim had an incurable sense of curiosity and possessed an indomitable spirit — the ability to overcome. He had a sense of humor that never knew when to stop.

When I think of Jim when we were growing up, I have a kaleidoscope of brief scenes that scrawl through our minds of our childhood.

• When we were toddlers Dad made a swing from a steering wheel. Jim loved circling around on the wheel.
• Dad also made a roofed sandpile in the back yard. There Jim, Gene and I spent hours playing in the summer. We had a goat in the back yard that we fed with a baby bottle.
• Mom made Cream of Wheat every morning…thinned with milk – so we could drink it. In our little kitchen in the Little House on Avant street, Jim and Gene sat on a bench. One morning they kept saying, “More, more!” I can still see their red-cheeked faces and hear their laughter. Mom said, your tummies are going to burst. That scared me. I could see the floor awash with cream of wheat!
• Since Dad and Mom loved fishing and picnics, we often found a pond or a creek. When we lived in Clinton, OK, a pond south of town was the place Jim and Gene often visited, walking with their poles ready to dip in the water. These fishing and hunting trips continued throughout the time we were growing up, and into his adult life.
• When Jim was cast into an elementary school play, he needed a prop. Mom made Jim a cardboard/wood airplane that actually was able to taxi. Jim was the star of the show as he appeared on stage ‘taxiing’ onstage on cue.
• The basement in the house on South 14th Street in Clinton was the laboratory of many experiments that Jim and Gene concocted. One such experiment was making ink. They knew they would make piles of money. They simply impeded Mom’s progress on laundry day. The other notable experiment was making candles using string and wax and glass tubes. Another barrier to Mom on laundry day – as the wax melted everywhere.
• One day Jim and Gene decided to make a covered wagon. They worked hard fixing a wagon that had seen better days. They erected a passable cover for the wagon and then it was ready for the maiden voyage. They invited their sister to ride. The ride didn’t last long. The process of building held all the excitement.
• Then there was the walnut tree. The home of Tarzan, as we swung from the branches. Then came the black walnuts, still covered with green hulls. The boys gathered buckets of the walnuts. One bucket was carried to the hayloft overlooking the driveway. The other bucket remained on the driveway. At the word go, Jim and Gene tried to pelt each other with the stinging missiles. When the walnuts were gone, the Walnut War ended and peace reigned again.
• Dad tried to prepare Jim and Gene for business. When they were still in elementary school, they candled, washed and packed eggs our hens laid. Every Saturday morning they carried their wares on a wagon and walked miles delivering eggs.
• Chores were never-ending. Cleaning out the barn, feeding and watering the chickens, working in the garden, but their favorite chore was taking the cow to the pasture. It was a walk down the alley for a block to the pasture. One day I looked out the window and saw them astride the back of the cow, riding to the pasture. Their bare backs glistening with sweat in the summer sun. Another chore ended in disaster. Both Jim and Gene danced on top of chicken coops stacked on the roof barn. Jim fell off, and didn’t move, laying in the neighbor’s grass. The neighbor found Jim, and he was taken to the hospital. He recovered soon, but no longer desired to dance on the barn.
• During his career as a paper carrier in Clinton, he was pitched off the back of a pickup delivering paper bundles early Sunday morning. As the pickup turned a corner, Jim was pitched off the back and sustained a concussion. Again he recovered quickly.
• When they were very young, Grandpa Suderman made the mistake of inviting them home to Hillsboro. Jim and Gene immediately said yes. Finally Mom said yes, too. We heard little about the trip except the amount of watermelon they ingested along the way, arriving with red stiff-slicked union suits (one piece coveralls). Dad had purchased each of the boys a straw hat that must have cost at least a quarter each, plus high topped tennis shoes.
• Later we learned that Gene leaned over the pig fence and his brand new straw hat toppled in. The pigs were happy with the addition to their diet of slop from the bucket under the sink – and gobbled up the straw hat. Jim went in the house and immediately asked Grandma Suderman if she could make another straw hat.
• Jim and Gene began working for his uncles on farms in Oklahoma and Kansas during the summers. For Uncle John Reimer in Corn Oklahoma, and for Uncles Jonas and Eli Suderman in Hillsboro, Kansas.
• One summer I inherited the home chores as they left for the summer. Jim made a point of explaining to me what Petunia, his prize pig, liked. He explained that if I took the water hose and began spraying Petunia, she would twirl around so that the water covered every inch of her. That was added to milking the cow and gathering the eggs.
• Jim learned the art of photography. The bathroom became the darkroom. He and Mom spent hours with his pictures from setting the subject to developing and printing the pictures.
• Jim learned how to play the clarinet and played in the Watonga High School Band. Our house was a House of Music with piano, cornet, accordian and Jim’s clarinet.
• Every Saturday night Dad told us the stories from the Bible.as he practiced to teach the class the next day. We sat on the floor in our ‘sleepers’ and listened spellbound to the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel. Stories from the Old and New Testament.
• We went to church every Sunday and we each had our own favorite scripture verses. Jim’s favorite was, Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” His favorite hymn was, “Love Lifted Me.”

Childhood ended and Jim went to the Air Force and continued to serve his country. He married Jean, and four children were born to them – Carla Jean, James, David and Linda. Because of the distance between our families, we were not able to see them often. Childhood memories continued to bind the three Siemens children together. We will miss Jim and his indomitable sense of humor and his love of life..

Emily Combs and Gene Siemens


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