Skip to content

PenCraft by RW Doerfer Posts


It wasn’t until I became a father on February 20, 1954, that Fathers’ Day became a part of my yearly recognition as a day to appreciate. Although it wasn’t until 1972 that it became national day on the calendar, it had become a day of celebration as early as 1924. With this bit of historical background I urge you to stay with me. First, this is not an article of complaint or any expression of bad feelings about being neglected by an absentee father. Second, there is a message of value included.

For the first nine years of my life, I had a father. However, I have never had a dad. Nearly any male old enough to know the difference between a boy and a girl, knows but forgets that in a moment of passion it’s easy to become a father. However, it takes years of love, patience, involvement, compassion, etc., etc. to be a dad. After my father abandoned his pregnant wife and only child, me, we went to live with her parents in Goodland, Kansas in August of 1940.

l never missed my father, due to the presence of four boys in my grandparents’ household, one of whom was a year younger than me. Bill became the brother I never had and Don, a year or so older, became something of a mentor. My grandfather, however, made no interest in being a substitute dad. That was Mom’s job in raising me and my sister, Judy. For almost forty years I had no interest or craving to know the details of his absence.

In the late 1980s I began developing an interest in the family’s genealogies and, using the information that my Uncle Lawrence had worked hard for as a base, I spent the first five years of the 1990s writing a book covering the eight genealogical lines of my first wife, Terry, and my own. In so doing I uncovered information that gave considerable light on the circumstances which led to my father, Herman’s, inability to be a dad. The biggest factor, I believe, was that his father, Herman, Sr., was by far the worst father I could ever imagine.

.Herman Sr. was the second eldest of nine surviving children out of sixteen from German immigrants who arrived in March of 1952. He espoused the one typical German expectation of the eldest male ruling the family which figured strongly in my father’s life. Herman, Sr. was working on his father, Peter’s, ranch in Sherman County Kansas when he met Hazel Martin,, who lived on farm south of Burlington, Colorado. After the wedding, he moved with bride to Victor, Colorado, a mining town at 10,000 above sea level and well above Colorado Springs. His intent was to prospect for the gold he knew was there, a goal that was never achieved.

After the birth of two children, a son, my father, and his sister, Mary Jane, it’s clear that the children were an unwanted factor in the goal for riches. Soon after an event occurred that led him to kick his wife out of the house, likely fueled in part out of frustration for his prospecting failures. Realizing that he couldn’t take care of two kids and continue pursuit for gold, he put his children up for adoption but received only one offer from a cousin in Pueblo. However, he only wanted Mary Jane. Herman, Sr, said it was both or neither so the deal fell through. Out of frustration he sent his daughter to his older sister in St. Louis and his son to his father, Peter, to his ranch in Sherman County, Kansas. One can only imagine the emotional impact on my father in learning that in later life.

Family history was about to repeat itself when Herman, Jr. returned to the ranch from a good job in an auto manufacturing plant in Detroit, He and his father both lost their jobs because the Great Depression was well underway. Early in the year1930, he met my mother, Dorothy because of broken date with her sister, Pauline. They were married in the fall of that year but for the next few months jobs were scarce, the couple were forced to move from one apartment to another in Goodland and finally, when a son, me, was born, Herman was forced to move his family to a sod house on the Doerfer ranch. This could have been the end of the marriage but Dorothy was determined to find the love and security for which she yearned.

For the rest of the story please turn to my short story, ‘From Prairie Dust to Mountain Gold.’


The Lakota Sioux American Indian tribe has kept a 2000-year-old legend alive, a story that tells of a white buffalo calf woman emerging to a couple of hunters. In a much more complicated lesson to the hunters than I can include here, she revealed her presence because their people had lost touch with the Creator and had arrived to teach them how to regain that ability. The extensive story goes on to say that upon its reappearance the legend would come bringing a time of enlightenment, abundance, and a renewed experience of goodwill toward all.

While the ongoing activities of the world today do not appear to be anything even close to those expectations, I believe that the enlightenment and conscious awareness, the very essences of the ‘White Buffalo’ story, are occurring in the hearts and minds of individuals in all faith and walks of life. This is revealed as seen day after day in the heartwarming occurrences in the lives of ordinary people, helping and even saving others, all of which demonstrate what the legend portends.

