Sick, Rushed, And Not Brilliant Like This Guy At The Ranch Pen

Most farmers and ranchers in the central United States since Dust Bowl days are conservationists. We have to be, or our living–the earth–blows away in a big dust cloud. Today, since I’ve been under the weather, pressed for time, and this guy’s brilliant, I’m passing on a TED talk by Allan Savory. Gramps and I heard his talk at a no-till farming conference several years ago, but anyone who has instead been informed by media propaganda that farmers/ranchers and their livestock are destroying the planet needs to watch this man’s message.

Until next time, God bless all y’all.

Celebrating The Dudes At The Ranch Pen

Son #2, Gramps, Son #3, Son #1

Son #2, Gramps, Son #3, Son #1

Father’s Day is approaching this weekend and I’ve been blessed in my life to know literally tons of good dads. Thankfully, four of the best I know are pictured above, m’dear Gramps and our three sons.

For this week’s post, I just had a few bullet points on traits I’ve noticed in good dads.

  • These dads will show up at work even if they’re half-dead to provide for their families. They accept their responsibilities. They shoulder their loads. They don’t move back in with their mom and grandma and play video games in the basement all day while someone else feeds and clothes the children they’ve sired.
  • These dads aren’t hypocrites. If they tell their kids not to lie, cheat, and steal, they don’t lie, cheat, and steal themselves. They might sometimes yell dadgummit! and throw the hammer when they hit their thumbs, but they know the synonyms for the word honorable: honest, moral, ethical, principled, righteous, right-minded, decent, respectable, estimable, virtuous, good, upstanding, upright, worthy, noble, fair, just, truthful, trustworthy, law-abiding, reliable, reputable, creditable, dependable.
  • These dads face the same temptations as other men, but they guard their honor,  keep their marriage vows, and do one of the best things they can do for their children–love their kids’ mother.
  • These dads sometimes laugh at their own jokes and break wind at the dinner table, causing wives to squawk, daughters to roll their eyes, and sons to imitate, but by golly, they are there. The kids’ eyes might be watering from Dad’s noxious fumes, but they know he’s always got their backs and if the need ever arises, he’ll unhesitatingly take a bullet for them.
  • And, finally, even though the world all around them screams differently, these dads know they are accountable to God for the way they raise their kids. They take their kids to church. Their children see a humble man bowing to Someone mightier than himself and have confidence his prayers are as good as his word.

So, to my crew and all the rest of you good dads out there, thank you. We love you. We need you. We sometimes wish you weren’t so gassy, but you’re not expendable in our families–no matter what anybody tells you.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy David Wesley singing, How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.

 

True Colors At The Ranch Pen

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A Windswept Plain

Last month while participating in the Story a Day challenge at storyaday.org, one of the prompts was something about finding yourself on a windswept plain. The story of a middle-aged ranch woman dumped and left for dead on a windswept plain instantly sprang into my mind, so I wrote it down and will share it with y’all this week.

(You may also visit storyaday.org on June 13-14 for StoryFest 2015 where other participants have posted their short stories.)

Without further ado–and since I have a date at the library with the grandkids–here is True Colors On A Windswept Plain by yours truly.


True Colors On A Windswept Plain

What is he eating up there on the ridge?

I thought he was in love with me, but trust that fat hog to find something to eat while I’m sprawled out here on this windswept plain.

Oh, great…the sun’s coming up over the boulders behind him. It’s going to be blistering hot in a little bit. I’m thirsty already. Why is it I always immediately want what I can’t have? That’s probably what got me in this mess in the first place.

Oh, piddle. Let’s see, here. What are my options? I wish I had my gun, but he took that, too…

Not much chance of hiding this from hubby, now, I don’t suppose. He’s gonna be really mad when he finds us.

What’s poking me in the hiney? Oh, that figures. Cactus. Trust that fat lard to find the only cactus–or vegetation, for that matter–on this windswept plain. Ouch.

Oh, nice. This sand is starting to heat up. Pretty soon it’ll be approximately two-thousand degrees out here. You’d think the least he could do after all I’ve given him…risked for him, was come stand where I can die in his shade.

What…where am I?

Oh. Must’ve dozed. For pity’s sake. I’m sweating like a pig now. He took the water bottle, too.

“Hey, moron! Remember me? Why don’t you come down here? I’ll save hubby the trouble. No? Didn’t think so. Why couldn’t you have shown your true colors before we got this far from the barn?”

Is that a buzzard? I wish my glasses hadn’t smashed to pieces like my leg. Good grief! Not just one buzzard. It’s a whole flock of the darn things, ain’t it? Circling me, not him. Well, hasta la vista, fatso.

