Writing Humor When Life Ain’t Funny At The Ranch Pen


image via somewhere on the internet


Anyone with a finely tuned sense of the ridiculous can usually find something amusing about most any situation, but there comes a point when life just ain’t funny. As a writer, I’ve been warily circling the big, snarled up ball of twine in the middle of my metaphorical writing room, looking for the string to pull that will allow me to write something about some subject. Anything. Forget amusing, I’d settle for coherent. Finally, I began pulling strings.

String A? No.

B? Blah.

C? Meh.

D? Good grief. The worst yet.

  • danger
  • death
  • dementia
  • depression
  • despair
  • diarrhea
  • disappointment
  • disaster
  • doldrums
  • dopes
  • drunk drivers

I was on the verge of giving up again until I reached this one:

  • dumb dogs

At last! The right string after all.

Nellie, the happy extrovert

Gramps and I have a border collie named Nellie. Border Collies are typically livestock herding dogs, not bird dogs. She’s beautiful and we love her, but she is handicapped by hyperactivity.  Nellie is confined to our yard by a Pet Safe electronic collar that sends a wireless shock if she gets too close to the road. The collar has saved her life approximately twenty-three-million times, now, because Nellie loves to chase. She can’t be trusted with livestock, so she spends every waking moment chasing: motorized vehicles which she can’t catch because of her collar, the cat, grandkids, toads in the summertime, and birds. Mostly, birds. If she had the choice of a nice, juicy steak bone, or bird chasing, she would choose the birds.

Nellie’s obsession with birds causes her to go deaf so she still has to be kept on a leash when I take her out of her electronic circle. If I turn her loose, she races after birds and pays no attention to me calling her back even when I have a pocketful of meat as incentive to return. Bear in mind we are surrounded by miles and miles of wheat fields. She could run for a long time following birds as they lured her farther and farther away like the ruthless Pied Pipers they are.

Anyway, the other day while walking, some madness seized me and I let her off the leash. We practiced her commands for a while. Everything was great.

Then the flock of meadowlarks.

With single-minded zeal she dedicated her life to catching those birds. I don’t have a loud voice, and no matter how I shrieked, howled, or whistled, she ignored me. Anyone who has ever had a dog that won’t come on command knows how severely annoying that is.

Finally, she must have sensed it was good I wasn’t packing a gun and she headed back. I told her, “Good girl, good Nellie,” and so forth as reward for her reluctant obedience, but then she saw another bird and took off. I’d had it.

“Stop!” I roared. The force of my command pulled me up on my tiptoes and then rocked me back on my heels. A shower of spit sprayed all around.

Nellie stopped dead and looked at me like I was having a psychotic episode. Then she waggled over so I could snap on her leash. I stared at her, thunderstruck. All these months I had apparently been too nice with my calm, quiet commands.

We walked home with me periodically bellowing, “Stop!” And she did, looking at me like, “Geez. All right, just calm down.” I got the giggles.  How ridiculous we must’ve appeared from a birds’ eye view.

An FYI: I learned that the command has to be clipped, with particular emphasis on the P. The spit pattern has to be just right. (Remember, that particular command–if done correctly–is really a bummer when the wind is strong and in your face, so brush your teeth beforehand and use mouthwash. Or, just sell your dog.)

So, until next time, God bless all y’all and if you write humor and your life ain’t funny, just start trying to find the string that’ll pull out of the snarl and make you laugh. It’s there if you look hard enough. Nellie hopes you enjoy her favorite song, Chasing Cars.  

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse Nellie’s behavior, she just loves this song.

Deep Thoughts And So Forth At The Ranch Pen


We had a blizzard this week–didn’t get much snow but with near forty-mile-per-hour winds, we got a lot of snow sculptures like the one above

The rotten weather has kept things pretty boring around the home place unless you are old and like to talk about the weather. Farmers and ranchers are weather oriented by necessity, and farmers and ranchers over forty are well on their way to glazing over the eyes of all their friends, family, and blog readers with weather observations. To guard against that on a boring week, I’ll talk about…hmm…

(The brain gears are creaking and grinding, thinking deep thoughts and so forth. )

Ah. I’ve got it, now. Okay. So a few days ago before the blizzard, Nellie and I took a long walk. We found a pile of duck feathers about a quarter mile south of our house in the wheat field–the remains of my murdered foul of a few weeks ago, no doubt. Nellie and I worked on her sheep dog commands. Lie down. Sit. Stay. C’mere, dummy! I mean, Nellie! and so on. We followed a bunch of coyote tracks down a draw. No feather piles. I took some bad pictures. The one below was the best of a bad lot.

Nellie covering her #2 job in her most ladylike fashion

And I found this picture taken at the grocery store a few weeks ago. (The little tee shirt kinda put me off soups, Stove Top, and deeply discounted after-Valentines Day yummies for a while.)


 About now, everybody is thinking, thank goodness I don’t pay for this blog.

