Tooting The Hat’s Horn At The Ranch Pen

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Screenshot of Agnes Campbell’s Hat on

This week, just a quick update on one of the books, Agnes Campbell’s Hat, which earned one of those coveted, orange best-seller banners this past week. I have no idea why, but I’m glad since The Hat is my favorite book I’ve written, thus far. Years ago, I started writing stories for my nephew and nieces and The Hat was my niece, Tessa’s story. I tried to use her personality as much as possible in the story, so maybe that’s why people like it. That’s definitely why I do.

The book is a historical adventure about twelve-year-old Tessa, who finds a hat that transports her backward in time to Oklahoma Territory where she’s trapped in a homesteader’s family with an aggravating young lad named Judd Howard who is the only person who can help her get back home.

A few factoids about the book:

  • Judd has family ties to the Howard family in the Love Is Not Enough series, being designated the great-grandfather of Gil Howard, of The Cedar Tree.
  • The Kiowa Indian, Big Tree, actually lived in this area of Oklahoma during that time period.
  • The outlaw, Stumpy O’Halloran, was a made-up character out of a conglomeration of real outlaws, including those of the Doolin Gang who once terrorized the Oklahoma Territories.
  • The Scottish poet, Robert Burns, was a favorite of Ira Campbell, the transplanted Scotsman in the book–and coincidentally is one of my all-time favorite poets, too! What’d’y’know.
  • Ira Campbell has family ties to the Campbell family in the Love is Not Enough series, being the designated great-grandfather of Katie Campbell of The Cedar Tree.
  • White and Nerdy is an actual video on Youtube by Weird Al Yankovic. If you haven’t watched it, you should join the over 98,000,000 viewers who have–it’s hilarious.
  • Toward the end of the book, Tessa wonders if her uncle’s barn is burning to the ground. That would be m’dear Gramps she was worried about. His barn DID NOT burn down, but he HAS suffered a few haystack fires.

As always, thanks so much for reading the blog and Agnes Campbell’s Hat. God bless all y’all and enjoy Kari Jobe singing Steady My Heart.





Hazel And Ima Hogg Visit The Ranch Pen

image via youstabemweslabem funeral emporiums serving Southwest Oklahoma for a number of years now

image via U Stab Em We Slab Em Funeral Emporium serving Southwest Oklahoma for a number of years now. Member FDIC and AARP

Well, we’re kind of in mourning here at the Ranch Pen since ol’ Danni is turning fifty-years-old. I thought I might have some pearls of wisdom to impart after fifty years of bumpy roads, so I sat down to stroke my chin whisker and think.


Hmm. Waiting…

How did that whisker get so long already? I just plucked it three days ago.


Nope. Nothing. The older I get, the less I know.

HOWEVER, I’ve got a real treat for y’all–an interview with our very close neighbors, twin sisters Hazel and Ima Hogg. These precious ladies were early pioneers of the area and where I couldn’t think of a single worthwhile gem to share about my half-century of living, the Hoggs were actually eager to speak with me about life, love, and hard times.

Hazel, a large, somewhat intimidating woman, greeted me at the door of the humble home she shares with her sister, Ima, and their dogs, Tinkle and Sprinkle.


Hazel Hogg

Hazel told me in her brusque way to wait on the porch and went inside muttering something about Ima being late to her own funeral. The temperature was 102* on the shady porch, but I didn’t mind as I made friends with the Hoggs’ two delightful dogs.





Hazel returned and offered me a glass of sweet tea in her brusque way.


She hollered at Ima to get her lazy bones out there then told me we’d sit outside on the porch where it was cool. Ima, a tiny woman with a fade-away voice, eventually showed up, waving a paper and apologizing profusely that she had been so long trying to find the card the sweet people at the AARP had sent her earlier that day to celebrate her fiftieth birthday.


Ima seemed to be looking forward to her free travel bag and balloons if she replied by September fourth of the year, but when I snuck a peek at Hazel, I could plainly see she didn’t feel quite the same.

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Hazel Hogg at her we-are-not-amused-by-the-twits-at-AARP best

(Hazel really is a most intimidating woman. She is from old stock and hasn’t backed up from nothin’ since she was born in the last century. I will definitely tread lightly.) I took a gulp of sweet tea even though I prefer plain and cleared my throat.