Guess it’s time to say my prayers before I die and…ask forgiveness for trusting that rotten horse!


 

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy, Michael W Smith–who has been one of my favorite singer dudes since I was young back in olden times–tearing up Sky Spills Over, an oddly appropriate match to my story.

Kicking Off Summer At The Ranch Pen

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We’ve had some truly spectacular cloud formations recently

Like everyone else this time of year, we’ve been insane busy, so I’ll just do a quick run-down of the recent goings on.

The wheat is almost ripe in our area, but because of recent torrential rains, some of the crop is in less than premium shape. We are certainly not griping about the rain, however. In May, many of the water reservoirs in southwestern Oklahoma went from 10% of capacity, or less, to full and spilling into the flood pools. We are calling it answered prayers.

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Flood damaged wheat

In summers past, city people used to send their offspring back to the family farm to learn how to appreciate the value of hard work and to give them worthwhile ways to burn off their energy. I’m happy to say Gramps and I can still give our grandkids that benefit and twelve-year-old Kevman has been with us this week learning how to get his buns worked off the delights of life in the country. Gramps and Kevman haven’t done much farming, but they have built a lot of fence.

Kevman gearing up for the day with his frosted mini wheats. Note the time on the microwave. That is a.m.

Kevman gearing up for the day with his frosted mini wheats. The time on the microwave is 5:40. A.m.

We’ve had some new arrivals at the Ranch Pen in the animal department. Our grand-dog, Trace, who is actually Nellie’s littermate is one of them. He is Scotch Collie, Border Collie, and Australian Shepherd like Nellie, but he isn’t hyper like she is. Poor Nellie had forgotten he existed and at first thought he was a big, ugly, stupid invading her ranch, but they have since become good buddies.

Nellie and the big, ugly, stupid

Nellie and the big, ugly, stupid

The other arrivals are these two fur balls, Stubby’s kittens. Their names so far are yellow cat and white cat. The granddaughter, Blondie, usually names the cats around here, so we’ll see what she comes up with. There was another yellow kitten but it died and Stubby ATE IT. Gross! But what can we expect from a cat who chewed off her own tail?

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Yellow Cat and White Cat

With all the rain last month, we had unusually cool temperatures, but finally we’ve got some heat so the nieces helped set up the pool yesterday. Yee haw! Let summer begin, and with it tee ball. The grandson, Roper, had his first tee ball game and it was hard to tell which team won, but all the kiddos were cute.

Roper's first tee ball game

Roper up to bat at his first tee ball game

That’s about it this week down here on the home place. I hope your summer has started off well, too. Thanks for reading and God bless all y’all while you enjoy Casting Crowns tearin’ up Thrive.

Careful What You Ask For At The Ranch Pen

Good short stories get in, leave a few clues, punch the gut, and then get out, like The Lottery written by Shirley Jackson. I wanted to learn how to write them better, so I’ve been participating in Story A Day In May at storyaday.org, where the idea is to write…well, a short story every day in May. I normally write books that might take days…weeks…years to read, so the short story form is a little difficult for me as a literary blabbermouth.

At any rate, one day this past week the story prompt was your character can have anything in the world he/she wants. Naturally, I thought about rain and wrote a story. I managed to get it cleaned up and posted over there, but since I didn’t have time to write a blog post, too, y’all are getting it here, as well.


Careful What You Ask For

In one-hundred-degree July–the fifth year of drought–the farmer still had faith everything would turn out okay. He looked across the pickup cab at his wife.

“I know this was another bad harvest, Natalie, but if the Good Lord sends some rain, we’ll still be okay. Prices are high and with just a little break, we can pay off the notes at the bank later this year.” Paul had to shout over the convection-oven wind howling through the opened windows. The truck’s air conditioning had given out the summer before and too many other things had needed the fix-it money first.

Paul and Natalie had just moved the cow herd to another scorched pasture and Natalie was red-faced and sweating. Her hair, beginning to show grey, whipped around her face. She gave Paul a weary-eyed look that made him cringe inside. Then she just looked out the window.

In the sixth year, Natalie glanced across the pickup cab. The air conditioner still hadn’t been fixed. She was drying up like a piece of leather left in the sun and she hadn’t smiled in a long time.

“We’ve been married twenty-eight years, Paul,” Natalie said. “I never thought I’d be worrying about spending fifteen dollars at the drive-in to celebrate.”

Paul died a little inside but reached across the seat to hold her hand, as hard, brown, and calloused as his. “We’re one day closer to a rain, Natalie. When we get it, we’ll go on that cruise.”

