Third Kid Syndrome At The Ranch Pen

The grandson, Tater, a third kid

The grandson, Tater, a third kid

I’ve had several questions lately about book three in the Love Is Not Enough series…How’s it coming along? When will you be done writing it?…etc.The truth of the matter is that even though I’m working off a draft and have the basic storyline fleshed out, I am dragging this third book up kicking and screaming from my toes. (I know…ew!) I plug away at it, but have no idea when it’ll be finished. I’m shooting for sometime this year.

A few days back, I was struck with a thought like a bag of bricks on the head:

This third book in my series is like a third kid!

When expecting Son #1’s blessed arrival over thirty years ago, I was very young and too dumb to know what was coming down the pike, so I had some nameless fears and dreads. Son #2 came along when #1 was still a baby and I was too busy to dwell on my not-so-nameless fears. But #3, now, yikes. I was nineteen by then, had the mothering thing partially figured out, and enough brain power to accommodate fully formed fears and dreads:

  • With two healthy boy children, surely something would be wrong with #3?
  • #1 and #2 were so cute and smart-ish, what if #3 was ugly and dumb?
  • #1 and #2 reduced me to raving lunacy on a regular basis…how could I possibly manage when #3 hove onto the scene?
  • And finally, what if #3 was another boy and not the girl who would decrease the ratio of males to female in the family and save me from overmuch testosterone exposure?

Fast forward thirty years to me–having left childbearing–bringing forth book number three. I’ve had some of the same types of fears and dreads:

  • Books 1 and 2 are surviving, what if Book 3 comes forth fatally flawed?
  • Books 1 and 2 don’t read too badly, but what if I accidentally write the same basic story and everybody grins too much? (As one of my favorite one star reviewers so graciously pointed out on Amazon.)
  • Books 1 and 2 used up a lot of brain power…how can I possibly have enough left to write Book 3 especially when real life has continued to sap my old grey matter?
  • And finally, what if Book 3 isn’t what my readers want and expect–a real stinker?

Well, in spite of my fears, our third son turned out to be a keeper, and his third son, Tater, did too, so..maybe the third book in the Love Is Not Enough series will be all right when I finally get it hauled up from my toes.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy the inimitable Alison Kraus singing this beautiful song, A Living Prayer.

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




Hamlet Kicking Stones At The Ranch Pen


Gramps chasing the neighbor’s cows away from the highway on the way home from church. Pardon the cow at the far right–she had to go real bad.

Not much news from the Ranch Pen this week and certainly nothing of brilliance in a world in dire need of brilliance.

This morning when I went out to feed my critters–at present horses, dog, cat, and chickens, although the grandkids are petitioning for pigs and goats, too–I walked past the feed truck Gramps had been using. A smear of blood and gore on the flatbed arrested my attention. Sure enough, Gramps had hauled away the carcass of a newborn calf. The little fellow looked perfect, but apparently hadn’t been able to draw a breath through the super-tough membrane covering its head. What a pity. And we might as well have thrown a $500 dollar bill in the fire, for that is what newborn calves are worth–or more–at the livestock auction at present.

I also missed my five ducks which used to greet me with an unbelievable racket each morning when I showed up to feed them, quacking away and waddling around on their little orange feet. Along with six hens, the ducks were senselessly murdered by a raccoon a few weeks ago. I’m still real put out about it even though our dog, Nellie, treed the ‘coon a few days later and Gramps grabbed his 12 gauge. That particular raccoon won’t be murdering any other helpless fowl. Have I mentioned I hate raccoons? If they ate their victims from need I might lighten up, but they just enjoy mass killing and leaving the dead in inglorious piles of bloody feathers.

Oh, yeah, and then there was the bomb threat at the Head Start in a little bitty town not far from us. A couple of brave criminals threatened to blow up the little kids then when the cops traced the number and showed up to find out what was going on, one of the criminals shot the cop in the chest several times. Thank God he was wearing a bullet proof vest. The law enforcement around here doesn’t get paid enough.

Hamlet and the Gravediggers, by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret image via wikipedia

Hamlet and the Gravediggers, by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret image via wikipedia

Last week, I read an audio book (read by Richard Armitage, ladies) called Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which is a novelization of Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet. Written in modern english, the story was missing most of the classic lines ingrained into our language today like: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”, “Brevity is the soul of wit”, “There is something rotten in Denmark”, and a bunch of others. In spite of that–and a weird  twist where Yorick, the dead court jester accompanies melancholy Hamlet around smart-mouthing–I enjoyed the book more than the play. The novel also retained Shakespeare’s theme of revenge gone badly awry.

This week, I read another audio book, Elie Wiesel’s, Night, the sad account of his experience as a teenage boy during the Holocaust. Perhaps that is why I’ve gone around in a funk “like Hamlet, kicking stones” (as P.G. Wodehouse says in one of his books). Elie Wiesel’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech is online and worth reading, as well, because even though it was written in 1986 about events that happened in the 1940’s it is still frighteningly relevant when we look at today’s headlines.