I’m amazed that I can even remember having had a specific dream. Well, that wasn’t the only dream I’ve had in that time, but it was one, to the finest detail, that I have never forgotten, nor ever will. I was driving on a straight but hilly rural highway when I spotted a dry creek bed ahead which passed under the road. Upon approaching it i saw that the arroyo of it continued down the hill to my right Then, without conscious reason, I pulled my new Japanese Sapporo car (new twenty years earlier than the dream) off the road and followed the grassy edge of the shallow crevice about fifty yards down to where a flat surface area emerged.

I turned the wheel sharply to the lef.t taking advantage of it for my return to the highway, which in contrast to the smooth trip down, was bumpy with rocks and vegetation debris strewn around. Unexpectedly, a small herd of buffalo appeared headed my way down the hill The car was never hit head on but suffered numerous sideswipes and with dust and flying debris that was being kicked up. Shaken but unhurt, I exited the dust and approached the highway above.

To my amazement, standing majestically on the site where the dry arroyo passed under the highway, was an oversized white buffalo, somewhat illuminized. Even more surprising, but heartwarming, I was the one dramatically sitting on its back, smiling broadly and obviously very happy. Probably, most anyone who ventures into the literary field of dreams would offer credible interpretation its meaning.

I related the dream the next morning to my wife, Judy, who is one who can tell you what a dream means, if it were her dream. [a story for another time, maybe] Sometime later, I related it to my sister, also named Judy, in Prescott Valley, Arizona. As Christmas approached the following year, I received a rather heavy box from her, and her daughter, Dawn, in which a six-inch-high porcelain white buffalo appeared. That gift conveyed a very special meaning to me, and still offers a tremendous spiritual source for my day to day thinking. From that time, it has had a shelf spot where it can be seen every day, continually reminding me of the legend and allowing me to absorb the inspirations it represents. The deepest sense of the dream, however, is that of gratitude, which is for the life I have, who I am, what I have, where I am and especially who I am with. And so it is. Namaste.

Note: I found much more of the legend online at The Legend of the White Buffalo. There are many sub-sources at this site but I chose the entry by Jim and Dena Riley/

The Mothers I Knew

As in the ‘normal’ process of reproduction, the first mother I knew was, of course, my own mother. Also, in that process, I didn’t realize what being a mother really entailed until well after I first called her mom and, as for most men, until I married and had a mother in my own household. Some of us guys are slow learners and it takes varying amounts of time after that for us to really know and appreciate the true meaning of motherhood. In fact, It wasn’t until I earnestly researched the ten years of my parents’ marriage through the decade of the ’30s and the following ten years living in her parents’ household that I developed a much more complete appreciation for all the mothers in the first half of my growing life’s experiences; my mother, Dorothy, her mother, Nancy Short and my first wife, Terry.

Nancy Short was the classic example of the housewife of her generation; the stay-at-home woman who took care of the house, fixed the meals and, in her case, gave birth to eleven children, losing a son at birth. Other than that, it was six girls in a row and then four boys, That unusual arrangement of family growth is a significant detail in relating to my mother’s outlook on motherhood, at least in her early years. The house my pregnant mother and me moved into in August of 1940 had no in-house water, Grandma Short cooked on with a coal-oil stove and oven, had only an ice box in which to keep food and all bathing took place at the kitchen sink. All water came from a hand pump just off the back porch. When we arrived, Ruby, the last of the girls had just married and moved out so Nancy only had the four boys, her husband and then me for whom she had to wash clothes, including work jeans, by scrubbing them on a wash board in a galvanized tub on the back porch then hanging it all on four wire lines that stretched thirty feet over her victory garden toward the outhouse. Mom andh washed her and my sister’s clothing in the sink.

I relate all this to underscore the point that I never once heard grandma complain, be angry about anything or to be frustrated or dejected about her lot in life. She never drove a car, went anywhere alone and, until the mid 40s, have a phone to reach the outside world. I remember once when her two boys, Don and Russ, got into a physical tussle in the dining room, shoving each other around, knocking the huge dining table against the wall. Grandma quietly circled the scene of discord, picking up fallen items and repeatedly urging them to ‘take it outside.’ She seemed to always work hard, casually, calmly and never expressed her opinions about anything, taking refuge in her numerous paintings that hung on the walls.

