New Book At The Ranch Pen

Finally, the third book in my Love Is Not Enough series is out and about on Amazon! It’s available in print or ebook format. The ebook version is also available through Kindle Unlimited and for free sharing with family and friends with Kindles or the Kindle app which works great on iPhone or Androids.

The third book in the Love Is Not Enough Series begins with Annie DeRossi Campbell uneasily trying to establish a life with rancher’s son, Karl Campbell, as his wife instead of the reserved Navajo woman who has always run the barren ridge-lines of her life like a wild mare trying to survive. Abused and shamed by the father of her five-year-old son, Annie distrusts love and is desperate to keep her past hidden from her new husband no matter the cost. When his awkward tenderness threatens to storm the barriers she has built around her heart, she commits a misstep so earth-shattering it leaves Runs Alone Girl sifting through the ruins of her marriage for the truth of what love really means.

Another newlywed, cowboy and inexperienced Christian, Gil Howard, has returned from his honeymoon with Katie to the news his alcoholic father has decided to return to Colorado to die. Resentful at the past dumped in his lap and unconvinced of his father’s stumbling efforts to return to Christ, Gil just wants his dad to keep his drama to himself. His young bride, however––raised in a sect of faith-healers, sheltered, and innocent—seems to have been taken in by his old man’s phony imitation of Apostle Paul and wants him to be his dad’s buddy. Will Gil’s faith conform to biblical truths, or will he be buried––along with his fledgling marriage—beneath the weight of the past?

Runs Alone Girl continues the story of two ranching families in the mountains of western Colorado. Gritty, realistic, politically incorrect, and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, it takes a look at what happens when the love, marriages, and family relationships of ordinary people with extraordinary faith are put to the test.

Runs Alone Girl is the third book in the series and is not intended as a stand alone novel, so if you want to start at the beginning, start with The Cedar Tree, Book One. (It has a new cover but no new content, so my advice as a tightwad? Don’t throw down another $.99 for another one if you’ve already got it.)

After an injury forces cowboy Gil Howard from the rodeo circuit and an accident kills his girlfriend, he seeks out his grandfather in Colorado, a rancher and minister in a sect of faith healers. Wild, restless, and angry at his alcoholic father, Gil drifts in a life suddenly foreign to him until he meets intriguing rancher’s daughter, Katie Campbell—only to find no one wants him with her, including Katie herself, who has a longstanding attachment to her childhood friend and sweetheart. When a mountain storm throws the two of them together, Gil finds himself in love for the first time and his life begins to come together in unexpected ways. Then tragedy strikes and he is left struggling to reconcile his past with his new faith and his shattered dreams. Will there ever be another message from Katie in the cedar tree?

Wailing Woman Creek is book two in the series. (Once again, book two has a new cover but no new content, so my advice as a tightwad remains the same. Don’t buy another one if you’ve already got it.)

In book two of the Love Is Not Enough Series, the unexpected death of Annie DeRossi’s grandmother—an old midwife in a sect of faith healers—leaves the grieving young Navajo woman and her small son in dire straits, forcing her choice between easy-going Colorado rancher’s son, Dave Campbell, and his straight-laced brother Karl.  She gravely underestimates the toll her marriage vows will take on the three of them and when desperate secrets are uncovered, ghosts from her past threaten to destroy the marriage almost before it has begun.

Meanwhile, Gil Howard—cowboy, financially strapped sheep rancher, and new Christian—pops the question to Katie Campbell, entering an unusual agreement with her dad in an attempt to rein in his passions even while the image of his alcoholic father taunts him with doubts he can overcome his former lifestyle. Is he running a huge bluff on Katie that will come back to bite them both if he marries her?

Gritty and realistic, Wailing Woman Creek returns the full cast of characters from The Cedar Tree, offering an authentic look at ranch life and settings as diverse as the mountains of western Colorado, the barren Navajo reservation of New Mexico, and the forests of North Carolina.

As always, God bless all y’all and thanks so much for reading what I write. Everyone runs what they read through their own experiences, but my hope is you’ll find some good stuff in Runs Alone Girl and the other books in the series.