Until next time, be happy and God bless all y’all. To make up for me going around like Hamlet kicking stones, here’s Matt Maher having way much fun with his friends doing All The People Said Amen.

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blot, I just like his music

Why I Cannot Exercise With My Husband At The Ranch Pen



A few days ago, I came across a blog urging me as a woman to manipulate my hubby into some type of exercise program for his own good, ASAP. The blog gave helpful tips and I was pretty much like, Sweet! After thirty-three years of failed attempts to make Gramps exercise for his own good, I shall finally have him huffing and puffing along with me this winter. Gramps is actually fairly fit for an old guy since he works off his flab with the manual labor of farming and ranching, but still…For his own good, I was willing to try once more.

Then I began to read the blog’s suggestions and my hopes trickled toward my toes like sweat after a vigorous workout.

  •  Tell him the gym offers deals if I join with a friend: Gramps would say, “Cool, go find a friend”. And go find a gym, if you can, way far away from our home in the sticks.
  •  Hold out the gym’s air-conditioning and big-screen TV like a carrot on a stick: Gramps doesn’t particularly like carrots.
  • Tell him our dog Nellie (who never stops moving twenty hours a day) needs him to walk her for her health: A blatant lie.
  •  Sign us both up for yoga classes or salsa dance classes: Okay, once when Gramps’ asthma was bothering him, I talked him into a yoga session from a dvd, thinking it might improve his breathing. I think it was the funniest thing I ever saw in my days and he was not laughing–or hitting the downward dog pose–a bit. As for stuffing him in an elvis-like suit to bust some salsa moves…oh, ho, ho. Hee, hee. Please excuse me for a moment while I give myself over to unrestrained mirth…

Goodness gracious. Okay, I’m back with more suggestions.

  •  Appeal to his manly strength to help protect me from predatory fellers at the gym: This is farm country. None of the fellers are at the gym. Besides, Oklahoma has an open-carry firearm law for just such annoyances, I believe.
  •  Suggest something romantic like hiking or paddle boats: Gramps paddle-boated me around one time wearing the grumpiest expression known to romantic men in the history of the world and then he vowed never to do that again. I also remember hiking and holding sweaty hands around the fascinating ruins in Chaco Canyon of New Mexico in mid-summer heat. His feet hurt. He was hot. He was thirsty. He was casting longing looks toward our car and saying things like, “No wonder the Chacoans are dead”. He was definitely not interested in staying for a week to explore the entire canyon with me.
  •  Buy him some new fitness clothes, heart rate monitor, etc: I bought him some socks the other day. Do those qualify as fitness gear?
  • Get him a session with a personal trainer, or tennis lessons for his birthday:  I’m pretty positive he’d rather have his usual one-thousand-calorie-per-slice German Chocolate cake.
  • Get an expert to tell him he’s a fat lard and will probably die early of heart disease: Even to me, that seems a little harsh.
  • Finally, the best one–turn on the tears: Which would do about as much good as it did when I was six and he was nine, so I guess I’ll just take him like he is and be thankful he’s still around.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Christain comedian, Tim Hawkins and his song Yoga Pants. (Stay outta my side of the closet, Gramps!)

Movin’ Cows At The Ranch Pen

IMG_0713Moving Cows by Don Dane

Last fall, Gramps and I visited Silver Dollar City at Branson, MO, as we do every year or two, but we happened along during the park’s Harvest and Cowboy Festival, which suited us just about right. One section of the park had been reserved for the cowboy stuff: a couple of wild west shows, a guy talking about mustang adoption (he demonstrated with a nifty little filly he was training), a cowboy cook who happens to live not far from us here in southwest Oklahoma and who makes a mean cornbread in a cast-iron dutch oven, and a barn full of western crafts-people of different skills. Don Dane from Olathe, KS, was one of the artists. I loved all the work he had done, but especially the watercolor called Moving Cows. Gramps remembered that from September until December–who says miracles don’t happen?–and I woke up to that beautiful print on Christmas morning.  (If you click on the link above, it’ll take you to the Fine Art America website where you can purchase your own print, or view some of Mr. Dane’s other work.)

As an ultra-conservative Christian woman, I believe art should reflect the Creator or it’s just an object. I only had one brief conversation with Mr. Dane so I don’t know what his religious beliefs are, but I’m pretty positive he believes in God just by looking at Moving Cows, reflecting as it does the glory of God in the sunrise–or sunset–and time well spent.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Jake Hooker singing one of my favorites, Cattle On A Thousand Hills.