But, enough nonsense. Audible.com sends me an email every day offering an audio book at steeply discounted prices. I love Daily Deals and recommend if you like to read while you’re doing other things hop on over there and sign up. Sometimes I get hooked up with a real stinker of a book, but mostly I read stuff not offered at the local library, or newer model books that I normally wouldn’t try. A while back, I listened to a book by Winston Churchill called My Early Life. He wrote it in 1930, I believe, but it was a really good book, giving insight into the formative years of a great man. As a young fella, he was in the army and saw action as a cavalryman in Cuba, India, and Africa. He wrote a lot of war strategy and politics, but his dry sense of humor kept it interesting. (He called his blunders “boobies” and sometimes “ridiculous boobies”, which struck me funny, I don’t know why.)

At any rate, it reminded me of this great poem by Rudyard Kipling who lived in the same era of time. My sons memorized it in school and it still echoes in their characters. Enjoy.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

~Rudyard Kipling~


Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Third Day tearing up Soul on Fire.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse the blog, I just love their music.

Personality Of A Sunbeam, Bladder Of A Flea At The Ranch Pen

Gramps with the grandkids, Git’R’Done, Ladybug, Blondie, and Roper

A couple of weeks ago, along with my sister’s family, we gathered up as many grandkids as we could and headed down to the horse fair and ranch rodeo at Duncan, Oklahoma. Normally, I get a lot of really bad pictures, but this year I only managed to take a few really bad pictures. (Excluding the one above.) Why? you might ask. The correct answer would be that Ladybug–who has the personality of a sunbeam and is cute as can be at three-years-old–has the bladder and attention span of a flea.

Ladybug and I spent much of our time in the ladies’ room of the fair barn. The facilities there are pretty awesome apparently. The space is cavernous and echoes, sometimes with the barking from a stock dog on the end of some ranch lady’s leash. Perhaps twenty stalls of a dull, institution tan color are divided by a wide aisle where all us ranch lady types go in and out. Our boots scuff the concrete floor, which is covered in a film of grit from the arena. A really cool sink, like an old semi-circle horse trough, spouts water from only one of four spouts (I assume to conserve water because of western Oklahoma’s severe drought and water shortage). Also, there is an automatic paper towel dispenser. If you are three-years-old and stand directly beneath the towel dispenser jumping around and waving your hands, an astonishing amount of paper toweling will unfurl before your nana can drag you away. If you are not three-years-old, forget it. The blinking red eye will never detect your wrinkled old hands, no matter how vigorously you wave and mutter. Finally,  there was the big mirror above the trash can to make sure our hair looked good before Ladybug and I burst forth at a gallop, heading for the snack bar…to buy a drink, so we could return to the ladies room, etc, etc.

During my many treks to the facilities with Ladybug, I commanded Gramps to take pictures only to find he’s not any better than I am at that. However, he did take a video or two–one of which was upside down and the other in slow-mo. That one was hysterically funny, but we got it all fixed up for the Ranch Pen readers’ shock and awe.

The horse was not harmed in the making of this video, but seemed invigorated by his eight seconds of exercise. The rider, however, hit the fence hard enough to make Gramps lose control of the camera, so I had to cut off the end of the video. I believe the rider lived–at least until he staggered out of sight of the arena.

So, until next time, God help all y’all as you try to ride out your broncs–literal and figurative–and enjoy David Wesley doing his excellent job on Good Good Father.

What, Me Worry? At The Ranch Pen


That image, for those who don’t know, is Alfred E. Neuman, the face of Mad magazine since the 1950’s. My dad used to do a creditable imitation of Alfred when one of the front teeth fell out of his top denture plate and he went around grinning and saying, “What? Me Worry?”.

I can’t recommend Mad Magazine as Christian reading material, but while I was putting together this post, I visited Mad’s website and pulled the graphic below from Mad’s Horrifying Cliches. Maybe one needs to be a writer to fully appreciate horrifying cliches, but this one is too funny.


Oh, goodness. I have released an insane cackle, or two, in my time.

Let’s see. What was I talking about…? Oh, yes. Worry.

As almost all good mothers do, I have a tendency toward worry. My late father-in-law used to tell me, “Quit wearyin’ your mind, Snooks.” His words did help. My annoyance at the term Snooks made me forget to worry for a while. Now, m’dear Gramps–who has always been an Alfred E. Neuman type, too–often exhorts me to “Settle down and go to sleep. You can’t do nothin’ about it before morning, anyhow.” He knows better than to call me Snooks, but when I’m in worry mode I find his advice just as annoying as his dad’s used to be.

However, worriers rejoice! I found a sign in the western wear store last weekend that vindicates us, at last.


(I worried about laying down sixteen bucks for that sign, so just took a picture instead)

Unfortunately, sometimes the things that never occurred to us to worry about DO happen. Like drunk drivers’ that crash into our lives as one did to my middle son in November. Anyone who has had a drunk driver wreak havoc and heartache in their family knows why the organization Mothers Against Drunk Drivers is called MADD. Good mothers have gone to bat for their kid all the kid’s life. That’s in the job description. Drunks, however, leave mothers swinging at the air–addicts hardly ever take responsibility for their actions. So, we cope as best we can. As a Christian, I’m thankful for the peace I find in Jesus when I remember He’s got this handled. He was there, after all, when Venus was carefully placed in the evening sky like she has been lately, an abiding and silent reminder that there is One mightier than I who still makes order and beauty in the world. I’m grateful for that.