Emojis At The Ranch Pen

About three years ago, our oldest son showed me how to turn on the emojis on my iPhone and it changed the way I communicate. I love emojis. They’re great. (Or, Fantastic 👌🏽 as the POTUS says.)

Like many writers, I write because it’s easier than talking. Left to my natural state, I can go days without opening my mouth to do more than mumble to myself. Imagine my delight to discover the emoji factory made it possible to communicate without the spoken or written word. 👍🏼👏🏼

I’m getting older and not very hip, so I fully identified with a funny post at the Babylon Bee (a Christian spoof news source), about a poor old pastor who responded to sad texts with the 😂 instead of the 😭 while comforting his parishioners.

One of the most enjoyable uses for emojis is conversing with the grandkids before they learn to read and talk and even afterwards. This is a portion of an emoji conversation I might have with the granddaughters:


To which I might reply:


The grandsons communications go like this:

☠️🍕🍟🍔🏹🎣🥊🤺🏍🔪💣⚔️🚬🗡 and 🔫

To which I might reply: 😳😊

(They’re all homeschooled or they would probably be expelled from their classes by now. That’s one of the disadvantages of homeschooling–mom can’t expel her students for chewing their pizza into the shape of a gun, and so forth. She would if she could some days. Don’t ask me how I know.)

The emoji factory used to include a real looking handgun in the weapons selection. It was always included in grandson transmissions to me and it was also a favorite of mine. It conveyed the expression I often use after a trying day and there is one more ridiculous thing to deal with. “Just shoot me now!” I sometimes screech. With emojis the expression could be conveyed like this:

😖 🔫

Gramps or my sis would know exactly what was meant, but a while back, the politically correct emoji police took the real looking gun out of the weapons cache and I find it irritating 😠. (And really. A water gun? Just shoot me now with a water gun! loses something along the way.)

Do the emoji police not know ⚔️🗡💣🔪🚬🤛🏼👨🏼‍⚕️🐔(bird flu ) ⚡️🔥(arson) 🌪🌭🥃🚗(drunk driving) 🥃 (alcohol related disease) 🚙 (auto crashes) 📱(texting while driving) 🔨⛓💉💊 kill way more people than guns do? Where are the rubber swords, smoke bombs, candy cigarettes, hot wheels cars, cans of root beer? 🤷‍♀️

I’m just saying. Violence is a problem of the human heart and if somebody is determined to shoot another human being, only having access to the water gun emoji in texts isn’t going to change that.

As always, thanks for reading 📖. God bless all y’all and until next time ✌🏼 and enjoy The Isaacs doing The Three Bells a song popular back in the day when the Browns did it.


Good Friday At The Ranch Pen


For Gramps and me as Christians, Easter weekend is the best time of the year at the Ranch Pen. On Good Friday, we reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for our sins by suffering on the cross, dying, and descending to the tomb. Then on Sunday we rejoice because Our Lord didn’t stay in that grave, but arose and is living still. That means everything to us. As we celebrate that empty tomb, our prayer is that God will bless all y’all this Easter weekend.

Outrage Fatigue At The Ranch Pen

I know in the modern social media culture I’m supposed to be outraged morning, noon and night, but I just can’t.  I have outrage fatigue.

Farmers and ranchers only make up two percent of the population and we don’t get our way a lot these days. We are too busy scratching a living from the ground to create buzzwords on Twitter and other social media platforms to launch marches with super dumb hats, protests, and flat out anarchy.

According to the dictionary a buzzword is a word or phrase that is fashionable at a particular time or in a particular context. People often have a vague idea of what these words are supposed to mean–or no idea–but everybody’s using them so they must be important. Some popular buzzwords are holistic, diversity, empowerment, organic, wellness, sustainability.

An example. A few years ago, the McDonald’s hamburger chain hopped on the get-with-it wagon and stated that soon all their beef was going to be “sustainable” beef. Out here in the country, we were scratching our heads. What does that even mean? Sustainable for who? The cows? The beef growers? The consumer? McDonald’s? The whole entire earth? Someone in the agriculture industry asked, “Er…what does that mean?” McDonald’s bigwigs didn’t really have a definition at that time, but they were working to come up with one and they’d let us beef growers know when they hit upon it.


