A Near Heart Attack And Gross Out Spasm At The Ranch Pen


image via wikimedia commons

Whistler’s Mother?

The second installment of how I got started writing The Cedar Tree over twenty years ago is in this post, but first, the good stuff. You are perhaps looking at the old painting above by James McNeill Whistler–entitled Whistler’s Mother–and thinking: Eh? What has that got to do with anything?

The answer is, I was practicing on my shepherd’s whistle intended for our young border collie’s future training after lunch today. That reminded Gramps of Whistler’s Mother somehow. That, in turn reminded me that Gramps had once pointed out Whistler’s mother was probably seven-feet-tall when she stood up.


But Speaking of Old Ladies

A few days ago, I was very nearly the old lady who swallowed a spider like in the poem my grandkids love:

There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.
I don’t know why she swallowed that fly,
Perhaps she’ll die.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
That wiggled, and jiggled, and tickled inside her.
She swallowed the spider to catch the fly.
But I don’t know why she swallowed that fly –
Perhaps she’ll die…

I may have come close to dying of a heart attack and a gross-out spasm, but am almost perfectly fine, now. Searching for the meaning of life in that close call, all I could come up with was maybe I should call the bug guy to come spray for spiders. (I also had the very brief thought it meant I should clean house, but that couldn’t be right.)

Hey. Maybe Those Whistles Keep Spiders Away

Well, anyway. Blowing a shepherd’s whistle is a lot harder than it looks. I blew on mine for about an hour before I could make it sound like a dying spider cat. While a clip of me blowing my whistle and Nellie sitting outside the door pawing at her ears would be very amusing, I’ve included this real dog guy doing a shepherd’s whistle demo, instead.


But Without Further Ado

So now that y’all know how to blow a shepherd’s whistle, what a farm/ranch couple talk about after dinner, and the dangers of farm/ranch life for the middle-aged–who dare not drink anything ever again without glasses on–we’ll continue from where last week’s post left off with an excerpt from a post last winter entitled Broken Winged Buzzard Dreams Part 2.

The Cedar Tree

We ended Part l with the unfortunate demise of my first characters, Rory and Kate. They ended up in the trash can of my writing dreams because I married Gramps when I was sixteen and barely out of diapers. (He wasn’t called Gramps then or I might not’ve had sense enough to marry him. Sixteen-year-old girls can be so shallow.)

At any rate, he was (and still is) my dashing soul mate and we happily dove off the cliff of love into the rapids of experience.

A year later, we two added a little child to make three and most of the writing I did went like this:

Dear Grandma, Thank you for the baby stroller and the twenty dollars…
Dear Electric and Gas Company, We will have the money by the end of the week, please don’t shut us off…
The rest of my writing was in the form of lesson assignments while I finished highschool in my own special ed classes. Sort of like Abe Lincoln. Without the beard. Or the super intelligence.
At eighteen, I looked forward to the birth of baby #2 and also received my diploma in the mail–probably while I was feeding my yearling son pureed carrots. He was a difficult child and I expect if I hunted up my diploma, orange blow-by would speckle the semi-expensive paper.

A couple years after that, I wrote my name on a line with Gramps’ and we bought our first little mountain rancho, ten acres and a house from which sheep had been evicted. Son #3 promptly made his appearance. A few months later, I rocked my twenty-first birthday with my three little kids–aged three and under–aided by koolaid and party hats.

All that while, I did almost no writing, but Gramps and I lived a real life while we traveled around and he made money to pay for our rancho. And while I tried to keep my babies and toddlers from self-destruction, I read.

I inhaled books like air, reading most genres except horror–although the book Treblinka about the Nazi death camp certainly qualifies–and cereal boxes. I read my Bible whenever I got a quiet minute. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot while rocking a baby in Colorado. Ernest Hemingway’s  For whom the Bell Tolls while rocking a baby in North Carolina. I even slogged through Tolstoy’s War and Peace a few hours at a time from a curb beside a playground in Illinois.

And, unbeknownst even to myself, my next characters had begun to stir in the womb of my brains…

As always, thanks so much for reading, and please take this short quiz. (Old homeschool teachers grade on a curve, so you’ll likely pass. )

  1. How tall do you think Whistler’s Mother is, judging by the length of her thigh bones?
  2. Do you think–judging from Whistler’s Mother’s expression–she has swallowed a fly?
  3. Judging from Whistler’s Mother’s expression, do you think Whistler’s Mother wishes:
  • A. Whistler would just hurry up so she can get back to practicing her shepherd’s whistle commands?
  • B. Whistler would at least bring her a cup of coffee without a spider in it if he’s going to take all day with his painting?
  • Or, C. Whistler would change his original title from Arrangement in Gray and Black No.1 to something a little more flattering to her–Definitely Not Whistler’s Mother?

Until the next installment of As The Cedar Tree Burns Turns, God bless all y’all and enjoy this old clip of The Cathedrals doin’ Echoes From the Burning Bush just because I love The Cathedrals singing almost anything.

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

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7 thoughts on “A Near Heart Attack And Gross Out Spasm At The Ranch Pen

  1. Good post. My question is… where and how did Gramps run across Whistler’s Mother??? And… I don’t know if this is weird or not, but I’ve looked several times at the beautiful color swirl in your cup. Mentally blocking out the spider, of course.

    • Yeah, the spider definitely puts a blob on things. SO GROSS. I’m glad I didn’t go ahead and drink him and crunch around on him like someone I know did one time to a fly. The young lady who swallowed a fly. 🙂
      And I’m astonished at your astonishment that Gramps knows about Whistler’s mom. We’re very cultured up here at the rancho. Don’t you remember him attending The Nutcracker at the symphony? But seriously, you’d be surprised at how often Whistler’s Mother comes up in our conversations. (We do, however, try to avoid the dark topic of The Nutcracker and its memories of outraged old ladies and lurking security guys.)

      • I did think of my fly incident when I read your post, but tried to get the thought out of my head – and the feeling out of my mouth – as soon as possible. Ack. I also remember our night of Nutcracker culture. hahahaahaa I thought maybe you had run across Whistler’s Mother in your revised version of Masterpiece. I don’t know that I’d seen that particular old lady before. I bow to your superior knowledge of fine art. ;0P

  2. I am looking forward to reading your books. I have been having trouble getting them on my ipad though. blah :p Anyway, I would like to say I would like to be able to talk like the real dog guy. 🙂

    • The dog guy does have a cool accent, Tisha. I like his Meeker Classic jacket too. The Meeker Classic is a big sheep dog trial we went to in Colorado.
      As for the books, I hope you got them when they were free. Is it a kindle problem or an amazon problem? Either way I really hope that’s not happening often!

  3. Well, I am so glad you #1 didn’t swallow that danged spider, #2 kept reading, and #3 made it back to your writing. Oh, and #4 asked what Whistler’s mother was thinking because it seems to me she’d be like every other mother forced to sit and stare at one corner of her house; she’d be thinking, “I’ll need to get the broom and dustpan out and clean that corner better,” and then start mentally compiling her grocery list. Great post, Danni, as always!

    • Thank you so much, Anna. I would also be sitting there wondering why my son was painting a picture of me and what he would do with it later. All my boys have picture albums full of me at my worst and they have been known to blackmail me with them.
      I’m so thankful I didn’t swallow that spider, too. Always afterward something would have seemed not quite right inside me. 🙂

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