Danni: Well, as you know, I’m interviewing you ladies as wise, old pioneers of the area and I’d like to start off by asking how you found life on the farm back in the early days?

Ima Hogg: Honey, it was hard. It just was. It was hard. Heat, dust, bugs. You name it.

Ima Hogg reminiscing

Ima Hogg reminiscing about the hard early days

Hazel Hogg: (snorts)

Ima Hogg: Well, it was, Hazel! It was. You know it was. Not ever last soul’s a strappin’ girl like you. I had trouble wrastlin’ them gears in that old Steiger tractor. You know I did. I got this one big shoulder, y’know.

Danni: Er…okay. (Maybe I’d better get the twins off the subject. I catch a glimpse of a man lurking in the yard) Did y’all know there is a man lurking in your yard?

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unknown lurking man

Hazel: (looks up and actually blushes)



Hazel upon seeing lurking man

Danni: Who is he?

Hazel: (titters) He’s an old coot is who he is. Been trying’ to run him off for years.

Danni: Uh…Hazel, I think he’s winking at you.


I happened to catch a glimpse of Ima, then, with her one big ear, super-sized shoulder,  and her eyes full of heartache, longing, and pain.


Ima: His name is Tuff Grampsi. (she said Grampsi’s name softly quivering with a catch in her voice like she…was in love with him. Well, well. What have we here…a love triangle?)

Danni: Do you want to talk about it, Ima?

Ima: (tears trickling down her face, crying so hard I can barely understand her) I don’t think I could say a word about it, honey. Not on my birthday. But it’s hard. It just is. Watchin’ him wink at Hazel like that. Seein’ her so happy. I’ve prayed and prayed he’ll wink at me, but he never has. Not once. It’s hard. It just is. Soon’s my AARP and travel bag get here in the mailbox, I’m gonna hit the road on my horse…see the world. Try to plug up this achin’ hole in my heart. Keep it from bleedin’ me to death like a stuck hog. I cain’t take it anymore. But Tuff’s such a fine figure of a man I doubt I’ll be able to forget him for a minute. He’s just there, like a knife in my poor ol’ heart. I’ve just loved him near all my life, honey. Practically worship the ground he treads in them ol’ boots of his. Oh, just look at him, now. A winkin’ and a winkin’ at Hazel. He cain’t see nobody but her. Oh, lands sakes, look at her. Smilin’ at him and gigglin’. She just leads him on that-away. Always been a big ol’ tease. Always overshadered me. It’s hard, honey. It is. It’s just hard.

Danni: (still in shock at one of the revelations) You ride a horse?

Ima: (perks up) Oh my, yes, honey. It’s hard, but when I can stay on one, I ride. Come on and let me show you my purty girl.

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Danni: (unable to see how Ima could possible keep her saddle from ending up around her horse’s ears) Well…uh…your horse is a beautiful color. And who’s little guy is this?

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Ima: (sniffs and points toward Tuff Grampsi still lurking around Hazel) Oh, that’s Tuff’s horse. He’s proud as if he had good sense of that lil ol’ midgit. Rides him over here to see Hazel might near ever day. Matter of fact, we’d best get back to the house and not leave them two alone. He’s liable to try to hold her hand.

(What does Grampsi feed his horse…rocks?)

We hurried back to the house, but Tuff Grampsi was just slithering rapidly for cover beneath a clump of Johnson grass and Hazel was cradling a BB rifle in her arms. It seemed Hazel had, in fact, run Grampsi off. I had a feeling it’d take more than a few BBs to the drawers to keep Tuff away from her, though. I had seen the unquenchable flame of love in his close-set eyes.

Danni: Well, bad as I hate to, I need to wrap up this interview so I can get it on the blog, but, Ima, is there anything you’d like my readers to know from the wisdom of your last fifty years?

Ima: Yes. It’s hard. It just is. It sure is.

Ima Hogg reminiscing

Danni: Hazel?

Hazel: You don’t have nothin’ to prove when you get my age and you for sure don’t need no AARP card. Hmmph. I’m near tempted to run over to the AARP place with my BB gun.

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Well, I appreciate the Hogg ladies joining me for this week’s post and hope you do, too. The interview was riddled with romantic tension and not quite as informative about the early years of settlement as I had hoped, but the Hoggs are up in years and tend to wander from the subject a little. Bless their hearts.