In real life, Gramps and I are mostly interested in sustaining us and our family, and in doing that we end up sustaining our livestock, the consumer, McDonald’s, and maybe the whole entire earth. Everybody wins–even without a buzzword that sounds good on Twitter.

Anyway, I’m on Instagram now where all is peace, joy, and love, so if you want to follow, click here. I post pictures of interest and things like this:

As always, thanks so much for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy Southern Raised singing Beulah Land one of my all time favorites.






Signs of Spring At the Ranch Pen

signs of spring on oklahoma wind farm

Southwest Oklahoma isn’t exactly paradise weather-wise most of the year, but we often get some warm, windless days in February. Our hopes rise like optimistic kites. Then the cold wind starts blowing again and drives our kites nose first into the ground. The weather’s nice while it lasts, though. Also, the bugs are still mostly dead except for giant greenish flies that rumble around like C-5 military transport planes. My late mother-in-law used to call the flies–what I believe must be the Latin term–themoldbroodflies.

At any rate, armed with beautiful, bug-free weather one day last week, the two nieces, JA and TL, and two grandkids, Blondie and Git’R’Done moseyed out to enjoy a long walk with the ranch dogs. Nellie and Trace are dumb and disobedient have “chase cattle” in their DNA so we kept them on leashes because of the tempting cattle to chase in the 320 acre pasture across the road. Nellie is extremely hyper and drags on her leash so much she chokes herself, so our idyllic stroll was somewhat disrupted by her occasional fits of choking, gasping, and wheezing.

The niece TL and Nellie

Trace on the other hand, is a good boy who doesn’t choke himself although he does have an embarrassing habit of sniffing people where they wish he wouldn’t.

Blondie and Trace

Blondie and Trace with Git’R’Done looking on

The cattle in the picture below are what we call stocker calves. Cattle from many places in the USA are shipped to stock winter wheat pastures in Oklahoma and Texas, thus the name “stockers”. The calves start out in the late fall at 400-500 pounds and by the time they are pulled off the wheat pastures in spring they weigh 800-900 pounds. They are then usually shipped to feed yards to be “finished” which means fattened to butcher size. I think that’s around 1200 pounds, but I’d have to check to make sure. After that, delicious Oklahoma-grazed beef is shipped to fill bellies around the world.

stockers on wheat pasture

Steers on wheat pasture

The cattle in that pasture are steers. For those who don’t know, that means castrated males, identifiable by the…er…appendage hanging from the belly. This appendage is always included in artistic drawings of cattle by the grandsons at the Ranch Pen. Some ranchers stock heifers–young females with smooth bellies, which are kind of uninteresting artistically. It all depends on the rancher’s financial and practical considerations as to whether he or she decides to pasture steers or heifers. (Gramps and I run both because we raise our own.) Steers are more expensive than heifers because males are more efficient at feed conversion and more muscular than females so they produce more meat. Heifers, however, are the future cowherd of the USA, so many of them are saved for breeding purposes.

The following pictures are just for pretty–wheat planted in the neighbor’s cotton stalks from last season.

Winter wheat in last season's cotton stalks

Winter wheat in last season’s cotton stalks. Picture by JA

oklahoma winter wheat in cotton stalks

Last season’s cotton stalks. Picture by JA

I’ve also been cleaning out the flower and vegetable pots around the place in preparation for spring. The pot below grew a ton of basil from volunteer seed last year. Gramps nor I have a drop of Italian blood in our bodies as far as I know, although we do like pizza. With basil growing wild in other pots and spots, I desperately tried to figure out what to do with it all and hit upon making pesto. A far cry from traditional southern fare like beans and taters, pesto has always sounded suspiciously Italian and scary. It wasn’t, though! The pesto was so delicious we’re hoping for another bumper crop this season.