Natalie gave Paul a hopeless look. She pulled away her hand and silently finished her fries—the only limp things in the sun-fried landscape.

Harvest was almost non-existent the seventh year. The banker called.

“Paul, you and Natalie can either mortgage your entire operation…house, land, equipment, cattle…or we’ll have to foreclose. You’ll need to keep y’all’s life insurance policies up-to-date, too, in case one, or…God forbid…both of you dies. You don’t want to leave anybody, including your kids, holding the bag on this massive debt, now do you?”

The next day at the bank, the banker smiled like a fat tomcat licking cream from its whiskers. Natalie, brown and thin as a rail, grimly leaned forward to scratch her name on the mortgage papers with Paul’s. Natalie’s hair straggled from her hair clip, almost completely grey.

In the pickup later, Paul couldn’t look at her. “This loan will give us some breathin’ room until it rains, Natalie. We’re gonna be okay.”

The searing wind howled through the cab…the only reply.

The eighth year of the drought, Natalie didn’t seem to care about much of anything. She didn’t work the fields or the cattle with him anymore. Most of the cows had been sold to meet the note after harvest. The oven-baked ground was too hard to plow, so Paul cut weeds in the fields and baled them for the remaining cattle to eat. Some of the ranchers and farmers had started burning spines off the cactus for feed, but Paul and Natalie weren’t that hard up, yet. A few soaking rains would heal their problems.

Year nine, Natalie sometimes stood on the porch, scanning the blast-furnace landscape, her eyes deep in the squint lines of her pinched face. Once in a while, she stepped into the yard to poke a long stick into a crack in the ground to see how far it would go.

During the tenth summer, Natalie looked at Paul across the old pickup cab. Her hair whipped in the blistering wind. White now. “Paul,” she said evenly, “I’m leaving.”

“No, Natalie.” Paul made a desperate grab for her hand, like bones covered in brown leather. “You can’t. Just wait. We’ll go on that cruise. Please. I’ll do anything.”

Natalie shook her head. “I need him and I’ve wanted to go with him for a long time.”

That night Paul prayed to God. “Please, just send the rain. Get me out of this hole so I can take care of her needs.”

By morning, the heavens had opened. Rain poured down in sheets. The water soaked into the earth through the deep cracks, the huge ant mounds on the bare ground, and prairie dog tunnels. Almost overnight, grass sprang from the iron ground. Miraculously, fat covered the cattle’s ribs once more. The temperature moderated.

The pickup didn’t need air conditioning on the way to Natalie’s funeral.


As always, thanks so much for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy David Wesley singing How Deep The Father’s Love For Us.

Oh, Yeah? It Did Too Rain Again At The Ranch Pen

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Nellie, preparing for that cloud to rain the bottom out

Anyone who has read the blog for the past year or two knows we in southwestern Oklahoma–and basically the entire southwest US have been in a horrendous drought for years. Our farming communities have met to pray for rain, we ask for rain in church, in graduation invocations, farmer’s co-op meetings, football games, and rodeos. We have signs and billboards reminding us to pray for rain. Through the years when God has said no to our prayers for rain, we’ve then asked for strength to endure until better times come…and we’ve kept praying for rain.

Farmers live by the weather, so we know there are weather cycles, but some people and nations make the weather into a political issue, arguing about the future planetary destruction caused by global warming, climate change, greenhouse emissions, cow farts, ozone, etc. A few months ago, “they” (whoever “they” might be, meteorologists, scientists, weather girls, fortune tellers…your guess is as good as mine) issued a long-range weather forecast, which those of us in the agriculture community received with consternation in our drought stricken land of dried up rivers, creeks, ponds, lakes, and wells. The report read something like this:

Blah blah blah blah blah climate change blah blah formerly known as global warming blah blah blah blah blah Al Gore blah blah blah blah cow farts blah. Blah blah blah It’s never going to rain again in southwest Oklahoma blah blah blah end of civilization blah blah blah. The United Nations can probably fix it we bet blah blah blah. Blah blah cows are evil and smell bad blah blah blah.

(Al Gore might not have been specifically mentioned by name.)

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Son #1 holding a carp he found on a flooded road

Anyway, we kept praying for rain even with that long-range prediction hanging over our heads like a dust cloud and I’m ever so thankful to report that forecast wasn’t quite spot-on. Over the past several weeks, God has opened the heavens to us again, pouring out rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, and wells full of rain.

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Grandson Git’R’Done prepared in case the water keeps rising

As always, thank you so much for reading. God bless all y’all with full ponds and enjoy Jeremy Camp doing Walk By Faith.