*This artist doesn’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just love the job he does on this song

Top Ranch Pen Posts Of 2014–#1

Finally, the number one most viewed post makes me laugh. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined anyone would turn to my blog for technical advice, but there we have it. Just call me the female Bill Gates of the rural blogosphere. Hopefully, you’ll find these instructions helpful, too, if you have a 4S or 5S iPhone. I don’t know if they’re still relevant for the 6 models. Since writing my techie post about it, I prefer this super-clunky way of making my phone read from the Kindle app, but I don’t know…I might be persuaded to use an easier method if some giant brain figures out how to activate the feature straight from the app.


Today is my first ever techie post: How To Get Your iPhone To Read Your Kindle Books And Magazines To You Even Though It Seems Like There Should Be An Easier Way To Do It. (Like straight from the Kindle App. I’m just sayin’.) If you have your Kindle read aloud to you a lot, you might find it handy to have your books read from your iPhone, too.

Screenshot from World Magazine on Kindle App for iPhone

Random screenshot from World Magazine on my Kindle App for iPhone. Your iPhone will read this to you.

Everybody who knows me is laughing their heads off that I would tackle a tech issue, but this is something daughter-in-law #2 and I have been trying to figure out for a while. Finally, Eureka! If I’m the last iPhone/Kindle reader left alive who didn’t know how to do this, please be kind–I’m not as young as I used to be.

Step #1: Open your Kindle App to whatever book or article you want read aloud.

Step #2: Then hold down the home button to activate SIRI.

Step #3: Tell Siri to turn on VoiceOver.

(When Siri turns on VoiceOver, the phone is controlled by voice commands.)

Step #4: Hold home button to activate Siri again. Tell her to open Kindle App. She will open Kindle to the page you previously opened.

Step #5: Tap the screen. Then double tap the screen to get rid of the Kindle menu.

Step #6: Swipe two fingers down the screen and VoiceOver will begin reading aloud in a female voice. (You might have to try a few times. My phone was very uncooperative until I figured it out.)

Step #7: When you have finished reading, be sure to de-activate VoiceOver by holding down your iPhone’s home button and telling Siri to turn off VoiceOver.

No need to thank any of us down here at the Ranch Pen–especially if we’re the last ones to figure out that nifty trick.

Until next time, God bless all y’all and tell your iPhone to read you some good books.


I hope y’all have enjoyed the most viewed posts from the Ranch Pen and as we launch into the new year, I pray God’s blessings on all of you. Enjoy a final Christmas song, The Piano Guys tearin’ up Carol Of The Bells.

*These artists don’t necessarily endorse my blog, I just like ‘em.

Top Ranch Pen Posts Of 2014–#2

The second most viewed post of 2014 surprised me because its the exact same as last year’s–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow And Hey! What’re You Doing To My Tractor? I still don’t know what drives the viewers to this particular page, but they’re probably poets who appreciate my brilliant re-do of Mr. Wadsworth’s The Wreck Of The Hesperus–Wait. What’s that? You think my do-over stinks and is a desecration of a work of poetical genius? Oh, dear…Sorry. Lots of static on the blog. You’re breakin’ up real bad. Can you hear me now? No…?

Rats, must’ve lost her. Oh, well, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a farm gal or she would’ve enjoyed the pictures, at least.



I’ve recycled the following pictures from an email–an oldie, but a goodie–that circulated amongst us ranchers and farmers a year or two ago. We all chuckled. And winced. And remembered when one of the kids, or the ex hired man, or even–goodness sakes–the owner/operator buried the tractor.

For those of you who drive around on paved streets and highways, I’ll attempt to explain the wrecks below.

red combine

1. Instead of The Wreck of the Hesperus  memorialized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, we’ll call this wreck The Wreck of the Old Case International Combine. The conversation between the old sailor in Mr. Longfellow’s poem and the skipper–just berfore he wrecked the Hesperus– went like this:

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
      His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
      The smoke now West, now South.
Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
      Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
“I pray thee, put into yonder port,
      For I fear a hurricane.
“Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
      And to-night no moon we see!”
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
      And a scornful laugh laughed he.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (And if you can believe Wikipedia, his granddad’s name was Peleg Wadsworth. Why don’t we ever hear cool Bible names like that anymore?)
The conversation between Dad and the kid on the cell phone went like this:
“The kid sat high within the cab,
his earbud in one ear,
and he took the call from his old man,
and never missed a gear.
Then up and spake said old man,
who’d drove that road before,
Don’t go that way, son, he said,
for I fear the road is sloughin’ off  ’round that tin horn in the wash ’cause the county’s too cheap to pay for a longer piece of culvert.
The kid pocketed his smart phone,
a scornful laugh laughed he,
For he would show his old dad,
a real combine man he’d see…”
(And I humbly beg your forgiveness for messing up your really good poem, dearly departed Mr. Longfellow)

3 trac

2. This wreck we’ll call Some Dumb Guys With Tractors. The farm wife is taking the picture for future evidence. She is saying, “Seriously? I can understand one tractor, but three? And now the trackhoe, too? But, hee hee. This picture is going to get me that new saddle. And maybe a new riding lawn mower, too.”