Dorothy, my mom, was a notch or two shy of that demeanor as I remember her in my immature adolescent and teen years. Mom was the third eldest of the clan and as it happened, she often was a second mother to the children that followed. What I do believe, however, whatever level of her mother’s demeanor she did have, is what carried her through her following ten years of personal disillusionment in not finding the love she had so wanted to share with someone, love and contentment that she felt had been absent at home. My father, Herman, was, unfortunately, the wrong choice to bring that dream into reality,. I’ll share more of why he failed as a husband and father on Fathers’ Day but I will say now, that because if him, she suffered the em harassment of at least two evictions n town and a year or so living in a sod house on his grandfather’s ranch in Sherman County Kansas, all of which are covered in my novella, ‘From Kansas Dust to Mountain Gold.’ She then faced a life of social isolation on a gold mine site, on which he was resident miner on the side of a mountain at 11.000 feet, 5000 feet or so above Colorado Springs, Colorado. When the mine closed we spent another three years down and around mountain in Cripple Creek, where the family suffered another two evictions and the embarrassment of a husband who couldn’t find or hold a job. This was, however, a decade in which jobs nationwide were a scarce commodity.

None of this, at least outwardly, after my father left us in the summer of 1940, seemed to be a debilitating factor for her.. Mom became a new person, found work with attorney Charles Dockhorn as his secretary and later as secretary for the Rock Island Railroad depot agent. The years following 1940 found her living with much of the demeanor of her mother, seeming to let the past go and live in the ‘now,’ with no expressions of regret or anger, at least that I ever heard. What she may have said to her mom and dad may have been different, although, her dad may have said once or twice, ‘I warned you about that guy.,’ or words to that effect.

She was so determined, I believe, to protect herself, my sister and me, from the kind of disappointments she had suffered by turning down three men with strong interest in her as a wife. There was a fourth one that we all liked, even mom, but he just couldn’t let loose of the wife he still had in Chicago. Oh well, good things, on occasion, do come at opportune times.

Terry Cram, my wife for twenty-four years, lived a childhood with considerable trauma, having had a father who left his pregnant wife in 1937 before his daughter was born and her mother having lost her life in an auto accident when she was only four years old. She spent her adolescent and most of her teen years being raised by her grandmother, a South Carolina Southern Baptist and an Italian immigrant grandfather. I write that only to give the reader some indication of what the emotional atmosphere of the household seem to have been with those two strong-willed people to look up to, as well numerous presence of uncles, aunts and other family member for questionable reasons and time spans. In short, normal parental influence was nonexistent.

For her, the art of being a mother was, for all practical purposes, a product of on-the-job experiences. I believe, and all her children agree that, overall, she did a great job. Her temperament, however, was somewhat unpredictable and ‘love” seemed to be’ defined’ as she went along, growing in the experience of being a mother. I don’t think either of us knew real love, having rarely heard the word love expressed, if at all, in our respective households, . But there was no doubt, however, as she defined it, Terry loved her children. However, it was briefly redefined in the face of any perceived violation of expected behavior, especially disrespect to her by them or to anyone else..

She was the disciplinarian in the family and at times had a short fuse. At least twice she ordered one of the boys, when we had only the older four, to go out and cut a switch off a tree and bring it in. Yup, she used it, once when Anita, the eldest, had ratted on the other three for skipping elementary school. The other event was when a babysitter’s father, a friend of ours, told us our kids had been disrespectful toward his daughter. It didn’t help when she detected a little humor on my face in viewing the disciplinary scene taking place. Such measures were far and few in between, but various levels of verbal displeasure were a more common occurrence.

It may be true in other families, but the more common problems were with her daughters. We had a total of six beautiful children, three and three. When Anita was just out of high School in Goodland, Kansas, she had just gotten a car and was told not to go to a certain gathering establishment out on U.S. 24. Somehow word, one day, was somehow received that that such a violation of expectations had, indeed, taken place. She was livid. We quickly arrived on the scene and I had barely stopped the car a few feet behind Anita’s vehicle before Terry was on her way to the target. As she yanked open the driver’s door, boys poured out of the other three. I didn’t need to hide my humor at the scene because, Terry drove her daughter’s car home.

Even after our divorce, we retained a latent love, as best we knew it, as well as a sense of mutual respect between us and our respective new spouses. I attended her second wedding and she and her new spouse attended mine. Whatever level of love that may defined as being, it certainly beats the alternative that comes as a result of many divorces. Terry found her final peace in June of 2016.