A  southwest Oklahoma sunset with Venus to the right of the tree

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Jamie Wilson and her friends tearin’ up, Ain’t No Grave.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just love their music.


Ranch Rodeo From The Ranch Pen

Today, Gramps and I are taking a break at the Ranch Pen and heading to the Oklahoma Horse Fair and  Chisolm Trail Ranch Rodeo at Duncan, Oklahoma, which we try to do every year about this time. We enjoy hanging out with family and friends, making a serious dent in the goodies at the snack bar, visiting with people we know plus new acquaintances, and watching the horse and stock dog events.

So, until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy this clip of ranch rodeo in Texas, but Okies do it the same way.

Wind Farming At The Ranch Pen

Some people are opposed to wind turbines for a variety of reasons–they kill all the birds, they make too much noise, they’re ugly and a blot upon the face of the earth. All of those arguments have merit except the birds one, which is ridiculous. My granddaughter, Blondie, and I investigated that claim in the post Power To The Green People In Southwest Oklahoma. Our in-depth investigation revealed that cats are far more dangerous to birds than turbine blades. If I had my druthers, I’d rather not have three-hundred foot tall windmills everywhere, especially at night when the red, blinking lights are a distraction, but can we hold back the march of energy technology in an energy demanding world? Probably not. Wind energy is clean, constantly renewing, and efficient, and the turbines turning is oddly fascinating. (See video clip above, which I made one early morning a year or two ago.)

Recently, Gramps and I have been in intensive negotiations with the wind power company that have lasted for at least an hour. Basically, the present wind project where we live, the Rocky Ridge Wind Farm, is expanding right across some of our farms. The new phase is called the Big Elk, or Little Elk Something Something, I forget, now. We had hoped for a turbine or two since those generate a larger income for the landowners, but our neighbors are getting all of those. However, some underground power lines and overhead power lines are crossing the properties, so all hope of income is not lost. I decided to take some before project and after project pictures. I’ll try to update as the work commences for those who have never seen a wind farm under construction.


The wind turbine-less skyline


Proposed staging area for equipment and supplies


Proposed area for overhead power line

Wind farms tend to be built in sparsely populated areas–which also tend to be super-windy–so the impact on the population should be minimal. However, one person affected might be our crusty, octogenarian neighbor who lives on a small acreage carved from the middle of one of our farms (which used to belong to his parents back in ancient times.) He claims his property is protected by Smith and Wesson and I don’t think he’s kidding. For sure, I wouldn’t want him blasting away at me. Hmm…Could that be why they bypassed us with the turbines?

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy these kids of Dave’s Highway doing a superfine job on Because He Lives.

Wintertime At The Ranch Pen

Sunrise at the Ranch Pen

Winter sunrise at the Ranch Pen

I haven’t done an iPhone photo montage for a while, so here we go with some pictures–such as they are–of the goin’s on at the Ranch Pen recently.

The picture above reminded me of Jesus’ words in the gospel of Matthew: It will be foul weather to day:for the sky is red and lowering. That amazing sky ushered in our first real snowfall this winter, for which we in this drought stricken land were mightily thankful.


Wet, nitrogen-rich snow + cattle on pastures= poor man’s fertilizer

Nellie on Patrol

Nellie on snow patrol. Best day ever in a lifetime of really, really good days

We also had some super-fine weather for my sister, the nephew, two nieces, and me to saddle up the horse herd and move some cattle from one pasture to another so Gramps could wean calves. If anyone has read my book Agnes Campbell’s Hat, they might remember two of the horses from the book–General and Sarge.


The niece, JA, with her horse, Sarge, and my sister’s bay, Bella, on the left

IMG_0727The niece, TL, holding Skippy and her horse, General


The nephew on Skippy


From atop my mare, Sis

The grandkids, Blondie and Git’RDone, got to ride later on the grandkid pony. Frisco weighs about three-hundred pounds, but he has Little Horse Syndrome, which is related to Little Man Syndrome. While little men often drive big trucks, little horses hustle big attitudes. Frisco thinks he is a wild stallion. At one point that afternoon, he headed for the barn at his rapid chop with Blondie astride. She got quite a ride, but stayed on. Good for her! When I was her age I hurtled off ponies many times at the rapid chop. She’s shaping up to be a fine rider and so is Git’RDone as you can see in the next picture.


And finally, SNACKS!–the best part of any day at the Ranch Pen. (The moth balls were to keep rodents out of my saddles and tack in the barn. The kids did not eat the moth balls. I don’t think. They did, however, put a pretty serious dent in the Chips Ahoys.)


Ladybug, Blondie, Roper, and Git’RDone, slugging down milk after a “dangerous mission” hunting for mean raccoons 

I hope you enjoyed the montage from the Ranch Pen and until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Nicole C Mullen doing her amazing song, Redeemer.

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my bog, I just love her singing.