Only One Squirrel Had To Die At The Ranch Pen

Lunar Eclipse September 27

Lunar Eclipse images of September 27,  via daughter-in-law #1

While some Republicans have been watching the crowded field of hopeful presidential contenders with bated breath, Gramps and I have been just trying to live life, get our wheat planted, calves weaned,  watch lunar eclipses with our dogs, and so forth. We haven’t really made up our minds which of the hopeful Republicans we want to win, but we’ve agreed it’s not the one who looks like a squirrel crawled onto his head and died.

As I was saying, Gramps and I sat outside on the balmy night of the lunar eclipse and shared some popcorn with the dogs while we watched. Our daughter-in-law #1 took the awesome photos above. I took the one below.

Nellie, who is not really into moon gazing but is certainly an avid popcorn eater

Wheat planting time has arrived in the southern plains. We don’t grow wheat for grain anymore, but have been sowing winter wheat and triticale seed for grazing cattle through the winter.

The nephew, AH, loading seed treated with pesticide

Gramps supervising

Gramps supervising



Pasture already coming up. It’s a pretty sight to us

Gramps is a man of many talents and pretty handy to have around. He built a new corral, cow shed, and sorting pens on one of our farms this summer, which we got to try out this week as we sorted cows and weaned their calves. I took this short clip of Gramps freeing a heifer from where she had poked her head through the fence and couldn’t get it back out. He is not hitting her; he hit the bar beside her to give her some room to remove her head. The beautiful, new sorting pen is now bent.

Giant Brain–as I call her, now–is the one stirring up dust as she tries to shake off her bad experience.

We moved the weaned calves to another farm where Son #2 and Gramps ran them through the chute. The heifers got off with ear-tagging and treatment for parasites and flies, but the bull calves had the unhappy experience of getting separated from their…er…bull stuff.

My favorite shot of Git’R’Done, Ladybug, Son #2, and Roper waiting to run the calves through the chute

I’ve gotta git this time, but as always, thank you for checking out our slice of life from southwest Oklahoma. God bless all y’all and enjoy the guys of Alabama doing an awesome job on The Old Rugged Cross. 

Redneck Chicks At The Ranch Pen

In spite of my dark mutterings about hatchets and stew pots, my old hens have decided to mostly retire from the egg laying business and devote themselves to pursuing the stray grasshopper and luxuriating in dust baths. With all costs factored in, Gramps and I have been paying about twenty dollars a dozen for our eggs.

Seized by thrift and a hunger for eggs, I forgot how busy my schedule is at this time and shot off an order to Ideal Hatcheries in Texas–the surprise special, a grab bag of chicken breeds at a discounted price. The last surprise special I ordered grew up to be the worst laying hens ever and I had promised myself NEVER to be surprised like that again. Unfortunately for me as a middle-aged person, the memory ain’t what it used to be and I forgot what I had promised myself. The upside is, when the pullets start laying next spring, I can hide my own Easter eggs.

Hmmm…what was I talking about? Oh, yeah.

I had ordered a surprise and that is just what I got. For those who don’t know, you can actually get your chickens in the mail, but the mail carrier either isn’t allowed to haul them around in his car like the Beverly Hillbillies, or else he doesn’t want to listen to them cheeping, so at daybreak one day, the young lady at the post office called, wanting me to pick up my chicks. Surprise! Because I had forgotten the little gals were coming, they were essentially like the dove Noah sent out from the ark–they had no rest for the soles of their feet. Other than their small shipping box.

The pullets took up emergency shelter in the laundry basket in our house, but I needed to do laundry. The chicks had to change residences and the only place that was going to be protected enough was inside the hens’ run where raccoons couldn’t reach them. However, the hens posed as much threat as the ‘coons. Some people who aren’t around animals impart human emotions to them, which is usually a mistake. Lots of animals are just hard-down mean and old hens are some of the meanest. Most of the time, a helpless, human baby can be placed in a group of humans in safety, but baby chicks amongst the hens? No. The old hens will peck them to death. Chickens are where the term “pecking order” comes from, I believe, and newly hatched chicks from the Ideal Hatchery of Texas are WAY down in the pecking order–in fact, they look like chicken nuggets to the hens.