As always, I thank y’all for reading, and thank you, Grampsi, for being a good sport. Not every man would want to get caught winking at Hazel Hogg.

*Any resemblance the Hogg twins and Tuff Grampsi bear to persons living or dead is probably coincidental.

God bless all y’all and enjoy this Isaacs’ song my cousin sang in church the other day. After fifty-years of my life I’m grateful I can say, I Still Trust You, Lord.

Bootcamp At The Ranch Pen



I’ve been covered up with work here at the Ranch Pen, so the blog has kinda been neglected. We had a lot of rain through May and June, which was greatly welcomed, but all that water shocked this droughty country into massive vegetation growth, and plagues of frogs (seriously), flies, rabbits, and creepy, crawling critters of every variety.

I’ve also been running periodic summer bootcamps Fun Weeks for the six grandkids who are old enough–Kevman, Blondie, Roper, Einstein, Git’R’Done, and Ladybug. (The youngest of the pack, Tater, is only a yearling and a mama’s boy to boot, so he is not even invited to Nana’s bootcamp, yet.) We start the week with excited plans. We abandon a healthy diet for one high in sugar and fat. We make art projects. We play in the pool. We have a little play on electronic devices. We make playhouses in the yard. We “train” the horses, take care of livestock, play with the dogs. We look at the stars and talk about God. We live dangerously, go places, do things. It’s all good.

At the beginning of Bootcamp Fun Week we have conversations like this:

Danni: Well, just try not to wet your pants again, okay?

Grandkid: Okay.

Toward the end of the week, the conversation has devolved to something like this:

Danni: What?! You wet your pants again. Why’d you do that?

Grandkid: I couldn’t make it back to the house in time.

Danni: Well, good lands. You’re out here on the farm, just go outside.

Grandkid has big eyes but doesn’t say anything, no doubt remembering mother’s commands not to drop his drawers outside like a barbarian.

Sorry ’bout that daughters-in-law.

No, we have a good time. I eavesdrop on them and laugh. Two of our grandsons are five-years-old. I don’t know if it’s their age, their sex, or their last name, but I overheard these two comments to no one in particular:

Grandson Git’R’Done energetically playing Fruit Ninja on an electronic device: I am really good at this!

Grandson Einstein playing Angry Birds on an electronic device: I keep doing so good at this!

They make up truly horrible jokes, too, such as this one I wrote down verbatim at the lunch table while they gobbled a made to order variety of junky food:

“Hey, what do you call soap with a coyote on it?”

Like so many stand up comedians, the young joke teller found his audience a hard sell, so he kept repeating the joke, trying to rouse a response. “Hey, what do you call soap with a coyote on it? Hey. Hey, guys. Hey, what’d’ya call soap with a coyote on it?”

My heart squeezed with pity lest his fragile ego suffer a blow, so I said, “What do you call soap with a coyote in it?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, Nana. Hey, Roper, what do you call soap with a coyote on it, huh?”

“Roper, listen to his joke,” I said, my ego stinging.

“Hey, Roper, what do you call soap with a coyote on it?”

Roper sighs heavily. “What?”

“A Doritos coyote soap!”

Duh! What else?

Ladybug–who is three–and I were the only ones who laughed, but that sparked more bad jokes, a run on the Doritos, and an overturned soda. We had to mop up the spill and stop joking around at the table, but I wouldn’t trade those kids in for anything on this side of the grave.

Until next time,  God bless, take time to delight in the kids in your life, and enjoy the Oak Ridge Boys doing Thank God For Kids.


The Ticket At The Ranch Pen


In May, I wrote a number of short stories for the challenge and the prompt on a certain day was to write in a genre you never write. In my case, that was horror. I sat and tried to think of the thing that scared me most. As an ultra-conservative Christian woman, a piece of a Bible passage came to mind:  “And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity…” (Read Matthew 7 for context.)

Anyway, that was where this story came from. Until next time, God bless all y’all and, um…have an otherwise nice day.

The Ticket

Buying my Jay C Superstar concert ticket from would make my ticket more expensive because of the added fees, but my girlfriend, Forest, had said, “You are so old fashioned, Samantha. Nobody shows up at the ticket window with cash anymore. Just buy your ticket online and be safe.”