I continue, with deep gratitude, to learn what real love is in my present thirty-three year relationship with my present wife, Judy. More on that at some time.

Even though I have known all this time since my research of over twenty years ago, it feels good to write in this context. Instead of just bringing my memories to mind, which then quickly melt away, writing them allows me to relive the precious moments and, at times, revive something still forgotten that otherwise may have never surfaced. I lived these events again in my mind, enjoyed a few chuckles, warm feelings and, yes, the few tears that emerged as well.

With a deep sigh I say, thank you for visiting my website. While you are here, please check out the other entries available on this site and come back when you wish. Namaste.

Coming soon: The White Buffalo in my life.


There it is again. In the news recently a movement surfaced that calls for an expansion in the number of people on the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court, Does the history of that fruitless effort provide us no lesson learned. It’s like placing nine wings on the back of a pig so it can fly, That having failed, then deciding to attach two more wings to see if that works. We all know that poor creature just ain’t gonna fly.

There have been as few as six and as many as ten justices on the high court in the past, with both parties at one time or another attempting to change the political ‘leaning’ of its decisions by changing the number of justices. Actually, the constitution says precious little about the supreme court other than that there has to be one. Specifically, it does not set a number for the court’s size, but I firmly believe that the number of justices on the bench is not the problem. Cleary, it’s how the members are chosen.

I would suggest that every president who has had the opportunity to appoint a nominee to this illustrious body has done so because said nominee has met, in one degree or another, enough political desires of the president and/or the senate to receive a confirmation. The way it is, and always has been, it’s an impossible task to have a completely non-partisan body in being the final judicial authority. As demonstrated by follow-up court actions, said appointees serve with those expectations to be met, regardless of which political party is in power. To be clear, as well, the constitution does not even say the court has to be non-partisan. It’s just a concept that apparently caught on through its growing years and it has become an expectation to functions in that manner.

As a point to begin the discussion, allow me to make the following proposal. Since there is already a National Judges Association, this body could establish a standing search committee, a group of retired members whose purpose would be to review qualifications of potential nominees to fill supreme court vacancies as they occur. After all applications have been reviewed, the top three to five names would then be forwarded to the Senate for debate and final selection and that recommendation then sent to the president.

I can hear one big exception to this plan now. ‘Those retired judges still carry those prejudices that won their appointment with them.’ While that may be true, I believe, however, that with their years of experience on the bench, plus the fact that they don’t need those factors anymore to win an appointment, their involvement in this kind of setting may somewhat ameliorate any past ‘leanings’ they may have had. Also, internal discussions with so many others of somewhat equal age and experience, would likely provide an enormous resource for give and take as well as the presence of more mutual respect as well as the absence of extremist influence.

At any rate, I think the debate should ensue in achieving the necessary changes in the process of selecting our supreme court justices. Although I don’t think this essay is going to be the total answer it could, however, be a start. There has to be a better way than how it’s being done now. What’s your idea?


Stay with me in reading this tongue-in-cheek post about the place of the color of one’s skin in today’s social world. There is a meaningful conclusion to my literary exploration in which we will deviate somewhat from the skin tone list of people who have a need to engage in such categorizations. The five basic skin colors from which I will venture are, not surprisingly, Black, White, Brown, Red and Yellow.

A note of appreciation

I can’t tell those of who have responded to my posts how much I appreciate your comments, especially as belated as my response has been. They have gone a long way toward bolstering my confidences in entering this endeavor. More are forthcoming, slowly but surely. Namaste.


A Confession to Dorothy Francis [Short] Doerfer

Dear Mom. It’s Mothers’ Day and I am remembering you with love which I have done on most of these special days over the years. Sadly, it comes to mind that I have given you more mental and heartfelt love in these days than I ever gave you in the nineteen years we shared a household. I really believe the phrase ‘I love you’ was scarcely heard in the Doerfer and Short families and, as I recall the phrase was just as absent in the years of my presence with you.


It seems to me that at least every other week there is a new, oddly spelled drug on the market. Do the folks who create these ‘wonders of improved health’ have a reservoir of names from which to draw? Is it possible that big pharma has an ad agency, one its job it is to develop a source of names from which the various companies can make selections, depending upon the purpose of each new item. Or does each one have a linguistics specialist on the payroll.