Hopes of basil pesto live in that potI hope you enjoyed the glimpse of spring at the Ranch Pen and as always, thanks for reading. Until next time, God bless all y’all and enjoy another Geoff Moore song, Your Way Out, off his latest really good album The Next Thing.

Book Update At The Ranch Pen

winter fields, wind farm on southern plains

early morning view of peaceful winter wheat fields and wind turbines at the Ranch Pen

There’s a lot of unrest and noise in the world today, so I’m not going to add to it with anything much except the status of book three in the Love is Not Enough series.

Book three, Runs Alone Girl, has taken a long time to write. It’s another offbeat, politically incorrect book in the continuing ranch family saga set in western Colorado. In book three the Navajo character, Annie, is starting into her uneasy marriage with her choice between the two oldest Campbell brothers, Karl and Dave. The second storyline is about the newlywed cowboy character, Gil Howard, dealing with unwelcome news from his alcoholic dad, Roy. Gil’s waspy-tongued young wife, Katie, is trying to keep all the balls she juggles for her family in the air. The younger Campbell son, Tim, takes a bigger role. The characters confront a lot of hard topics–marriage problems, spiritual problems, fallout from addictions, forgiveness, what it means to be a dad, mortality. But there is some humor. And babies! Babies are one of my absolute favorite parts of life. The book has taken a lot of time and thought, even down to reexamining some of my own views so I can write it real. Plus, life has gotten in the way.

I’m not a preacher, but there was one in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes who wrote:

 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Which only means life happens to everybody and it doesn’t always go the way we think it will. That’s just the way it is.

Having said all that, I’m working on the last three or four chapters of Runs Alone Girl. When they come together, the book will go to my editor and to beta readers then it’ll be gone through again and again until I feel like it’s right. Everybody leaves a legacy of some sort, and these books are part of mine, so I don’t want to just slop words out there.

And speaking of legacies before I go. We’ve been Geoff Moore fans at the Ranch Pen since way back in the day, so when I learned he had released a new album called The Next Thing, I rushed over to Amazon and bought it. I can only describe the collection of songs as a legacy album and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Until next time, thanks so much for reading. God bless all y’all and enjoy Geoff Moore doing the title song from his latest album, The Next Thing.



You Think You Got It Bad At The Ranch Pen


Nellie, one of the Ranch Pen’s good ol’ dogs on a frosty morning

So, the New Year started out with a bad case of the flu, but while laid out in the old recliner feebly thumbing through the local newspaper and feeling sorry for m’self, I came across this poor fella from the Memory Lane column dated December 28, 1926 :

While the body of Mr. Poor Fella, who took his own life by drinking poison, was being lowered into the grave in the local cemetery shortly before noon, his wife and another dude were being arraigned before the justice of the peace on a charge of adultery.

Mr. Poor Fella’s belongings, consisting of a covered wagon and a team, were sold for $100 on the city streets the day before to help defray funeral expenses. The county judge sent the couple’s three children, 14, 8, 6, to the orphan’s home in the northern part of the state. The fourteen-year-old was married, but her husband had deserted her.*

The amount of human suffering in those two paragraphs immediately made me thankful for the life God has given me. Also happy Gramps hasn’t been driven by me to drink poison. Yet. I suspect some might wonder how he’s held out for thirty-five years.

At any rate, here at the Ranch Pen, we’re gonna tackle 2017 and hope for the best. And hold on to your hats, in upcoming posts I plan to answer the question, ‘Where in tarnation is book three in the Love Is Not Enough series?’ and share some best-ofs from 2016. Also, I’ll assess the experiment in which I broke out of my stuffy old mold–where I putter about happily reading dusty relics of the past–and burst into the dazzle of modern books, including Chick Lit. (shuddering at the memory, eyeballs still slightly tender from almost rolling right out of my head)

So, until next time, Happy New Year, thanks for reading, God bless all y’all, and enjoy Southern Raised doing an awesome job on I’ll Have a New Life.

*Names of people and places withheld and  “dude” substituted for the name of the adulterer. Also “team” refers to a couple of horses or mules, still very much in use in southwest Oklahoma in 1926.