Aside from the danger mean, old biddies pose to them, newly hatched chicks have a need for heat. In nature, they are protected beneath their mother’s wings where it is just the right temperature. Ideal Hatchery chickens have to have a heat lamp or they will bunch up seeking warmth until they actually suffocate and trample each other. Their heat lamp can’t be in just any old place, either. If the hens can reach it, they will peck the bulb and break it, or–like the giant-brained hen I had one time–they might stand beneath it until it melts their feathers. In addition to heat, the young chicks need plenty of special feed, called chick starter, and fresh water–which they will not get if the old hens have access to it.

As a result, I sent out an emergency call to the nieces, JA, and TL, who in true good-hearted redneck girl fashion, rushed to help me whack together the shelter you see above, using old wire gates, pallets, paneling, truck tire rims, bungees, zip ties, wire, and feed sacks. We were proud of our building skills until we realized the little puffball chicks didn’t have enough guts (literally) for the wire barriers to prove an impediment to their freedom–they squeezed right through the holes. We spent a lot of time racing around, trying to capture the runaways, giggling while we darted this way and that with old hens squawking and scattering. We had a wonderful time and eventually got most of the holes plugged up by leaning old boards against them.

The chick on the right is making its gutless escape through the wire

Aw. Maybe that’s why I keep ordering the surprise specials.

All that trouble to eventually get this:

And finally just for fun, Danni’s nemesis, THE GREY HEN who flies like an airplane (almost) and eats eggs as fast as the other hens lay them while never bothering to lay one herself:

As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy one of my favorites of David Wesley’s, Whom Shall I Fear.

Countrified Marriage Advice From The Ranch Pen

Young Gramps and Danni

Young Gramps and Danni

I read somewhere or other recently that if the man/woman you are thinking of as a husband/wife isn’t someone you feel is better than you, someone who makes you want to be better than you are, don’t marry that guy/gal. In other words, don’t marry beneath yourself. It was like getting hit in the head with a bag of bricks. “Eureka!” I thought. “That is excellent advice and since Gramps and I have been married thirty-four years this week, I believe I’ll hand out some of my own.”

As evidenced by the photo from ancient times (above) taken not all that long before our marriage, Gramps and I were very young when we started our lives together. Nobody can say, “Well, sure your marriage worked, Danni. Hello. Y’all were in love, super smart, rich, and beautiful. Me and the moron I married didn’t have those advantages.”

First of all, we were both still teenagers (Gramps, 19, Danni,16) when we made our vows to each other and God, and nobody has the experience or wisdom to weigh all the pros and cons and come up with a lifetime of happiness at that age even if they love each other. So, no. We weren’t super smart. We were real dumb.

As for rich, Gramps had his pickup, a job, and a twenty-foot-long camp trailer. I had two fat steer calves ready for butcher, a couple hundred bucks cash, and a bike.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and while we were dazzled by each other’s good looks and charm, neither of us ever ended up with modeling agents clamoring at our camp trailer door.

Balanced precariously against our slew of disadvantages, we had one real advantage–we were committed to Jesus Christ and our shared belief that God hears and holds us accountable to our vows, taking divorce off the table as an option.

Along with divine help, some common sense always comes in handy. Therefore, I have included a partial list of people to avoid including in your matrimonial plans.