Forest was right, of course. The only reason I had for buying a ticket at the window was the stub to keep for a souvenir. Or, proof I’d paid in case I needed to leave the venue and get back in. But I’d have it all on my cell phone, anyway. I auto-filled the credit card information and hit buy with a thrill of excitement. Jay C was a serious piece of eye candy with his long dreadlocks, beard, amazingly sexy eyes and smile…and his totally ripped abs. But there was something beyond his delicious body and rough-honey voice. It was like his soul was beautiful and he sang straight to each woman—and man, if they wanted to be honest—even if seventy-thousand people crowded the stadium.

The next evening as I slithered into my cleavage-baring red dress, the doorbell of the apartment I shared with Forest buzzed. I looked through the peephole and sighed. Not him again. I thought about not opening the door, but figured he’d keep knocking, so I did.

My ex stood there looking at me. Medium height, black hair, an unremarkable face, twangy voice, and un-ripped abs, he sang lead in a little off-key Christian band called the Host Singers that never went anywhere. His eyes were the only compelling thing about him. I looked away, tugging up my dress before he could lecture me about going around with my boobs barely covered. He was such a judgmental prude. How had I ever thought I was in love with him?

“So, you’re goin’?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m going. What did you think I’d do? Come over to the park and listen to you sing church songs?”

“I hoped you would. Samantha, I’ve always loved you. I want you back.”

“I’m tired of you. You bore me to death.”

“So you’ve said, but I’m scared for you. Do you have any idea how many people have lost their lives at that guy’s concerts?”

“You mean like those that got trampled buying tickets at the window? I used”

“They don’t just get trampled. People are killed parking their cars. They’re killed in the restrooms. In their seats. In the mosh pit. He gets them on stage with him and kills them himself. After the concerts, they haul away bodies to be burned by the semi-truck load. Nobody ever hears about that in the media.”

I stared at him. “That’s ridiculous. Nobody would go to his concerts.”

“Have I ever lied to you?”

I paused. “No, I guess not, but how do you know?”

“Just trust me.”

He tried to take my hand, but I snatched it away.

“Sam, it’s the biggest cover-up in the history of the world. His organization feeds on human blood and they’re good at what they do.”

“You’re just trying to get me back and it’s not gonna work,” I snapped. “I’ve already bought my ticket and I’m going.”

His deep-set eyes bored deep into me and I didn’t want them to. All that was fine while we were together, but it irritated me to death, now.

“Just leave, okay?” I said. “The concert starts in two hours.”

He fished a worn, paper ticket from his pocket and handed it to me, a souvenir from the first time I’d heard his pathetic concert. “In case you decide you want to come later, Samantha. The guy at the gate won’t let you in without it.”

He turned away. I slammed the door. Hopefully that was the last time I’d see him. I stood looking down at the stiff, blue paper stub in my hand.  As worthless as a one-dollar raffle ticket. I ripped it to small pieces on the way to the bathroom then flushed it down the toilet and turned to make up my face at the mirror.

I stopped to pick up Forest at the church where she worked as a personal assistant to the pastor. She rocked out of his office on her bright red, four-inch heels, flushed and smiling her cat-got-the-cream smile.

“Now, that was what I’d call a religious experience.” She smoothed down her mini skirt a little and adjusted her sheer blouse—not quite the traditional pastor’s assistant garb. “If Jay C gets me up on stage tonight, he’d better look out.”

I laughed. “Won’t the pastor be jealous?”

She slid me a sideways look. “Him and Angela.”

I wasn’t easily shocked anymore, but my eyebrows shot up. “His wife, too?”

She tossed her hair. “Don’t judge us, Sam. You know how Brent hurt me. I’m happy , now, and Joel told me the Bible says that makes God happy, too. Besides, they pay me well to keep my mouth shut about what goes on in his office.” She winked. “We don’t want the old-fashioned hypocrite types in the congregation to stop tithing.”

I raised my hands in surrender. “Hey, you know I wouldn’t judge you. Not after what I put up with out of him.”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, your ex. Yeah, you’re way better off without all that guilt he laid on you.”

On the way to the concert, I looked across the car at her fixing her makeup in the mirror. “Hey, um…have you ever heard anything about people…getting killed at Jay C’s concerts?”

“Like the ones that got trampled in the ticket line a few months ago?”

“No. Like killed. Murdered.”

Forest burst into laughter. “Don’t be ridiculous. Jay C’s anti-violence in every way. He won’t even eat meat. Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I read something, or—”

“Did your ex show up with some story about the concert?” she demanded. “That’d be just like him, manipulating you so you won’t do anything that makes you happy.”