Tractor and planter tear down power line

3. This wreck we’ll just call, Hired Man As Soon As They Get The Juice Shut Off To Those Wires And I Get My Hands On You, You Are Dead.

tractor runs over front end loader

4. This one we’ll call, How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You To Pick Up The Bucket Before You Let Out The Clutch?

cat tractor in a mudhole

5. This one we’ll call, Don’t Text And Drive, Goober!

back hoe bucket sticking out of ground

6. Should we call this one, Wife Buries the Hatchet With the Handle Stickin’ Out But Husband Buries the Trackhoe With the Bucket Stickin’ Out…or what? I’m at a loss here.

broken windshield combine

7. And this one…my goodness. Don’t Ever Hire Somebody to Harvest Your Corn Who Huffs Hairspray While Smoking ? 

(It appears both the back and front windows have blown out, allowing the corn in the grain tank to spill through the cab and onto the platform.)

steiger tractor backs over grain bin

8. Ah, and lastly, a Steiger tractor wreck. I’m very qualified to comment since I’ve had many adventures in an old Steiger tractor. (But not this one, I pomise.) The scene could have gone like this:

“Whoa.” Me stomping on the clutch and brake.

“Whoa, now.” Jamming on every lever in the cab with hands and feet. Starting to sweat profusely. “Oh, Lord…I said whoa, now!”

Two sets of back duals hit the grain bin and start to climb. “LORD HAVE MERCY, WHOA!”

Using both my boots, I finally shove the gear lever out of reverse. Tractor lurches forward, slamming nose into gravel. Motor dies. I slump over steering wheel, shaking. Sitting at odd angle. Sneak peek over shoulder.

This is not my fault. I told him to fix the brakes.

So What Do Y’all Think?

  • Is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow one of the best American Poets ever?
  • Do you have an explanation for number 6?
  • Should Gramps have fixed the brakes like I told him to, and why didn’t I name one of my boys Peleg?



Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy the Gardiner Sisters singing A Strange Way To Save The World.

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

Top Ranch Pen Posts Of 2014–#3

The third most viewed post of 2014 was this one co-authored by the happiest extrovert I know, our border collie dog, Nellie. Nothing dampens her vibrant enthusiasm for life. Sometimes she makes me think of the lines in Dr. Seuss’ timeless book–a favorite of my grandkids–One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish:

“Did you ever fly a kite in bed?

Did you ever walk with ten cats on your head?

Did you ever milk this kind of cow? Well we can do it. We know how.

If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good…”

~Dr. Seuss~

Anyone who suffers from the doldrums needs to come and hang out with Nellie for a bit. She is fun and fun is good.


IMG_4869Nellie’s “nelfie” 


I didn’t go ahead and succumb to my disease of last week, but while laid up, I did a lot of reading. Somewhere on the internet, someone declared that 2013 was the year of the “selfie”. Farm people have joined in the selfie craze, too. They’ve been posting what they call “felfies” of themselves doing chores around their outfits with their livestock and so forth. What an idea to my fevered brain! Gramps and I could also take felfies to entertain educate the public. Even though we here at the Ranch Pen are often a day late and a dollar short, we eventually try to get with it and keep up with the times.

Temporarily Foiled Again

Before we could implement that public service, however, I was forbidden by my sister a close relative to take selfies of…well…myself and post them on the blog. All is not lost, however. Our border collie, Nellie, has graciously agreed to let me post some of her un-copyrighted “nelfies”.

Who Said Beauty Is Only Skin Deep?

Nellie is about nine months old now, and she has grown into a beautiful dog with lovely, silken fur. In spite of her unusual beauty, she isn’t a bit puffed up about it and has maintained a modest, down-to-earth–but rambunctious fun-loving–attitude. If you are looking for shots of low cut tops, short skirts, or exposed muffin tops, you have come to the wrong dog’s blog.

Without Further Ado

The best “nelfies” of 2014, so far:



Nellie has a few problems handling the iPhone without opposable thumbs, so that’s all the “nelfies” for now, but she wanted to include one more even though it’s not technically a “nelfie”. She calls the one below–taken on a very windy day with her Pack Leader/Old Person, or PLOP–a “wet wilfie” in reference to the ol’ tongue in the ear, or “wet willie”.



Until next time, God bless all y’all and in honor of our grandson, Kevman, who Son and Daughter #3 adopted into our family almost seven years ago, I’ll leave you with Steven Curtis Chapman singing, All I Really Want For Christmas. To anyone who wants a child, or two, or ten, I urge you to consider adoption. There’s a world full of kids waiting for someone to love them.

Kevin for blog