Danni’s List of People to Avoid Marrying Because That Would Be Marrying Beneath You

  • Addicts of all kinds–you will always come second, or third, or fourth to their addiction.
  • Liars–Liars lie. They’ll lie to you, too.
  • Thieves–Thieves take stuff that ain’t theirs, including services rendered, such as the utilities and items bought on credit. If someone doesn’t pay their bills, that’s dishonest and you can’t respect somebody like that.
  • Cheats–If they will cheat someone else, they will sneak around and cheat on you, too.
  • Lazy bums–A bone lazy person who sits around playing video games all day and breathing up good air instead of tending to business will always be dead weight to you. And everyone else, too. You won’t ever be proud of them.
  • Self-centered morons–you will want to jab them with your fork every day of your life.
  • Shallow–If someone doesn’t care deeply enough about at least one thing that they would plant their feet and take a stand for it against popular opinion, they’ll leave you hung out to dry when you do.
  • Gorgeous on the outside, empty on the inside. Or even worse, rotten at the core–If you judge the book solely by its’ cover, you’re gonna get a rude shock a few years down the road.
  • Disrespectful of human life–Someone who doesn’t respect the dignity of human life from the womb to the grave is not going to spoon feed you and change your adult diapers if you cease to be useful to them.
  • Know-it-alls–Someone who already knows everything is tedious in the extreme and (unbeknownst to them) at a grave disadvantage since life is one, long learning curve. But they already knew that.
  • An abuser–If someone belittles you or hurts you physically before marriage? Yeah. That ain’t gonna get any better. Plus, you might have some kids to worry about after a while.
  • Goober-heads–An occasional small gooberishness is tolerable, but if the person drives you nuts and makes you want to bring a cast iron skillet down on his/her annoying head before marriage, they probably always will.
  • Humorless person–Someone who takes themselves too seriously and doesn’t think you’re funny, either? Avoid them. Sometimes the only thing that makes life bearable is the ability to laugh at yourself and each other.
  • Finally, and most importantly, don’t marry someone who won’t pray or go to church with you–Life is just plain hard and you’ll need all the help you can get.

So, there you have it, ol’ Danni’s incomplete list of people not to marry. I hope it’s helpful. As an ultra-conservative Christian woman, I believe marriage between men and women is–and has always been since God ordained it–the foundation of civilization. When a marriage crumbles it’s like a small universe exploding and nobody knows who all is going to get hurt by the fallout. If your marriage is struggling, please don’t give up on it. It’s important in the big picture and if you can save it, one day you’ll be ever so glad you did.


Danni and Gramps, Lo these many years later

Danni and Gramps, Lo these many years later

(Gramps, from the wife of your youth, thank you for thirty-four years of your life. I married above myself.)

As always, thanks for reading and until next time, God bless all y’all–married or not–and enjoy Keith Whitley’s When You Say Nothing At All.  (It’s for you, Gramps, since I tend to nag if I say anything at all. Plus, it’s a good song from back in the day.)

*If you are interested in more things you should never do in choosing a mate, you might want to read my book Wailing Woman Creekthe second in the Love Is Not Enough Series.


Dogs Versus Frogs At The Ranch Pen

Nellie on the set of her new film, Dogs Versus Frogs

Nellie on the set of her new film, Dogs Versus Frogs

Big news at the Ranch Pen. Our two dogs, Nellie and Trace, are starring in their own movie titled Dogs Versus Frogs. The rains from earlier in the summer hatched a crop of tadpoles that turned into a plague of frogs similar to the one in Egypt in the days of Moses. Concerned about the possibility of a world-wide power grab by frogs, Nellie and Trace bravely blew off threatening phone calls from PETA and the Humane Society about cruelty to amphibians, and hurled themselves into this selfless quest to end frog overpopulation before it was too late. I, for one, applaud their ineffective heroic efforts.

As a visual aid before we begin today’s video, in the picture below I’ve circled a small sampling of disgusting frogs just chillin’ around ol’ Danni’s fish pond.


Now for today’s feature. Enjoy.



Nellie and Trace hope you loved Dogs Versus Frogs, The Movie Trailer and wanted me to say God bless all y’all and if anyone has a good recipe for frogs’ legs mail it to: Dog House A and Dog House B, c/o the Ranch Pen.


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.