“He wanted me back. I told him no. Never.”

Forest reached to pat my arm. Her fingernails matched her shiny, red shoes. “Good for you, baby. He’s never done anything but hold you back.” She teased me with her smile. “It’s time for you to let go of the past. Join us during a session in Joel’s office sometime.”

I laughed and turned into the line of cars pulling into the underground parking garage across from the concert venue. “Maybe I will.”

Five or six cars ahead, a vehicle had apparently stalled because the yellow lights of a tow truck flashed around and around the concrete walls of the garage. I glanced at my cell phone clock…if the truck didn’t hurry with the car, we’d be late. But the tow truck dragged away the car, and we moved forward to the traffic director. He was gorgeous…and plainly ripped…beneath his tight tee shirt with Jay C’s logo on the front. Lifelike rattlesnake tattoos wound around both his arms.

He stooped to look in my window. His gaze lingered on my plunging neckline.

I smiled at him. “Can I touch your tattoos?”

“That’s what they’re for.”

I slid my hand across one of his snake tattoos. It arched under my fingers, throbbing with his heartbeat. Almost like it was alive.

Forest leaned over the console toward him with her come-on-baby smile. “We bought the VIP parking through”

He grinned, eyeing her sheer blouse, unbuttoned even lower than mine. He licked his lips like his mouth was watering over a juicy steak. “Just show me the receipts on your phones, ladies, and you’re good to go.”

He looks like a wolf…

The ridiculous flicker of thought startled me. I shoved it away and kept my own come-on-baby smile going. I found the Ticketmasher email on my phone and held it up. He scanned the code. I happened to glance down. He was wearing the knee-high, black boots like Jay C wore on his tv concerts. Jay C had even started a footwear fad with them.

“I should’ve worn my boots, too,” I said.

He eyed my legs appreciatively. “You won’t need them.”

Just then, I spied the pool of sludgy-looking dark red he was standing in. “Are you okay? I think you’re bleeding.”

He looked down. “Oh, no, that’s not me. A person in that car ahead of you was injured.”

I stared at the blood. There was a lot of it. “Injured? What happened?”

His grin widened and he drew his finger across his throat like he was slitting it.

I stared at him, wide-eyed. “You’re kidding.”

“Nope. Sitting right there. Committed suicide.” He finished with my phone and looked at us, desire in his eyes. “Okay, ladies, good to go. Just follow that Jay C angel there. She’ll be your guide for this evening.” A thread of saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth. He hastily licked it up. “Woops, sorry ‘bout that. I will definitely see you two lovely women later.”

For some reason, the little hairs on my neck prickled and I glanced in my rear-view mirror at the packed line of cars out the exit. The guy behind me in line honked. I shook my head. Ridiculous. Must be what my ex said earlier giving me the creeps.

I  pulled forward. Our angel guide was about my age with flowing, blonde hair, and the trademark boots under a gauzy gown that shimmered in the headlights and revealed her perfect body.  She waved me to a parking spot next to a black Hummer. Leaning down, she looked in the window and checked out my plunging neckline just like the traffic guy had. Her tongue flicked over her lips, but when she smiled her eyes were a lovely gold color—kind and beautiful. I relaxed.

“Welcome, my name is Sariel, and I’ll be your guide for this evening’s worship,” she said softly.

I smiled. “Thank you. We’re so excited.”

She studied me and Forest. “Jay C always chooses more angels at his concerts. I bet he’ll pick you two.”

Forest and I exchanged happy-glances. Nothing could make the night better for us…

We hurried with the angel toward the walkway between the venue and the garage. As we neared the exit, the light dimmed until I could barely see anything. I looked at Sariel to ask what had happened to the lights. She was looking at me. A thrill of unease stabbed through me. I tugged up my dress top. Beside me, Forest did, too.

“You two have perfect flesh.” Sariel smiled. Her teeth weren’t the same. They were sharp. And that wasn’t lipstick on her lips. It was blood and her golden eyes were a she-wolf’s. “Long, lean, tender…”

My bowels turned to water. I tried to ease away from her, but her fingers clamped on my arm. I jerked away. Sariel’s sharp nails raked my skin, but I kicked off my shoes and ran toward where I had last seen the exit. 

Screaming  pandemonium erupted all around me in the echoing darkness lit only by the parking attendants flashlights as they used them for clubs, running around like boys smashing bugs. In a matter of seconds the garage had turned into the killing floor of a slaughterhouse. My feet splashed in a warm stream.

The boots. That was what the boots were for.

Something twined hard around my leg and slipped upward. I reached down. Teeth sank into my hand. I screamed and ripped the snake from my leg, but it wrapped around my arm, throbbing and swelled like an engorged blood vessel. The putrid smell of decaying flesh breathed hot and moist on my neck.

Shrieking in terror, I danced around like a demon, slapping at my neck. At the snake. At leathery wings beating against my face. Two flashlights ran toward us. It was the traffic director, and…Joel the pastor!

“Thank God,” Forest and I both cried, running to him.

But he grabbed Forest and she let out a blood-curdling screech, abruptly sliced off. Warm liquid splattered over my dress and dripped down my bare skin.

Screaming, I dodged away, but more—dozens…no, hundred…thousands—of Jay C’s angels jumped from the shadows. My heart choked me, beating like a sledgehammer in my brain. I had been stupid. Blind. My ex hadn’t been lying…

I had to get to him. He had never failed me. I tried to pray as I had learned when we were still together, but I couldn’t remember how. That didn’t matter, anyway. If I could only get to where he was singing tonight, he’d let me in and all this would go away.

I burst through the exit and pounded toward light, sparkling like a million stars in the sky over the park where my ex always held his concerts. I couldn’t yet make out the words, but his beautiful voice drifted above the crowd singing with him…something about a lamb.

I sobbed with relief, breathing in great gulps of clean air filled with the scent of fresh grass and flowers quickly displacing the stench of blood and human flesh in my nostrils. Almost there. To my heart’s desire. The joy and peace I had once found in his love when I had been pure and free from sin—that old-fashioned word I had learned to hate after I met Forest.

I fell. Unseen terrors slithered after me like dead leaves blowing on the pavement. Leathery wings fluttered in the darkness. I slapped them away, scrambling, falling, tripping toward the ticket taker at the park entrance where a few late-comers stood in line. He let most of them inside. Finally, I reached him and stood gasping for air, my dress shredded by teeth and soaked with Forest’s blood. He met my gaze from his massive height, his eyes looking into me. Deep. Deeper.

“Please let me in.” I panted out a brown vapor. What was that? No. Dear God, no. It smelled like death. “I know he’ll want to see me.”

The gatekeeper flinched away from my breath. “Ticket, please.”

My heart stopped. The ticket.

He wanted the blue ticket I had flushed down the toilet.

“I lost mine, but…wait. Here!” I shoved up my phone for him to view. “Look, right here. I bought this one at They said it was good for the three concert series. I think they said this concert was one of them. Please. I need to see him. I’m in trouble.”

The gatekeeper soberly studied my phone screen then shook his head. “I’m sorry. He doesn’t accept Ticketmasher tickets.”

A heavy chain rattled across the pavement in the darkness behind me. My eyes nearly burst from their sockets as I whirled in a tight circle. Fangs snapped and flashed, gleaming in the night. Everywhere. Along with thousands…millions of yellow eyes glowing dully.

I fell on my knees, weeping at the gatekeeper’s golden feet. “But I know him and he knows me,” I begged. “He said he still loves me. Look again.” Once again, I thrust my phone up at the gatekeeper.

He wouldn’t look at the screen. I jumped up trying to force him, but he had something like an invisible shield around him and I couldn’t get close enough. The chains behind me clanked again. Closer this time. Waiting.

“Please. Why would he do this to me?” I shrieked. “He’s known me all my life.”

“He uses the original LifeBook operating system. Ticketmasher has a virus that deletes your files from LifeBook once you buy Ticketmasher concerts. I’m sorry, but he won’t know you, now.” He shook his head. “You’ll have to leave.”

“But don’t you hear them out there?” I leaped spastically around, slapping, and shrieking like they were already biting me.

The gatekeeper cocked his head as though listening. “No, I’m sorry, miss. I can’t hear anything over the Host Singers.”

Hot tears rolled down my cheeks then with a rush, the eyes and the teeth were upon me, binding me with chains and dragging me back toward the Jay C Superstar concert where the fans screamed.




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


A Windswept Plain

Last month while participating in the Story a Day challenge at, 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 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.